Quick side-trips and short outings are great for families traveling or living in Florida. These personal recommendations are educational and fun-- and best of all, they're not too long that the kids get restless, and not too short that you don't enjoy a sense of adventure.
Florida Natural’s Grove House
A visit to the Sunshine State wouldn’t be complete without a taste of Florida’s Natural brand orange juice. The company’s Lake Wales grove in central Florida offers a private glimpse of its juice-making and provides a history lesson for the kids in the guise of a fun stop.
Take a break from highway driving and relax on a front-porch rocker as you test the native citrus juices at the Grove House.
The cracker-style visitor center houses a theater, where guests watch a 14-minute how-to video about making OJ – from choosing the right orange to cleaning and packaging. The history of Lake Wales is also highlighted for visitors.
In the museum, mementos and artifacts help trace the history of Florida’s Natural juices. For the younger set, there’s a button-pushing machine that demonstrates the squeezing process. And, of course, all kids like to push buttons (no pun intended)!
Gift items like lemon trees, orange trees, Florida’s Natural T-shirts, and other citrus-themed gifts are all on hand so you won’t go home empty-handed. These make great souvenirs for teachers and friends back home.
A Train Ride to Remember
There are some scenic routes in Florida that can only be viewed by rail. What a good excuse to hop aboard the Seminole Gulf Railway, which owns and operates the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Fort Myers.
This unique dining experience offers the opportunity to view the Caloosahatchee River from the railroad's 75-foot steel drawbridge. But the view is not restricted to the outside. Inside the train a full murder mystery play unfolds while passengers enjoy a full service dinner. The Murder Mystery Dinner Train departs from Fort Myers Wednesday through Sunday year round. Travelers are treated to a 3½ hour performance during which they get to play detective while enjoying their five-course meal.
The train departs at 6:30 every evening but Sunday, when it leaves at 5:30. Cost, including dinner, is $69 every day except Saturday, when it’s $75 (beverages not included).
Dollar Rent-A-Car now offers prepaid tolls for its Florida rentals. Instead of reaching for change, visitors can sign up for the Pass24 prepaid toll service for $7.99 per day for all Florida toll charges. Check www.dollar.com for details.
- Hertz has a similar program. For a daily service fee of $2.95 (up to a maximum of $14.75 a month) customers enrolled in Hertz’s PlatePass can get their actual Florida tolls added to their credit card after they turn their car in. To find out about the offer, see www.PlatePass.com
- Tampa’s first dedicated kosher hotel kitchen opened at the Tampa Airport Marriott under the supervision of a local rabbi. Jewish families celebrate 52 Sabbaths and 13 holidays per year. Information at www.marriott.com.