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Windsor Palms Resort in Orlando, Florida

Many thanks to the owners of the Windsor Palms Owners Group for submtting the following articles

 

Pool safety tips

Most vacation homes have a private pool for the exclusive use of your party. This is one of the reasons homes are so popular. But there are some safety aspects that should be considered as well as the fun ones.

Tips for Florida with Kids

Having travelled with kids, here are just a few tips we found made our holiday that little more relaxing. Before you go, buy some Disney Dollars from the Disney Stores and keep giving them as their pocket money – this way they have some...

Sun Safety

You have been dreaming about the holiday for months, you have been at the parks for days so a few days at the beach is a great idea for a chance to relax but remember the sun in Florida is far more powerful than here in the UK so follow...

Beach Safety

After a few days at the parks, why not take a trip out to Cocoa Beach or the St Pete’s area which are only about an hours drive away.When we can we spend about 3 days at the beach and then go back to the villa, recharges our batteries and...

Drive Safely

If you are from the UK, as you already know, Americans drive on the 'wrong' side of the road. The times when you are more likely to make a mistake with this are when you are tired, when you first set off in the morning and when

Shop until you drop in Orlando

A shopper's paradise of factory outlet centers, discount superstores, upscale boutiques, antique shops, luxury department and specialty stores.  In fact, Orlando is the fastest growing retail market in the United States.

Unexpected Orlando -Variations on a theme park

In the shadow of its famous theme parks, there’s a vibrant city that is ripe for discovery. But who knew? Orlando has become so synonymous with Disney World and Universal Studios Florida that few visitors know that there’s a wealth of arts, cultural and historical attractions not far from the admission gates.

 

Pool safety tips

Most vacation homes have a private pool for the exclusive use of your party. This is one of the reasons homes are so popular. But there are some safety aspects that should be considered as well as the fun ones.

Here are some tips for enjoying your pool safely.

Firstly there should be no diving. The pools are not deep enough to dive into. As a general rule most pools will be 3 feet deep at the shallow end and around 5 or 6 feet at the deep end.

If there is a solar cover for the pool available it is a good idea to use it when the pool is not in use and at night. During the cooler months it can help keep the temperature around 15 degree’s higher than a similar pool without a cover. This can make a tremendous difference if you have paid for pool heating.

Children should never be left in the pool area alone. All pool homes must have adequate safety precautions in order to obtain their license and these should be used at all times if you have children in your party. Homes are required to have at least one of the following: Audible door alarms on every door leading out to the pool area. These will give out a very loud warning that your child may have got out without you noticing. If fitted, these must be switched on at all times and there is a fine of up to $5000 if they are found to have been tampered with. They are there to protect your children.

You may also find your pool home fitted with a safety fence. Homes must have either door alarms or a safety fence, and many homes have both. The fence is at the legally required height and will prevent children getting too near the pool. If you are worried about your children’s safety even when out on the deck you can leave the fence up and jus unclip it when needed.

Pool covers are a real boon to keeping the water warm but very dangerous and attractive to children, who seem to think they can walk on them. If your vacation home has a pool cover be extra vigilant.

No glass or crockery should be used on the pool deck or near the pool. Broken glass can be notoriously difficult to clear up, and may even cause the pool equipment to stop working and warrant a costly repair, which you will be liable for. All homes will provide suitable plastic glasses and dinnerware for the deck area.

Please do not add anything to the water in the pool or Spa as these may interfere with the working of the pool. Pools are maintained on a weekly basis by a qualified technician, who will always ensure the pool is safe to use. Anything added by guests could cause the pool to be out of use for some considerable time.

If you have requested pool heating this will be switched on for your arrival. Pool heating is designed to take the chill off the water and when heated the temperature should rise to between 75 and 85 degrees. A lot of pools are heated by an electric heat exchanger which compresses heat from the atmosphere. If the air temperature during the day falls below around 50 degrees (a rare occurrence) then the pump will switch off until the temperature rises. Please be aware that it is not possible to guarantee the temperature of the pool, which is partially dependant on the local weather conditions. Gas heated pools generally heat up quicker and are not subject to climate fluctuations.


