Matt Silver

Monday, 07 January 2019 10:23

Florida State Fair, Garlic Fest

The best of Florida agriculture is on display at the 2019 Florida State Fair on the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa from Feb. 7 to Feb. 18. With Florida’s mild winters, the Florida’s is the nation’s earliest state fair.

Of course, a state fair has a whole lot more than farming on display. Food, as at almost any state fair, is varied but heavy on fried dishes and anything you can eat on the move. But there are also banana-covered funnel cakes, ribs, pulled pork, catfish and other Southern fare.

As entertainment, any decent state fair deserves a blue ribbon, and the Florida version is a good one, billing its midway as the biggest in the U.S. Adults and youths compete for prizes in everything from baking to raising and showing market steers and hogs, dairy cattle, goats and sheep. It’s a fun sight when a steer is led into the judging ring by a youngster who’s a foot shorter than the animal. (Those steers become meat, and yes, there are tears when some are sold.)

There are fun things to do and see, including more than 100 rides, including the country’s tallest traveling Ferris wheel. Other attractions include works of art, crafts, pig races, the Budweiser Clydesdales, onstage musical acts, acrobats, a tractor pull, a demolition derby, a daily science show, and a two-day rodeo. Some of the more pleasing displays star draft horses, equal parts beauty and beast. Kids who’ve never set foot outside the city or suburbs can even sign up to work on a model farm.

Most events, including much but not all of the music, are covered by your admission ticket, with grandstand seating free.

Check online for entertainment times and livestock judging schedules. More information is at floridastatefair.com or at 1-800-345-FAIR.

  • Dates: Feb. 7-18, 2019
  • Times: Monday-Thursday: gates, 10 a.m.-9p.m.; midway, 1-10:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Presidents Day: gates, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; midway 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
  • Cost: Armbands for rides must be purchased in addition to  gate pass. Gate: Adults, $9; children, $5; Senior Day, Feb. 11-15, $7; Senior 5-day pass, Feb. 7 and Feb 11-15, $13. Rides: Any day ride armband, $30; weekday ride armband, $20.
  • Place: The Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa
  • RV parking: $12 per RV on the open lots, plus $20 per overnight dry camping stay; first come, first served. Cash only, pay as you enter the lot.
  • Directions: Plan on about a 2-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

A Stinkin’ Great Trip

Here’s a tasty idea: Drive over to Lake Worth for the South Florida Garlic Festival, Feb. 9 and 10.

garlicIt’s billed as “The Best Stinkin’ Party in South Florida,” and no wonder. For two days, you can wander Gourmet Alley and experience meals that prominently feature the fragrant seasoning.  

Garlic is a mainstay in many a recipe, and at the Garlic Festival, in every recipe. Try some Garlic Festival favorites: flaming chicken or shrimp scampi, garlic crab cakes, garlic bruschetta, garlic pizza, garlic Argentine BBQ with garlic black beans and rice, and garlic Portobello sandwiches. For dessert, there’s garlic ice cream—seriously. A complete menu will be released closer to the festival.

You can even tell yourself this trip will be good for your health. Besides tasting great, garlic is loaded with antioxidants and helps to rid the body of toxins. It is not true that the toxins leave your body just to flee the smell.

Date: Feb. 9-10, 2019
Times: Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Place: John Prince Park, 4759 South Congress Ave., Lake Worth, FL
Cost: $12 in advance, plus $2.85 taxes and fees, tickets online; at the gate, $12 before 6 p.m. Saturday, $20 after 6 p.m.; Sunday, $12 all day; children 12 and under, free. NOTE: The ticket gets you into Garlic Fest, but you must pay individual vendors for the food you eat. Prices vary by vendor and dish.
Directions: John Prince Park is about a 2¼-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.  
Parking: Parking for passenger vehicles is free at the Department of Motor Vehicles lot at 501 S. Congress Ave. in Delray Beach, with roundabout buses running every 45 minutes. The last bus returns to the lot at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Parking within the park is $20. Parking at Palm Beach State College is $10 with a free shuttle. Parking details online. RV parking is no longer available.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 07 January 2019 09:54

Pirates Invade Tampa!

Aarrgh! Pirates are about to conquer Tampa. Hoist anchor on your land yacht. Fun is on the horizon, and it’s only about a 2-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Official Gasparilla Pirate Fest events begin each January and extend into March.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, which sanctions the series of events, was formed more than 100 years ago to promote economic vitality in Tampa and nearby communities. It’s worked. Hundreds of thousands of people gather in Tampa yearly to attend some of the biggest attractions of their type in the country. The organization and related agencies help charities throughout southwest Florida.

The group’s name invokes the legend of 18th and early 19th century Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar, known as Gasparilla and considered the last of the buccaneers. From his base in western Florida, the pirate and his crews plundered shipping along the Spanish Main in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. He is said to have secreted a treasure in Gulf Coast Florida that has never been found.

