Outside the "World" Archives

February 3, 2014

US Route 192 – Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway

Jack Spence Masthead

When people ask me where they should stay when visiting Walt Disney World, I always tell them at a Disney hotel (on property). I believe the perks offered here, such as Extra Magic Hours, the dining plan, and the close proximately to the Disney theme parks makes these resorts an excellent choice. However, there are many good reasons for staying at a non-Disney resort (off property). First among these is cost.

There is no way around it. Disney resorts are expensive. Even the Value resorts such as the Pop Century, Art of Animation, and the All Stars can cost $100 a night or more. For just a few dollars extra, a person can stay at a full-fledged non-Disney hotel. And with some sort of discount card they can get a mini-suite off property. If you want to be pampered and spoiled, there are other, more luxurious choices than the Grand Floridian - and many don't cost nearly as much.

Another good reason to stay in a non-Disney hotel is that it puts you in a better frame of mind to visit Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Sea World, and LEGOLAND. All four of these parks are outstanding and offer fantastic experiences that are well worth your time and money. In additions to these mega parks, the Orlando area has literally hundreds of other, lesser known attractions that are also a lot of fun. If you're not sure what these other attractions are, just about any non-Disney hotel and eatery will have a rack of brochures in their lobby to help plan your time.

Attraction Brochures

Two guides I would suggest picking up are "Orlando Quick Guide" and "Experience Kissimmee Florida." Both offer a comprehensive overview of the many opportunities to be had in the area.

Orlando Quick Guide

Today I'm going to talk about one of the major, non-Disney lodging areas in the Orlando area - or should I say, the Kissimmee/Saint Cloud area. US Route 192, also known as Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, runs from the middle of the state beginning at US Route 27 and ends one block from the Atlantic Ocean at State Road A1A. About 20 miles of this 75 mile thoroughfare are populated with a dizzying array of hotels, motels, timeshares, restaurants, souvenir shops, and attractions.

US192 Roadsign

Before I talk about the current US Route 192, or just 192 as the locals call it, I'd like to give you an abbreviated history of this highway. The Florida's State Road system was defined by law in 1923 and this was the first time this roadway was given an official designation. Over the years, road numbers were assigned and reassigned until finally in 1945, three State Roads were combined and assigned the designation of what is now, US192.

Irlo Overstreet Bronson, Sr. was a prominent cattle rancher in the Kissimmee area. He also served in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida State Senate. But he is perhaps best remembered as one of the local land holders who sold a large portion of his property to the Disney Company for a mere $100 per acre. Though his family felt he had relinquished the land for far less than its true value, Bronson believed that Disney would offer better career opportunities to the community and incentives for the local youth to remain in the area. Following his death in 1973, a large stretch of US192 was named the Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway.

Irlo Overstreet Bronson, Sr

After the Walt Disney World project was announced to the public, Disney executives hosted an event in Anaheim for many of the Central Florida local politicians. At this event, Disney drove the dignitaries up and down Harbor Blvd, the main roadway that borders Disneyland. The Disney people told these dignitaries, "Don't let this happen in your cities." What they were referring to was the unchecked and unplanned growth that had sprang up along Harbor Blvd in the wake of Disneyland. Everyone wanted to cash in on the Disneyland bonanza and an array of tacky establishments grew around the theme park.

I have no idea what restrictions may or may not have been implemented on US192 once everyone returned home from Disneyland, but judging by the mismatched growth that sprang up in the years that followed, the planning codes must have been lax - or nonexistent. US192 became Harbor Blvd East.

I'm happy to report that when construction began on Disney's California Adventure in the late 1990's, Disney entered into an agreement with the City of Anaheim and much of Harbor Blvd. was reimagined and improved to give the street a unified and well-kept look.

Also beginning in the 1990's, the tourist areas of US192 began an extensive reconstruction. Two lane roads were widened to four and four lane roads widened to six. The streets were lined with palms and lampposts were given a singular, stylish design. Traffic signals that once hung from overhead wires were replaced with more attractive solid pylons. Bus stops were also unified, covered, and given a tasteful look. Well cared for grass strips were situated along the road to soften the harsh look of the asphalt and buildings. And imaginative mile markers were positioned up and down the roadway to help tourist find the various venues along the route.

Palm Trees


Bus Stop

Mile Marker

When traveling along US192 today, you see an odd collection of strip malls, standalone eateries, souvenirs shops, attractions, fast food restaurants, and tourist information booths. However, the beautification of this thoroughfare is apparent and it doesn't seem to be the mishmash that it once was. Credit should be given to the cities' leaders who did their very best to update and modernize this tourist area.

Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of inconsistency in the caliber of the businesses offered here. For example, there are many, new and modern strip malls.

Nice Strip Mall

Nice Strip Mall

But there are still a few holdovers from the past.

Old Strip Mall

Old Strip Mall

One of the great things about US192 is the vast selection of souvenir shops and their outrageous architecture. Take a look at just a few.

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Actually, visiting these gift shops can be a lot of fun if you enter with the right frame of mind. To begin with, these are not the "sanitized" shops you'll find at Disney. Here you'll discover a much larger array of merchandise, including t-shirts and bumper stickers with racy sayings. You'll also find that the prices are considerably less than what Disney offers. But be sure to compare quality. Sure, you can buy t-shirts for $5, but examine the fabric thickness. Will they stand up to multiple washings?

T-Shirt Sign

You will see Disney characters plastered on everything, but you will not find the words "Walt Disney World" on t-shirts, towels, and bric-a-brac. The merchandise here may sport the words "Disney," "Orlando," or "Florida," but NOT "Walt Disney World." These words are restricted to Disney World venues.

You will also find a lot of non-Disney merchandise at these shops. Some of it relates to other Orlando attractions and some of it is just plain ol' tacky souvenirs that can be seen at any gift shop across America. But there are also quality items that can't be found on Disney property if you take the time to look.

Be aware, most of these gift shops have stationed a salesperson near the exit. When leaving, you will be asked if you want to buy tickets to any of the Orlando attractions. These salespeople can be persistent, but they are easily ignored if you just keep walking and don't engage them in conversation.

Speaking of tickets, you will also see a number of standalone shops offering "cheap tickets." I cannot speak with any authority on this subject, but I have always lived by the adage, "If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is." These places may be 100% legitimate, but buy with caution.

EDITORS NOTE: AllEars has a long time relationship and recommends MapleLeafTickets for discount tickets at the Orlando theme parks. The link takes you to special pricing for AllEars readers!

Cheap Tickets

In the years before air travel brought fresh fruit to supermarkets year round, citrus baskets from Florida were a required gift for those back home enduring a harsh winter. Today, most of these roadside stands are gone, but there are still a few along US192. Here you can purchase a large selection of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. Also available are citrus plants to plant once back home. Be aware, some states like California and Hawaii have strict restrictions on the import of plants, fruits, and vegetables.

Citrus Stand

Citrus Stand

Citrus Stand

Citrus Stand

Besides citrus products and souvenirs, these stands also offer foodstuffs like honey and specialty sauces.

An interesting phenomenon happened along Harbor Blvd. after Disneyland was built. In an effort to capitalize on the park's popularity, local establishments tacked on the word "land" to their business name. So you now had names like "Motel Land" and "Grocery Land." The same thing happened in Orlando. Many businesses tacked on the word "world" to make an association with themselves and the theme park.

World Sign

World Sign

World Sign

And it's not just the little guy who does this. One of the largest hotels in the Orlando area has effectively used the word "world."

World Sign

Speaking of names, you will encounter the terms "West Gate," "Main Gate," and "East Gate" along US192. You will also find these terms when searching for hotels and motels online. They are used to fool the uninformed tourist into thinking their establishment is close to the theme parks. For the most part, they are not. All of the parks are at the very minimum, a 15 minute drive away from any business on US192 - when the traffic is good. Note, US192 has dozens and dozens of signals and congestion is common during busy periods. Realistically, you should plan on a 30 minute drive to get to the Disney parks and longer to get to Universal and Sea World.

There is one stretch of US192 that is free of any business and is lined with thick growth on both sides of the road. This portion of the road is crossing Disney property and in essence, is a mini-freeway. The only sign of activity along this section of highway is the backside of ESPN Wild World of Sports. Traffic usually moves well in this portion of road as it has no signals, cross traffic, or turnouts to slow distracted drivers.

Disney Property

ESPN Wild World of Sports

Speaking of distractions, US192 has dozens of billboards, benches, and towering signs to grab your attention.

US192 Distractions

US192 Distractions

US192 Distractions

US192 Distractions

Near Mile Marker 8, you'll find the entrance to Celebration. This is the master-planned community that Disney orchestrated on their southern property beginning in the early 1990's. As this is an entire subject onto itself, I will save this topic for another article on another day.



Just down the road from Celebration is Old Town. This amusement center offer shops, restaurants, taverns, carnival-type rides, and live entertainment. However, this spot is best enjoyed in the evening when guests returning from the Disney parks arrive. Combine these enthusiastic patrons with the hundreds of blinking lights that bring the buildings alive and you have a very festive atmosphere. Note, although there are some rides suitable for young children, there are others that only the bravest individuals would dare attempt.

Old Town

Old Town

I have to admit, I've always been a little disappointed with Disney's miniature golf courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter-Summerland. Although imaginative, they lack the wow factor found in many non-property courses. That's not the case when looking for putt-putt spots along US192. Here you'll find real creativity and fanciful challenges.

Miniature Golf

Miniature Golf

Miniature Golf

Miniature Golf

For those of you who have money to burn, may I suggest a helicopter tour over Disney World? I did this once and found the experience to be exhilarating. It really is fantastic to see some of your favorites spots from the air. Although the company I used is no longer in business, there are several helicopter tour offices along US192. Note, the more you spend, the longer you stay in the air. Don't be fooled by the $20 come-ons. This amount of money will not afford you a tour of the entire Disney property.

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

When it comes to lodging, US192 has it all. Bargain motels and deluxe hotels can sit side-by-side and everything in between is right at hand. In addition, many resorts are located just off of the main drag. This allows them the space to create a relaxed atmosphere removed from the hustle and bustle of the busy street nearby.

EDITORS NOTE: AllEars has long term relationships with several hotel/villa/vacation home providers not on Disney property. The following hotels offer readers special pricing:

All Star Vacation Homes

DoubleTree Guest Suites in Downtown Disney
Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista
Sheraton Vistana Resort
Sheraton Vistana Villages



Many of the larger hotels offer shuttle service to the Disney parks. However, these may or may not work well with your schedule and in all probability, will not be as convenient as what Disney offers. Renting a car is most likely a good idea if staying along US192. And for those of you who do drive, remember, your Disney parking ticket is good all day at all four Disney parks.

Dining options are even greater than the lodging choices along US192. Almost every US chain restaurant has a presence here - many multiple times. And if you're not a fan of chain restaurants, a number of independent options are readily available. Once again, here is just a small selection of well-known eateries that will beckon you.

Bahama Breeze
Black Angus
Boston Lobster Feast
Burger King
CiCi's Pizza
Cracker Barrel
Golden Corral
Joe's Crab Shack
Logan's Steakhouse
Longhorn Steakhouse
Olive Garden
Papa John's Pizza
Ponderosa Steakhouse
Red Lobster
Ruby Tuesday
Sweet Tomatoes




If you want more than just a meal, there are a number of dinner adventures to choose from. Here is just a sampling.

Medieval Times offers a show featuring a king, queen, and six armor-clad knights riding valiant steeds in an exhibit of pageantry and competition.

Medieval Times

Pirate's Dinner Adventure features a 46 foot long Spanish galleon afloat in a 300,000-gallon indoor lagoon. Each of the six sections of the audience cheers for their pirate as the adventure unfolds in front of you.

Pirate's Dinner Adventure

The ad for Capone's Dinner & Show reads as follows, "Knock three times, give the secret password and discover the mysterious world of 1931 gangland Chicago. Our entertaining show delivers loads of laughs, gangster action, audience interaction and toe-tapping musical productions."

Capone's Dinner & Show

That's about it for my discussion of US192. I have to be honest, my advice to Disney World vacationers is still to stay on property if you can afford it. But if you choose to stay off property for any reason, this area of Central Florida has a lot to offer.

As always, I will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this article. But in reality, I don't frequent US192 often and I really don't have much detailed information about any particular business or attraction offered here.

Disclaimer: I am not endorsing any business mentioned in text or seen in any of my pictures.

January 7, 2014

Pirates of the Caribbean Guest Bedroom - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead

Yesterday I showed you my Pirates of the Caribbean guest bedroom "feature" wall.

Pirate Room Feature Wall

If you would like to recreate a similar wall in your own home, here are the steps I took.

I began buy buying "brick" paneling at Lowes. Each 4'x8' panel cost $25 and features bricks that are slightly raised from the grout. In other words, the paneling is slightly 3D.

As I knew that someday I would need to remove my feature wall in order to sell the house to a non-Disney fan, I used minimal nails and glue to attach each panel to the wall.

Brick Paneling

Since my ceilings are 9'4" high and the paneling is only 8' high, this necessitated some cutting and fitting. Although I attempted to line the bricks up carefully and minimize seams, the nature of the project allowed me to be sloppy in places. More on this later.

Seams in the Paneling

Architecturally, my window needed some sort of a faux header to appear as if it supports the weight of the bricks above. For this I took a simple piece of particle board. Then, using a claw hammer, wood chisels, and a plane, I nicked and gouged the wood to make it look like it had been created using primitive tools and exposed to the elements for years. I then nailed this header over the window and attached two pieces of molding along the sides of the window that run from the header to the sill.

Particle Board

Particle Board

Particle Board

Faux Header

Once in place, I painted the header, molding, and sill a dark brown, careful not to get any paint on the bricks.

Painted Header

Now it was time to decide just how much of the wall would be exposed bricks and how much aging plaster. There is no formula for this; it's simply a matter of taste. I opted for a fair amount of brick to be displayed.

The next step was to protect the brick that I wanted exposed once the project was finished. To do this, I used aluminum foil and painters' tape to cover areas of the wall. But cardboard and masking tape would work just as well.

Protecting the Bricks with Foil

Remember, in the above picture, all of the exposed brick you see will eventually be covered with plaster. The brick under the foil will be what we see as the finished product.

This is also the time to think about the seams found between the panels. Be careful to leave them exposed at this point so they will be covered by plaster - and hidden.

For the plaster I used all-purpose sheetrock joint compound. A bucket costs about $14 and contains ample product for this project. Joint compound can be purchased at Lowes or Home Depot.

I used a trowel to apply the plaster to the brick. In some areas I applied it thickly, in other areas, so thin as to see the bricks beneath. In addition, don't try to make a perfectly smooth wall. Remember, the wall you're trying to recreate was made by primitive tools by today's standards.

Plastering the Bricks

Plastering the Bricks

Plastering the Bricks

Plastering the Bricks

While the plaster is still wet, remove the foil and tape.

Removing the Foil

I have to admit, when I got to this stage of the project, I thought, "This looks horrible. What have I done? How much work is it going to be to undo this mess?" But I continued on.

After removing the foil, the edges of the plaster need to be attended to. The high spots should be smoothed out and the straight lines softened into curves. No special tools are needed for this task. I just used my fingers to even things out. With this portion of the project complete, I stopped work for the day as the plaster needed to dry overnight before painting.

Because I wanted the feature wall to blend with the rest of the room, I used the same grayish-green paint that I used on the other walls as the base color for the plaster. However, before I could begin painting in earnest, I needed to "soften" the edges where the plaster meets the bricks. For this I used a sponge. I would lightly dip the sponge into the paint, then gently tap the color onto the plaster and brick.

Softening the Edges

Softening the Edges

Also during this "sponging" phase, I would apply dabs of paint to several of the bricks. Then, using my fingers, I would smear it in. Remember, the bricks need to look as old as the plaster.

Painting the Bricks

After the edges were complete, I started applying a thick coat of the base gray/green paint. I worked in small areas of about 2 foot square. While the paint was still very wet, I applied stripes of a light brown color using a sponge.

Painting the Plaster

Then, using the same sponge, I blended the brown paint into the gray using a random pattern.

Painting the Plaster

Painting the Plaster

This next step is extremely important.

At a craft store (Michael's) I purchased four small bottles of acrylic poster paint, black, dark brown, olive green, and deep orange. I also bought a plastic spray bottle.

Starting with the black color, I mixed 1 part paint with about 30 or 40 parts water in the spray bottle. My goal was to create a very watery solution - or in other words, a very weak stain. Once mixed, I liberally sprayed the entire wall (both brick and plaster) with this solution. Sometimes I would let the mixture run down the wall, finding the various nooks and crannies of the surface. Other times I would dab the wet wall with a cloth to create a more blotchy look. I repeated these steps with both the brown and olive green. I saved the orange paint for later.

Aging the Plaster

Even though the black, brown, and green will only be slightly noticeable on the dark bricks, it's still important to spray them as it will soak into the paint you dabbed onto the bricks earlier.

Next I created a watery solution using my original gray-green wall color. I used this color to liberally spray the bricks. Its lighter hue contrasted with the dark bricks and "aged" them.

Note, in order to demonstrate my effects, I have exaggerated the coloring while photoshopping the pictures.

Now it's time to age the window header, boarder, and sill. For this I used the black, brown, and olive green paints at full strength and dabbed them onto the wood, smearing and blending as appropriate.

Aging the Header

Since my feature wall had a window, I needed to come up with some logical explanation for its existence. So I decided to make this the opening of a jail cell. To convey that story, I would add bars. Of course, real metal bars would be heavy and difficult to work with, so I opted to use ½ inch PVC pipe. First I made the basic frame.

Creating Bars out of PVC Pipe

Then, to soften the edges of where the pipes meet the joints, I applied spackle. I also applied spackle to non-joint areas of the pipe just to add "blemishes" to the "metal."

Applying Spackle to the Bars

To recreate a decaying metal look, I bought Valspar "stone" spray paint. This paint creates a very rough surface and is perfect for replicating decaying iron. Note, this paint does not go very far and two were necessary. And remember, you must paint both sides of the pipe. In addition, this paint dries slowly so have patience.

Painting the Bars

Painting the Bars

Once the stone paint had dried, I created a water mixture using the dark orange paint I had purchased. I then sprayed the piping with this color to simulate light rust and give the pipe a varied color. I also used the orange paint full strength at every joint to replicate extensive rust. And where the piping "attached" to the wall, I applied orange paint to make it appear that rust was dripping down the plaster and brick.

Adding Rust to the Bars

Adding Rust to the Wall

Note, I used a flash when taking the above pictures so you could see how I created the effect - thus, it looks very unrealistic. But in a room illuminated with incandescent lighting, the effect looks quite real.

Now I know what you're thinking. Bars covering a window, even plastic bars, is not a good idea. What if an emergency arises and someone needs to exit the room via this window. Well, I thought of that.

To attach the bars to the wall, I drilled two ½ inch holes in the window header. The entire plastic bar assembly hangs from these holes. A child can easily remove this lightweight structure. In addition, all guests staying in this room are given instructions on how to remove the bars.

Attaching the Bars to the Window Header

Attaching the Bars to the Window Header

So there you have it. How to create a feature wall in just three days. All told, this wall cost me less than $200.

Finished Wall

Finished Wall

If I had it to do over again, I would replace the white window blinds with some sort of bamboo curtain to cut down on the sharp contrast. I do plan on doing this sometime in the future, but it will require removing the header and side molding - something I'm not looking forward to as seamlessly reinstalling them will be challenging.

January 6, 2014

Pirates of the Caribbean Guest Bedroom - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead

Hey everyone. I'm back from my extended leave of absence from AllEars. My move into my new home went well and I'm pretty much settled in. I'm enjoying my new surroundings and I especially like the fact that I can easily hear the Walt Disney World Steam Train and the Lilly Belle whistles from my house. These are pleasant sounds to wake up to each morning. I also have a pretty awesome view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks in the evening from my patio.

Since my new house has been the focus of my life for the last nine months, I thought that my first blog after my return should touch on the subject. So today I'm going to talk about my new guest bedroom. For those of you who are regular readers of my column, you might remember that one of my previous blogs focused on the Mickey Mouse Suite in my former home.

Since my Disney career started in the Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland (which is located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction), I have a soft spot in my heart for this quintessential Disney ride. Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of Pirates memorabilia - and it has been displayed in various rooms of my previous homes. On my latest move, I decided it was time to consolidate all of this swashbuckling merchandise into one location. This ended up being the guest bedroom.

My Mickey Mouse Suite was over the top with bright colors and a very playful atmosphere. But I knew this whimsical approach would not work for a room based on Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC). This room would need to be a little more subdued. I also did not want to create a "children's" room. I wanted this bedroom to be suitable for adults - however, I believe a young child's imagination could get lost in this space.

I started this decorating project with the bedroom floor. But what should I use? I wanted something that suggested a nautical theme. Then I remembered the carpet that Disney uses in their pirate rooms located at the Caribbean Beach Resort. Here, the carpet resembles wood planks. The only problem is, this is custom carpeting and not available to the general public.

Pirate Carpet

The idea of wood planks intrigued me and I knew this was the way to go. But real wood flooring is expensive and requires special care. In addition, all of the other rooms in my house are tile. So I decided to purchase ceramic tile that resembles wood. This would be less expensive and make cleaning day a little easier. Although I am capable of laying tile, I opted to pay a professional to do the job.

Wood Plank Tile

Next, I needed to pick a wall color. For this I went with a medium gray with green undertones.

Ceiling fans are a fact of life in Florida. Almost every room in a new house in the Sunshine State is prewired to accommodate both an overhead light and a fan. Once again, I was looking for something that suggested a nautical theme. Fortunately, I found just what I wanted at Lowes. The light fixture resembles a lantern that might have been found on an old sailing vessel.

Ceiling Fan

Ceiling Fan

Having so many pirate figurines to display necessitated buying a new bed - a bed with a headboard with many nooks and crannies.

Bed and Headboard

Bed and Headboard

The majority of the figurines seen here are from the Walt Disney Classics Collection. When moving, I did NOT trust my fragile items to the movers and packed and transported them myself. All of these items have been out-of-stock for some time and now only available on eBay.

Walt Disney Classics Collection

Walt Disney Classics Collection

Walt Disney Classics Collection

Walt Disney Classics Collection

Walt Disney Classics Collection

Walt Disney Classics Collection

Walt Disney Classics Collection

The Walt Disney Classics Collection was introduced in July 1992. The pieces recreate classic Disney characters from both their movies and theme park attractions. The creation of each hand-painted figurine is supervised by Disney animators and are stamped on the bottom with an insignia designating the year it was released. Many of the pieces are produced in numbered, limited editions that often sell on secondary markets for substantially more than their original asking price.

The sailing ship is a replica of Queen Anne's Revenge, the vessel captained by Blackbeard and featured in Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." This wooden model is readily available online and comes fully assembled. Note, this is not a Disney product.

Queen Anne's Revenge

I purchased this lithograph at the Disney Gallery in Disneyland's New Orleans Square years ago. This piece of art was created for the PotC attraction at Disneyland Paris and can be seen in the Blue Lagoon Restaurant lobby.

Pirate's Lithograph

On the wall opposite the bed are two closets.

Closet Doors

After I finished decorating this room, I felt the white closet doors did not convey the rustic/pirate feel I was going for. (This "feel" will become more obvious as you read further in this blog.) So, I "weathered" them. To achieve this effect, I painted a clear "cracking" solution on the doors (available at Lowes and Home Depot).

Cracking Solution

After this solution dried, I painted the closets with a dark brown color. As this top layer of paint dried, it cracked and separated. This gave the doors an aged look.

Brown Closet Doors

Brown Closet Doors

However, I was not pleased with the stark contrast between the dark doors and the lighter wall color. So I took some of the gray/green wall paint and diluted it greatly with water. Then, working in small areas, I painted this watery mixture on the doors and trim. Next I took paper towels and wiped the majority of the paint off of the wood, leaving just a thin coat of paint. This technique accomplished two goals. First, it toned down the dark color. But more importantly, it helped "age" the wood even more. Now the closet doors look as if they have been exposed to the elements and faded in the sun. Also, by using the wall color to whitewash the wood, there is continuity in color.

Whitewahed Closet Doors

Whitewahed Closet Doors

Above the closets I have mounted a flat-screen TV, surround-sound speakers, and more pirate art. Since I knew in advance that I would be mounting a TV in this location, I had an electrical and cable outlet installed inside one of the closet. Inside this closet you'll find the cable box and DVD player. To simplify viewing, I bought a universal remote control that works on radio frequencies rather than infrared light. This allows the user to control the TV and sound system from the bed without having to open the closet doors as "line of sight" is not needed to operate the equipment.

Inside the other closet is my CD and DVD collection. I wanted to make sure my guests had something to watch when they retire in the evening. Of course, all Disney "Pirate" movies are available.

DVD Collection

To add more interest to the closet doors, I purchased pirate-themed knobs. Although they are not Disney related, they still fit the motif of the room.


The third wall of the room simply contains some Disney art, but some of it is interesting and not often seen today.

Wall of Pictures

In preparation for my move, I was rummaging through my entire Disney collection, trying to decide what to keep and what to sell as I was downsizing. During this ordeal, I came across a poster that I didn't even know I owned or where I had obtained it. Upon closer examination I found that it was a map of the PotC attraction. If you study it carefully, it traces the entire Disneyland Pirate voyage from start to end. Knowing I was creating a pirate room, I took the poster to a framer and had it mounted and laminated.

Pirates of the Caribbean Map

When Disneyland's PotC was in the planning stages, Marc Davis created many sketches of the scenes that would someday delight guests. When PotC opened in 1967, many of the sketches were transferred onto postcards and sold in New Orleans Square. But like all merchandise, they eventually ran their course and were retired. Years later, a Disney cast member was rummaging through a warehouse and stumbled upon several boxes of these unsold postcards. As the fledging Disney Gallery was on the lookout for new and interesting merchandise to sell, these postcards were framed and sold as "art" rather than a throwaway souvenir.

Pirate Postcards

Pirate Postcards

Pirate Postcards

The last picture I'll discuss on this wall is a sericel created by Disney artists to be sold in the various "good stores" at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Here we find Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto taking the place of pirates in the most memorable scene of the attraction.

Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto Sericel

I've saved the best for last"

For my fourth wall, I wanted to create something that would command attention and really hammer home the pirate theme. After a lot of thought, I decided on a crumbling wall as seen in the queue of Castillo del Morro and in other locations around Adventureland.

Adventureland Wall

My first thought was wallpaper. But I didn't like how frequently the patterns repeated. The bricks didn't look realistic. Next I looked at murals, but they were expensive and not big enough to cover an entire wall. I also thought about using the trompe-l'"il effect and painting a realistic scene. But alas, my artistic abilities aren't that keen. So I eventually decided to create the real thing - well, sort of. Here's how it turned out.

Feature Wall

Feature Wall

I'm pretty happy with my efforts and will talk about this wall in more detail later in this article. But first, let me discuss the remaining bric-a-brac.

I've never been a fan of overhead lighting in a bedroom. I much prefer lamps. So I went online and found this skeleton-pirate lamp. Once again, it's not "Disney," but it fits the room.

Pirate Lamp

Closer examination of the lamp finds our dead friend is wearing a pirate hat, has a bottle of rum in his boney fingers, and his feet are surrounded by doubloons and gems. The shade depicts a map to secret treasure.

Next to the lamp is another Walt Disney Classics Collection piece. This time we find a drunken pirate sprawled out with pigs.

Walt Disney Classics Collection piece

On the wall is a lithograph depicting the original ending scene in the Magic Kingdom version of PotC. If you remember, before Jack Sparrow arrived, the magistrate was bound and gagged as the pirates looted the treasure room.

Pirate Litho

Next to the litho is a shadow box that uses items from the attraction to spell out Pirates of the Caribbean.

Pirate Shadow Box

Well this ends today's article. If you like my feature wall and are interested in creating something similar in your own home, check back tomorrow when I will provide you with step-by-step instructions.

August 13, 2012

Mickey Mouse Suite at Laffite's Landing

Jack Spence Masthead

I have to admit, when I posted pictures of my Pinocchio guest bathroom last month in one of my blogs, I was bragging a little bit. What can I say? I have an ego that needs stroking occasionally. LOL However, I really did believe that some of you would be interested in seeing that "Disney" can be a legitimate decorating theme just like colonial or contemporary. And I was amazed at the feedback I received.

Many of you asked if I had other rooms decorated in Disney. The answer is yes. In fact, every room in my house is decorated in this style - tastefully of course. But only two rooms have dedicated themes. You've already seen one of my "themed" rooms with my Pinocchio guest bath. Today I'm going to share with you my other themed room, my Mickey Mouse guest bedroom.

When I moved to Orlando, I knew I would have friends and family who would want to come and visit and use my house as their base of operation - and save on hotel bills. That was cool with me. So when looking for a house to buy, I knew I needed a dedicated guest bedroom - preferably with its own, private bathroom. As luck would have it, I found such a home.

I also knew that I wanted my guest bedroom to be special - something that would help set the tone for my guest's adventures to come. (Mind you folks, I did this twelve years ago, long before Disney started decorating their hotel rooms with dedicated themes.) I also knew that the vast majority of the people using my guest bedroom would be adults. So I wanted to make sure I didn't create a child's room. This blog is going to show you how I created a Mickey Mouse guest suite, suitable for all ages.

First you need to know, most of the items in this room were collected over time - and many of them are no longer for sale or available. But that doesn't mean you can't create your own themed room. You will simply have a different set of decorating items.

Before I get to the Mickey Mouse Suite, let me start with my overall home. When I moved to Orlando, I knew my house needed a grand name. All great homes have a grand name. There is the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. There is the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. So my home would be known as Laffite's Landing. Laffite's Landing is the name of the loading dock for Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland so my house's moniker does have a Disney connection.

Laffite's Landing Plaque

On the door to the Mickey Mouse Suite is a picture frame and door knocker. Whenever a guest will be staying in this room, I create a special sign for them and place it in the frame welcoming them to Laffite's Landing. I also include their picture. So if Deb Wills were to be my guest, her welcome sign would look something like this.

Bedroom Door

Deb Wills Welcome Sign

Below this welcome sign is a Mickey Mouse door knocker. Although difficult to make out in the picture, he's wearing a top hat and tails.

MM Door Knocker

On the back of the bedroom door is a diagram of the house with escape routes marked in red. I take the safety of my guests very seriously. I also had a lot of time on my hands before I started writing for AllEars. LOL

Escape Map

One of the first things I needed to do when designing the Mickey Mouse Suite was to come up with a color scheme. Of course, the obvious choices are red, black, white, and yellow. So that's exactly what I picked. However, you need to be careful when decorating with red and black. These are strong colors that can overpower a small room. To that end, I decided to paint one accent wall in red with the other three walls in white. This worked quite nicely.

MM Bedroom

For the carpet, I took a gamble and selected black. I really debated before choosing this color. The wrong paint color is easily and cheaply remedied, but the wrong carpet color is costly to correct. Happily, the black carpet was the perfect choice. One thing to remember, dark colors show every piece of lint and dust. But because this room only receives light traffic, it's okay.

Black Carpet & Throw Rug

When it came to choosing a bedspread, I decided to stay away from those featuring Mickey Mouse prints. Although there were several I liked, I felt it could make my room too busy. Instead, I stuck with solid colors. The dust ruffle is white and the spread is red. The pillow duvet is black, and the bed curtains are white and black with yellow accents and ties. I made these curtains myself using inexpensive sheets. I topped the bed with four Mickey pillows that resemble his shoe, pants, ears, and glove. In addition, I added Mickey and Minnie plushes.

Bedspread and Plushes

Bedspread and Plushes

Over the plush Mickey's eyes is a Mickey sleep mask for those who need a little extra darkness.

Sleep Mask

Above the headboard are two reading lights and Mickey's gloves. High above the bed is a "DREAM" sign I found. I painted it yellow and it fits perfectly.

MM Gloves and Sleep Sign

I had a roll of Mickey Mouse wallpaper boarder that someone had given me, but not enough to circle the entire room. So I used what I had on the red accent wall only. To complete the circle around the rest of the room, I painted a red stripe and capped it with yellow molding.

Ceiling Molding

Ceiling Molding

Ceiling Molding

Because I didn't want to go overboard with Mickey colors (too late) and give the room a juvenile feel, I decided the furniture should have a more natural look. I settled on a light wood tone. I picked a similar color for the ceiling fan.

Night Stand

Chest of Drawers

Ceiling Fan

On the night stands are Mickey lamps that were once sold at a shop called "Disney Home Store" located at Downtown Disney. This store sold all sorts of Disney related items for the home like linens, bedding, furniture, hardware, kitchen items and more. Unfortunately, in an effort to save money, Disney greatly decreased their high end line of merchandise and this shopped was closed. Sigh.

Of course, no Mickey Mouse room would be complete without a Mickey telephone. In the Mickey shaped dish, I place red, black, yellow, and white M&M's when guests are expected.

Nightstand, Lamp, and Telephone

For three dollars I was able to purchase an old coat rack that was once used at Port Orleans. On each end are cutouts of Mickey's silhouette. I sprayed the shelf with a texture coating then painted it yellow. I hung a Mickey Mouse jacket on one peg to make it look functional. On top are a bobble-head Mickey and an inexpensive reproduction of an antique Mickey & Minnie toy.

Coat Rack

Coat Rack

I realize that flat screen TVs are now the norm, but I wouldn't give up my old tube Mickey Mouse TV and DVD player for anything. I also made a Mickey Mouse accented shelf to hold a selection of Disney movies for my guests.

MM TV and DVD Player

Video Shelf

Two of my prized possessions in this room are quilts that friends/guests made for me as thank you gifts after staying in the Mickey Mouse Suite. One I have hung on the wall as it features all Mickey characters and the color scheme is correct. To help theme the bar from which it is hung, I added Styrofoam Mickey silhouettes to each end.

MM Quilt

MM Quilt Pole

The other quilt was much larger and features dozens of different Disney characters. This quilt is draped over a Mickey Mouse quilt rack.

Disney Character Quilt

MM Quilt Rack

Since this is a guest room, I felt my lodgers would like a mirror in the bedroom. Here I took an inexpensive mirror I purchased at a home improvement store, framed it with molding, and painted it accent yellow. I also installed a small shelf so my guests would have a place for keys, coins, and other small items.

Shelf and Mirror

Shelf and Mirror

On this shelf sits Mickey Mouse holding a picture frame. However, I didn't know whose picture to put in the frame. A photo of me would be a bit too narcissistic. Since I've already used my guest's picture on the bedroom door, I had to come up with another idea. So I took a picture of the Mickey, holding the picture frame. Then, using the magic of computer graphics, I duplicated the picture again and again, giving Mickey infinity into nothingness.

Infinity Mickey

Some time ago, Disney sold Mickey Mouse letter-writing kits. Since all fine hotels feature postcards, stationary, and envelopes, I purchased a number of these kits for my guests. However, to my knowledge, no one has ever used one sheet of paper - and I even include stamps!

MM Letter Writing Kit

I've also carried out the Mickey Mouse theme in the closet. Here I have coat hangers that sport this famous guy's face. I also provide Mickey Mouse robes for my guests.

MM Coat Hangers

MM Robes

Here are a few other pictures of the bedroom.

MM Chest

MM Balloon

MM Plant Rack

MM Room

MM Room

Knowing I was going to theme my guest bedroom and bathroom after Mickey, I chose the colors in the bath before the house was built. For the floor I picked white tile with red veins of color. The grout is red. For the vanity I selected white with a red laminate top and a black accent stripe. I also found some Mickey Mouse knobs that fit perfectly on the cabinets and drawers.

MM Bathroom Sink

MM Bathroom Sink

MM Knobs

I found a great Mickey Mouse mirror at the Disney Home Store. At first I thought that I would remove the large mirror and only use the smaller Mickey Mouse mirror in this room. But this is a small space and the large mirror helps it from becoming claustrophobic. So in the end, I glued the Mickey Mouse mirror over the existing mirror.

MM Mirror

On the sink I have a Mickey Mouse "basket." In it I keep all sorts of toiletries in case my guests have forgotten toothpaste, shaving cream, shampoo, and the like. I also have a Mickey Mouse soap dish with Mickey Mouse soap. A number of years ago, Disney sold Mickey branded toiletries and I stocked up on them knowing I would need them in the future.


MM Soap Dish

The shower curtain and towels also sport our friend. The shower curtain is hung with Mickey hooks.

Toilet and Shower Curtain

Shower Curtain Hooks

In the tub I have non-slip Mickeys.

Non-slip Mickies

I installed a magazine rack across from the toilet. I always keep a Disney magazine and the current park maps and times guides for my guests to glance through while taking care of business.

Magazine Rack

Magazine Rack

Just like I do with my Disney hotel rooms, I've created a video of my Mickey Mouse Suite (tongue in cheek). It runs a little under three minutes. Enjoy.

So there you have it, my Mickey Mouse Suite. Is it a little over the top? Of course it is. But I'm not decorating for Vern Yip and Genevieve Gorder on HGTV's "Design Star." I'm decorating for myself, friends, and family. I don't really care if other people like it or not. I like it and that's all that matters.

Collectively I spent a few bucks on this bedroom and bath. But individually, nothing in these rooms was very expensive. In fact, most of the items were necessary regardless what decorating style I went with. You need paint, bedding, towels, and knickknacks in any bedroom and bath. I just selected a rather unorthodox theme (by most people's standards). So if you have an idea, go for it. You've got very little to lose and everything to gain.

July 25, 2012

Getting a Job at Walt Disney World (Part 3 of 3)

Jack Spence Masthead

In yesterday's blog, I talked about what to expect if you move to Orlando. I realize that for many of you, this is only half of the dream. The other half is getting a job at Walt Disney World. This is fantastic! Many thousands of retirees have already done this and they couldn't be happier. But before you sign on with the Mouse, you need to understand what you're getting into - good and bad. You need to have realistic expectations. That's what today's blog is all about.

One of the first things to remember is, "You work while others play." This means you will be scheduled nights, weekends, and holidays. So if you have fantasies of your grandkids visiting you in Orlando over Christmas vacation, think again. You will be working.

Can you stand on your feet for eight hours at a time? How do you feel about working outdoors in the heat, sun, cold, and rain? Can you put on a happy, "Disney" face when you're feeling down? Can you deal with the occasional rude guest? These are questions you need to ask yourself.

Another thing to consider, "Do you want to see the backstage areas of Walt Disney World?" Some people don't want to know how the magician accomplishes his tricks. Are you okay with seeing how the illusions of the Haunted Mansion are created? Or would this ruin the "magic" for you?

Are you okay with a job that is entirely backstage? Many people dream of interacting with guests and bringing a smile to a child's face. If you are assigned to a backstage job, you will have little to no contact with the public.

Here is a picture of me working in at Disneyland's Blue Bayou kitchen. The only contact I ever had with guests while working as a fry cook was when I walked through the park on my way to and from the job.

Backstage at the Blue Bayou

Disney has a strict grooming policy. Although it has loosened up considerably since I worked at Disneyland in the 1970's, there are still rules and regulations that must be adhered to.

Working at Disney is a real job with real challenges. Cast members work hard to make people feel the magic. Working at Disneyland for nine years was a fantastic chapter in my life. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I had a lot of fun. But I also worked very hard.

One of the next questions you need to ask yourself is, do you want a full or part time job. A fulltime cast member (CM) will be scheduled 32 hours or more per week. A fulltime position entitles you to medical benefits. A part time CM will be scheduled less than 32 hours per week and will not be offered medical.

In an effort to cut costs, Disney greatly reduced its fulltime workforce over the last several years. The main reason for doing so is to eliminate the cost of medical insurance. Fulltime jobs still exist, but the chance of being hired off the street into one of these positions isn't something you should count on unless you want to join housekeeping and clean rooms. This is a very difficult position to fill. Chances are good that you'll be offered a part time position.

A third category of employment is the "seasonal" position. A seasonal CM must be willing to work 150 hours per year. Many seasonal CMs will work the Flower & Garden or Food & Wine festivals at Epcot each year. But there are many other possibilities.

When you apply for a job, you can stipulate that you are not available on certain days of the week. For instance, if you have a standing doctor's appointment on Wednesdays, you can request not to be scheduled on Wednesdays. But if you stipulate you aren't available on Saturday and/or Sunday, you can pretty much kiss your chances of a job at Walt Disney World goodbye. The more availability you can give them, the better chance you have of becoming a CM.

Although some people might be hired off the street to pilot the monorail, this is the exception. Most people will need to start in a less glamorous job. I know you're saying to yourself, "But I'm an expert on all things Disney. The company would be grateful to have someone as knowledgeable as myself." I'm sorry to inform you, you're a dime a dozen. Everyone who enters Casting tells the interviewer that they are the ultimate Disney fan. You are not unique and you will not be hired to be a tour guide because you "know everything." If you want to work at Disney, have realistic expectations. But there is good news. Most entry level jobs only require you to stay in that position for six months. After you've completed your mandatory service, you can apply for other, more exciting jobs.

For the most part, wages are low. Don't expect to get rich working at Walt Disney World. For most retirees, a job here provides some great vacation money so you can get away from Orlando and go someplace exciting. LOL

Getting a job at Walt Disney World is not guaranteed just because you have full availability, know everything there is to know about Disney, and you have a spotless work record from your last job. Just like the rest of the world, the economy is slow in Orlando. Disney is not hiring as many cast members as they once did. And many of those who are hired are part of the College Program which brings young adults from all over the country to work here for 6 to 9 months.

So far, my comments have been a bit negative, but I want to make sure you know what you're getting into before you move here and apply for a job. Most people only see Orlando through the eyes of a tourist. This can blind you to the realities of daily life here.

So now it's time to be a little more positive" Here are some of the perks you get from working at Walt Disney World.

You get to tell all of your friends and family you're a Disney CM. Now here in Orlando, this doesn't carry a lot of "wow" factor. Walt Disney World employs 65,000 people. But back home in Kansas or Illinois, people will be impressed with your new job.

As a CM, your ID card grants you access to the four theme parks year round. You will also be given a Blue Main Entrance Pass. Although there are far too many details to go into here, the Blue Main Entrance Pass allows you to get a designated number of friends and family into the parks 6 to 18 times a year. Once you've worked for Disney 15 years (full or part time), you are given a Silver Main Entrance Pass. This allows you to get friends and family into the parks every day. (Blockout dates and other restrictions apply to both passes.)

Your Main Entrance Pass is also good at Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland for admission and discounts. It is not good at Tokyo Disneyland since this park is owned by Oriental Land Company.

Depending on the season, you receive discounted admission to Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Disney Quest.

As a CM, you are given a 20% discount on most merchandise for the first three years of service. After that, you are given a 35% discount.

CM's are given a 20% discount at most full service restaurants and at the counter service restaurants at the Animal Kingdom.

You can receive Disney hotel discounts of up to 60% depending on the time of year and availability. The Disney Cruise Line also offers a range of CM discounts.

More cast discounts can be found at the Company D and Cast Connection stores. Company D sells cast exclusive merchandise like clothing and pins along with other gift type items. Cast Connection sells discontinued clothing, toys, and other items originally sold in the parks. Discounts here can range from between 25% to 75%.

Many non-Disney businesses offer discounts to CMs.

Disney publishes the "Eyes & Ears" every other Thursday. This company news magazine offers information and pictures on a wide array of Disney topics. If you like Disney trivia, this is a good periodical to read.

Eyes & Ears

You will meet a lot of really nice CMs. Most of the people who work here are just like you; they love Disney and want to be part of the magic.

You will meet a lot of really nice guests - who will think you're really special just because you're a CM. LOL

If you want to work at Disney World, the first thing to do is check out their webpage by clicking here. This will get you started. As I said earlier, the more flexible you are with your availability and job preference, the better chance you have of being hired. Good luck!

This concludes my three part look at Orlando. I hope you've enjoyed my walk through time and the information I've provided will help you make better decisions if Central Florida and Walt Disney World are your dream.

July 24, 2012

Moving to Orlando (Part 2 of 3)

Jack Spence Masthead

In yesterday's blog, I talked about Orlando's first permanent resident Aaron Jernigan and the events that enticed thousands of others to follow him here over the last 169 years. But what about you? Do you want to move to the Orlando metropolitan area? Since many of you have written to me, stating this desire, I would like to fill you in on what to expect. Let's start with the weather.

November through most of May is fantastic. You can often turn off your air conditioner and leave the windows wide open and let fresh air invade your home. But remember, it can get cold in Florida during January and February. Don't forget the big freeze of 1894/95. In fact, on January 2, 2001, I stepped out on my front porch early one morning to get the newspaper, slipped on ice, and broke my ankle.

From late May through most of October, it is hot and humid. You must be prepared for this. However, in the twelve years I have lived here, I have never seen the temperature reach the 100 degree mark. Now the local weathermen will tell you that it's going to "feel" like 100 degrees or more, but the actual temperature rarely reaches the century mark. The nighttime temperatures during this time are in the 70's. Even at three in the morning, it's going to be warm and humid outside. During this time of year, most people run their air conditioner 24/7. People wear shorts most of the year. I only own one jacket -- and it's light weight.

It rains in Florida year round. It's not so bad in the winter months, but come summer, it can be a daily occurrence. However, for the most part, this isn't a major inconvenience. The storms usually occur in the late afternoon or early evening and only last 30 minutes to an hour. Most people take this in stride and carry an umbrella if they know they're going to be out and about. I always keep an umbrella in my car, just in case.

Here is a picture of Main Street during one of our summer downpours. I'm sure many of you have experienced this personally.

Raining at the Magic Kingdom

Due to the ongoing drought in Florida, much of the Orlando area mandates that you can only water your lawn once or twice a week, depending on the time of year. This makes the rain all the more welcome to us locals.

You would think with all this rain we would have a major mosquito problem, after all, this area used to be a part of Mosquito County. But I've only been bitten three times in all the years I've lived here. Much of this has to do with the proactive measures Orlando (and the theme parks) take to kill the larvae before they hatch.

Florida is the lightning capital of the United States, but in reality, it's Central Florida that gets the brunt of this menacing force of nature. You learn very quickly once you move to Florida to respect lightning. If you can hear the thunder, you're not safe outdoors. You come inside immediately. Once inside, you stay away from windows and out of the shower. And I learned the hard way (three times) that lightning doesn't actually have to strike your house to cause damage. Electrical charges can run underground and cause problems if they pass beneath your house. You can buy and install surge protectors on your TV and other expensive electronic equipment. These will offer some protection. But if the electrical charge is strong enough, there is nothing you can do.

Florida "hosts" more hurricanes than any other state. Although Orlando is inland and hurricanes start to lose their punch as soon as they move across land, if the storm is big enough, damage can ensue. During the 2004 hurricane season, Orlando was hit by three named storms that caused significant damage, with Hurricane Charley the worst of these. Even though I suffered no wind damage, Charley stalled over Orlando and pelted my home with driving rain for 16 hours. I had water damage in three rooms of my home.

Florida is flat. I came from California where foothills and mountains are everywhere. "Flat" took some getting used to. I miss the varied landscape.

Here is a picture I took from an airplane in 1983. As you can see, the landscape is smooth. If you look carefully, you can also see Spaceship Earth on the horizon.

Flat Florida

For those of you who like to putter in the garden, I have good news and bad news. The good news is our soil is very sandy. This means it's easy as pie to dig a hole for plants and shrubs. You can even skip the shovel and use your hands the soil is so easy to dig in. On the down side, our sandy soil doesn't have a lot of natural nutrients and most plants will require additional fertilizers and potting mixes to assure they get all the food they need. Be sure to watch out for fire ants.

Florida has no state income tax. Which is good come April 15th. However, schools, roads, and other services must be paid for somehow. This is accomplished with high property taxes and some toll roads.

Gas prices in Central Florida are generally less than the national average. The three Hess stations at Walt Disney World usually offer competitive prices to other local, non-tourist stations.

HESS Station

If you've been paying attention to the upcoming presidential election, you know that Florida is a battleground state. Northern Florida is very conservative while Southern Florida is extremely liberal. As you move north and south, the mix between Republicans and Democrats becomes more even. You will often hear about the I-4 corridor. This is the area between Tampa on the west coast and Daytona Beach on the east coast connected by Interstate 4. This area is politically very middle-of-the- road. National politicians focus the majority of their energies on these communities when visiting Florida as this is the area that will ultimately decide how the state votes. Walt Disney World often plays hosts to political rallies of both parties. In fact, back in June, both Romney and Obama made speeches at the Contemporary Resort. Buddy Dyer (Democrat) is the current mayor of Orlando and Teresa Jacobs (Republican) is the current mayor of Orange County.

BTW, I-4 is often congested.

Orlando has excellent medical facilities. With two non-profit hospital systems, good care is close to most communities.

When I moved to Orlando, my intent was to be as close to Walt Disney World as possible so I could visit often. Because of this, I decided that 30 minutes would be the maximum I wanted to drive to reach the theme parks. In the end, I purchased a home 9 miles due north of Downtown Disney. From here, I can be in any of the Disney parking lots within this 30 minute time limit. I can't be at the gates, but I can be in the parking lots. I am extremely happy I made this demand. If you stop and think of it, this 30 minute restriction means that I spend an hour commuting every time I visit Disney.

I know that many of you will want to ask me what communities you should be looking at. This would be impossible for me to answer. Within a 30 minute radius of Disney are homes in the $100K price range to the multi-million dollar neighborhoods. When you're serious about moving, talk with a real estate agent -- NOT ME. I simply am not current on specific neighborhood prices and I would end up giving you more misinformation than accurate. The one thing I can tell you, if your goal is to be close to Disney World, move south of Downtown Orlando.

Many experts will suggest you rent in a new city for six months or more before deciding where to live and buying a home. This will give you the opportunity to explore the area at your leisure and gain a more informed perspective of the different neighborhoods.

Most of the developments built in the last 15-20 years will be part of an association. Many of these developments will be gated. Remember to take into account homeowner dues when figuring out a budget.

When considering a neighborhood, find out if the homes can be rented to tourists. If you're buying a home in Orlando for occasional use, it would be nice to know if you will be able to rent it to others while you're living elsewhere. However, if you plan on being a permanent resident, you might not want a new set of neighbors every two weeks.

In 2011, U.S. News reported on a study released by the F.B.I. stating that Orlando is the third most dangerous city in the United States. Fortunately, I've never had a problem with any sort of crime. But then, most of my life is spent in my gated community or at the theme parks which are very well patrolled and protected.

Obviously, you will want to buy an annual pass to Walt Disney World once you move here. Something to keep in mind, the Premium Annual Pass and the Annual Pass include parking. Seasonal Passes have blockout dates and do NOT include parking. Currently, parking costs $14 per day. Depending on how often you plan to visit, you might be better off buying an Annual Pass rather than a Seasonal Pass. Universal Studios and Sea World also offer several annual pass programs. Check with their websites for more information.

FYI, if you get a job at Disney, you are granted free admission to the parks. More about this in Part Three.

For more information on Disney annual passes, click here.

To learn more about Orlando, click here.

Personally, I'm extremely happy I made the move to Orlando. I live in a nice neighborhood, I've come to terms with the weather, and I've made many new friends who share my passion for Disney. And Orlando does have more to offer than just the theme parks. There are over 300 golf courses within a fifty mile radius of Orlando. We have the Orlando Magic for you sport's fans and the Bob Carr Theater for those of you who enjoy theatrical performances. We have museums, cultural events, and a selection of fine restaurants that would rival cities three times the size of Orlando.

With the right mindset, Orlando can be a great place to live. For us Disney fans, it's wonderful to drive down to the World and have lunch at a resort or in one of the theme parks. Because we have an annual pass, we don't have to worry about "getting our money's worth." We can simply wander Main Street or World Showcase at our leisure and snicker at the tourists who are running around at a frantic pace. We have found that riding the Haunted Mansion takes a backseat to people watching. Trust me when I say, you will notice far more spooks outside the mansion than within when you have the time to look. LOL

Check back tomorrow when I'll discuss working at Walt Disney World.

July 23, 2012

A Brief History of Orlando (Part 1 of 3)

Jack Spence Masthead

My next blog (presented over the next three days) will be a little different than my usual articles. I know you check out my webpage each week to learn more about the Disney parks, past and present. But occasionally I need a little break from all the magic. Believe it or not, I do not live and breathe Disney 24/7 - only 23/7 - and the next several columns will be an accumulation of all those non-Disney hours that have been collecting over the months. But don't despair; my topics will still be applicable to Walt Disney World - in fact Part Three will be very relevant.

Today I'm going to take a look at the history of the City of Orlando, something I suspect you know little to nothing about. I know I didn't have a clue about The City Beautiful (the city's nickname) until after I moved here. So I have decided to educate you, just in case you're resolved to move to Central Florida sometime in the future (Part Two). You wouldn't want to do what I did and put these important lessons off until the last minute.

Part Three will discuss getting a job at Walt Disney World.

Orlando Postcard

The area we know today as Orlando was sparsely populated by Creek and other Native American tribes prior to the arrival of Europeans. They lived a simple, uncomplicated life.

In the late 18th century, the Seminoles were forced to migrate to Northern Florida from the Carolinas and Georgia due to settler encroachment. However, this migration did not lesson hostilities between them and the U.S. Army and many of the tribe continued their move south to the Orlando area. To counter further hostilities and protect homesteaders in Central Florida, the army built Fort Gatlin in 1838. (The fort was located just south of what is now known as Downtown Orlando.) Battles continued but eventually the undefeated Seminoles accepted a treaty in 1842 that granted them land and promised peace.

In that same year, the Armed Occupation Act offered 160 acres to any pioneer willing to settle in the area, build a cabin, plant five acres, live there for five years, and help protect the land against the Seminoles. Lured by this offer, Aaron Jernigan and his family moved to the area and became the first permanent residents of a town that would eventually bear his name. The Jernigan Post Office was established eight years later on May 30th, 1850.

So how did the town of Jernigan come to be named Orlando?

Well, no one is really sure. There are four reasonable theories, but none concrete enough to win over all of the historians. What is known is that Jernigan became Orlando in 1857. This change was probably motivated when Aaron Jernigan was relieved of his military command by officials in 1856 due to notorious acts.

Orlando became the county seat of Orange County when Orange County was carved out of Mosquito County in 1845.

In 1860, Orlando was little more than a forgotten, rural community. Cotton and cattle were the area's commodities and settlers were able to eke out a meager living. But when the American Civil War began in 1861, things changed for the worse. Many of the local men enlisted in the Confederate Army, slaves ran away, and the Union blockaded the state. Unable to get supplies and without able-bodied men to work the fields, the farms withered and died.

After the war, the cattle industry continued and thrived. Reconstruction brought many new residents to the area with the promise of fertile land and a warm climate. And the cotton fields were brought back to life with a new crop, citrus. The city was incorporated in 1875. Orlando was on its way.

In the years that followed, Orlando became the heart of Florida's citrus industry. However, the Great Freeze (December 1894 and February 1895) decimated the crops. Up until this time, Florida was producing as much as 6 million boxes of fruit per year. After the Great Freeze, production dropped to a mere 100,000 boxes a year and did not reach the 1 million mark again until 1901. This calamity forced many of the smaller growers to sell their farms to a handful of better off farmers who later would be known as the "Citrus Barons." In an effort to stave off future disasters, these "Barons" moved much of the industry to more southern and warmer counties.

Citrus Packaging

Citrus Packaging

Orlando became a modest tourist destination in the years before World War I. In the early 1920's, unscrupulous promoters touted Miami and the rest of Florida as a tropical paradise. People started snatching up land all over the state and prices began to skyrocket. Orlando saw some of this growth and several communities were built in the downtown area. However, the bubble burst and prices plummeted when new buyers became impossible to find. Several factors lead to this downturn. First, the land was overpriced and this eventually became apparent to everyone. Then, several hurricanes hit Florida in the late 1920's, making northerners rethink a move to the state. And finally, the Great Depression was the ultimate insult.

The New Deal helped Florida and Orlando regain its economic footing with hundreds of public projects. One of the most important to Orlando was the resurfacing of the runways of the city's municipal airport. With improved transportation options, the city advertised their community to the rest of the country with the hopes of luring others to move here. Here is the cover of a 20 page promotional booklet distributed to prospective residents.

Orlando Promotional Booklet

With the beginning of World War II, Orlando became home to an army base, training facilities, barracks, a military hospital, and airfields. This brought thousands of servicemen to the area, many who would later decide to make Orlando their home at the conclusion of the war. In 1950, the city had a population of almost 52,000.

In 1958, Orlando's Pinecastle AFB was renamed McCoy Air Force Base after Colonel Michael N.W. McCoy. And in the 1960s, McCoy AFB became the home to the 306th Bombardment Wing of the Strategic Air Command (SAC).

Additional families moved to Orlando in 1956 when Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) established a plant south of the city. This move was facilitated because of the burgeoning space program taking shape at nearby Cape Canaveral. This would be the beginning of Orlando becoming a strong contender in the aerospace and computer industry. Today, more than 20 nations have over 150 technology based facilities in the Metro Orlando area.

In 1962, a portion of McCoy AFB was turned into a civilian jetport to serve the city and the growing aerospace industry. By 1970, four major airlines (Delta Air Lines, National Airlines, Eastern Airlines and Southern Airways) were making scheduled flights to the McCoy Jetport - in preparation for the mouse that would forever change the region.

In 1975, McCoy AFB closed and its runways and adjacent lands became Orlando International Airport. Today, Orlando International Airport is the 13th busiest in the United States and the 29th busiest in the world. And if you've ever wondered why the international airport code for OIA is MCO, now you know. MCO stands for McCoy.

Of course the biggest influx of residents to the region followed Disney's announcement in 1965 that they were going to build another Disneyland-type park and the City of Epcot south of Orlando. The Magic Kingdom opened six years later on October 1, 1971. Sea World would soon follow and opened its doors in 1973. Not to be left out, Universal Studios came to town in 1990.

However, the giants of the theme park world caused some casualties along the way. Many of the "mom & pop" attractions simply couldn't compete with the big boys. Some of these are Cypress Gardens (now Legoland), Church Street Station, Boardwalk & Baseball, Brave Warrior Wax Museum, Circus World, Hooray For Hollywood Wax Museum, House of Mystery, King Henry's Feast, Mystery Fun House, and Splendid China.

I read an article a few years ago that asserted that if Disney had not come to Orlando, the city would be comparable today to Ocala, another inland community 90 miles to the north. Although a prospering city, few outside of Florida have ever heard of Ocala. Yes, Orlando would have had the aerospace industry that Ocala lacks, but it would not have achieved a metropolitan population of over 2 million without Disney, followed by Sea World and Universal. It took Disney to bring the other, significant industries to the area and make Orlando a city known around the world.

Although Orlando today does have a varied economy, tourism is still the backbone of the area. Over 50 million people visited the Orlando area in 2011. Foreign visitors made up almost 4 million of these guests with the bulk of these coming from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. In the United States, Orlando is second only to Las Vegas in the number of hotel rooms, convention facilities, and convention events.

Well that's it for the history of O-Town (another nickname for Orlando). Check back tomorrow when I'll try to describe what to expect if you decide to move to The City Beautiful.

March 12, 2012

Disney’s Character Warehouse

There can be no argument; visiting Walt Disney World is expensive. That's not to say it isn't worth the price, but most people need to plan and budget and schedule wisely before a visit to Orlando. There are, of course, ways to save money. First, you can stay at one of Disney's value resorts (or stay off property). At meal time, you can opt for a counter-service restaurant rather than a table-service eatery (or eat off property). And when buying souvenirs you can" You can" Not buy them? That's probably not an option for most of you. But how can you save money when your kids are begging you for that special Disney souvenir? Disney does offer "Special Values" on a few of their items in the parks and resorts, but the selection is very limited. However, there is another option. Go off property.

Now I'm not talking about the tourist traps that line Highway 192. In most cases, these stores sell items of lesser quality than you would find at Walt Disney World. In addition, these stores do not sell merchandise branded with the words "Walt Disney World" but only with the word "Disney." What I am talking about are the two Disney's Character Warehouse stores that Disney operates at the "Premium Outlets" malls nearby. Here you will find entire stores filled with merchandise that was once sold at Walt Disney World. Now these stores might not carry exactly what you're looking for, but the selection is good.

Disney's Character Warehouse

Disney's Character Warehouse

Disney's Character Warehouse

As with any merchandising company, Disney must liquidate out-of-date items, off sizes, left-overs, hard-to-sell stock, discontinued items, and other articles that can no longer be allowed to take up valuable shelf space in their resorts and parks. And that's where Disney's Character Warehouse stores come in. These shops were set up to liquidate this merchandise. There are actually several of these shops in Florida, but my article is primarily about the two in Orlando.

As the sign in the window says, prices can be up to 70% off the original price. Of course, not everything is reduced this much. But good deals can be found throughout the store.

Up to 70% Off

Here's one example I found. This Christmas Duffy Bear is now out of season so it is being liquidated. Over the holidays he sold for $30. At Disney's Character Warehouse, he's now selling for $9.99.

Christmas Duffy Bear

Duffy Price Tag

Disney sells a lot of clothing at Disney's Character Warehouse. But once again, some of it is out of season. For example, in the spring you might find sweaters and jackets and in the fall, numerous t-shirts. You'll also find merchandise with last year's date. But that's not always the case so check out the entire store.

Out of Date Merchandise

Now this next little tidbit is important, so pay attention. NOT EVERYTHING IN THE STORE IS VALUE PRICED. For example, these Vinylmation figures are the same price at Disney's Character Warehouse as they are in the parks. But the vast majority of the merchandise has been discounted, so these stores are worth the effort.


Disney park tickets are also sold at Disney's Character Warehouse, but once again, these are NOT discounted.

The closest store to Walt Disney World is located at "Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue" mall. The address is:

8200 Vineland Avenue
Suite 1252
Lake Buena Vista

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Ave.

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Ave

If you don't have a car, a taxi ride over wouldn't be too expensive. If you do have a car, getting there is easy. But since directions would vary depending on the resort you're staying at, I'm not going to give you instructions. Just ask your concierge and they'll be able to help you out.

A word of warning. The traffic approaching this mall can be horrific at certain times of the year. Bring your patience.

The second Orlando store is located at the north end of International Drive at the "Orlando Premium Outlet" mall. The address is:

4951 International Drive
Suite 95

Orlando Premium Outlet

Orlando Premium Outlet

This mall is a little further away and a taxi ride will cost significantly more. I would visit this mall only if you have a car or if you're a big-time shopper. Although both malls have dozens and dozens of other stores to tempt you, the one on International Drive has additional vendors located at competing malls. There are easily three to four times as many stores in the immediate vicinity.

Note, the merchandise at the two Disney's Character Warehouse stores is almost identical. There is no need to visit both shops.

There are also Disney Character Warehouse stores in Fort Lauderdale (Sunrise) and Saint Augustine.

If you're visiting Walt Disney World on a tight schedule, maybe a trip to one of these outlet malls isn't the best idea. You can easily spend an entire afternoon browsing all of the stores. But if you're here for a longer stay and want to find a few bargains, then think about the outlet malls and Disney's Character Warehouse stores.

December 22, 2009

Reedy Creek Improvement District

Have you ever wondered who governs the property of Walt Disney World? For instance, who regulates building codes, constructs roads, provides fire protection, and manages sewage. If your guess is the State of Florida or the counties of Orange and Osceola, you'd be wrong. What is to follow is a brief description of a very interesting, and sometimes controversial agency, the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

As many of you might already know, Disney created a number of dummy corporations in the early 1960's in order to secretly purchase property in Central Florida. The last thing the company wanted was for the name "Disney" to leak out and drive up prices. For several years, using innocuous names like Tomahawk Properties, Compass East, and Ayefour Corporation (a pun on Interstate 4), Disney was able to purchase a large amount of land very cheaply. Some of these company names can be found on the Main Street Windows in the Magic Kingdom.

In the end, Disney bought approximately 27,000 acres for roughly $5M -- an average of $183 an acre. On November 15, 1965, Walt, his brother Roy, and Florida Governor Haydon Burns held a press conference. At that time, Walt told the reporters that he was planning on building a second Disneyland-type amusement park and a "city of tomorrow" on their new land. Immediately, adjacent parcels skyrocketed to $1,000 per acre.

As much of the property was swampland and unsuitable for building, a vast amount of engineering would be required to create usable land. Roads, sewage treatment, and water management were all paramount before other construction projects could begin. Yet, it wasn't feasible to expect financially weak Orange County or the taxpayers to pay for the job. And the company didn't have that sort of capital. So Disney petitioned the state and was granted permission to create the Reedy Creek Drainage District which was incorporated on May 13, 1966. This allowed the company to sell tax-exempt bonds to pay for the infrastructure of Walt Disney World.

The company knew that a "drainage district" wasn't enough if they were to realize all of their plans. Creating a futuristic city would require new and imaginative building techniques. Walt and the Imagineers had grand plans and they did not want to have to deal with out-dated building codes and mountains of local and state red-tape. The company needed autonomy.

Sadly, Walt died on December 15, 1966. Soon after, Roy became president and chairman of the board. One of his first directives was to inform senior management that the building of a futuristic city, to be known as EPCOT, was to be put on permanent hold. The company's first and only directive was to build the Magic Kingdom , two hotels, and support facilities.

Even with EPCOT out of the picture, Roy still wanted Disney World to be self-governing and didn't want to be bogged down by local rules and regulations. So the "postponement" of EPCOT was not shared with the press or the Florida legislature and the company continued to advertise its eventual construction. In addition, Roy let lawmakers know that the company could easily walk away from the Florida Project and sell their newly acquired land for a hefty profit if certain demands weren't met. Whether this was a bluff or not, few know, but the ploy paid off. On May 12, 1967, Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr. signed a charter creating the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID). The name "Reedy Creek" comes from the name of a stream that crosses Disney property.

In essence, the 27,000 acres of Walt Disney World became a pseudo-county to be run by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company. It maintains its own building codes and is exempt from state zoning and land use laws. It provides fire protection and medical services. It supports a vast array of utilities including waste water treatment, electric power generation and delivery, natural gas distribution, and more. In addition, most roads on property are built and maintained by RCID. However, the property is subject to all state and local taxes.

Disney has the right to create its own law enforcement agency, but has opted to allow the Highway Patrol and Orange and Osceola County sheriffs deputies to patrol the roads. However, the RCID has a fleet of security vehicles and does also monitor the property.

When arguing for "county" status, Vice President Donn Tatum said that the Improvement District was needed to serve "the needs of those residing there." But since it would be a number of years before EPCOT was ready for residency (if ever), the cities of Bay Lake and Reedy Creek (now Lake Buena Vista) were incorporated on property.

These two Walt Disney World communities still exist today and are hidden from the general public. The homes are inhabited by Disney employees and according to the 2000 census, Bay Lake had 23 residents and Lake Buena Vista had 16. (And yes, I know where the communities are located, but don't ask because I won't tell you. These people deserve their privacy.)

Since the "city" of EPCOT was never built, critics often cry "foul" and demand that Disney relinquish its autonomy. They also claim that it's a conflict of interest to have RCID owned by the Walt Disney Company. But Disney maintains that the "EPCOT Building Codes," which have been in place since the Improvement District's inception, apply to the entire property. In essence, all of Walt Disney World practices and lives by the concepts that Walt envisioned for his futuristic city.

For the most part, utilities, building codes, and protection are a "behind the scenes" aspect of any city. We don't think about them until we need them. But I think most of us would agree that Disney has done a beautiful job of maintaining their property and meeting the needs of their guests.

For more information about the Reedy Creek Improvement District, check out their website.

In closing, I would like to highlight one of the Reedy Creek Fire Stations. This unique structure is located on Buena Vista Drive, just north of Downtown Disney. Although you can't go into this building, it is worth a drive by. As always, the Imagineers did an outstanding job. Be sure to notice the giant fire hydrant and hose that creates a nozzle fountain.

