After our trip to Key West in June, it seemed like the entire summer was stretched out in front of us, blissfully unencumbered by a lot of plans. For the first time in ages, we had no weddings, no extended family trips and no major events planned for the summer.
But then August snuck up on us and we realized that our family has spent the past six weeks or so running around like crazy. Birthday parties, book clubs, blogging events and more just seemed to eat up more time than we anticipated. And I missed our family!
So when I got an email from Dena, the general manager of the Holiday Inn Express in Orange City, offering us a staycation, we jumped at the chance (full disclosure details below).
Orange City is located about 30 miles northeast of Orlando.
Perfect distance. We decided to head up there on Friday evening after work so that we’d have Friday night and all day Saturday. On yet another hot and humid summer afternoon, we had one thing on our mind — the pool!
The rooms were nice and had a surprise that I still don’t know why every hotel doesn’t carry — toothpaste! Dear every other hotel — see how simple it is to carry toothpaste samples? I’ve never understood how hotels can carry soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion but no toothpaste. Bravo Holiday Inn Express!
Our room also had a nice view of the wetlands behind the hotel and — brace yourselves — I even got some use out of the gym! I would totally work out a lot more if I just had to head downstairs. I hit 30 minutes on the elliptical and did 3 sets of reps on the weights. This is how long it’s been — my arms were so sore for three days!
After relaxing for awhile, we made the short drive to the Swamp House Grill in nearby DeBary, where Dena had reservations waiting for us.
It was, in a word, fabulous. I can’t believe we’ve never heard of this place. It sits right on the St. Johns River, and we were there as the summer sun was setting on the water.
We had a table with a view of the water, and as I sat there with a nice chilled glass of wine, something caught my eye in the water.
See that head popping up? Gator! It was actually one of four that we saw in the water. Yikes! Note to self: never go swimming in the St. Johns River, particularly at sunset. But they sure were cool to watch … from a distance. As we waited for dinner, DadJovi and E. even headed down to the boat docks to see a smaller one up close.
The restaurant was a lot of fun! There was live music, fresh fish on the menu and a really friendly staff. Our great server Kat even brought E. a present — “gator blood!”
The food was great too. DadJovi had a dish with steak tips over mashed potatoes and I had the grapefruit grouper. Why have I never thought to pair grapefruit with fish before? Delicious.
It was great. We had the phones tucked away, E. happily drew (and impressed us with her new skill — drawing smiley faces!) and we just sat back and enjoyed the view. I think we’ve found our new spot for bringing out-of-town guests!
The next morning may have been the biggest highlight for some members of our party. You want to know how Dena found me to offer me this amazing opportunity? From this post right here, in which I explained our family’s
obsession love for the automatic pancake maker at the Holiday Inn Express in Key Largo.
Bright and early the next morning, we were ready for some pancakes. Seriously, you press a button and it’s like magic!
You have no idea how happy this invention made two members of the Jovi family.
That, my friends, is how memories are made.
The rest of the breakfast was really nice too. I resisted the urge for the pancakes (you know, after my big workout) and was happy to find oatmeal, fresh fruit, a fridge full of milk and lowfat yogurt and cereal. DadJovi also tucked away some eggs, bacon and biscuits. And let us not forget the cinnamon rolls. Yum. The breakfast is included with all stays, so this visit just confirmed what we learned in the Keys — when traveling, we’ll always keep our eyes open for Holiday Inn Expresses.
Are you ready to make some memories of your own? Then get ready for my very first giveaway!
The Holiday Inn Express in Orange City, Florida, is giving you the opportunity to experience your own staycation, too! Here’s what you’ll get:
— A 2-night stay in a Standard Room with either one King Size bed or Two Queen Beds (or you can upgrade to a Whirlpool Suite, at no extra charge!)
— A voucher for 50 percent off your meal at Swamp House Grill
— A $20.00 Gift Certificate to Bob Evans (which is right across the street from the hotel)
— A coupon for Free Bowling (which we did and loved!)
The room certificate expires on 12/31/12 and there are blackout dates during Race Week, Bike Week, and Coke Zero 400 Week. Reservations are based on availability, so if the hotel is sold out for some reason, you’d have to pick another weekend.
How rad is that? You know when the perfect time to use this would be? When the manatees return for the winter to the nearby Blue Spring State Park! It’s one of my favorite things to do in Central Florida!
Here’s how to enter:
1. Leave me a comment and tell me your favorite Florida getaway!
2. Want a second entry? Tweet a link to the contest (including my Twitter handle @momjoviblog) and leave a comment here telling me you’ve done it! Here’s suggested copy: “I want to win a Florida staycation from @momjoviblog. http://bit.ly/natsYp” Or, get creative and write your own!
That’s it! One winner will be randomly selected on Monday, August 15, 2011. Good luck!
Editor’s Note: This contest is now closed! On Aug. 15, 2011, I selected a random winner using Random.org, and the big winner is commenter #12 — Carrie with Children! Thanks for all your comments! There are some great ideas for Florida getaways here thanks to all of you!
