Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano: Branson, Baby! – Our 2019 Spring Break (Part 2)

We arrived at our lodge on a Saturday during the late evening.  The rain fell heavily and had been doing so for hours.  We were road weary and, simply put, wanted  a warm, delicious meal.

A quick Internet search suggested that Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano was our likely best choice, so, after unpacking, we headed back out.  Luckily, Florentina’s awaited literally around the corner from Willow Ridge Lodge.

I’ll be honest — when we first arrived, I wanted to leave.  People stood around everywhere waiting for a table.  We were told it would be twenty to thirty minutes before we could be seated, which further prompted me to get out of there.  However, my wife correctly reasoned that it would take twenty to thirty minutes to get back in the car, find a new restaurant, get out, go in, etc.  She figured we might as well stay put.

I’m so glad she talked me into staying.

Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano served the best meal of our entire week in Branson.  Seriously, if you can only go out once for dinner while in the area, make Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano your top choice.

Our waiter was nice, the ambiance was fine, but the food … the food was delicious.  My wife and I both ordered Paulo’s Favorites, which was a dish comprised of lasagna, spaghetti with Italian sausage, and fettucini alfredo.  (Keep in mind that we’d been in the car for six and a half hours — we were hungry!)  The fettucini and spaghetti tasted great, but the lasagna … holy cow.  It was the best I’ve ever had.  When you visit this restaurant, don’t even think about it, just order the lasagna.

If you’d like to check out the Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano  menu, click HERE.  You can also visit their website by clicking HERE.

If you ever pay them a visit, let me know what you thought of your meal!

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  (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE

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President Donald Trump Has Exceeded My Expectations

President Donald Trump has always been a unique figure during my lifetime.  I grew up with him acting as a bombastic promotions man.  Yes, I knew he was in business, but I primarily experienced his face on board games, appearing on World Wrestling Entertainment television, talking with Howard Stern on the radio, feuding with Rosie O’Donnell, hosting The Apprentice, and  showing up in movies like Home Alone 2.

When Trump pondered running for president in 2004, 2008, and 2012, I don’t think many people took him very seriously.  He was notorious for pulling huge publicity stunts, after all.  So, to be fair, when he officially ran and won in 2016, I was amazed.  I was shocked not only because he actually stayed in the race throughout, but also because he managed to win.

However, in my opinion, Donald Trump has always been about making a splash and building his brand.  That’s just my opinion.  I absolutely believe that he wanted to win the presidency.  I didn’t believe, though, that he actually wanted to deal with the day-to-day, nonstop drudgery of being president.

Because of this belief, as well as Donald Trump’s penchant for controversy, I didn’t think he’d complete the first two years of his presidency.  I truthfully thought he would find a reason to resign–to go out on top.  If he didn’t resign, I assumed he would be impeached because, again, Donald Trump has always bent the rules and admitted as much.  That kind of thing eventually catches up to people.

But, President Donald Trump has exceeded my expectations.  Yesterday, January 20th, 2019, marked two full years in office.

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  (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Our Trip To Wisconsin Dells (Part 3) – Restaurants

Two days ago I discussed our lodging while staying in Wisconsin DellsYesterday, I provided details regarding the numerous attractions and water parks within Wilderness Resort.  Today, I’d like to share our restaurant experiences with you.

Field’s At the Wilderness – Located in a separate building on the Wilderness Resort property, this steakhouse absolutely won me over.  It was by far my favorite.  I particularly appreciated the interior’s tasteful design, the elegant ambiance, and the rare combination of both friendliness and professionalism displayed by the staff.  Our waiter in particular, a young man, conducted himself seriously, yet also offered a ready smile and jovial demeanor.  Yes, the menu is expensive, but I consider Field’s a treat worth the expense.  We ate here at night after checking in at the Glacier Canyon Lodge, and it provided the perfect respite after the long drive.  Visit Field’s website HERE.

