About Vacation Fun Florida


Vacation Fun Florida is brought to you by writer/author/photographer Adele Woodyard, who has written on Florida places and people for numerous national, regional and local publications since 1988.

Her words and pictures have taken readers from the Florida Panhandle to the Dry Tortgas. They’ve camped on Florida state parks, boated by canoe, kayak, sail or housboat; and driven to out-of-the way places on seldom traveled roads. She’s introduced them to unique shops, rare and endangered wildlife, flourishing gardens, unexpected art and half-forgotten history. Now you can join them as she revisits the old or sees what’s new in this weblog or her books, whether in fiction or travel. You can visit her at http://www.adelesbooksandblogs.com

You can help! Feel free to drop by whenever you have a suggestion as to what to see and do in Florida. That could be a hotel, a restaurant, an attraction, whatever. Email us at: Adele Woodyard Be as specific as possible, tell us what you think about that item. And web URLs really help us.



Odds and Ends

by Adele Woodyard
A perfect title for a collection of miscellanea following three days of office clean-up And still more to finish. Stacks of empty files or ones I’m debating to toss, a credenza stacked with assorted mags, books, and a laptop with no hard drive. Does anyone accept used ink cartridges anymore?
For some an annual “spring cleaning” can even occur in mid-winter. For others it’s when the spirit moves them—normally when their office is buried under papers, spare change, forgotten messages, and unknown callers. For me it’s when I.ve finally reached the point of no return. Oddly enough this turned out to be an unexpected and almost forgotten celebration. It was three years ago October, 2010 that I opened Adele Woodyard DBA Palm Print Press, and published my first DIY book.
Years of writing and occasionally publishing short stories made up the first one—a no-brainer, since I was already withdrawing ones under consideration to fill up the book. Years of specializing in Florida travel complete with photos eventually made two editions, once I finally mastered (most) of the photo placement. In between the travel came my first finished mystery novel (though as one agent put it,” way too short”) and a sequel is in the works. There’s still another book to finish but for now it’s going out to agents.
Little by little I’ve added marketing, author talks, presentations, sales and distribution. Books and shipping supplies fill up closet space and empty corners, but bit by bit media kits. information of other states and countries, and prints (remember them?) are not-so-slowly disappearing. One thing for sure, a DBA only runs for five years at a time before renewal, so my next big clean-up should get these old-hangers on off the shelves I can hardly wait—yet hate to see them go
For here’s where the old meets the new. One of my writer friends has been on the same cleaning jag as me, only lucky her! She has a full sized attic evidently crammed with all kinds of furnishings and antiques. To my amazement, she and her husband refurbished eleven old houses (115 to 130 years old) over the years. What a book she can write!
My “Then and Now” blog (Oct. 19, 2013) mentioned the pre-revolutionary house my parents lived in New Jersey for a number of years before they retired to Florida. Since tomorrow is now. Halloween here’s a final spooky story known as the Jersey Devil.
“After bearing twelve children by 1735, one woman cursed the 13th child would be a monster. The creature was a human, male but horribly deformed and when she became ill, he escaped. He was not found but some farmers said he tore cattle apart. Another person believed this devil had a serpent’s body, cloven hoofs, head of a horse, wings of a bat, and forked tail of a dragon. No wonder Mother Leeds kept him locked up.”

Met Any Goblins Lately?

