Darth Vader was on loan from California, but hopefully he will emigrate here permanently
The “worst kept secret in Central Florida” was confirmed today when LEGOLAND Florida’s General Manager Adrian Jones announced the Miniland area of the park is to undergo a huge expansion to include scenes from all 6 of the Star Wars movies and The Clone Wars cartoon that is about to start it’s 5th season on The Cartoon Network.
Media trucks from all over Central Florida are a testament to how quickly LEGOLAND has been embraced by the area.
Opening in November 2012, the LEGO® Star Wars™ Miniland Cluster will be built in 1:20 scale and created from more than 1.5 million LEGO bricks. There will be 2,000 LEGO models, including some 6ft tall lifesize characters. Interactive buttons will allow children (and many adults) to activate animations as they follow a chronological path through the Star Wars timeline and retrace the major events of the Saga.
Media interviews in front of the fenced off construction site
The LEGO Star Wars Miniland Cluster experience will be included with park admission and will be similar to the one already in LEGOLAND California.
California already has a Star Wars Miniland
The Star Wars store at LEGOLAND
“Today, less than a year after our grand opening and only four months after opening the all-new water park, we are thrilled to announce yet another expansion this November. This new LEGO Star Wars Miniland Cluster will add to our 150-acre family theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and interactive attractions,” said Jones.
The Expansion Map: Located in the area behind Miniland on the way to Land of Adventure
It is not known exactly when the expansion will be open, or what events are planned to accompany it. Last year when California unveiled theirs, Carrie Fisher who played Princess Leia was the guest of honor and in June they hosted their first LEGO® Star Wars Days.
Carrie Fisher opened LEGOLAND California's Star Wars attraction
Here a short video from the event as Adrian Jones makes the announcement and introduces Darth Vader as well as comments about the expansion from LEGOLAND Spokesperson Kim Isemann.
There is a close up look of the Millennium Falcon and Darth Maul that will be part of Star Wars Miniland Cluster.
You won't find this version of the Millennium Falcon in your local LEGO store
Han and Chewie make the jump to lightspeed ... eventually
The detail is so amazing it is easy to forget this is made of bricks
The Force just got a lot stronger in Central Florida as we are rapidly becoming the center of the Star Wars Universe.
Return of the Sith: Darth Maul is enjoying a new lease of life in The Clone Wars television series
With the political convention circuit in full swing, the very sight of the word convention is usually enough to send me running to the hills … except that I live here in Orlando. Rapidly on it’s way to becoming the convention capital of the world, Orlando is currently, #4 behind Chicago, Las Vegas and Washington, DC (metro area), it is the perfect choice if you want to encourage people who put families first to attend your event. It is a little know fact that Orlando has the second largest convention center in the US behind Chicago.
This huge banner was available for everyone to take their picture against
The huge AT-AT in the lobby
It is not surprising that the variety of conventions here in Orlando run from the sublime to ridiculous and all points in between.
Chalk drawing promoting The Clone Wars that took 4 days to complete
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the 4-day Celebration VI … a convention devoted to all things Star Wars and attended by over 35,000 people. That’s pretty close to the size of the RNC in Tampa if you are looking for a comparison.
Some of the lines for panels were huge
Star Wars fans from all over the world flocked, or would that be jetted into Orlando, to enjoy this bi-annual event. It was also attended by most of the major stars from each of the 6 movies including Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, as well as a special unannounced visit from creator George Lucas himself.
Fan made costume of Chewbacca, the guy really was that tall
This convention had so many events and panels and activities that it needed its own App as well as a 90 page souvenir program and a handy dandy 46 page “Insider’s Guide.”
Without these guides or the App you would be left bewildered by scale of the event.
The amazing thing about Star Wars is the appeal. No movie franchise in history has shown the longevity, fanaticism, cross global and ageless appeal as well as the financial muscle from it’s merchandising.
Decked out in convention merchandise
I saw the movies when they were first released and I consider myself a fan, but not a FAN. I attended this convention with my 8-year-old son who of course, wasn’t old enough when any of these movies were released to get caught up in the hype, but somehow, without any prompting from me gravitated to them at an early age and now is what I call a FAN. Ask him about everything from the original trilogy to the current Clone Wars cartoon and he will wax lyrical for hours. Proof of the power of this event for children is that he attended for 3 of the 4 days and never once complained about all the walking, waiting, and of course the endless requests from me and complete strangers for him to pose for photos.
