Archive For July 28, 2016
Murder Mystery Dinner Train: A Unique Dining Experience
The Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Fort Myers, Florida was one of my best birthday dinners ever! Partly because it was a gift from my best friends who were visiting from Pennsylvania, and I got to spend my special day with them — and partly because it was very different from the usual dinner-at-my-favorite-restaurant and flowers which are to be expected every year. I have to admit, in over half a century I had never been to a murder mystery dinner show. And, the fact that this one was on a train was extra special and unique. Here’s my review of this special occasion gift…
The Fort Myers Murder Mystery Dinner Train has been running for about 25 years, since the early 1990s. The popular Southwest Florida attraction is operated by the Fay family who runs up to 4 railcars during each excursion. They had purchased and refurbished vintage sleeper coaches that each hold 50 passengers, for a total of 200 when the train is at capacity. Our tickets were for the Sanibel Car, which my friend Donna is introducing in the photo above.
Upon boarding we were escorted to our reserved table which displayed the menu for the evening along with the first of our five course dinner. The appetizer was a Hand Crafted Cheese Selection with Crackers and Seasonal Fruit. It was strategically placed in the center of a setting that rivaled most fine dining white tablecloth restaurants — right down to the fresh cut single yellow rose. Since it’s the unofficial flower of friendship, it was perfect for our long-standing foursome friendship. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting such elegance.
While perusing the menu to select our dinner choices, I captured this picture of Ron and Donna, our best friends for decades — almost as long as the Murder Mystery Dinner Train has been operating. Cultivating a long-distance friendship is a beautiful thing, even if there is 1200 miles between us. You can imagine how much we look forward to our yearly visits — sometimes in Florida, sometimes in Pennsylvania, and oftentimes somewhere in between!
This was our 5 Course Seasonal Dinner Menu with 3 entree selections to choose from. I chose the Dijon Salmon, Donna had the Chicken Cordon Bleu, and our hubby’s both opted for the manly portion of the Chef Carved Imperial Prime Rib. The Soup du Jour was Creamy Potato Leek. We all chose the Fresh Florida Caesar Salad instead of the Fruit Cup with Toasted Coconut and Raspberry Drizzle. Add warm Fresh Baked Rolls to all of this and we were almost too full for dessert… almost. It would have required more willpower than I had to resist the Ghirardelli’s Spring Surprise.
The portions were generous and the quality exceeded our expectations. In fact, hubby commented that the prime rib was the best he had in a while. Whenever I’ve been to any kind of dinner show the food was always secondary to the entertainment, but not so here. It’s cooked fresh onboard, with quality ingredients, which matters. At times the train ride was a bit bouncy while eating, but they do stop during the main course.
Our 5 course meal was perfectly timed between acts during a 40-mile round trip that lasted just over three hours. You can see from the map that the train begins and ends in Fort Myers, at Colonial Station. There were a few scenic points along the route, my favorite being the crossing of the Caloosahatchee River. Since the inception of the Murder Mystery Dinner Train, more than 70 original scripts have been produced and dramatized. They like to change them regularly for the sake of their repeat patrons, which is a large part of their business. I, myself, am looking forward to doing the Murder Mystery Train again in the near future.
The name of the show we attended was “A Hard Day’s Death” with excellent and professional-quality acting. In the early days of the Murder Mystery Train they contracted an acting troupe for the shows, but now the railway employs its own crew of actors. (The wait staff is employed by Seminole Gulf Railway as well.) A Hard Day’s Death had the perfect mix of intriguing murder, dark secrets, and humor. For me, it was a highly enjoyable ‘who done it?’ murder mystery with well-developed characters. Rock ‘n’ Roll fans, specifically fans of the Beatles, laughed out loud at the satirical take on the classic, “A Hard Day’s Night.” It was most certainly a humorously exaggerated imitation of the vintage hit. The various references to the iconic British Band and their music showed creative genius on behalf of the play writers. Kudos to them!
Here’s how it works: Each person is given a ‘Clue Sheet’ like the one shown above. The goal is to play the role of detective and solve the crime. As a savvy sleuth, you must not only gather information to determine who the murderer is, but your analytical mind must figure out the motive as well. Once you establish who done it and why, you must put your answers on the Clue Sheet, along with the vital clues that helped make your decision. Then, there is one bonus question given and used as a tie-breaker, if necessary. Prior to the final act the Clue Sheets are collected and judged. A winner is chosen from each train car, and given a prize. Here’s my friend Ron completing his Clue Sheet — with confidence that he has solved the crime…
Cast Of The Murder Mystery Dinner Train Show
A Hard Day’s Night had so many twists and turns in the story line, it was quite challenging solving the crime. Every one of those incredible actors convincingly conveyed their alibi. For me, it was difficult accusing any one of them “beyond a reasonable doubt.” At times, the evidence strongly suggested they were all innocent… other times they all seemed somewhat guilty. A well-written murder mystery will cause your analytical mind to work overtime — and this one succeeded! No one in our train car correctly guessed the murderer and the motive… bar one ‘Perry Mason’ onboard. Yep, my friend Ron! He was presented the Murder Mystery Dinner Train “Super Sleuth Award” by one of the cast members, along with his super sleuth prize, a commemorative mug with the name and logo of the event.
