Sunshine Villa Florida

Pick Your Own Christmas Tree

Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest is a family business that started in 1987 when founder Jack Ewing discovered the little known Florida Christmas tree. Jack planted 1000 Virginia Pine trees but the Virginia Pine would not grow in the deep sandy soil prevalent in the area.

Jack then discovered the Choctawhatchee Sand Pine, which he planted the following year. By 1989, the Ewing’s had a small selection of 5-foot choose and cut Christmas trees. By 1990, Jack built the iconic red and white A-frame building, dubbed Santa’s Workshop, which was filled with attractive hand-crafted ornaments and gifts.  A petting zoo was created and stocked with a variety of farm animals, and a tractor-pulled hayride transported customers through the field.  Their children, and eventually their grandchildren, helped with the operation as the farm grew into the family venue that it is today.

Since then, the farm has grown to offer different types of Christmas trees (16 acres of choose and cut, northern grown pre-cut, and potted) and pumpkins in October.  Guests may rent the facilities year round for parties and events, and children visit from all over the area for field trips.  Activities expand every year and now include zip lines, barrel tram rides, a giant bounce pillow and visits from Santa.

Today, you can visit the Christmas Tree forest and choose the perfect tree for you and your family. You even have the option of cutting it down yourself if you choose.  You can see their calendar of events here

General admission includes entry to the farm, the Christmas tree field and lot, photo ops, hayride, and the farm animal petting zoo (viewing only).

While we do provide you with an artificial tree at Sunshine Villa Florida, this is a great experience to check out the farm and enjoy the activities they have to offer.

Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail

tree trail

Disney Springs is a personal favourite of ours and we make a point of visiting several times during our stay.  From shopping, to great food, events and entertainment, its a must see.  Much like every other Disney property, Disney Springs transforms into a magical winter wonderland during the holidays.  One special feature is the Christmas Tree trail where you can discover several holiday trees inspired by a Disney Character or theme like:

  • Haunted Mansion
  • Frozen
  • Rapunzel
  • Muppets
  • Star Wars
  • Fantasia
  • Disney theme parks
  • Mickey & Minnie
  • Beauty & the Beast
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Little Mermaid
  • Princess & the Frog
  • Mulan
  • Snow White
  • Cinderella
  • Robin Hood
  • Jungle Book
  • Mary Poppins
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Toy Story

Disney springs is FREE to enter & park making it a great option for a non park day, or an evening stroll.  There are plenty of photo ops during this walk through experience accompanied with holiday music and falling SNOW!  You can even encounter Santa himself and deliver your Christmas list in person. Begin your tour near the play fountain outside of Once Upon a Toy in the Marketplace.

The Christmas Tree Trail can be seen until January 6, 2019 from 11:00am – 11:00pm.  And if you can’t see it in person, here is a great video capturing the beautiful trees.

 

 

Florida Strawberry Festival 2019 Lineup

strawberry

The Strawberry Festival has announced its concert line up and WOW!

February 28th -March 10th, 2019, will be 11 full days of strawberries, shortcake, BIG name concerts, rides, stage shows, attractions, food galore, exhibits, displays, contests, competitions and a berry sweet time for the whole family!

Thursday, February 28: 10:30 a.m. Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra / 3:30 p.m. The Oak Ridge Boys / 7:30 p.m. ALABAMA

Friday, March 1: 3:30 p.m. Willie Nelson / 7:30 p.m. Brothers Osborne

Saturday, March 2: 3:30 p.m. Home Free / 7:30 p.m. Kool & the Gang

Sunday, March 3: 3:30 p.m. Chicks with Hits featuring Terri Clark, Pam Tillis and Suzy Bogguss / 7:30 p.m. An Evening with Steven Tyler and The Loving Mary Band

Monday, March 4: 3:30 p.m. Pat Boone / 7:30 p.m. Martina McBride

Tuesday, March 5: 3:30 p.m. The Drifters, Platters & Cornell Gunter’s Coasters / 7:30 p.m. NEEDTOBREATHE

Wednesday, March 6: 3:30 p.m. Gene Watson / 7:30 p.m. STYX

Thursday, March 7: 10:30 a.m. The Kingston Trio / 3:30 p.m. The Letterman / 7:30 p.m. for King & Country

Friday, March 8: 3:30 p.m. Tanya Tucker / 7:30 p.m. Chris Janson

Saturday, March 9: 3:30 p.m. Florida Strawberry Festival’s Battle of the Bands Finale / 7:30 p.m. Keith Sweat

Sunday, March 10: 3:30 p.m. Bill Anderson & Bobby Bare / 7:30 p.m. Old Dominion’s Make It Sweet Tour

Tickets go on sale December 6 at 8:00am and you can buy them here.

