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8 Things to do in Orlando outside the Theme Parks

Are you wondering what there is to do in Orlando that doesn’t involve being crushed by crowds or whizzing through the air on the latest Harry Potter ride?

Good news there are TONS of both well known and hidden gems around the area. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking outside the Mickey Mouse box. 
Orlando Things to do Beyond the Theme Parks - Ideas for rainy days

This tour took us all a little bit by surprise! It's kind of cheesy and little silly, but tons of good (ok interesting) information and of course along the way you get to sample some fabulous chocolate. The tour takes about 45 minutes and is located near celebration our next stop...but not before we finished things off by creating our own customized dark chocolate bar {hey it's dairy free!}.Chocolate Kingdom Tour OrlandoBeyond drooling over this scene made of chocolate we learned some interesting tid bits like: Psycho used chocolate syrup for the murder scene and German Chocolate cake isn’t German at all!! I’ll let you find out the rest on your own visit.

Celebration is the town that Disney created or so it's been said. It's not a movie set, but it looks like it's straight out of the page of an old story novel with wrap around porches and white picket fences. Every street is beautifully manicured and even street signs that are magical.

You can simply wander around the streets taking it all in drinking a glass of wine or getting some ice cream to enjoy while you ponder what life must be like in this idyllic little place. Of course you can also play a round of golf on their gorgeous course.
Downtown Celebration
The Winter Park Scenic boat tour is well known by locals, but not always noted in bigger magazines...which we prefer because it's already packed to the gills! Don't expect to show up for the hourly ride and always get on, you may need to buy tickets in advance {cash only}. The boat tour aboard a comfy pontoon with a local guide goes through the chain of lakes starting in Winter Park.Winter Park Boat TourDSC06798Not only do you hear about the fascinating history of the area but it's truly gorgeous as you flew through canals that of been there for years lined with trees and looking gorgeous old historic homes.

After finishing the boat tour you can head over to Park Street right there in Winter Park or shopping at some small local stores and plenty of fabulous dining next to the huge park which also allows for some time to spend outside

From our window, we can daily watch people heading out on the lake in a foot pedal swan boat. It’s a small lake with a gorgeous fountain and wonderful walking path, so don’t worry about getting stranded too far from shore!
Lake Eola Downtown OrlandoIf you finish up your paddling on a Sunday you can also take advantage of the music and lively atmosphere of the Lake Eola Farmers market.

I am the first to admit that the NBA never really interested me. Growing up in Kansas City we didn’t have a team, so I rarely paid attention.

Then I attended a game in Miami and realized that these games are unlike any other sporting experience!! They are filled with dancing, DJ’s, music, light shows all the while a game is being played in the background.
Orlando Magic Game

If you are looking to get your sweat on (possibly so you can do #7) then the Cady Way trail near Lake Baldwin is a fantastic place to start. Technically you can join the trail in a number of places, but this is one of the prettier areas and more populated if you have concerns about going solo.

Whether you want to run or bike, this trail winds through some gorgeous tree lined areas providing a safe place to move away from cars.
Cady Way Trail Near Lake Baldwin

I recently shared unique cupcakes around Orlando and I’m mentioning it here again because the decorating classes are another fun thing to do on chilly or rainy days.Cupcake Decorating in Orlando

And finally if you are looking to see a great show, and Cirque or Blue Man Group are been there done that kind of things, check the line up at the brand new Dr Philips Performing Arts Center in Downtown Orlando. Dr Philips Performing Arts Center Downtown OrlandoNot only is the building beautiful to see all lit up at night, but you can’t possibly find a bad seat in the theater and they are running some top Broadway shows all year long.

You could take advantage of the location by visiting Lake Eola during the day, grabbing some dinner downtown and then heading to the theater as all are within walking distance of each other!

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Exploring Waikiki from the Outrigger to Diamond Head to Luaus

After visiting Kona last October for the Ironman World Championship my ideas of Hawaii were cemented. Quiet little towns filled with surfers, fresh seafood and acai bowls at local mom n pop restaurants and gorgeous views of nature.