Murder Mystery Dinner Train: The Perfect Special Occasion Gift
What a unique and enjoyable way to spend my birthday! I highly recommend the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Fort Myers, Florida. It’s great for birthday’s, anniversaries, first-dates, date night with spouse, group events, or… simply because you happen to be in Southwest Florida.
The experience is not inexpensive — $75 Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday, and $79 on Saturday (taxes and gratuities not included), but you are getting dinner, a play, and a train ride. Ala carte, you would pay much more for a triple header like this. Like many of my fellow Floridians, I welcome the opportunity to visit attractions that are off the traditional ‘tourist track’ of the hectic Central Florida theme parks, and I certainly found a little gem with the Murder Mystery Dinner Train. I would love to return, next time seeing one of their popular holiday-themed events such as “A Merry Little Murder” at Christmas or the train’s “Sweetheart Express” special event with a strolling violinist around Valentine’s Day. For more information, reservations, or answers to frequently asked questions, you can visit the Murder Mystery Dinner Train website here or call 239-275-8487.
Upcoming Special Events On The Murder Mystery Dinner Train…
TRAINED FOR DECEPTION
WHEN: January 17, 2018 – March 18, 2018
WHERE: 2805 Colonial Blvd Fort Myers, FL 33966
PRICE: Starting at $79.95/person
THE TROOPER’S TALE
WHEN: March 21, 2018 – June 10, 2018
WHERE: 2805 Colonial Blvd Fort Myers, FL 33966
PRICE: Starting at $79.95/person
“NO MRS. JONES. I EXPECT YOU TO DIE”
WHEN: June 13, 2018 – September 2, 2018
WHERE: 2805 Colonial Blvd Fort Myers, FL 33966
PRICE: Starting at $79.95/person
Have you been on the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Fort Myers? Or perhaps you’ve attended another Murder Mystery Attraction in Florida? We welcome your comments, or suggestions for additional off-the-beaten-path Florida experiences!
Davidson of Dundee — A Taste Of Old Florida
Davidson of Dundee is one of those “Old Florida” icons. The company has been featured on the Food Network, Fox, CBS, ABC, and has also been featured in Smart Money and Southern Living magazines. The citrus candy factory and retail store is located in Central Florida right on busy Highway 27, in Dundee (about a 30 minute drive from Kissimmee). The Florida landmark is a family owned business and has been operated by members of the Davidson family for three generations. There’s a short video about the history of the company that is worth watching if it’s your first visit. Back in the early 1900s T. W. Davidson grew oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines near Dundee. In the 1960s his son, Glen, planted his own citrus groves.
When Glen was a child his mother made a delicious confection from citrus juice and sugar cane from the Florida Everglades. Later, Glen created his own version of the citrus candy, using the fresh juices from his groves. The candy had a sweet-tart flavor along with a unique jellied texture and instantly became a hit with friends and family. Back-in-the-day there was no social media marketing, but through old fashioned word of mouth people from all over began asking for a taste of the Florida citrus candy.
Florida Citrus Candy — Yummy Free Samples
Today Glen’s son, Tom Davidson, runs the family business. Tom still produces the same beloved flavors that his father did for the very popular jelly citrus candies, but has also enjoyed creating new flavors. A few additions have been the Fuzzy Navel, Margarita, Sunset Jelly, and [of course] Florida Hurricane. The store encourages visitors to try the plethora of flavors by offering free samples. Since this is my hubby’s favorite candy, I can assure you he has tried every single flavor. Even so, he usually sticks to the more traditional flavors like Orange, Key Lime, Orange-Pineapple, Cherry, Blueberry, and Grapefruit. The citrus candy is available for purchase in various size packages, but hubby buys 10-12 of the small bags so he can mix and match all of his favorites.
While they do advertise a tour of the candy factory, it isn’t much of a tour — only glass windows to peer into the operations from the gift shop. But, the real attraction here is the fresh fruit, jams, and citrus candy. As you can see from the photo above, the Florida citrus candies are made by hand, one small batch at a time. And, (very important to me), I’m always impressed with the cleanliness of this facility. I guarantee once you try Davidson’s citrus candies, you will never go back to buying those mass-produced artificially flavored cheap imitations sold in drugstores around the country. (Prior to discovering Davidson’s that’s where hubby used to get his!) There’s no comparison… plus, you’re getting a healthy dose of vitamin C in every bite!
