MacDill Happenings

Things to Do in and around MacDill AFB

“The Theory of Everything” at Tampa Theatre

November 22, 2014 By: Laura Category: News

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If you’ve seen the previews on TV and heard about the great reviews about “The Theory of Everything” and want to see it, then you will have to go to downtown Tampa to watch it!  The Tampa Theatre is showing “The Theory of Everything” with the next screening at 1:30pm today.

The film was inspired by the memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking, which deals with her relationship with her ex-husband Stephen Hawking, his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis(ALS), and his success in physics.

Built in 1926 as one of America’s most elaborate “movie palaces”, the Tampa Theatre today is a historical treasure of Tampa. Located in downtown Tampa, the Theatre is easily accessible from I-275 and I-4. Designed by famed theatre architect John Eberson, the Tampa is a superior example of the “atmospheric” style of theatre design. Inside the Tampa, audiences are transported to a lavish, romantic Mediterranean courtyard replete with old world statuary, flowers, and gargoyles. Over it all is a night time sky replete with twinkling stars and floating clouds. Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and is a member of the League of Historic American Theatres. There is on-street parking nearby and parking lots within walking distance. Tampa Theatre is about 30 minutes away no matter if you live in Brandon, FishHawk Ranch, New Tampa, St. Pete or Westchase!

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Things to do in Tampa Bay!

November 21, 2014 By: Laura Category: Dining, Events


It’s been a little cooler than normal, but it should start warming up this weekend!  This weekend is filled with plenty of holiday fun and it is still a great time to watch the sunset from the beach.

  • Enjoy the beach at Treasure Island during Sanding Ovations. This is Treasure Island’s Master Cup Sand Sculpting Competition and Music Festival, a four day competition of ten sand sculpting masters from throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
  • Even with the warm up, you can go ice skating in downtown Tampa.  Tampa’s Downtown On Ice rink opens up on Friday evening and for $10 you will receive a pair of ice skates and 90 minutes on the ice.
  • The Seaboard Seafood Festival runs on Saturday and Sunday at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa.
  • The Enchanted Tree Lighting Ceremony & Holiday Street Party takes place at Hyde Park Village in south Tampa on Saturday starting at 5pm.  This is great event for kids. Check out the food trucks, vendors and free music!
  • On Saturday in St. Pete stop by Shopapalooza and get your holiday shopping done early where you can shop from over 100 vendors!
  • Learn about the cigar making history of Ybor City during the La Verbena Festival from noon to 5pm on Sunday.

If you have suggestion on other things to do, please leave a comment.  Enjoy the weekend!

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Flood Insurance: Why We Need it in The MacDill AFB Area

November 19, 2014 By: Laura Category: News


why you need flood insurance courtesyof concrobium

I recently made a trip to the New Orleans area and saw areas that were still being rebuilt 9 years after the Katrina Hurricane. It made me think back to 2004 when Hurricane Charlie made a path of destruction across Florida and how unprepared so many of us were. I remember reading in the weeks after Charlie about  many homeowners who thought they had flood coverage only to find out they did not.

Homeowners find it difficult to find private companies that will even write a flood insurance policy and customers must rely on the federal programs for coverage. I am not an expert on this side of the issue so I suggest you take a look at the FEMA site for the National Flood Insurance Program or talk to your policy holder to check what you can and or covered for.

I know that after reading staff writer Karina Gafford’s article “Military Families: My Flood Insurance Wake Up Call” I will be checking on my policy.

Why do we need flood insurance in the MacDill AFB area? Well if you have lived here for any length of time you can see how just a down pour can flood the streets of Tampa and the outlying suburbs. So just imagine a tropical storm or Hurricane. According to Karina’s article 1 in 4 home owners will need flood insurance during the lifetime of their mortgage. According to the Florida Flood their are many misconceptions on owning a flood insurance policy. This is what they had to say about the misconceptions:

  • The Number One Misconception is that homeowners insurance covers flood risk. The fact is that homeowners insurance policies typically DO NOT cover flood damage, a point usually highlighted in bold letters on the first page of your homeowners policy.
  • The Second Misconception is that flood insurance policies are expensive. Actually, if your home or business is located in a Preferred Risk Zone as determined by FEMA, you can purchase flood insurance for as little as $129 per year.
  • The Third Misconception is that many homeowners think they don’t live in a flood zone. In reality, FEMA has designated the entire state of Florida as a flood zone with varying levels of risk.

Great reasons to have a flood insurance policy whether you are renting, own a rental property or own your home. This information is especially important for our military families in the area who may not be aware of the flood risk here in the MacDill AFB area. I am not sure how it works with base housing but I would make sure my rental insurance has flood insurance if you are living on MacDill Base housing.