Buffalo Phil’s Pizza and Grille – Both friends and online reviews urged me to take my family to Buffalo Phil’s, so we made sure to pop by around two in the afternoon for lunch.  Located not quite a mile from Wilderness Resort, Buffalo Phil’s is right next to perhaps the nicest outlet mall I’ve ever seen.  Once again, this staff conveyed both warmth and professionalism.  Don’t expect the elegance of Field’s, though!  Buffalo Phil’s is decorated with all kinds of stuffed critters, including an enormous buffalo.  It has a small arcade with a very friendly claw machine, but the rear of the restaurant feeds into a giant–and I mean giant–arcade called Knuckleheads.  The real attraction of Buffalo Phil’s, however, is the fact that your food and drink will be delivered by a model train on rails.  My kids absolutely loved this feature, and I did, too, honestly.  They took this premise very seriously.  We we got drink refills, even they were transported to us by train!  When I walked in, I was sure to tell the host we wanted to sit by the tracks for the train delivery, and he assured me it wouldn’t be a problem.  This turned out to be true.  The whole eating area is arranged so that a train can reach virtually any table.  Our waiter was friendly and capable, and the food tasted delicious.  Be aware–they give you more than you can probably eat.  It’s pretty rare when I can’t finish a sandwich, but they had so much meat piled on mine that I had to give up.  I heartily recommend you give Buffalo Phil’s a try.  Visit their website HERE.

Sarento’s Italian Restaurant – The Internet counted Sarento’s Italian Restaurant among the best in the area, so we thought we’d try it out for dinner.  Located just around the corner from Wilderness Resort, Sarento’s sports lovely decor as well.  However, the staff, while polite, did not quite reach the standard we experienced at Field’s and Buffalo Phil’s.  In fact, when I got up to use the bathroom, I saw the hostess on her cell phone.  Maybe this shouldn’t turn me off as a customer, but it does.  Furthermore, our waiter did not impress me at all.  He struck me as a bit too informal, and seemed almost annoyed to have to wait on us.  He didn’t know much of anything regarding the menu, and told me to look at the flier when I asked about the specials.  For the amount of money I was about to spend, this did not sit well with me.  I actually wanted to leave before we even ordered, but my wife talked me into staying.  Though a young man, I expected better.  I would like to say, however, that at times a young woman would check in on us, and she maintained a personable, capable persona that I appreciated.  Had she been our primary waitress, I imagine the experience would have been much different.  Though the food tasted good, I can’t really recommend Sarento’s over Field’s or even Buffalo Phil’s, for that matter.  I would put it at the bottom of our list.  You can visit Sarento’s website HERE.

Moosejaw Pizza and Dells Brewery – I’ll be honest–I had no desire to visit this restaurant.  We’d spent a long day surrounded by other people’s children and the last thing I wanted to do was visit a restaurant that I knew would be teeming with more of the same.  However, a good friend told us we had to check it out and my kids genuinely wanted to go, so I relented.  I’m so glad I did!  We had a fantastic experience at Moosejaw.  The hostess must have sensed my distress because she placed us in a room virtually by ourselves in a spacious corner next to a stone fireplace.  Our waitress, Lynn, was phenomenal–probably one of the best wait staff I’ve ever experienced.  She was funny, friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, engaged,  and just a true delight.  She made amazing recommendations to us, offered to take our picture as a family when she saw us snapping the kids, and made sure to clear away any garbage almost immediately–even the straw wrappers!  Our pretzel bite appetizer was delicious, my personal pizza tasted great, and our Sasquatch dessert for four left us giddy.  Thanks to Lynn, this restaurant both impressed and satisfied.  I highly recommend it to families visiting the area.  You can check out their website HERE.

So there you have it!  We were only in the Dells for a few days, but we managed to eat pretty well, wouldn’t you say?  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

 

Our Trip To Wisconsin Dells (Part 2) – Water Parks and Attractions

Yesterday I discussed our lodging while staying in Wisconsin Dells.  Today, I’d like to talk with you about the attractions we experienced.  Again, the whole goal of traveling to Wilderness Resort in the winter was to take advantage of the indoor water parks, so I’ll start with those.

Wild West (click to see gallery) – Located in the Wilderness Hotel, we entered this water park as soon as it opened on our first day.  As a result, we managed to easily grab seats near the giant play house.  This park by far proved to be our favorite.  They say it’s the largest of the three, and that seemed to be true.  My youngest daughter loved the play house with it’s mini-water slides.  I rode a few of them, too, and even though they were mini, they still provided a thrill.  My oldest daughter and I tried out the huge tube slides as well.  Though you have to climb quite a few stairs to get to these slides, it’s totally worth it.  The descent is a series of twists and turns in total darkness — it’s a blast!  The tubes are so long that they jut out from the building for several curves before reentering the facility.  We managed to get my youngest daughter onto the four-person tube slide, and she loved it, too!  If we’re being honest, I would recommend spending all of your time at this water park between the three.  More on that to come.