Davidson’s Creamy Coconut Spread — It’s Not Just For Toast!
Davidson of Dundee also has a wide variety of homemade jams, jellies, marmalades, and spreads. Hubby loves anything coconut, so the Creamy Coconut Spread certainly caught his eye. Not only is it great on toast but you can get a little creative with this product. For example, it makes a delicious and super easy icing on chocolate cupcakes, or use it to fill the hollow center of chocolate thumbprint cookies! Think outside the box… spread a bit of this coconuty-goodness on some good quality dark chocolate and be prepared for it to melt in your mouth. Or, try stuffing a fresh date with Creamy Coconut Spread. Simply yummy. I bet you’ve come up with a few suggestions of your own just now…
Davidson’s Choc-o-gator — The Perfect Florida Souvenir
One of the most popular gift items and souvenirs is Davidson’s chocolate candy in the shape of an alligator. After all, alligators are synonymous with the Sunshine State. Take a few of these back home for your jealous friends that couldn’t come to Florida with you. But be warned… chocolate melts very quickly in the Florida heat, especially when kept in a hot vehicle. While the chocolate gator will not spoil in hot weather, it will become a discolored and unrecognizable thingamabob! If you’re driving, I’d suggest keeping the chocolate alligators in a small cooler or some sort of reusable cold pack.
A Sweet Treat From Florida
Eat your way through Florida — literally! Another one of Davidson’s best-selling candy items is this assortment of citrus delicacies in a basket shaped like a Florida map. It includes pecan log slices (another of hubby’s favorites!), pecan orangettes, and your choice of a solid chocolate (or white chocolate) alligator. Florida souvenirs don’t have to be boring or typical anymore!
Bag Your Own Citrus Fruit at Davidson of Dundee
Another popular draw to Davidson’s is the ability to bag your own fruit. They are flat out fresh from the citrus groves and put in large bins like the one in my photo above. Sometimes they’re not the prettiest looking — there’s no waxing or shining of the citrus peels like in the traditional grocery stores — but the sweet just-picked taste more than makes up for their blemishes and outward appearance. The bags are sold in various sizes, and once you make your selections, you can choose to take them with you or have them shipped (additional fees apply) to addresses within the United States and Canada. The latter is extremely popular during the holidays.
I can remember living up north and receiving shipments of Indian River citrus in the middle of winter. There was no better antidote for the wintertime blues than some fresh Florida citrus showing up at my front door! We would always order a mixture of the “fab 4” — Tangelos, Navel Oranges, Ruby Red Grapefruit, and White Grapefruit, all of which are available (seasonally) at Davidson of Dundee.
Pick Up Some Florida-themed Gifts At Davidson’s
Although the main attraction at Davidson of Dundee is the fresh fruit, citrus candies, jams and jellies, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the assortment of Florida-themed gifts available in the retail store. In the photo above, my best friend from Pennsylvania is agonizing over which floppy hat to buy. She also purchased a tiny little bottle of Orange Blossom Perfume which made a great long-lasting Florida souvenir for her. Most of the gift products are not actually made in Davidson’s, but many are manufactured right here in Florida, like the Orange Blossom Perfume.
I was also introduced to Citrus Magic at Davidson of Dundee. This amazing product is not simply an air freshener but the best all-natural odor eliminating product I have found. In other words, it doesn’t simply cover up that “fishy” smell in your kitchen, it eliminates it. It works so well because it’s made with organic citrus oil, specifically oils from citrus peels.
***TIP: If you’re interested in trying Citrus Magic I highly recommend purchasing it through an online outlet like Amazon. After my first purchase at Davidson’s I found it much cheaper online.
Davidson of Dundee — An Old-Florida Landmark!
In all honesty, Davidson’s is not the type of Florida Attraction I would go too far out of my way to visit. However, don’t pass this place up if you’re on your way to popular destinations like Legoland, Bok Tower and Gardens, antique shopping at The Barn in Lake Alfred, and points south of Orlando. It’s a great piece of Old Florida history if you happen to be “passing through!” (Note: The parking lot is large enough to accommodate buses and RV’s.) And… even if you’re a million miles away from this little Central Florida town called Dundee, many of the goodies I mentioned in this article are available through the Davidson of Dundee website!
Here’s A Great COUPON for Davidson of Dundee!
$5.00 OFF EVERY ORDER! (excluding fruit) USE CODE: sunshine5
Have you been to Davidson of Dundee? Or perhaps you have a favorite old-Florida landmark you’d like to share with our readers. Please reply in the “comment” box below!