Almost everyone loves bacon. It’s ridiculously awesome. And many people have very mixed views about whether bacon is actually good or bad for you. It’s not defined as completely healthy, but does have some amazing health benefits if you have it just about once a week.


  1. It’s packed with protein that helps regulate your energy level’s. And keep you feeling full. Plus protein in general boost’s your Norepinephrine, Epinephrine and Dopamine levels. Which will lead you to feel happy and energetic. No wonder it’s so addictive.
  2. Helps to lower your blood pressure as well as your blood sugar.
  3. Can help ease the symptom’s that come along with Diabetes.
  4. Helps to prevent Stroke’s, Heart Disease and Heart Attacks.
  5. Contains Choline that improves your memory and IQ. It also help’s reduce the symptoms that come with Alzheimer’s Disease.
  6. Can help you feel happy and reduce your stress levels.
  7. Contains high amount’s of: Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, Phosphorus, Protein, Niacin, Vitamins B12, B6 and Thiamine.
  8. Contains Omega 3 Fatty Acids which help reduce inflammation throughout the body.
  9. Is used as a treatment for Salt Depletion (Hyponatremia).
  10. Helps prevent Anemia.

So don’t believe the hype that bacon is the worst thing you could possibly ingest, and go out and grab yourself a handful of salty, pork goodness!

Spice Up the Season


Flavorful holiday dishes for every course

(Family Features) Whether this holiday marks your culinary debut or you’re a seasoned chef looking for a fresh take on seasonal favorites, you can take some notes from the pros. Every good chef has an arsenal of tricks and techniques to create amazing dishes every time, and the perfect blend of spices is one of those winning secrets.

In a properly seasoned dish, the spice accents the natural flavors without overpowering them. That’s why it’s a good idea to build your menu around spices and herbs of the highest quality, such as Spice Islands, which crafts and packages spices and herbs from around the world to deliver the most authentic and intense flavor possible.

Add flavor-rich, seasonal spices to your holiday table with these flavorful recipes for a Traditional Turkey Rub, Cranberry Apple Chutney, Butternut Squash Soup with Thyme Butter and Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes.

From the appetizers to the main dish to dessert, flavorful seasonings can make a good recipe great. Find more ideas for spicing up your holiday menu at SpiceIslands.com.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Yield: 18 mini cheesecakes

  • 18        paper baking cups (2 1/2 inch diameter)
  • 18        gingersnap cookies
  • 12        ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4       cup sugar
  • 1          tablespoon corn starch
  • 1          teaspoon Spice Islands Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2          eggs
  • 1          cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3       cup light corn syrup
  1. Heat oven to 325° F. Line muffin tin with paper baking cups. Place 1 cookie in each cup.
  2. With electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, corn starch and pumpkin pie spice. Add eggs and mix well. Add pumpkin and corn syrup; beat 1 minute.
  3. Pour filling into liners, dividing evenly. Bake 30-35 minutes until just set.
  4. Chill 1 hour.

Cranberry Apple Chutney

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 2 cups

  • 1          bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4       cup water
  • 2          large apples, cored and chopped
  • 1 1/2    cups sugar
  • 2/3       cup finely chopped onion
  • 2/3       cup golden raisins
  • 2          teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1          teaspoon Spice Islands Minced Garlic
  • 1          teaspoon salt
  • 3/4       teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Allspice
  • 1/4       teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Saigon Cinnamon
  • 1/8       teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Cloves
  • 2/3       cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/3       cup cider vinegar
  • 2/3       cup chopped pecans
  1. In large saucepan, combine cranberries, water, apples, sugar, onion, raisins, ginger, garlic, salt, allspice, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; cover, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Add corn syrup, vinegar and pecans. Cook uncovered 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Serve with roast turkey, pork roast or baked ham.

Butternut Squash Soup with Thyme Butter

Prep time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings

  • 1          tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1          teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Ginger
  • 1/4       teaspoon Spice Islands Cayenne Pepper
  • 3          pounds (about 7 cups) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2          medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 2          small onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2          cans (14 1/2 ounces each) chicken broth, divided
  • 1/2       cup water
  • Thyme Butter:
  • 1/4       cup butter, softened
  • 1/2       teaspoon Spice Islands Thyme
  • 1/2       teaspoon Spice Islands Garlic Powder
  1. Heat oven to 425° F.
  2. In large bowl, combine oil, ginger and cayenne pepper. Add squash, apples and onions; toss to coat. Transfer to 15-by-10-inch baking pan. Roast in single layer 35-45 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven.
  3. Working in batches, combine squash mixture and one can chicken broth in blender or food processor; blend until smooth. Transfer pureed mixture to large saucepan. Stir in remaining chicken broth and water. Bring soup to boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.
  4. To make thyme butter: Combine butter, thyme and garlic powder until well blended. Spoon onto wax paper and roll into 3-inch log; wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm.
  5. To serve, cut butter into thin slices. Ladle hot soup into individual bowls; top each with slice of butter.

Tip: Puree can be made in advance, covered and refrigerated up to 2 days.