Klondike Kavern (click to see gallery) – We entered this water park on our second day.  Though we arrived twenty-five minutes after it opened, we literally could not find a seat or table.  We had to rest our things on the edge of a rock feature.  With that being said, my youngest again enjoyed the play house.  It was very similar to the other one at the Wild West.  My oldest particularly liked the lazy river.  However, as you probably guessed, this park was packed, so the lazy river felt more like bumper cars to me.  Also, lots of feet jutting out everywhere.  Lots.  Of.  Feet.  My oldest daughter and I also enjoyed the giant water slides, but they weren’t quite as fun as those at the Wild West.  I had to do one of them on my own, which was pretty cool, called The Hurricane.  One of the workers described it as like being flushed down a toilet, and he was right!  You start down a tube, enter a giant enclosed bowl, then spin around and around before dropping into a smaller tube.  As I said, I had to do this one by myself, and right before I started I noticed a sign that said not to panic if you become stuck in the bowl — someone will come help you!  That got the heart racing.  Luckily, I didn’t get stuck.

Wild Waterdome (click to see gallery) – This isn’t really much of a water park in the New Frontier area of Wilderness Resort.  It’s an enclosed section that allows sunlight through — kind of like a greenhouse.  It’s main, and almost only, attraction is the Great Wave, which is an enormous pool that creates giant, six foot waves.  My daughters and I stayed pretty far back in the pool where the waves weren’t quite so extreme.  It was fun at first, but the novelty soon wore off.  Again, because the place was so packed, every wave sent you careening into someone else.  We were in it for about forty-five minutes, and the lifeguards had to stop it three different times during that duration in order to jump in and save someone in distress.  People insisted getting as far into the six-foot deep end as possible, but once the waves started, couldn’t keep themselves afloat.  Not to worry — all three individuals were fine.  We got out because my daughter lost her footing and scraped her knee on the floor.  After the friendly first-aid worker patched her up, we sat along the edge of the Great Wave and watched the sea of humanity floating up and down like flotsam and jetsam.

Again, I would plan on an hour or two at Wild Waterdome, skip Klondike Kavern altogether, and spend most of your time at the Wild West.  It could simply be that because Wild West was much bigger, we didn’t feel quite so crowded, which increased my overall enjoyment.  Now on to the attractions in the Wilderness Resort that were not actually water parks.

Wilderwoods Go-Kart Trail (click to see gallery) – This was a blast!  These little go-karts could seat one individual or two, so my wife drove one with one of our daughters and I drove with the other daughter.  You begin by working your way up a corkscrew ramp, then you race down another ramp in circles as well.  They give you about five minutes to race.  In my experience, wherever your position was at the start of the race pretty much guaranteed your position at the end of the race, but it was still a ton of fun!  This feature costs extra, but you can purchase a pass that packages it with some other fun activities.  By the way, the workers were super friendly here.

Northern Lights Sky Ropes Course (click to see gallery) – Literally located above an arcade, this course also delighted us.  Before you begin, you will be tethered into an aerial track that prevents you from falling.  We all enjoyed this feature — even my six-year-old!  You will walk across balance beams, tight ropes, and rolling barrels.  I’m generally afraid of heights, but I felt perfectly safe and at ease because of the tether, so it proved quite fun.  Be aware, they make you remove all cell phones, purses, keys, wallets — anything that can fall off of you.  However, they provide you with a locker and key in order to protect your valuables.  You are allotted thirty minutes on the course which totally flies by.  I’m sure you could stay longer if you wanted.  They write the time you start on a wrist band and you are expected to follow an honor code.  I highly recommend that you give this one a try.  Again, this feature costs extra, but you can purchase a pass that packages it with some other fun activities.  The workers here were very safety-minded, engaged, and friendly.

Marshall Training Lazer Maze (click to see gallery) – Total waste of money.  Don’t bother.  It was included on our fun pass, so we gave it a go.  You enter a small room with lasers shining everywhere.  The worker gave us no instructions, no pointers, no information at all.  We had no idea what we were trying to achieve.  It lasted about two minutes.

OK Corral Lazer Tag (click to see gallery) – This was also included on our fun pass, and we loved it!  You are outfitted with a vest that has targets on both the front and the back.  A laser gun is attached to the vest.  You are thrust into a giant room with ramps, windows, walls dividing up areas, and even a stage coach!  Your gun shows you a time limit, so you have to try to earn as many points by hitting opponents as possible as quickly as possible.  It’s very dark with black lights providing the only illumination, so you have to be careful where you walk.  Though there’s no danger of falling off of anything, I nearly collided with several kids!  Once the game ended, you’re given a score card with all kinds of cool statistics about your performance.  My youngest wasn’t too cracked up about this one, but my oldest daughter thought it was really cool.  The main worker explained things well and seemed to genuinely want everyone to have a good time.

