Although this is a post about Legoland and our experiences in Winter Haven, Bucees deserves a mention. Before we crossed the Georgia – Florida border, we checked out the famed Texan travel center chain called Bucees. We were curious about it because we saw so many eye-catching billboards advertising Bucees along the highway in Georgia. David explained to us that Bucees is well-known for its brisket and that it is such a big deal that Governor DeSantis himself cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the first Bucees location in Florida.
We were stunned when pulling up, seeing that there were at least 40 gas pumps and that the “convenience store” was as enormous as a Walmart building. Inside, the bathroom facilities were super numerous and extremely clean. But the crowdedness of people combined with the large quantity of merchandise completely overwhelmed us. We found a beef jerky bar where Jacob wanted to try their hot-and-spicy variety (there were so many varieties of beef jerky there). We were miserable when having to stand in line for 20 minutes to pay for the beef jerky packet that cost $7.50. Most people around us were spending at least $50 dollars there. There were only two check-out lines because Bucees was experiencing a staff shortage just like most businesses in the country.
Bucees is expanding fast throughout all the South-Eastern states including Kentucky.
As soon as we drove into Florida, the sun seemed to shine a little more brightly and the earth seemed flatter. We stopped at the Visitor Center to use the restroom and started seeing people in shorts and t-shirts all around us. The sun felt so good on my skin when I stepped out of our car. I remember remarking to David that it felt divine to be somewhere warm to take a short break from winter. At that moment and in that space, the air temperature felt just right, neither hot nor cold.
In Winter Haven, we stayed right across the highway from Legoland. Having brought many books with me on this trip, I thought I would be doing some reading or studying in the hotel room. However, we hadn’t expected the lake view right outside our window to be so pleasant. Thus, instead of reading or studying my languages, I just sat in the armchair and stared out at the lake scenery most of the time. I was hypnotized by the ripples on the water surface, finding their movement so relaxing. Moreover, I could hardly believe my eyes, for I was seeing so much lushness and green color in the landscape in January. In that hotel room, my body and consciousness were slowly adjusting from a winter mode to being in subtropical Florida.
It was in Winter Haven that we enjoyed the most delicious Vietnamese food we had ever tasted until now (outside Vietnam) at this restaurant:
It took an entire day for us to visit most areas in this spacious, fun amusement park. There were so many different areas with different themes to explore. Here are many of them, amongst others:
There were unexpectedly charming Lego statues scattered all over the park.
We went on a fun ride together called “The Lost Kingdom” full of Lego mummies and skeletons doing all sorts of things to try to surprise and startle us. I don’t remember having done something that amusing for a long while. I felt like a kid again. David and the boys went on their first-ever roller-coaster ride and were caught on camera.
Everywhere we went, I feasted my eyes on the landscaping filled with subtropical plants, shrubs and palms. Although we had already experienced the subtropical climate and landscape in South Carolina, the flora in Legoland set against a deep blue winter sky appeared so vividly colorful and exotic to me that I couldn’t take my eyes off them.
Cypress Garden was my favorite area of the park.
The star exhibit of Legoland was Miniland USA.
Lego marching band in front of the Capitol
Lego New York City
A strange squirrel
As we were walking down a lane in Cypress Garden (picture below), a squirrel approached us and acted as if it wished to socialize with us. At first, we didn’t know what it wanted so we just made an excited fuss about it. Then it dawned on us that it was probably asking for food. So, we gave it some wheat crackers and, to our delightful surprise, it ate all of them. It was a memorable experience because we had never come across such a sociable squirrel who liked human food before. Squirrels in Florida like tourists who would give them food while squirrels in Kentucky generally avoid humans and collect their own nuts.
Thank you for having read such a long post! Until next time.