Florida’s Emerald Coast: A Shoreline Itinerary

There is no shortage of ways to get out and play in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island, collectively known as the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast. The area’s 24 miles of shoreline include powder-white beaches, emerald green water, and a portion of the pristine Gulf Islands National Seashore, plus protected bays and bayous, five beachfront parks, and 12 beach access ways.

Beyond the sand and surf, this section of the Emerald Coast is home to eight championship golf courses and country clubs, as well as outdoor retail and entertainment centers like Destin’s HarborWalk Village. Family-friendly attractions include Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure ParkGulfarium Marine Adventure Park, and Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park, a nonprofit sanctuary housing native wildlife and abandoned and abused exotic animals.

GETTING THERE: Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island, and Destin are situated near the center of the northwest Florida coast, an area stretching from Pensacola east about 140 miles (225 kilometers) to Port St. Joe. The closest airport is Destin-Fort Walton Beach, located 16 miles northwest of Destin. From the airport, rent a car or take a taxi or private shuttle (call for reservations) to Destin, Fort Walton Beach, or Okaloosa Island.

STAY: With more than 13,000 lodging options—including Gulf-view condos, high-rise hotels, private vacation homes, bed-and-breakfasts, and campgrounds—there are accommodations available to fit any budget. Family-friendly resorts such as Seascape typically include beach access, multiple pools, kids’ programs, and full kitchens. For a quieter, adults-only property, choose the Henderson Park Inn in Destin. The luxurious 35-suite bed-and-breakfast is styled after a classic Victorian New England seaside inn with a spacious porch overlooking the Gulf. In addition to daily gourmet breakfasts and boxed picnic lunches, guest amenities include free use of bikes, beach chairs, and beach umbrellas. Beginning in September 2016, families can enjoy a similar level of pampering at The Henderson, a hotel with 170 rooms and suites opening across the street from the inn. Both properties are near 208-acre Henderson Beach State Park, home to one of the Emerald Coast’s top campgrounds. Reserve a site several months in advance of your visit. Insider tip: It’s easier to find a campsite on short notice at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park campground, located on the north shore of Choctawhatchee Bay in Niceville.

EAT: Try grilled yellowfin tuna, steamed shrimp, fried oysters, hot crabmeat dip, and other Gulf-to-table dishes at either Dewey Destin’s location—the Harborside Restaurant on Destin Harbor or the Seafood & Restaurant overlooking Crab Island. Owner Dewey Destin’s family has been selling fresh seafood since the early 1800s (great-great-grandfather Leonard founded Destin, then called East Pass, in 1835). If you fish, bring your fresh flounder, grouper, red snapper, wahoo, or other daily catch to Dewey Destin’s and they’ll cook it for you. (Price varies depending on the fish, preparation, and side dishes.)

HIT THE BEACH: Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island regularly rank among the best on national and regional media lists of family vacation and beach destinations. Okaloosa Day Use Area east of Fort Walton Beach is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, named “Best East Coast Beach” in the USA Today 10Best 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards. The Okaloosa location offers an unspoiled beach, calm waters (ideal for family swimming), picnic tables, restrooms, and a boat launch. Other public-access beaches are located at Henderson Beach State ParkJames Lee ParkJohn Beasley Park, and Newman C. Brackin Wayside Park. Many vacation properties also have private beaches or beach access.

PLAY: Get out on the water to sail, paddle, go on a Buccaneer pirate cruise, or zip around an airboat. Kayak and canoe rentals are available at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, home to an aquatic preserve where you might spot dolphins, otters, and waterfowl. Several outfitters such as Cattywampus catamaran ecotours and Destin Snorkel offer dolphin-viewing cruises and snorkeling excursions. Destin also has the nation’s largest for-hire fishing fleet, according to the Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau. Charter a boat with Gulf Angler or another local captain to try deep-sea or bay fishing. Before your trip, purchase a Florida fishing license online.

