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A house rental in Kissimmee: friends, dreams, and memories

7920 Sea Pearl Circle, Formosa Gardens, Kissimmee Florida
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7920 Sea Pearl Circle, Formosa Gardens, Kissimmee Florida

A group of us became friends as school volunteers during our sons’ high school years. Our children’s sports and other activities kept us from getting together as often as we would have liked, but we knew we would have more free time once the children were grown and on their own. Or so we thought.

As it turned out, diverse retirement activities like volunteering, travel, helping with grandchildren, and caring for aging parents made getting together more difficult than during the years when our schedules were synchronized to the school calendar.

Our solution was to plan a getaway well in advance. We rented a house in Formosa Gardens, a gated community in Kissimmee, Florida offered by USA Vacations Homes.

We chose a house large enough to accommodate all who could stay or visit and shared a 6 bedroom 5 bath home for $435 an night. It was a great value compared to the cost of separate hotel rooms and offered so much more. It was also conveniently located between the retirement communities, Solivita and the Villages, where two of the couples now live.

 lanai and pool at the rental ouse in Kissimmee, Florida
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lanai and pool at the rental ouse in Kissimmee, Florida

The house was designed for large group fun and entertainment, with a variety of sitting and dining areas. The garage had been converted to a game room with a pool table, video arcade machine, and air hockey. The screened outdoor area had a pool and hot tub, covered dining area, gas grill and plenty of seating. It overlooked a lake and was spacious enough to enclose several palm trees.

Magic Moments plaque, 7920 Sea Pearl circle, Kissimmee, Florida
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Magic Moments plaque, 7920 Sea Pearl circle, Kissimmee, Florida

“Magic Moments” was on the nameplate on the house. A plaque in the hallway read “The best things in life come in threes… friends, dreams, and memories”. And that what we experienced.

Walt Disney World, Where Dreams Come True
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Walt Disney World, Where Dreams Come True

It was hard to believe that our quiet neighborhood was only about ten minutes from the theme parks.

Winnie the Pooh bedroom at our rental home, Kissimmee, Florida
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Winnie the Pooh bedroom at our rental home, Kissimmee, Florida

Two of the bedrooms had Disney-themed murals and accessories, and a friendly duck would walk up toward the lanai in the afternoon and quack in hopes of a treat. We all noted how much grandchildren would enjoy this place.

friendly resident duck in our vacation house neighborhood, Kissimmee, Florida
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friendly resident duck in our vacation house neighborhood, Kissimmee, Florida

Living there was easy since we had a washer and dryer, fully equipped kitchen, and restaurants and stores galore along Route 192. Concierge services were available for tickets, stocking the refrigerator with groceries, or arranging for wine tastings, spa treatments, or even a chef. When we noticed that a door latch needed attention, a maintenance person was dispatched right away.

terra cotta warriors at the China pavilion, Epcot, Walt Disney World
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terra cotta warriors at the China pavilion, Epcot, Walt Disney World

Since we were so close to Disney World, we traveled the world and beyond in a day at Epcot and were entertained some evenings at Downtown Disney.

Downtown Disney by night, Disney World
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Downtown Disney by night, Disney World

We were also looking for something we hadn’t experienced before and headed for nearby Polk County.

Polk County is larger than the state of Rhode Island and is known for industries like citrus, cattle, phosphate, lumber, and turpentine. It’s also the Largemouth Bass Capital of the World, with outdoor adventures like fishing and boating. Attractions include Legoland, Bok Tower Gardens, and Safari Wilderness Ranch.

We were surprised to discover that there in the geographic center of Florida was not only the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures anywhere in the world but also the largest private collection vintage aircraft.

A Child of the Sun

 Annie Pfeiffer chapel, Florida State College
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Annie Pfeiffer chapel, Florida State College

Dr. Ludd Spivey, president of Florida State College, wanted to build his Depression-era enrollment at his Methodist institution. In 1938, with grand visions and little money, he contacted America’s best-known architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, who had just appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.

Frank Lloyd Wright statue, Florida Southern College
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Frank Lloyd Wright statue, Florida Southern College

Wright visited the site for inspiration and examined the land. His “organic architecture” made use of indigenous materials to blend buildings with the landscape. He called his work at Florida Southern College as “the Child of the Sun”.

Out of the ground and into the light, a child of the sun.” Frank Lloyd Wright

detail of textile block, Florida Southern College
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detail of textile block, Florida Southern College

“Textile blocks” were made of onsite sand and rock mixed with cement “to bring God’s outdoors into man’s indoors”. Signature accents included colored glass accents in the walls and Cherokee Red concrete floors.

Spivey worked tirelessly to raise funds, but it was not enough. A technique Wright employed often — student labor — made the project possible. Free tuition was offered in exchange for help with the construction. With so many men away serving in World War 2, female students mixed and shoveled concrete.

Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, Florida State College
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Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, Florida State College

Construction of the campus’ spiritual center, Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, named for its benefactor,began on May 24, 1938. While many of the other buildings had to be adapted for evolving technologies, this is the least modified of Wright’s buildings.

Eleven more of the twenty structures were built, including the amphitheater-style Fletcher Theater, Wright’s only planetarium, and his largest water feature.

Usonian House, Florida Southern College
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Usonian House, Florida Southern College

Wright’s 13th building, a Usonian house in the style intended for faculty, was completed in 2013. The Child of the Sun campus has undergone extensive restoration and been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2012.

Frank Lloyd Wright statue, Florida Southern College
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interior of Usonian Home at Florida Southern

Fantasy of Flight

NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS AN ACCOUNT OF OUR VISIT. EFFECTIVE APRIL 6, 2014 FANTASY OF FLIGHT CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC AND IS DEVELOPING A FUTURE DESTINATION ATTRACTION. DETAILS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE FANTASY OF FLIGHT WEBSITE.

Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida
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Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida

Florida Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida
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Florida Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida

Kermit Weeks private collection of vintage planes at Fantasy of Flight is the largest in the world. It was moved to Polk City after the Weeks Museum in Miami was devastated by Hurricane Andrew. He created Orlampa Airport midway between Orlando and Tampa.

Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida
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Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida

Our visit began with multi-sensory interactive exhibits on history and innovation from early flight to World War 2.

Florida Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida
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Florida Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida

There weree pioneer flying machines, historically significant aircraft, and planes that belonged to the rich and famous.

Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida
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Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida

Tram tours went behind-the-scenes to maintenance and restoration areas.

presentation on woodworking, Florida Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida
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presentation on woodworking, Florida Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida

Talks were given on topics like period engines and wood working, and there was a daily aerial demonstration.

Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida
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Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida

Visitors were trying their wings in a vintage open-cockpit biplane. Daredevils ventured out to the 40’ high Wing WalkAir, a 30-challenge Confidence Course, and the 600’ zip line.

Wing WalkAir, Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida
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Wing WalkAir, Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, Florida

Our week

Our week passed all too quickly. Like the nameplate on the rental house that read “Magic Moments”, we had traveled the world of dreams at DisneyWorld, discovered unique collections of visionaries, and shared a week to to remember. Yes, these had been magic moments.

 plaque on the wall of our rental home in Kissimmee, Florida
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plaque on the wall of our rental home in Kissimmee, Florida

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