Fire Department Sign

Reedy Creek Fire Dept

Reedy Creek Fire Dept

Fire Hydrant and Hose

RCFD Helmet

June 25, 2009

Lakeridge Winery

Lakeridge Winery Logo

Last year I wrote a blog about the Morse Museum which features one of the largest collections of Tiffany glass in the country. Today I'm going to write about another local, non-Disney attraction. As before, I'm aiming this information to those of you who have visited Disney so often that you mouth the words along with Ben Franklin and Mark Twain in the American Adventure. You could skipper a Jungle Cruise boat because you know all of the jokes by heart. And you know the difference between an okapi and a bongo you've ridden Kilimanjaro Safari so many times. In other words, to those of you who could use a break from the Mouse.

The Lakeridge Winery is located about 35 minutes northwest of Disney World in the community of Clermont. As the name implies, the vineyard is perched on a ridge overlooking a lake. A total of 127 acres of gently rolling countryside make up the estate. The setting is tranquil and is exactly what you would expect from such a facility.

Lakeridge Winery Entrance Sign

Lakeridge Winery Main Building

When you enter the visitor's center, you find yourself in a welcoming gift shop filled to the brim with merchandise and wine. You can easily spend twenty minutes checking out all of their wares. In one corner you'll find a number of gourmet items to accompany your next wine party. These are the type of food supplies that you won't find in your local grocery store like exotic salsas, flavored oils, and fancy crackers just to mention a few. A number of cookbooks are also available.

Lakeridge Winery Gift Shop

Food Items and Cookbooks

In other sections of the shop you'll discover wine paraphernalia. Every kind of cork screw you can imagine, and some you can't, are on display. Wine racks, decanters, and glasses of every description are available. Cheese slicers, mortar and pestles, and of course, Lakeridge Winery T-shirts can be had.

Wine Paraphernalia

In the back corner of the store is a case displaying the many awards the winery has won. Also in this section of the room is a window that looks into the laboratory where samples are tested for sugar, acid, and pH balance, among other things.

Lakeridge Winery Ribbons and Awards


The rest of the shop is devoted to wine. A number of racks display their offerings with a price list and description overhead. You can either pick up individual bottles or if you're really thirsty, cases can be found underneath the shelves. You can also mix and match cases with several varieties. The more you buy, the bigger the discount.

Wine Rack with Bottles of Wine

Wine Rack with Bottles of Wine

For those of you who decide to buy a case or more, red wagons are available so you can pull you purchases out to the car.

Red Wagons

Tours are given every thirty minutes - on busy days, sometimes every twenty. Since there is enough merchandise in the shop to keep you busy until the tour begins, you don't need to worry about timing your arrival at the winery.

My friend Donald and I were there on a Monday and things were rather slow. As it ended up, we were the only two people on the tour. Our guide was informal and made us feel welcome. We headed upstairs and the tour began in a small theater. Here we saw a fifteen minute video chronicling the history of the winery and we learned a little bit about grape harvesting and processing. I know the benches look hard, but don't worry, they are padded on the seat and back.


When the video finished, we were escorted into the "barrel" room where fermenting takes place in stainless steel tanks. Our guide then provided us with a detailed explanation of what goes on during this portion of the wine making process.

Barrel Room and Stainless Steel Tanks

Barrel Room and Stainless Steel Tanks

The next stop was on a balcony that overlooks the vineyard. If you think the lake looks rather pitiful, you're right. It does. The drought in Florida has taken its toll. We were told that in an effort to conserve water, all of the vines are irrigated with either a drip or mist system. This uses 1/10 the amount of water of that of conventional irrigation.


Vineyard and Lake

Also from this vantage point we could see the grape harvester, crusher-stemmer, and presser. The presser uses a large balloon that inflates and deflates numerous times to gently squeeze the juice from the fruit.



Grape Press

Back inside we find the bottling, corking, and labeling machine. All of the wine produced here is bottled here as well. Also in view is the warehouse.

Bottling Machine

Cases of Wine

The walking tour takes 20-30 minutes. Since there were only the two of us, and we've been to many wineries in the past, we didn't have many questions. But questions were certainly encouraged on this casual tour.

When we returned to the shop, it was time for wine tasting. Our guide spent the next fifteen minutes pouring us seven different samples and explaining their differences. Keep in mind, these are "samples." You're only getting a small taste of each. I suppose in total we were given one full glass if you combined them all.

Tasting Room

Wine Glass and Crackers

Pouring Wine

The primary grape grown at the Lakeridge Winery is the Muscadine. This is a sweet variety that is well suited for the hot Florida climate. Several hybrid grapes have also been developed that do well in this region and are used in several of their selections.

A banquet room is available for special occasions and you can choose from several local caterers for food service.

Banquet Room

The winery offers a number of festivals and events during the year. Everything from jazz and blues concerts to wine-stomping contests takes place in a grassy picnic area adjacent to the main building.

I purposely did not go into detail about the wine making process or the varietals produced here. I wanted to leave something for you to discover on your own when you visit.

Lakeridge Winery is open Monday through Saturday 10am-5pm and Sundays 11am-5pm.

From most locations at Walt Disney World, travel south to US-192 and head west toward Tampa. At US-27, go north toward Clermont. In approximately 21 miles, make a U-turn at Libby No 3 Road - you are now traveling south on US-27. The winery will be on the right side of the road. You can't miss it.

The tour, parking, and tasting are all free. Shipping is available.

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards
19239 U.S. 27 North
Clermont, Florida 34715

For more information about the winery and the special events held here, check out their extensive website.

I'll leave you with two pictures I took from the parking lot.



April 4, 2009

Disney Eggs

Just in case you're not getting your complete Disney fix while vacationing at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, the company has come out with something else to keep us happy -- Disney Eggs.


I don't know if they're available nationwide, but they're for sale in Orlando and cost me $2.69 at my local supermarket.

Each egg is stamped with one of six characters - so you get two of each. But different cartons contain different characters so if you're little one really loves Buzz Lightyear, you might need to open several packages before finding our Toy Story friend.





The TV commercial shows someone frying an egg in the shape of our favorite Mouse using a Mickey mold. But this MM mold was not for sale at my market. I know at one time they were sold at Walt Disney World, but I haven't checked lately so I can't guide you in that direction with any certainty.

I have to assume that the intended market for these eggs is children. But if I remember my own childhood correctly, I never saw the egg until after my mother had cooked it and served it to me on a plate. So I'm not quite sure what the appeal will be for the little ones. But hey, I guess we adults can enjoy these cute little eggs too.

December 12, 2008

Morse Museum in Winter Park

This blog is primarily for those of you who vacation at Disney World at least once a year and have seen everything that the Mouse has to offer a dozen times or more. I know this suggestion might seem outrageous to some of you, but I'm going to propose leaving "property" and trying something new. No, it's not Universal or Sea World. I have something far more unique in mind -- the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum.

My sister, an antique dealer, visited me a couple of years ago. Since she's not into Disney (I think she must be adopted), she wanted to do something more to her taste while here in Orlando. After a little research, she discovered that the most comprehensive collection of art created by Louis Comfort Tiffany was located just north of downtown Orlando in Winter Park. The collection includes lamps, pottery, jewelry, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass windows, and the chapel interior Tiffany designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The museum was founded in 1942 by Jeannette Genius McKean. In 1957, the museum rescued architectural elements, windows, and furniture from Tiffany's Long Island estate which was severely damaged in a fire. Over the next fifty years, the collection continued to grow and is now considered the most comprehensive collection of the designer's work.

The tour of the museum begins with a short film. Here you will learn about the people who created the museum and how their love of the arts helped them assemble this wonderful collection. You will also learn about the artist, Louis Comfort Tiffany.

After the movie, there is a suggested path in which to experience the museum. Toward the end of your journey, you will be treated to the Tiffany Chapel, which is the highlight of the collection. Displayed at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, this Byzantine-inspired chapel contains sixteen mosaic columns, six elaborately carved plaster arches, a white glass and marble mosaic alter, a baptismal font, and a 1,000-pound 10x8 foot electric chandelier in the shape of a cross. It's truly breathtaking!

Like all museums, (and Disney attractions) you exit the Morse through a gift shop. Along with the traditional gift items usually found in a museum shop are pieces of jewelry and art inspired by Tiffany.

Since photographs are not allowed inside the museum, I have no pictures to share with you. Sorry. See the web-links below.

The museum's hours are as follows:
9:30am - 4:00pm Tuesday through Saturday
4:00pm - 8:00pm Fridays, November through April - free admission on these nights
1:00pm - 4:00pm Sunday
Closed Monday

The price of admission is $3 for adults, $1 for students, and children under 12 are free. But to be honest, I doubt that many children under 12 would find this museum of interest.

The museum is located at 445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789 (407) 645-5311

From Disney World, get onto Interstate 4 traveling east. Shortly after passing downtown Orlando, take the Fairbanks Avenue exit (Exit 87). Turn right and proceed toward Winter Park 1.8 miles. Turn left onto South Park Avenue. Proceed 1/2 mile to the Museum. Parking is available at the rear entrance of the Museum. The trip should take between 25-35 minutes once you get onto I-4.

The museum is also within easy walking distance of a pleasant shopping district. Several blocks of Park Avenue are filled with boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Here, brick sidewalks and old oak trees create a gracious atmosphere, making this the perfect spot to have lunch at a sidewalk café before or after you enjoy the museum. Paralleling much of this shopping district is a lovely park. More oak trees and a beautiful fountain help transport you back in time to a simpler, more amiable era.

There are a number of free parking lots in the Park Avenue area.

For more information regarding the museum and Park Ave, click here:

Morse Museum:

Park Avenue:

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About Outside the "World"

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Outside the "World" category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Movie Premiere is the previous category.

Port Orleans is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.