Welcome to warm, sunny Florida and the Tuscany-style gated community of Tuscan Hills, just miles from Walt Disney World and the many other fun and interesting attractions in this world’s leading travel destination. Here’s some information we think you’ll find useful if it’s your first visit.
Driving in central Florida
All of the tourism makes this a congested driving area, even though the state is continuously adding and expanding roads. The high rate of rental cars (with ensuing unfamiliarity of roads) combined with impatience-fueled speeding is a formula for accidents. Lanes blocked due to accidents along with closures due to road work add up to fairly common delays. Expect your trip to wherever to take longer than you think (unless you’re from L.A. or New York City, in which case traffic will be a breeze here).
Directional signage is fairly good, and speed limits are clearly and regularly posted (typically 55 to 70 mph on highways). Review your route in advance with a good old-fashioned map (paper or online), even if you’re relying on GPS, which isn’t always accurate or attuned to the best route.
Florida law requires all drivers and front-seat passengers to wear safety belts. Ditto for anyone under 18 years of age whether sitting in the front or back. Texting while driving is also banned. Children under 5 years old must be seated in a federally approved child car seat. Children 3 years old and younger must use a separate car seat or the vehicle’s built-in child seat. And children ages 4 through 5 must sit in either a separate car seat, a built-in child seat or a seat belt, depending on the child’s height and weight. Never put your child in a child car seat in the front of a vehicle with a passenger air bag. It’s always safest for your child to ride in the back seat. More safety information is available at www.safercar.gov/parents. More on Florida traffic safety rules is online at www.dmv.org/fl-florida/safety-laws.php.
One difference you may notice while driving on Florida highways is that entrances usually are posted with “merge” signs as opposed to “yield” signs. This means that cars on the highway are supposed to slide over a lane to make way for entering traffic if they can safely do so. Be aware that entering drivers often don’t care about that and will force their way on even if you’re boxed in.
If you see a school bus that’s stopped (or stopping) with its warning signs flashing, you must stop if you’re traveling in either direction on a two-way road or if you’re headed the same way on a divided road.
Florida has tough penalties for drunk driving, so don’t do it. It’s dangerous.
Right-hand turns at red lights are legal, provided you first come to a full stop and check to make sure the way is clear. The exception is at lights that have signs prohibiting turns on red lights.
And finally, you can pump your own gas at Florida gas stations. Just slide your credit card into the reader at the pump and follow posted directions. Be aware that prices can vary significantly from station to station, so pay attention to the posted prices if you care to save a few dollars.
Navigating Area Roads
I-4 is the main artery cutting through this part of the state, connecting traffic from the city of Orlando to Lakeland to the southwest and ultimately Tampa. When traffic is moving, it’s the main way to get to most major destinations, including Universal Studios, SeaWorld, the airports, the beaches, and Kennedy Space Center.
International Drive is another heavily used road because it’s lined with a mass of hotels, outlets, restaurants, gift shops and such. If you like to shop, it’s the place to go. If you hate crowds and traffic jams, it’s your worst nightmare.
A third major road is Route 192, the Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway. You’ll likely be on this one a lot because it’s the best way to get from here to the Disney parks. If you head east on it past the Disney gate, it’ll take you into Celebration and Kissimmee and the many hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions there. The section of it between here and Disney also is lined with many stores and restaurants, but it’s not nearly as congested as International Drive and Kissimmee (which is why I picked this area to buy in the first place).
One other main road you’ll be using is Route 27, a divided highway that runs north/south just outside the Tuscan gate. Turn right (north) onto it, and at the first road on the right you’ll come to a huge county park called Northeast Regional Park. It has artificial-turf athletic fields, playground equipment, walking trails and a public boat dock at Lake Davenport.
Keep going north on Route 27, and you’ll be able to turn right and follow Route 192 to World Drive and the entrance to Disney. Skip that turnoff to continue north on Route 27, where you’ll find a few more restaurants and stores (including Walmart) and eventually the town of Clermont.
