The 7 Best Things to Do in Orlando (That Aren’t Theme Parks)

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Though Orlando is best known for its vast array of theme parks, it gets old pretty quick. Personally, I’d rather avoid the theme parks — too many kids and too many crowds.

But since I’ve seen and done everything there is to do in Orlando, trust me when I say there’s plenty of places to visit that can help you avoid both the kids and the crowds, especially if you’re looking for a great happy hour. Yep, there are many things to do in Orlando that definitely don’t involve theme parks. Here are my favorite things to keep you chilling in your own age bracket for a stress-free stay in Florida.

1. Kick Things off With Wine (That You Made)

Yelp.com

Let’s set the bar at age 21. For those of us who love to DIY and drink, try The Corkscrew Winery. It’s been a hit every time I’ve done it. Great for friends, dates, family members – you name it.

The gist of the place is that you can sign up to learn the wine making process right there from your seat. I’m surprised at how I can get immersed in the wine-batching process and learn how the pros get those grapes into the bottles. Plus, the end of the wine-making course, each guest leaves with their own bottle! Great perk.

These events are more intimate and are a complete antithesis to the crowds typically found at Orlando’s theme parks.

2. Need a Shoe Repair? Or Maybe a Beer? How About Both?

The bar’s original form from the 1940s. Instagram.

Let’s keep the drinking theme going. I can’t help you if you actually need your shoe repaired, but I do know of a speakeasy and eatery in downtown Orlando that looks exactly like a shoe repair shop. And that’s because it used to be one! It’s called Hanson’s Shoe Repairthe venue itself is one of the oldest downtown buildings in the area. And Andrew Hanson’s family-owned shoe repair store is one of the best-kept secrets in Orlando.

What’s cool about it is that isn’t as uptight or spendy as some other Orlando spots. The fact that it’s still standing in Orlando is awesome enough, but the new owners kept the name of the original shop. They’ve got a great beer menu and, if I do say so myself, a truly amazing Cuban sandwich.

3. The Store That’s Got Everything

One of my favorite shops to visit If you need to add a bit of the magic to your Orlando trip, there are more options than the Magic Kingdom.

North Orlando is home to the strange and wonderful Carmine Oddities Boutique, home of an infamous two-headed mummy and a variety of historical occult books. Whether you’re into learning about sub-cultures or just want to make first contact, there are a ton of super interesting trinkets, books and much, much more. Over the years, a lot of the items from the shop have begun to fill out my home. It’s worth a trip if you’re in the area — every time I’m visiting family, I make my way over there and end up walking away with something new.

The shop is open Tuesday through Sunday, and you can even make an appointment. Keep in mind it opens by 10 A.M., and it closes at 6 P.M. on weekdays (and 8 P.M. on the weekend).

4. Winter Park, Orlando’s Fun Neighbor

Winter Park Village, HotSpotsOrlando.com

If you want to try and get just outside of the city for a little bit, Winter Park is one of my favorite spots to visit. There’s just always something to do. Located north of Orlando, the city of Winter Park is known for its arts initiatives, shows, and small-town vibe. Some of the planned events in Winter Park include:

  • Dance lessons
  • Music jams
  • Rummage sales
  • Community cleanups
  • Movies in the park
  • Fishing tournaments

I’ve found that the people are especially friendly too, if you’re feeling chatty after a few beers. It’s a great place to stumble upon a random dog show or neighborhood parade.

5. Rent a Swan-Boat on Lake Eola

For anyone visiting Orlando as a couple, this one’s another great date idea. It might seem like a tourist trap, but it’s actually quite charming and totally worth doing just for the great view of the water. Lake Eola is located in downtown Orlando, so it’s the perfect thing to kill some time before happy hour or scheduled events. The lake itself is home to many different types of birds and, if you’re visiting Orlando in the spring, you’re sure to see some baby swans flapping about. Rent a swan boat and paddle your way around the water. Bring a bottle of wine with you, maybe even the one you made at Corkscrew. It’s a great way to see downtown from a new perspective and avoid the crowds.