Pool heating is expensive to run and a separate charge is normally made for this.

Many homes have pool toys available for your enjoyment. It is worth checking before buying your own. Also check with your owner if they provide pool towels and if necessary bring your own.

Finally, a pool home is a luxury many of us don’t have at home, so enjoy it but make sure you are safe doing it.

 

Tips for Florida with Kids

Having travelled with kids, here are just a few tips we found made our holiday that little more relaxing.

Before you go, buy some Disney Dollars from the Disney Stores and keep giving them as their pocket money – this way they have some money to spend on that huge cuddly toy that every child has on the plane trip home.

Get them to write to Mickey and he will send a letter back – send the letter to: Walt Disney World Info/Guest Letters/Letters to Mickey Mouse, PO Box 10040, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-00100 – really gets them excited about the trip.

Disney caters for everything for children, there are Baby Services – private rooms with seating and low lighting for nursing mothers, feeding rooms with highchairs, bibs, plastic spoons and nappy changing rooms. Baby-care products such as disposable nappies, pull-on rubber pants, formula and teethers are for sale - remember these will be US milk and “diapers” so whilst great for an emergency, obviously have your own supply.They even have nappy changing areas in the men’s room so no excuses for Dads!

In-park stroller rental ($6 a day plus $1 refundable deposit) makes travelling through the theme parks easy so no need to worry about taking your buggy, although you will have to carry your child from the car park.

Take a swimsuit and possibly a change of clothes for the kids to the parks, kids will love playing on Donald's Boat & in the water fountains around all the parks, & will inevitably get very wet!

"Kid Switch" policy gives both Mom and Dad a chance to enjoy the latest attractions without the wait. Here's how it works. One parent waits in line with a small child while the other parent rides the attraction. The first parent returns to the loading area and takes the child while the second parent rides.

Make sure your child knows what to do if he/she gets lost - tell them that cast members wear name badges, & to go to one of them immediately if he/she gets lost; or for older kids arrange a place to meet if they get lost.Introduce them to one of the Cast Members, they are always happy to chat to the kids to make them feel at ease and tell them to come straight to someone who wears the same uniform as them. If your child has pockets put their name on a piece of paper just in case. Disney does has special name tags for very young children. Guests can get them at - City Hall or Baby Care Centre (Magic Kingdom); Guest Relations or Baby Care Centre (Epcot); Guest Relations (Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom).If you do lose your child, report to Guest Relations/City Hall, Baby Care Centre, or tell a Cast Member.

Character Meals are great for youngsters – make sure they eat all their food otherwise the characters won’t visit with them!!!! Works wonders for those fussy eaters.

If your son hates having his haircut, wait until your holiday and take them to Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street, Magic Kingdom.

Be prepared for the Florida sunshine. Bring extra sunscreen, a hat, umbrella, plus a jacket/cardigan for chilly, air-conditioned theatres.

Buy an autograph book for your child to get character's autographs and a big pen for the characters to hold – there hands are too large for small pens and always have the autograph books open ready to save time for everyone.

Try to get your child used to the different characters before you get there by watching Disney movies. Explain that the characters will be bigger than them & there's no need to be scared. If your child does get scared when meeting a character, don't force them into it just because you want a picture of them with Mickey Mouse!So many parents seem to push their kids up the characters when it is obvious they are terrified – don’t worry, they do grow out of this practically the next year.

Kids under 3 are admitted to the parks for free. Kids over the age of 9 are considered adults in Disney's eyes, & so have to pay adult rates for tickets & passes.

And don’t forget when they get tired, take them back to the villa for a nap and return later.

Sun Safety

You have been dreaming about the holiday for months, you have been at the parks for days so a few days at the beach is a great idea for a chance to relax but remember the sun in Florida is far more powerful than here in the UK so follow some simple rules and you will enjoy your holiday without any sun related difficulties!

Prevention seems to be the key here, so follow these tips:

Avoid sun exposure during the hottest hours of the sun’s rays – between 12 and 2 particularly – Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun is very true and the heat is not pleasant at that time of day.

