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My Great Getaway

by Meghann on June 30, 2013

After a blissful night of sleep Friday night (I even got to sleep in thanks to a flexible rest day schedule!), I was fired-up and ready to go Saturday morning for the second day of our Hilton HHonors Great Getaway adventures!

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But first I had a chance to fall in love with the beautiful pool(s) at the Hilton Grand Vacations at Sea World. I’m a sucker for a good hotel pool, especially when there’s more than one.

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I was able to sneak down before the rest of the crew around 7:30 to check out the still peaceful setting by the water. I’m sad I didn’t have a chance to take a full dip in either of the pools during my stay, but I did get to dip my toes in the water for a minute. The pools with both long and sprawling and my first thought was how great either would be for a little vacation-themed training session. There was also a 1/4 mile fitness trail around the pond that I took a leisurely stroll around. It was quiet and peaceful, a nice shaded getaway if you ever needed to take a break from laying out and move your legs a bit.

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Our breakfast plans for the morning included the poolside restaurant on property called Coral Reef.

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The restaurant was completely outside, but thanks to the shade and overhead fans it wasn’t terribly hot or muggy for our morning meal.

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(photo via @WithOurBest)

For a poolside restaurant, the menu was pleasantly creative and the food was all served fresh and delicious. Lisa ordered one of Coral Reef’s specialties, Eggs Benedict, which had a special twist – instead of the usual english muffin base; the ham, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce were all plated atop a serving of bread pudding.

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The bread pudding gave the typically savory dish, a dash of sweetness. I had a bite, and while it was delicious, the bread pudding definitely made the already rich dish even richer. Definitely something worth splurging on for vacation, but not an everyday meal.

Our new PR buddy Al ordered the “Breakfast Burger” which was a burger patty topped with cheese, egg, and bacon then served in a waffle bun.

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It was one of those things that was so out there, that we knew one of us to try it. Al graciously took the plunge in ordering it and was happy he did. I was picturing this huge, greasy concoction, but what arrived was appropriately portioned on the smaller side and didn’t look greasy at all. According to Al, the burger was good and the flavors worked together nicely (especially when topping it all with syrup). Al cleaned his plate and gave the Breakfast sandwich a big thumbs up.

I kept it simple with a belgian waffle with a side of scrambled eggs and fresh fruit.

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FIrst of all, I love that their fresh fruit was all berries. Good berries, too. They weren’t soggy or mushy, they were firm, juicy, and delicious. I ordered the eggs to beef my meal up with a little protein. We had a long day ahead of us and I knew just a waffle wasn’t going to cut it. I always add my eggs to the waffle because it’s so much better that way. I have no complaints about my meal. It was good and I didn’t leave a bite behind. πŸ™‚

After breakfast we piled into a roomy Chevy Tahoe and headed to our first stop of the day: Horse World Riding Stables about 30 minutes away from our hotel.

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Horse World is a cute family-owned place situated just far enough off the beaten path to escape the city/tourist side of Orlando for a few hours without totally going off the grid.

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Summertime in Florida is rainy season in Florida, which means mosquitos are EVERYWHERE. We all appreciated the complimentary bug spray before our ride.

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I’d ridden horses on and off in my youth (I even did a Wagons West adventure thing when I was 12 and rode the Oregon Trail on horseback for three days), but it’d been years since I’d been on a horse and all the riding I’d done in the past had been very, very basic. I’d never trotted or galloped before, but for some reason I enthusiastically said “Okay!” when they suggested the intermediate trail (which included trotting). Heck, why not. We were here for an adventure, right? Clearly trotting for the first time would be an adventure.

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So I hopped on my horse, got my directions, and waited patiently for our next adventure to begin.

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Notice the short shorts. Umm… yeah. Admittedly not the most appropriate bottoms for horseback riding.

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Once we were all settled on our horses (I was on Lilly, who I was told was the “princess” of the group), our guide led us on a 60 minute ride through the quiet Florida woods.

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It was a great ride. We started off slow and it was almost serene to be casually moving along through nature on horseback. Once we’d gone 10 or so minutes into the ride we had our first trot. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but I was definitely not prepared when the horse started trotting and I felt like I was being tossed out of the saddle. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Good thing I’d worn a sports bra! My poor butt. The guide behind me was talking at the beginning about how sore her behind was from the double advanced rides she led the day before. Now I could totally see where she was coming from – my behind was burning and it was only the first trot of the ride. The shorts didn’t help either. When I bounced my thighs would rub against the leather saddle and started chafing (man, that sounds kind of dirty, doesn’t it…).