A yogi’s perfect day in West Palm Beach, Florida

Over the bridge from the island of Palm Beach is the city of West Palm Beach, Florida. Known for its diverse, eclectic locals and its bohemian atmosphere, artists venture here to feel inspired, and Palm Beach islanders go to loosen their buttoned-up collars. West Palm Beach offers more than simply a hopping nightlife, shopping, and entertainment, however. Thanks to an abundance of health-food stores and yoga studios springing up, this beach town has become a wellness hub.


Before your (first) morning yoga class, switch your mat for a beach blanket and head to the soft sand of Palm Beach Island. Make your way to the Worth Avenue Clock Tower just before sunrise, and as the new day breaks on the horizon, close your eyes, connect to your breath, and set your intentions for the day ahead. You’ll be inspired by the invigorating smell of salt water and the mellow rolling tide.

After meditating, you’ll be ready to salute the sun on your yoga mat. The heated studio of The Yoga Society on Clematis Street, is a favorite local hot spot in every sense of the phrase. It is a fun, powerful, positive space where yoga practitioners can sweat to energetic hatha vinyasa flows.

If it’s a Saturday, most locals will be fighting over parking spots at the WPB Green Market, located in the heart of downtown on Clematis Street. Vendors sell organic fruits and vegetables, bagels, colorful orchids, quiches, and more. This season, the market’s 90-plus vendors have made a sustainability pledge to oust plastic straws, styrofoam containers, and coffee stirrers. Bring a reusable shopping bag, and devour a cider doughnut while you explore.

On Clematis Street, you’ll also find a striking rainbow mural—created by well-known muralist Eduardo Kobra—featuring none other than Albert Einstein. The perfect backdrop for a brilliant selfie, this artsy wall will make you wonder if you’re in the streets of Sao Paulo rather than West Palm Beach. Under Einstein’s watchful gaze, you’ll find a lovely local coffee shop and roaster, Subculture Coffee. Order a yogi’s favorite: avocado toast and a double dirty chai latte with soy milk.


West Palm Beach affords plenty of unique shopping options. The Warehouse District is an excellent place to begin browsing. At Elizabeth Ave. Station, discover a plethora of local wares: vinyls, soaps, handmade cards, community clothing vendors, and funky jewelry. When you get hungry, duck inside Grandview Public Market, an eclectic indoor marketplace filled with local food vendors. Since I’m usually going to another yoga class in the late afternoon, I choose something light from the new “Grandview Green Collection,” a compilation of all the vegan and vegetarian options from the market’s vendors. Other top choices include The Poke Lab Eatery and Zipitios, a taco eatery that serves up delicious vegan tacos as well as the meatiest burritos for your carnivorous friends. Be sure to pick up a Thai rolled ice cream from Crema Rolls—watching the treat be prepared is almost as much fun as eating it.

In the creative arts district of Northwood Village, filled with art galleries and funky craft stores, a local store called Wanderer Bracelets sells darling jewelry, hand-crafted by artisans in Bali. I recommend designing your own coordinates bracelet. Pick out your preferred color, type in the name of your newly discovered favorite spot in West Palm Beach, and voila! A store clerk will etch the coordinates onto a bracelet for you.

If you find yourself back on Palm Beach Island in the afternoon, pop on over to the Royal Poinciana Plaza where the flagship Lululemon store has just opened and where you can attend non-heated Yoga Society Palm Beach classes. As long as you’re already on the island, head toward the bright, well-curated Palm Beach Yoga Shala for an early afternoon vinyasa class to wind down the day.


For dinner, I recommend a restaurant that’s as green as it is delicious: Avocado Grill. This farm-to-table, tapas-style restaurant is the perfect place to eat after a day of wellness. You’ll definitely want to order ginger guacamole for the table along with the avocado wedges. Had enough avocado? Order the stuffed zucchini blossoms. You can ask your server for the secret vegan menu, created by local vegan DJ Adam Lipson and executive chef Julien Gremaud. Add the large curried veggie bowl to your order and get a—you guessed it—avocado-inspired dessert.

