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Adventures in Florida: New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna BeachIn a few short days, I will be completely finished with my spring semester and one half of the way through graduate school! Time flies when you’re having fun (that, and when you’re up against a deadline on a paper!), but classes have proven especially challenging for me this semester, so I will be excited for a little break. :)

I plan to celebrate the upcoming summer season by crossing a few more items off my 26 at 26 bucket list, spending quality time with friends, and doing some much-needed organizational projects at home. Of course, no summer in Florida is complete without a beach trip, so I’m looking forward to taking a mini-road trip to New Smyrna Beach!

As some of you may know, I grew up a lot closer to the coast, so a trip to the beach was no big deal. However, living in Central Florida often means fewer beach trips, simply because of how much longer it takes to get there! For my 25 at 25 bucket list, I decided to visit a Central Florida beach that I had never visited before: New Smyrna Beach.

IMG_4926New Smyrna Beach is one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever visited. Not only does it have that picture-perfect white sand,  but you can actually park right on the beach. The last time I went, I felt like I was on spring break! 🙂

If you’re getting in around lunchtime, the best place to stop is the iconic Breakers Ocean Front Restaurant, a beloved landmark in NSB. The seating throughout the restaurant overlooks the ocean (and makes for excellent people-watching), and the burgers are pretty good, too.

For those visiting from out of town, check out Tripping.com to book your vacation rental. From beach houses to luxury vacation homes, Tripping.com has a great selection of places to choose from in New Smyrna Beach and all over Florida, and will compare prices from all of the top sites.

Thinking of making the trip? Here are my top five must-haves for any beach vacation.

  • Proper Hydration
    In case you haven’t heard, Florida can get pretty hot in the summertime. While a cold beer may feel refreshing, it’s important to stock up on water as well in order to remain fully hydrated. Don’t forget your cooler! Bonus tip: A koozie will also help keep your drink cold. Check out ChicMonogram on Etsy for customized monogrammed koozies. Her turnaround time is awesome and her products never disappoint!
  • Cute Cover-Up
    A cute cover-up is essential for any beach trip. I’ve bought a lot of my favorites at Target, and am currently eyeing this adorable kaftan.
  • Sunscreen & Skin Care
    A little bit of sun goes a long way. Make sure to protect your skin from the UVA rays. I like to bring a hat as well to cover my face and (hopefully!) prevent added wrinkles. Don’t forget a lip balm with SPF too– your lips will thank you!
  • Ibuprofen
    As much as I love the great outdoors, I tend to get a pretty bad headache if I’m outside in the heat all day. That’s why I always make sure to pack some ibuprofen or aspirin– that way, I can enjoy the day for longer and still feel great.
  • A Great Beach Read
    For added relaxation, pack along that book you’ve been dying to read. Need some suggestions? For short stories with a splash of dark humor, check out B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, or Helen Ellis’s American Housewife. If you’re looking for sci-fi drama, And Again by Jessica Chiarella is a true page-turner. Or, if you want a memoir with a strong female lead, look no further than Mindy Kaling’s latest, Why Not Me? or Amy Schumer’s Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.

What are your favorite beach essentials? Any tips for visiting New Smyrna? Share with us in the comments section below!

 

Adventures in Florida: A Weekend in St. Augustine

When I turned 25 just a few months ago, one of my first orders of business was to plan a trip to St. Augustine in the New Year. When I was a child growing up in South Florida, St. Augustine played a big role in my fourth grade education, as the oldest European-established settlement in the country and the first overnight field trip destination my classmates and I ever visited. I visited the town in passing a few times since, but wanted to spend more time in St. Augustine this winter.

In early January, my mom and I packed our bags and took a short road trip to the nation’s oldest city, where we would stay for the weekend.

LightnerMuseum

Our first stop was the Lightner Museum, which was originally the Hotel Alcazar built by Henry Flagler. Aside from the gorgeous Spanish-inspired architecture and picturesque landscaping, the museum boasts collections of antique musical instruments, sculptures, paintings, the stained glass art of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and several other historical and science exhibits as well.

