Another annual event that we have on our MUST attend list in Orlando is the Taste of Orlando at Waterford Lakes (attending Sugar Ray concerts at Epcot is another one). This year marked the 17th annual and while I cannot recall the number of times we have attended (it is in the double digits), I can admit that we were at the first one in 2000, as we stumbled across it accidentally and became hooked. It is a great event, usually supporting an awesome charity and the participating vendors are some of our favorites. Additionally, the price is very reasonable for a Taste of type event. There is only an entry fee, instead of a ticket system that some events use which cause you to pick and choose what to try. This allows us to try everything.
Friday, November 4, 2016
We headed up to Orlando after the kids got out of school. We were hoping to take them out early (after Weston got out), but Emily was giving a speech for President of National Honor Society. She always impresses us with her work ethic and bravery. On the way up, rumbling bellies made us stop at WaWa off the interstate and lucky for us, it was free coffee day.
We drove straight to the Orlando Eye Attraction area and used our Legoland Awesomer Passes to get into the Orlando Aquarium. The kids enjoyed the interactive stamping game throughout the attraction, as well as the climb on indoor playground.
Outside the main building at this plaza is a large open park-like area with trees and lots of fake grass. The kids had a ball running around, playing and enjoying the weather as the sun began to set. We watched as they all had a great time playing with each other and taking turns being the photographer.
After this, we headed for dinner at Shake Shack. The kids, having been here previously, ordered enthusiastically, which caused our total bill to skyrocket exponentially. Brooke and I made mental notes to reign in the ordering next time (or just visit alone on our next CLEW-less travel). The kids enjoyed their food, played some cornhole outside and eagerly picked out a balloon animal from the local vendor who was doing them for free at Shake Shack.
After eating our fill, we headed back for a nighttime ride on the Orlando Eye.
This attraction had recently added a title sponsorship from Coca-Cola and had added four branded / wrapped capsules that also provided free Cokes for the ride. We were luckily about to board one of these and the kids were super excited, but someone skipped us (and very obviously too) and the workers allowed them (we informed the management later, but…). Aside from this, we had a nice ride around and the kids put on dance parties in the capsules. After our return, we contemplated a return trip to the Wax Museum, but decided it best to head to the hotel. We had booked a stay at the Mystic Dunes through the HotelTonight app (download the app and use referral code CGRAHAM23 for $25 off). By the time we arrived, I checked in and we made our way through the huge property, two kids were asleep, so we carried them directly in and placed them on the pull out couch. We made a bed on the floor from the cushions for Caitlyn and Emily was able to share the pull out couch with the other kids and we were off to sleep.
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Excited about eating, we woke up already thinking about food. We were making plans on meeting with some friends at Waterford Lakes and wanted to be there for “rope drop” (when they first opened), so we quickly packed up our belongings and grabbed a quick breakfast at Chick-Fil-A (sorry kids we can’t play on the playground…). We made a bee-line to Waterford Lakes and being a little early, we decided to first check out Target. This Target is one of Brooke’s favorites because they always carry UCF apparel, but this time around we couldn’t find much. Next, we searched for parking near the middle of the shopping plaza where the event was to be held. I tentatively pulled around the Barnes & Noble and saw a few open spots, but also noticed the “NO EVENT PARKING” signs. I am a bit of a rule follower, so I hesitated on parking, but with a little encouragement from Brooke (and understanding that we would be shopping at some of these stores at some point during our stay), I obliged and we pulled in.
We were indeed there for “rope drop” and traded our tickets for wristbands. We set off immediately for the Sweet By Holly booth for our favorite (in the whole world) cupcakes. When Brooke and I moved from Orlando in 2008 (with Emily and Caitlyn by that time) to Ellenton, Sweet cupcakes were high on the list of things we were sad to leave behind. This offering is one of the most popular at the event and armed with the past knowledge that they would quickly run out of cupcakes, we darted over to indulge in the mini-cupcakes (my favorite is Cookies and Cream, but they have so many good ones like Heath Bar, Peanut Butter and S’mores). After sadly leaving Sweet behind, we made our way throughout the event to sample more eateries and enjoy the games offered. Our kids are a little obsessed with spinning the wheel for prizes, but they have won some pretty cool stuff at Taste of Orlando. Our score from this year included an Orlando Magic Basketball, tons of free Chick-Fil-A coupons and candy. Our friends that met us there actually won tickets to the Orlando Magic game that night!
The highlights food-wise were Hard Rock Cafe, Jet’s Pizza, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and Jeremiah’s Italian Ice. We frequented our favorites as much as they allowed us!
Another highlight is the kids area, which is also included in the original wristband price ($15 / adult and $5 / kid advance ticket price) which included bounce houses, climbing wall, trampoline bungee and a Whipe-Out (tv show) Big Balls obstacle.
There were also crafts, face painting and sports for the kids to play. By 2 PM, we were very tired and hot. One thing that most of the booths did not offer was a drink. Needing some A/C, we decided to trek across the parking lot for Chick-Fil-A (yes, kids you can play this time). After resting up in the Air Conditioning and hydrating, we made our way back to the event, sampled what our stomachs would allow and let the kids play in the Kids Area until they shut the place down. We had made it from “rope drop” to closing time, and we were exhausted. However, Brooke didn’t forget her promise to be a shopper in order to justify my parking spot, so we stopped by Sketchers. The kids all needed new shoes and this Sketchers always has great choices in the clearance section, free popcorn and free gumballs from a huge gumball machine (the kids remember this most from the day…). After picking out the shoes we needed, we hopped into the van and headed home (about 2 hours from this spot).