Disclosure time: The Holiday Inn Express provided me with one night’s lodging, dinner at the Swamp House Grill, gift cards to Bob Evans, and a voucher for free bowling. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are mine (well except for the Gator Blood — E was the only one who liked that!). For more, please see my full disclosure policy.
Brittany @ Itty Bits of Balance says
This would be so perfect for Will & I! He’s moving up to Orlando with me in the fall 🙂
My favorite Florida getaway would have to be West Palm Beach, Florida. I’d consider it a “cleaner Miami”– haha 😉
Oh, my goodness! How awesome is that pancake maker. The best FL vaca we ever had was to Port St. Joe. No agenda, just hanging with the family and relaxing!
Brittany @ Itty Bits of Balance says
I tweeted it here 🙂 http://twitter.com/#!/IttyBitsBalance
Kiran @ KiranTarun.com says
What an awesome giveaway Jackie! My all time favorite getaway was also Key West. There’s no where else in comparison 🙂
Kiran @ KiranTarun.com says
And I tweeted about it as well 🙂
I think my favorite new FL getaway is the Fairmont Turnberry Isle in Miami. We met my cousins there last month who were staying a night there after getting back into port from a cruise. The rooms are really nice and big. The pool area is really nice too with a big waterfall, lazy river, shallow section for kids and a slide. You also close to Miami with lots of things to do. We missed it but Groupon had a deal a couple of months ago for a $99 a night deal which is great because the resort is a little pricey. If it’s available again, I highly recommend jumping on it. 🙂
Carolina @ Peas in a Blog says
What a great giveaway, love it! My fave Florida vacation spot is Clearwater, they have such a great beach/pier area with tons of restaurants & shops. It’s perfect.
And I’ve never seen the manatees in the winter, I’m adding that to my to do list!
Courtney W says
My favorite Florida getaway is Clearwater Beach. Brings back so many memories of my grandparents. Love that I live 30 minutes away now. I have been meaning to book a hotel on the beach for a fun night though. Maybe when I graduate school and have a job 🙂
Kristen @SEO Runner says
I love this idea! (And the pancake maker 🙂
I have a few fun favorites. My latest is Capt Memo’s Cruise in Clearwater with a stop over at Frenchy’s for lumch. – pics here http://talesofanseorunner.com/music-monday-pirates-of-the-caribbean/
I also love going down to Sarasota for a weekend trip to Mote Marine – in fact, we had so much fun a few weeks ago we’re heading back this weekend! http://talesofanseorunner.com/five-for-friday-weekend-getawa/
Sounds like a great time! My favorite Florida getaway was to Cape San Blas near Port St. Joe. Husby and I went camping in the Florida State Park there. The beaches are pristine and there are no giant condos anywhere near the forest or beach.
I sure wish I lived in Florida because this sounds like a ton of fun AND an awesome giveaway! I love that you got to see gators while eating dinner…nothing like a little live entertainment 🙂 And the pancake maker? Brilliant!
Carrie with Children says
I’m in Jacksonville, so our favorite Florida getaway is to Amelia Island! However, I’d really like it to be Orange City! 🙂
Carrie with Children says
Here’s my tweet!
Cindy A. says
Thank you so much for offering such a fun and generous gift! As a child I was very fortunate because my grandparents lived in Inverness. My favorite visit was when I was 12 years old and the family took a trip to Homosassa Springs and Daytona Beach. The Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park was amazing! My favorite was the manatee and hippopotamus programs. I was ( and still am) fascinated by the Park Rangers feeding them special cookies. 🙂
Cindy A. says
Oops, I forgot to share that I tweeted. (That didn’t sound right)
It would have to be Anna Maria Island…so beautiful and relaxing!!!
Theresa @ActiveEggplant says
Wow – what a giveaway MomJovi!
My favorite FL getaway is actually Disney! My husband and I try to plan a once-a-year getaway to Orlando that includes a long bike ride on the West Orange Trail followed by a day or two at the Disney parks with lots of rest & pool time built in. Neither of us was raised in FL so we’re still one of those couples that’s excited by the awesomeness that is Disney World. (Perhaps because we’re spoiled and live only 5mi from Anna Maria Island so we get to experience the relaxing sunsets & beach atmosphere whenever we want?)
fave getaway: cocoa beach
We live in FL, I would LOVE a stayaction! Thank you for this opportunity! We love heading to Disney – we go there all the time…It’s a great day or weekend trip for us.
Thank you again for thechance,
Michelle @ Crazy*Running*Legs says
Suppose I should actually comment and enter you giveaway, right?
My favorite Florida getaway is Key West. Hate the drive there, but I LOVE that place.
st augustine is my gave FL spot 🙂
I always looked forward to Feb. FL trips as a kid, and a few years ago went back with my parents and husband for a quick getaway.
Tweeted — http://twitter.com/#!/rmccoy1234/status/103170407485554692