6. Take a (21-And-Over) Guided Ghost Tour Through St. Augustine

trolleytours.com

This one’s a bit weird, considering it’s a ghost tour and a pub crawl run by a church. But that just lends to the authenticity! The church of St. Augustine offers a Haunted Pub Crawl and Paranormal Investigation that guides “spirits with the spirits” while searching for new haunts. From their website:

“Ever since opening to the public, there has been an immense number of reports of paranormal occurrences, continuing to this day. The old well in the gardens has been the center of many strange happenings; you’ll learn more about this during your investigation. Through research and archival records, stories of deaths and strange events on the property have been found. A number of psychics and paranormal researchers have investigated the property and reported bizarre findings- but no public programs have been allowed until now…”

It’s one of the most fun things to do in Orlando simply because of how it guides you from bar to bar with new visitors and locals alike. Attendees will explore the town’s most notorious haunted caverns where it is alleged that the honorable Judge Stickney stalks the graves nightly and searches for the bodies buried alive during the post-Civil War typhoid outbreak. Just your average night!

7. The Best Theater and Cabaret Performances are Local

One of my absolute favorite venues for local theater is The Mad Cow Theatre, where local actors collaborate to put on raucous, riotous plays and musicals that are sure to have you in stitches laughing. As a bonus, if you’re in Orlando in May, the Mad Cow Theatre puts on the Orlando Cabaret Festival – now in its 15th year! – which you can’t miss if you love pure, musical entertainment in cool, intimate spaces.

Whatever you, your date or your family end up doing, just make sure you don’t sell yourself short. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to do in Orlando that has nothing to do with a certain mouse. Explore it – just like I did!


Mark Healey is a travel and adventure enthusiast who enjoys photography, fitness and exploring the great outdoors. During the day, he works in marketing and is passionate about helping businesses achieve greater visibility through digital channels.

Movehacks: How to Unpack and Organize Before, During and After You Open a Box

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Some people tell us unpacking is the most enjoyable part of their move. (“It’s like Christmas!” they say.) Others dread unpacking like nothing else in the world. (“It’s worse than a triple root canal!” they cry.)

Either way, unpacking can quickly turn your new home into an ocean of cardboard and newsprint. To make the process more manageable – dare we say more enjoyable? – here are some industry tips for getting your unpack off to a raging start.

What to Do Before the Unpack

Yeah, you gotta clean before you unpack 

You might not want to hear this right off the bat, but be prepared to clean before you begin to unpack. Even if it’s just wiping the shelves and countertops and giving the floors a quick sweep, unpacking in a clean home is infinitely more pleasant than unpacking in a dusty one. These items definitely take priority when it comes to cleaning:

  • Kitchen cabinets
  • Refridgerator
  • Bathtub and bathtub jets
  • Stove
  • Inside the washing machine

For more a more in-depth look at the how and why for house prep, check out this post.

Don’t unpack from down on the ground, clear some counter space

In the kitchen or dining room, do whatever you need to do so you can get your boxes up high. Why? Because you’ll need that counter space to place boxes on before you carry your things around your new place.

Why on a shelf? Because if you unpack from the place you dropped down that heavy box, you’re going to feel it in your lower back the next day. And week. Trust me, unpack up high. Always.

Unpack to shower and sleep first

No one in the history of unpacking has ever unpacked in one day. Unless you think you can be the first, don’t wait to unpack your bedding, set up your bed, hang your shower curtain and dig out what you need to feel clean and refreshed after a long day (or week? or month?) of moving.

Protip: Yes, this involves a little foresight when packing. Mark the boxes that contain the things you want to access first. (This may also include real plates, glasses and utensils to make you feel more at home when you sit down for dinner that first evening.)

What to Do During the Unpack

Unpack the “easy” boxes first to make room 

It takes almost no time to unpack your books and stick them on the shelves of your bookcase. In a matter of minutes, you can transfer your t-shirts and jeans from boxes to dresser drawers. And for goodness sake, get those massive and bulky wardrobe boxes unpacked and out of the house!

Go about halfway with the pictures 

Unpacking large pictures, mirrors and paintings is also quick, and you can then get rid of those bulky mirror cartons. Some folks, however, suggest hanging your pictures up early on to give your new place that homey feel. I say lean them up in a corner somewhere until you get all your furniture in place. Later on, you can do the “a little to the right…a little more…no back left…no not that much…okay there, no, a shade higher…yeah, that’s perfect” thing.

Make a quota of boxes unpacked per day and stick to it

If you are the motivated type, feel free to skip this tip. If you are easily distracted and tend to put things off, you might find it helpful to …. Hey, are you listening? …  set goals for yourself. Commit to unpacking one room per day, six boxes per hour, whatever. And reward yourself for sticking to your plan by going out afterward. Just remember how satisfying it will be when you’re all finished. 