Traditional Turkey Rub

Prep time: 5 minutes
Yield: rub for 1 turkey (about 15 pounds)

  • 2          teaspoons Spice Islands Crushed Rosemary
  • 1          teaspoon Spice Islands Thyme
  • 1          teaspoon Spice Islands Onion Powder
  • 1/2       teaspoon Spice Islands Garlic Powder
  • 1/8       teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Saigon Cinnamon
  • sea salt
  • Spice Islands Ground Black Pepper
  • pure olive oil (optional)
  • 1          turkey
  1. In small bowl, combine rosemary, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder and cinnamon. Generously add salt and pepper. Lightly coat turkey with oil, if desired.
  2. Rub all surfaces of turkey with seasoning. Roast according to package directions.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (whole turkey on platter)

Spice Islands

How Algorithms Influence Us Every Day

Computer algorithms have become an increasingly integral part of our personal lives and how we interact and view society as a whole. Because of algorithms, we get the latest news stories and information via Facebook and Twitter. We get Google search results that cater to our personal preferences. We’re able to take the easiest driving routes with the help of GPS, and we buy products that we might not have known we wanted due to recommendation functions.

Since algorithms play such a large part in our lives, we may overlook their pervasiveness and also overlook the way our views are affected by a seemingly subtle force. A recent article by Michele Willson of Curtin University in Perth, Australia, suggests the omnipresence of algorithms raises interesting questions about day-to-day human experience, reports Science Daily.

One key aspect that Willson examines is the reduction of the human experience into data.

“Time, bodies, friendships, transactions, sexual preferences, ethnicity, places and spaces are all translated into data for manipulation and storage within a technical system or systems. On that basis alone, questions can be posed as to… how people see and understand their environment and their relations (when all is reducible to malleable discrete but combinable units),” says Willson.

But isn’t the thought of humans as data an affront to our uniqueness? If our personalities can be neatly packaged into bits of data, we might wonder if there’s anything that makes us distinctly special. Can our identities be observed simply as clusters of objective personality traits? Can we be so easily boxed up based on aesthetic preferences, ethnicities, sexuality and places of residence?

Not only can algorithms have an impact on the way we view ourselves, they can also have an impact on the way our socio-political perceptions are shaped — forcing us to look at how we view our relationships with others.

Algorithms aren’t perfect

Recent research has shown that there’s much bias in algorithms, reports The New York Times. These biases cover everything including gender, class and race.

For example, Google’s online advertising system shows ads for high-income jobs to males much more so than to females, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. If you search for a name that tends to be a more characteristically associated with African-Americans vs. a name that’s typically associated with a white person, you’re more likely to find arrest records, according to a study from Harvard University. And University of Washington researchers discovered that if you type “CEO” into a Google Images search, only 11 percent of the images show women even though 27 percent of United States CEOs are female.

Demographics as pure data could be seen as problematic for individuality and identity; after all, we live in a country where being unique is considered a right. But there are some positive aspects to these attempts to quantify human experience and preference via algorithms; just look at the success rate of marriages that began in the realm of online dating.

But they do make good matchmakers

Recent research suggests that there’s a higher rate of marriage satisfaction with couples who met online, reports Time. In a study funded by eHarmony and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of 20,000 Americans who were married between 2005 and 2012, 35 percent of those marriage were made possible because of internet dating. It turns out that 6 percent of marriages that began online ended in divorce or separation as opposed to 8 percent for marriages that began outside the digital world.

Aside from bringing love into many people’s lives, preference algorithms help us discover a wide array of media catered to the individual. The recommendation functions of Amazon and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu expose audiences to unexplored worlds in film, music and books. Just like your GPS app can make your drive easier, media-oriented algorithms can reveal untouched terrain by leading the user down roads that might otherwise remain less traveled. By guessing your ideal destination and refining your personalized path, algorithms can enhance how you experience media by recognizing your preferences, even if you’re unaware of them.

None of this is to say that algorithms are an absolute evil that must be eradicated, or that algorithms are the end-all be-all that can save us from loneliness. And of course, there are examples abound of how algorithms affect our everyday world like national security and financial analytics. But nonetheless, the examination of algorithms in our everyday lives gives us a chance to contemplate broader questions about our own humanity.

The Taste of Florida Cafe

Prepare to fall in love with The Taste of Florida Cafe, where family recipes are prepared with fresh ingredients and their award winning grapefruit pie is served.

Sun Country Groves began as a grove retail shop and shipping company that quickly became a hotspot for area visitors enjoying a Central Florida vacation. Fifty-three years later, the family business expanded to include a seasonal café, Taste of Florida Café, where owner Debbie Lang Brozio showcases her Grandmother Mary Lang’s treasured recipes, including her award winning Grapefruit Pie.

Lang's Taste of Florida Cafe

Lang’s Taste of Florida Cafe

Seasonal Ingredients and Family Recipes

Their friendly staff works together at the Taste of Florida Café to serve up a wide array of family recipes. Every dish is created with fresh seasonal ingredients sure to awaken your taste buds. The café offers something for everyone. Salads are piled high and filled with unique ingredients. For example, the Trio Salad features scoops of chicken salad, sweet potato salad, and tangy citrus salad atop a bed of fresh greens. If you are feeling a little south of the border try the Taco Bowl Salad, bringing you all the taste of a Mexican feast.

