4 parks, 3 restaurants and the Bibbity-Bobbity Boutique: One Guest’s Florida Selection
I always love to hear from guests when you return from your vacation – whether it is an opportunity to improve or, especially, when you’ve had a great time.
Julie and her family from Michigan stayed in one of our homes on the Lake Berkley resort in Kissimmee this January and she has kindly agreed to share here her top tips for a family vacation in Orlando.
Julie travelled with her husband, her daughter and two grandchildren. They had such a great time together that they have already booked to return this August – and this time plan to take their son-in-law too.
“My daughter and her husband are both teachers and my son-in-law is the Robotics club coach at the school where he teaches. That commitment meant he couldn’t join us on this trip,” explains Julie, “But we really want to go back all together to Lake Berkley in the summer.”
They family didn’t want to take the little ones to Disney World without their father. “We didn’t want him to miss out on seeing their faces when they saw the castle for the first time,” says Julie. So the family went on the lookout for some different things to do during their family vacation.
Some Disney-themed Fun
The vacation wasn’t entirely without a Disney experience, however.
“You can still book onto the character breakfasts without going inside the parks,” Julie explains. “We booked into the Cape May Café at Disney’s Beach Club Resort for a character breakfast, where my granddaughter and grandson dined with Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. They loved it. It was really easy because we could park in the hotel car park for free and it was just a fifteen-minute drive from the villa.”
Julie’s granddaughter also enjoyed a trip to the Bibbety-Bobbity Boutique in Disney Springs. For this family, it was ideal that they didn’t need to go into the park (to the Boutique in the Cinderella castle) to get a Cinderella-style makeover; Disney Springs is around a twenty-minute drive from the home and Julie says her granddaughter absolutely loved the experience. There is also a small train and carrousel for the little ones to ride.
Discovering Wild Florida
One of the places Julie and her family enjoyed the most during her trip was the Van Fleet State Trail, Green Pond or Bay Lake trailheads. Just a forty-minute drive away from Lake Berkley, the Van Fleet State Trail was really quiet when Julie stayed in January. “It really was so serene,” says Julie. “We really felt like we were in the wilderness. We could hear the birds and, at one point, this amazing Barred Owl flew across the trail in front of us and landed in a nearby tree. It was really great.”
Even closer to home, the family also enjoyed another Park: the Shingle Creek Regional Park. “Just a five-minute drive from the villa is a giant Walmart and virtually next door to that is Shingle State Park,” explains Julie. “There are some historical buildings which were bequeathed to the Parks Authority along with the land. Down by the river is a boat house where you can hire canoes and kayaks. We hired a two-person kayak and rowed out along the trail. There was cedar trees and moss hanging down over the river, we rowed past a group of four or five turtles sitting on a log, and then past an alligator on the bank. All in all, it took about one hour out and one hour back and we really felt like we’d had plenty of exercise the next day!”
Three Great Places to Eat Out
“We found several fun places to eat out,” says Julie. Among her favourites was Tu Tu Tango on International Drive.
“There is lots of seating inside and out, and they had some great happy hours – buy one drink, get one free. All the food we had there was delicious – especially the Dynamite Shrimp . It was kid-friendly; there was plenty to look at because there is lots of art on the walls you can look at and buy. When we were there, they had two artists in, working in the restaurant as we ate. There was a lady making jewellery which was really artistic and a man painting with oils. It was really fun. We went there twice!”
Julie and her family also really liked the Three Sisters Speakeasy in Historic Kissimmee. “Three Sisters Speakeasy has a really nice atmosphere and really good sushi. The Firecracker Shrimp Taco here was really good as well. You could sit outside, there was seating by a cobbled area, or inside. We thought it was a really good restaurant. We went back there too – to try out the Trivia night on Tuesday – but the competition was serious!”
For something with a more contemporary, modern feel Julie recommends a fancy Sushi bar she visited with her husband in Orlando called Robata Sushi. It had a great happy hour and delicious small plates.
While the family were in Orlando, a rocket launch was scheduled at Cape Canaveral, so Julie and her husband drove out there. It took the couple just under two hours to arrive at the Cape and park up alongside the road to get a great view of the launch.
Julie says: “We were able to get a spot along the road and observe the launch. It was pretty neat to see. On the same road is an amazing park called Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. It boasts to being one of the best spots in the world for birding. We drove along some of the trails and saw some fantastic birds, including the most incredible roseate spoonbill.”
Julie also recommends a visit to the Welcome Centre on Highway-192 – it’s only small but the staff are very helpful.
Plus, a trip to the park in the Dr Phillips neighbourhood makes for a great day out, Julie says: “There was a lovely park with a big lake and covered shelters for picnicking in. The park had a jogging track, a dog park, a splash play area and a great playground with all sorts of things for the kids to climb and swing on. We really enjoyed it, it was really fun, and it would make a great cheap day out if you wanted to save a bit of money.”
The Sealife Aquarium on International Drive also made for a fun day out with the kids, says Julie: “There are tunnels to go through so that the fish appear to be swimming right around you. There was a great variety of fish to see and get close to. There were even a couple of manatee that had been rescued after injury in a habitat there. It was great too.”
All in all, the family really enjoyed their vacation and are really looking forward to returning in August. “We really loved the home and the location was really convenient. It was only twenty minutes to Disney Springs. When we go out in August we will be able to make the most of the pool as well, the kids will be able to play out there while I make dinner. Next time, we’ll go to Disney too. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Julie’s Unmissable Orlando
• Welcome Centre on Hwy-192
• Shingle State Park
• Bibbety-Bobbity Boutique – in Disney Springs if you don’t have park tickets
• Character Dining Experience – try Disney Beach Club Resort if you don’t have park tickets
• Dr Phillips Community Park
• Tu Tu Tango (8625 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819)
• Three Sisters Speakeasy (226 Broadway, Kissimmee, FL 34741)
• Dragonfly Robata Grill and Sushi
• Van Fleet State Trail
• Cape Canaveral Rocket Launch
• Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Like the sound of Julie’s tips? She stayed at Simba’s Magic.
Thank you so much Julie for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us.