Repack what you don’t actually need for storage

As you empty your boxes, set aside those items you decide you won’t need right away – or for a long time. Keep a few of those now-empty boxes handy and consolidate those items you put aside for quick transfer to the basement, the attic or the back of your closet.

Protip: Just as you did when you first packed, write the contents of each box with a marker as you go through your consolidation.

Don’t unpack the TV

The ultimate distractor. Do unpack the tunes, though. 

Purge. Again

We suggest purging while unpacking. On move after move, it’s common to see people wait for weeks (or months) for the family’s stuff to arrive. Living without most of their stuff, they often realize that so many things were unnecessary. And while packing stuff in a box allows you to forget about it, having to unpack it and find a place for it helps you decide whether you really need it. As with the stuff you’ll be storing in the attic or the basement, set up a box or two for these things you’ve decided to part with.

What to Do After the Unpack

Hide your paper trail

Keep a couple of medium-sized boxes on hand, and use them to stash all the packing paper that would otherwise turn the floors of your new home into a churning sea of crumpled newsprint. Flattening and folding all that paper will save a lot of space – if you have the time and patience – but doing so also helps you find smaller items that can go unnoticed and disappear forever. I can’t count how many times a customer dropped their used moving boxes off at our warehouse with items still buried in the packing paper inside.

Protip: Packing a large box with flattened paper can make it surprisingly heavy. Medium boxes are more manageable in this respect.

Now, about getting rid of all those boxes…

First, get them out of your way. The garage – if you have one and there’s room – is the obvious choice. (Think twice before stashing them in the basement “temporarily”.) If the weather is good and it feels appropriate, start breaking down your empty boxes and putting them out by the curb. Unless your new home is on a cul-de-sac it may not be long before you see passer-by stop and take those boxes off your hands. If this doesn’t work, here are three ideas that don’t require a box-hungry passerby.

  • If you have the time, the storage space and the mental fortitude try passing on your boxes to someone else who is getting ready to move. Facebook groups and Craigslist are two widely-used resources for advertising moving boxes for sale or for free.
  • Some moving companies will be happy to take your boxes and your packing paper off your hands. If none of the smaller local movers will take them, check for national van line agencies in your area (like United, North American, Atlas and Allied). The agencies I worked for never bought used boxes from people, but we were always happy to take them if they were in decent shape. 
  • Recycle if you can’t find someone who will reuse them.

Unpacking can prove a more formidable task than expected. Whether you think it’ll be like Christmas or a root canal, putting these tips into practice will help you feel at home faster.

Then you can sit back and watch the TV.

The Must-Do’s for Having a Successful Garage Sale

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Camping, family vacations, gardening, baseball – summer is chock full of activities that pair well with that laid-back nature of relaxing. Another summer staple? Garage sales!

Now with summer upon us, it’s officially garage sale season. This simple tradition is a win-win for both buyers and sellers because it allows the sellers to get rid of the “stuff” that has been cluttering their garage for far too long, all while making some extra cash. It’s also great for the buyers because they can score items that aren’t always on the market or stuff they could buy elsewhere for a fraction of the cost.

If you’re thinking about hosting your own garage sale this season, we’ve compiled a list of tricks that will help you increase business by bringing in more customers. That’s more profit and less stuff to haul back inside after it’s all over.

You Might Need to Get a Permit

Some cities or villages require a permit in order for you to hold a garage sale, while others do not. It’s important to check with your specific town to see what the protocol is before you start planning your garage sale. (Just do a simple Google search.) We would hate to see your’s actually get shut down after you put in all that prep time, just because you forgot to snag a permit. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Get Your Stuff Organized to Go

Once you have your permit and a specific date set, it’s time to start combing through every nook and cranny of your house (don’t forget the attic!) in order to get rid of any items you don’t use or love anymore. From large furniture to small accessories, there should be almost nothing that is “off-limits” for a garage sale. You also want to take this time to start clearing out your garage. The piles of stuff you hope to sell don’t necessarily have to be organized during this stage, but it is important that everything is located in one spot so you have a sense of how much stuff you hope to sell.

Borrow Some Large Tables

If you don’t have large fold-up tables, you may want to ask your friends and family if you could borrow some. Even small card tables will help you display the merchandise effectively, which really helps business! If your family and friends don’t have any tables, you can always ask local businesses or organizations like the VFW or Goodwill. They may be more than happy to lend you a table for a few days, especially if you’re a loyal customer or are willing to share some of the profits of the sale with their organization.

