Dr Phillips Center For The Performing Arts Center Unveils Rendering Of New CNL Art Plaza

cnl arts plazaIn a few short months, phase 1 of the of the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Orlando will open.  The area will accommodate 3,000 people for the outdoor performances, which will begin shortly after the performing arts center opens to the public in November.

According to center president, Kathy Ramsberger, The CNL Arts Plaza will host more than 20 free performances during the arts center’s inaugural season.  “This plaza is an invitation for people to come to the arts center,” she said. “This will be Central Florida’s next town square.”

For more information about the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, you can visit there website here.




Cruising The Indian River With Good Natured River Tours

We recently had the opportunity to take a tour of the Indian River aboard Good Natured River Tours.  The day was sunny and warm with just a few clouds and the water was calm.  All pluses in my book.  It truly was perfect day to be on the water.  If you are looking for a fun day trip, put this one on your list.  Good Natured River Tours is located approximately 1 hour southeast of Orlando.

Good Natured River Tours launches from from Grills Riverside in Melbourne at 10:30am and 1:30pm daily.  The river nature tour is 2 hours in length.  According to their website, there are tons of photo opportunities as they frequently encounter myriads of wildlife such as Dolphins, Manatees, Herons, Egrets, Ospreys, Spoonbills, Pelicans, Cormorants and more.

With my camera in hand we left the dock.

goodnature_2As we made our way down the river, we encountered a Swing Bridge along the way.

goodnature_9You can notice the bridge swinging open in this picture.



goodnature_12We saw this beautiful waterfront mansion as we made our way down the river.


This is the remains of the Merritt Island Dragon, also known as “Annie”.  The dragon was built in 1971 by Florida artist Louis VanDercar and property owner Aynn Christal.  In August 2002, the sculpture was badly damaged, and partially collapsed into the water during a storm; vandalism was blamed for contributing to the statue’s destruction.goodnature_17 goodnature_18This is what Annie looked like in her hay day.  On special occasions, the dragon would
breathe fire.  I would have loved to have seen her then.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, the moment I had been waiting for….DOLPHINS!  They were so beautiful and there were so many of these amazing creatures.  The  Captain said there are about 700 dolphins  in
the Indian River alone.  goodnature_20goodnature_22goodnature_21
We had a grand time cruising with Good Natured River Tours.
We hope to get back soon for one of their sunset cruises.

Pricing for the nature cruise is as follows:
Adult – $29.00
Senior (65+) – $25.00
Child (3-12) – $ 20.00(Always check their website as pricing is subject to change.)

We were able to save a little bit of money on our cruise as we purchased our tickets from Groupon.  It’s always a good idea to check for specials from this type of vendor.

~ Gretta


We used a Groupon, saving us some money.

Magical Photo Wednesday – Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

wedspicApril2ndToday’s Photo comes from a place that does not get a lot of love in the photo community. My kids begged to go on the Swiss family Robinson Treehouse so my father (being the grandfather he is) said yes!  So off we went.

While traveling to the top, I looked down and saw how the stairs zigged and zagged.  I couldn’t resist, I had to snap this picture.

Once we arrived at the top I was so impressed with the vantage points available.  I was even able to capture a picture from the top looking out at Splash Mountain, but I will share that with you on another day.

Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse is a Disney classic!  Have you climbed to the top to take advantage of the photo opportunities?

Enjoy ~ Justin

You can view more pictures form Justin on Flickr.

Florida Is A Hot Market For First Time Home Buyers


Florida is a hot market for first time home buyers.  Realtor.com recently reported it’s top 10 cities for first time home buyers and 3 Florida cities made the list.  Those cities are Tampa-St Petersburg-Clearwater coming in 2nd, Orlando coming in 5th and Jacksonville coming in 6th.

Top 10 Markets for First-Time Home Buyers by Rank

MSA Median Listing Price Total Listings Median Age of Inventory Unemployment rate
Pittsburgh, PA $135,000 11,026 128 5.70%
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL $169,900 21,062 88 5.90%
Philadelphia, PA-NJ(NJ) $174,900 10,656 141 6.40%
Fort Worth-Arlington, TX $175,000 8,433 67 5.40%
Orlando, FL $191,900 13,425 81 5.50%
Jacksonville, FL $198,000 9,787 95 5.60%
Philadelphia, PA-NJ(PA) $219,000 21,909 121 6.40%
Dallas, TX $224,900 15,887 57 5.40%
Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC $227,500 9,435 98 4.90%
Phoenix-Mesa, AZ $244,900 23,654 59 6.20%


Here are the criteria realtor.com® used to rank the top 10 markets:

