Sunday, March 13, 2016

2016 Philadelphia Flower Show

The 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show, which ran from March 5 to 13, celebrated the beauty and diversity of America's National Parks.

It had exhibits that celebrated the beauty of local parks such as Independence National Historic Park, Valley Forge, and Hopewell Furnace, as well as parks such as Cape Cod, Acadia and Death Valley, among others.

National Park Service Rangers were at the Flower Show to answer questions about the parks and give talks about the National Parks. The show had it's own National Park Service Passport stamp and children were invited to participate in the Junior Ranger program to learn more about the National Parks represented at the Flower Show.

The Flower Show celebrated the National Park Service's 100th Anniversary. The 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show was the best in recent memory.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Best Western Plus Siesta Key Gateway

We stayed for four nights at the Best Western Plus Siesta Key Gateway, and it was definitely a good choice. They are located right before the bridge to Siesta Key, and are only a 5 minute drive to the main beach area. In addition, they are only 10 minutes from the downtown area of Sarasota and 15 minutes from St. Armand's Circle.

The room itself was pretty basic, but nice. The bed was very comfortable. The housekeeping staff did a good job each day of keeping our room clean. The front desk staff was friendly. Each morning, the breakfast served was plentiful and pretty good for a hotel continental breakfast. There was also free popcorn to take from the lobby throughout the day. The wifi also had great speeds that allowed for high quality streaming video.

The pool area was very nice and had its own bar, which was run by a friendly bartender. The parking lot had some strange double bumps in it, so be careful driving in it. You don't want to be holding coffee while driving over them!

The only negative we found was there was no clothesline in the bathroom for hanging wet bathing suits, towels, etc., which is unusual for a beach area hotel.

Address: 6600 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231
Wifi: Free
Parking: Free
Restaurant: No
Bar/Lounge: Yes
Smoking: Non-smoking
Hidden Fees: None
Free Breakfast: Yes

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key Beach is considered by a few places to be the #1 beach in America (and boy does the town let you know it!). And after visiting for a few days, it is easy to see why. The sand is very soft and comfortable to walk on and lay down on. Even on a hot day, it is cool on your bare feet. The waves are very calm, making it nice to hang out in the ocean.

While you will find some cigarette butts and other trash in the sand (I don't understand how anyone can litter like this on a beach!), for the most part, the town keeps the beach area pretty clean.

There is a gigantic parking lot located at 909 Beach Road. On busy days, it can get full, so be aware of this. However, there are a few free shuttle options in the area to get you to the beach, where the only cost is the amount to tip the driver. If you plan on getting to the beach before 10 AM though, you should have no trouble getting a parking spot, even on the busiest of days.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are located right on the bay in Sarasota. The gardens offers visitors a nice serenity when visiting. The plant life is gorgeous, and the views of the bay are wonderful. There are various tours offered each day, but this is something we skipped due to time constraints. If you have about 90 minutes to spare during your visit to Sarasota and enjoy walking through gardens, this would be a good choice for you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary

The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is located outside of the main area of Sarasota. It is well worth the trip though if you're an animal lover. Here, you'll find various rescued animals, with tigers being the main focus, but also with bears, lions and others.

This isn't a very large facility, but they do great work in taking care of the animals. In addition, each day at 2 PM, they do a great show featuring some of the animals, but also explaining what individuals can do to help out.

Monday, May 25, 2015

FSU Ringling Center for the Cultural Arts

The FSU Ringling Center for the Cultural Arts is a gorgeous facility. The main attraction, for us at least, was to go into the Ringling Circus museum, which features an amazing model circus. Words can't even describe the amount of detail that went into this. In addition, you'll get to learn about the history of circuses and what it's like to do a tightrope walk and put on clown makeup.

We only had about 90 minutes here, so we couldn't explore everything. However, the grounds were gorgeous and you could easily spend all day here. One other highlight was the Ca' d'Zan, which is a Venetian style home. You can take tours of the inside (we weren't able to due to our own time limitations), but just seeing the outside is pretty breathtaking.

We highly recommend spending some time here when in the Sarasota area.

eBags Packing Cubes + OnSite Offer

Saturday, May 23, 2015

De Soto National Memorial

The De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, FL, celebrates Hernando De Soto's army and their desire to conquer the area. This led to many years of resistance by the native people, and unfortunately, to the death of many in the 1500s. In addition to learning about De Soto's conquests, the actual hiking trails are quite nice around the bay, and even offer some swimming opportunities.

If you're a collector of the National Park Passport Stamps, you'll find a stamp at the Visitor's Center here. They also have a Junior Ranger program here to encourage children (and adults) to learn about De Soto.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Solomon's Castle

Located practically in the middle of nowhere (and about 1 hour from Sarasota), Solomon's Castle is quite the unique experience. Created by Howard Solomon, this castle is entirely made out of recycled material. Tours are offered on the hour, and are quite humorous, as your tour guide leads you through a museum inside, which mostly contains Solomon's art. The tour is pun-filled and very enjoyable. In addition, you'll even be led through a part of the residence, where Solomon and his wife still live today.

While this is far off the beaten path, it is well worth the trek and we'd highly recommend it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

HUB Restaurant and Creamery

We chose Hub, in downtown Tucson, for dinner. We ordered the Shanghai salad and the Hub ribs. The restaurant itself was very large, with indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a bar and an ice cream counter.

The salad was very good, although I felt the lettuce was very roughly cut whereas the salad toppings were very finely diced. Many of the toppings fell to the bottom of the bowl, making for a very hard to eat salad.

The ribs were very good. The meat was fall off the bone tender and there was a lot of meat on the bones.

We also ordered both the french fries and the tater tots and preferred the fries.

After dinner we ordered a 4 oz portion of the house made ice cream. We chose the Mexican Wedding Cookie flavor - cinnamon ice cream with candied walnuts. The ice cream was definitely the star of the dinner. And the 4 oz. scoop was perfect for two of us to split after dinner.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tucson Tamale Company

We stopped at Tucson Tamale Company, on Broadway Blvd., for lunch. The location is a counter order restaurant with a lot of options. We ordered the Santa Fe tamale, with pork loin and cheese and served with a green chile sauce - and the chile relleno tamale.

The Santa Fe was definitely our favorite, the cheese and the smoky meat balancing with the sweet corn tamale. The chile relleno was good, but slightly unbalanced because of the chile within. However, once you made it to the chile and the cheese, it was a delicious meal. Even where there wasn't chile, the corn cake and cheese was very good.