Category Archives: Tourist

Central Florida Travel Bloggers – Travel Knowledge Central!

The Top 5 was at the Orlando Science Center today to attend the Central Florida Chapter Meeting of the Travel Blog Exchange, also known as TBEX, which is an international association of travel-specific bloggers. While there, we discussed all sorts of things related to travel, websites, blogging, etc., and we also got to hear from Jeff Stanford of the Orlando Science Center as well as Susan Lomax of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Chapter President Ben Reed leading a discussion about travel blogs.

I was pleased I got to see some old friends, including Britt Reints of Miss Britt and the TBEX Chapter’s organizer and president Ben Reed of Adventures With Ben, as well as discover some new friends and exciting blogs. So, Central Floridians, in addition to checking out the “Other Orlando Blogs” at the top of this blog, you can also visit these great sites:

Today's attendees are awesome bloggers located right here in Central Florida.

I enjoyed re-exploring the Science Center and highly recommend you visit the special Music Box exhibit.  And, a very special thanks to Ben for organizing today’s valuable meeting!

Top 5 editor Bess Auer with Ben Reed.


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Education, Girlfriend Getaway, Literary, Orlando, Tourist

Orlando Weather – Looks like Snow and Ice!

So, starting tomorrow if you were to google “Orlando Weather” then you might be surprised by what you find… Snow and ice are in our forecast! Okay, not really…I totally made that up. However, if you really do want a break from our hot and sunny weather, take a trip to the Gaylord Palms where you can see real Snow and Ice.


From the ICE! website

Indoors you can explore an icy wonderland crafted by artisans from Harbin, China. Yep, you will have to don a parka (provided) to brave the 9 degree temperatures, but these ice sculptures are pretty darn impressive!

After you make your way through Ice, kids can go outside and play in the Snow: Complete with carnival-style games including a Frosty Ring Toss and Elf Bowling as well as a Kiddie Snow Tube Run…pretty cool! <—Ha, love my pun?

And, actually, there are lots of other seasonal things to do, like dining with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, a Polar Bear Plunge (love it!), and Noche Latina where there will be a special Latino storyteller sharing seasonal stories from Puerto Rico and other Latino countries.

So, if you want a break from the Orlando weather… the Gaylord Palms is worth checking out!

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Filed under family, Fun, Seasonal, Tourist, Uniquely Florida

NASA Tweet Up STS-133: It’s Awesome, Baby!

I was one of the lucky chosen few who was invited to attend the NASA Tweet Up STS-133. After 26 years of service, this launch is Space Shuttle Discovery’s last flight. And I have finally begun to understand the significance of this when I went to Kennedy Space Center today for Day #1 of the NASA Tweet Up.

Some readers may remember the Top 5’s previous trip to KSC. This was before any cuts were made to the Space Program’s funding, before thousands of people lost their jobs, and optimism over the new rocket program was still in the air.

Today, optimism was very much in the air, but I could not help but taste the bittersweet celebration of those gathered for  the tweet up.  150 space enthusiasts from 38 different countries assembled to experience, learn about, and toast the American Space Program. However, the roads of KSC were much less crowded, and it was apparent there were fewer workers and personnel.  Central Florida is definitely feeling the pain of NASA’s reshuffling.

However, NASA certainly did the tweet up right! From the very first official email and pass accreditation to the uber-cool parking space (right by the VAB) and the air conditioned VIP tent, we were treated first class all the way!

Top 5 editor Bess Auer in front of the VAB as photographed by Chris Gent.

From getting to listen to several NASA “big wigs” and astronauts, and then meeting Jason Goldman (A really big deal at Twitter!), we were given thrill after thrill!

NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier

We were then privy to two incredible demonstrations: 1) ACES Suit (think massive survival suit) and 2) Robonaut 2 (think Robocop in real life!).

Just being around all these space nuts was enough to be thankful I spent the day at KSC.  From NASA Flow Director Stephanie Stilson saying, “The most important thing is for NASA to finish the Space Shuttle the right way until the very end,” to astronaut Ron Garan saying, “Everyone should have the right to dream to go to the stars,” what an inspiring time!  I definitely want to go into space in my lifetime!

Astronaut Bess Auer!

The countdown...

Enjoy this recap video of my incredible day and check out the totally awesome Robonaut 2:


Filed under Education, Fun, Just for Me, Shuttle, Space, Tourist, Uniquely Florida

The Star Wars Celebration V (The “Big Bad Rebel”Version)

Julie Deily did such an awesome write-up on the “Top 5 Things to See at Star Wars Celebration V,” I had no idea what to share in my guest post about the event.

But then it dawned on me: Growing up, I was always a little rebel so why not do a post of some of the “big, bad rebellious” things you can do at the convention? Growing up, my rebellion was very innocent by the way. It fell more along the lines of refusing to wear dresses, rejecting the color pink in favor of the color blue and ditching Barbie for Han Solo – that kind of rebellion.

