Eatonville – A Historic Orlando-Area Community

When you visit the Orlando, Florida, area, and stay with Bluegreen Resorts at either The Fountains or Orlando’s Sunshine Resort, you’ll find a wealth of outdoor activities, opportunities for world-class shopping excursions, and a full range of theme parks ready to delight the entire family.

In addition, you’ll be able to discover off-the-tourist-track gems of history, heritage, and culture. Among these is the town of Eatonville, the first-ever all-African-American town to be incorporated in the United States. Located just outside the Orlando city limits and off Interstate 4 near the city of Maitland, Eatonville offers the Zora Neale Hurston National Fine Arts Museum, which was created in honor of its most famous daughter. And every January, the museum promotes the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, a feast of culture centered in the early 20th century writer’s works, which include novels and works on anthropology and folklore.

The museum, known as The Hurston, follows the author’s vision by showcasing artists of African descent. The Hurston features exhibits nearly year-round, and each one is typically installed for three to four months. There is no admission for individuals or families, although the museum appreciates donations. Free lectures and receptions accompany each exhibit. A museum store offers visitors the opportunity to own posters, collectible items, and more, all celebrating the African and African-American heritage.

The Zora Neale Hurston Festival is also free, although there is typically a charge to attend related concerts. Zora Neale Hurston’s writing focused to a large extent on Southern and African-American folklore, and the festival’s themes reflect this rich body of work. The daughter of former slaves, Hurston grew up in the small community and exemplifies Eatonville’s focus on family and history. Internationally renowned speakers and performers lend their talents to the four-day event, which takes place in venues across Eatonville and the surrounding communities.

Visitors to Eatonville can also take in the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and stroll along Kennedy Boulevard, home to numerous small businesses that have played a role in building the community over the years.

The Big Bear Discovery Center – Your Portal to Outdoor Fun

Only hours from the glamour of Hollywood and Los Angeles, The Club at Big Bear Village is Bluegreen Resorts’ cozy and beautifully appointed destination for year-round vacation fun. Big Bear Lake, California, is home to year-round opportunities for a full range of warm- and cold-weather sports and outdoor activities, as well as delightful small boutiques and distinctive restaurants.

Big Bear Lake is ensconced in the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Bernardino National Forest, which is home to hundreds of species of animals and thousands of kinds of plants. Entrance into the forest is free of charge for people and their pets.

Located at the north shore of Big Bear Lake is the Big Bear Discovery Center, which serves as the information hub for forest activities. Here, you can learn best practices for helping to conserve the natural world around you and obtain passes and forest permits, as well as maps for hiking, camping, and biking.

The Discovery Center also provides you with access to experienced naturalists, who lead group tours of the forest. These events may include celebrations of the area’s bald eagles, hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail, or snowshoe tours. You even have the option of building a birdhouse or learning the rudiments of reading maps and compasses in some of the center’s activity programs.

On its Facebook page, the Big Bear Discovery Center keeps vacationers up-to-date on special events in the area. These can include ecologically friendly hikes, family gold-panning activities, local nature and culture festivals, and blooming times of some of the San Bernardino National Forest’s distinctive flowering plants.

The not-for-profit Southern California Mountains Foundation, in collaboration with the United States Forest Service, manages the Big Bear Discovery Center, located in the town of Fawnskin, on Highway 38.

The San Bernardino National Forest Encloses Natural Bounty

Big Bear Lake, California, has so many exciting things to do year-round that you will want to return again and again to enjoy them all. When you visit, be sure to stay with Bluegreen Resorts at The Club at Big Bear Village, just a few hours’ drive from Los Angeles. At this idyllic location, you can treat yourself and your family to kayaking, canoeing, or zip-lining in spring or summer; viewing the riot of leaf colors during the fall; or skiing and an array of other winter sports.

Nestled within the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake is surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest, which spans nearly 700,000 acres and provides plenty of opportunities for alpine and cross-country skiing, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, camping, and other activities. The forest also offers some of the area’s most breathtaking views along the Rim of the World Scenic Byway or the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway.

Home to thousands of plant species, many of which are found nowhere else on earth, the forest contains a number of distinct habitats, such as oak woodlands, chaparral, and high-elevation conifer lands. The diverse bird population includes orioles, woodpeckers, hawks, herons, and eagles. Foxes, coyote, black bears, and deer are among the mammals of the forest, which is also the habitat of Pacific tree frogs and horned lizards. In total, more than 400 species of wildlife, including a number of endangered species, live within the forest’s borders.

More than a century ago, the wilderness areas in and around the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains received National Forest status through the United States government’s Forest Reserve Act of 1891. By 1907, the San Bernardino National Forest, including the San Gabriel Mountains, was designated as public land for the preservation of local wild animals and a wealth of natural resources.

Note that you will need certain passes and permits to allow you to use some designated recreation areas within the forest. See the website of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service for more information.

Mardi Gras World Celebrates New Orleans’ Iconic Parade

New Orleans is a living celebration of history and culture. When you visit the Big Easy in the company of Bluegreen Resorts, you’ll find that your accommodations at Bluegreen Club La Pension offer you the perfect entrée to the charms of the French Quarter, which include Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.

An enormous and colorful collection of Mardi Gras floats, props, and memorabilia, Mardi Gras World gives visitors a look at the entire process by which Mardi Gras floats are made. The artisans at Blaine Kern Studios have created some of the largest and most stunning floats for more than 60 years. Today, the Kern family’s staff members are responsible for about three-quarters of all the floats commanded by New Orleans’ Mardi Gras krewes during the holiday.

Mardi Gras World documents this exciting history in its float den, a vast warehouse that offers you the chance to have your picture taken in Mardi Gras costume next to some of the most popular floats in parade history. One-hour tours run daily every half hour, and feature a short film documentary, as well as glimpses of sketches and plans for upcoming Mardi Gras floats. You’ll even receive a free slice of the famous purple, green, and gold holiday king cake.

A complimentary Mardi Gras World shuttle service will pick you up in the French Quarter and take you to the museum, at 1380 Port of New Orleans Place, in the Central Business District near the convention center. Mardi Gras World is also accessible via the historic New Orleans streetcar. The studios are open seven days a week, except for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and the day of the Mardi Gras parade.

New Orleans’ Cabildo Houses the History of Louisiana and Beyond

Bluegreen Club La Pension in New Orleans offers you all the comfort that has made Bluegreen Resorts vacation properties a favorite with travelers from all over the United States. And because it is situated right at the edge of the Crescent City’s French Quarter, Club La Pension can be your gateway to discovering all of the city’s cultural and historic treasures.

When you visit Jackson Square, you’ll see the elegant spires of the St. Louis Cathedral, the focal point of the square. Right next to the cathedral is the Cabildo, which houses rare artifacts that portray the rich pageant of New Orleans history.

Constructed by the then-ruling Spanish in the closing years of the 18th century, the Cabildo exemplifies the era’s colonial architectural style. Architect Gilberto Guillemard not only designed the Cabildo, but he also designed the cathedral and the nearby Presbytère. All three buildings sit atop the ashes of the original structures, which were lost in the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788.

Within the walls of the Cabildo, you will find a wealth of fascinating objects. Chief among them is one of only four existing Napoleon death masks, constructed from a mold made by the emperor’s personal physician.

The Cabildo is also home to a wide-ranging, multicultural tour of the past that proceeds from the time of Louisiana’s first explorers, through the tragic days of slavery and the Civil War to Reconstruction and beyond. Exhibits detail the role of women in Southern culture, the contributions of immigrants, and the musical heritage of the antebellum South. One exhibit even focuses on famous Louisiana residents’ contributions to rock and roll.

Originally known as the “Casa Capitular,” the Cabildo served for many years as an official seat of government. In 1803, it was the site of the signing of the final documents of the Louisiana Purchase, and from 1853 until 1910, it housed the Louisiana Supreme Court. Among the famous cases argued on its premises was Homer Plessy’s original plea for an end to segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson.