The Typical Tourist – Follow Your Heart, Plan The Trip, Travel On!

Amid the cancelled plans of Summer 2020, we made a new one: a One Night Only trip to the newly re-opened Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas to celebrate my younger gal’s 15th birthday. 

Let the 15th Birthday Celebrations begin!
Kick up your heels at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas!

About 14 years ago, we realized that there had to be a more financially sound way to visit and stay Walt Disney World  to the extent we do – and we found Disney Vacation Club! While becoming a DVC member isn’t for everyone, it has been an absolute blessing for us.  We are able to stay in resort style accommodations  – like a 2 Bedroom Villa at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn – that are complete with a full kitchen and washer/dryer. (We plan our trip packing around that washer/dryer!) This provides us with the flexibility of being 100% on vacation and eating at our favorite spots like Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen  at Disney Springs OR coming in from the parks or the pool and grabbing  or making something quickly (think sandwiches, quesadillas, or frozen pizza) to then relax in the room or head back out. 

Want a close-up view of what a 2 Bedroom Villa at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn looks like and includes? I’ve got you covered! Click here to see my Room Tour: 2 Bedroom Lock-Off Villa with The Typical Tourist at Disney’s Boardwalk!

Me: How did you like my tour of the 2 Bedroom Villa at Boardwalk?

You: It was great, but I’m not a DVC member and the cost is $$…

Me: Here’s an option – rent the points you need for your stay! Check out DVC Rental Store to start your trip planning! Like I always say… Follow Your Heart, Plan the Trip, Travel On!

Welcome to Montverde’s newest restaurant: Black Bear Kitchen!

We’re always excited when a new restaurant opens in our area – especially when it’s a locally owned one and right around the corner from our daughter’s school! Woo hoo! Say hello to Black Bear Kitchen!

Located on Route 455 in the small hamlet of Montverde, FL, Black Bear Kitchen is serving up dishes that invite you to “Eat Across America! From the Northeast to the Midwest to the West to the South, the menu has something for everyone!

Look at those layers of turkey pastrami, Swiss cheese, and crumbled bacon on swirled Rye! A Forkful of refreshing Southern Vidalia Cole Slaw

On our first visit, my hubby chose the Black Bear Reuben and an order of Loaded Fries. The Black Bear Reuben is deliciously crafted with Turkey Pastrami, crumbled bacon, and Swiss cheese. It comes with a side and he chose the Southern Vidalia Cole Slaw. The fries were delectable with crumbled bacon, melted cheese and the “secret sauce” – which is absolutely key!

(Pro-tip: I got an extra little cup of “secret sauce” and dipped my bites of Reuben in it- yum! And for the record, he offered to share. I promise!)

Also, while just a side dish, it’s worth noting that the Black Bear Kitchen Southern Vidalia Cole Slaw is fresh and delicious. Normally, we can take or leave coleslaw, but we both got to the bottom of this one.

Delicious, handheld Kalena’s Shrimp Street Tacos

For my first visit to Black Bear Kitchen, I chose Kalena’s Street Tacos – the shrimp version – also with the side of Southern Vidalia Cole Slaw. The shrimp was seasoned well and cooked perfectly. The handheld flour tortillas with street corn, pickled jalapeños, verde sauce, cilantro, lime, and cojita cheese were also yummy. However, the shrimp and the tacos weren’t the best combination option. It’s one of the moments when I should have believed the chef and ordered the original Kalena’s Street Tacos with carnitas. I love shrimp tacos, but these are not the ones.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I happily ate all three of the street tacos. They were good, but based on the amazing flavor profile of the Reuben and Fries, I think I could have made a better choice for me.

So, next time? I’m choosing a different delicious option from their menu. For shrimp, maybe The Classic Wedge or the Shrimp Po’Boy? Or perhaps brisket in The Big Sexy or The KC Mahomey? So many yummy choices on the Black Bear Kitchen menu! In addition, little bears and cubs have a few options just their size.

Finally, all food and drink orders are taken at the front counter then delivered to your table. The staff at Black Bear are friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient which is the perfect combination for weekday lunch or dinner. As summer is in full swing here in Central Florida – that translates to 95 in the shade- we chose indoor seating. There’s also a great patio area, complete with picnic tables, cornhole games, and draped lighting which promises great fun in the Fall.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first lunch at Black Bear Kitchen and will definitely be back! When you’re looking for a distinctly American lunch in the Clermont area? Take 455 N and head up to Black Bear Kitchen. You’ll be glad you did!

