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Brand New I-Drive Experience: Tapas Before Take Off

Tapas Before Take Off - next to the Orlando EyeTapa Toro Tapas Bar & Paella Pit is inspired by the culture and tradition of authentic Spanish cuisine. It promises a dining experience unlike any other. Husband-and-wife duo, Vassilis and Katerina Coumbaros, are thrilled to announce Tapas Before Take-Off, an exciting combination of a three course prix fixe meal at their restaurant followed by a ride on one of Orlando’s most popular tourist attractions, The Orlando Eye. Tapa Toro Tapas Bar & Paella Pit is located at I-Drive 360 under the shining lights of the Orlando Eye and is literally just steps away from the attraction. Come for a one-of-a-kind dining experience and stay for an aerial view of all of Orlando. It is a must-do for tourists and residents alike!

Tapas Before Take Off

Tapas Before Take-Off is just $49.95/person including tax & gratuity. The price includes a three-course prix fixe menu, house drink, and a ticket to ride the Orlando Eye. Please make a reservation so that the restaurant knows that you’re coming and your spot is reserved.

Tapas Interior photo


View the menu here for Tapas Before Take Off.

Make a reservation for Tapas Before Take Off.

ORLANDO TOURIST TIP:
Arrive just before dusk to have dinner and ride the Orlando Eye as the sunsets and see International Drive lit up from above!


Tapa Toro Tapas Restaurant & Paella Pit

Located at I-Drive 360, Tapa Toro features tapas-style dining, a full-service bar and Flamenco dancing. The restaurant leads with a 12-seat paella pit serving up family-style paella, a traditional Spanish dish made of rice, vegetables, and meat or seafood. At Tapa Toro you can experience a night in Spain without ever having to leave Central Florida.

Executive Chef Wendy Lopez

Tappas cuisineExecutive Chef Wendy Lopez, a native of Michoacan, Mexico, began cooking at a young age while working in her family’s restaurant. After formal training at Le Cordon Bleu College in Orlando, she began her professional career at the Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Windermere. She went on to become sous chef under Certified Master Chef Russell Scott.

She has aided in the development of a unique menu featuring a robust selection of hot and cold tapas, paella variations and desserts. Using only the freshest imported ingredients, Chef Lopez combines traditional Spanish elements to create an authentic taste experience for people in Orlando.

NIGHTLIFE & ENTERTAINMENT

Just in case the communal seating in the bar or family-style paella pit don’t provide enough entertainment for your dining experience, every evening at Tapa Toro features flamenco dancing, bringing the sights and sounds of Spain right to your table. Take your meal to the next level by reserving the 12-seat paella pit for an up-close-and-personal experience with our Chef Lopez. Whether you are coming in for a private family dinner or a celebration with friends, a night at Tapa Toro is sure to ignite your senses.

Tapas Before Take Off is happening for a limited time so make your reservation today and experience the most flavorful and festive combination of dining and entertainment on International Drive.

Wekiva Island Paint Out – Annual Festival

11th Annual Wekiva Island Paint Out

Wekiva Island Paint Out

Artist paints ‘plein air’ during festival. Photo by Brion Price.

The 11th Annual Wekiva Paint Out is Central Florida’s most popular “plein air” arts festival. During the festival 30 world-renowned artists will create works inspired by Wekiwa Springs’ natural beauty. The event will be located at Wekiva Island at 1014 Miami Springs Drive in Longwood. The town of Longwood is just a short drive from the Kissimmee/Orlando tourist attractions.

There will be an open art gallery and live music beginning on February 27th from 5 until 9 pm and occurring nightly with additional events beginning on Wednesday, March 1st. During the week-long event, guests can participate in a live auction, enjoy complimentary beer and wine tastings, and participate in a “quick draw” workshop, led by artist Hai-Ou Hou. All of this in addition to enjoying the beautiful natural scenery and talented artists.

