Archive For The “Florida Gifts” Category
8 Unique Gifts for Florida Residents
Hate boring gifts? Me too! But if your gift recipient is a Florida resident, your present doesn’t have to be dull and uneventful. As a Florida resident for the past 17 years, I’ve discovered some really exciting gifts that are far more memorable than the repetitive dinner and flowers. Not that Ruth Chris and roses are bad, they can just be, well… monotonous!
I’m pleased to share my go-to list that I use when I’m in need of a more unique or unusual gift, something unexpected that I promise will never be shoved to the back of the closet or re-gifted.
Several of the gift ideas work well for anyone living in Florida, regardless of age. A few are perfect for the adventure seeker, and we’ve got the proverbial foodie covered as well. And, no gift list would be complete without at least one option for that hard-to-buy-for hopeless romantic. Most of them are all-occasion, so whether you’re searching for a birthday, anniversary, retirement, newlywed, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or graduation gift, we’ve got you covered. Take a BIG sigh of relief, and let me know in the “comment box” below which one you chose. (The gifts are not listed in any particular order.)
I came across this unusual gift while searching for a milestone birthday gift for my hubby. I wanted something memorable and out-of-the-ordinary. After searching online for countless hours, I was growing increasingly frustrated and nearly settled for that unremarkable steak dinner. I’m so glad I didn’t give up, because hubby still talks about his sailing lessons gift, even though it was three years ago. He says it was the best birthday gift he ever received. Perhaps it was the element of surprise, I don’t know. Some men are not easily impressed and can be hard to please, so I was elated to see he sincerely loved the sailing lessons.
You can read my full review of the sailing lessons here. Even though this was a birthday gift for an older man, I quickly realized that sailing lessons would be perfect for [almost] any age and any special occasion gift. Sailing lessons are also gender-neutral; an all-around spectacular gift for anyone living in or visiting the Sunshine State. Realize, though, this is not your typical sit-back-and-sip-champagne kind of sail boat ride. This is a participatory sailing, perfect for that adventurous-spirit on your gift list! If you’re looking for an action-packed, exhilarating, unusual gift… this is it!
Since I live in Central Florida, I booked the sailing lessons with Captain Eric West at Adventure Yacht Harbor, located just south of Daytona Beach and near Ponce Inlet, Florida. However, there are other locations throughout Florida that offer private beginner sailing instruction. In fact, Florida has some of America’s premier sailing schools.
Disney Annual Pass
What could be better than a trip to Disney? Unlimited visits, of course! And what kid (and adult kids at heart) wouldn’t want limitless visits to The Happiest Place On Earth? A Disney Annual Pass is truly the perfect gift that keeps on giving. One of the perks of being a Florida resident is the close proximity to the world famous Disney theme parks, and the ability to purchase discounted admission of multi-day tickets and annual passes.
Disney offers a variety of ticket options for Florida residents, one for every budget. Whether you choose to give a Disney Gift Card that will partially pay for your recipient’s admission, or go all out and splurge on the full price of a Disney Annual Pass, it’s a gift that will not soon be forgotten. How happy that special person will be to receive endless adventures in the Disney parks!
Here’s a link to the official Disney website that will further explain how to gift Disney theme park tickets. Additionally, check out the article on FloridaFunAndFork that reviews a special type of Disney Annual Pass for Florida residents called Weekday Select Pass. Disney rarely advertises this inexpensive option, and most Florida residents do not even know it exists. The price will surprise you!
Historic Gardens and Museums Membership
Florida is home to some of the most beautiful botanical gardens I have seen. Because of our semi-tropical climate, there’s always something in bloom. Freezes are infrequent, so there is color year round. I love visiting the gardens in Florida in the winter months. The temperatures are cooler, there’s little or no humidity, and to me it’s the best time of the year to be outdoors.
A Botanical Garden Membership for Florida residents is another one of those unique gifts that can be appreciated all year long. And, here’s something you may not realize — most of them include reciprocal benefits. For example… I have a yearly membership to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. Not only am I entitled to unlimited admissions to the gorgeous Bok Tower Botanical Gardens, I also receive free or greatly discounted admission to many other Florida museums, gardens, and cultural institutions. Additionally, I receive free admission to more than 300 participating public gardens throughout the United States (through the American Horticultural Society). You can check out the reciprocal national list here.
So here’s the math: I purchased a $70 Duo Membership (for hubby and me) to Bok Tower Gardens that includes unlimited visits to the botanical gardens, including the brand new 3+ acre Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, and we automatically get reciprocal admission to hundreds of gardens and museums nationwide! Shopping for a unique gift doesn’t have to be a stressful experience when you have an option as awesome as this.