Welcome to Black Bear Kitchen! Fountain drinks at Black Bear Kitchen

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Our Memorial Day holiday pays tribute to those fallen in the service of their country. Often this includes flags, parades, and for those surviving families, a few tough moments. However, darkness always leads to light,  and Memorial Day Weekend also signifies the first weekend of summer. As states begin to open up, my family – as many of yours, I imagine – has the desire to leave the house for more than essentials or quick trips to the drive thru. A recent article from NPR – check it out HERE – evaluated a suggested list of activities according to their COVID-19 risk and I was thrilled to read that spending the day at the beach, done correctly, provides a low risk option. So, let’s talk about planning and enjoying a family beach day in the time of COVID-19.

Sand Dunes and Blue Skies and Crescent Beach, FL

First, consider choosing a beach that will constitute a “One Tank Trip”. Not having to stop at gas station reduces exposure to this virus – and many others germs, I’m sure! Obviously, you’ll still have to put gas in your vehicle, but not in the midst of a trip. In addition, this will also cut down on driving time.

Food for a Family Beach Day

Once you have chosen your destination, plan your family beach day! While one of the great treats for us in heading to a beach town is exploring the local lunch spots – check out my suggestions at Siesta Key Village or Bradenton Beach – currently, we’re saving that treat for later trips. That means that along with our usual “snack stash” of grapes, baby carrots, pretzels and trail mix, we’ll be bringing lunch, too. Obviously, lunch items that are easily transported and consumed are among the top priorities. The ultra-Floridian will tell that “Pub subs” are the way to go! Translation: subs ordered online from your local grocery store, in our case Publix, and picked up on the way are a classic choice. For our most recent trip, we actually pre-ordered subs from Wawa and picked up iced coffees, breakfast bites, and lunch all in one shot. We could have done the same plan at Publix.

Whatever you choose, one stop = less people encountered = lower exposure. Win.

Pro tip: Grab your gallon ziploc bags and put them to use containing snacks like grapes or trail mix/pretzels AND to protect against soggy sandwiches or subs from melting ice or ice packs.

Planning ahead with Souvenir Coozies at Daiquiri Deck in Siesta Key Village Lemonade at Lunch – with a dash of Tito’s – at Anna Maria Oyster Bar

In addition to packing food, staying hydrated is a necessity at the beach! As a general measure, you should have 48oz of non-alcoholic/non-carbonated drinks per person. Save space in your favorite cooler – mine is this Picnic Thermal from 31 – with a classic lunch box hack – freeze a couple bottles of water or Gatorade the night before and you’ve got drinkable ice packs!

Bringing and Using Your Beach Gear

Two for One: social distancing and seating options

A family beach day trip during this global pandemic doesn’t really necessitate different gear than usual, but you may consider its uses in a different light. Be sure to bring a type of umbrella or sunshade. Eating lunch on the beach is often more pleasant out of the beating sun and some type of beach shade will help keep coolers and bags with electronics out of the direct heat. Mesh backed beach chairs, a good beach mat and pool noodles round out our gear. Now, with the social distancing recommendations of a 6 ft distance between groups, placing the beach mat in the middle, with beach chairs on two corners and pool noodles stretched out along the others creates an unobtrusive, yet effective way to create boundaries. In our recent beach experience, groups were adhering to the 6 ft distance recommendation with no assistance from the beach patrol.

Minimizing Exposure and Maximizing Fun!

After so many weeks of distance working and learning, both parents and kids are ready to get out of the house. I know we were! Minimize your exposure to COVID-19 by planning ahead for your family beach day trip. Map out a one tank trip and gas up near home; online order morning coffee, breakfast bites, and no fuss lunches; set up your beach gear for maximum family safety and fun; and bring a container of disinfecting wipes just in case!

As we transition into some version of a new normal, it will take planning, flexibility, and perseverance to minimize our exposure while maximizing our fun as we start to embrace family travel again. Plan your Family Beach Day using these tips to Stay safe and Have fun!

Kona catching a quick pup nap in the shade at Crescent Beach!