Before hitting the town, relax at The Blind Monk on Evernia Street with a glass of wine from their sizeable wine list and a delectable cheese plate, complete with honeycomb and fig. Say salut to the night ahead!

On the corner of Clematis St. and North Rosemary Ave, O’Shea’s Irish Pub promises an evening of fun as one of the local hot spots. Order a Guinness, and dance the night away to the tunes of the live band. Feel free to keep bar hopping, but keep an eye on the clock—there’s a Sunday morning yoga class at The Yoga Society you won’t want to sleep through!

how to experience a rocket launch on Florida’s Space Coast

The NASA Space Shuttle may no longer be flying, but thanks to private investment, Florida’s Space Coast is busier than ever with regular rocket launches. Want to see one for yourself? These tips ensure you’ll be able to get the most out of your launch viewing experience.

Experiencing a rocket launch on the Space Coast is so much more than it appears on TV. The nervous energy as the countdown clock ticks down; that moment of hesitation when smoke begins billowing out the bottom of the rocket; the burst of flame the color of the brightest molten lava that begins to propel the rocket upward; and finally, feeling the roar in your chest as it achieves lift-off. It’s not just about the launch, though – it’s the entire experience. Meeting first-time viewers and exchanging stories and trivia with fellow space enthusiasts is all part of the fun.

What’s happening on the Space Coast today?

In 2011, NASA’s space shuttle flew for the last time, but the Space Coast didn’t remain quiet for too long. Over the last few years, companies like SpaceX, the United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin have Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center bustling with activity once again. In February 2018, SpaceX made headlines when it launched the Falcon Heavy rocket; hundreds of thousands of people gathered to witness this historic event, and it was the second biggest live event in the history of YouTube. The Falcon Heavy is now the most powerful operational rocket in the world, second only to the giant rockets that sent our astronauts to the Moon during the Apollo program.

What to keep in mind when choosing your rocket launch

If you’d like to see a rocket launch for yourself, flexibility is the name of the game. While rocket launches are spectacular to view, they are missions, not tourist events. This means that their schedules are variable; launches are often delayed and rescheduled at the last minute because of technical problems or weather. Dates are seldom set more than a few weeks in advance (unless it’s a really big launch), which means that making plans to see them can be difficult. Spaceflight Now has an excellent list of upcoming launches from around the world, with a brief description of each – filter by location to see the Space Coast launches.

Since the retirement of the space shuttle, the US has not had the ability to carry its own astronauts to and from the International Space Stations (the Russians handle that for us). This means that the recent launches out of Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral have been uncrewed: there are no astronauts aboard. However, this will not always be the case, as both SpaceX, Blue Origin and Boeing aim to launch demonstration flights carrying astronauts in 2019.

If you have a choice between a crewed and uncrewed launch and scheduling is a concern, always opt in favor of a launch without astronauts. There are fewer factors to consider in terms of launch conditions, and that makes it more likely that the rocket will launch on time (but again, it’s good to prepare for delays regardless of the type of launch). Additionally, avoid demo launches, like the recent Falcon Heavy. While that rocket did take off on its first scheduled date, it’s much more likely things will go wrong during a test launch.

Public (and free) viewing locations for a rocket launch

Launches are public, so you don’t necessarily have to spend any money to make it happen beyond your travel and lodging. However, there are some factors to consider when choosing your free viewing location. There are multiple launch pads dotting the Space Coast, so the optimal spots are never the same – they depend on where the launch pad is located (you can find launch pad assignments on Spaceflight Now’s calendar). And you’re subject to the hours of your chosen viewing location: many public beaches in the area close at sunset. The Space Coast tourism board maintains a page of launch-viewing sites with information on the amenities and opening times of each location.