Food Tour Gift Certificate
Whether you’re shopping for a bonafide foodie or someone who simply appreciates good food and drink, here’s a gift option that’s oftentimes overlooked. A Florida Food Tour is a unique gift choice, and a great alternative to restaurant gift cards. Not that restaurant gift cards are bad, they’re just unoriginal and sometimes used as a last resort type of gift when we can’t seem to come up with anything else. Sure, we can think of creative ways to wrap and disguise a restaurant gift card, but when it’s opened, it’s still a common, ordinary gift card to a restaurant they’ve been to a thousand times. It’s a great gift, but there’s no “wow” factor.
My favorite Food Tour in Florida is in one of my favorite cities in Florida — Saint Augustine. While in St. Augustine during our 25th wedding anniversary trip we took the Vittles and Vino VIP Carriage Tour. The food and wine tour (that included six different food outlets) was definitely a highlight of our weekend. Years later, we still recall the fantastic food, unexpected fun, and newly formed friendships we made. Historic St. Augustine is only a couple hours drive from most locations within Central Florida. You can check out the various Food Tours and pricing here. Another Food Tour we enjoyed was in Winter Park, Florida. FloridaFunAndFork has the full review along with photos here.
Murder Mystery Dinner Train
I love the dinner and a show concept. Whether you’re looking for a great evening of family entertainment or a unique first-date experience, dinner shows are a fantastic choice. Most Florida residents and visitors to Central Florida are aware of the most popular ones like Medieval Times, Disney’s Hoop Dee Doo Revue, Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show, Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show, Capone’s Dinner & Show, or Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. But, there’s a unique dinner show I love that’s not as highly publicized but just as awesome as those previously mentioned. It’s the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Ft. Myers, Florida.
My best friend gave me this unique dinner show experience for my birthday a few years ago. It was a super-fantastic gift! The show was shrouded in mystery, with a conundrum of twists and turns in the plot. And, my friend was the only person to correctly solve the mystery, and received a prize! That made the special occasion even more memorable. Here’s my full review of the Murder Mystery Dinner Train, along with photos of the meal and cast members. I haven’t found a better gift for those who love a challenging murder mystery. It’s the ultimate “whodunnit” gift that will not soon be forgotten!
Florida Citrus Candy from Davidson of Dundee
It’s no secret the Sunshine State is synonymous with citrus. A short drive anywhere within Florida will have you stopping at one of those infamous orange-colored domes that look like a real orange. It’s the destination of choice for tourists to pick up a bag of fresh Florida-grown citrus as a tasty souvenir, or perhaps ship a case back home to family or friends. A bag of vitamin-C-packed oranges or grapefruit makes a great gift. But there’s nothing highly unusual about receiving healthy citrus fruit from Florida — actually, it’s one of those things we are known for! It’s like people expect it from us. What they don’t expect is Florida citrus candy, with its unique flavor and texture.
The best I have ever tasted is from Davidson’s of Dundee. (You can see photos and read my review here.) They are a real, old-fashioned candy and jelly factory that has been featured on the Food Network, Fox News, Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, NBC and ABC affiliates, and the Washington Post. They provide free samples, so you can try before you buy. Guests can also watch the candies being made during a fun and informative factory tour. And when you’ve finally made your selections, Davidson of Dundee can ship it practically anywhere.
Here’s what makes citrus candy from Davidson of Dundee so special: They cook every small batch in copper kettles, hand-stirred with wooden paddles, the recipes are from the early 1900s, they do not use high fructose corn syrup, and they use only the finest sun-ripened fruit from their own Florida groves and Everglades sugar. Oh, and did I mention Davidson of Dundee has been in business [at the same location] for almost a half century? Pretty impressive, don’t you think? Trust me on this one… citrus candy from Davidson’s will be a yummy, appreciative gift.
Stop by Davidson of Dundee located at 28421 US Hwy. 27 in Dundee, Florida. Or visit the website of this family owned Florida landmark here.
Gift Certificate to a Florida Bed & Breakfast Inn
This is one of my favorite gifts to give… and receive. Who doesn’t like the gift of travel? And, let’s face it, we all need a little R&R at some point throughout the year. Big hotel chains with a ton of amenities (and hoards of people) are nice, sometimes. But for me and my hubby, nothing compares to the rest and relaxation we get while staying at a bed and breakfast inn. We find them to be quaint, quiet, and romantic. We always come away refreshed in spirit and revived in body.