Apply sunscreen with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15, paying special attention to the face, nose, ears and shoulders. Some of the drugstores in Florida refuse to sell sunscreen with less than factor 8 because of the danger of sunburn. My daughter is mixed race and has quite dark skin but I always put 25 minimum on her and she still comes back with a healthy glow.We always buy our sun cream in America as it is far cheaper and also there is nothing worse than opening your case to find it has leaked EVERYWHERE!No-Ad is sold in most places and is one of the cheapest – we find it fantastic and we come home with great tans.For the last couple of days of the holiday when we have got a safe brown tan the adults in our party usually use oil, again with a sun factor.

Always wear a hat and sunglasses with UV (Ultraviolet) Protection – be wary of “cheap” glasses as these tend not to offer the correct protection.

Drink plenty of water and non-carbonated drinks, even if you do not feel thirsty – dehydration is not very pleasant.

Since overexposure to the sun is a major cause of sunburns, it is important to limit your time in the sun. And, don't get fooled into thinking you can't get sunburned when it is cloudy. You not only can, you probably will. Also, check the UV Forecast which is often broadcast on local news programs and published in local papers. The general rule is the higher the UV Index the higher the SPF needed in your sunscreen. It is equally important to recognize and carefully watch for the symptoms of sunburn and know how to apply first-aid. Remember that if you do get a sunburn, treat it seriously.

If you go for a dip, even if the sunscreen is waterproof, keep applying it – too much is better than too little.There is a real trend for cornrow hairstyles but ensure you put cream on your head between braids as nasty burns are being gained through this – better still keep your hat on!

Beach Safety

After a few days at the parks, why not take a trip out to Cocoa Beach or the St Pete’s area which are only about an hours drive away.When we can we spend about 3 days at the beach and then go back to the villa, recharges our batteries and it’s a nice rest for all of us.There are some really fantastic beaches in Florida particularly on the Gulf Coast.Naples, Treasure Island and Siesta Key in Sarasota are among our favourites. We do a lot of “sea watching” and on most of our visits we have seen dolphins.

We all love the beach but whether travelling with just adults or children, there are safety “rules” to be followed:

Stay within the designated swimming area and ideally within the visibility of a lifeguard.

Never swim alone.

Know the flag warning system

  • Red Flag: Stay OUT of the water - strong undertow and riptides.
  • Yellow Flag: Use CAUTION in the water - some undertow and riptides possible.
  • Blue Flag: Calm water.

Be aware of rip currents. If you should get caught in a current, don't try to swim against it. Swim parallel to shore until clear of the current.Watch children carefully and constantly. It only takes a couple of minutes for them to be knocked down by even the smallest wave and pulled out by a current. Be particularly careful with children using inflatables in or near the sea.

Use common sense - if the waves look dangerous. . . they probably are.

Jellyfish cause intense burning. Lifeguards know the first aid procedure for reducing the pain.Any kind of bite you have gained in the sea should be treated with one of the myriad of creams available in the drugstores – visit the pharmacist they are fantastic and give great advice, but definitely don’t leave it!

Seek shelter in case of storm. Get out of the water. Get off the beach in case of lightning.Florida can have quite ferocious storms and the beach isn’t the best place to be – go back to your hotel or go for a meal etc, they often pass fairly quickly.

Take a cool box/bag with you with lots of drinks and snacks – bottles are not allowed on beaches and you may be fined if you take them down with you – some beaches do not allow alcohol either so check with your hotel just in case.

Always wear your shoes, the sand can get so hot and you could burn the bottoms of your feet.Also if you go paddling in the sea ensure you reapply your sun cream to your feet – Mom has burnt her feet like this many times before!

Drive Safely

If you are from the UK, as you already know, Americans drive on the 'wrong' side of the road. The times when you are more likely to make a mistake with this are when you are tired, when you first set off in the morning and when you are turning or pulling out of a driveway or garage/gas station. Take special care to concentrate at these times.