Posing in his Savage Oppress costume
He even attracted his own fan club. Star Wars fans are all ages.
We attended a sneak premiere of the Season 5 opener of The Clone Wars that will air on Sepetmber 29th, complete with complimentary popcorn and drinks; watched a parade of home-made R2-D2s; marveled at fan made replica set pieces from all over the world; stopped several times in the specially appointed family rooms and Lego build areas; posed for pictures with various costumed Star Wars characters (Star Wars fans are by far the best cosplayers in the universe. Their attention to detail and love of the characters are astounding. Look up 501st Legion if you want an example); and in the evening I attended a spectacular themed party event from Moshi-Moshi Productions called THE DARKSIDE GROTTO STRIKES BACK where guests and performers fully embraced the Star Wars universe.
R2-D2 in fancy dress
The red carpet event for The Clone Wars premiere
Boys will be Jedis
There was so much to do and so many freebies given away (I was so glad I brought a backpack), that we never even scratched the surface, of course that could be because we spent so much time shopping the booths which included heavy hitters like Disney, Hasbro and Lego … in fact, for every $50 we spent with Lego we got a free pass to Legoland (we now have 4). One of the top shopping attractions was to have yourself frozen in carbonite by Disney’s D-Tech division. You are photographed in 3-D and then created in a statue replicating the famous Han Solo scene from Episodes V and VI
Lego building provided a break for me
The family room provided crafts for the children
Daddy gets to party at The Darkside
We didn’t spend any time at all waiting for autographs or to meet the celebrities, just because there was so much else to do and we didn’t feel we missed out by not doing it.
This is the second time in a row that Celebration has come to Orlando, but given the passion and attendance numbers, it would surprise me if it didn’t return again in 2014 after next year’s visit to Germany.
Special replica scenes were set up all over
Han Solo in carbonite
This snowspeeder was built by a Belgian fan group and shipped over for photo ops
Orlando is definitely one place to vacation if you are a Star Wars fan … with Star Tours and The Jedi Academy permanently based at Disney’s Hollywood Studios along with May’s Star Wars Weekends and the possibility of CelebrationVII returning there is something for even the most hardcore of fans … and after all your exertions fighting the Darkside or attending any convention, you will find no better way to relax and unwind than in one of our Boutique Vacation Homes … get home, stretch out, jump in the pool and get ready for the next day when you can do it all again.
There were many toys ... vintage and new available
So that's how R2 worked
Meeting artists and authors was a big thrill. This personalized book is a great read for Fathers and Sons
Wait a minute. I feel a disruption. Something big is heading this way. Watch this space.
The Custom Car show featured the levels of devotion that Star Wars garners
Devotion to your character ... these stilts were very uncomfortable
With so many world-class theme parks, attractions, outdoor activities and water sports, not to mention malls and outlet stores, it’s no wonder Orlando vacations can be tough on the pocketbook. But for those who plan ahead and are willing to do their homework, there are plenty of ways to save money on an Orlando getaway.
1) Make Yourself at Home: Planning to stay in Orlando a week or more? The best bet for lodging isn’t to downsize to a smaller hotel or choose one with fewer amenities… On the contrary, visitors can save big without sacrificing comfort or convenience by booking an Orlando vacation rental home instead. Florida Leisure Vacation Homes offers a multitude of full-size family homes for rent on a weekly or monthly basis, just minutes from the theme parks. These quiet neighborhood homes offer all the peace, privacy and tranquility a vacation should, and allow visitors to choose from a host of features including private screened swimming pools and Jacuzzis, barbeque grills, washers and dryers, oversized flat screen TVs, wireless Internet, and game rooms equipped with game systems, pool tables, foosball and air hockey. Homes with three to seven bedrooms as well as spacious common areas allow plenty of room for extended family and friends. Selected vacation rental homes are pet friendly, saving you money on boarding and letting those four-legged members of the family join in the vacation fun, too.
2) Rethink Restaurant Dining: Dining expenses can add up quickly, particularly for a large family, so consider stocking up at a local grocery store, then cooking breakfasts and dinners in your vacation home. Purchasing meals, snacks and bottled beverages at theme parks can be especially costly, so pack heavy snacks such as trail mix, nuts, and protein bars to munch on during the day, and be sure to carry a refillable water bottle for each member of the family. If the idea of cooking doesn’t quite jive with vacation, opt for no-cook, no-fuss meals like soups and sandwiches.