Most of the week’s events are free unless otherwise noted. Come out and support local non-profits while helping to preserve Orlando nature. All proceeds from art sales will benefit Keep Seminole Beautiful and the Wekiva Wilderness Trust.

Wekiva Paint Out artist

Beautiful scenery is painted during event. Photo by Brion Price.

Wekiva Island Paint Out Schedule of Events

February 26 – March 4

  • Sunday – February 26th
    Artists arrive & get settled for their week long stay at Wekiwa Springs State Park
    Artist Welcome Dinner with Artists, Patrons and Sponsors
  • Monday – February 27th
    All Day: Artists painting all day around the Island
    5-9P: Open gallery & live music
  • Tuesday – February 28th
    All Day: Artists painting all day around the Island
    5-9P: Open gallery & live music
  • Wednesday – March 1st
    All Day: Artists painting all day around the Island
    12-10p: Open gallery & live music
    6-7p: Preview event with complimentary beer and wine + craft beer tasting
    7-8P: Live Auction
    To register for Live Auction, simply email Wekiva Island with your name and number of guests. The first 25 people to register will receive a free beer or wine ticket to be used anytime.
  • Thursday – March 2nd
    All Day: Artists “paint in” around the bar
    12-10p: Open gallery & live music
    10-3p: How to Finish a Quick Draw Workshop with Hai-Ou Hou
  • Friday – March 3rd
    All Day: Artists painting all day around the Island
    12-11p: Open gallery & live music
    10-3p: How to Finish a Quick Draw Workshop with Hai-Ou Hou
    Evening Nocturne Painting at the Bar
    5-9p: Pasta Bar, $10.95/person
  • Saturday – March 4th
    10a-4p: Open gallery of work created throughout the week
    12-2p: Quick Draw open event
    6-7p: Private patron reception at Wekiva Island Wet Room/Gallery
    7-11p: All inclusive GALA dinner with live music, beer/wine and wine tasting event.
    Register to participate in Quick Draw, $25/person
    Purchase your Gala tickets, $40/person or $70/couple
Art festival at Wekiva Island

Art can be purchased during the festival. Photo by Brion Price.

If you are a collector or interested buyer, do not miss this opportunity to get a fantastic piece of art and support local non-profits. Art will continue to be sold on Sunday, March 5th, so stop by and get it before it’s gone!

Orlando Tourist Tip: The 11th Annual Wekiva Island Paint Out Gala is the main event of the weeklong festival held on Saturday, March 4th from 7 until 11 pm. During the gala, you can view and purchase works of art done throughout the week while enjoying live local music. For $40 a person, or $70 per couple guests can enjoy a special meal and carving station from Without a Paddle Cafe, as well as wine, beer, and a bonfire on the window. You will not want to miss this event! Purchase your tickets here.

History of the Wekiva Island Paint Out

A philanthropist and nature lover, William “Big Bill” Tippi started the Wekiva Invitational Plein Air Paint Out. Big Bill had an idea to produce this art event to increase awareness of one of our area’s greatest natural resources, the Wekiva River and Wekiwa Springs. Big Bill approached The Friends of Wekiva River (FOWR) and together they hosted the very first Wekiva Paint Out in March 2007 as part of the FOWR’s Riverfest celebration. Bill transferred the event over to the FOWR the following year. While no longer the host, Bill Tippit continues to be a big supporter of the event. He regularly socializes at the events.

In 2009, FOWR decided to cancel the Paint Out portion of their Riverfest event. Fortunately, William Weinaug Jr. stepped in and agreed to sponsor and host the Paint Out at Wekiva Island that year! Like Big Bill Tippit, Bill Weinaug believed the event would be important to increase awareness of the Wekiva River and Wekiwa Springs State Park’s preservation. Seven years later, he continues to host the event annually and support Florida wildlife conservation year-round!

Come be a part of one of Florida’s most renowned art festivals and experience the great outdoors at Wekiva Island.

 

4 Mistakes People Make When Visiting Orlando

Article submitted by At Home Vacation Rentals

Avoid these 4 mistakes people make when visiting Orlando!