Put Your Stuff Out by Category

Once you have identified what you want to sell and have your tables, start organizing your stuff by category. If you have furniture, put all of that in one spot. If you have a lot of holiday decor, put all of that together on a table. You can even use Tupperware bins from the attic/garage to pair like-things together, such as children’s toys or stuffed animals. Grouping these items together will help the customers identify what you have to offer a lot more clearly.

Invest Time in Some Amazing Signage

Get the printable file for these “Awesome Garage Sale” signs HERE

The key to a busy and successful garage sale is getting the word out! Some choose to advertise their garage sales in the newspaper or on the internet, but you should also invest time in creating eye-catching signage to place at busy intersections nearby. Choose bright colors and make your signs big enough for people driving past to stop and take notice. It’s also important to make signs that lead your customers directly to your driveway. Some people won’t look at the address and put it into their GPS, especially while they’re driving. It’s huge to plop signs along the route with simple arrows and bright colors, so drivers can follow the signs right to your house without getting confused or frustrated.

Price to Sell

Even though many of the items you are selling hold a special place in your heart, it’s important that the garage sale price of this item doesn’t reflect this history. It’s important to price your items to sell! After you price everything, don’t be afraid to categorize items by price because this will make marking the items a lot easier. You can put a large $1.00 sign on a table and tell customers that everything on this entire table is a dollar. This will save you some serious prep-time and keep your life a lot easier on the day of the sale.

Get a “Bank” Ready

Make sure you visit a local bank and cash in some large bills for singles, fives and coins ahead of time. Many of your customers may not have exact change and if they pay their $1.50 balance with a $20, you need to make sure you have enough change for them. Also, be sure to have this cash in a secure spot that is being supervised at all times. If you want to keep it on your body at all times, try using a cross body purse or fanny pack. If you feel more comfortable putting it in a cash box, make sure someone is sitting and supervising the bank at all times.

Enlist Some Friends

Speaking of supervising the cash, it’s best if you have at least two (maybe more) people working the garage sale. At times, it can become hectic with customers asking questions, paying for the merchandise and just coming and going. Having two people with specific jobs will help you avoid the chaos, help customers and stay attentive to the cash at all times.

Be Willing to Negotiate

You never want to take less money, but customers will definitely try to haggle the prices at garage sales. It’s okay to stand firm, but you also have to be realistic. Be open-minded to accept less for some of your items, especially when the garage sale is almost over. It’s better to make some money, instead of nothing at all!

Have a Plan for the “Leftovers”

After the garage sale is over, you may have a few items left behind that were not sold. It’s important to have a plan for this so that this stuff is not taking up valuable space in your garage, attic and closets anymore. Whether you plan to donate the items or try to sell some of the larger ones on Craigslist, make a plan of action before the sale is over so you know exactly what to do after the last customer leaves.


Although garage sales can be a lot of work and stressful at times, make a point to enjoy the experience! Invite over some friends to help so you can catch-up during slow times, turn on the music and soak in the sunshine. The more fun you have, the better your experience will be.

If you follow these tricks, we’re confident that your garage sale will be a big hit! And after it’s all said and done, hopefully, all you’ll have to worry about is where you are going to spend all your hard-earned cash.

The Stuff That’s Illegal to Bring Into California

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Question: What do pecan shells, ferrets and flamethrowers have in common?

Answer: They are all things you can’t bring into the state of California.

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A Jumbo Guide to Moving Really Big Stuff

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Do any of you guys have scars that remind you of something? Something crazy you did? Some incredible, life-affirming moment you experienced?

I do. Sort of. I have a scar on my chin that reminds me of a refrigerator, a hand truck and a set of stairs.

When it comes to moving heavy appliances, some things are not so obvious – until of course you get hit in the chin. This month we go over a few things to know before you start wrangling with that big shiny fridge.

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The Ultimate Guide to Background Checks

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[Synopsis: Performing background checks can be tricky. Here are the basics to help get us through.]

For their move from New Brunswick to Newfoundland, one major concern for Lydia Lewycky and Tom Horrocks was that their movers be thoroughly vetted. This was a big reason they hired Premiere Van Lines, whose “No Stranger in Your Home” policy states that that all moving consultants, professional van operators, packers/unpackers and loading/unloading crew members are background-checked before they are hired.

Unfortunately for Lydia and Tom, one of their movers was not checked for any criminal history. A week after their move, they discovered that $17,000 worth of jewelry was missing from a box they transported to their new home – after having left it unattended for several hours in a bedroom while the movers were working.

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