3) Get Social: Social media isn’t just a tool for keeping in touch with friends, it can be a great way to cash in on fantastic vacation deals. Before traveling to Orlando, begin following the attractions, restaurants and shops on your itinerary with Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare, which may offer same-day deals and travel tips for fans and followers. And, be sure to sign up to receive alerts concerning Orlando deals from sites like Groupon and Living Social. Travelers may not find bargains on major parks, but specials for spa treatments, water sports, dining and smaller attractions like miniature golf are abundant. Prefer to search for deals the old fashioned way? Purchase a book full of destination coupons for $35 at entertainment.com and save on rental cars, dinner shows, airboat rides, museums, shopping, dining and more. Similar offers can be found using Visit Orlando’s free Orlando Magic Card, which can be printed, mailed or picked up at the Orlando’s Official Visitor Center.
4) Give Yourself a Gift (Card): If dining out is a top vacation priority, purchase Orlando restaurant gift cards in advance at sites such as restaurant.com. Past deals have included a $25 gift certificate to B.B. King’s Restaurant & Blues Club at Pointe Orlando or Chez Vincent in Winter Park for just $10. If shopping is high on your list of vacation priorities, purchase gift cards in advance for stores including Bloomingdales, Banana Republic, Bass Pro Shops, Gap and Old Navy at plasticjungle.com and save as much as 26 percent.
5) Pack Light: With most airlines charging a hefty fee for each checked bag, and some now charging for carry-on luggage, it pays to pack light. Consider bringing only enough clothing to last two or three days, then washing clothes midweek—another benefit of renting an Orlando vacation home. Leave heavy toiletries such as shampoo and conditioner at home and purchase inexpensive bottles at a grocery store or drug store that you won’t mind leaving behind. Plan to wear the heavier, bulkier shoes to travel, and pack the lighter flip flops and sandals.
6) Take advantage of free or low-cost attractions: Those on a tight budget can still enjoy Orlando—and may just discover some area gems that the die-hard theme park goers never will. Stroll through the lakefront shops at Downtown Disney Marketplace, marvel at larger-than-life characters made from LEGO® bricks at the LEGO Store and enjoy free entertainment in the outdoor amphitheatre. Not far from Disney, the quaint Celebration Town Center is worth a stroll, and offers numerous special events and festivals each year. Orange County boasts a wealth of parks such as downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola Park and historic Fort Christmas, east of Orlando. Many offer camping, fishing, swimming, playgrounds and recreational activities. A number of Orlando museums offer free admission to small children, students and seniors or may not charge admission on certain days of the week. For example, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in picturesque Winter Park, home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of Tiffany stained glass, charges just $5 for adults, $1 for students and is free for children 12 and younger. It offers free admission 4-8 p.m. on Fridays November through April.
7) Skip the Souvenirs: Before visiting the theme parks, make a pact with the kids to forgo the overpriced T-shirts, toys, picture frames and other items that inevitably turn into household clutter. Instead, let kids bring their own digital or disposable cameras or let them take turns using the family camera to capture images they can use to create a scrapbook or keepsake back at home.
Don’t let a small budget keep your family from enjoying an Orlando vacation. Begin your savings adventure by booking your Orlando vacation home today.
Tourists were taken aback and traffic came to a grinding halt as a horde of Zombies marched along International Drive.
The event was staged today as a tribute to the late Bill Hinzman who created one of the most iconic zombies with his performance in Night of the Living Dead to kick off the May-Hem weekend. Make up experts, Post Mortem FX and the infamous Dr. Skull teamed up again to bring death to life and pack the streets with zombies!
A portion of the proceeds will benefit Vitas Hospice, Bill Hinzman’s charity of choice.
May-Hem is running throughout the weekend at the Wyndham Resort on Sandlake Rd/International Drive.
If you are having MegaCon withdrawals and can’t wait for Halloween season to begin, never fear May-Hem is here.
Since it’s humble beginnings back in 2003 in Fort Lauderdale, Spooky Empire has grown into arguably one of the nation’s top producers of horror themed conventions with their annual Ultimate Horror Weekend in October now a can’t miss event, especially as it runs during Orlando’s world famous theme park Halloween events. Last year, they responded to the demands of the fans and added May-Hem to their calendar and it was so successful it is back again this year.