If you turn left (south) onto Route 27, you’ll find the closest supermarket – Publix – less than a mile on the right. The closest gas station also is there. This section of Route 27 is lined mostly with residential communities (including an entrance to the humongous Champions Gate) and eventually an interchange with I-4. Go this way if you’re heading toward Lakeland, Tampa or anywhere on the Gulf Coast. If you stay on Route 27 past the I-4 turnoff, you’re on the way to Haines City, Legoland, Bok Tower Gardens and other worthy attractions to the south.
Be aware that not all roads are free. The area has several toll roads, including Route 528 (the Beachline Expressway); Route 408 (the East-West Expressway); Route 417 (the Central Florida Greeneway); Route 429 (the Daniel Webster Beltway); the Florida Turnpike, and part of the Osceola Parkway.
Only U.S. currency is accepted at toll stations. Also, some booths are unmanned and require exact change. One option for speeding your way through toll booths and the pay-each-time requirement that goes with them is to buy a SunPass. These units are sold at some stores and supermarkets. Locations are listed on the SunPass website at www.sunpass.com. SunPass units get fastened on your car window and are set up online to record your movements and pay by credit card automatically. It’s worth it if you plan to do a lot of driving on toll roads. SunPasses also are available in rental cars, although the rental companies typically tack on fees that give them a profit on top of what the state charges.
Restaurants / Supermarkets / Target / Walmart / Movies
A slew of restaurants are nearby, especially if you go north on Route 27, then right onto Route 192 (Irlo Bronson Highway). Both sides of that road are lined with all sorts of restaurants (Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Joe’s Crab Shack, Chuy’s Mexican, Bonefish Grill, Texas Road House, TGI Friday’s, a Chinese buffet, etc. etc.) the whole way to the Disney gate and beyond if you continue into Kissimmee. You’ll find more if you keep heading north on Route 27 past the Route 192 turnoff and more still if you head south on Route 27 and to just past the I-4 interchange.
The two nearest supermarkets are Publix stores – the area’s leading grocery chain. The closest is at 2424 Sand Mine Road in Berry Town Center (left onto Route 27, 1 mile and right onto Sand Mine Road). Next closest is 2½ miles away at 17445 Highway 192 (north on Route 27, right onto Route 192 toward Disney, then look to your left before the first intersection at Town Center Blvd.)
Keep going east on Route 192 for 4 miles and look on the right for a Target store at 3200 Rolling Oaks Blvd. And if you’re a Walmart fan, head north from Tuscan 2½ miles on Route 27 (go past the Route 192 exit) and turn right on Cagan Crossings Blvd.
For movies, head south on Route 27, and just below the I-4 interchange is the Posner Park Mall, a large strip mall with a 9-screen movie theater (including an IMAX) called Cinepolis (for current offerings, visit http://www.cinepolisusa.com/polk-county.aspx). Turn left at the Posner Boulevard light to get into the complex, which also has a Target, JC Penney, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Best Buy, among others.
Florida charges a sales tax on most purchases at a rate of 6 percent (up to 7.5 percent in some municipalities). The tax is added at checkout. Medicine, many foods and items deemed “necessities” are exempt. For more details, see the Florida Department of Revenue’s sales-tax website at www.dor.myflorida.com.
Tips for service are discretionary. They’re most common for waitstaff at restaurants, where the going rate is 15 percent for good service and 20 percent or more for excellent service. Be aware that some restaurants automatically add a tip or “gratuity” to the bill, especially in groups of six or more.
Tips of 10 to 15 percent are the norm for taxi service.
Just about all places of business take credit and debit cards, but if you need cash, the best bet is to use an automated teller machine (ATM). These can be found at most banks and in many stores, shopping centers and supermarkets.
ATMs usually give you the best exchange rate (or at least a competitive one) if you’re using foreign cards to get cash. You can also exchange currency at most banks, which are typically open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
We wish you a very lovely stay!