I didn’t realize Florida had so many quality and historical B&B’s until I started searching for a special occasion gift some years ago. For example: We stayed at the River Lily Inn, a historic 1895 estate overlooking the intracoastal Halifax River in Daytona Beach. In my full-length review of River Lily Inn, I affectionately call it “the Ritz Carlton of B & B’s!” Everything about the stay was perfect. And we recently returned from a 4-night stay at Casa de Suenos, an intimate bed and breakfast inn, located in the historic district of St. Augustine. With a flair and grace reflecting its Spanish design and heritage, the elegant atmosphere was ideal for our 30th wedding anniversary getaway.
There are several ways to give the gift of B&B travel. Most individual bed and breakfast inns offer their own in-house gift certificates, which obviously can only be redeemed at that specific property. A better option, I believe, is to purchase a generic B&B gift certificate through a top-rated company like BnB Finder, by which you can select a dollar amount of your choosing that the gift recipient can apply towards the bed and breakfast inn of their choice. There are no blackout dates, no expiration dates, and the B&B travel gift certificate can even be emailed to your recipient. Another great gift option is to purchase a Buy-One-Night-Get-One-FREE certificate through iLoveInns. For as little as $20 you can purchase a gift voucher that allows the recipient to get a free night stay when they purchase a night. For example: If the first night cost $159, the second night would be free; thus making the voucher worth $159. Hubby and I have saved thousands of dollars on B&B lodging with these incredible vouchers. Travel — most certainly a gift that never goes out of style!
A Gift from The Barn Antiques & Shopping Complex
I like receiving gift certificates from retail stores as much as you do. But sometimes I don’t enjoy giving them. I feel as if it can convey the wrong impression — that I didn’t spend enough time and consideration on the gift. It’s nice to know there are still a handful of places in Florida where you can shop for that special one-of-a-kind unique gift. The Barn Antiques and Shopping Complex in Lake Alfred, Florida is one of those rare places. I’m quite sure whatever you choose here will not be returned. Or better yet, take your special person along and plan to spend a few hours here.
The complex consists of four specialty retail shops and The Back Porch restaurant. Treat your special someone to a picnic-style lunch at The Back Porch then allow them to choose their own gift from one of the shops. There are so many unusual items here, everything from home decor to clothing and jewelry, antiques from England, and even a garden shop. Trust me, it’s not the type of merchandise you’ll find at those big-box stores or the mall. I have never left here empty-handed, and I don’t believe you will either! The Barn Antiques Complex is another one of those family owned old-Florida landmarks that have survived almost 50 years… and with good reason!
Can you add to our list of unique gift items for Florida residents? Remember… nothing boring! Please reply in the comment box below.
Central Florida — So Much More than Theme Parks
Typically, when One thinks of Central Florida, antiquing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind… or the second or third, for that matter. But among the many reasons to take a theme park break is the plethora of fine antique shops throughout the Sunshine State. Florida’s Antiques Loop (as we Floridians affectionately call it) includes Lakeland, Winter Haven, Lake Alfred, Plant City, and Lake Wales. But even if you’re not an antique freak, it’s worth a visit to The Barn Antiques in Lake Alfred. As you’ll soon see, this little gem located just 5 minutes from Interstate 4 (exit 48 in Lake Alfred) is a quaint little complex consisting of multiple shops and even a restaurant for hungry shoppers to take a delicious reprieve.
The Barn Antiques — A Family Affair
Ednamay Wales dreamt of opening an antique shop, and in 1969 her dream became a reality. It was located on the family ranch in rural Polk County, in a small, tin-roofed building. She called it The Barn Antiques. But Ednamay wasn’t the only visionary in the family. Today, in its 6th decade, The Barn Antiques has expanded into much larger quarters and involves all of the Wales family. In fact, it’s one of Florida’s most popular destinations for quality antiques. Some of the collector’s items come from extensive local buying, but many of the hand-picked treasures come from their frequent trips abroad.
The collectible heirlooms include dining room and bedroom pieces, armoires, sideboards, chairs, bookcases, desks, stained glass windows, and so much more. You don’t have to be particularly fond of period pieces to enjoy browsing this shop. I’m not an antiques aficionado, and yet, it’s fun just looking at all the classics. As the owners like to say, “Heaven’s a little closer at The Barn!”