Another group of noteworthy items are the sandwiches. The Hawaii Croissant is topped with honey baked ham and pineapple while the Roast Beef Classic is adorned with bacon and Swiss cheese – both are sure to leave you satisfied. One of the highlights of Taste of Florida Café is the Grapefruit Slaw Dog, a big beef hotdog topped with their famous grapefruit slaw.

Lang's Taste of Florida Cafe

Lang’s Taste of Florida Cafe

The café also offers a variety of wraps including the Veggie Lover and the Turkey Bacon Wrap. All sandwiches, hot dogs, and wraps are served with chips. If you happen to experience one of Florida’s chillier days, a hot cup of soup or the Cracker Cowboy Chili will warm you right up. To satisfy your sweet tooth, try the fresh strawberry shortcake served on top of warm fresh baked biscuits or southern sweet cake.

Food Network has Featured the Grapefruit Pie

If you’ve read reviews about Taste of Florida Café, you know you MUST try a slice of Grapefruit Pie. Graham cracker crust is layered with fresh grapefruit and other delicious ingredients that are sure to please both the taste buds and the eyes. Founder Mary Lang’s recipe has won numerous awards as well as a feature on the Food Network show, Epicurious. If you are still craving Grapefruit Pie once you return home, don’t worry – Mary Lang was kind enough to share her unique recipe with us!

Mary Lang’s Grapefruit Pie Recipe

Yield: 8 servings

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 Minutes
Refrigerate: 2 to 3 hours

1 (6 ounce) graham cracker crust
2 large or 3 medium red Lang grapefruit, sectioned
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin
1 (8 ounce) container frozen nondairy whipped topping, thawed

Arrange grapefruit sections in graham cracker crust. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add water and cook over medium heat until thick and clear. Add gelatin and stir to dissolve. Let cool slightly. Pour gelatin over grapefruit sections in crust. Refrigerate until firm.

Top with whipped topping.

Lang's Sun Country Groves Gift Shop

Lang’s Sun Country Groves Gift Shop

Old Florida Style Gift Shop

After lunch you can explore all that Lang Sun Country Groves has to offer. Want to enjoy fresh Florida citrus at home after your Central Florida vacation? Lang’s offers fruit shipping. You can also visit their retail gift shop which has been described as “old Florida style” with southern charm expressed on the walls in the form of large decorative murals of Florida crops. The shop is stocked with jams, fresh juice (150 gallons squeezed daily), jellies, wine, food-items and many gifts you would not find at a typical roadside souvenir shop.


5900 US-17
Haines City, FL 33844
Get Directions


Open Seasonally October – May
Monday – Saturday 9:00 – 5:00 p.m


BrewPOP Brewery

BrewPOP Brewery in Auburndale is a family-friendly brewery serving 48 taps of beers and ciders, red and white wines, house-made sodas, and wood-fired Neapolitan style pizzas.

Locally Brewed Beer

BrewPOP Brewery has revived an old brewing technique used to make a variety of beer strengths from a single grain mash – Parti Gyle – and they are just one of a handful of breweries in the world that use this style of brewing on a regular basis. Another way to describe Parti Gyle is “brewing to taste.”

When you review the brew menu at BrewPOP you’ll notice similar types of beer in groups of three. Information about the 1st, 2nd and 3rd “runnings” refers to the flavor profile and ABV strength. First runnings are considered barley wines, or good sipping beers, with 8-14% ABV. Second runnings are considered normal, well balanced and flavorful beers, while third runnings are light beers with 3-5% ABV. Some third runnings are flavored with raspberries and mangos, or they are soured.

BrewPOP Brewery Taps and Drink Menu

BrewPOP Brewery Taps and Drink Menu

Parti Gyle Menu Example

  • Grizzly Honey: 1st running at 9.9% ABV. Dark beer with notes of honey from the malts and a touch of GallBerry Honey and Amber Belgian Candy Sugar.
  • Grizzly Deterrent: 2nd running at 7.5% ABV. Flavored with Black Pepper and local Florida Brazilian Honey Pepper.
  • My Grizzly Soured My Bee: 3rd running at 4.0% ABV. Wonderful sour with a hint of local Florida Brazilian Honey Pepper.
BrewPOP Brewery Flights

BrewPOP Brewery Flights

House-Made Wine and Sangria

The base for BrewPOP Brewery’s wine is concentrated grape juice from the west coast of the United States, and each batch of wine is flavored with local fruits. For instance, Merlot Flirts with a Mango is a Washington State merlot aged on French Oak with a touch of mango, and Piesporter with Tangerines is a German piesporter made with tangerines. BrewPOP’s White Sangria is made with mangos, pears, apricots, peaches and apples, just to name a few.

At BrewPOP, sangria and wine can be served a few different ways: straight up for full flavor, on ice, or mixed with a house-made soda.

House-Made Soda

BrewPOP Brewery’s sodas have no additives or chemicals and include flavors like Pumpkin Pie, Crazy Monkey, Dark & Creamy Cherry, and Apple Sauce.

Insider Tip: Sit at the bar and ask the bartender about mixing beer and sodas. Carmel Graham (beer) and Apple Sauce (soda) is a delicious mix.