by Adele Woodyard
A couple of weeks ago my Halloween blog was all on scary ghouls in the Florida Keys where the ghostly events can last anywhere from one to ten days. Here’s some spooks that will pop out of your neighborhood closet, most on weekend hours only. Range from cool for kids to some so frightening your youngest child better be older than 8, even a teen-ager.
Oct. 25-26, 6-11 p.m. look for Haunted Tram Rides, Homosassa Springs Wildlife Refuge State Park on the Pepper Creek Trail. There’s a haunted house, costume contests face painting and games for a suggested donation: $5 adult, $3, 12 and under; $2 for haunted house. 352-628-5343. Park admission if you want to spend the day: $13, $5 ages 6-12, includes tax. http://www.floridastateparks.org
Oct. 25-26: Florida’s Haunted Trails, 6-10 p.m.. Palm Coast offers a wagon ride through woods , a haunted house, magic shows, and carnival games. Extra $ for food and drink .$12 adult, $10 kids, under 5 Free. 7900 Old Kings Rd 386-448-7630.
Oct. 25-Oct. 31: Smugglers Haunting on the Harbor Festival and Haunted House, Punta Gorda is a Family Fun affair divided as follows: 10/25-27 includes the Halloween Festival, $3 at gate, under 12 Free. Oct. 30-31, 6-10 p.m. Haunted House only, $7. 175 Taylor Rd. 941-637-5953. http://www.puntagordahaunting.com
Terror on the Lake, Cogon Crossings, Clermont brings you a Haunted Mine, with 1300 feet of mind blowing fear in “Mind Shaft 13” among other attractions/dates/prices, e.g. 10/25-27: 7-10 p.m., 10/28-30, 7-9 p.m., 10/31-11.2, 7-11 p.m. Prices: $5 to $49 per person. 16729 Cogon Oaks. Check website: http://www.terroronthelake.com
Thursday-Saturdays through Nov. 2: Petrified Forest, Altamonte Springs presents Museum of Mayhem. Walk the Haunted Outdoor Trail, 7:30-11 p.m. Different packages, tickets online in advance, cash only at gate. . Recommended ages 13 and up. 1360 E. Altamonte Springs Dr. 407-468-6600. http://www.petrifiedforest.com
Friday-Saturdays through Nov. 2: Haunted Woods of Lady Lake has a 10 minute hayride and a quarter-mile walk through the woods where very scary ghouls and weird things will make you scream, from . 8-11:30 p.m. Not recommended for kids under 8. $15 per person. 1401 Anderson Lane; 352-250-2191. http://www.hauntedwoods.biz
NOTE: Except for the one on Homosassa Springs, the rest can also be found on a long list of events from around the state on http://www.floridahauntedhouses.com . Always check by individual phone and or website first. Many listed are not up-to-date .and may not have opened this year. HAPPY HALLOWEEN. Here’s to fun—and plenty of goosebumps.

Bargains, Books and Burnout

by Adele Woodyard
Considering what’s been not happening in Washington, DC I’ll start with burnout. Which is no doubt what most of us are feeling no matter whatever party you belong to. Two of the latest emails I’ve been getting are split between good and bad, both in Florida.
As you know many National Parks are among the shutdowns. This “bad” refers to a change on the last item in my 9/30/13 blog, October Festivals and Florida Daytrips: the FREE Family Fun Day, that opens the “Ding” Darling Days at the National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island Oct. 20,, has been cancelled due to lack of government funding. The remaining fee and free sessions during the week of this popular annual affair, remain open. (One question: Would asking the public for say a $5/family donation keep this family fun day open?)
The “good” effects our state park system .Remember the glass-bottom boats, the monkeys on Ross Allen Island, the contained animals, reptiles and rides at Florida’s first tourist attraction, Silver Springs? What starred in television and movies back to the 1916 silent movie The Seven Swans, is now Silver Springs State Park, at a much cheaper price. The monkeys may be gone but glass-bottom tours remain, along with kayak and canoe rentals and a Silver River Museum, $2 person extra, school children only during the week. Open daily, admission is $8 per carload, 2-8 people, $5 single occupant, $2 individual walk-in, bicycle etc. 1425 NE 58th Ave. Ocala, 352-236-7148. http://www.floridastateparks.org
Any of you like mystery novels? The whodunits, cozies, PIs, police procedurals, lawyers, and more make up so many who, how, and why plots revolving around murder, a lot are missing a Mystery designation on library shelves. For instance right now I have three books on hand. In the Second Honeymoon by James Patterson/Howard Roughan one killer knocks off honeymooners ,and the second one goes after men named O’Hara.. I’m part way through The Dead Caller from Chicago by Jack Fredrickson where the killers and bodies seem to be connected to a man already dead. The third one, which I haven’t started yet, is Speak of the Devil by Allison Leotta. Here, according to the blurb, the killer and the prosecutor lawyer mix it up over a sex-crime. Only one of these books wears the Mystery label. Can you tell which one from the above?
So where does that leave my mystery novel, Final Payment? She’s a reporter and there’s a murder to solve so it must be a cozy, same as the sequel, No Payment, I’m currently writing. But in my short story collection The Shell and the Starfish and other stories, it’s more varied. Four of them are crime .related yet only one has an actual murder.
Monday I’ll be speaking to a book club who supposedly hasn’t had a talk on any mystery before. Hope they like Final Payment …and don’t ask me what other kinds there are