Here are some highlights of Gasparilla season:

Gasparilla Children’s Parade and Fireworks Extravaganza

  • Date: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019
  • Time: 3:30-6 p.m.
  • Place: Forms at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard; proceeds north along Bayshore and ends at Edison Avenue
  • Cost: The event itself is free, but there’s charge if you want to reserve bleacher seats along the parade route. Advance tickets for bleacher seating, $40, available until Jan. 11; will-call, $50. Details online, including related events.

If you like your pirates pint-sized, or if you’re taking your children or grandkids, this is the parade for you. The alcohol-free celebration is billed as the largest children’s parade in the U.S.  Thousands of kids are pushed in strollers before the children’s parade, where thousands more march. Participants add a Mardi Gras touch by tossing beads to the hordes who watch and cheer. Participants include those sponsored by businesses, community organizations, neighborhood groups, schools and dance academies. And, of course, there are plenty of marching bands. Other events include a jazzfest brunch and VIP events.

pirate floatGasparilla Invasion and Parade

  • Date: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019
  • Time: Invasion, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; parade, 2-5:30 p.m.
  • Place: Invasion: The pirate ship casts off from the south end of Hillsborough Bay at 11:30 a.m., sails north to Seddon Channel, and docks at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m. Parade: Forms at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard, then continues along Bayshore to Brorein Street, east on Brorein, and north on Ashley Drive, ending at Cass Street.
  • Cost: The events themselves are free, but there’s a charge if you want to reserve bleacher seats along the parade route. Advance tickets, $50; will-call tickets, $60. Details online for tickets to the parade and other events, including jazz brunch and VIP tent.

Re-creating Gaspar’s conquest of old Tampa, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla “invades” each January aboard its tall ship. The ship Jose Gasparilla looks like a wooden 18th century sailing vessel but in fact is a modern steel-hulled, custom-made craft. Invasion by 750 pirates is at 11 a.m.—not, coincidentally, when the sun hits the yardarm. On the high seas, that meant the first rum of the day. The marauders, as they do annually, capture the key to the city.

The Pirate Fest Parade makes the children’s version look like—well, child’s play. It’s bigger—the third-biggest parade in America—longer, and a whole lot rowdier, with lots a beads for attendees. The parade features more than 100 floats, about 50 organizations, and marching bands. It travels 4.5 miles into downtown Tampa.

Krewe of the Knights of Sant ’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade

  • Date: Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019
  • Time: 4-8:30 p.m.; illuminated floats, 6:30 p.m.
  • Place: 7th Avenue, Ybor City Historic District; parade travels along Seventh Avenue from Nuccio Parkway to 22nd Street.
  • Cost: Free (reserved bleacher seating is sold out). Lawn chairs allowed along free viewing stretches of parade route.

This February event through Ybor City, a historically Cuban section of Tampa, is festively lighted. The parade is free if you stand in one of the many free viewing areas or watch from your on lawn chair. Floats are illuminated after sundown. It’s quite a sight. There are pirates on parade, beads flung out to attendees, floats, bands and community organizations marching. Ybor City has many Latino eateries and cafes. Details online.

Gasparilla Outward Bound Voyage

Only in Tampa would the entire city party when pirates arrive, and party again when they leave. It’s your last chance to see the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship as it sails from a dock outside the Tampa Convention Center. The afternoon features free live music, festivities and food. The pirates return the key to the city before boarding their ship, heading out to sea and firing their cannons in salute as they sail off.  The party rolls on into the evening. Details online.

  • Date: Saturday, March 16, 2019
  • Time: Festivities, 2-10 p.m.; castoff, 4:30 p.m.
  • Place: Downtown Tampa, around the convention center
  • Cost: Free\

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, 27 November 2018 23:13

Downton Abbey Exhibition

RV downton abbey absfreepic dot comThe RV life is pretty good. You have a great place to live—a comfortable place, with all the amenities you could possibly want. You have plenty of space—enough that, at times, you feel it’s downright palatial. You can pick up and travel whenever you want, wherever you want, so the view is not only great, but continually refreshed. And you gladly entertain at the drop of a hat.

But admit it: it’s not that good. It’s not Downton Abbey good.

But then, what is?

Try this: Downton Abbey, The Exhibition. This traveling exhibition features clothing, room mockups, clips from the PBS TV show running on a loop, and even a hologram of  Mrs. Carson, the housekeeper and the former Mrs. Hughes. It’s appearing in West Palm Beach through April 22, 2019. That’s a lot closer than Highclere Castle, in Newbury, United Kingdom, where much of the show was filmed. Since that’s on the other side of The Pond, West Palm Beach is—shall we say?— far more drivable, even if you don’t have a Rolls.

The Rooms

See Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen—the copper pots and pans, the cutting boards, the wooden bowls, the utensils, the long wooden table.