All the rental cars are automatic so you don't have to worry about changing gear but sometimes their handbrake is different to UK ones, i.e. a foot pedal up under the dashboard. Make sure you understand the controls of your rental car before you drive away from the rental station and, if in any doubt, ask!

If you are the driver, make sure you carry your driving licence and car rental documents with you at all times.

Some rental cars lock the doors for you automatically when you reach a certain speed so don't wonder what is happening! If your car doesn't do this for you, it is wise to lock them yourself manually.

Keep your windows closed as this helps your air conditioning to work properly so that you stay cool and it also keeps bugs out of the car.

If you are parking, try to find a lit area or park under a light, if you can.

Don't leave valuables, jackets, etc in the car interior or maps. Make sure that you put these in the boot (trunk) of your car. Don't leave your camera in your car as the heat inside when you return may have ruined your film. Never leave kids alone in the car.

Like at home, there are speed restrictions which are sometimes enforced by radar. Make sure you are under the speed limit or you risk an on-the-spot fine. Note that some roads also have minimum speed restrictions.

Yellow school buses have special rules in USA. If a school bus stops, all traffic must stop in both directions until the school bus moves off. If you are driving in the opposite direction to a school bus on a dual or more carriageway, you don't have to stop.

If it rains, it is compulsory in Florida to turn on your headlights at the same time was your windscreen wipers. If there is a storm and you have difficulty seeing the road ahead, pull over and stop until visibility improves.
If you are pulled over by an officer, stay in your car and let the officer approach you.

If you are unfortunate enough to have an accident or are bumped from behind in a deserted or dark area and there is likely to be minimal damage, indicate to the other driver to follow you. Drive to a populated area (a garage/gas station is ideal) before you get out of the car.

Make sure that you follow the instructions on your rental agreement and inform your car rental company if you have an accident.

The drink driving laws in Florida are extremely strict and driving after drinking will invalidate your rental car insurance too. You are not allowed to have alcohol in your car so, if you have this, make sure that this is stored in the boot/trunk. Please don't endanger your life or that of others - if you are going to drink, please don't drive!

Shop until you drop in Orlando

A shopper's paradise of factory outlet centers, discount superstores, upscale boutiques, antique shops, luxury department and specialty stores.  In fact, Orlando is the fastest growing retail market in the United States.  Use the economical I-RIDE Trolley, with regular stops at most local malls and outlet centers, or take an air-conditioned LYNX city bus.

Bargain hunters rejoice!  Orlando is a mecca of factory and designer outlet centers, offering upscale merchandise for the value-minded shopper.  Belz Factory Outlet MallOrlando Premium Outlets, and the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores are just some of the many outlet centers conveniently located to the Orange County Convention Center and nearby hotels, offering a variety of discounted merchandise by Versace, Perry Ellis, Ralph Lauren, Mikasa, Coach, Fitz & Floyd and more. Use this handy I-Drive Retail Guide for detailed information on places to shop in the International Drive area.

In addition to many traditional malls (The Florida Mall, Orlando largest mall, is only a short drive from the Convention Center).  Orlando is also famous for its "themed" shopping venues, combining shopping, dining and entertainment in one location.  Local I-Drive favorites include Pointe*Orlando and the Mercado Mediterranean Village, both located within walking distance of the Convention Center and Conference hotels.  Pointe*Orlando's most famous tenant is FAO Schwarz, but you'll also find Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Chico's, Players Golf and more.  Mercado is a conglomeration of nightclubs, restaurants and specialty shops with an "international" flare. The Orlando/Orange County Visitors Bureau is located at the main entrance to Mercado.  Old Town, a replica turn-of-the-century village in nearby Kissimmee, includes over 75 specialty shops, restaurants amusement rides, and an antique and classic car show every Friday and Saturday night.  If you enjoy fishing and other outdoor sports, be sure to visit the huge Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World located in Festival Bay, a new shopping and entertainment complex under construction (across from Belz Designer Outlet Mall).  The shopping is augmented by a "motif" for each category of sports – like a huge aquarium with native Florida fish. Truly a unique shopping experience!