Orlando is one of the most amazing vacation destinations will you can choose. Specially if you have kids. It’s a dreamland of parks and adventures for kids and adults. But a lot of people don’t take full advantage of everything that this amazing trip has to offer. We hope that you have a great time in Orlando, so we have decided to point out the 4 most common mistakes people make when visiting Orlando.

1. Not planning

As silly as that may sound planning is everything when going to a city full of attractions like Orlando. People go to the theme parks and have idea where to begin or how to best use their time. They don’t know which rides are the best, the busiest, etc. It could take a lot of time to learn the maps, decide where to go and in what order. By not planning a lot of people end up not visiting as many attractions as they could and spend a lot of time waiting in line.

out of bed early - not making mistakes people make visiting Orlando

Despite how nice your accommodations are, skip sleeping in during your Orlando vacation!

2. Sleeping in

Who doesn’t like to sleep in? Specially when you go on vacation and want to relax in those beautiful vacation homes. But in a city like Orlando, if you want to take full advantage of your time here, you need to get to the parks early. Most of the parks open at 9am so if you plan on getting to the parks after 11am, you will find the best attractions/rides with lines over 1 hour of waiting time. But if you get there early, you get to go to those rides with shorter lines. Unless you are planning on going to the same park for two days. In that case you can go early one day to avoid lines, and later the other day to stay for the evening shows.

3. Going to big parks in a row

Many parks in Orlando are big and you need to spend all day there, specially if you want to watch the last shows. Going to those parks one after the other makes the trip extremely tiring. Ideally you want to alternate parks that take all day to visit (like Magic Kingdom or Epcot) with other parks that are not as big and will not take all day (like Animal Kingdom or Sea World). If you are planning a long trip, it’s always a good idea to leave some days for rest (pool, beach) or even going to an attraction that you didn’t know about.

4. Not using FastPass

A lot of people don’t think they really need to get a FastPass, or that they can get it on the same day as they go to the parks, but that’s a big mistake. They have a limited number of FastPasses that they sell for each attraction so it’s very likely that on the day you go they might be sold out for the best rides/attractions. And depending on the time of the year, you might have to wait in line for over 2 hours.

The FastPass is a free service that lets you reserve access to select attractions, entertainment and more. With the purchase of a ticket you can start making selections as early as 30 or up to 60 days before you arrive.

Cross #1 above off your list! Browse Orlando Tourist Tips web site and read up on all of the theme parks and attractions. Then start planning how you will spend your vacation in one of the top vacation destinations in the world! Avoid these mistakes people make when visiting Orlando.

5 Helpful Tips for an Amazing Beach Trip

Beach Fun Tips

There are many amazing beaches in Florida, so helpful tips for an amazing beach trip are necessary, especially if you are visiting from out of the area. What makes an amazing beach getaway? A perfect beach destination, tons of exciting sea and water activities, fantastic food and accommodations, a smooth itinerary – the list goes on.

Whether you’re traveling alone or with your family or friends, you want to make your dream beach trip a reality. Here are a few practical tips on how to make it as fun and memorable as possible:

1. Prepare your mind, body, and a handy checklist of things to pack.

  • A well-rested body relies on a calm mind.
  • Worries and doubts cloud our head (at the last minute) when we fail to put our plan on paper.
  • Having a beach packing list ensures that we remember all must-have items for a smooth-sailing trip.
  • An example beach packing list includes: beach essentials such as water-proof bag, sunscreen, lip balm, disposable wipes, mermaid fin (to add some fun); clothes like underwear, socks, undershirts, bras, t-shirts, and sleepwear; toiletries; and other travel essentials.