The dining room is set for dinner, as elegantly as ever. No, you do not have to wear evening clothes. On the wall are the bells summoning the servants.

Relax—but not too much, now—in Mr. Carson’s pantry. Carson, of course, was a bit stiff on the outside but a real M&M, with a soft center. You’ll see Carson’s desk, his bookshelves, the keys behind closed glass and his easy chair.

Then there’s Lady Mary’s bedroom, right down to her brush and mirror, photos in frames and candlesticks. Missing is the body of Kemal Pamuk, the Turkish diplomat who, in hopes of a late-night tryst, perished there. The bed, however, is on full display.

The Clothes

In the kitchen you’ll see mannequins dressed in the servant outfits Mrs. Patmore and Daisy wore. Carson’s room includes replicas of his three-piece suit, replete with watch and chain, and Mrs. Carson’s dress.

There are wedding gowns—one for Mary, two for Edith. And you’ll see Mary’s smart felt hat.

Lord Grantham’s hunting jacket and breeches are there, as are Sybil’s harem pants.
And, of course, there are dresses of the irrepressible dowager countess, Violet.

Tickets and Admission

Event: Downton Abbey Exhibition
Venue: CityPlace, 575 S. Rosemary Ave, West Palm Beach, FL
Directions: CityPlace in Palm Beach is about a 2-hour and 15-minute drive from Cypress Trail RV Park. WARNING: Construction is in progress around CityPlace, so give yourself extra time, just as Tom Branson would.
Admission: Touring Downton Abbey sets may make you feel like a million bucks—or pounds, perhaps—but it’s surprisingly affordable. Adult admission is $35 per person; age 65 and older, $33; and visitors 14 and under who are accompanied by a paying adult, free of charge. VIP Tickets, $49, include an audio guide that is picked up upon entry.
Dates: Daily through April 22, 2019
Times: Choose your own entry time for your ticket, every half hour from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. There’s a catch: You must enter within half an hour of your ticket time, so you better move as if Carson were looking over your shoulder. If you miss the window, you will have to wait—on busy days, possibly hours—until crowd flow can accommodate latecomers. VIP ticketholders may enter at any time the day of their scheduled tour.
Duration: Most visitors spend about 90 minutes on the tour, but you may stay as long as you like—well past the giggles thinking about the Turk who died wooing Lady Mary.
Photography: Shoot snapshots to your heart’s content. Video, however, is not allowed.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018 22:41

Upcoming Florida RV Shows To Attend

Florida RV Supershow

florida rv supershow logo 2018Billed as the country’s best and biggest of its type, the 2019 Florida RV Supershow is coming to the Florida State Fairgrounds on Jan. 16-20. The fairgrounds are in Tampa, not far from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

It’s hard to dispute the size of the Florida RV Supershow. The show fills more than 26 acres at the fairgrounds with motorhomes and trailers of every size and type. There are also hundreds of outdoor and indoor displays of accessories and RV-related products and services.

If the Supershow is too big for your tastes, the smaller and closer Fort Myers RV Show is scheduled a few days later, Jan. 24-27, at the Lee Civic Center.

Getting Around the Supershow

Wear comfortable footwear. You’ll walk miles between and through RVs and displays and go up and down plenty of steps, if only three at a time. Trams are available to help you save your feet and knees.

Visitors with disabilities can rent wheelchairs for $20 a day or electric scooters for $55 a day. Visit the Scootaround.com website for reservations.

What To Do

You won’t be bored at an RV show, especially one as big as the Supershow. Here’s what you can do:

  • Learn. Attend seminars, some sponsored by manufacturers of RVs and accessories, or taught by a recognized expert. You’ll find tips on everything from driving safely to maintenance, and several on extended or full-time RV living.
  • Comparison shop. Thinking about a new awning? A recliner or sofa? A more powerful generator? A foldout grill? Maybe you’re in the market for a new RV or considering a switch from a trailer to a motorhome. Here’s a chance to find many brands and all types in one place. Comparing brands and models is super easy.
  • Dream. OK, so maybe you can’t afford a $350,000 Class A. Maybe you can. Either way, you can walk through any RV on display, from popups to luxury motorhomes, and everything in between: truck campers, Class B’s and C’s, fifth wheels, destination RVs, and luxury motorhomes. If you’re considering the lifestyle and buying your first RV, a show is a great place to start.
  • Get ideas. With so many RVs and accessories to see, you’l see all the latest trends. Gather ideas on how to improve your own RV, both outside and inside.
  • Negotiate a great deal. Dealers bring quite literally tons of merchandise to the show. It costs time and money to take it all back to the dealership. That means bargains abound. It’s not unusual to find $50,000 discounts or more on Class A motorhomes, and tens of thousands off a trailer, a Class C or Class B. Bring your checkbook and the title to your current RV, because dealers often will appraise your RV and close a deal onsite.

florida rv supershow photo

Overnight RV Parking

You can stay overnight in your RV on the grounds—not a bad idea, since your ticket to the show will admit you for two days. RV parking is $14 per day, plus $20 per each overnight stay. Overnight permits must be displayed in a window. Parking passes are available at the gate, cash only.