So when I heard Star Wars Celebration V was coming to Orlando, of course I had to go. It was an easy decision, really. Like my childhood days, I had no problem going against the grain and choosing Star Wars over, say, a weekend of shopping or a mani/pedicure. And also like my early years growing up, I found myself once again playing with the boys as none of my girlfriends showed any interest in attending. So with my own entourage of five fabulous guy friends (including fellow Orlando blogger Mr. Tasty Chomps), I set out to relive my Star Wars memories, allowing the rebel/nerd in me to shine through.

In no particular order, here is the “rebel version” of the Top 5 Things to Do at Star Wars Celebration V:

5. Get a tattoo. I’m not talking about one of those wussy temporary tattoos. I mean the real needle and ink kind. One hard-core fan sharing a table with us showed off his new piece of art over lunch on Saturday. He wasn’t alone as quite a few fans donned some pretty elaborate pieces of Star Wars ink on their bodies. To get one of your own, all you had to do was follow the buzzing noise to a secluded area partitioned by large black draping and no, for the record, I did not go under the needle.

4. Become an action figure. What better way to stoke the ego than to pose as a real life Star Wars action figure, complete with childproof packaging? This great exhibit allowed fans to step into a gigantic plastic box which was offset by a huge background replicating action figure packaging. The key to pulling it off well? Not smiling because it makes you look “badder” – something that is harder to do than you might think!

Action Figure Jodi

3. Pose as one of Jabba the Hutt’s slaves. Perhaps one of the most disgusting but memorable characters of the trilogy is Jabba the Hutt who made his debut in The Return of the Jedi. The huge glob, which was described by film critic Roger Ebert as being a cross between a toad and the Cheshire Cat, was juxtaposed next to Princess Leia, who (in that particular scene of the movie), was enslaved by the grotesque creature and forced to don chains – and not much of anything else. Thanks to Star Wars Celebration V, willing fans could also be one of Jabba’s slaves (albeit fully clothed, thank God)! Those with a sense of humor could cozy up to a life-size version of the monster or pose with one of the “slave Leia” look-alikes. (According to one of my guy friends, one of the slave girls was on a season of America’s Next Top Model.)

Jabba and "slave Jodi"

2. Push Darth Vader’s buttons. Unfortunately my photo didn’t turn out well so you will have to take me for my word when I tell you I literally got to push Darth Vader’s buttons while at the convention. D.V. was roaming the halls when I stopped him for a photo op where he actually let me push a few of the lit up buttons on his chest. Unfortunately nothing happened when I pressed them, but now I can at least say I did it! (How many people can say that?)

1. Attend a panel session with Seth Green and the gang as they talk about their claymation series “Star Wars Robot Chicken.” For those unfamiliar with SWRC, the show has some hilarious adult humor…think more along the lines of South Park if you will. (Having said that, I was surprised at how many kids knew about SWRC and who were at the session asking Seth and his team some pretty specific questions about the series.)

Never heard of Star Wars Robot Chicken? Click here for a link to a video clip. (Even though there were shockingly lots of kids at the SWRC session, I’m marking this M for mature.)

Guest Blogger Extraordinaire: Jodi Kiely is an independent consultant specializing in public relations and corporate communications. She serves a broad spectrum of clients locally, nationally and internationally. Born in Seoul, Korea, Jodi is originally from Rochester, Minnesota, moving to Orlando in 2009. Jodi has a B.A. in Print Journalism and a Masters in East Asian Studies. She is also a former Peace Corps volunteer having served in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Central Florida Asian American Chamber of Commerce. You can visit her blog,, or follow her on Twitter at @Jodi_Kiely.


Filed under Convention Center, Fun, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire, Tourist

Top 5 Things to See at Star Wars Celebration V

I just got home tonight (Friday) from Star Wars Celebration V and we had a blast. My husband has been a fan since his dad took him to see The Empire Strikes Back thirty years ago. In fact, Celebration V is celebrating the 30th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. Celebration V, as most of you know, is being held this weekend until Sunday evening at the Orange County Convention Center.

When my husband heard Celebration V was coming to Orlando, he was really excited. We bought our tickets in advance a few weeks ago and even though I’m not as huge a fan as he is, I was getting excited as it got closer.

Here’s my “Top 5” list of things to see or do:

#5 Collecting Panels – Attend any of them and receive a limited edition cereal box designed especially for Celebration V. There are a total of 16 the entire weekend and a total of 16 different cereal boxes to collect. We went to the International Collecting panel, and although I’m not an avid collector (like my husband), it was pretty enjoyable because some of the panelists were pretty funny.

Special edition for Celebration V.