Downtown Disney/Disney Village Marketplace, and Universal Studios' CityWalk are "attractions" in their own right! Downtown Disney (consisting of Pleasure Island, Disney's West Side and the Disney Marketplace) lives up to its "metropolis of fun" moniker.  Check out the Virgin Megastore, Lego Imagination Center, Sosa Family Cigar Company, and the World of Disney (featuring official licensed Disney items). Universal's CityWalk features many unique specialty shops throughout this 30-acre entertainment complex of venues inspired by popular culture's most legendary innovators and originators.

More shopping awaits you in Lake Buena Vista, the "gateway" to Disney World, near the entrance to the Downtown Disney Marketplace.  Not to be missed is a visit to Celebration, "the place where memories of a lifetime are made."  Designed to incorporate the best of yesterday with today's technology, the result is one of the most innovative communities in the country.  This "self-contained" community includes homes, offices, schools, a library, recreation, distinctive restaurants and stores. Take a tour of Celebration!   Whether you're shopping or dining, "MARKET STREET is cause for Celebration."

Nearby Winter Park offers plenty of shopping, from boutiques and specialty shops to major retailers such as Ann Taylor, Laura Ashley, Restoration Hardware, Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn. Stroll along chic Park Avenue in Downtown Winter Park, renowned for its quaint charm, art galleries, fine food and charming shops.  Visit early on Saturday mornings and take in the weekly Farmer's Market, in the old train depot at the corner Lyman and New York Avenues.  Winter Park Village, just west of downtown on U.S. Highway 17-92 (Mills Avenue) at Lee Road, offers a variety of stores, restaurants and entertainment, all arranged in an inviting "urban village" environment.

And if you love antiques, you're in luck - antiques shopping is a popular past-time in Central Florida.  The Lake Ivanhoe Antiques District, located on North Orange Avenue just north of downtown Orlando, features several blocks of antique shops, vintage clothing stores, and restaurants.  One of the largest collection of antiques and collectibles shops is in downtown Mount Dora, a lovely "old Florida" town just an hour's drive northwest of Orlando.  On the outskirts of Mount Dora is the huge Renninger's Antique Center and Twin Markets … well worth the trip! If you're travelling to Tampa, take a short detour to downtown Lakeland, home to several fine antiques stores.  Another downtown community rich in antiques is Sanford, just north of Orlando off I-4.

Unexpected Orlando

In the shadow of its famous theme parks, there’s a vibrant city that is ripe for discovery. But who knew? Orlando has become so synonymous with Disney World and Universal Studios Florida that few visitors know that there’s a wealth of arts, cultural and historical attractions not far from the admission gates.


In fact, 85 per cent of international visitors (including Canucks) said that visiting amusement parks was their activity of choice for their Orlando trip. While getting folks away from the thrill rides and splashy stage shows hasn’t been easy, the charms of the real Orlando are enticing them to explore more.


Case in point is Winter Park, a booming neighbourhood that proves that there’s much to see beyond Mickey. The community dates back to the 1880s when well-to-do New Englanders flocked south for a dose of Florida sunshine and built opulent summer homes. The Olde Winter Park feels like an undiscovered corner of Europe with oak and camphor trees forming a natural canopy over winding brick streets. It’s surprising how much Winter Park packs into a 10-block area.


You can drink your way through the pinot noirs and Rieslings at a trendy wine bar like Wine Club, pick up a little something to wear for dinner at a quaint boutique, or get a dose of culture at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, where the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany is housed.


And for those people who believe that an inland city like Orlando lacks an aquatic component, a scenic boat tour through three of the city’s numerous lakes and Winter Park’s two man-made canals proves to be an educational, and eye-opening experience.


And then there’s the revitalized downtown core, a healthy and oh-so-happening area where people-in-the-know come to stay and play. Loch Haven Park boasts a host of attractions in close proximity, including the Orlando Science Center (complete with gator-infested cypress swamp), Orlando Museum of Art (strong on American art), Orlando Shakespeare Theater (a misnomer since most productions aren’t Shakespearean) and Orlando Fire Museum (formerly Firehouse No. 3).