NO SERVICES are offered, but that shouldn’t be a particular hardship. You’re bound to have plenty of company. It’s an RV show, after all, and quite a few of the more than 73,000 visitors—that’s the 2018 figure—arrive in campers.

The campers Super Rally event is sold out.

For overnight parking, enter off Highway 301, South Parking Gate.

Event: Florida RV Supershow
Venue: Florida State Fairgrounds
4800 US Highway 301 North
Tampa, FL 33610
Cost: $10 per person, includes readmission on a second day; children under 16, free.
Tickets: At the gate.
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Parking: $14 per RV, plus $20 per overnight stay; $8 per car.
Directions: The Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa are about a 2-hour drive from Cypress Trail, give or take 15 minutes, depending on your route.

Fort Myers RV Show

If you don’t believe bigger is better, you can opt to wait a few days more and visit the Fort Myers RV Show. It’s practically next door to Cypress Trail, at the Lee Civic Center. About 11,000 people attended last year—no drop in the bucket but only about 14 percent of the attendance at the Supershow.

The Fort Myers show will be staged Jan. 24-27, 2019.

Ticket and camper information were not yet available when we wrote this, but the Fort Myers RV Show website indicates that parking is free. We’ll update information on the show as it becomes available.

Event: Fort Myers RV Show
Venue: Lee Civic Center
11831 Bayshore Road
Fort Myers, FL 33917
Dates:  Jan. 24-27, 2019.
Hours: To be Announced
Cost: To Be Announced
Tickets: To be Announced. Check the show website.
Parking: Free
Directions: The Lee Civic Center is less than 15 minutes from Cypress Trail via Routes 31 and 80, or Routes 78 and 93.

Photo Credits: Florida RV Trade Association

It’s time for some holiday happenings. Places along the Suncoast of Florida—and other communities in the state—have lots going on from now through New Year’s Day. Here are some highlights.

Edison & Ford Holiday Nights

One of the area’s premier holiday events is the Edison and Ford Winter Estates Holiday Nights. Except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the Holiday Nights run from Nov. 23 to Dec. 30, from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

The estates open daily for tours at 9 a.m., apart from the Holiday Nights. Although there is not a Holiday Nights event on Christmas Eve, the estates are open for tours that day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Inventor Thomas Edison and industrialist Henry Ford were friends, and they built winter getaways next door to each other in Fort Myers in the early 20th century. Being neighbors fit two of the men with America’s most fertile minds to a (Model) T. Edison’s laboratory, where he conducted botanical research, including a quest for a domestic source of rubber, was funded them and tire magnate Harvey Firestone, a frequent visitor. The properties, which are well preserved, host events year-round. Perhaps none is as anticipated as the Holiday Nights.

The lush gardens and homes are lighted for the Christmas season. That’s only appropriate, with Edison having given us the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb. His breakthrough was so ahead of its time that it and later versions only now are being pushed aside by more efficient electronic technologies.

In addition to thousands of lights, hundreds of historic decorations put visitors in a holiday mood.

Entertainment, Food, Libations

Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive on Nov. 23. Nina Rose Events, named after Mrs. Edison, will feature baked goods, beer, wine and cocktails at the Ford Cottage Shoppe. Victorian carolers will entertain.

Sundays and Mondays are Lee County Resident Nights, with $5 off adult admission.

Other nights feature live piano or hammered dulcimer music. On family nights, Santa and sometimes Mrs. Claus will return. A few Holiday Nights will feature craft beers from Millennial Brewing.

Waltzing Waters will make the estate’s fountains dance this year.

Go online to find a complete Holiday Nights events schedule.

Multiple Tours

Give yourself time to tour the Edison Ford Museum and Edison’s Botanic Research Laboratory, both open until 9 p.m. on Holiday Nights. Also open until 9 are the Ford Cottage Shoppe, Museum Store and Garden Shoppe.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Holiday Nights
Venue: Edison and Ford Winter Estates
Address: 2350 McGregor Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33901
Cost: Holiday Nights: $20, age 20 and older; $10, ages 13-19; $2, ages 6-12; free, Edison Ford members. Holiday Tradition Tour: $30, age 20 and older; $25, ages 13-19; $18, ages 6-12; $10, Edison Ford members. Inside-the-Homes Holiday Tours: $50.
Refreshments: For sale at each event.
Tickets/Information: EdisonFordWinterEstates.org
Directions: The Edison Ford Winter Estates are just over a 20–minute drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Festival of Lights at Fishermen’s Village, Punta Gorda

If you’d enjoy Christmas shopping in stores amid a million holiday lights—quite literally—try Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. The annual Lighting of the Village will be Nov. 15, from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Fishermen’s Village has a mall, a waterfront with restaurants, and a harbor with tours. The lights stay on through New Year’s. There’s Santa, of course, who’s available for photos, and a team of elves to make everyone feel festive. An angel tree in the mall offers an opportunity to contribute gifts to folks who might not otherwise have much of a Christmas.