That being said even if your home is not located in Florida you should know that all 50 states have experienced flooding in the last 5 years.  If you own a home in another state and or renting it out you probably need to check your policy for flood coverage.

With this information I would suggest making a call to your insurer and checking what coverage you have or may not have.  With the information in Karina’s article, FEMA and you should be very educated in why you need flood insurance here in the Tampa bay area.

I hope none of us will ever need to use our flood insurance policies but now that we all know the facts being covered will ease the burden if we do have a flood. Another great tip if you are searching for a home to rent or buy check out the FEMA maps for what flood zone the home falls under.


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Thanksgiving Travel Tips

November 18, 2014 By: Laura Category: Self Improvement, Travel

Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Thanksgiving is next week and many people will be traveling for the holiday weekend.  Traveling to visit relatives for the Thanksgiving holiday is a  tradition for a lot of military families. Visiting relatives over the holidays is just another way to keep our holiday traditions alive. So next week many of you will be hopping in your car, or on a plane, train or bus to destinations all around the world. For some of us in the MacDill AFB area it may just mean a drive over to Orlando to visit one of the theme parks!! What ever your plans may be here are a few tips to hopefully keep your stress level down!

  • Getting your plane tickets. If you have not done so already you need to get on it. Using sites such as Expedia can ease the stress of looking at every airline for the best deal. CNET has some great tech ideas on finding the best deals.
  • Plan your route if you are driving. ABC Action News shared a great story on Google Maps Thanksgiving travel tips. Great tips on the best time of day to start your trip. Use PCS Lodging to plan your hotel stops.
  • Check the IT&T office at MacDill for deals on cruises and amusement parks in the area.
  • If you are driving make sure you check to see that your car is ready for travel. Check all fluids, hoses, belts , tire pressure and your brakes. For a look at all that you should check read All Star Automotive latest article. If you are driving up North make sure you keep blankets, extra food, water and first aid items in the car. You never know when bad weather is going to strand you.
  • Get your playlist ready! Of course you will need several version of “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmothers house we go”!! I am sure ours will contain many Taylor Swift songs!
  • Traveling with kids can be stressful so plan ahead. Check out “Tips to Help You Stay Sane on a Road Trip with Kids” for great ideas on games, snacks and planning.

Monica Schaffer a staff writer for wrote a great article “5 Tips for Creating a Fun-Filled PCS Trip” some of which could also apply to your Thanksgiving trip. I would love to hear where some of you are going and how you are planning your Thanksgiving travel. Please share with me a comment or a post on my Facebook page.

I have one more tip to share  and that is check the weather before you leave on your trip!! Make sure to pack accordingly it is so frustrating to get to your destination and then have to go out and buy clothes to go with the weather!!! Has this happened to you?

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Make Your Holiday Shopping Easier with Amazon

November 17, 2014 By: Laura Category: News, Self Improvement

 Christmas Gifts in Cardboard Box and Packing Peanuts

 When it comes to holiday shopping  the internet seems to be a favorite choice for military families . One of the reasons they may be so popular especially with military spouses is the fact that Amazon ships to most APO and FPO addresses. Another reason my family likes to use their services is the fact they have committed to and have employed many veterans. Recently Amazon opened two new distribution centers right here near MacDill AFB, one  in Lakeland and the other  in Ruskin. I saw on the MacDill Wives Facebook page and other spouse social media sites that Amazon was encouraging military spouses to apply for their holiday customer service positions.

One of the best reasons to shop with Amazon is the AmazonSmile program. Our staff writer Dawn Smith shared in a recent article “5 Helpful Holiday Orders from Amazon” how Amazon is using this program to help charities all across the world including those that are helping our veterans. In fact you can designate to have .5% of your purchase go to the Central  Florida USO.

As a family we have used Amazon mostly when we were stationed overseas but now that I have read Dawn’s article I may use the site to buy wine! Who knew Amazon Wine existed!! Another benefit that Dawn mentioned was being able to order items that may be nostalgic or unique to your hometown. Such a plus for service members who may have a special brand of candy, food or drink that that they miss during the holidays. I know many a mom who uses the Prime Pantry feature to order wipes and diapers.

How do you use Amazon? Do you use AmazonSmiles and help  your favorite charity? Have you or someone you know applied to work for Amazon? I would love to hear you stories! Please share them with me below in the comments section and do not forget to use the like buttons to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I would love to get a tweet from someone new today!!!

Don’t forget if you are shopping for a home to rent or buy to check out the listings on Also check out our gift giving ideas on Pinterest.

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Take a Visit or Make Move to Jacksonville!