BrewPOP Brewery Mushroomagedon

BrewPOP Brewery Mushroomagedon

Neapolitan Style Pizzas

BrewPOP Brewery’s hybrid pizza oven, heating with both natural gas and wood, reaches around 800 degrees so the staff must use fresh, high quality ingredients. The brewery makes their own dough and serves only a buffalo mozzarella. Best sellers include My Chicken Beat Up My Pig (chicken breast, fire roasted pork, Italian sausage, pancetta, marinara, Swiss and provolone cheese) and Mushroomagedon (shitake, oyster, baby bella and large bell mushroom caps sliced and then sautéed in a white wine, mushroom cream sauce and Belgioioso fresh mozzarella).

BrewPOP Brewery Pretzel Logs

BrewPOP Brewery Pretzel Logs

Wings, Pretzel Logs, and Pretzel Bun Sliders

BrewPOP Brewery’s wings are marinated, slow roasted and then grilled to order and their most popular flavors are Sesame (garlic, spices, sesame oil and a touch of Florida honey) and Hot Ginger (ginger, Sriracha, cayenne pepper and a house-made hot sauce).

The fresh, hot soft beer pretzel logs are very popular and come with your choice of Jerry’s famous beer cheese, spicy beer mustard, seeded wine mustard, or marinara sauce. The same pretzel dough is used for BrewPOP’s pretzel bun sliders. Slider varieties change daily.

Five tips for staying on budget and keeping the holidays jolly

Candy cane cache: Maintain your holiday budget through these 5 tips

(BPT) – If you’re one of those savvy consumers already strategizing how to best fund gifts and other expenses this holiday season, you’re not alone. Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults who give holiday presents establish a budget for these purchases, according to a recent Coinstar survey. Yet 85 percent admit they still tend to go over budget when it comes to gift buying, entertainment, travel, decorating and other holiday expenses.

Fortunately, planning ahead can reduce the risk of overspending. Consider how implementing the following ideas can help you stay on task and on budget when it comes to this year’s holiday expenses.

1. Estimate all of your anticipated holiday expenses, not just gift purchases. Consider costs for decorations, food/alcohol, travel and special events to gain a realistic idea of your projected cash output. If the total is out of reach, consciously decide where to cut back so you’re less likely to spend impulsively. You may have to acknowledge that you’re not able to host a lavish party or buy generous presents for everyone on your list.

2. Reduce your stress by starting your shopping early and taking advantage of sales throughout the year. These strategies will help spread your costs so they don’t all hit at once and reduce your overall holiday spending budget. A full one-third of U.S. adults shop throughout the year, according to Coinstar’s survey, and 27 percent buy the majority of their presents on sale. Only 14 percent are last-minute shoppers. Looking for bargains and unique gift items at stores, at special events and on websites can even be fun when you’re not in a panic.

3. Think of ways to boost your spending power. One method is turning to the spare change you’ve stashed away in a coin jar, in vehicles and around your home. It’s easy to take your change to one of about 20,000 Coinstar kiosks located at grocery stores throughout the country. For many, that’s found money that can be converted into cash or transformed (at no fee) into e-gift cards from popular vendors such as Amazon, Best Buy, Sephora, Lowe’s and Starbucks.

4. Draw names and set gift spending limits for family gift exchanges. As families grow through marriage or children added to the brood, it’s easy to allow spending and gift giving to get out of control. White elephant exchanges can be great for the kids in the family. Have them gift one of their toys or possessions to another child in the family. That will not only be softer on the wallet, but will teach them the power of gifting and reusing.

5. Consider gifts big on thoughtfulness and small in cost. Perhaps a handcrafted work of art, homemade baked goods or a meaningful service such as childcare would mean more to some recipients than a store-bought knickknack, electronic gadget or sweater.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you go over budget despite your best efforts. You can always make up for it by cutting expenses outside the holiday season when you may face less temptation and pressure to buy.

For more information on how Coinstar works, visit www.coinstar.com.

What Not to Forget on a Cruise

10 Things to Remember to Pack

We all know that sinking feeling when you realize you’ve left something important behind, whether it’s your phone in the car or your wallet at the restaurant you just left. That feeling is much worse when you’re on a cruise and discover that you’ve forgotten something at home. While not every “oops” will upend your cruise, some will, while others can prove to be enough of headache to put a dent in an otherwise great vacation.

From A to Z, we list a few critical things not to forget the next time you cruise.

1. Adapter/converter

If you’re traveling outside of the North American and Caribbean region and will be spending any time at a hotel, you’ll need to bring a power adapter and/or converter with you. It’s an easy item to forget as most cruise ships these days offer both North American and European plug sockets, but hotels do not. We recommend getting an all-in-one world adapter/converter that you just leave in your suitcase all the time; that way you’ll always have it when you need it. (Plus, you can use it on your cruise ship to make use of an additional outlet.)

2. Band-Aids

Unless you’re on a warm-weather cruise and plan on plonking yourself down poolside all day or at the beach in every port, you’ll probably be doing a lot more walking than you expect. Even your most broken-in shoes might start to feel a little rough in destinations like Alaska and Europe where glacier hikes or walking tours are standard fare. Be prepared for the inevitable blister or two with Band-Aids at hand, in whatever bag you carry with you off the ship and some spare ones onboard.

