Flying Over Alligators on The Screamin’ Gator Zip Line

Ready for the Screamin' Gator Zipline!

Photo courtesy Experience Kissimmee.


Travel consideration (And adrenaline rush) provided by Experience Kissimmee!

On my first full day in Florida, we started off bight and early by heading over to Gatorland. I couldn’t think of a better way to start my Florida experience! As would become a theme on this trip, we began the morning by heading straight to the thrill ride: The Screamin’ Gator Zipline, which is the world’s tallest, fastest zipline. Oh yeah, and its track goes over GIANT GATORS. Who needs coffee in the morning when you have a jolt of adrenaline courtesy a zip line course over gators?

The ironic part is that prior to this trip, I always swore I wouldn’t go ziplining. In fact, a couple of years ago I remember commenting on another blogger’s post from a trip to Kissimme where they wrote about riding the Screamin’ Gator Zipline, and I remember saying something along the lines of, “Wow, that’s so cool that you did that, but I would never be brave enough to do it!” Well, never say never, because here we are!

I thought carefully before deciding to go on this trip if I’d want to do the ziplining experience. Of course, nothing was mandatory and it was my choice if I decided to participate or not. After thinking about it, I realized it would be silly not to. I am not a thrill-seeker in the slightest, and I do not like heights, so part of me wondered if it was going to end up like that South Park episode “I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining”. But because I am so uptight and anxious, I thought it would be a good challenge for me, and this whole trip ended up being about challenging myself, facing fears, and personal growth.

So to get started, we watched a safety video, talked to our guides about the rules and got strapped into a harness and helmet. As we approached the zip line tower, I didn’t feel nervous at all. We walked up many flights of stairs and I felt totally fine! And then, I saw the platform we had to jump off and how high we were – THEN I felt the fear!

I was terrified during the first zip line course I did. What was hilarious is that all the other girls posed for fun photos in the air, courtesy our zip line photographer – no cameras are allowed on your person on the zip line and with very good reason, there is no way you could hold on to them and you do not need any distractions up there. Look at how happy and cute these girls are:

(All zip line photos provided courtesy Gatorland)

Melissa on the zip line

Cher on the zip line

Rochelle on the zip line

And then there’s me:

AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Clinging on for dear life

The guide actually said to me, “You were the only one who didn’t put your hands up for the photo!”. I was thinking, hey lady, it’s enough that I’m even doing this – don’t ask me to be photogenic too! ;)

I could feel my legs shaking as we walked up the tower to do the second zip line. The thing that most scared met was the fact that you strap your own harness on, and I was scared that I might have done it wrong or affixed the straps incorrectly. I asked my guide and she reassured me that she was watching me the whole time and can tell by looking at me that it’s all right, because she’s done it for so long – and of course, they do a quick visual inspection every time you launch. The second zip was still really scary, but hearing that made me feel a lot better.

By the third zip, I had gotten comfortable with it and was proud of myself for facing the fear. “I got this!” I thought to myself. “The next one will be easy!” And then….I saw the bridge.

I knew that there was a wooden bridge to pass, but I didn’t really think about what it would look like. I wasn’t expecting this rickety, Indiana-Jones-style dangling bridge with every other step missing. Especially petrifying was the fact that they only hook up one of your harness ties, rather than both as they do on the other courses, and the one they hook up is not the super-duper-reinforced-safe-one. You are affixed to the side of the bridge, rather than above as on the others, so I was terrified as to what would happen if I fell. The bridge shook terribly if I tried to move fast, and I had to keep my eyes down on the abyss or I would miss my step. It was so scary and marked the very first time that I have ever sworn out loud on a press trip. (In my defense, I was not the only one!) It would also not be the last time I swore, since I let out the same expletive a few days later on the Sky Coaster, but that’s a whole other story!

But you know what was cool about the bridge? When I first started across, I was so scared, but by the time I was halfway across, it wasn’t as bad as when I began. That’s what facing a fear is like: It’s so awful to start, but then you acclimate. And that’s why I wanted to do this zip line: To face fears. I was really proud of myself! A lot of my friends on the trip said that the anticipation was the worst part, but I disagree, because I actually found doing it to be even scarier than thinking about it. ;)

After the death bridge of doom, we had one zip left, which was a zip line race over swampy, gator-filled water. After all the scary things we did, this seemed like nothing so it was super fun! My leg of the race was journalists versus PR as I zipped against Rochelle from Experience Kissimmee, who you saw in one of the photos above looking so graceful!