Halloween Happenings

by Adele Woodyard
It may be barely the beginning of October, but not too soon to think of Spook night. Especially since the so-called “witching hour” in Florida starts long before October 31st. The latest: SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktember opened this past Friday (Oct. 5) and will run through Oct. 27. Busch Gardens Horror Nights have been offering 50% savings on Stay and Scream tickets for Florida residents online since the last few days in September. But that’s the Tampa Bay area. This week we head south to the Keys where ghosts and ghouls offer everything from a night of family fun to up-to ten days of let-it-all-hang-out. Literally
Thurs. Oct. 17: Haunted Robbies Islamorada Marina
, 5-7 p.m. spook trawler show with costumed ghouls, 12 and under Free. After 7 p.m. older spirits enjoy canal rides, scary maze, ghostly pirates, food and wine tasting. 305-664-8070. http://www.robbies.com
Kay West:
Oct. 18-20
starts weekends through end of the month, at the Annual Haunting of Fort Zachary Taylor with other –worldly celebrations, live shows. Don a costume Oct. 19: for the Vampire Ball, 8 p.m.; Sun. Oct. 20 it’s Kids Day 5-7 p.m. tricks # treats Free with park admission. Admission to Haunting 8-11 p.m. $13 adult, $10 military, $8 kids . Free under 5. http://www.hauntedkeywestfort.com
Oct. 18-27 Annual Fantasy Fest presents ten days of masquerade balls, costume contests, wild and wooly parties and much more. Fri. Oct. 25 the Fantasy Fest Masquerade March that begins 5 p.m. in the cemetery and ends at a Street Fair on Duval.is the prelude to Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade, Oct. 26. Grand Marshall Diana Nyad, first person to swim from Cuba to the Keys without a shark cage, leads the floats, costumed marching groups and bands. Sunday, Oct. 27 ends the festivities with Children’s Day food, games, arts & crafts, costume contests , etc. from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 305-292-8912. http://www.fantasyfest.com
Thursday, Oct. 31: Haunted Hammock, Crane’s Point
6 p.m. it’s ghosts, ghouls and pirates for the last scare of the year. Free: kids 12 and under. 305-743-3900. http://www.cranepoint.net
Last gasp: Halloween ends with open to the public treats Gulfside Village outdoor shopping plaza annual community party from 5:30-7 p.m. 5800 Overseas Hwy.
Looking for a place to stay? Need more info? http://www.fla-keys.com

October Festivals and Florida Daytrips

by Adele Woodyard
So many types of festivals flourish in Florida from Fall to Spring, it would be difficult not to find one you like. Have you thought of turning “That’s the one” into a weekend jaunt? Or at least a daytrip? Toward that end, this week’s blog will combine each festival with a page (s) in my Florida “Freebies” and “Cheapies” book of other things to see and do close by while you’re in the same area. Of course you’ll need the book to see what they are.
Oct. 11-13: Daytona Blues Festival, Jackie Robinson Ballpark, Dayton Beach, a Blues/rock festival with Craft Brews and Blues a new addition on Saturday. From 1-5 p.m. you can sample 3 oz. of different craft beers at $1 per taste, six for $5 while listening to the music. Once-day pass $30, includes After Party; pass for all three days, $75 and all After Party, held at the Bahama Breeze Island Grille. (book pgs. 75-77). http://www.daytonabluesfestival.com
Sat. Oct. 12: 14th Annual Pumpkin Festival, Havana begins at 8 a.m. with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. It’s a family fun day for $1/person admission, with pony rides, story telling, costume contests for dogs, kids and adults, and more. (book pg. 22 for antique lovers) 850-545-0824. http://www.havanaflevents.com
Oct. 18-20: Alligator Warrior Festival, O’Leno Springs State Park, High Springs, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.. American Indian gathering with dancers, drummers, traders, crafts, food and a Living History re-enactment of the 9/11/1836 Battle of San Felasco Hammock. Alligator Warrior was name of a Seminole chief, town of Alligator was renamed Lake City in 1859. $5 carload 2-8 people, $4 single occupant. (book pgs. 30, 39-40) 352-493-6072. http://www.floridastateparks.org
Oct. 19-20: Fall Fly at T.I is a two-day kite flying competition at the Treasure Island Beach Resort,10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sponsored by Windworks, and the Eastern League Sport Kite Assoc. it will benefit the Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium All ages, all types of kites welcome and novices will be paired with master kite flyers. Free. 7 p.m. Friday there’ll be illuminated kites and a meet and greet at the Tiki Bar. $5 parking all day at the Treasure Island Community Center. (book pg. 60) . Windworks, 727-320-9463. http://easternleague.net/events/1011
Oct. 20-26: “Ding” Darling Days at the National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island offers a week of family fun, Sunday, Oct. 20: is a FREE Family Fun Day starting at 11 a.m. with a Talking Trash game with prizes, wildlife programs, life-size puppets, tram tours and more. Saturday, Oct. 26 ends with Free events and snax at the Education Center. The days in-between have both Free and Fee (e.g. nature cruises, kayak tours, sunset paddles, etc.) programs , games, and more . featuring assorted birds and other wildlife. (book pgs. 102-103). 239-472-1100. http://www.dingdarlingdays.com

First Day of Autumn?

