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Sweets and Steampunk: Universal's Toothsome Chocolate Emporium

Great eats and extraordinary desserts await you at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, a new full-service restaurant, bar and confectionery at Universal CityWalk.

Lights go out on Disney World's Main Street Electrical Parade

An era has come to an end to the dismay of Walt Disney World fans.

The last showing of the The Main Street Electrical Parade rolled down the streets of the Magic Kingdom for the final time Sunday night in front of packed crowds.

But the parade will not be packed up in a warehouse for long. It is making the trip back to the West Coast for a limited-time run in Disneyland early next year, Walt Disney World announced.

This isn't the first time the parade has moved from one U.S. Disney park to another. It debuted in Disneyland in 1972. It also was performed in Disney California Adventure park from 2001 until 2010, when it returned to Orlando, park officials said.

And for those who want to light up the night with half a million of twinkling lights, the Walt Disney World version of the parade will live on thanks to Facebook, YouTube and other social media outlets.

Serene Horseback Riding At McCulley Farms In Jasper

Horseback riders will love the peace, tranquility and trails available at McCulley Farms in Jasper. The business is run by several generations of the family, and offers visitors scenic views of the Withlacoochee Trail and several rivers. It is a chance to recharge and escape the daily runaround. 

Conquering Florida: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

In this episode of Conquering Florida, motocross champion Ricky Carmichael and his manager, J.H. Leale take on SheiKra, a roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with a straight-down drop that reaches speeds up to 70 mph. For those viewers more inclined to keep their feet on the ground, Ricky and J.H. explore the theme park’s animal habitats and meet Harry the sloth and come face to face with flamingos.

Serene Horseback Riding At McCulley Farms In Jasper

Horseback riders will love the peace, tranquility and trails at McCulley Farms in Jasper. The business is run by several generations of the family, and offers visitors scenic views of the Withlacoochee Trail and several rivers. It is a chance to recharge and escape the daily runaround. 

Serene Horseback Riding At McCulley Farm In Jasper

Horseback riders will love the peace, tranquility and trails at McCulley Farms in Jasper. The business is run by several generations of the family, and offers visitors scenic views of the Withlacoochee Trail and several rivers. It is a chance to recharge and escape the daily runaround. 

Southwest Airlines offers $100 round-trip fares

A Southwest Airlines promotion is offering round-trip flights for as little as $100 between some of the carrier's shortest routes.

>> Read more trending stories  

The promotion, which includes flights from Nov. 30 to Dec. 20 and from Jan. 4 to Feb. 15, offers nonstop one-way flights for as low as $49. Longer and more popular routes are offered for $79, $99 and $129 each way.

Flights on Fridays and Sundays are not included in the sale, and international travel, which ranges from $99 to $239, is valid only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The sale lasts until Oct. 6 at 11:59 p.m. local time in the city of the departing flight.

See more at

Central Florida cruises rerouted because of Hurricane Matthew

Several cruise lines at Port Canaveral, Florida, are making changes this week in response to Hurricane Matthew churning in the Atlantic.

"As long as we're safe, we're OK going to Key West," said cruise passenger Rhonda Parker.

>> Read more trending stories

Richard Bramwell told WFTV's Melonie Holt that he has relatives in Jamaica and that his thoughts are also with those in the path of the storm.

"Everything with the rest of the family is OK. And as we say, we trust in God," Bramwell said.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN:Royal Caribbean International is posting updates on its website. Some ships will be rerouted this week.

The Allure of the Seas has changed its call dates:

  • Tuesday: Cozumel, Mexico, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday: At sea
  • Thursday: Falmouth, Jamaica, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Friday: Labadee, Haiti, from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday: At sea
  • Sunday: Arrival at Port Everglades, Florida, at 6:15 a.m.

Freedom of the Seas: Returns to Port Canaveral Sunday at 6 a.m.


Carnival posted on its website that as of now most of its ships will operate as scheduled. If any changes are made, guests will be notified.


The Disney Dream left Port Canaveral on Monday and will sail to the western Caribbean. It will return to Port Canaveral on Friday. 

Taste Dairy Farm Life At Ocheesee Creamery In Grand Ridge

Visitors to the Ocheesee Creamery in Grand Ridge get the chance to meet the families who run the dairy farm, and interact with the stars: The cows. It is a chance to watch a variety of products being made, and get a farm-fresh sample of the milk, and especially the ice cream.

Discover the Stetson Mansion, Florida's First Luxury Home

When John B. Stetson (he of hatmaking fame) wanted a large winter home for his family, first he chose the central Florida town of DeLand as its location and then he chose architect George T. Pearson to design it.

You might think a 10,000-square-foot circa 1886 mansion resting on more than two acres is impossible to miss -- but you'd be wrong.

Hidden just a few blocks south of Highway 44 in DeLand sits the palatial three-story Victorian-style Stetson Mansion.