Wild West Bumper Boats (click to see gallery) – Located in a pool within the Wild West water park, these bumper boats were pretty fun.  They never get moving too fast, so the bumps are never too jarring.  The boats are also very easy to operate.  My ten-year-old had no problems moving the boat around at all.  Be aware, though, that they also have spray guns shooting ice cold water.  We all got shot in the face on numerous occasions.  If that’s not your thing, avoid this attraction.  It was included on our fun pass, though, so we gave it a try.  The worker was super friendly and helpful here.

Wild Abyss 3D Mini Gold (click to see gallery) – Also included on the fun pass, this little nine-hole course provided for a fun twenty minutes.  Though not terribly difficult, my kids both enjoyed not only the holes, but also the black lights, the 3D features, and the aquatic theme.  Honestly, though, my six-year-old got a little freaked out by the sound effects.  You can find this attraction beneath the ropes course off to the side.  The worker at this course barely spoke to us and seemed more interested in her phone than anything.

Mega Prize Arcades (click to see gallery) – There are arcades literally everywhere in Wisconsin Dells.  Wilderness Resort is no exception!  My oldest daughter loves video games, especially claw machines, so she had a blast sampling the various arcades located, well, everywhere.  The system in the Wilderness is interesting.  You load a card with a certain amount of money, which equates a particular amount of credits.  Each game costs a specific amount of credits.  You swipe the card through a reader on the game, which then deducts the appropriate amount of credits.  However, you’re also awarded “tokens” onto the card after each game.  When you’re ready to claim your prize, you go to the prize counter where a worker will swipe your card to find out how many “tokens” you earned.  You can then choose a prize accordingly.  In my experience, most of the workers would round up the token amount to the nearest ten.  They also have machines around that will tell you your “token” amount as well in case you fear the trustworthiness of the workers.  Most of the claw machines are scams, as you would assume, but there was one claw machine that awarded a win virtually every time I saw a kid use it — including my own!  This machine was full of giant, rubber spiked balls with faces printed on them.  I’d say they were probably twice the size of a basketball.  My daughter won one on her second try, and we saw kids lugging these balls around all over the place.  By the way, the workers at the prize counter were incredibly helpful and friendly at the Northern Lights Arcade beneath the rope course.

Timberland Playhouse (click to see gallery) –  Rejoice — this attraction is free!  My six-year-old would have happily spent our entire visit in this gargantuan play land.  Divided by netting, kids can climb up several levels and experience swings, slides, bridges, and obstacles.  Even though it was full of kids, it’s so big that my daughters never felt crowded or overwhelmed by too many people.  There’s plenty of seating next to the play house, so parents, this could be a good time to regroup, relax, or veg out.

I hope you found this information useful.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section.

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Please Join Me For a Signing At Barnes and Noble This Sunday (Yes, It’s Really Happening!)

I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be at Barnes and Noble in Bloomington, IL, this Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.  (Yes, it’s really happening this time!)

Join me for a discussion regarding my 2010 novel, Andropia, followed by a signing.  Books will be available for purchase.  In fact, if you’re going to have a copy signed, I suggest you buy it.  Barnes and Noble might not be too happy if we deface one of the books and then leave it on the table.

You may remember we had to cancel the event last time due to complications with my publisher.  However, my friend Jacob P. at Barnes and Noble sent me this picture as proof of the event’s legitimacy …

AndropiaBNStack

It will be my honor to see you this Sunday at Barnes and Noble at 2:00 p.m. I hope you can make it!

Traveling To Disney World: Family 2018 Disney World Vacation (Part 2)

Now that you’ve booked your trip to Disney World in Orlando, you need to actually get there.

Our daughters are both under ten, so driving from Central Illinois all the way to Orlando did not seem like the ideal means of travel to me.  We are very fortunate in that we have a local airport, Central Illinois Regional Airport, that flies to the Orlando/Sanford International Airport.  Using Allegiant Air, you can fly to Orlando/Sanford in about 2.5 hours.  That sure beats 20+ hours in the car.

I know flying can be expensive, but when you take into account the gas, the food, the hotels costs, and the incidentals of driving, flying seems far more convenient and not that much more expensive.  It was very nice to wake up in Illinois and go to bed in Florida.