The waterfront offers private surrey rides, charter cruises, and harbor and lighted canal tours. A Pearl Harbor ceremony is scheduled Dec. 7.

New Year’s Eve features celebratory cruises and family-oriented onshore festivities.

Music of many varieties, from high school bands to chorales and regional rock musicians, is presented over the 48 days of the festival.   

Festival of Lights
Venue: Fishermen’s Village
Address: 1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Suite 57A
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
Events: Lighting of the Village, Nov. 15, 5:30-9 p.m.; New Year’s Eve Family Celebration, 5 p.m.-midnight.
Cost: Free for events; tour and ride prices vary.
Directions: Fishermen’s Village is about a 35-minute drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Snow in Florida

If you moved from a snowy climate and miss a white Christmas, or you’ve always wished you could experience one, try the Glitter, Glisten and Snow event in Lake Eva Park, Haines City. Machines make snow so you slip and glide your way to fun on the snow slide. Sip on free cider or hot chocolate and munch on cookies, or try some roasted chestnuts—made on an open fire, we hope.

Local school children will entertain.

Glitter, Glisten and Snow
Venue: Lake Eva Park
Address: 555 Ledwith Ave.
Haines City, FL 33844
Date: Dec. 1, 2018
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Directions: Haines City is about a 2-hour, 20-minute drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Monday, 22 October 2018 19:10

Winter Is Craft Show Time in Florida

Craft shows abound in Florida during the winter months.

You’ll find crafts and art of many types—ceramics, blown glass, jewelry, furniture, decorations, paintings, clothes, handbags—and created with varying levels of skill.

Small community shows often charge no fee. Larger juried shows—those that require artisans to apply for a space on the show floor—usually charge admission.

Here are a few that are coming up, some close to Cypress Trail RV Resort, and some a few hours away. Take your pick: There’s plenty to see, buy and treasure.

Sarasota Art & Handmade Home Show

This is the first year under the new name, which was changed from Sarasota Craft Show, the title for nine years. The Sarasota Art & Handmade Home Show is billed as “The Suncoast’s Premiere Indoor Fine Art and Craft Show,” and that’s not difficult for promoter American Art Marketing to justify. Many items on display and for sale are of premium quality and tastefully crafted.

Sarasota is a national show, with artisans from multiple states showcasing their skills. It is a curated or juried show: Not just anybody can participate. Work must be submitted and reviewed for artisans and their work to be accepted. About 120 artisans participate yearly.

The show is open to the general public and charges admission. Attendees are homeowners, interior decorators, and collectors. Don’t let that frighten you; you’ll find desirable items on many price levels.

Exhibits appear outside and mostly inside the air-conditioned Robarts Arena, this year on the last day of November and the first two days of December.

Sarasota Art and Handmade Home Show
Venue: Robarts Arena
Address: 300 Ringling Blvd.
Sarasota, FL 34237
Dates: Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2018
Hours: Friday, Nov. 30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Cost per day: $12, adults; $11, age 65+; $6, students; free, age 10 and under; $13, full weekend pass
Directions: Robarts Arena in Sarasota is a 1¼ to a 1¾ hours’ drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival

In its 26th year, the Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival is a juried show, accepting only applicants whose crafts meet its standards. All products are made in America, from a number of states.

More than 100 artisans display and sell ceramics, decorative and functional pottery, jewelry, clothing for all ages, hair accessories, paintings, woodworking and more. The craft show is an outdoor event. Displays line Main Street in downtown Dunedin, so there are plenty of places to dine.

Unlike many indoor venues, downtown Dunedin uses the craft show to attract visitors, so there is no admission fee.

In addition to having a vibrant business district, Dunedin has four miles of white-sand beaches that are highly rated.

Dunedin Downtown Craft Festival
Venue: 271 Main St.
Dunedin, FL
Dates: Nov. 17 and 18, 2018
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free
Directions: Downtown Dunedin is about 2 hours and 10 minutes from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Christmas Made in the South, Jacksonville

If you’re interested in a craft show that has only Christmas items, consider Christmas Made in the South. This series includes a Thanksgiving weekend event in Jacksonville.

A juried show, Christmas Made in the South invites only crafters and artisans who live and work in Southern states. Juries differ by location, so the Jacksonville show is likely to have a Florida flavor. The Jacksonville show typically has more than 300 artisans.

Crafts, which must be handmade, include ceramics, jewelry, clothing, decorations, ornaments, cane furniture and paintings, among others. The Christmas Made in the South shows involve a lot of give-and-take between crafters and visitors, so they’re a good place to learn new techniques or consider a new craft.  