3. Chargers

Don’t waste half a port day chasing down a laptop charger like one Cruise Critic senior editor was forced to do after switching laptop bags and forgetting to move the charger to the new bag. If you’re bringing anything that needs to be charged, make sure to double-check you’ve got the charger for it. There are lots of cruise destinations where getting a replacement charger could be near to impossible. You do not want to be stuck in a picture-perfect setting with no way to take a picture!

4. Emergency contact list

Sure, we’ve all got our contact numbers stored in our cell phones these days, but what if someone else needs to make a call on your behalf and your phone requires a PIN or thumbprint? Or what if the phone is missing or the battery is dead? Having a hard copy of all your emergency contacts in your wallet or stored in your in-cabin safe could turn out to be a lifesaver.

5. ID

Sadly, we’ve read horror stories of people showing up to cruise ports without their passports, birth certificates or required visas and getting turned away. If it’s the last thing you do before you walk out your door, always check to make sure you’ve got all the identification and paperwork that is required for every step of your trip. Whether its passports, birth certificates (only an option on closed loop cruise sailings out of a U.S. port) or visas for countries you’ll be visiting, forgetting any one of these could leave you stranded while your cruise ship sails away. For an extra layer of security, keep copies of all of these (as well as your travel insurance policy) in a separate location from the originals.

6. Medications

Other than a handful of over-the-counter remedies (cold pills, pain relievers and seasickness treatments) sold at inflated prices, cruise ships carry only a limited supply of prescription medications, and these are given out only in emergencies. If you take any kind of medicine on a daily basis, be it prescription, vitamin or something else, it’s imperative you bring enough with you to last your entire cruise — and even a few days longer just in case some type of travel delay prevents you from getting home on time. Even though most cruise ships do carry pills for seasickness prevention either in the sundries shop or in the medical center, if you’re prone to seasickness you shouldn’t forget to bring your own supply as well.

7. Sweater

Even on warm-weather cruises you’re likely to run into unexpected chilly air, particularly in public areas of your cruise ship where the A/C is often set to “blast.” Plus, you never known when Mexico or the Caribbean will be hit by a cold spell. Forgetting to bring a pullover, cardigan, sweatshirt or sweater could result in spending extra money on an over-priced piece of clothing you never wear again.

8. Snack bars/packs

Going to be off your cruise ship for an entire day? Bussing it out to a remote shore expedition locale where there might not be any convenience stores? It’s never a bad idea to have a snack with you when getting off the ship as you don’t always know if you’ll be able to get something to eat if you need it. (This is especially essentially if you’ve got kids in tow or have issues with low blood sugar.) But taking food off a cruise ship is always a no-no unless it’s a prepackaged, sealed snack bar or snack pack style. Since these types of snack foods are rarely sold on cruise ships, don’t forget to throw a handful into your luggage when packing.

9. Tampons & pads

Ladies, listen up! Don’t forget to bring your preferred brand of tampons and pads when you cruise. Whether you’re due for your period or not, it’s always a good idea to have a stash on hand, particularly if your cruise sailing includes lots of sea days or visits exotic locations where sanitary products might not be readily available.

10. Ziploc bags

You can use Ziploc bags for practically anything, from an impromptu protector for your phone from the sand and water if you’re hanging on the beach to something to throw your wet bathing suit into if you’ve got the time to change after snorkeling. They’re also great if you want to grab some food from the buffet for a late-night snack in your room or for storing a sandwich if you don’t want to give up your prime lounger by the pool at lunch time.

Polk Theatre – Then and Now.

The Polk Theatre was built during a golden age in the United States – the stock market had yet to crash (though the boom had ended in Florida) and the clouds of World War II were not yet on the horizon. Even so, it was quite a leap of faith to build a vaudeville/movie palace in Lakeland in 1928. The population hovered at only 15,000 people and it was a rural community.

Lakeland businessman John E. Melton (whose developments include Cleveland Heights and the eighteen-hole golf course and country club adjoining the area) planned a Polk County first – a multipurpose building anchored by a grand movie palace. Street front office and retail space would bring in the revenue needed to build the theatre. However, it was difficult to borrow large sums of money for new construction in post-boom Lakeland, and Melton was forced to sell the uncompleted theatre portion of his building to the Publix Theatre Corporation for approximately $300,000.

The mezzanine lobby, accessible by ornately tiled staircases, featured twisted columns, delicate cornice and molding work, and brass banded terrazzo floors.

All of this splendor sat under the watchful eye of a starry ceiling. Painted a deep, royal blue, it fascinated patrons with its twinkling stars and sunrise/sunset effect. Because this simulated a natural setting, it was called an “atmospheric” theatre.

Imagine the awe this Theatre must have inspired in people who were not well traveled as today, Few would have ever seen Italian villas, and to walk in off the street and be immediately transported to such a place would have seemed marvelous. From the twinkling stars and puffy clouds in the high ceiling to the elaborate, colorful proscenium, the Polk Theatre was truly a miraculous place! 