A few words about Allegiant Air–yes, they had that scathing news report a few months ago.  We’ve flown Allegiant four times now in the last two years, and not once did I ever feel that our lives were endangered.  However, annoyances will arise with this airline.  They are a budget carrier, and it shows.  Three of the four times we flew with Allegiant, we had delays.  This is partly just air travel.  Everyone has delays.  One time, though, last summer, we were on the plane about to pull out three different times before they postponed the flight to the next day.  I’m talking we got on the plane, then we got off the plane.  Then we got on the plane, then we got off the plane.  Then–say it with me–we got on the plane, then we got off the plane.  My kids were great through the whole thing, but they were very confused.  The most irritating part about that ordeal is that it was impossible to reach their corporate headquarters.  I should say, though, that Allegiant put us in a nice hotel that night, and gave us each $100 vouchers with a one year expiration date.  We used those vouchers to offset the cost for this most recent trip!  I’d also like to say that all of the Allegiant employees we’ve dealt with have been very kind and professional.  Allegiant is not the most luxurious way to fly, but I certainly have no trepidation about getting on their planes.

Central Illinois Regional Airport is a dream.  It’s so clean and well-maintained.  The employees are very good there as well.  Orlando/Sanford International Airport is a little more dicey.  If you get there during off hours, it’s not bad at all.  However, it’s been packed to the gills each time we’ve been there.  It’s an international hub, so that stands to reason.  Once again, though, the employees were great.  I have a little inside information for you, by the way.  If you find yourself stuck in the Orlando/Sanford airport for any length of time, check out the international wing.  You walk down a long corridor before you enter it from the main wing.  It’s wide open with plenty of seating, plenty of shopping, plenty of restaurants, and big, clean bathrooms.  It looks much newer than the main part of the airport as well.

One more tip for flying with Allegiant.  Backpacks count as personal items, not carry-ons, as do purses.  To save money, I checked a suitcase, my wife checked a suitcase, and then our daughters shared a checked suitcase.  We did not use any carry-ons, but we each had a backpack for which we were not charged.  These personal items must fit under the airliner seat, though, so be sure to check your dimensions.

Okay, so we’ve made it to Orlando/Sanford International Airport–now how do we get to Disney World?  Ah, you’ve heard Disney runs a shuttle to Orlando International Airport, right?  Here’s the thing, Orlando/Sanford is not the same as Orlando International.  They are two different airports about forty minutes apart.  You’ve got some choices.  You can hire Lyft, Uber, or a taxi.  Lyft and Uber were out of the question for me–I’m not trusting a stranger to drive my family in Florida.  Taxis were about the same price as simply renting a car.  So … I rented a car.

I know what you’re thinking–“Scott, that’s crazy!  You rented a car just to sit in the parking lot of your resort!?”  Well, no.  We timed our flight so that it would arrive late Thursday evening.  We wanted to check in and hit Hollywood Studios right away Friday morning.  So, I rented a car from Alamo, which is a very short walk down a sidewalk outside of the Orlando/Sanford International Airport.  (Of course, I set all of this up ahead of time at the Alamo website.)  We rented a car, drove to a nearby hotel, spent the night, then drove to our resort first thing the next morning.  I parked at the resort, checked in the family, then left them to explore the resort as I returned the car at the Disney Car Care Center which has an Alamo onsite.  The Car Care Center is pretty much in the middle of the Walt Disney World grounds–it’s close to everything.  When I returned the car, I only had it for 24 hours–a one day rental.  (Actually, I only had it about 15 hours, but that’s okay.)  You see, this way you don’t have to pay a full week’s worth of car rental fees!  Great, right?  Best of all?  The Alamo at the Disney Car Care Center will shuttle you back to your resort.  In fact, they told me they’d take me anywhere I wanted to go as long as it was on Walt Disney World grounds.  Furthermore, they will also pick you up!  When it was time for us to leave, Alamo sent a shuttle for us, loaded up all of our luggage, and then drove us to the Disney Car Care Center in order to check out another car, which I then turned in to the Alamo at the Orlando/Sanford International Airport.  It’s a really fantastic service!

Of course, all of this requires careful planning.  You need to figure out what you need, communicate what you need, reserve what you need, and you need to keep all confirmation numbers on you.  I literally kept all of my confirmation papers in separate color-coded folders in my backpack with me–but I’m a little … you know.

And that’s how we got from Central Illinois to Walt Disney World and back!  Thanks for reading!

The next installment will arrive soon, and it will detail the resort we stayed at in 2017 and the resort we stayed at in 2018.  Hint: not all outlandishly expensive resorts on Walt Disney World grounds are created equal.

CIRA Airport 2018

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)