Venue: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center
Address: 1000 Water St.
Jacksonville, FL 32204
Dates: Nov. 23-25, 2018
Times: Friday, 9 a.m. -6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Parking: $5-10
Directions: The Prime Osborn III Convention Center is just under a five-hour drive from Crossing Creeks RV Resort.

Photo credit: artfestival.com

Friday, 28 September 2018 19:34

Halloween Treats: Ghost Tours in Florida

Looking for real Halloween ghosts? Here’s information on a few ghost tours around Florida.

Some are walking tours. Others offer a trolley-type bus to make sure you’re not—please pardon the expression—dead tired after the tour. You can hit up a tour that’s nearby, or you can venture into another area of the state for a day or two of fun on the road.

St. Petersburg

The Don CeSar Resort, with a sprawling hotel known as the “Pink Palace” for its flamingo color and sandcastle looks, has been entertaining America’s elite—and everyday folks, too—since 1928. Tradition says the hotel’s upper corridors are haunted by the spirit of a young lady who died there of a broken heart. You can stay at the hotel for upwards of $209 a night, choosing between views of the Gulf or Boca Ciega Bay. Online reservations are available.

The St. Petersburg Ghost Tour, which costs a mere $20, is a candlelight walking tour starting at 8 p.m., Thursday through Sunday through Dec. 30. Costumed tour guides explain the haunting of the hotel and other spots in the city by its many spirits. Online reservations are available.

The drive is just 2 hours from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

St. Augustine

Ghosts & Gravestones Frightseeing Tours visit the ancient city’s haunts with tourists on its Trolley of the Doomed. It’s a bus, so although you may be doomed, you won’t be tired. In addition to the tour guide, actors spice up the experience at some of its stops. With the ride included, it’s a good option for taking along kids and grandkids. Learn about Osceola, the great Seminole chief, and the boy in the oak tree in Tolomato Cemetery, who many believe was a victim of the yellow fever epidemic. Some on the tour say they have seen the boy. There are also the Old Drugstore, where hundreds of haunting experiences have been reported, and Potter’s Wax Museum, where the story of pirate Andrew Ransom’s gruesome death is recounted. The tour runs an hour and 20 minutes. You’re encouraged to bring a camera. Children age 4 and under are not allowed.

Reservations are available online or by calling 866-955-6101.

The St. Augustine tour, which forms at 1305 N. Ponce De Leon Blvd., is about a 4¼ to 4½-hour drive from Cypress Trail. The cost is $28 for adults and $16 for children 5-12 years old.

Amelia Island

In addition to having an abundance of spirits—evidence has shown up on photographs, according to participants—Amelia Island is gorgeous. You’ll have plenty to do and see not just at night, but also by day on this barrier island.

Uncle Charlie, who served patrons of the Palace Saloon and died in his hotel room, still makes an occasional appearance, according to patrons. (Unconfirmed is how many spirits the witnesses had.) And a construction worker who fell to his death building the old schoolhouse is said to have reappeared and, just as he did before dying, crawled to a window and placed his bloody hands on the sill.

Diane Blanton of Amelia Island Ghost Tours leads a half-mile, two-hour tour. She shares Amelia Island history and legends. Participants are encouraged to bring cameras and reorders. Reservations are available by phone (904-548-0996). Friday and Saturday are public tours—$20 age 16 and over, and $15 age 15 and younger; other nights are available and considered private tours, with prices available at the phone number.

Amelia Island Trolleys Ghost Tours form at 7 p.m. each Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Fernandina Beach Marina parking lot. (Fernandina is the town’s original name.) Tours run an hour. The tour guide points out where paranormal activity was reported in the old town and downtown historic districts, and in Bosque Bello Cemetery. Reservations are by phone (904-753-4486), with 10 people total required for a tour. A special tour Monday, Oct. 22, ends with treats at the Amelia Island Museum, which is the old jailhouse. Tickets, available from the bus driver, are $16, ages 12 and older, and $11 for children.

Amelia Island is just under a 6-hour drive from Cypress Trail.

Photo Credits: E.C Cavanaugh


Fall opens up a season of entertaining events throughout Florida, with some of the biggest annual gatherings of the year. Airplanes, cars, beer and brats, and juried films are all available for your enjoyment.

Here are just a few don’t-miss activities, all within a reasonable distance of Cypress Trail RV Resort, some just a half-hour away.  