The two most impressive technological features of the Polk were the theatre’s 100 ton air wash system to chill the air, and its Vitaphone sound on reel film system. The air conditioning system was such a drain on the city’s power supply that during its early years of operation it caused lights to dim all across town when turned on. It also required an operator to turn it on and off. When it became too cold, an usher ran down to the basement to tell the operator to shut the system down.

It was during its first 20 years of existence that the Polk’s star shone most brightly. Beginning with the advent of the “talkies” in the late ‘20s, and ending with the rise of the television medium in the late ‘40s, the golden years of the Polk demonstrate that Lakeland’s movie palace was much more than just a golden screening room. Vaudeville acts, newsreels, and various civic functions also drew crowds to the Theatre. Consequently, through depression, war, and up until mid-century, the Polk served as a town center for community interaction

On opening day, December 22, 1928, 2,000 of the 2,200 tickets available for the 1:00 p.m. matinee were sold within an hour of the box office’s noon opening. The film that first day was a Warner Brothers all-talking special, “On Trial”. During the transitional period in American popular culture, the Polk showcased both vaudeville and films. From its earliest days and extending into the ‘40s, the Theatre hosted a wide variety of live events in addition to films. There was a stage trap door that was particularly useful for magic acts. Enticing locals with the “Hollywood Scandals” were the McCord Dancers, the Sun-Tan Revue, and The Green Pastures. The Chinese Houdini, Li Ho Chang, also performed live on stage, and of particular note was Sally Rand with her famous fan dance. Other notables to perform through the years include, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Gene Krupa, Eddy Arnold, Tom Mix, Gene Autrey, Glenn Miller and the king himself, Elvis Presley in 1956. 

Promotions to increase attendance at films included, in 1931, a Charlie Chaplin Impersonation Contest just prior to the premier of Chaplin’s City Lights. A Grocery Night promotion offered free food during the Depression years. You could also acquire a complete set of dinnerware by attending enough movies. More exciting, however, were the car give-aways held during the early ‘30s. The drawings brought huge crowds to the Polk and helped maintain its high profile community status. 

As popular as car gifts were, no ‘30s era promotion so consistently captured the public’s imagination as did “Bank Night”. Also known as “Screeno” this was a form of lottery in which patrons purchased tickets hoping to win a large cash award. It was eventually prohibited as a game-of-chance.

The Polk suffered during the depression years, but somehow managed to survive, with a healthy supply of pluck and luck. Though the live acts were increasingly amateur and local, its ties to the movies only intensified. For throughout its golden years, the Polk was Lakeland’s outlet for Hollywood’s finest films – reflected in its marketing plan to draw “respectable people to a respectable theatre, to see a respectable product.”

A respectable gathering place also afforded a measure of freedom, and the Polk was a magnet for teens and young adults. The dark recesses of the balcony held forth amorous possibilities that were not lost on dating couples. Many long-term Lakeland relationships first began under the blue, twinkling ceiling of the Polk Theatre.

Through the war years in the ‘40s the Polk provided up to date news on the front and wartime fundraising activities were frequently held. However, the ‘40s are seen as the end of the “golden years” in Hollywood, due to a number of factors, not the least of which was the rise of television. By 1957 movie attendance had dropped 50 percent from its historically high mid-1940’s level. Theatres across the nation closed as living rooms replaced theatres as entertainment centers. The Polk survived for three decades after the end of World War II, but it’s luster faded as years past. 

During the ‘60s and ‘70s as Lakeland grew and became an increasingly suburban town, the Polk’s downtown location became a district liability. And, with the advent of multi-plexes old movie palaces were vulnerable targets for closure or worse. The Polk managed to stay operational into the ‘80s, but there was a growing possibility that the downtown landmark could be razed. The Polk was like a fine lady who was forced by economic conditions to pawn some of her jewelry, but she never sacrificed her dignity.

In 1982, a group of concerned citizens banded together to save the Polk. They formed a non-profit group, borrowed money, secured a grant from the state, and purchased the theatre for $300,000. As a non-profit, the Polk continues to rely upon grants and donations in order to meet its financial obligations. 

Major restoration of the building was completed in October, 1999, but as with any historic property it continues to need work.

The Theatre is supported by revenue from films, its Performing Arts Series, two fundraisers a year, rental income, and memberships. 


LEGOLAND® Florida Resort Announces 12 Months of Awesome Events

New NINJAGO ‘4D’ Film, Great LEGO Race VR Coaster, LEGO® Star Wars™, KIDZ BOP,
Seasonal Parties and Return of Brick Dash 5K Highlight Year Full of Fun

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (Oct. 11, 2017) — In 2018, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort will deliver 12 months of
awesomeness with a blockbuster lineup of special events and grand openings throughout the year. It all
kicks off in January with LEGO® NINJAGO® Days, three consecutive weekends of exclusive activities
and entertainment devoted to the popular LEGO franchise, and the NINJAGO action continues with the
opening of an exciting new theatrical attraction starring the cast of TV’s “LEGO NINJAGO: Masters of

Mark your calendars for another brick-tastic year of fun at the place #BuiltForKids:

“LEGO NINJAGO: Master of the 4th Dimension”: Opening Jan. 20 – all-new “4D” attraction!
This exciting new theatrical experience combines dazzling 3D computer animation with “4D” real-world
effects as ninjas Lloyd, Kai, Jay, Cole, Zane and Nya must find their way out of a mind-bending
dimension filled with eye-popping visuals. See it daily in the Wells Fargo Fun Town Theater!