If you’re viewing a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Launch Complex 40, Playalinda Beach in Titusville is your best bet, while Space View Park in Titusville is a great choice for launches like the recent Falcon Heavy from Pad 39A. Cocoa Beach Pier in Cocoa Beach is a good choice for most launches. Remember, there’s a lot of traffic on launch day – more than 100,000 people viewed the Falcon Heavy launch from Cocoa Beach, for example – and parking can be difficult. Make sure you get to your chosen viewing area very early.

The no-brainer: packages from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

If all of this sounds complicated, there’s a way you can make it much, much easier: the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) sells inclusive packagesto take the planning out of a launch visit. Though the cost per person isn’t cheap, KSC can get you closer to the launches than any other option. (Plus, the breadth of experiences and activities there are a pretty great backup if your launch is cancelled last minute.)

‘Our proximity to the action, and relationships with NASA and private companies, allows us to create unique experiences for our guests on launch days,’ said Therrin Protze, the chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. ‘This includes things like guest appearances, expert commentary, engaging activities, access to our exhibits, special tours and more.’

There are three tiers of packages offered at KSC. Your $57 ticket for entrance into the complex ($47 for ages 3 to 11) includes the ability to watch rocket launches in front of the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, which is about 7 miles from launch pads (the distance varies, of course, depending on which pad the rocket is launching from). There are bleachers set up, and KSC provides live commentary about what’s happening.

If you’d like to get a little closer, the Apollo/Saturn V Center is about six and a half miles from the launch pads. Typically a bus ride to this portion of the KSC is free with the purchase of your day ticket, but on the day of launches, these tours are often suspended due to security and a bus ride costs an additional $25. Launch commentary and bleacher seating is provided.

For a truly front-row seat, the Launch Complex 39 Observation Gantry is the way to go. This location is so close – just three miles from Launch Pad 39A – that it’s actually closed for some launches for safety reasons. You’ll pay $49 in addition to your admission ticket, and you get similar live commentary and seating as well as some refreshments and a t-shirt included with the cost of your purchase.

KSC launch-viewing pro tips

There are a few things to keep in mind about these packages. First, as previously mentioned, launches are unpredictable. Launch viewing tickets with KSC are primarily for transportation, not the actual launch. If a launch is postponed or canceled before you’re on the bus to the site, then KSC Visitors Complex will provide a refund. If you’re on the bus, or already at the viewing site, you’re out of luck. You’ll have to buy tickets again for the next launch attempt.

These tickets sell out very quickly, so snag them as soon as your plans are in place. Often, KSC Visitors Complex will begin selling launch viewing tickets before the exact date of a launch is announced. Space fans are enthusiastic, after all! For special launches that generate significant interest, such as the Falcon Heavy (and the upcoming first crewed missions), the details of the packages, including pricing and viewing locations, are likely to vary. Once again, you’ll need to both be as flexible as possible and plan ahead.

Yes, planning for a launch can be tricky, but once you are there and the energy begins to build as the clock counts down, you’ll know that it was worth it.

Florida’s freshwater activities

Florida’s tourism identity is intimately tied to water, and for most visitors, that water either means the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Fair enough – Florida is a peninsula, after all, and if anything defines the state’s geography, it’s the fact that the state is surrounded by water on three sides. But flat Florida is also cut through with green rivers and dotted with crystal blue springs. The interior, freshwater waterways of the Sunshine State have the potential for as much adventure as her exterior oceans.

Down upon the Suwannee River

The Suwannee River is primarily known to most folks as the subject of ‘Old Folks At Home’, the Florida state song, now sung in a revised version that eschews the plantation minstrelsy in the original version. But what you should know the Suwannee for is its excellent paddling opportunities. This is a true Southern blackwater river; the dark color derives from the tannins dissolving off of the vegetation that forms a corridor around the waterway. A great point of access is, unsurprisingly, Suwannee River State Park.

