Wekiva Springs State Park Great place to take a picnic lunch and snorkel in the cool spring that wells up from the Florida aquifer. Did you know Florida spring water stays at a constant 72 degrees year ‘round? That cool water is what keeps alligators far away from these perfect swimming areas. It's the perfect antidote to our warm summer days. The kids love it and considering you can sit on the sloping lawn that looks down over the swimming area, you'll love it too.
Seminole County Trails: Riding, Biking, Hiking: These are great. I jog and ride my bike on one near my home. They are well maintained, clean and you'll see little bits of Florida wildlife along the way like gofer turtles perched above their sandy dens.
Seminole County Parks: You'll find, here, great places to sit on a bench, let the kids play on the playground, watch a baseball game, or just go fishing. My son, Chase, (see pic below) caught his first fish at the age of two at one of these parks in Seminole county. The great thing about the parks in Seminole county is that some you just let the kids play and others you can walk down natural board walks as you glimpse egrets and alligators.
Fishing Licenses: There are some instances where you don't need a fishing license, but why take the risk. Fishing is one of Florida's greatest, natural, renewable resources. Both freshwater and salt, the opportunities to spend some quality time in the beautiful outdoors, is endless. Plus, there is no surer way to bring fresh seafood home to the family. My 6 year old son still prefers my homemade grouper fishsticks to anything bought in the store. A feat indeed.
Seminole County's closest beach (and best kept secret): New Smyrna Beach This place is night and day different from the hectic 20 something crowd at Daytona. No beer bottles flying over your head as you watch your children play in the sand. No wet t-shirt contests either. And if you want loud booming cars with speakers that make your teeth rattle out of your mouth, this isn't for you.
Instead it's a laid back, quiet place to bring the family. Great food, and a relaxed atmosphere that will make you feel like your in another time zone - but it only takes 45 minutes from Seminole county to have your toes in the sand! The minute you drive over the elevated inter coastal bridge you see the palm trees blowing from an easy ocean breeze with the surf just beyond. You're instantly transformed. One day at New Smyrna will do more for your state of mind than the highest paid therapist.
You'll find bed and breakfast accommodations, as well as ocean front condo style hotels. I promise, these little trips will be more cherished by you and your family than almost anything else you could imagine. And none closer to Seminole County.
In the summer we're over there every other weekend. My in laws have a place one block off the beach and my wife, kids, and I absolutely love it.
Cranes Roost Park: a one mile walking trail surrounds this 37 acre lake in the heart of Altamonte Springs, just behind the mall. There's an amphitheatre with several shows throughout the year as well as the famous 4th of July fireworks display: Red, Hot, and Boom! This also the best place to take kids with some stale bread to feed the ducks and fish. I've taken my son and daughter here for just this reason, from the time they could walk.
As a self-confessed "foodie", I'm constantly on the prowl for good eats. I'm also an amateur gourmet cook with a serious passion about finding the most mouth watering food around - both in fancy digs, and the highly coveted "hole in the wall". Sadly, good food is hard to find. Luckily, I'll turn you on to the results of my 17 year quest for the best "grub" in and around Seminole county. Here we go.
Thai Delight Restaurant - Longwood, FL My all time favorite restaurant for food. (and I've eaten in the best restaurants in 9 countries) I have been eating here about 3 times a week for 11 years! I've never had better food anywhere.
The atmosphere is not something to impress, but the long standing loyalty of many locals makes this its own unique experience. Every meal is prepared by hand by the owners: Vic and Chitlada Apisukh. She has "Talent on loan from Buddha" as I affectionately remind her each time I eat here.
They grow many of their own ingredients and each meal is prepared to order. No heat lamps or buffets here. There is no better Thai food on the planet, and in my mind it's the best food I've ever eaten. Fresh, succulent and mouth watering every time.
Personal favorites include the beef basil with a fried egg on top, crispy fish, shrimp and pumpkin, and the green curry mussels. Try the green papaya salad as an appetizer or the collard greens. Both absolutely outstanding. There are only two things I don't care for on the entire menu (which is over 28 items deep by the way) and those are the ginger chicken dish and the soup with the meatballs. (But other patrons disagree) Other than that, you'll be blown away. Note: they only take cash. No credit cards. And don't go if you're in a hurry. As Chitlada says "This not McDonalds!"
Del Frisco's Steak House - Winter Park, FL This is just a classic American steak house. The food has always been superb, and what I love about the place is that you don't have to wear a three piece suit to feel comfortable. You can dress up or down and feel at home in this dark intimate setting that just oozes business deals and great food at the same time. Careful when you buy the lobster here, they sell it by the ounce and those little ounces add up quickly.
TooJays - Great Jewish food. Two locations. Palm Springs Shopping Center 515 East Altamonte Drive , Altamonte Springs, FL(407) 830-1770 OR Lake Mary Centre 3577 Lake Emma RoadLake Mary, FL (407) 833-0848 The matza ball soup with moist shredded chicken is a must. Order a sandwich here and you'll find the best quality meats stacked high on fresh bread. The place is consistently good. I've tried them all and there isn't a Jewish restaurant around that produces anywhere near the quality of food, consistently, that this place does. It's a chain, but they have their stuff "dialed in".