LEGO NINJAGO Days: Jan. 20-21, 27-28, and Feb. 3-4 – all-new event!
Celebrate your favorite ninja heroes with exclusive in-park activities and meet-and-greets with Kai, Nya
and for the first time ever – Master Wu! Then become the ninja in LEGO NINJAGO World, where kids
can do battle against familiar foes like Lord Garmadon and the Great Devourer aboard LEGO

The Great LEGO Race: Opening Spring 2018 – new virtual-reality roller coaster adventure!
The wildest LEGO race ever imagined combines cutting-edge virtual reality technology with roller
coaster thrills in an exhilarating new attraction that will transform the theme park’s existing Project X
ride into an all-new adventure starring a wacky cast of LEGO minifigures. Learn more at

Brick Dash 5K*: Saturday, April 14 – family event returns!
The popular, long-running 5K family event returns under the new sponsorship of Visit Central Florida,
benefitting Merlin’s Magic Wand, the global children’s charity of LEGOLAND parent company Merlin
Entertainments. Additional information and registration details will be announced soon.

KIDZ BOP Weekend – second year of exclusive concerts & meet-and-greets!
The KIDZ BOP Kids return to rock the park with three days of high-energy concerts, including the debut
of their official theme song for LEGOLAND Florida Resort, “Awesome Awaits.” Plus, fans will enjoy
exclusive meet-and-greets with the coolest kids around – Ahnya, Cooper, Freddy, Isaiah, Julianna and
Sierra! Stand by for an announcement about 2018 dates!

LEGO® Star Wars™: The Force Awakens MINILAND Model Display: Opening May 4 – giant new
Join us as we unveil the newest addition to our LEGO® Star Wars™ MINILAND Model Display. Created
with thousands of LEGO bricks, the display features memorable moments from Episode VII of the
popular Star Wars™ saga enhanced with lights, sound effects and animation.

LEGO® Star Wars™ Days: May 5-6, 12-13, 19-20 – bigger than ever this year!
Enjoy our huge new LEGO® Star Wars™ display in MINILAND USA as we celebrate a record three
weekends of fun from “a galaxy, far, far away”! Activities include meet-and-greets with LEGO Darth
Vader and – new! – a LEGO character from “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” hands-on
LEGO® Star Wars™ building activities and much more.

Fourth of July – a red, white & blue salute to America!
Celebrate America’s independence on Wednesday, July 4 as we light the skies above Lake Eloise with
one of our biggest fireworks shows of the year! Before the sun goes down, help us create a giant U.S.
flag out of thousands of LEGO bricks.

Firefighter Friday: Friday, Oct. 5 – learn how to stay safe!
Held in association with the National Fire Protection Association, this entertaining and informative event
teaches kids about fire safety with a variety of fun activities in the theme park, including information
from NFPA’s annual Fire Prevention Week theme.

Brick or Treat: Select dates in October – seventh year of lightly frightful fun!
Our popular Halloween event returns full of spooky, kooky LEGO fun for kids. The friendly-notfrightening
event features trick-or-treating inside the theme park, giant LEGO models and photo ops,
LEGO build activities, meet-and-greets with LEGO Halloween characters and an exclusive, themed
fireworks spectacular in Pirates’ Cove.

Christmas Bricktacular: Select dates in December – have yourself a merry LEGOLAND
Our annual holiday celebration returns to deck the halls with a 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree lit
several times each evening in a brilliant combination of twinkling lights and classic yuletide music,
festive decorations and photo ops, including a giant LEGO wreath and a life-size LEGO Santa, reindeer
and sleigh, plus holiday-themed scavenger hunts with cool LEGO prizes and hands-on LEGO building
activities for kids. Meet LEGO Santa and LEGO Toy Soldier during daily park appearances.

Kids’ New Year’s Party: Select dates in late December – our popular party has grown!
Our multi-day party invites kids to move and groove at a high-energy dance party, set fun goals for the
year ahead and go on a special scavenger hunt in MINILAND USA before ending the night with an
amazing fireworks show over Lake Eloise. Then on Monday, Dec. 31 only, ring in the new year with our
traditional before-midnight “brick drop” and an even bigger fireworks spectacular.


Don’t miss any of the fun
*With the exception of the Brick Dash events taking place Saturday, April 14, all events listed above are
included with all forms of theme park admission – and annual passes. No extra ticket required!

The best way to enjoy all the LEGOLAND awesomeness is with one of several great annual pass
options. Consider:

• Awesome Pass – a year of unlimited admission to LEGOLAND Florida Theme Park and
LEGOLAND Water Park.
• Awesomer Pass – all the benefits of the Awesome Pass, plus a year of unlimited admission to
The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Orlando and
Atlanta’s LEGOLAND Discovery Center, as well as theme park parking and more.
• Awesomest Pass – a year of unlimited admission to more than 30 Merlin Entertainments
attractions across North America, including LEGOLAND Florida Theme Park and LEGOLAND
Water Park, and much more.
Learn more at www.LEGOLAND.com/florida/my-annual-pass/.