Families and romantic-minded couples rent gondolas or swan boats to cruise around Lake Eola. While top eateries Hue (known for its wickedly good appetizers, cocktails and sea bass main dishes) and newcomer Citrus (popular for its “Floribbean” fare, like citrus ceviche and skirt steak with homemade chimichurri sauce) dish out downtown’s best meals. By nightfall, the sidewalks of North Orange Avenue fill with club-goers who bounce from Latin-themed dance bars to retro discos pumping out Donna Summer and Bee Gees tunes.


These days, the strength of a destination’s culinary scene is enough to make it or break it. Fortunately, Orlando has plenty to offer, enough to please even for the most discerning foodie, with more than 5,300 places available. Restaurant Row on Sand Lake Road at Dr. Phillips Boulevard crams in a plethora of dining options in a compact area. The big guys are here — Morton’s Steak house, Ruth Chris, and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine — along with indie eateries that span the gamut from French (Press 101) to Cuban (Samba Room), from Italian (Christini’s) to Japanese (Amura).


That’s not to say you can’t get gourmet grub worth raving about at the theme parks.


Disney World, for example, does not just cater to the nachos and turkey drumstick crowd. It takes its food very seriously. Victoria & Albert’s, located in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort And Spa, has earned AAA’s five-diamond award for 10 years running. Its six-course prix fixe menu is an opulent affair that includes super-attentive butler service and long-stem roses for the gals.


Then there are treasures like the California Grill, sitting atop the Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It has a stellar wine list (featuring the best from California estates) and a menu that showcases the best of California fusion cooking. Think Sonoma goat cheese ravioli, grilled pork with Zinfandel glaze, and Pacific halibut in a ginger soy broth.


At Animal Kingdom’s Jiko-The Cooking Place, Disney’s puts an international spin on classics like macaroni and cheese, beef short ribs and roasted lamb, then pairs them with selections from the world’s most extensive collection of South African wines.


For those made dizzy by the breadth of Disney dining options, the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival runs Sept. 25 to Nov. 9 and gives nibblers and sippers a chance to sample an United Nations-like array of global cuisines and wines, plus pick up a cooking tip or two from a big-name chef. And if you’re wondering about local wine, Orlando’s got it. Just outside of the city in Clermont, Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards produces decent bottles of blanc du bois, Chablis and southern red. Before you buy, take a free tour and taste them for yourself.


Craving casual, no-linen-napkins-here cuisine? Orlando has some of the best Vietnamese, Thai, and Korean restaurants around, thanks to the ViMi District, just to the northeast of downtown, along Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue. It’s a neighbourhood where rarely a tourist is spotted, but well-worth discovering for its many cheap and cheerful Asian dining spots, shops and grocery stores.


Still, it’s the bounty of thrills available that gets the blood flowing in Orlando. Beyond Universal Studios and its new Holly Rip Ride Rockit high-tech roller coaster or SeaWorld’s freshly opened Manta Coaster, adrenalin junkies can get a buzz from up-close encounters with gators at Gator World, or head to SkyVenture Orlando for some indoor skydiving, appropriate for everyone — from kids as young as three to seniors.


If you believe you’ve been there and done that when it comes to Orlando, think again. Theme parks are just part of the picture. The city is full of surprises. Did you know that you can find polar bears in Orlando? Once the mascots of a local appliance chain in the ‘60 and ‘70s, Baerthoven and Schubaert (the stuffed versions) are on display at the Orange County Regional History Center, along with artifacts from the area’s 12,000-year history.


And where will you see the biggest collection of personal items from Elvis Presley outside of Graceland, the house where writer Jack Kerouac lived when his novel On the Road was published, 12 shopping malls, 176 golf courses and 2,000 lakes? You got it. They are all in Orlando.


You could happily spend all of your vacation here without stepping foot into a theme park. But really, why not have the best of both worlds? Theme parks, fine dining, culture, sporting fun and sightseeing. You’re on vacation after all. Enjoy.
 

 

 

 


 


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