Miami International Auto Show

If you love cars, SUVs and pickups, both new and old, you can see plenty at the Miami International Auto Show, and even get to drive some. Among the highlights: Topless in Miami, which displays the best convertibles available in the U.S., as judged by members of the Southern Automotive Media Association; and Havana Classics, featuring mostly 1950s classics, including a 1959 Mercedes 300D used by deposed President Fulgencio Batista, and then Fidel Castro, plus a 1950 Pontiac Catalina, 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air and 1957 MG-A. Many 2019 models will be on display, and a Ride and Drive event allows drivers 18 or older (21 on some models) to drive some 2018 and 2019 vehicles on South Miami streets.
Miami International Auto Show
Location: Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach, FL  33139
Dates: Oct. 5-13
Cost: $16, age 13 and over; $7, ages 6-2; free, age 5 and under
Tickets: online
Directions: The convention center is about 2 hours, 25 minutes’ drive from Cypress Trail.

Florida International Air Show

Let your spirits soar at the 37th Florida International Air Show at the Punta Gorda Airport. Highlights include a Vietnam-era MiG 17F fighter demonstration by Randy Ball; the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s educational program and P-51C Mustang World War II fighter, painted to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first African American pilots; and the RedLine Air Shows Aerobatic Team.  

Florida International Air show
Location: Punta Gorda Airport
Dates: Oct. 19-21
Cost: $30, one day and night ($5 child); $45, weekend pass
Tickets: online
Directions: The Punta Gorda Airport is just a 30-minute drive from Cypress Trail.

Cape Coral Oktoberfest

Getting from Cypress Trail to Munich, Germany, for Oktoberfest would be one heck of a ferry ride.  You’re in luck. There will be plenty of sauerbraten, brats, schnitzel and, of course, domestic and German bier at the annual Cape Coral Oktoberfest the last two weekends of the month, and it’s just a 30-minute drive to get there. Need a little oom-pah music? Bands, including two from Germany, will perform continuously. There are less-traditional music and food, too. Enjoy three stages and two dance floors.

The German American Social Club of Cape Coral does its best to mimic Munich for the festival each October, but this is a family event, with a carnival area or children featuring rides and games.

Cape Coral Oktoberfest
Address: 2101 SW Pine Island Road, Cape Coral, FL 33991
Dates: Oct. 18-21 and 26-28
Cost: $5 in advance; $6 at the gate
Tickets: (239) 283-1400
Directions: The German American Social Club of Cape Coral is about a half-hour drive from Cypress Trail.

Naples International Film Festival

A presentation of Artis—Naples, the Naples International Film Festival enters its 10th year. Narrative films include some established stars—Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Brian Cox, Rosanna Arquette, Tom Wilkinson, French actress Miou-Miou. Documentaries examine topics including bias, the effort by science fair participants to break new ground, sexual abuse, Studio 54, haute cuisine, and the life of legendary performer Sammy Davis Jr. There are also short subjects and student films.

There’s an opening night gala, replete with a red carpet, and a closing night awards ceremony plus a closing celebration with comics Steve Martin and Martin Short. (The Martin & Martin event is sold out, but tickets are available for the awards ceremony.) Tickets are available for all other events. Note: Some films may not be appropriate for children.

Both venues—Artis-Naples and Silverspot Cinema, where films other than the one on opening night are shown—are about a 45-minute drive from Cypress Trail. Note: There is no designated RV parking, but passenger vehicles park free.

Naples International Film Festival
Locations: Artis—Naples, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples, Florida 34108-2740; Silverspot Cinema, 9118 Strada Pl #8205, Naples, FL 34108
Dates: Oct. 25-28
Cost: Varies by film and events; $18 to $69
Tickets: opening night; awards ceremony; films
Directions: Artis—Naples; Silverspot Cinema

Photo Credits: Wikipedia

quilt 2If you love the art of quilting, you’re covered: Prep the RV for a trip Sept. 20-22 to Jacksonville. Those are the dates for Quiltfest 2018.

It’s about a 5-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort to the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, where the show is held annually in late September. You can choose from a more rural route via Gainesville or more urban routes through Orlando. (For a side trip, you can probably find something to do in Orlando, don’t you think?)

Now, don’t make the mistake of figuring, Oh, it’s just another quilt show. This is the quilt show in Florida. We’re talking up to 500 entries in the competition every year, with quilt makers competing for parts of $8,000 in prize money. Just walking the aisles and observing provide hours of entertainment.

The show is a good place to see the different styles and techniques that go into quilting. You’ll see quilts from all over the state of Florida and the United States. You can just look and enjoy, you can buy quilts, or you can buy a chance at winning a quilt.

There’s more to do than just watch. If you’re a quilter, attend workshops and demonstrations and maybe learn a thing or three—and share some tips of your own.

Seven Sister Charities

The show supports charitable efforts by its organizing clubs, the Seven Sister Guilds. They are quilting clubs from Jacksonville, Neptune Beach, Orange Park and St. Augustine.

A silent auction helps to finance the local Shriners Transportation Fund for transporting children in the area for medical care and treatment. Me Dolls go to local children's hospitals. Receiving pillowcases are Wolfson's Children’s Hospital, Nemours Children’s Clinic and Pedscare as a part of the ConKerr Cancer Project. The Quilters Walk funds the QuiltFest Educational Grant, which supports continuing quilting education by the guilds.