The Stable Home Decor
Ten years (or so) after successfully launching The Barn Antiques another expansion project took form. Right alongside the antique shop the Wales Family opened a home decor and gift shop called The Stable Home Decor. Oh my gosh… this place is packed with goodies! From floor to ceiling, I don’t think there’s a foot of spare space. The Wales Family certainly are gifted designers. I have purchased a few of their floral arrangements and wreaths, but they also have framed prints, candles, bath and body items, very unique women’s fashion accessories, and so much more. I like the way everything is displayed in vignettes, so it looks more like a designer home than a retail shop. They also do a great job of balancing traditional home decor with the latest trends. So pretty much whatever your taste, you’ll likely find something you just can’t resist at The Stable!
The Seasons Gift Shop
A short stroll down the sidewalk from The Stable is The Seasons. Another gift shop, but this one features holiday and seasonal (hence the name) decorations for the home. Another jammed-packed shop that requires a few trips around the store in order to see everything. The displays at The Seasons are ever-changing. Depending on the calendar month in which you attend, you may see Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s, Spring, Easter, Summer, 4th of July, Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas decorations and home accents. It’s fun here, because I never see the same things twice. Even when I don’t purchase anything (a rare occasion) at The Seasons, I leave with tons of decorating ideas! On my last visit they were all decked out for Christmas. The entire shop transforms into a winter wonderland filled with holiday decorations in a variety of styles and themes — traditional, trendy, whimsical, and everything in between. I absolutely love this place at Christmastime! Who says you can’t get into the Christmas spirit in Florida?
The Back Yard Garden Shop
Of course no well-dressed home is complete without taking care of the front porch and back yard… kinda like getting all decked out in your fanciest 5th Avenue attire and forgetting your shoes or jewelry. But alas, the Wales Family has you covered with that too. Adjacent to The Seasons Gift Shop is The Back Yard Garden Shop. It’s a really cool outdoor shopping area underneath a canopy of shade trees. In keeping with “the barn” theme, it has rustic wooden rafters for the ceiling, a straw floor, and bales of hay that double as display cases.
Just like the other shops in this complex, every nook and cranny is crammed with merchandise. Here, you’ll find decorative garden accessories including fountains, arbors, birdhouses, flags, colorful pots, garden statuary, wind chimes, outdoor pillows, plaques, and many more unique items. And, if you’re in the market for some Florida-friendly native plants, you’ll find a wide variety that changes often. There are seasonally appropriate selections as well.
Make sure you walk through The Back Yard Garden Shop at least once. Because, well, how many gift shops have a live tree growing right through the center of it?
The Back Porch Restaurant
It’s quite easy spending several hours browsing through all the antiques and home decor awesomeness this complex has to offer. Hubby and I usually allow 2-3 hours every time we visit. I’ve noticed that even men that don’t like to shop do not have a problem coming here. Perhaps it’s because of the strategically placed benches along the walkway where the men seem to gather. Perhaps. But I’m more inclined to believe it’s the promise of a relaxing lunch at The Back Porch Restaurant. Nestled nicely between The Seasons and The Stable, this cozy little luncheon spot has a unique twist compared to most restaurants. It’s actually a picnic lunch. Everything is served in individual wooden picnic baskets and eaten from disposable plates, just as if you were on a picnic.
The Back Porch serves casual American eats in a very comfortable atmosphere. You get to choose between indoor or patio dining. And, did I mention how inexpensive it is? It’s a wonderful change of pace from the typical stereotype restaurant concept. After reading my Back Porch Restaurant Review here, I think you’ll agree!
The Barn Antiques & Shops — Directions and Store Hours
Whether you’re a local who was born and raised in Florida or a visiting tourist, The Barn Antiques and shopping complex is worth a few hours of your time. The inventory is constantly changing; and, quite honestly, you never know what you’ll find! It’s an off-the-beaten-path kind of place which can be difficult to find unless someone tells you about it. It’s a short 25 minute drive from Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park, 50 minutes from Tampa’s Riverwalk (longer if you take the back roads, which I recommend). If you’re using GPS, simply input The Barn Antiques, Lake Alfred as your destination. Here are the directions and store hours…
From Interstate 4
Take Exit 48, Hwy. 557, 3 miles South
From Hwy. 17/92 in Lake Alfred
At the intersection of Hwy. 17/92 and E. Pomelo follow signs to Interstate 4, on Hwy. 557 – 4 miles
- The Stable, The Seasons, The Back Porch, and The Back Yard are open all year. The Barn Antiques is open seasonally, from the first Saturday in October through the last Saturday in May
- Store Hours — 10 to 4, Tuesday through Saturday (the shops are closed on Sundays and Mondays)
- The Back Porch serves lunch from 11 to 3
Have you been to The Barn Antiques and shopping complex? Or maybe you’ve stumbled across a unique and quaint shopping/dining experience of your own. Please share with our readers in the comment box below!