Help Name Giraffe Calf Born At Animal Kingdom

baby giraffe

A giraffe calf was born to parents George & Kenya at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and she needs your help with a name!  The parents were paired together as part of the Species Survival Plan by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The team at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums oversees the responsible breeding of endangered or threatened species.

Born Oct 1 she is already 5 feet tall.  This new calf will join the rest of her family and will be spotted in the Savanna portion of the Kilomanjaro Safari before the end of the year but she needs a name before that happens.

This is where you come in!  Disney is asking for help narrowing down her name from the options below:

  • Dafina (Treasure)
  • Milima (Mountain)
  • Amira (Princess)
  • Naima (Graceful)

These names are Swahili – the native language of Kenya. Which one is your favourite?

You can cast your vote here.

 

Disney’s Forgotten Park

Originally named Riles Island, Disney purchased the island on Bay Lake in 1965 as part of its strategic property acquisitions before building the Walt Disney World Resort.

The island opened as Treasure Island on April 8, 1974, as a place to observe wildlife, and was later renamed Discovery Island when it was recognized as a zoological park. Discovery Island’s name was chosen by a Disney employee who worked as a life guard at the Polynesian Village hotel in the late 1970s.

The island was rich in botanical settings and wildlife including flamingos, pelicans, eagles, alligators, peacocks, swans and more.  Discovery Island featured a walk-through aviary, bird shows, a flamingo pool and Turtle Beach. The “Thirsty Perch” snack bar was constructed and the island premiered the “Jose Carioca Flyers” bird show, which was performed in the CooCoo Cabana. There were also a scavenger hunt which was available to Guests as they arrived on the Island. The 20-question hunt had clues with answers that could be found on signs throughout the island. Successfully answering all of the questions entitled a Guest to a Jiminy Cricket “EnvironMentality” Earth Day button.

Attractions included:

  • Parrots Perch – The Discovery Island Bird Show, featuring macaws, cockatoos, and other trained birds.
  • Monkey Colony – Capuchin monkeys
  • Trumpeter Springs – Trumpeter swans
  • Bamboo Hollow – Lemurs from Madagasgar
  • Vulture’s Haunt – Vultures
  • Toucan Corner – Toucans
  • Cranes’s Roost – Demoiselle, sandhill and African crowned cranes
  • Avian Way – The United States’ most extensive breeding colony of scarlet ibis, Muntjacs and peacocks were also kept here.
  • Pelican Bay –  Brown pelicans
  • Flamingo Lagoon – Flamingos
  • Tortoise Beach – five galapagos tortoises
  • Alligator Pool – American Alligators
  • Eagle’s Watch – Bald eagles

Discovery Island officially closed on April 8th, 1999 and all of its animals had been relocated Animal Kingdom.  Although Disney never officially stated its reasons for closing the park, poor attendance and high maintenance costs, combined with the newer and bigger Disney’s Animal Kingdom being opened a year before, are the most likely causes.

Today, the island can easily be seen from Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Resort as well as from boat trips between them. It is adjacent to Disney’s River Country, which closed in November 2001.

Since its closing, the island has sat largely abandoned, with no signs of development. As of 2018, all original buildings and attractions remain on the island, though several have sustained major damages from hurricanes and natural decay.  In 2017, a Youtuber named Matthew Sonswa gained access to the island and captured video footage of the abandoned park. There had only been 2 other documented explorations of the island before Matthew.  One in 2005 and 2007, but all that was captured at that time were still photos.  There had never been detailed HD video footage of the island and it’s interesting to see what’s been left behind this forgotten park.

We have attached a video which includes footage of Matthew’s exploration along with an old promotional video of Discovery Island.

Did you ever visit Discovery Island?

 

Your Ultimate Guide To Holiday Events In Orlando

orlando holiday events

Christmas is the Orlando area is simply spectacular. It sparkles with magic and cheer!  Holiday traditions and joyful celebrations transform Orlando into a Christmas wonderland. Here is your ultimate guide to Orlando holiday events.

Disney Springs Christmas Events

Disney Springs is always on our list when visiting Orlando. But the magical decor during the holidays makes it extra special. Disney Springs offers a variety of seasonal entertainment during the Holiday Season.