Arriving in bustling downtown Waikiki was a shock to my system! All of the amazing sunset views, sandy beaches and mountain views remained, but along side high end shopping and a mass of tourists. The good news is that means you have high quality hotels and immediate access to nearly anything that you might need, including tours!

Roll over any photo for description.Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach Christmas IMG_0499But first a look at right around Waikiki…starting of course with the view from our room…sigh.
DSC06039 On day 4 we actually moved to a second Outrigger property called Outrigger on the Reef and I was tearful about leaving our ocean view room until I encountered our new "city view". Which was such an amazing reminder that in so few places can you be next to the ocean with mountain views!Outrigger Reef City View Room

Lucky for me David happens to enjoy exploring on foot nearly as much as I do…so with visions of Diamond Head beckoning to us from the Outrigger Waikiki we set off ready to walk to the infamous climb.Diamond Head at sunriseBeing who we are, we ended up taking a few detours to look at things and walked over 5 miles before reaching the summit!

Even with a marathon just days away it was worth it for the spectacular views.IMG_0541IMG_0623DSC06063

Also on the must see-do list is of course a luau!! Most were at least a 1 hour drive with traffic, so we opted to check out the Hilton Rooftop luau which would have the same performers, but be lacking the roasting pig and beach atmosphere.

It ended up raining on us for the entire show, so we were more than pleased to be within walking distance of our hotel when it finished and found the show to still be wonderful.
Hawaiian LuauHilton Waikiki LuauFire dancersNow of course the rest of our time in Honolulu was spent running 26.2 miles and enjoying everything that the marathon had to offer…which meant lots of pool and beach time to recover.North Shore HawaiiOutrigger Waikiki Pool

We also took a Circle Island Tour and details on that coming up next!

Read more:
HHonolulu marathon review

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Cupcake Tour of Orlando - Unique experiences and unexpected flavors

How often do you go out to dinner and say to yourself “oh I wish I had room for dessert”? Followed by well, maybe next time…but then next time never comes and don’t you feel like sometimes in life you just need to eat dessert first?! Finding the best desserts in OrlandoGood news now you can find some insanely delicious treats sans the dinner rush! Everything about these little shops screams fun, joy and creativity! You’ll see flavors you never imagined under piles of icing and you’ll get to enjoy them without being already stuffed from dinner.

Every day is a special occasion, so treat yourself!

Let's take a look at some of the cupcake places around Orlando.

First is Jillycakes of Orlando a totally unique cupcake place started by you guessed it Jill who many of you might know from the TV show Cupcake Wars. As she says, it was never within her grasp that they would actually have a storefront!
Jillycakes mini cupcakesBut the time is right and their unique style will make this shop a sure hit!

What makes her place so unique it's not just the cupcakes you expect to find like chocolate and strawberry, but unique savory flavors like meatball sub cupcakes or my personal favorite the turkey stuffing thanksgiving cupcake. It is everything you love about Thanksgiving in a cupcake form and holy heck it is amazing!

Pictured here is her savory mac and cheese cupcake!
Macaroni and cheese cupcake from JillycakesAs the shop gets going they will also have an online app where in the store you can design a custom cupcake from available ingredients, just like you would with a froyo bar!

Beyond that of course they’ll still be offering their signature out of this world custom cakes.

Located near Winter Park

Another delicious night of fun can be found at Sugar Divas Cakery. What I love about this place is that she thrives on the idea of entertain and educate!

You can go in and do a group decorating class just like you would one of those group painting classes, only now you will have a delicious masterpiece to take home and eat rather than find a corner to try and display/hide it. Ha!!

IMG_7769Much like Jill, I loved Clare’s story as well. She started out baking with her grandmother and simply continued to enhance her skills with decorating and baking because she loved it. There was never really a thought that this could be a business, but after moving to the US from England she kept coming back to her passion and talent…finally the store was born.

AHHH entrepreneurs I love em!!! Here Clare is giving us a quick demo before our cupcake decorating, which was a very mini version of the great classes that she teaches.
IMG_7780Pictured below one of the many unique cakes she has made for customers. IMG_7766Located near East End Downtown Orlando.

Next is Gigi's Cupcakes which has multiple locations across the country, but I was introduced to them here so I’ll always think of them as an Orlando company.