The Screaming Gator Zipline was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. I am the least thrill-seeking person on the planet, but now I can boast a photo like this:

Beeb ziplines over gators!

Beeb ziplines over gators!

It was very memorable, very Florida, and on a personal level I felt like it challenged me to do something that provided a valuable experience about facing fears for other areas of my life. I had an unforgettable time with my friends and by the end of it, I even had fun. And I would actually do it again, which is really saying something!

Gatorland is home to so much more than just the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line – I’ll be sharing my other Gatorland adventures in coming posts, so keep an eye peeled for that!

For More Information:

Gatorland
14501 South Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32837
1-800-393-5297

Screamin’ Gator Zip Line Admission: $69.99 – includes all day admission to Gatorland. Reservations required – click here for more information & to book online.

Relax in Kissimmee With a Chef of Your Own!

Caesar Salad

All travel and related consideration provided by Experience Kissimmee.

Last week, I took a vacation to remember in Kissimmee, Florida. I had so many adventures during my stay and I can’t wait to share all of them with you! To start off, let’s talk about something that is dear to all of our hearts: FOOD!

My first night in Florida, I was treated to a yummy sit-down meal by Chef Linda Page. Linda offers a unique service for guests staying at vacation homes – such as All Star Vacation Homes where I spent my trip – by coming straight to you, preparing a full meal, and cleaning up. All you have to do is kick up your feet and relax while Linda delivers a tasty meal to your plate!

Chef Linda's Appetizers

It was great to come out of my room after getting off the plane and unpacking my bag to find drinks and appetizers waiting for me. The appetizers, were so, SO good – it took some will power not to devour all of them, as I knew I’d need to leave room for the actual dinner!

Lasagna and Broccoli with Garlic Bread

After enjoying appetizers and company with the other bloggers whose flights had just gotten in, we sat down at the table for our meal. We first enjoyed a Caesar salad with Sangria, followed by lasagna, garlic bread, and broccoli; finally, we had a very yummy Tiramisu for dessert. Chef Linda told us that she is always disappointed when she orders a Tiramisu and cannot taste the alcohol, so she makes sure to craft her dessert the way she’d want to eat it. I could taste the flavors of the Tiramisu just as it should have been and it was fabulous!

Tiramisu

After dinner, we were left with two breakfast casseroles in the fridge: Bacon & French Toast Bake and Sausage & Egg Bake. All we had to do was pop them in the oven, eat, and enjoy!

Sausage & Egg Bake

Bacon & French Toast Bake

Chef Linda is a great option for families that want to relax on vacation without having to cook or worry about taking their young kids to a restaurant. It’s also a popular option for groups of bachelor golfers who want to kick back and relax in their vacation home and enjoy a stress-free, home-cooked, family-style meal without the prep or mess! She has cooked for vacationers from around the world, including NFL draft players and British comedian Peter Kay. The cost of a home-cooked chef experience averages about $30 per person – so the next time you visit Kissimmee, give Chef Linda a call!

For More Information:

Chef Linda Page – A Chef of Your Own
Phone: (407)856-7853
Website: OrlandoVacationChef.com
Chef Linda’s Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Wild Florida – A Great Theme Park Break for Your Kissimmee Vacation

Wild Florida – A Great Theme Park Break for Your Kissimmee Vacation

By: Ashley

After a few days of being surrounded by people and shuffling through lines, you might be ready for a break from the theme parks in Orlando. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE theme parks and thrill rides. I’m also a huge fan of seeing the wild side of things which is exactly what Wild Florida is all about.

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Wild Florida is an wildlife park where you can experience amazing air boat rides through the head waters of the Everglades. Wild Florida was actually my first air boat ride, and I absolutely LOVED it! An air boat gives you the chance to put yourself out in the middle of the Florida swamp land. There is no better way to see the wild side of Florida than from the seat of a boat in the middle of the swamp! What does it look like when you’re riding on an air boat? I was able to grab a little video so I could share it with you! (It’s definitely a little loud, so you might want to adjust your volume.) Keep in mind, it’s some buzzing around in the boat and then stops along the way when your guide spots some cool wildlife!