From November 8th 2018 to January 6th 2019

  • Christmas Tree Trail– From November 8, 2018 through January 6, 2019, discover 27 holiday trees—each inspired by a Disney character or theme like Mary Poppins, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, among others. New this season is Star Wars and Toy Story.
  • Santa’s ChaletCelebrate the spirit of the season during an enchanting visit with Santa Claus—at the Disney Springs Marketplace from Nov 28-December
  • Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt– Solve clever clues to help everyone’s favorite galactic rascal track down gifts for his ‘ohana.

There’s plenty of live entertainment, carolers, stilt walkers, holiday sweets and treats, a live dj and dance party.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom explodes with holiday magic & cheer during Christmas. No other park sparkles quite like this.

  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
    22 select nights November 8th to December 21st 2018

    Join family, friends & Mickey too for an oh-so-jolly holiday celebration! It’s the party of all parties during Christmas in Orlando. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is packed with live entertainment, a spectacular festive parade, a new fun, musical stage show and an explosion of thrilling fireworks.
  • A Frozen Holiday Wish 
    Every night, Anna, Kristoff and the irrepressible Olaf join Queen Elsa on stage where she uses her icy powers to transform the Castle into a glistening ice palace.
  • Jingle Cruise
    Jungle Cruise is transformed for the Holidays into a holly jolly Christmas cruise. All the regular props sprinkled with holiday cheer. Even the boats get new names.
  • Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade
    This parade is exclusively for guests attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Celebrate the season with Disney friends as they stroll by in a festive procession featuring jolly St. Nick on his sleigh.
  • Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Season
    The Holiday fireworks are reserved for guests attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

We’ve highlighted Magic Kingdom, but there’s lots of other holiday events going on at the other Disney resorts and you can see them all here.

Universal Orlando Resort Christmas Events

Universal Orlando unwraps a resort wide celebration.  Experience Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are transformed with holiday cheer.  Treat yourself to Universal’s Holiday Macy’s Parade and watch the live retelling of Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday tale starring the Grinch in the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular.  Holiday events run from November 17th 2018 to January 6th 2019.

Universal Studios Florida

  • Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s
    Merry and Mayhem combine as the Minions join Santa Claus in an incarnation of Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, a holiday favorite that also features characters from Madagascar and Shrek.
  • Mannheim Steamroller The best-selling holiday artist of all time visits Universal Studios as Mannheim Steamroller returns for live performances.
  • Blues Brothers Holiday Show is a hit with all ages with songs like ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ and ‘Blue Christmas’.
  • Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley Diagon Alley is transformed with festive décor & lighting

Islands of Adventure

  • The Grinchmas Holiday SpectacularExplore Seuss Landing™, filled with the Christmas charm and cheer of Who-ville. Delight in The Grinchmas™ Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of the classic holiday tale starring The Grinch™. Plus, meet the maven of mischief himself for an autograph and photo.
  • The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast
    Choose from irresistible entrees and get your camera ready. The Grinch™ himself will make the rounds, stopping to pose for photos and share hilariously snarky small talk.  Reservations
  • Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
    With its buildings already covered in snow it’s the perfect backdrop for its holiday transformation. Don’t miss Hogwarts Castle fabulously lit by a projection-mapping show.

 

LEGOLand Christmas Bricktacular

December 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22-31 2018
Thousands of LEGO and DUPLO bricks create a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree with dancing lights and songs on until December 25th.  Build Lego trees, mail a letter to Santa and don’t miss the nightly 3D fireworks!

This jolly time of year features a combination of seasonal shows, special treats, twinkling lights and more during Christmas Bricktacular and Kids’ New Year’s Party! These events are included in general admission – no extra ticket required.

 

Christmas in Celebration Florida

Now Snowing in Celebration

November 24th through Dec 31st 2018 Celebration, Florida is the town that Disney built.  Now Snowing, Central Florida’s original and premier “Snowing” event, offers one of the area’s only synthetic ice rinks, special community performances by some of the area’s top young talent, and special concert events throughout the season. Now Snowing is a month-long Winter Wonderland Spectacular featuring strolling Charles Dickens style Carolers, photos with Santa, horse drawn carriage rides, ice skating, train rides, and nightly snowfall at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 PM. It’s a true throwback to the traditional family style holiday. Festivities kick off on Nov 24 with the Tree Lighting Ceremony from 5.30 – 9.00pm.

The main event is the nightly “snowfall”  Who says it doesn’t snow in Florida? Nightly Snowfalls are at 6.00, 7.00, 8.00 and 9.00 pm.