Golden Thai - Thai. 977 W State Road 434 Longwood, FL 32750 (407) 875-8200 - This is right in the Winn Dixie plaza on the corner of 434 and Rangeline Road. Get the chicken dumpling appetizer. For dinner get "Dan's Duck" its not on the menu the way I get it, but everyone I've ever turned on to it has loved it. It's deep fried duck (no batter) and a sweet soy dipping sauce. My version is served with the regular sauce on the side (The Chef's Special Sauce). Anyway, hope you enjoy it. Say hello to the owner "Pat".
Williams and Sonoma - Winter Park, FL gourmet cooking utensils, cookbooks, stemware, stocks, cookware, knives, etc.
Journey's Restaurant -World Fusion Cuisinge - Longwood, FL - This is a rare little gem. It's nestled in what looks like an old world alley in Longwood. The owners are from South Africa and a small French island whose name escapes me. Anyway the food is delightful the atmosphere cozy and romantic and the wine list is incredibly well selected.
Fish Bones - Lake Mary, FL Seafood and Steaks. This place is incredible. You can get any kind of seafood - cooked or raw as well as steaks, duck and a dozen other dishes. Food is A+. Order the bone in rib eye and not only will it be seared to a perfect sweet crust on the outside, but the inside will be juicy and tender. The presentation is dramatic as the bone extends beyond the edge of the plate like something out of the Flintstones. Equally dramatic and delicious is the chilled shellfish appetizer platter. It's chocked full of some of the freshest, sweetest seafood anywhere. Outside tables all have there own mini fire pit in the center. Perfect during the winter or any summer evening. You have to try this place.
Kohinoor - 249 W State Road 436 Altamonte Springs, FL 32714 Phone: (407) 788-6004 Indian Food. Try the Chicken Tikka Masala and drizzle the tamarind condiment on top. I've been addicted to it for years. Great consistent and above average Indian cuisine.
Bahama Breeze - Altamonte Springs, FL - You just can't replace the atmosphere of this local Caribbean themed bistro. It's a chain, but nothing beats sitting outside listening to the live steel drummed band on the deck that is surrounded with tropical plants. The food is interesting. Nothing sensational. But as a place to meet friends, nibble on a tasty dish, sip on a cool drink, and just "chill" it's hard to match without driving to the beach.
Fresh Market - Altamonte Springs, FL - it's a franchise gourmet grocery store, but the place is always impeccably clean and you'll find things here you just can't get everywhere. Great cheese section, bakery, perfect produce, and "wild caught" salmon - an increasing rarity anymore.
Petty's Meats - Longwood, FL Gourmet food and wine shop. You'll find duck, rabbit, venison, prime rib, buffalo, seafood, andouille sausage, smoked sausages, cajun tasso ham, Boar's Head Meats, pheasant, gator, world cheeses, imported beers, and so much more. When you go in, grab a free draft beer from the complimentary tap as you shop at this incredible shop. Privately owned, it's a real find.
Lighthouse Seafood Market 101 North Country Club Road, Suite 127
Lake Mary, FL 32746 Telephone: (407) 330-2425- The best, the freshest, the cleanest, Period. Any questions?
Straub's Seafood 512 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs, FL Tel: (407) 831-2250 The atmosphere reminds of a 1970s Marriot, but the food is always super fresh and adequately prepared.
Little Saigon - Vietnamese Cuisine. Orlando, FL - Just 15 minutes from Seminole county on Colonia Drive in downtown Orlando, but the best place for Vietnamese food I've found among the dozen or so choices in Orlando's little "Asian district" . You have to get the summer rolls with peanut dipping sauce. The soups and rice vermicelli dishes are a constant favorite. I remember when this was just a small one corridor "hole in the wall" now they've expanded twice thanks to the quality of their awesome food and a loyal clientele.
Tasty Wok - Chinese. 1246 E Colonial Dr Orlando, FL 32803 (407) 896-8988 Just 15 minutes from Seminole county - This is "off the boat" Chinese. As authentic as it comes. I'll usually pick up some roast pork and roast duck to go. They give you great little dipping sauces to go with. Not a place for dining in atmosphere. But the food is incredible and you'll see the placed packed with Chinese nationals speaking their native dialects. This was a real find.
Olive This and Relish That - Gourmet and Gift shop. 102 N Park Ave Winter Park, FL 32789 (407) 644-1966 - This is where I buy the best olive oils from Spain and balsamic vinegars from Modena Italy. It's about all I get from there. Except for the occasional bar of olive oil soap. It's great stuff, imported from the south of France. It's a neat little shop and they encourage tasting. One of my favorite dishes is a salad of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil - drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. This is the place to get "off the charts" quality you can't find anywhere else.
Be sure to check back and leave your comments. If you feel there is a style of food that deserves coverage here, let me know. Chances are I've eaten there several times. All the best.
"Life is too short not to eat good food".
Dan Dowling - President
United Mortgage Capital Corp.
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