And man, what vegetation. Cypress trees, live oaks, and groves of pine web across limestone outcroppings. Vines trail in the water and birds flap overhead. If you’re curious to learn about the folkways of the people who live near the river, which runs through Northwest Florida, make sure to stop by the Stephen Foster State Folk Cultural Center. You’ll learn plenty about the Big Bend region – the area where the Florida Panhandle begins to curve into the state’s north-south peninsula.


Beautiful Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring is popular with humans, sure, but it’s also notably a big draw for Florida manatees, who flock to these consistently 72-degree waters come winter. When the manatees depart around March, you can go swimming at Blue Spring State Park again.

In a state with no shortage of excellent places to stick your head in the water, Blue Spring is a clutch swimming hole. The water has a consistent temperature, and if you’re into casual water recreation like tubing, there are plenty of concessionaires around to help you get started. Said concessionaires can also hook you up with a canoe, kayak or boat tour. A paddle into the St John’s River watershed, which Blue Spring is part of, is not to be missed.


Wildlife watching at Silver Springs

Head into the water from a launch at Silver Springs State Park, in Marion County in North Central Florida, and the experience might not feel vastly removed from other Florida inland waterways. Jungle-like vegetation hems in on either side, as your boat paddles over remarkably clear waters. Most noticeable: a proliferation of wildlife anywhere in Florida (certainly a rarity at any state park). Among the animals you may spot are eagles, herons, foxes, alligators, and otters. There are even a few rhesus monkeys living in the park. All this, and you’re only a quick drive from college-town Gainesville.

The Everglades

The ‘Glades, also known as ‘the River of Grass’, are the home of a vast, waterlogged prairie and acres of hardwood swamps. All that makes for perfect paddling adventures near the southern end of the state. There are several places to launch from, but we find Hell’s Creek, a narrow corridor of vegetation and tannin-heavy black water, to be one of the most evocative. While you’re paddling down this narrow waterway, you can camp on raised platforms with thached roofs called ‘chickees’. Other paddling adventures in the Everglades include boat trips around the area’s primeval hardwood and cypress swamps.

Oleta State Park

Oddly enough, in the middle of Florida’s most iconic city, one can find a paddling trail that takes a deep dive into South Florida’s ecosystems. Oleta State Park is barely minutes from some of Miami Beach’s glistening high rise condo canyons, yet it feels a world – and an era – utterly removed from all of that modernity. This is the largest urban park in the state of Florida, and a local outdoor center can get you hooked up with the equipment and gear you need to take to the water.

Weeki Wachee Springs

This fantastically named blue freshwater spring is best known as the home of a band of resident performing ‘mermaids’, but Weeki Wachee is also one of the better paddling springs in Florida. Located in Hernando County about an hour north of Tampa, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park encompasses the eponymous springs, where the flow of water is so powerful it replaces itself every 60 minutes or so. The crystalline water is an attraction in and of itself, but so are the human ‘mermaids’ and manatees that Spanish explorers mistook for mermaids. This is a popular destination, so expect crowds, especially on weekends.

Go Sky Surfing in St. Pete/ Clearwater!

Did you enjoy your flight? Well then take off again during your stay in Clearwater with Sky Surfing Aviation!
Hop aboard a super-unique aircraft, sharing a likeness to either a motorcycle or a boat depending on which variation you choose to fly on, and skim the skies in an incredible flight over Clearwater Beach’s gorgeous coast.

You can enjoy this once in a lifetime experience no matter if you’re a fearless flyer or an anxious aviator, as you’ll hop aboard with an experienced pilot who will show you the beautiful scenes of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Thrilling and wonderful in the same breath, you’ll be skimming the airways like a magic carpet ride.

You’ll have the chance to choose between 20, 40, 60-minute flight lessons, and even a two & a half-hour Advanced Flight Lesson where you’ll get to learn the ropes of flying these amazing machines which will see you surfing the stratosphere.

Take your holiday to new heights in one of these fantastic vehicles where you’ll get to have a truly once in a lifetime experience. With affordable rates too, a flight on one of these machines is always in reach when you’re holidaying around St. Pete / Clearwater.