But is it really Victorian? Well, yes, but it turns that it also includes a unique architectural blend of Gothic, Moorish, Polynesian and Tudor styles.

Sadly, most people don’t even know that Florida’s first luxury home exists. But it does thanks to JT Thompson and partner Michael Solari who purchased the house in 2005. Structurally sound, they completely restored the interior and exterior of the Stetson Mansion and successfully incorporated a few modern conveniences into the home such as updated electric and kitchen appliances.

One of the grandest homes built during the 19th Century, Thompson points out that the home is "the epitome of the Victorian era.”

With a Little Help from My Friends

Sponsors from around the country aided the restoration by donating everything from appliances to paint to furniture. One sponsor, Blenko Glass, gifted all the glass vases inside the mansion after learning that John B. Stetson was likely a client.

The work paid off. Visitors immediately notice the spacious front porch and exquisite Tiffany stained and leaded glass windows. Around the estate are multiple fountains, a putting green, gazebo, pool and tranquil meditation garden, complete with hammock. The gardens have a fresh and modern feel, while still melding seamlessly into the overall design of the estate.

Inside are intricate parquet floors in the world, many of which are designed in 3D patterns that change from room to room. One of the most striking features of the home is a glass and wood wall the Stetsons purchased from a French chateau and had disassembled and shipped to DeLand over several years. The wall remains in pristine condition, and the glass is original and dates to the late 1700s.

The lavish home contains pieces from many different eras, including Victorian furniture from the 1880s and from later generations. While none of the furnishings is original to the home, many are similar to those the Stetson family would’ve chosen during their early trips to DeLand.

In Good Company

When Henry A. DeLand, the founder of DeLand, heard that his good friend John Stetson was seeking a warmer climate for his health, he invited him to Central Florida. John liked what he saw, purchased 250-plus acres for use as an orange grove, and built the mansion in less than a year.

Elizabeth, his wife, thought the area was lacking in culture and insisted John cut the size of the house in half. Still, the mansion was one of the largest and most elegant residences of the time.

DeLand became the Stetson family's winter home, and they traveled from Philadelphia each year to enjoy six months of warm weather and sunshine. The Stetsons were some of Florida's first true snowbirds, and they spent their winters entertaining many of the era's most influential and wealthy families.

President Grover Cleveland and King Edward VII were both guests at the Stetson estate, as were the Vanderbilts, Astors, Tiffanys, Carnegies and Mellons. Another guest, Thomas Edison, left his mark on the mansion during construction; the Stetson Mansion was one of the first homes in the world to be equipped with Edison electricity.

Edison was good friends with the Stetsons and stayed in the house to oversee the electrical installation. Some of Edison's original light fixtures remain in the mansion, and the original Thomas Edison circuit box hangs inside the breezeway that connects the kitchen and dining room. Edison’s handwriting is still visible on tags inside the box.

Early guests would have been impressed with the mansion's ornate details and phenomenal craftsmanship. The home was built during the Gilded Age, but before the machine age, so all the elaborate embellishments were done by hand or with steam-assisted machinery.  

Stetson spared no expense when building the house, using the best wood available and even building closets in the bedrooms, which was rare for Victorian-era homes.

Public Tours and Events

Today, visitors can tour the mansion year-round and are treated to the entire estate. No rooms are roped off, and visitors can even look inside the current owners' bedroom and bathroom.

The master bedroom closet is also open for examination and is a new addition to the house. Originally the servants' bedroom, Thompson and Solari have converted it into a large, walk-in closet, complete with three leather walls, a window and an original Edison light fixture on the ceiling.

Tours run 60 to 90 minutes, depending on whether visitors choose the Standard or Grand tour, and begin in the Reception Parlor on the first floor. In this room, visitors learn a little about the history of the mansion while standing beneath a ceiling painted to look like abalone shell.

There’s also a magnificent piano, a Dali lithograph, and a fireplace dating back to 1886. As the tour proceeds through the home's many rooms, visitors hear about the mansion's renovations and the Stetson family‘s life.

Art-loving visitors will enjoy the home’s more-recent decorations, too; different artists from around the country have contributed to the beauty of the mansion’s walls, ceilings and windows.

Winter is a popular time to tour the estate, and the mansion is extravagantly decorated during the holidays to create a magical wonderland of ribbons and lights. Tours to view the award-winning decorations start Nov. 15 and run through Jan. 15.

Individuals or groups can also visit the mansion for Sunday tea in the schoolhouse. Following a quick tour of the mansion and a surprise visit from “Elizabeth Stetson,” sandwiches, scones and tea are served beneath the schoolhouse's 15.5-foot Polynesian ceiling. Local businesses cater the tea, which is hosted by the Stetson Mansion Foundation.

Reservations are necessary for tours and tea, and the estate is available for weddings, parties and other private events. The Stetson Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If You Go... Stetson Mansion 1031 Camphor Lane DeLand, FL 32720 (386) 873-0167

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