#4 Droid Builders – Really cool R2-D2 droids built by every day people like you and me. There was a bunch of people controlling their own R2s throughout the exhibit halls but there is a room dedicated to showing you the parts and pieces that go into building your own. There is a club of people who help each other and they have even published a manual. Pretty cool stuff! My husband seems interested in doing this and I can’t say I’m against this; it would be so cool to have a real-live working R2-D2 around the house! 🙂

R2-D2 ready for Disney!

#3 The Art of Ralph McQuarrie – The originial designer for the original Star Wars movies. There is a gallery of his original concept drawings and it’s pretty amazing how he was given direction by George Lucas and came up with some pretty awesome stuff. The image below is a picture of McQuarrie’s drawing for the original concept for Chewbacca and Han Solo.

Amazing conceptual artwork.

#2 Taking pictures with the many costumed characters, many of whom are attendees. It’s not uncommon for someone, including me, to ask to take a picture of someone’s costume or take pictures with them. It’s fun, a lot of the costumes are very well made and they are always happy to stop for pictures.

Posing with some Clonetroopers.

#1 The exhibit hall is where you can buy all of the Star Wars exclusives as well as tons of other Star Wars merchandise and even other kinds of merchandise. Also, in the exhibit hall are some great displays that you can take pictures of or have your picture taken with, such as a huge tie fighter and a speeder bike inside an Endor background. There is also this mystery Lego mural that you can help build. We participated and it was fun. If you put your piece together correctly, you get a free Lego version of concept Boba Fett (white version). That’s a picture of my finished piece below.

Large Lego background.

My contribution to the Lego mural.

We had tons of fun and I wish I had one more day to spend there. If you went to Celebration V, what were you favorite things to see?

Guest Blogger Extraordinaire: Julie Deily is a software engineer and is pretty close to being a Central Florida native, she has lived in the area since she moved to Florida at seven years old. She blogs about cooking and baking at the little kitchen and also at whatever julie where she blogs about her pets as well as her participation in the Susan G. Komen Tampa 3-Day for the Cure this October as one of fifteen Energizer “Keep Going” Bloggers.

Check out for more posts and pictures from Celebration V in the next week or so.


Filed under Convention Center, family, Fun, General Info, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire, Tourist

Welcome to the Land of Lando

Most people in Central Florida have caught wind that something dealing with Star Wars is coming to town this month, not truly realizing this Star Wars Celebration V, officially sponsored by Lucasfilm, may well be one of the biggest events of the year for Orlando. (For some people, it is the biggest event of the foreseeable future, especially if they already have their Stormtrooper costumes ready to go!)

There will be lots of incredible things to do, including seeing celebrities like George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, and Ashley Eckstein.  And, it’s all happening this weekend…Yep, Orlando is being invaded by the Force… can you already feel it?

© Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

But, some Star Wars fans are hoping visitors will not be visiting Orlando, but rather Lando, in honor of Billy Dee Williams’ Star Wars character. 

In fact, a petition at was started by Scott Moon, a fan since he first saw the movie at a drive-in with his father long, long ago, in a galaxy not so far away.  

At this pont, over 600 people–including the Top 5— have signed the petition, requesting a name change for the duration of the convention. (Heck, if a city in Kansas can change their name to Google to try and get that company’s attention, then we can certainly handle an abbreviated change for a few days in support of one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time!)

Billy Dee Williams as Lando.

As Scott pointed out, and we whole-heartedly agree, the coolest things about this Star Wars convention is that it just goes to show Lando (or Orlando for you party poopers) is the place that dreams and fantasies come true on a daily basis… is there really any other city like ours? So, whether you consider yourself a true Star Wars fan or not, and regardless of whether you even know who Hans Solo or Jaba the Hut are, perhaps add your name to the petition…why? Because where else can you have some good-natured fun in today’s world besides in Lando?

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Filed under Celebrity, Convention Center, Fun, General Info, Tourist

Day #3 in the Florida Keys: Key West

I guess the last time I was in Key West, cruise ships did not port there. This time, however, there was an impressively large Disney Cruise Ship there, along with a slightly smaller cruise ship, and this made a huge impact. I have never seen Key West so completely swamped with tourists!  Now, I live in Orlando, so of course I appreciate the value tourism brings to a local economy, but I guess I was unprepared for how crowded the extra couple of thousand people make in the small space around Duval Street. But for the artists selling their craft, the many Conch Tour Trains and trolleys, as well as the souvenir shops and restaurants, the influx of people is highly welcome!

Tourists aside, Key West is still a world to itself, transporting you to a Havana-like feeling. The flavor of the people and shops still abounds, gorgeous Key West style houses still line the quaint streets as pedicabs go by. The banyan trees still drip down roots to slowly cover brick walls and roosters still strut the streets. (But these chickens have nothing on Oviedo’s!) The Southernmost Point is still the closest you can get to Cuba (90 miles), and Ernest Hemingway’s house is still as beautiful as ever. So, I guess not that much has changed about Key West after all!


Filed under family, Fun, Out of Orlando, Tourist