Looking for some wet fun to escape the heat?

Looking for a fun summer attraction that won’t have you melting after a few minutes because Florida feels like the surface of the sun?

A new social media-themed water park, called Island H20 Live!, opened on Friday in Kissimmee, next to Margaritaville Resort Orlando.

It’s not your everyday water park. Much like Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, all the slides and attractions in the water park follow a strict theme. For this park, the theme is social media.

The park features eight slides, Chat Creek lazy river, two kids’ zones and an adult-only (21-year-olds and up) zone called Private Domain. Each slide and zone has wacky social media-related names like Follow Me Falls and Reply Racers.

The theme doesn’t show up only in the names of attractions, it’s woven into the whole park experience. Guests can customize music play lists, color themes and water slide experiences, according to an Island H20 Live! release. The park achieves this through its app and an RFID Smart Band all guests are given when they enter the park, the release said. The wrist band allows them to connect to their social media networks and create a park profile.

Because the park is brand knew don’t be expecting a fast-pass-type system for a little while. “Speed Keys,” which will give guests front-of-the-line access and the ability to reserve time slots, are “coming soon,” the park said.

General admission for the park is $49.99, plus tax. You can buy a reduced price ticket online for $39.99 that is only valid till June 23.

While the water park doesn’t have its Speed Keys yet, it does have annual passes ready for purchase. It usually costs $89.99, but if you buy one before June 24 it will be $69.99.

Florida’s Emerald Coast

Whew, what a relief!

I’m glad I left all of my South Florida glamor behind when I decided to travel some 645 miles to vacation along the Emerald Coast’s shimmering green beaches. Here, I get to flaunt like a flag my old Bermuda shorts and worn-out sneakers.

I also don’t need to bother styling my hair or watch what I eat.

According to the spirited self-help rants in the “Emerald Coast Guide” I picked up at the Gulfarium, this is key to enjoying myself and blending in with the natives.

Frump is proudly in vogue here, the guide boasts, listing “perfect hair” as a South Florida hang-up you won’t be enduring here.

The laid back attitude, however, ends at fashion and health.

There’s a language code: English only.

According to this tourism guide, which doesn’t mind offending a segment of Florida’s population — or international tourists — this is not the turf for “foreign language translations” like you-know-where.

Not to be confused with an undocumented immigrant in need of forbidden sanctuary in this, Congressman Matt Gaetz’s territory — and the place Gov. Ron DeSantis chose to sign Florida’s anti-sanctuary bill into law last week — at the Okaloosa County line I stopped saying to the kids: “¡Vámonos!”

It’s “let’s go, brats” only from here on out.

Easy enough, but the rules get weirder.

You should not confuse the glitter in the water as permission to showcase perfect bodies, nor behave like brothers and sisters and husbands and wives who “happily get along.” None of this having the entire family “walking along the beach all dressed up in the latest styles,” as the anonymous guidebook author believes happens all the time on South Florida beaches.

Equally so, rich viejos verdes beware: There’s no appetite here for “a guy in expensive fishing gear catching a game fish with a pretty girl, half his age in a bikini cheering him on.” (Forgive the bad grammar, it’s not mine.)

While vacationing in this paradisaical Panhandle, you NEVER (their capital letters): “Weigh yourself. Eat dinner without dessert. Complain.” At a respectable seafood establishment I ate, they served an adult a cup of Goldfish with a salad.

And no need to bring a chair to the beach, the guide advises. Just dig a hole in the sand — and drape a towel over it. I don’t know what they do to accommodate malts and milk shakes-enhanced butts on that sandy “chair.” It’s not included in all the helpfulness of page 50.

Visiting here you confirm that there really are two Floridas.

It’s as if the I-4 expressway through Orlando were a cultural equator with progressive Gainesville being a geographical aberration, those border nooks you sometimes see on the maps of the developing world.