 

In addition to AMAZING air boat tours through gorgeous Florida wildlife, Wild Florida has a great wildlife park: home for exotic animals, birds, and tortoises. I was extremely impressed with the clean and friendly feel of the wildlife park. All of the animals seemed loved and well cared for. I even saw an animal that was new to me! Have you ever heard of a Zonkey? You also have to make sure you check out some of the young alligators that you can even hold!

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Once you have seen the animals, you can take a walk through the “Hawk Swamp.” This platform walk through the wetlands lets you have an up close look at life in the Everglades. I actually learned about “cypress knees.” Cypress knees are the unusual root system growth that occurs with Cypress trees growing in the swamps. Some think this is a way for the tree roots to gain extra oxygen since they are usually submerged in water. Others think this is more of a structure for support and stabilization. Either way, it just goes to show that there is so much for anyone to learn from our friends at Wild Florida.

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As if the day at Wild Florida wasn’t exciting enough, they were able to cap off the day with a delicious meal. Sometimes you worry that at parks the food won’t really seem very fresh. With great meat options, my rib lunch was delicious!

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If you’re going to be in the Orlando area, I strongly encourage you to check out Wild Florida. It is a place I would love to go back to with my family.

Experience Kissimmee brought me to Florida to experience Kissimmee in person. All opinions are my own, and no compensation was received.

About Ashley – Ashley is a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and former teacher working to navigate through the mysterious world of Mommyia. Read more about her adventures at Momicles and follow her@Momicles2010.

A Visit To Forever Florida Eco Safari Through Photos

Forever Florida – Through Photos

You’ve seen us zipline here, you’ve seen us ride the zip line roller coaster, and now Ashley has taken the safari. Here is a post about her experience at Forever Florida.

By: Ashley

I was a little nervous about traveling to Kissimmee pregnant. Not because I had any pregnancy concerns, but more because I knew I would miss out on some of the more adventurous things. You might remember Louise posting about her own experience at Forever Florida. She was able to take on their zip line adrenaline rushes like a champ! I wasn’t sure what experience would be waiting for me when we visited Forever Florida.

As soon as you enter the Forever Florida refuge, you can’t help but feel a little calmer and a little more peaceful. While it’s true that they have one of the most impressive zip line experiences, their wildlife safari is the complete opposite – a relaxing and awe-inspiring ride through some gorgeous Florida wildlife. At first I was a little disappointed to miss out on the zip line course, but after taking the safari, I realize I didn’t miss out on anything at all! Instead, I had a great experience with a fantastic guide and learned SO MUCH about Florida! Here is a little peek at what you can see on the Forever Florida Safari.

The lovely Leslie, my guide through Forever Florida.

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Some of the wild boar that can be found in Florida.

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Can you spot the deer?

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I spy with my little eye, an alligator! Can you see him?

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There he is!

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It was FACINSATING to learn about the “cracker horses” and “cracker cows” of Florida.

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Forever Florida left me saying one thing, “WOW!” Apparently this cow feels the same way!

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Experience Kissimmee brought me to Florida to experience Kissimmee in person. All opinions are my own, and no compensation was received.

About Ashley – Ashley is a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and former teacher working to navigate through the mysterious world of Mommyia. Read more about her adventures at Momicles and follow her@Momicles2010.

Where to Stay In Kissimmee: Westgate Vacation Villas

Westgate Vacation Villas – A Home Away from Home While in Kissimmee

By: Ashley

Are you planning a trip to Kissimmee or the Orlando area? Do you need a place to stay that can accommodate your whole family? Have you entered the Decade of Memories Contest and want to know where you could stay? I had the chance to stay at the Westgate Resorts Vacation Villas recently and I can definitely see how the location and amenities make it a great accommodation option for anyone traveling to Kissimmee.

