Amelia Island, FL

Amelia Island, FL

Amelia Island is a beautiful part of the Sea Islands chain off the Florida Atlantic coast.  Between the cute, historic downtown Fernandina, Fernandina Beach, and Fort Clinch (historic military fort), it makes for a great family trip.

Fernandina Beach

Towards the end of April the Sea Turtles hatch.  We didn’t see any, but they caution beach goers to watch out for the turtles.  There is easy beach access at the point on the map.  Nice little beach town.

Downtown Fernandina Beach

There is a really cute, historic downtown in Fernandina filled with restaurants, boutiques, cafes and overlook on the water.

Restaurant Recommendations:

Fort Clinch State Park

On the North point of Amelia Island, Fort Clinch ists along the Amelia River and was used in the 19th century as a military base.  The kids loved exploring the fort and imagining being a soldier 100 years ago.  The road to Fort Clinch from the park’s entrance is a beautiful drive through a canopy of old live oaks with spanish moss.  If we visited again, we’d probably bring our bikes to bike through the road.  There is a parking fee to enter the state park, and an extra $2 per person to tour the fort.

Port Canaveral, FL

Port Canaveral, FL

Radisson Resort at the Port

Before we embarked on our Disney Cruise, we spent a night in Port Canaveral.  Booking the Radisson Resort was a win.  Because it was off-season, we had the pool nearly all to ourselves.  With a heated pool (around 86 degrees), salt-water, waterfall arch, and hot-tub… this made for a fun family night-swim!

Manatee Sanctuary Park

Just a few blocks from Radisson Resort, the Manatee Sanctuary Park makes for a nice place to stroll outside.  We played at the park for a couple hours before boarding our cruse leaving from Port Canaveral.  Most likely you won’t see manatees, but it is possible.  My understanding is they named the park because this section of the river is a protected area for manatees.

Manatee Springs State Park

Manatee Springs State Park

Swimming & Canoeing with the Manatees

For an adventure you’ll never forget, try canoeing / kayaking and swimming with the manatees!  If you come to Manatee Springs State Park during the right time of year, you can do that.  The springs keeps the water above 70 degrees year-round, so in the winter, the manatees find their way up to the springs to keep warm.  You can rent a canoe or kayak to roam around the springs as it enters the Suwanee River.  Explore the banks for baby alligators, turtles, snakes, birds… and of course in the springs our friendly sea cows, the manatees.

Cedar Key, FL

Cedar Key, FL

Quaintest Little Beach Town

Places where everyone knows your name and no one locks their doors do exist.  At least in Cedar Key, FL.  We found a real escape from the hustle of the city mixed with beautiful beach sunsets and quite, salty air.  It’s not a very commercialized place, so you won’t find a Walmart, half the restaurants are cash only, and the motels here still use real keys (not those magnetic keycards).

Bring Your Bikes

Most people on the island prefer to walk or bike, and if you bring your bikes, you’ll find it a lot of fun riding around the beach town streets.  We rode our bikes around the whole island – probably the best way to explore the place.

Eat at Holey Moleys

From 7 am – 2 pm Holey Moleys serves some of the best donuts, along with cubans, wraps, and other sandwiches.  Be sure to stop for some gourmet donuts at some point on your trip.

Staying at Cedar Key Inn

You might say we are accustom to certain Hotel standards (maybe a little bit of Hotel Snobs), so staying in an older-style beach motel with an outdoor entrance and a real key (not a keycard) took a little getting use to.  But the fact that the motel is pet-friendly and they were very accommodating made our stay much better.  If you come to Cedar Key, you won’t find a fancy hotel.  Don’t come for the hotel.  Come for the beauty of this quaint little beach town and you will love the area.

 

 

The Best Way To Do Disney!

The Best Way To Do Disney!

I Won’t Do Disney Any Other Way

Several years ago a friend of Stephanie’s shared with her about a less known secret at Disney World called Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!  We’ve gone for 3 years straight just for this party.  Here is the jist:

  • Tickets are less expensive than a traditional park pass
  • The party is from 7 pm – Midnight, but they let you in the park (Magic Kingdom) as early as 4 pm.
  • At 7 pm the park ushers out everyone who is in the park on a regular day pass, and those with wrist bands for the Christmas party stay… meaning the park becomes a whole lot less crowded, and the ride lines incredibly short!  Most lines are between 10 – 15 min waits, some up to 30 minutes… but that is nothing compared to 1.5 – 2 hours on a normal Disney day.
  • At different stations all throughout the park, the cast serves hot chocolate & cookies, or snowcones and snowmen cookies, or hot cider and ginger snaps, etc.
  • There are charater dance parties in different areas of the park
  • There is a special Christmas parade and firework show

This event isn’t really advertises, but it is something you have to search for specially and purchase tickets.  The Christmas season is a great time to visit Disney, but if you can’t make it for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party… you should also know they do a similar event for Halloween too!

Things to See While You’re There

If you’re going to Disney for the Christmas or Halloween party, then you’ll practically have a whole day before you can enter the park.  But don’t worry, there is plenty to see at Disney while you’re there before you enter Magic Kingdom.

Disney Springs (Formerly Downtown Disney)

Disney Springs is a fun place to shop, play and dine.  They have a lot of restaurants in this area with a newly constructed section offering even more.  Here you’ll find the T-Rex Restaurant (with live dinosaurs), the Lego Store, the Disney Store, Rainforest Cafe.  From here you can take the water taxi to Old Key West resort and Saratoga Resort.  And new this year they do a flying drone show in the evening over the water.

Visit Disney Resorts

On the monorail or with boats, before you enter Magic Kingdom you can visit the close Disney resorts.  They are decorated for Christmas and are so fun to tour around in seeing the different sites.

  • Contemporary Resort: the hotel that the monorail goes right through the center.  This year they had a 2 dimensional Frozen castle made from gingerbread.
  • The Grand Floridian: our favorite resort at Disney to visit.  It reminds us of a Biltmore style mansion all dressed up for Disney.  The Grand Floridian also has a life-sized gingerbread house
  • The Polynesian Resort: takes you back to a remote island with polynesian-style design and decor
  • Wilderness Lodge: a Yellowstone-inspired resort with a log cabin feel.  It even has a geyser like Old Faithful that erupts every hour (this one is only accessible from water taxi – not the monorail).

Disney Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is another fun place to stroll before spending your day at the park.  I recommend at night with the lights by the water and the hotels you can visit.  You can also talk some water taxis here to get around.

  • The Swan Hotel & The Dolphin Hotel: really fun hotels to walk through and visit with Christmas themed decor.  One features the largest chocolate display (made of real chocolate) and there is a nice sandy beach by the pools you can play in, where you will also find fire pits to roast marshmallows and outdoor movies.