by Adele Woodyard
That may be what the calendar says, but when I step outside my air-conditioned apartment I’m hit with desert-like heat. For Floridians, more than a vague hint of autumn is at least another month away. Yet even though it may be all in the mind, the promise remains–September ushers in three months of holidays, festivals, and—Tourists!
Halloween may be a big deal in the Sunshine State, but you don’t have to wait until October 31st to have fun with the spooks. Some, such as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (Sept. 10-Nov. 1) and Universal’s Halloween Horror Night (Sept. 20-Nov. 2) have already begun. But this week’s blog will look at upcoming festivals around the state that don’t wear costumes: Halloween festivities will come later.
Sept. 27-Nov. 10: Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is annual celebration of good things to eat and drink at a wide variety of participating venues.
Oct. 12-13: 90th Annual Winter Park Autumn Art Festival 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. features Florida artists, live entertainment and food presented by local restaurants. Central Park, 251 S. Park Ave. Free. http://www.winterpark.org
Oct. 12-14: African Market, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Fort Mose Historic State Park, St. Augustine. 3-day event with African drummers, dancers, gospel concert, food and African goods Park fee $2 per person. In 1738 the fort became the first legal settlement for slaves fleeing the British in the Carolinas by the then Spanish governor. http://www.floridastateparks.org
Oct. 10/16-20: Orlando Film Festival. 130+ indie films from around the world.at various downtown venues. Day Pass system ($10/day see all scheduled for that day), VIP passes available. http://www.orlandofilmfest.com
Oct. 19: Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest for certified SCUBA divers meet 8:30 a.m., Amy Slat’s Amoray Dive Resort, Key Largo. $85 per diver, 2-tank, 2-locations dive. 800-426-6729. http://www.amoray.com
Oct. 26: St Marks has a double event for twice the fun The city has their annual Stone Crab Festival downtown from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in conjunction with San Marcos de Apalachee Historic Site State Park, 10 a.m.-4p.m. The park celebrates National Archeology Day with many family and kids activities. You can bring a picnic lunch or eat stone crabs in town where there’s a parade and Living History with Confederate and Spanish era re-enactors. The Museum will be open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and tours are Free at this event. For info on both: 850-922-6007. http://www.floridastateparks.org
Oct. 27: Festival Calle Orange offers food, dancing and music noon-8 p.m. spread over 10 blocks in downtown Orange Ave. Orlando. 407-381-5310. http://www.renesproductions.com

Then and Now

by Adele Woodyard
Is a blog the modern-day column? When I wrote a column on inexpensive Florida travel for a now defunct magazine in the early 1990s, they were submitted on floppy discs. If I hasn’t printed them out, and/or saved the tearsheets, they would have disappeared. Instead they became the basis for my Florida “Freebies” and “Cheapies” book. So why not a blog? For example, in the book the Florida Pioneer Museum in Dade City (p 52) is but a paragraph—an overview of what you can see and do on a visit. What follows are tidbits of information written 18 years ago that added interest to the exhibits at the time..
“Back in the nineteenth century when Florida was being wrestled from the Seminole Indians, a series of log forts were built, most within a day’s march of each other. One known as Fort Dade was located in eastern Pasco County. It was here that John Overstreet built one of the first homesteads in the area on an 80-acre farm. Although land was plentiful, there were few places to spend the night , so Overstreet’s house also served as guest house for many an early settler.”
“…Dade City’s first school bus, a buckboard wagon ensconced amid the antique carriages and farm tools in the nearby barn. It is easy to imagine the wagon with the huge wooden wheels filled with young boys in knickers and girls wearing long dresses and bonnets, being bounced along a country lane on the way to school.”
The Trilby Depot…”when railroad magnate Henry B. Plant was laying the tracks, he changed the name of the town from Macon to Trilby, presumably because his wife was enamored of a book by the same name” When the Atlantic Coast Line took over “they enlarged the depot by adding a …restaurant open 24 hours a day to the passenger station. Unfortunately as the town grew, so did the moonshining and shootouts. At one time the bank president’s wife, who served as teller, was locked in the vault by a couple of bank robbers and barely made it out alive.”
The above was one of the last I wrote for this particular magazine—the first appeared in January 1992 and visited two entirely different sites. Heritage Village contains one of the oldest log cabins in the state while the Gamble Plantation is possibly the last surviving southern mansion in southwest Florida. .As a travel writer I’ve always enjoyed the “stories” that went along with the sites, even while taking their history with a grain of salt. The buildings, the artifacts and other memorabilia they hold, almost make up for the walls that can’t talk.
I was an adult before my parents bought a house, a pre-Revolutionary Dutch Colonial in New Jersey. Imagine the stories it could tell. Maybe one of these days I’ll add imagination to its history and write a blog about it. When the house was built about 1760 (exact date unknown) St. Augustine was on the verge of being ceded to the British. Looking over my copy of its history (and others) maybe I’ll add a piece on the Jersey Devil.