  1. Location, location, location: Market popularity is an important consideration for first-time buyers. It is common for owners to become “move up” buyers and purchase a larger home a few years after a first-home purchase. Buying a home in popular markets increases the likelihood of making money on a first home.
  2. Affordable list prices: One of the biggest barriers to homeownership is affordability. Homeowners not only have to be able to afford a monthly mortgage payment, but must have enough saved for a down payment.
  3. Ample inventory: Inventory shortages can often spark bidding wars in which investors or buyers with higher incomes can price out first-time buyers. Markets with an ample inventory of homes for sale are less likely to experience bidding wars. 
  4. Reasonable time on market: Median age of inventory is a clear indicator of demand in a market. High demand is another factor that prompts bidding wars and makes it difficult for first-timers to get the home of their dreams.  Additionally, first-time homebuyers should consider how long a home has been on the market. They may have an opportunity for a better deal if a seller is required to price a home more competitively in order to close.
  5. Steady employment: Unemployment rates affect all aspects of the economy, including first-time buyers. In order to pay for their mortgages, new buyers need to work and hold steady jobs in markets that support their job.

Methodology: Realtor.com® examined key housing indicators including: search rank, median list price, year-over-year change in inventory, median age of inventory and unemployment rates across 146 markets and evaluated the metrics against the needs and desires of the typical first-time homebuyer. All metrics considered were pulled directly from realtor.com®’s February 2014 data and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Walt Disney World 2014 Night Of Joy Tickets Are On Sale Now


If you plan on attending the 2014 Night of Joy at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, get ready to purchase your tickets!  Walt Disney World has announced that tickets for this event will go on sale starting today (March 31, 2014).

Single-night tickets are $59 plus tax in advance and $69 plus tax on the days of the show. There is also a two-night ticket option, which is $108 for both nights and includes a 1-day admission to one of Disney’s two water parks or DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park if you purchase them through August 5.

Do you want a ticket?  Fans can purchase tickets at NightofJoy.com or by calling 407-W-DISNEY.  This years 2 day event will take place Friday, September 5th and Saturday, September 6th.  The concert schedule is as follows.

Friday, September 5, 2014:

  • Hillsong United
  • Chris Tomlin
  • Matthew West
  • for KING & COUNTRY
  • Mandisa
  • Building 429
  • Matt Maher
  • The Neverclaim

Saturday, September 6, 2014:

  • Casting Crowns
  • MercyMe
  • Israel Houghton & New Breed
  • Britt Nicole
  • Colton Dixon
  • Rhett Walker
  • We As Human
  • 1 Girl Nation

If you are looking to purchase Group tickets, they will go on sale April 8.  For more information about the event and the benefits of coming as a group, check out NightofJoy.com.

If you plan on attending, let us know.  We hope to see you there!


New Smyrna Sugar Mills Ruins at New Smyrna Beach

We were recently on our way to Daytona Beach and decided to stop by the New Smyrna Sugar Mill Ruins located in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.  Located just an hour northeast of Orlanda, what an unusual place to see.  The New Smyrna Sugar Mill, once part of the Cruger-dePeyster Plantation, was built in the early 19th century.  In 1830 the sugar mill was built and was a fully functioning mill.  In 1835, during a war with the United States the Seminole Indians destroyed the mill setting it afire.  New Smyrna Sugar Mills Ruins sits on 17 acres, and while that is a large site you won’t need much more
than half an hour to see it.

I was able to take some neat pictures of the ruins.

sugar_1Park Entrance Sign *Note: Park Entrance is a little difficult to find.

sugar_2sugar_33 Rooms Total

sugar_4sugar_5Look at the size of those bowls!

sugar_6sugar_7The wall of this structure are made out of small shells.


Such history!  If you’d like to visit New Smyrna Sugar Mills Ruins, it is located at 600 Mission Drive, New Smyrna Beach, Florida.  It is open daily Sunrise to Sunset and the best part, admission is FREE.

Stay tuned for more updates from the coast.  ~ Gretta


Disney Blogger Spring #Giveaway – an Eggstra Special $150 Disney Gift Card

EasterGiveawaySpring has arrived and there is excitement in the air.  Several of us Disney Bloggers have come together to bring a little spring to your wallet as well.  One of our lucky readers will win a $150 Disney Gift Card and a Bambi and Thumper Pin Set!

Want to WIN? Here are the details! 

  • The giveaway will run from Monday, March 31, 2014 until April 11, 2014 at 11:59 PM EST.
  • More ways to enter! There is a daily entry for more chances to win. You can enter right here on the blog or from our Taking the Florida Plunge Facebook page.
  • The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter after verification of entries and notified by email.
  • To officially accept the prize the winner must reply by email within 48 hours. Make sure that you provide an email address that you check regularly.
  • The giveaway is open to United States residents only, ages 18 yrs old and up.
  • The lucky winner will be announced right here on Taking the Florida Plunge, after the winner has accepted their prize.

Entering is easy through the Rafflecopter, just click HERE!


This giveaway is made possible by contributions from an awesome  group of Disney Bloggers.
Listed in no particular order of fabulousness:

Disney Mamas