Play – and stay!
Extend the fun with an overnight stay at our popular on-site accommodations – the 152-room
LEGOLAND Hotel and the 166-room LEGOLAND Beach Retreat. Both feature whimsical LEGO
theming inside and out, a breakfast buffet included with your stay, complimentary Wi-Fi, heated
swimming pools, plenty of places where kids can play and easy theme park access.
For rates, availability and room-and-ticket package offers, visit www.LEGOLAND.com/vacations.


Awesome awaits
LEGOLAND Florida Resort features more than 50 rides, shows and attractions inspired by popular
LEGO and DUPLO brands, including awesome experiences based on “The LEGO Movie™,” “LEGO
NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu,” LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS™, LEGO City, LEGO Technic and LEGO
Friends, plus the seasonal LEGOLAND Water Park. The multi-day vacation destination is located just
45 minutes from Orlando and Tampa, in Winter Haven, Fla.
For more information about savings on advance purchase of admission tickets, park hours, field trip
programs, services for guests with disabilities, VIP experiences, teacher passes, military discounts and
much more, visit www.LEGOLAND.com/florida.

When it comes to booking a cruise, not much feels better than knowing you scored the best cruise price possible. Savvy travelers understand that getting the best pricing and perks means you have to be vigilant. But, if you’re willing to put in extra time and work, the payoff could mean you’re saving hundreds of dollars more than the folks in the next cabin.

The best deals come to those who are flexible, loyal to a specific line and who have a good relationship with a travel professional. While some people love last-minute deals, booking well ahead of time can give you plenty of opportunities to save. Follow these steps to save big on your next cruise.

Step 1. Book your next cruise while you’re on a cruise.

Cruise lines want you to sail on their ships again and again, and they’ll reward you for your loyalty. Devoted cruisers and big spenders get perks like free cocktail receptions, complimentary laundry or cabin upgrades, but even first-time cruisers can score big if they book more cruises while still at sea.

Most cruise lines have programs that reward you with onboard credit, reduced deposits or discounts if you book while you’re sailing. Generally, the rewards and conditions are better if you book a specific sailing, rather than simply an unspecified “future sailing.” Celebrity Cruises, for example, offers up to $500 in onboard credit if you pick your ship and sail date, while you’ll get up to $200 if you choose to commit later. Onboard credit can be used for virtually anything, including gratuities, so the savings go straight to your bottom line.

Booking onboard? Find out how to score extras and discounts.

Step 2. Keep an eye out for the big sales.

Your work isn’t done just because you’ve booked. If you’ve locked up a sailing early and given yourself the luxury of time, you have a lot of built-in flexibility and can take advantage of sales that cruise lines run periodically throughout the year, such as wave season deals. Many cruise lines allow you to combine an onboard booking with at least one other offer, so if you see a great deal, you could be eligible for better pricing and even more perks such as drink packages, additional onboard credit or prepaid gratuities. Cruise lines also have flash sales throughout the year, and those are famously great opportunities to snag cruise add-ons.

Check out Cruise Critic’s deals page for the latest cruise line sales.

booking with a travel agent

Step 3. Transfer that booking to your favorite travel agent.

When your chosen cruise line is having a sale with perks you like, transfer your booking to a travel agent you trust. This way, you can keep all the benefits from your original onboard booking, gain access to the current cruise line and agency sale perks, and have someone manage your booking so you don’t have to. Yep, you read that right. Not only can you double-dip on some cruise line deals, but travel agencies might even offer further perks — additional onboard credit, for example — and work with you to access price drops and cabin upgrades. One caveat: Some cruise lines give you a limited time frame in which to transfer your booking, usually 60 to 90 days after the onboard booking.

Read our tips for finding a travel agent who fits your style.

Step 4. Monitor your cruise pricing daily, or let someone do it for you.

With most lines, if a price drops, you can get the lower price all the way up until you’ve made your final payment. Cruise fares change a lot more than you probably realize, and sometimes low rates last for only a few hours at a time. Some travel agents will monitor prices for you and alert you to drops, for a fee. There’s also power in numbers. After you’ve booked a specific sailing, sign up for a Cruise Critic Roll Call. Often, Cruise Critic members will share information on when a price falls. If you learn of a price drop, contact your travel agent right away to get the new lower rate. If you’ve already made your final payment and come across a price drop, it doesn’t hurt to contact the cruise line; cruisers have told us they’ve received upgrades or onboard credit even after that last payment.

Follow these four steps, and you can board your next cruise feeling confident that you got a great deal. Here are a couple of additional ways to save, if relevant to your booking.

Book with a group.

Booking a cruise with a group can lead to some nice savings. While the perks vary from line to line, most companies will reward large groups with discounts and incentives. If you’re the leader of a group, you could end up with a free cruise, or you can spread the wealth by sharing the discount with the rest of your party.

Refer a cruiser.

Some travel agents will offer a small onboard credit if you refer a new client to them. Similarly, Crown and Anchor loyalty program members receive onboard credit ($25 per cabin) for referring new-to-Royal Caribbean cruisers.


By Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor