Category Archives: Tampa/St Pete

Tampa/St Pete

Mickey Goes To Work

Mickey Goes To Work, originally uploaded by Erin aka Tink*~*~*.

A Mickey Mouse mug found on a co-worker’s desk.

Magic really IS everywhere, if you know where to look 🙂

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Tink’s *~*~* Links: FREE stays at Disney World, Walt’s Wisdom, and Feral Cats

© Copyright 2010 Tink *~*~*


After dark, the dirty work at Disneyland begins


I never knew that Disney actually encourages the “wild” feral cat population that lives at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Apparently, these cats serve a very special purpose… you’ll have to read the article to find out!

Long but worth it, this article touches upon one of the first things I learned about the making of Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

[pullquote]“When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say, ‘But why do you want to build an amusement park? They’re so dirty.’ I told her that was just the point; mine wouldn’t be”. – Walt Disney[/pullquote]

I’d read a while back that Walt had taken his girls to an amusement park one day and it occurred to him that it could be cleaner, more child-friendly and more adult-friendly too. It could be a place that would appeal to everyone in the family, a place cut off from the real world, where guests could literally step into the story and really be there and interact with the characters. Walt decided that since the place he was thinking of didn’t exist, he would make it happen himself. “If you can dream it, you can do it,” he’s quoted as saying. “Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”

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How I Stay At Disney World for FREE

Glorious morning, Walt Disney World Dolphin
Walt Disney World Swan
– a Starwood Resort
(Tower of Terror
in background)

Every so often, a reader sends an inquiry asking how I can manage to go to Walt Disney World so frequently. “What do you do for a living?” they demand. “You must be rich!”. Well, no – but a girl can dream, so hold that happy thought 😀

Seriously – first of all, I live in Southwest Florida, three hours away from Walt Disney World by car. Three hours worth of gasoline, even in these challenging times, is a whole lot cheaper than airfare! But I think the thing that saves me the most money is that I haven’t actually paid to stay in a hotel at Disney World in a very long time. I use Starwood rewards points and stay for free. The only thing I pay for under the rewards program is hotel taxes and fees (and if I valet my car, I pay for that too). So, the last time I stayed at the Walt Disney World Swan, which is a 4-star hotel, I paid something ridiculous like $90 for three nights. No, not $90 per night – $90 for the whole THREE nights in a FOUR-STAR HOTEL. See? I told you it was ridiculous!

The credit card that gives me this rewards program is the Starwood American Express. I basically use it to pay for all of my expenses – cable bill, phone bill, gasoline, groceries – you name it, I pay it with Amex (believe me, if I could pay my mortgage with it, I would!). I pay off the card in full at the end of each month, so I never pay them any interest charges. I get one point for every dollar I put through the card. The year I moved down to Florida from New York, I racked up some serious points – you know how it goes with moving expenses. 10,000 points will get me a free night at the Swan or the Dolphin. About 3,700 points will get me a free night at the Sheraton Safari right outside Downtown Disney, or else at the Sheraton Suites in Tampa, just up the road from Busch Gardens, or else at the Sheraton Yankee Trader on the beach in Fort Lauderdale… well, you get the idea.

I just got a notice in the mail that says “Introduce your friends to the card…” – it says if I “invite a friend” and the friend is approved for the card, the friend (that’s YOU) will get a sign-on bonus of 10,000 points (hey, a free night at the Swolphin!) and I will get a 5,000 point bonus. The notice also says that the the first year’s American Express membership fee will be waived (My own current fee is $45 annually).

If you want me to “invite” you to apply for this card, you can use this secure form I’ve created (see CLICK HERE, below) for you to use to send me your email address. I promise not to sell it or to spam you – the only purpose is for Amex to be able to email your invitation to apply for the card. Good luck with the application – I hope you’re able to get the bonus points and enjoy the Starwood program as much as I’ve been enjoying it!

CLICK HERE to fill out the “Introduce A Friend” form…

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Life-changing Lessons from Walt Disney


We’re on a roll with “Walt wisdom” this week. This article comes from an unusual source as it is not a Disney-dedicated site or publication. Walt Disney’s business acumen really boils down to a set of values and a unique approach to work. You might say Walt is the anti-Puritan when it comes to work. He never would have ended up in a “survival career” – he insisted on doing what he loved to do and getting paid for it. Good for you, Walt! This article is full of some of the better Walt quotes.

I recently found some of these very Walt Disney quotes decorating the temporary walls that had been erected around some construction at EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom. These signs were a delightfully welcome change from the typical “We’re Building The Future EPCOT for your enjoyment” (I saw just one of those). I took pictures of these inspirational messages while I was in the World in April. To accompany this article, I’ve made them into a little presentation using Flickr. Enjoy!

[Subscribers: if you do not see a FLICKR slide show just below this sentence, then click through to the blog HERE]

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That’s it for TINK’S *~*~* LINKS this week
Hope you’ve enjoyed 🙂

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The unfortunately named peacock at Disney and Busch Gardens

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*


This peacock blends in pretty perfectly with his surroundings.
Photo taken at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. April 25th, 2004

Peacocks come in different colors, which is something I did not know until I encountered this one at Busch Gardens “Africa” in Tampa, Florida –

Interestingly enough, I’ve discovered that the peacock technically should not be included in Busch Gardens “Africa” because it is indigenous to India. But he was pretty so I’ll let it slide. 😉

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Eagles from the Florida Gulf Coast

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

Eagles from the Florida Gulf Coast

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A couple of weeks ago, I saw a bald eagle hanging out in a dead tree on Sanibel Island. I was only able to get a few shots, most of them no good, before it took off. I was told that the eagle had been collecting sticks out of the tree to make a nest.


This got me thinking about some other photos of eagles that I’ve got in my archives. Here’s the big Anheuser-Busch topiary eagle. It can be found in Busch Gardens “Africa” up in Tampa.


The other eagle I found on my hard drive is made of sand. I photographed this particular eagle at The 2008 American Sand Sculpting Championship Festival. The detail is amazing, and I find it a real treat to watch people create beautiful tableaux from a pile of ordinary sand.


Bald eagles have spent some time on the endangered species list. Use of the pesticide known as DDT had a huge negative impact on bird eggs until it was banned in the early 1970s. The second largest population of bald eagles in the United States is now in Florida (first: Alaska).

I’ve written about the effects of DDT poisoning before, when I cruised Rookery Bay with Dr. Jerry Jackson last spring. Dr. Jackson is a wildlife biologist at Florida Gulf Coast University, and has a radio spot on the local NPR station, WGCU 90.1 Fort Myers. The eagles have made a significant comeback since the banning of DDT, but encroaching civilization represents a new threat. Deforestation in Florida has resulted in a loss of habitat. Very often, people will point to eagle nests coexisting with human neighborhoods, such as the one by the Dairy Queen on Sanibel, as evidence that the eagles will be fine, and that they have adapted. Dr. Jerry Jackson says that situations such as the Dairy Queen nest have not existed long enough to know whether or not coexistence is really a success.

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[sticky] Next Mobile Adventure: Busch Gardens Africa/Tampa, November 10-11

UPDATED ON 11-01-2008
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If you have ideas for recreation activities in Tampa, please do leave a comment and tell me about it! .

Chez Bro, SIL and Nieceling are making their annual fall trip to Florida, and I’ll be joining them in Tampa for a long weekend.  I’m excited about Busch Gardens because they have opened a new section called “Jungala”, which looks really fun on the commercials.  I’m also going to look for something new to do in the area.  I don’t think Busch Gardens is a 4 day park, and we love the Aquarium but we’ve done it already.  Nieceling is 12, the rest of us are in our 40s.

UPDATE: We are now arriving on November 9th, so one less day.  They are coming from Disney and turns out the 9th is the day their annual passes are no longer good, so the 9th it is.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE ON 11-01-2008:  They are now not arriving until the evening of Sunday November 9th.  NOW what am I going to do with my weekend, hmmm?

Tampa Sunset, November 2007

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

Last November (2007), I made a combination pleasure/business trip up to Tampa. One of my brothers was going to be there at Busch Gardens, so I went for the weekend and then worked in Tampa when the fun was over.

These photos were taken from my minuscule balcony at the Sheraton. I noticed the sun going down and took a photo. Then I noticed that I could actually see the water; earlier, the sun was too bright, and the glare obscured the fact that there was water there.

6:42 PM –

6:42 PM – closeup

6:43 PM –

7:18 PM –

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Oasis at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

Oasis at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa

At The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, there is a door near the cafeteria that leads outside to a cantina and a playground full of water fun for the kiddies.  And then there is this flight of steps off to the side.  If you go up the flight of steps, you find yourself in this little rooftop garden, with lots of tropical plants and a few benches to stop and rest. I thought the two hi-rise buildings looked kind of neat against the puffy clouds in the sky, with all the plants spread beneath them.

At the time of my visit (November 2007), I was still a smoker and I was grateful to see a few ashtrays in the oasis – this is apparently the ONLY spot at the Aquarium where smoking is permitted.  So, if you are a smoker and find yourself at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, look for the flight of steps that goes up to the oasis.

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Flamingos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
February 18th, 2008

There are flamingos in a few different spots at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. One spot is on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction, where the jeep driver will tell you that flamingos are pink because of what they eat (shrimp, algae). There’s a rather amusing but informative explanation of this “you are what you eat” phenomenon that I found on – you can find it here.

This photo wasn’t taken on the safari; I am not really good at taking decent photos from a lurching vehicle, and recently found that video from the safari is infinitely preferable! No, these flamingos are hanging out in one of the Tree of Life garden ponds. They aren’t as pink as the flamingos that I’ve seen and photographed in Busch Gardens. I wonder if the Busch Gardens flamingos are cheating?

Similar posts: Disney’s Animal Kingdom (includes video from the safari), Busch Gardens
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Hippos have the cutest ears

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

A Hippo Surfaces
Busch Gardens “Africa”
Tampa, Florida
November, 2007

Hippopotamus surfaces at Busch Gardens "Africa", Tampa Florida

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Do you think there is any animal that has cuter ears than a hippo?
I’d love to see a photo, if you’ve got one, of cuter ears than these!

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Have you ever been to Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa?

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

My friend Christene lives in the Tampa area, and today she went to the beach at Fort DeSoto to look for shells and generally dig the sunshine. It got me to thinking – I’ve been to the Tampa area for business, and I’ve been there to meet up with family at the the Busch Gardens Africa theme park, but I’ve never been there for beach purposes. Chris and I spoke when she got home, and we figure we have to fix that, but not until the weather cools off a bit – maybe in November.

I think that might coincide with the next visit from Chez Bro, SIL, and Nieceling. They usually arrive at the end of October in time for Chez Bro’s birthday, and stay a while. Sometimes they do Disney and then spend a few days at Busch Gardens, flying back to Long Island out of Tampa.

Busch Gardens has opened up a new section called Jungala. It looks like a whole lot of fun, and I am actually excited to return because of it! Although I know that it is better to wait until November, when it is cooler, I really want to experience Jungala NOW. Visiting the website just now did not help.

To mollify myself, I’ll hunt up and post some photos from my last trip to Busch Gardens Africa over the next couple of days. Here are a few to start us off –

Aligators and turtles sleeping in the sun at Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Florida 2007

Some turtles and gators sunning themselves. They twitch in their sleep…. =8^0

Baby gorilla born at Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Florida 2007

There was a new little baby gorilla last time I was there; so cute!

Giraffe at Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Florida 2007

We had a nice meal at a window seat at the Crown Colony restaurant.
This was our view out the window.

So, have YOU ever been to Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Florida? What did you like best? What did you like least? Feel free to comment about your Busch Gardens experiences and leave a link if you have any photos!

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Mmmm, Mexican food!

Kind of a hole in the wall, but it has become somewhat of a tradition that when I go up to the Tampa office, I to go to lunch with colleagues at Guadalajara, a really EXCELLENT Mexican restaurant.

Here’s the address off the menu, just for Chris.

There are two seating areas, both of which have a stained glass ceiling.

Authentically groovy decor… although, it does look as though someone hasn’t de-decorated since Valentine’s Day!

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Scenes from monthly visit to Tampa office

So, after we left the Strawberry Festival, I stayed over night in a Sheraton and worked in one of our Tampa facilities on Monday. There’s a pond out back of the building where some wildlife tends to gather. The fishes are rather funny; they get skittish and try to run away if you approach the banks of the pond, making quite a ruckus.

Here’s the Peace River in Charlotte County

And here’s the Caloosahatchee River in Lee County; as I go over this river, I know I’ll be home within the next 10 minutes or so.

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At the International Mall: The Bamboo Club

Had dinner here on Tuesday night. There’s an outdoor collection of restaurants called “Bay Street” at the International Mall in Tampa. Lots and lots of restaurants there. The food was good, but the portions were ridiculous. One order of rice can feed a small third world nation!

Now it’s time to say goodbye…

… to all my family. We’re leaving! They are going to the airport and home to frozen Long Island. I am going to a hotel for the night so I can attend some meetings in our Tampa offices tomorrow. I’m sad! But I shall see them again in New York at Christmas time.

It’s bigger than it looks

Yes Dale, you would love this, but I think it’s a bit bigger than the picture implies. Picture a toddler straddling it; I had to wait for one to move before taking the photo!

Outdoor balcony

On the upper level, there is a nice outdoor balcony; here’s the view. The balcony features benches sprinkled among lush container gardens, and a raven in a cage who was making quick work of a flash-frozen chick. Um, also ashtrays!

Explore A Shore

Entrance sculpture to the outdoor play area (with water features – Nieceling got soaked, which greatly displeased her parents) was donated by Publix, as witnessed by the white plaque with the black “P” on it.

Gift shop find

This is done in bronze. There were some turtle sculptures that seemed to be done in polished copper – they were just stunning, but I could not get a clear pic of them because they were TOO well lit, and they just came out as this big gleam. Wish they had the sea horse in the polished copper; I would have bought that in a heartbeat.

This was done on ceramic

All along the passageways of the aquarium there is art work, art work, and more art work. I liked this one because it seemed to be painted on ceramic and then glazed over. I’ve provided a pic of the placard with the artist’s details, below.