The number one selling point to me on any family accommodations is the actual living space. The extra amenities are wonderful, but usually when you are planning a vacation, you need your sleeping and eating space to be just right. Especially when traveling with kids, sleeping arrangements can always be tricky, and having to eat out every meal can be extremely expensive. The kitchenette in the Westgate Villas is the perfect option to help keep meals healthier and more affordable. I wanted to make sure you knew what the room was like, so here is a video!

 

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After staying with Westgate Resorts, I am also impressed by their list of special amenities. I was trying to figure out a way to summarize them, but the list is so long! Some on site dining options, shuttles to theme parks, complimentary parking, and they are even pet friendly! During my stay, I had a few trips to Drafts Sports Bar and Grill, one of the on-site restaurants. I was impressed with the fresh taste and quality of the ingredients for the dinner menu. They also offer a very affordable breakfast buffet (only about $6 a person).

Here was dinner from Drafts (chicken quesadilla, club sandwich):

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What else does Westgate have to offer?

- Fourteen Outdoor Heated Pools

- Fourteen Hot Tubs

- Playground

- Game Room

- Fitness Center

- Lakeside Marina and Dock

- Disney Movie Theater

- 24 Hour Front Desk and Security

- Complimentary Shuttle Service to Area Restaurants

 

 

Experience Kissimmee brought me to Florida to experience Kissimmee in person. All opinions are my own, and no compensation was received.

About Ashley – Ashley is a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and former teacher working to navigate through the mysterious world of Mommyia. Read more about her adventures at Momicles and follow her @Momicles2010.

The Gator Capital of America and Florida Family Fun Stop: Gatorland #Kiss10

Gatorland – The Gator Capital of America and Family Fun Stop in Orlando #Kiss10

By: Ashley

Gatorland, also known as the gator capital of America, is an amazing wildlife park in Orlando, Florida. You can find alligators, crocodiles, majestic white alligators, snakes, and a breathtaking array of birds. What’s even more amazing is the sense of family you can’t help but feel as you stroll through the park.

If you’re planning a trip to Orlando or anywhere in the Kissimmee area, one of the big questions you might have is “Should I go to Gatorland?” I can honestly say I would take my family there. Admission to Gatorland is about $25.00 for adults and $17 for kids 3 and up (Florida residents are eligible for a discount). With the number of attractions, shows, and exhibits in the park, you could easily spend the entire day outside with your family at a reasonable price.

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If you’re now wondering what there is to do in Gatorland, let me help you out! Gatorland is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles, an aviary, a boardwalk through a breathtaking marsh area, a petting zoo, a kids splash zone, and amazing one-of-a-kind reptilian shows. All of this is included with regular park admission.

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If you’re interested in adding even more to your gator adventure, Gatorland has a ton of add on special packages. They’ve even added on a Screamin’ Gator Zip Line which takes you over seven stories high with an amazing view above the trees.

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As is the case with pretty much any attraction that features live animals, you may wonder what kind of care the animals receive. At Gatorland, many of the animals are actually rescued. Chester the alligator was actually rescued after he got kicked out of his home because he was eating too many dogs! Gatorland has also adopted animals rescued from animal hoarders like several Pythons found in the park. Even the white leucistic alligators wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild. While not all of the animals in Gatorland are rescues, the family feel that is around every corner leaves me thinking they’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. The staff at Gatorland obviously cares about each other, loves wildlife, and wants to share their joy with you.

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Gatorland is actually one of the oldest, continually running attractions in Central Florida establish in 1949. The iconic jaws in front of the main entrance were at one time the official entrance into the park. After surviving a massive fire, the gator jaws are still there ready for photo ops, and a great landmark letting you know exactly where you are – Gatorland!

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Experience Kissimmee brought me to Florida to experience Kissimmee in person. All opinions are my own, and no compensation was received.

About Ashley – Ashley is a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and former teacher working to navigate through the mysterious world of Mommyia. Read more about her adventures at Momicles and follow her@Momicles2010.

Experience Kissimmee Yourself with a Decade of Memories #Kiss10 @VisitKissimmee – #Contest

Experience Kissimmee Yourself with a Decade of Memories #Kiss10 @VisitKissimmee – #Contest

By: Ashley

clip_image002How would you like to win a trip to Kissimmee, Florida? That’s a trip including airfare, accommodations, and a rental car. How would you like be able to bring along your entire family (up to 5 additional people)? If you think that sounds like a great prize, just wait until you hear the rest. Experience Kissimmee is giving away an entire Decade of Memories with Kissimmee Vacations. By entering their Decade of Memories contest, you could win one trip a year to Kissimmee, Florida for ten years! That’s an entire decade of fun, adventure filled, sunny Florida memories for you and your family!

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After getting to spend some time in Kissimmee, I have seen firsthand that there is NO WAY you can do everything you want to do in a single trip. I’m not even sure you can really squeeze it into ten years, but it’s worth a shot!

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When you hear Kissimmee, you might automatically think Disney, but the truthfully there is SO much more to do! Kissimmee is home to airboat excursions, zipline adventures, wonderful wildlife, gorgeous golfing, premier shopping, dining, and entertainment! Do you think you could spend a little time over the next ten years in Kissimmee? I do!

So how do you enter the Decade of Memories contest?

1. Submit a story telling how you would spend your time during your Decade of Memories in Kissimmee by February 28, 2013.

2. If you’re selected as one of 25 finalists, make a short video that brings your story to life.

3. The public votes on the winner using the Experience Kissimmee Facebook page. (A great page to check out anyway if you’re planning a trip of your own!)

4. WIN the Grand Prize of ten years worth of Kissimmee vacations!

So what exactly is included in this grand prize package?

- 10 trips for the winner (and 5 guests per trip) to visit Kissimmee, Florida for 7 days, 6 nights.

- Roundtrip, economy class airfare.

- Accommodations at Westgate Resorts.

- A rental car during your stay.

- PLUS $25,000 cash!

*Make sure you checkout Decade of Memories for official rules, entry information and more.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get busy writing so you can enter to win this amazing vacation package! Time is ticking and you’ve only got until February 28!

Experience Kissimmee brought me to Florida to experience Kissimmee in person. All opinions are my own, and no compensation was received.

About Ashley – Ashley is a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and former teacher working to navigate through the mysterious world of Mommyia. Read more about her adventures at Momicles and follow her @Momicles2010.

5 Ways to Experience Kissimmee Without Going to Disney #Kiss10

5 Ways to Experience Kissimmee Without Going to Disney

By: Ashley

We all know that Disney is a magical place, but Kissimmee is home to so many amazing activities and adventures! You could plan a weeklong vacation to Kissimmee full of fun and adventure without even going to Disney. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Disney (Who doesn’t?!?), but sometimes families need to know what else there is in Orlando.

1. Wild Florida – This place is full of Florida wildlife from the second you step onto the grounds. A petting zoo, airboat rides, and of course alligators can keep your family busy for hours!

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2. Forever Florida – If you want to see some untouched, natural Florida scenery, but aren’t feeling the boat riding bug, Forever Florida is a great stop. This eco-ranch of 4700 acres offers a ton of adventures including horseback tours, safari rides, and amazing zipline tours.

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3. Arabian Nights – This family owned and operated dinner entertainment show features gorgeous horses and a patriotic story. Enjoy a meal while watching a theatrical show unfold before your eyes.

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4. Gatorland – It’s impossible to feature Florida wildlife without alligators and Gatorland is the alligator hot spot. Gator shows, gator rescues, gator babies, mysterious white gators, and more can be found at this great Orlando attraction where you could easily spend a day.

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5. Premium Outlets Orlando – Once you’ve seen the wild side of Kissimmee, you can take a day to hit this shopper’s paradise. Upscale stores like Coach, and kid friendly stops like Stride Rite make this a great shopping destination for all.

 

So there you have it – 5 ways to spend a day in Orlando without going to Disney. I have to admit that not all of these places are officially in Orlando or Kissimmee, but they’re all very close. They also all have great online resources to help you plan your family’s visit. Don’t forget to check out our own Kissimmee experiences here on MomStart to help you plan your trip.

 

Experience Kissimmee brought me to Florida to experience Kissimmee in person. All opinions are my own, and no compensation was received.

About Ashley – Ashley is a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and former teacher working to navigate through the mysterious world of Mommyia. Read more about her adventures at Momicles and follow her @Momicles2010.

