There are certain holiday traditions that our family has every year in Cincinnati. One of them is attending Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo. I’ve been going to Festival of Lights with my family ever since I was a little kid. I brought my boyfriend turned husband, to Festival of Lights when he visited my hometown during college break and now I’m creating memories with my own kids.
The more that I explore Cincinnati, the more I realize that there is still so much to uncover. The first time that I was introduced to Henke Winery was during a tour with Cincy Wine Wagon. It was the last stop on our tour and it blew my mind that I never knew that Cincinnati had an urban winery on the west side.
My first visit to Englewood, Florida was a bit of a surprise. I would describe Englewood as one of Florida’s best kept secrets. It’s not your typical tourist destination because you don’t see a lot of attractions and tourists shops saturated in the area.
The atmosphere in this community is very laid back. The crowds are lighter which allows you to just enjoy nature and the local restaurants with great seafood nearby without really long lines. Englewood is located less than an hour’s drive from the Punta Gorda Airport, with inexpensive flights from Allegiant Airlines making it an affordable option for someone who would rather fly and rent a car than drive.
Explore Stump Pass Beach State Park
Stump Pass Beach State Park is so peaceful and offers a unique landscape with trails and lots of tree stumps along the shoreline. You might notice several areas marked off on the beach that are designed to protect the sea turtle nests. If you get the opportunity to watch one hatch or return to the ocean, depending on the time of year that you visit, you will have the memory of a lifetime.
There is a 1.3 mile hiking trail that will give you the opportunity to see lots of wildlife.
There are many types of birds in the state park and you also might see a few starfish, a manatee, dolphin, or a really big fish. I would suggest taking a SUP tour so that you know where and what to look for in and around the water.
Take a SUP Paddleboard and Snorkel Tour
I’m all about stepping outside of my comfort zone which is why this adventure was both exciting for me and also made me a little nervous. I’ve tried SUP before, but not in water located near the ocean.
The beauty of taking a SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) tour with Hooked on SUP is that you can do whatever you are comfortable with. The gear was brought to us at Stump Pass Beach State Park.
My husband found certain positions on the board to be more comfortable than others due to an old football injury, but the impressive part was that he tried it for the 1st time and discovered what worked for him. He didn’t hesitate at all when it was time to snorkel, but this Midwest girl took a little longer to ease into the water. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, which is why it was important for me to do it.
My fears did not come to pass and I can now proudly say that I snorkeled in an area called “Rag Alley” which definitely made it sound more a little more edgy. It was the perfect way to experience the water and wildlife.
Where to Stay
Weston’s wannaB Inn is a vintage gem located next door to Stump Pass Beach State Park. Now when I say next door, I mean next door. I could literally see the state park sign next to the parking lot of our motel. The beauty of that means that guests at Weston’s WannaB Inn get the spoiled feeling of having a beach pretty much to themselves.
The rooms have a retro vibe with a mini kitchen and the views from your balcony that are fantastic. There are 2 heated pools, bikes available for rent, a private beach, and free wifi.
Find the perfect beach souvenir
There are so many beautiful shells along the beach in Englewood. We were also told that you can find shark’s teeth. You could easily make an adventure out of finding the most unique seashell to take home with you to remember your wonderful visit.
If I were planning ahead, I would have gone to the local grocery store to gets lots of food during our visit….but I actually enjoy going out to eat when I visit a destination, which means that I’m not much of a cook when I’m away…so I’ll give you a few suggestions.
Enjoy a lively nightlight, a large outdoor seating area with outdoor music, ping pong, bean bag toss, and excellent fish tacos at Flounder’s Restaurant and Tiki Bar, try at Grouper Rocket (Fried grouper with melted swiss, thousand island dressing & cole slaw on grilled rye bread) and take advantage of happy hour at Lock ‘N Key Restaurant with a pull tab that could result in a full, half price or $.50 drink, and a special dinner with a great ambiance starting with the West Indian Conch Fritters appetizers that are a nod to the owner’s upbringing in St. Croix at Farlow’s on the Water.
Witness the Magic of Golden hour
I recommend waking up early to watch the sunrise at least once during your visit and make sure that you also make a point to watch each sunset. They are very unique and magical every. single. time. The clear, warm water on the Gulf side and beautiful beaches are hard to beat. I’m sharing this gem with you but don’t tell too many people, ok?
Thanks again to Charlotte Harbor for hosting our visit. All opinions are my own.
I absolutely LOVED my visit to Annapolis, Maryland. There are sooooo many reasons why it’s a city that I want to bring my family back to. It’s a city that appeals to all of your senses. Beautiful historic buildings that provide architectural eye candy in every direction, a walkable downtown that makes it almost feel like a small town, a city rich in history and tradition, and a wonderful culinary scene located in close proximity to the water.
Yellow Springs is one of those places that I had on my local bucket list for quite some time. Sometimes the best adventures are the ones that are a bit spontaneous. Yellow Springs is a little over an hour’s drive from Cincinnati and has little waterfalls. They had me at waterfalls. My family spent an afternoon in Yellow Springs and discovered several adventures that make for a great day trip.
Baltimore, Maryland has several great dining gems to add to your restaurant list during your next visit. I love discovering the places to eat and menu items that the locals love, and I think that you will enjoy them too.
Northwestern Indiana was the meeting point to pick up my boys who were visiting family in Michigan. It was a 2 hour drive for them and around 4 hours for me. It was also a great excuse to visit a city that we had never explored before.
So what is there to do around Valparaiso?
I have to admit that my visit to Fort Wayne, Indiana really surprised me. I had no idea that the downtown had so much to offer. Growing up, we would visit my cousins who lived about 30 minutes from downtown Fort Wayne, but we typically only visited the mall which left me with an impression from 30+ years ago that there wasn’t much to do there. Well Fort Wayne, you got the last laugh and my apology.
I was invited to attend a media dinner at The Capital Grille to experience the Generous Pour event. This was my first time visiting The Capital Grille but I will never forget our memorable meal there.