LightnerMuseum

During our visit, we were also able to see the hotel’s original spa and Turkish bath areas. However, nothing was more festive and exciting than our lunch at the Cafe Alcazar, a restaurant located where the indoor pool used to be. I loved my hummus salad almost as much as the cafe itself, and would highly recommend grabbing a bite there for an elegant and unique dining experience. (After all, how often do you get to eat lunch in a swimming pool?)

Cafe Alcazar

After the Lightner Museum, we walked over to Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Of course, my mom and I drank from the Fountain of Youth, so now I’m hoping to be young and beautiful well into my nineties. If I’m still blogging by then, I’ll let you know how well the fountain really worked. 🙂

Fountain of Youth

We roamed around the park for the afternoon, visited the exhibits, watched a few videos on the discovery of the settlement, and fell asleep during the observatory show (okay, that was just me!). I also made a few unlikely friends.

Fountain of Youth Park

Seriously, these guys were everywhere!

After checking into the hotel and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we ended the night with a Ghosts & Gravestones ghost tour. I have always been a fan of ghost tours, and this one did not disappoint! We stopped at the Lighthouse Park and at the Old Jail, where we were visited by an old (slightly terrifying) prisoner. We had a fantastic time, all while learning about some of the more macabre history of St. Augustine.

Castillo de San Marcos

The next morning, we headed out to the Castillo de San Marcos, the country’s oldest fort that was owned by several nations at different points in history. It was an incredible experience to walk through a place that survived so many wars and attacks, in the footsteps of so many others before us.

Castillo de San Marcos

After the Castillo, we enjoyed a quick lunch in the Old City before heading back home. I had a wonderful weekend with one of my favorite traveling companions, and would recommend St. Augustine to anyone planning a vacation. 🙂

For a recap of my other Bucket List adventures, click here!

Have any of you been to St. Augustine? What were your favorite experiences?

Adventures in Florida: Central Florida Zoo

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Squad goals.

My inner child had the time of her life over the weekend when I took my very first trip to the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford. As some of my blog readers know, I’ve been dying to visit this zoo for quite some time — it’s practically in my backyard and it made its way onto my 25 at 25 Bucket List! (To see my progress so far, click here.) I was overcome with excitement when I convinced a few friends to tag along, and I enjoyed every minute of my visit. 🙂

Total disclosure: I’m an unapologetic nerd when it comes to my love for animals. I know there are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to zoos, but there’s no denying that zoos can instill in us an empathy and love for all creatures from a young age. You gain exposure to species you’ve never even heard of from areas of the world you’ve never been. If you live in Florida, a giraffe is probably not going to wander in front of your window one morning, so seeing one in person can be a one-of-a-kind experience.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed, I had a great time at the zoo. 🙂 It was Lemur Conservation Day, which meant that we learned little factoids about lemurs throughout the day and even observed part of a zookeeper talk on lemurs.

Red Ruffed Lemur at Central Florida Zoo

Aside from lemurs, the Central Florida Zoo features a cheetah, leopard, cougar, dromedary camel and many other animals, as well as a fairly extensive herpetarium and a variety of birds. The adorable otters were swimming when we arrived in their area and were possibly the happiest animals in the entire zoo, followed closely by this boer goat (who just might definitely be my spirit animal).

He seriously might have been my favorite animal of the whole day.

He seriously might have been my favorite animal of the whole day.

I was also enamored with these two Indian rhinos, Jahi and PJ, and compared them to two of our family dogs throughout the visit based on their proximity to one another. 🙂

Rhinos at Central Florida Zoo

For those of you who live in the Orlando area or are making a trip out here, the Central Florida Zoo is well worth the visit. I’m so happy I was able to finally experience it after years of living only a few miles away! It is a relatively small zoo, but it has a good variety of animals and plenty of activities for children as well.

This llama hopes you had a nice day!

This llama hopes you had a nice day!

What’s on your bucket list this year? Share your latest adventures in the comments section below!