November 15, 2014 By: Laura Category: Communities, News


If you are looking for something different to do over the holidays or maybe you are looking for a mini vacation idea then a drive up to Jacksonville might be the answer. Or maybe you have orders to PCS to the Jacksonville area. Our family has spent Thanksgiving in Jacksonville numerous times with our daughter when she was attending Jacksonville University. The drive up and over to Jacksonville will take you about 3 hours and 22 minutes from Tampa. I recommend the I-4 to I-95 route.  MapQuest at times will take you up I75 and across 301 via Gainesville. On a few of our trips we planned lunch in either Orlando or St Augustine.

Jacksonville has a different feel and look than Tampa. Since Jacksonville sits on the Atlantic the beaches are a little different. The water is a little cooler and a deep blue but very beautiful. One of the best reasons to take your mini vacation is the accessibility to two Navy bases. If you’re a golfer, then both bases, NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport, have great golf courses.  Both bases have plenty of nearby housing off base.

Downtown Jacksonville boasts 5.6 miles of beautiful riverfront, including almost 3 miles of riverwalk. The Jacksonville Landing
located on the river in downtown is a shopping and entertainment center that hosts over 350 events annually, including live music every weekend. The Riverside Arts Market is prefect place to spend a Saturday afternoon in the downtown area.

The Jacksonville Zoo is must see! Spread out on more than 93 acres, you can see more than 1,800 animals and a 1,000 exotic plants.

A visit the Jacksonville area could include a relaxing visit to Amelia Island and stop at the historic St.Augustine.

Whether it’s short visit or a PCS move, Jacksonville will have something new for you to explore and enjoy almost everyday!

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Weekend Events Near MacDill AFB

November 13, 2014 By: Laura Category: Events, Things to do Near MacDill AFB


The weekend is almost here. Do you have plans? Well if you are looking for something to do around the MacDill area I have some great events to share.

  • The Ribfest returns this weekend at St. Petse’s Vinoy Park. Running Friday to Sunday, ribs and music will be on the menu. Admission is $16 on Friday and $20 on Saturday and Sunday with proceeds going to local nonprofit organizations including All Children’s Hospital, Great Explorations, the Carter G. Woodson Museum and Tampa Bay Watch.
  •  The Tampa Bay International Auto Show takes place from Friday to Sunday at the downtown Tampa Convention Center. Admission is $12 for ages 13 and over, children 7-12 will pay $5 and military personnel with any type of military ID card will pay $5.
  • On Saturday at 11:30am, the Tampa Theatre will have a Backstage Tour. You will learn the Theatre’s secrets, stories, art and architecture during the 90-minute tours. It’s $7.50 for adults and $5 for ages 2-12.
  • On Saturday at 7pm, the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the New York Islanders at Amalie Arena.
  • The Sarasota Medieval Fair continues this weekend. Make sure you ask about the military discount for tickets. If you do any jousting please share the photo’s with us.
  • Are you expecting a new little one? Well you may want to check out the Mother of All Baby Showers on Friday night at the Glazer Children’s Museum.
  • If you love to read then check out Tampa’s Bookstore Day on Saturday November 15th. This a great way to visit some of the local book stores and also shop local.

So many fun things to do this weekend in the Tampa Bay area!! Please share with us any fun events I may have missed. Share here on the blog or on our Facebook page. These beautiful fall night make it a great time to watch a sunset!! Share you pictures.

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Veteran’s Benefits That You Need to Know About

November 11, 2014 By: Laura Category: News, Self Improvement

Fun things to do This Memorial Day Weekend

Now that you have finished your service to your country, there are some benefits that you have earned that you can take advantage of whether you stayed into until you received a military retirement and pension or just served one tour and left active duty.

The largest and most well-known provider of veterans benefits is the Veterans Benefit Administration which is a part of the Veterans Administration, better known as the VA.  The mission of the VA is to administer the services and benefits provided by the Federal government.  Remember, most employees of the VA are also former military members, just like you.

  • You can received Compensation benefits for disabilities that you are connected to your military service.
  • The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a huge educational and financial benefit that must be used within 10 years of leaving active duty.
  • A VA home loan is a perfect way to buy a home with very little money out of your pocket!
  • It’s a little pricey, but if you need it you can sign up for life insurance.
  • They also provide you help in looking for a job.  They will help you write up a resume and figure how to find a job.

The VA has an office in Tampa that you can contact for assistance.

The state of Florida has a Department of Veterans Affairs that can help you with your Federal claims and also offers housing and employment assistance.

If you’re looking for Federal job employment on USAJobs, you are eligible for a veterans preference!

Enjoy your Veterans Day, you deserve it!

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Being a Military Spouse and What It Has Meant to Me

November 10, 2014 By: Laura Category: Self Improvement

Digital Camera


Today is the 239th birthday of the Marine Corps and tomorrow is Veterans Day. These two events along with some recent questions I have seen on military spouse social media pages prompted me to write this blog.