Known for rotating flavors and massive mounds of icing {is there anything better?!} they also offer a gluten free option on Fridays and a free birthday cupcake for loyalty card members!

Pictured below is a selection of mini cupcakes at a blogger event. I focused in on my personal favorite the S’more…it was all gooey in the middle and just a bite of heaven. I suppose every baker has a story and Gigi is no different! She started wanting to be a singer, when that crazy life got old she opened her own business, but the cupcake shop came about from serendipity. She wanted to work for herself and her brother nudged her in to using her great baking skills.

Located near Downtown Orlando (Colonial)

I would be remiss to not also mention Rhapsodic Vegan bakery for those of you like me who do our best to remain dairy free!  For years I avoided dairy and eggs due to allergies, which meant I could only have desserts with friends if I felt like feeling bad, until I found this place and hands down I am in capital L O V E with their icing! 

You’d never know they were vegan!!! I guarantee you could pass these off on any friend. They also offer gluten free options, which are tasty but a little bit dry for me.

Located near Downtown Orlando (Mills)

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Destination: Jackson Hole Wyoming Summer

It’s gorgeous!”

That tiny little sentiment was uttered by every single person when I mentioned my trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in September. It’s fair to say my expectations were VERY high and totally met!

From the moment you land, you’re immersed in nature…look out the plane window and there are the mountains! Exit the plane right on the tarmac and get a breathe of that fresh air.View from plane in Jackson Hole

The short drive will take you in to town where nature literally bursts at the seems to greet you. Downtown Jackson HoleDSC05743The town embraces it's heritage and location with some amazing buildings and decor. It's small, but you won't be lacking for quality food (even this girl found a juice bar and vegan restaurant to meet my needs!). Jackson Hole Wyoming DowntownJackson Hole Wyoming Downtown ArchesJackson Hole Wyoming Visitor Center

After spending an afternoon exploring the streets and devouring a vegan cookie from Lotus, it was time to head off to Teton Village for the remainder of the week. I knew my energy would be focused on surviving the 3 day running camp, so I was very excited to see my accommodations.

Hotel Terra -- For the first two nights I enjoyed everything this LEED {fancy engineering term for awesomely eco-friendly} hotel had to offer. Like the concierge who set up a horseback riding tour for me through the surrounding area and the Terra Café which won “Bronze” for Best Vegetarian Options in the Best of Jackson Hole poll (perfect for me!!).
Horseback riding in Jackson HoleHorseback riding in Jackson HoleThe ride left me with more than a sore tush, it gave me a whole new appreciation for the expanse of the area and just how committed Hotel Terra is to taking care of this great environment. 100% of Hotel Terra's green hotel's electric and natural gas power is offset with the purchase of alternative, clean energy including wind, solar and hydro sources.
Hotel Terra EntryI love how throughout the hotel they have brought the outdoors in, the amazing amount of light that comes in to every room and honestly…the décor! It made me feel like a cowgirl (a pampered one, but still)!
After two nights in Hotel Terra, I packed my bags and walked next door in Teton Village to rest my head on some new fluffy pillows at the Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa. You might as well take full advantage of an area right?!
Teton Mountain LodgeDSC05776Not only did we enjoy the bison burger and sweet potato fries at their Spur Restaurant & Bar, with Executive Chef Kevin Humphreys {Best Chef in Jackson six years in a row}, but also daily meals provided by their team in our group meetings. This team went above and beyond to create meals from whole natural foods that were also dairy and gluten free for a few of us allergy crazy runners.IMG_7399  What I am dying to tell you about is the Solitude Spa. I LOVE a good massage, but this blew my mind. I did something called the Warrior Poultice Ritual, which involves them using a poultice as part of the massage to help infuse your tired, weary from hitting the mountain muscles with herbs like tumeric, mint and lemongrass. OH MAN it was amazing and definitely healing after 3 days and 30 miles of mountain running. PoulticeGET MOVING
While in the Village you have quick access to hiking trails, you can take the tram up to the top of the mountain for additional hiking and you can load up your bike to enjoy some serious mountain biking! Additionally there is a long paved path near the road that allows you to bike for miles just taking in the scenery.

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