There’s also Santa in his chalet, horse drawn carriage rides, and the Celebration Express Train.

Celebration Holiday Home Tours

The Celebration Holiday Home Tour is held December 1st 2018 from 3-9 p.m. and December 2nd 2018 from 1-5 p.m.  This self-guided tour takes visitors on a journey through several of the town’s fabulously decorated homes. Visitors can enter each home to see beautiful decorations and custom New Urbanism architecture by the Walt Disney Company. Visitors will also enjoy extravagantly decorated trees and tablescapes in the expanded Winter Wonderland.

ICE! At Gaylord Palms

November 16th 2018 to January 6th 2019
ICE! is back at Gaylord Palms with an all-new theme featuring the beloved classic holiday movie A Christmas Story. Watch this hilarious family tale come to life through interactive ice sculptures and displays. Experience iconic scenes such as The Old Man’s Major Award, Aunt Clara’s pink nightmare and the ultimate triple dog dare at the school’s flagpole. Everything is hand-carved from two million pounds of ice.

Features include:

  • ICE! Featuring A Christmas Story
  • Dreams of Christmas Light Show
  • Cirque Dreams Unwrapped
  • Atrium Christmas Tree Trail
  • Frostbite Factory
  • Alpine Rush Snow Tubing
  • Santa’s Snow Throw
  • Photo’s with Santa
  • Claus Christmas Traditions and Story Time Sing-a-long

Space Coast LightFest

Nightly throughout December

More than 3 million twinkling holiday lights will ignite the night sky at Wickham Park. The Spac Coast Lightfest is a holiday themed drive through event. This event attracts over 15,000 cars.  Over 2.7 million twinkling lights create this dazzling wonderland.

When: From 6.30pm to 10pm November 19th 2018 – January 1st 2019
Where:
Melbourne, Florida

Mount Dora Christmas Events

Nov 3 – Dec 30 – Polar Express Train Ride
Dec 1- Dec 2 – Mount Dora Holiday Homes Tour
Dec – Thurs/Fri/Sat – Mount Dora Food Tours

Daily in December:

  • Mount Dora Christmas Lights Tour
  • Mount Dora Christmas Light Cart Tour
  • Take the Polar Express from Tavares train station to the North Pole.
  • Rusty Anchor Christmas Lights on the Lake Tour – twice nightly.

Happy Planning!

Photo credit: Disney Photo Snapper, Universal

 

5 Places To Recharge At Walt Disney World

Theme parks are full of fun, sometimes too much for the little ones. They can get tuckered out fairly quickly, especially in the warmer weather. And let’s face it, so can we!  Don’t worry, you can find quiet places in many areas of Walt Disney World parks for a little rest and re-energizing and we’ll share our tips with you.

Tomorrowland People Mover- Magic Kingdom

Sit back, relax and enjoy a 10 minute tour of Tomorrowland aboard a moving tram. The soothing motion is perfect to lull little ones to sleep if they need a rest. It will also allow you to rest your feet and re-energize.

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress- Magic Kingdom

Refresh and unwind when you take a plush seat inside this air conditioned revolving theatre and glimpse at a fascinating audio-animatronics show celebrating the evolution of past and present technology.

The Seas with Nemo and friends – Epcot

In this cool, calming environment just made for recharging batteries, climb aboard and venture into the sea to join Nemo and friends on their aquatic journey.

The Hall of Presidents Magic Kingdom

Dim lights and comfy seats are all you need when you cool off in the main theatre to watch a dramatic presentation celebrating the leaders of America.

Spaceship Earth- Epcot

Enjoy a gentle journey through time that explores mankind’s technological advances over the centuries and rest while exploring the history of communications.

Finding Nemo- The musical- Animal Kingdom

Yes, it’s a musical so not very quiet, but you can take a load off in the air-conditioned theatre and sit back, relax and enjoy the live show.

And of course, you can always find a quiet comfortable space to feed, change, and nurse your little ones in the many Baby Care Centres located throughout all parks.

Happy Halloween From Sunshine Villa Florida

halloween

Happy Halloween to all our guests past, present and future!  Here’s what’s in store for our current guests spending Halloween at Sunshine Villa Florida:

  • Draws for Halloween gifts
  • Treat bags for the kids
  • Craft time between 5-7 pm
  • Free gaming cards for the arcade
  • Dive in Movie by the pool – Hotel Transylvania 3

In addition, Frankie Farrells, our onsite restaurant, is having some spooky specials today:

  • Buy one get one FREE draft beer
  • Kids meal promos

Even if you aren’t staying with us and your in the area, you can come on by and enjoy the specials at Frankie Farrells.