Over 29 years ago I married my handsome Marine. I think back to that day and try to remember what my expectations were. I do not think my expectations had anything to do with the military. My only thought that day was on the fact I was marrying my best friend and I hoped to live up to my wedding vows. Sure I knew I was marrying a Marine because there he stood in his dress whites looking very handsome. Maybe it was the fact that I was a military brat and had been surrounded by the military my whole life that I thought I was no different then any other bride. And I still feel that way. Sure we were packing up and moving to Ft Sill, OK in a few days and would not be going on a honeymoon, but that did not seem out of the ordinary!

It was probably more the voices of friends and family giving advice and asking questions that made our wedding a little different than my civilian girlfriends. I heard things like ” He is going to be gone a lot”, “What about your poor kids?”, “You are never going to get rich in the military”, and “What about your family won’t you miss them?” All questions I guess I had thought about but knew came with the territory.

Yes, he would probably be gone a lot and I never knew how lonely I would be until that first 6 month “float” . But I also did not know how strong I could be in that situation. But, I also had a purpose. Before my husband left I was given a list of spouses names and numbers and I was asked to call and check on these young ladies every now and then. My name was also on a list.  So my loneliness had a purpose. Some of the women I met at our first duty station are still close friends. I also solved the loneliness problem with having five children. After that I some times wished I was the one deploying!! Yes, the goodbyes were hard but the hello’s were so worth it.

Oh and what about those five poor children? Well I have never thought poor children just as I have never thought my life as a military brat was a burden.  My kids have not moved as often as some and it was probably hardest on the last two. My youngest son (child number 4) was at three high schools in four years. Was he happy about it? Heck no! But he adapted and I am sure had we not moved to Guam he would not have been and still be a rugby player. And I am pretty sure my two oldest are very glad we PCS’d to MacDill AFB. Had it not been for this move to Florida they may have not met their fiances! The hardest thing for me as a parent of military kids was leaving behind the middle daughter here in Tampa. We had orders to Guam her senior year of high school. Since she was attending Blake High School for the Performing Arts and was a music major we decided it was best for to stay behind with a family friend. I am pretty sure it was harder on me than her!!

Oh it is true you will never get rich being in the military. But as my hubby says “I did not join the Marines to be served, I joined to serve!” We did know we had benefits such as base housing , medical care and the commissary to help us make it. I am so grateful that we now have so many working on improving the life of our military kids and spouses, advocating to protect our benefits and thankful for the civilian community that thanks us in so many ways. It is a different world than when my Dad and Uncles came home from Vietnam. And with that I will have to say I never thought I would cry every time I hear the National Anthem or the Marine Corps hymn!!

For me surprisingly the hardest thing about being a military spouse was retirement. We have been retired for over a year and I am still trying to find my way. We have not found our forever home and really we are not retired just living the next chapter of our lives!

All of these things and more are what makes being a military spouse special. The lifetime friendships, the adventure, the places your civilian friends will never see and the love a man who loves his country so much he was willing to sacrifice his life. Are you a military spouse with a story to share? I would love to hear your thoughts. Share your thoughts here in the comments section or on teh MacDill Happenings Facebook page.

Happy Birthday Marines and a very happy Veteran’s Day to all of you! Semper Fi!




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Veteran’s Day Specials

November 08, 2014 By: Laura Category: Dining, Events

flagsforfallenvets courtesyofWFLA

Veteran’s Day is on Tuesday, but there are a number of special admission prices and discounted restaurant meals that are available to veterans starting on Monday. MilitaryByOwner has published a blog “Veterans’ Day Meals and Deals” that can be your first stop to find out what is available to veterans.

  • MOSI is offering a discounted admission price that actually starts on Saturday for $5.  This is good for veterans and all active and retired military personnel, EMTs, firefighters and police officers.
  • The Florida Aquarium is offering 2 free tickets and discounted half-price admission for 4 other family members on Tuesday.  All Veterans, active duty or drilling reservist or National Guard members are eligible.
  • Ruby Tuesday is offering a free appetizer to active duty, reservists and veterans with proof of service on Veteran’s Day.
  • On Tuesday, veterans, active duty and reservist will receive free admission to Lowry Park Zoo. With a military ID card, 3 dependents can also receive free admission.
  • The South Florida Museum in Bradenton offers free admission to veterans and active duty military members free admission the entire month of November.
  • On Tuesday, the Glazer Children’s Museum is offering free admission to military members and their family with proper military ID.
  • Joanne’s Fabric 20% off with Military ID thru Tuesday November 11th.
  • For more discounts check out and

There will various Veteran’s Day services at location including the Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa, the Florida National Ceremony, and the National Cemetery at Bay Pines Cemetery.  All starting at 11am. Local VFW and American Legion posts will also have ceremonies.

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