On this north side — where most of the tourists speak with a Southern drawl and hail from Sweet Home Alabama, which recently surpassed Mississippi as the most backward state in the union — all of the above stated no-nos are considered ills endemic to the south end of the peninsula.

They don’t like us — and that explains a lot about Florida politics. For instance, why Trump devotee Gaetz is our Florida man personified in Congress. And why Gov. Ron DeSantis absconded away from his Cuban fans in Miami-Dade to Okaloosa County to sign a bill that bans sanctuary cities that don’t exist in Florida. He was in the company of some 300 enthusiastic supporters and only a handful of protesters, according to the local press.

This is what people mean when they dub these here parts Floriduh.

The natives, however, are very nice.

They are helpful and polite to a fault, if ill-informed on politics, and confused about the religion they constantly evoke. Jesus would not be happy with their self-righteous attitude toward the less fortunate fleeing persecution and poverty.

And the powers that be should worry more about overpriced hotels that could use better housekeeping — and about the June grass covering the sand like stitches on a quilt — than federal immigration law.

The algae gives the beautiful waters their green tint in sunlight, but in excess, it also turns the beach water a muddy color. Memories of last season’s unrelenting toxic red tide and algae bloom in Florida are still too close for comfort.

Around the Legoland world in 13 days — Father and son’s epic journey ends in Florida

If you’re a certain age, the word “Lego” immediately sparks fond memories and joy. The fun brick-building toy captured the hearts and minds of a generation.

But it’s quite possible that no one in the world likes Legos as much as this German father and son, who were the first to travel to every Legoland park in the world.

In a span of 13 days, Dieter Deussen and his 5-year-old son Julian visited seven countries and eight cities on their all-around-the-world trip.

“The key to this trip was to have fun and enjoy extensive time with my son,” said Deussen in a statement. “It’s a memory that we’ll have forever.”

Deussen wanted to create a special experience for Julian before he started school for the first time in September. Knowing that his son is a big Lego fan, Deussen suggested a “Legoland World Tour.”

“It didn’t take more than a few seconds for Julian to say yes,” said Deussen.

It took Deussen eight months and many hours to plan for the trip.

Their first stop on the world tour from Dusseldorf, Germany, their home, was Legoland Windsor Resort in the UK on June 27. After that they went to Legoland Billund in Denmark, Legoland Deutschland in Germany, Legoland Dubai, Legoland Malaysia, Legoland Japan and Legoland California Resort.

The final stop on their journey was Legoland Florida Resort, where they arrived on Tuesday.

“Traveling the world and visiting all of the parks in just under two weeks is the ultimate Legoland vacation,” said Shawn Mikus, Legoland Florida Resort spokesman. “We’re really happy that Legoland Florida Resort could play a small part in creating a lifelong memory for Dieter and Julian.”Legoland Florida was a little different from the other stops on their world trip because the park is the only place to The Lego Movie World. In fact, the movie’s main stars, Emmet and Wyldstyle, greeted Julian at the park.

“100 percent it was worth it. To see Julian smile so much at every park and interact with children from around the world, regardless of the language difference, was amazing for me to see. I would absolutely do it again,” Deussen said.

At the end of their 13 day trip it seemed like they visited all the parks. That is, until Legoland officials realized the Deussen family world tour was not quite complete.

Officials surprised the Deussens with complimentary tickets to visit the Legoland New York Resort, which opens in 2020.

Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure Is Redefining the Roller Coaster Experience

Don’t fool yourself into thinking Universal’s new ride is tame because it’s Harry Potter-themed.

As the longest roller coaster in Florida, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is a record-setting revelation that’s shattering expectations. Between its record-breaking number of launches — a jaw-dropping seven — and an unexpected surprise encounter with devil’s snare, rest assured, you’ve never had this much fun at Universal Orlando Resort before.