Types of Quilts

Quilts include those made by individuals, by two people, or by three or more. You’ll find classic patterns; more modern looks; original-design Art Quilts; and quilts that celebrate holidays, including Christmas. There are pieced quilts, large, intermediate and small; and appliquéd quilts, where appliqué covers more than 50 percent of the quilt surface.

Young Quiltmakers’ Quilts are made by those under age 18, or under age 12.

Many quilts are for sale.

Silent Auction Quilts

Decorative quilts measuring less than 24 inches on each side are donated for the silent auction. You submit your written bid, and you take the quilt home if you’re the high bidder at the close of bids.


Quilting demonstrations are held throughout each day, many staged by some of the 70 vendors who set up at the fest. If there’s a technique you wish to learn, whether for handmade or machine-made quilts, here’s a great place to find out from experienced quilters what you need to know. A schedule of demonstrations appears in the program.

The Drawing

Chances are sold to win one of seven quilts, each donated by a sponsoring quilters guild.  You don’t have to be present at the drawing to win.

Opportunities To Sew

If you’re bringing your children or grandchildren along—children 10 and younger enter free—the Kids’ Corner gives them a hands-on quilting experience. Participating children may make a quilt block.

Adults who get the urge can sit and sew charity projects, including pillowcases. There also are Me Dolls to be stuffed before they’re sent to children’s hospitals.

Food Onsite

You’ll work up an appetite walking the aisles, but there’s no need to leave the convention center for food and drink. A food court is located inside, and there are coffee and snack stands by the demonstration rooms. Across the street from the convention center is a privately owned restaurant serving food from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

QuiltFest 2018

Location: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, 1000 Water Street, Jacksonville, FL 32204
Days: Thursday, Sept. 20, through Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: Daily $10; Children 10 and under, no charge; Seniors Day, Thursday only, $9, age 60 and older; military, active or retired, $9; $1 off with Mint Magazine coupon (no combination discounts). Face-value tickets at the box office during show. Face value tickets in advance by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 904-630-3980, for pickup at the window.
Parking: Free in convention center lot, accessed off Bay Street.

Image credits: http://www.quiltfestjax.com/

Football, between the pro ranks and the college game, is fast becoming the national pastime. With the arrival of football season, tailgating is a close second. (OK, baseball fans, we’ll make an exception for the World Series.)

Football is everywhere in Florida, known for producing some of the nation’s best players season after season. They come from high schools and colleges throughout the state, where they flaunt their skills on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. Florida has perpetually ranked college teams in the University of Miami, the University of Florida and Florida State. More recent success has come from the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic.

Florida also is one of the few states to have multiple pro teams: the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  

You might be tailgating outside the stadium, or you might just be enjoying good food and the game outside your RV. Either way, you want to show your team pride. Everybody has a little more fun when the colors are unfurled, and team logos sprout on everything from coolers to grill accessories and tablecloths.  

Here are a few items to make your RV tailgating more enjoyable.

swing tvAdd an Outdoor TV

If you have an older RV and no outdoor TV, consider adding one to a storage cubby. Again, a swing mount will let you open the storage compartment and pivot the TV to where it can be seen. For some resistance to the elements and better daytime viewing, look for an outdoor TV model, such as those from SunBriteTV. Cost: $3,200-$3,900.

Swing Mount for TV

Buccaneers game sold out? No matter. Watch it on TV outside your camper. If you have an exterior TV but it’s stationary, consider adding a swing mount, such as the Crimson AV AU42. It will let you swing a 13- to 42-inch TV away from the mounting point on your RV and swivel it so you and your guests can better see the game. Cost: About $110.

gator coolerBeverage Cooler

You have to quench the thirst of all those Gator fans you’re hosting, so you better have a good cooler for—well, more than Gatorade, please! Load the 54-quart Leigh Country cooler with ice and up to 80 cans or bottles. It’s insulated and has a drain valve, carrying handles and a bottle opener built in. The cooler sports Gator-orange team logos on the lid and front, with Gator blue legs. You can have it shipped by Walmart.com right to your home or to your nearest store for pickup. Cost: $160.

Grilling Mat

If Florida State coach Willie Taggart hasn’t got a new offensive scheme to put the heat on opposing defenses, at least you’ll have a Seminoles team grilling mat to keep your utensils close to the fire. The 26x42-inch mats are non-skid vinyl with the Seminole image and Florida State logo in school colors. Other teams are available, too. From Groupon.com deals.  Cost: $28.

Team Tongs

Grab some University of South Florida tongs for those steaks—from a steer, but never from a bull, please. You can order grill utensils bearing the logos of several teams from teamtailgateshop.com. The tongs have long wood-clad handles so you won’t get burned like some cornerback who’s outrun on a post pattern. Cost: $35.

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