2. Never skip research when choosing a beach vacation spot.

  • Loads of beach getaways are on offer by many travel agencies and websites.
  • Their itineraries are also crafted by well-experienced guides. But these should not stop you from doing your own research. Why?
    • Your needs are unique.
    • This is why no two reviews of a beach destination are alike.
    • Hence, you should come up with at least five things you expect to get from a beach holiday deal.
    • Maybe you want to factor in ‘affordability’, ‘ease of access’, ‘attractions and activities’, “quality of service” or ‘family-friendliness’.
    • Make a choice based on the non-negotiable items/factors in your list of standards.

3. Early reservations make a huge difference every time.

  • Booking your hotel accommodation, flight or rides early will save you from stress and overspending.
  • This golden rule is sadly broken when our busy work gets in the way.
  • But think about it, you will enjoy your beach trip more if you are less anxious about money or room and transport availability.
  • If you are not able to secure early bookings or special deals for your trip, check if you can adjust your vacation dates.
  • You can get better rates if you schedule your trip at the beginning or end of summer.
  • Or you can take two days off during the middle of the week.
  • Considering this, your best option seems to be to reserve early on.

4. Set a budget for souvenir shopping.

  • Even kids want to get a memorabilia from a fun beach destination.
  • Photographs are a given.
  • But charming personalized souvenirs, who can resist them?
  • Even seasoned travelers suffer from buyer’s remorse when they do not adopt a sound approach to souvenir shopping.
  • Go online and check out the typical price range for souvenirs – then allot a budget you would stick to.

5. Check out nearby must-visit attractions.

  • Some family-friendly beaches offer more than the sparkling shore, the scorching sun, and snorkeling opportunities.
  • Others have famous theme parks, ocean parks, or botanical gardens nearby.
  • If you didn’t skip tip #2, by now you would have figured out which nearby sites are worth checking out.
  • Set some budget for transport service and entrance fees for these splendid side trips.

Did you find these tips helpful? Then, share them with every beach-lover you know. Welcome to Florida and have an amazing beach trip!

Written by guest author: Anna Hale

New Year’s Eve at Orlando Theme Parks

New Years Eve at Disney World

It’s time to make your New Year’s Eve plans! Whether you live here or are just visiting the Orlando area and want to celebrate, there are many places to celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you’ve set your mind to bring in the new year at an Orlando theme park, here are some Orlando Tourist Tips to consider when visiting a theme park on New Year’s Eve:

1) Arrive early in the morning at the park of your choice and be prepared to spend your entire day there. Theme parks often reach capacity, and when they do, no further admittance is allowed. Park hopping (Disney) on New Year’s Eve is not recommended.

2) Guests staying in a Disney Resort are only guaranteed admittance into a (one) park. It may not be the park of your choice, so choose the one park you want to visit. The “Magic Hour” can help gain entrance into other parks. These hours vary and can be in the morning or at night (as in 2 a.m. night), so be sure to do your research.

3) Having a dining reservation does not mean that you will be allowed in if that park has already reached capacity. Make it easy and stay in one park and make reservations to dine there as well. Early reservations to dine on New Year’s Eve are easier to get.

4) Rent a locker upon arrival. These too will go fast. Should the weather be an issue, you can stow your warm clothes or rain gear. Temperatures vary this time of year. Dress in layers.

5) Fastpasses will run out quickly, so if there’s an attraction on your “must-do” list, get yours as soon as possible. It’s not uncommon to see waits of 2+ hours at the most popular attractions.

6) Dance parties, special concerts and firework shows are sure to be a spectacular New Year’s Eve celebration. The parks will have live entertainment throughout the day/evening in addition to special midnight fireworks. Be sure to grab a guide or schedule upon entering the park.

7) Special events are not necessarily included with a theme park ticket. Just because you have a ticket to a theme park and a special concert is being performed within the park, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a ticket to the concert. Special events are often held within theme parks and require a separate ticket. For example,“EVE” at Universal’s City Walk is a completely separate ticket event.

New Year’s Eve at an Orlando theme park is very fun. If you are okay with crowds and an all-day schedule, this is a great choice. Being prepared for the day will make it that much more enjoyable. Happy New Year everyone!