Wondering what those launches do, exactly? The second your motorbike or attached sidecar — a brilliant seat design offering two different ride experiences — would begin to plateau, it’s instead propelled forward, giving Orlando’s newest and possibly best coaster a constant energetic boost that brings the thrills. Those seven continual launches, the most of any coaster in the world, keep momentum going for a journey that never lets up and a sensation as unbelievable as the magic-packed “Harry Potter” films themselves.

You can ride a “broomstick” past Hogwarts’ Whomping Willow and take a rusted-out mine train through Gringotts’ bank vaults on attractions elsewhere in Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but only here, speeding past Hagrid’s hut and overcoming otherworldly encounters does the ride technology actually feel as mystifying as an Apparition spell.

The attraction itself takes place as a fictional Care of Magical Creatures class, where guests shuffle into enchanted motorbikes (thanks to a charm by Rubeus Hagrid and Mr. Weasley, Ron’s dad) to see the fabled Blast-Ended Skrewt. Choose between a motorbike littered with knobs and switches for a real-life experience out of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s” opening moments or an attached oblong sidecar — both offer different perspectives — and hold on tight for a speedy trip through the Forbidden Forest packed with over a thousand trees and the inventive creatures from J.K. Rowling’s best-selling novels.

You’ll zoom past a centaur, come face-to-face with that gigantic scorpion-like Skrewt and even see his three-headed dog Fluffy — but not for long enough to need music to subdue him. From Cornish pixies floating above the Weasley family’s Flying Ford Anglia to getting stuck in Devil’s Snare to a Unicorn duo, it’s a stand-out attraction worth buying tickets for. (For an added scare, give it a go at nighttime, when the only light comes from each motorbike’s headlight, making for a realistically wild time.)

For a ride that moves this quickly — Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure hits speeds up to 50 mph — you expect it to end fast, too, but it doesn’t. The nearly mile-long track, the longest in the state, carries passengers through all ends of the forest and back before a shocking ending that’s worth the lengthy wait in line. And speaking of that line — even in its first few weeks, wait times have become so long that the ride has reached capacity before day’s end. Be sure to utilize the Virtual Queue (or call ahead to check the wait) and try your best to board earlier in the day before Florida’s regular rain storms hit, when the ride has to close for thunderstorm safety and does, regularly.

Universal Orlando Resort refers to Hagrid’s as a “story coaster,” and though it’s categorically for families, encourage your littles to channel that Gryffindor bravery as this wild ride sacrifices none of the fun adults are in search of on a thrill-packed vacation. (Its height requirement is 48”, or four feet.) This new Hogsmeade roller coaster perfectly bridges the gap between child rides and aggressive thrill-seeking: it’s supremely fast but without inversions and has familiarity in its most frightening moments and is unprecedentedly smooth, making it approachable for all theme park guests and a brilliant addition to the park’s other Harry Potter experiences.

Florida Department of Health Issues Rabies Warning Around Disney World

Guests to Disney World’s Epcot park have been on high alert after learning that a case of rabies was confirmed in the park’s area last week.

Florida Department of Health in Orange County issued a 60-day rabies alert for the area on Tuesday after a nearby feral cat tested positive for the disease, according to Miami Herald.

The alert is for a two-mile radius around the intersection of Interstate 4 and Epcot Center Drive. This area includes several resort hotels and Disney’s Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told Newsweek that two Disney cast members came in contact with the rabid cat. Both employees have since returned to work.

“Contact with feral cats, stray dogs and all wildlife particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes should be avoided,” the Department of Health said in a statement. “The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in this area of southwest Orange County.”

Rabies is spread through saliva and humans can contract the disease through a bite wound or scratch. Initial symptoms — including weakness, fever and dizziness — may be mistaken for the flu.

If you come in contact with an animal in the area, wash the wound with soap and water, seek medical attention and call Orange County Animal Services at 407-254-9150.

The health department also encouraged those with pets to make sure their animals are vaccinated against the disease.

Rabies is a disease that can turn fatal if left untreated for just seven days. For more information, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about the rabies vaccine.