Arabian Nights in Kissimmee, FL: A Heartwarming, Patriotic Horseshow @ArabianNightsFL #Kiss10

Arabian Nights in Kissimmee, FL – A Heartwarming, Patriotic Horseshow (@ArabianNightsFL)

By: Ashley

Arabian Nights is a dinner show where horses are the stars of the show. In the current production, an all American girl celebrates her 21st birthday, only to discover she is actually Princess Scheherazade in need of a prince! A magical genie enters the story to help her travel the world to find her true love – a prince who loves horses as much as she does.

I would best describe the show as good, old fashioned, family fun. There are plenty of one-liners to make you chuckle, music to make you move and even sing along, and a storyline that is safe for young children. The horse trainers are extremely talented and will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat during some of their heart stopping stunts. Have you ever seen a man jump through fire?

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The menu at Arabian Nights is pretty limited. Honestly, I don’t think people come here for the food though. There are enough options that anyone should be able to have a good meal, but the show is really what Arabian Nights is all about.

The family at Arabian Nights takes great pride in the care of their horses. That was a big question I had, so you might be wondering the same thing. The horses are exercised and/or turned out to play every day and their stalls are cleaned 3 times a day. The horses are mostly voice trained and never touched with a whip.

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If you’re planning to visit Arabian Nights, you should know that the fun can start even before you take your seat. The doors open about an hour and 45 minutes before the start of the show. You can shop in the gift shop, enjoy an appetizer buffet (when I went it was tortilla chips and salsa – tasty!), and even visit the cash bar. There are also Henna Tattoos and caricatures. I was a little disappointed that I missed the belly dancer though. I did see her in costume and would have LOVED to see her dance!

Arabian Nights has several different add on options. Everything from stable tours, to drink packages, and even a performer for a day option! The group I was with actually had the VIP Experience which included a stable tour and special preferred seating.

This can be a pretty pricey night, so I would definitely make sure it’s a special occasion and something that your family really wants to do. General admission tickets with the online 25% discount are about $50 each. You do need to remember though, that you do get dinner included with the price of your ticket.

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A heartwarming, patriotic show starring gorgeous horses – THAT is what Arabian Nights is all about.

Experience Kissimmee brought me to Florida to experience Kissimmee in person. All opinions are my own, and no compensation was received.

About Ashley – Ashley is a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and former teacher working to navigate through the mysterious world of Mommyia. Read more about her adventures at Momicles and follow her @Momicles2010.

Florida’s 500 Years of Adventure: 50 Different Vacation Packages Giveaway #Kiss10

If you’re following the hashtag #kiss10 on twitter then you’ll know Ashley is in Kissimmee Florida right now representing MomStart. I’ve been to Kissimmee twice last year and I loved it. There is so much to do in Kissimmee and the surrounding areas. You have Disney, Gatorland, Forever Florida and Boggy Creek Airboat rides, and that’s just to name a few of the adventures. I experienced plenty of firsts and I expect the same for Ashley. I also can’t wait until I have the opportunity to go back with my two adorable children. They are going to love it there as will you. image

This year marks Florida’s 500th anniversary of when Ponce de Leon discovered the Sunshine State. In celebration of this milestone, VISIT FLORIDA is making it easier for adventurous families to explore Florida.

Starting this month, prospective travelers have chances to win 50 different vacations to Florida – adventures that evoke the state’s heritage of discovery and exploration. “Florida’s 500 Years of Adventure” sweepstakes gives away 50 vacation prize packages, one per week through Dec. 29, 2013. Enter at win.VISITFLORIDA.com. Participants may enter every day for chances to win. Prize packages will include trips to destinations around the state where travelers can participate in everything from manatee snorkel tours in the Crystal River to rounds of golf at the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course in Orlando.

In addition, throughout the month of March, the third-largest ship in the world, the Juan Sebastian Elcano, will dock in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Cape Canaveral. This sail training ship of the Royal Spanish Navy will then travel to St. Augustine in April for the opening of a two-acre living history museum, The Colonial Quarter. This permanent addition to the St. Augustine visitor experience will provide historically accurate portrayals of the initial arrival of European culture on Florida’s shores with exhibits, shows, hands-on interactive activities, taverns, restaurants and more.