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After the initial shock of what trotting was (lots of bouncing), I was more prepared for the additional trotting the rest of the ride and by the end I felt like a pro. Well, a pro who still didn’t have any idea what she was doing, but still more of a pro than I started. It was fun to try something new – definitely an adventure! We did about 5 minutes of trotting and about 10 minutes of easy walking. It was a great balance of the two and we had a great time talking and getting to know each other during the walking parts. I need to take Derek out for horseback riding, it would be a great daytime date.

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Thanks to Ironman training, I can definitely tell my metabolism is on superdrive because I was on the verge of eating my hand off by the time we were done riding. I was HUNGRY! Good thing our next stop was for some grub.

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Helllooo Fat Boys’ Bar-B-Q!! I was actually pretty pumped Fat Boys was on our list this weekend. We used to have one in my hometown when I was a kid, but it closed about 15 years ago. It was THE place to eat back in the day.

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The menu was your basic barbecue eats: fried this, pulled that, and some greens thrown in for good measure.

We started with a classic: fried okra.

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Served hot with ranch for dipping.

And onion rings.

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Fried okra > onion rings πŸ˜‰

I ordered the turkey lunch plate with sliced turkey, Texas toast, baked sweet potato, and green beans.

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I turned the plate into a turkey sandwich with sweet potato and the house sweet barbecue sauce. It was good and filling, but probably not the best meal before our next big adventure…

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Welcome to Gatorland! Can you believe I’d never been to Gatorland? What kind of Floridian am I?

So what is Gatorland? A place to see gators. Obviously.

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Oh, yeah. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been… because it’s hard to grow up in Florida and not see one in the wild (we’ve even had a couple in our pools!). But if you’re not from Florida and want to see an alligator, Gatorland is a pretty cool place to see one (or a hundred) and learn a little bit about what makes them tick.

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We also got to pet a baby gator.

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They’re awfully cute at that age.

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The Jumparoo Show was just starting when we arrived. It featured two “contestants” who were competing for a job as an alligator wrestler by getting the oversized alligators to jump for food.

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The show was full of corny jokes and overdrawn fake southern accents, but it was pretty incredible to see how high the gators could get out of the water.

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I’ve seen plenty of alligators in my lifetime, but none that compared to how massive these guys were. Wow. I would not want to accidentally run into these guys in the wild.

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(image via WithOurBest)

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Alright we didn’t come to Gatorland to just look at some gators, we had other plans in mind…

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Any guesses what that might be?!?

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We’re going zip lining!!!

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Gatorland has a zip lining course called the Screamin’ Gator where you can zip line over gator pits and unsuspecting tourists.

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We had a blast!

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I love zip lining. There’s something so freeing about being so high up in the air and only connected by a double rope. I would go back and do it every weekend if I could!

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Thank you Gatorland and Hilton HHonors for all the awesome zip lining images!

Lisa let us in on a little secret – there was a little gem of an ice cream shop across the street from Gatorland that was HAD to check out.

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I mean, well, if you insist. πŸ˜‰

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Private Island Ice Cream Company is a build-your-own ice cream shop that features nitrogen ice cream.

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You pick the mix-ins and the owner makes the ice cream right in front of you using nitrogen.

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He starts with liquid cream base, then freezes the cream with nitrogen to make the ice cream.

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It takes a couple of minutes of constantly turning the cream to get the creamy ice cream consistency.

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He then adds the toppings (I went with a recommended combo of peanut butter, pretzels, potato chips, and chocolate chips).

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And gives it one last hit of the nitrogen to freeze everything up.

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All done and ready to eat!

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I’ve had nitrogen ice cream before had a festival and it was really icy and fake tasting. This was really creamy and tasted just like normal ice cream straight from the carton. The toppings were great too. I loved the sweet and salty combo of the pretzels, potato chips, and chocolate chips.

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Lisa had ordered hers with sea carmel and candied bacon. Wow! If When I return, I’m ordering that. It was good!

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We had just enough time to shower back at the hotel before heading to dinner at Johnnie’s Hideaway just outside Downtown Disney.

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This was another first for me. I’d driven by Johnnie’s Hideaway (and heard good things about it!) tons of time, but I’d never been inside. It’s a classic steakhouse with an extensive steak and seafood menu.

I started with a watermelon basil margarita at the bar, which was just the right tough of sweetness balanced with a bit of salt and just the right amount of tequila.

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Our table ordered a variety of the highly recommended appetizers including:

Truffle Portobello Fries

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Crab Cake

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And Parmesan Garlic Oysters

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My favorite was the truffle portobello fries, which came with a blue cheese fondu dip that was prepared at the table.

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The portobello fries were thick and surprisingly crispy. They had a lot of flavor going on and were fun to eat.