If you want to go trick or treating, Celebration is a town founded by Disney, only 15 minutes away where kids can enjoy some Halloween fun. And if your fortunate enough, you could always attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Happy Halloween!

8 Dollar Store Must Haves To Save You Money On Your Disney Vacation

disney

I think most of you will agree that Disney is super fun. But it can also be super expensive. I enjoy sharing my Disney tips so I’ve made a list of top 8 must bring items that will save you some money without sacrificing any fun!  The best part is, I purchase all of these items at my local dollar store.

  • Rain ponchos. We have yet to take a trip to Florida when it hasn’t rained.  And we go quite often.  Rain showers and storms can be fierce in Florida and happen quite frequently.  Of course you can purchase the Disney ponchos in the parks, but for much more than a few bucks. Stock up and consider extra for your stroller, bags etc.
  • Sandwich bags. Don’t forget that Disney allows their guests to bring in food and snacks to the parks. Packing your own snacks can add to a huge savings.  Bring some bags with you to pack lunch, or snacks.  The larger ones are also useful for wet swim suits, dirty diapers, trash etc.
  • Tissues and wet wipes. Expect the unexpected. Especially when you are going with kids. Boogers, dirt, blood – you just never know. Best to be prepared. These typically come in packs of 3 or more for a few dollars.
  • Glow sticks. When my children were younger, I would bring glow sticks with us for a couple of reasons. First off, because kids wants everything that glows or lights up. And as soon as night falls, Disney vendors will start appearing out of no where turning on every glowing and light up novelty. Sure to get kids attention. Secondly, safety.  I discovered that when they are wearing something that glows, it’s easier to keep an eye on them especially if they happen to wander off during the evening.
  • Hand sanitizer. Germs. Enough said.
  • Water bottles. Filling up your own water bottles could save you tons in drinks. It is important to stay hydrated and that could get expensive. You can fill up your water bottles at the fountains and if you choose, bring some squirt water flavouring that you may also find at the dollar store. The bottles pictured here from Dollar Tree even have a handy snack container on the bottom.
  • Souvenir’s. It’s easy to fall prey to the pricey Disney gift shops. Some rides even end up directly inside a shop. Clever.  But if you take a look at your local dollar store, they are full of Disney items from books, jewellery, flashlights, dolls, wands and much more.  Take them with you and hand them out while you’re in the parks. They will be just as excited and this could save you a pretty penny. Check out these neat Disney Halloween safety kits that I brought to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!
  • Cooling towels. If you’re heading to Disney during the summer months, this is a must. Believe me when I say it is SO humid during the summer in Florida. I purchased mine from my local dollar store, but these are a hit and miss so keep your eyes open and when you see them, snag ‘em.

Have I missed anything? What would you add to my list of dollar store must haves for a Disney parks trip?

Pick Your Own Pumpkin

There is plenty of fall fun to be had in the Orlando area and Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest is the place you want to go and pick your pumpkins. I know what your thinking- but its a Christmas Tree farm. Well that’s not entirely accurate. In the fall, Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest picks fresh pumpkins from Ohio and New York and then displays them in a shaded pumpkin patch to help preserve their freshness.

Pumpkins are priced by size, and most range between $3 and $12.  A pumpkin carving table is available to carve a Jack-o-Lantern at the farm and leave the mess with us, and carving tools may be purchased.

But that’s not all.  There is plenty of fall fun like their Magical Maze which has thirteen scary monster pictures hidden throughout…find them all and win a prize! Horse and pony rides, hay rides, bounce pillow, giant slide, barrel cart rides, mazes and play area are open continuously during fall hours.  Dare to fly through the sky on the 400 feet long zip line or on the junior zip line just 200 feet long.  Jack’s Barnyard animals are ready to welcome you to the farm, and when you are finished with all of that, take a jump in the Black Cat Haystack, race some rubber duckies and dig for real shark’s teeth at Shark Tooth Beach!  

Limited concessions are available on Friday evenings, and full concessions are open weekends with a wide variety of foods – some that are ready to eat, and some that you can cook on the campfire.  

Parking is free and general admission is $3-$5 per person, kids under 2 FREE which includes a hayride, the pumpkin patch and Jack’s Barnyard interactive petting zoo.