Every entree came with a house salad.

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And garlic rolls.

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For dinner I had the 10 ox filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes.

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The steak was a perfect medium rare and very tender. It was great just as it was, no sauce or anything else was needed.

We were all stuffed to our gills but couldn’t pass on the pineapple coconut cake for dessert.

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I had a few bits before I had to call uncle. The meal was definitely a highlight of the weekend. I’ll need to return to Johnnie’s Hideaway with Derek someday soon.

After a packed day of adventures, I was more than ready to call it a night. It took all of 5 minutes after I returned to my room to change into my pjs and crawl into bed before passing the heck out. Man, that was an awesome day!

Ready for your own adventure getaway? Head over to the Hilton HHonors Great Getaway Giveaway to vote for your favorite adventure getaway and enter for a chance to win a Hilton HHonors Great Getaway of your own!

*This post was sponsored by Hilton HHonors. As always, all opinions are my own.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Caitlyn @ City and the Cubicle June 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Looks like an awesome time! That ice cream shop sounds especially amazing.
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2 Julie @ RDelicious Kitchen June 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm

what a fun getaway! I am going to try zip lining on my vacations this summer .. can’t wait!
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3 Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona June 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Those onion rings look delicious! There’s a milkshake place here that has delicious onion rings. I hardly ever order them, but when I do, it’s there!
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4 ash bear June 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Yeah I don’t think I’d be a fan of Gator Land either but the zip lining part definitely looks cool!
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5 Steph @321delish June 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm

What a fun weekend! I think I need to head over to Gatorland;-)

I’ve been to Johnnies when we were doing work across the street. It was definitely my favorite place to eat! The portobello fries are outta control, and I typically ordered the jumbo lump crab cocktail as my entree. Lots of fresh crab meat and an awesome dipping sauce! Yum! I consistently get email updates from them- I need to go back!
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6 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More June 30, 2013 at 9:05 pm

So fun! I’ve been finding myself wanting to ride horses lately and it’s been YEARS (!!) since I’ve done anything like that, it just seems so fun!

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7 Jenna Rodgers June 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Those gators are enormous! It appears as though you got somewhat close to them. Yikes! I would be frightened. That food looks so good, I think I may be the slightest bit jealous.

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8 Amber @ Mamas Blissful Bites June 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Looks like a fabulous tail of a time! So much fun. I must give it a try…just to say I flew over the crock pit πŸ™‚

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9 Rachael @ Pizza, Run, Repeatza June 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I went to Gatorland as a kid. I thought it was weird that they saved alligators from being hunted, but then also sold gator at the restaraunt. But I enjoyed the park overall. Living in Michigan, I don’t often run into alligators in my backyard, so I think it is a bit more exciting for me πŸ˜‰ That zipline looks awesome! I’d love to do that. Either I was too young when I went or it didn’t exist back then. Too bad. I’ll have to check it out next time.
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10 Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food June 30, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Everything looked so amazing…from the activities to the food! πŸ™‚
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11 Debra @ A Frugal Friend July 1, 2013 at 1:01 am

You had me at salted caramel and candied bacon πŸ˜‰
It’s so fun watching the next rounds of HHGetaway happening. Puerto Rico was amazing and your trip to Orlando…….quite adventurous! Way to go Hilton HHonors!
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12 Kristen July 1, 2013 at 7:39 am

I’ve stayed at that hotel before! My favorite part was the special entrance to the adjacent outlets for hotel guests… not good for my wallet though! They also had pretty good pizza- not sure why I remember that.

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13 Meghann July 1, 2013 at 7:41 am

how did I miss the secret outlet entrance?! I would have been all over that!

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14 Jake @ HGV July 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Actually that is the HGV on International Drive hotel you are thinking of. It is connected to the back side of Premium Outlets πŸ™‚ Meghann now you’ll have to come back to check out the hotel Kristen is talking about!

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15 rachel July 1, 2013 at 11:22 am

Mmmm onion rings! I haven’t had onion rings in ages and now my mouth is watering! It looks like you had a great time!
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16 Karen @ Runner Girl Eats July 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm

This morning I stumbled upon a nest of bellowing gators on a stroll with my father. I don’t think either one of us had ever been that scared before!.
I have been to that restaurant and loved every wonderful bite. I wish I had gotten the portobella fries though!!!
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17 Lisa from Life with Lisa July 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I wish we got to spend one more day so that we could have enjoyed the pools. The waterfall looked so awesome!

When you come back this way let’s meet up for some ice cream! Call me!
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18 The Many Thoughts of a Reader July 2, 2013 at 10:36 pm

that looks like a lot of fun!
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