The press release below gives you more information than I could ever, except to say that from the Zombie Walk to the Pool Party this is FUN with a capital F.
Spooky Empire’s May-Hem convention is less than 3 days away….are you ready for, well…the Mayhem?!!
Orlando, FL – May 25 – 27 , 2012 – The show is looking to be an epic event, their last one at the Wyndham Orlando Resort, 8001 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819, and Spooky Empire wants everyone to join them in bidding farewell to their favorite venue as only they know how.
There is an amazing line up of celebrity guests in store at May-Hem this year, most of which have never appeared at a Spooky Empire event! It’s a never-ending list of heavy hitters, sure to please fans of all kinds. Guests will be available for meet and greets and autograph signings all weekend!
Some of the guests appearing are Linda Hamilton, best known for her role as “Sarah Connor” in The Terminator, as well as the TV series “Beauty and The Beast” and more recently “Chuck”. Vivica A. Fox of “Kill Bill Vol. 1”, “Independence Day” and “Batman & Robin” and Verne Troyer of the “Austin Powers” films and “The Love Guru”. Plus a very last minute addition, James Marsters most well known as Spike from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.
For all of you KISS fans out there, here’s your chance to meet the one and only Ace Frehley, original guitarist of the legendary band!
There will be an “Addams Family” reunion featuring John Astin “Gomez Addams”, Lisa Loring “Wednesday Addams” and Felix Silla and “Cousin Itt”.
Roddy Piper will be making a return appearance to Spooky Empire, not only for autographs, but to perform his live “one man show” This performance will require a separate ticket in addition to your admission. Tickets for Roddy’s show are $10 and are available in advance online.
From the hit new TV series “The Walking Dead” is Madison Lintz who played “Sophia” in the hit show. Stars of the TV series Charmed, Holly Marie Combs,Brian Krause, and Michael Bailey Smith. Holly Marie Combs currently stars on the hit new show “Pretty Little Liars”, Brian Krause is also known for his role in Sleepwalkers., and Michael Bailey Smith has appeared in Buffy and The Hills Have Eyes 1 & 2. Also making a rare convention appearance is Joey Lauren Adams best known for her roles in films Chasing Amy, Big Daddy, Dazed & Confused and many more.
To round off the guest list is Kristanna Loken of Terminator 3, Monica Keena of Freddy vs Jason, and Oliver Robins from Poltergeist, plus legendary rock goddess Lita Ford, Marc Price from the film Trick or Treat, and Mackenzie Lintz of the hit new movie based on the bestseller The Hunger Games. The stars of SyFy’s “Monster Man”, special FX artists Cleve Hall and Constance Hall will also be on hand to meet fans!
May-Hem is not just about the guests, there are some memorable events lined up as well. For the first time at May-Hem, Spooky Empire will be hosting their Zombie Walk in memory of the late Bill Hinzman!
The Mucklebones Monster Museum will be set up throughout the weekend inside the hotel. This is an exclusive Spooky Empire event! Spooky Empire’s Tattoo Festival will also be in place featuring over 25 of the country’s best artists. Check out the website to make your appointments now.
Of course there is the huge vendor room loaded with merchandise, collectibles and artists, tons of panels and Q&As, and no one can forget the notorious pool parties with live bands!
Exotic cocktails will pair like a tropical daydream with fresh new tastes from more than one island paradise at the 16th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Sept. 30-Nov. 13, 2011, at Walt Disney World Resort. The one-of-a-kind 45-day festival serves up international cuisine, culture and entertainment from six continents, with more than 25 international marketplaces featuring tapas-sized portions paired with beer, wine and inventive new cocktails.
Marketplace tasting menus offer variety and adventure for guests on a mission to tantalize their taste buds during a scenic stroll around the 40-acre World Showcase Lagoon. The adventure can take them to the festival’s first Hawaii marketplace, which will cook up Kalua pork sliders and tuna poke with seaweed salad and lotus root chips to team with a refreshing Seven Tiki Mai Tai or a Kona Longboard or Pipeline beer. A new Caribbean Islands marketplace will serve ropa vieja with rice and jerk-spiced chicken with mango salsa. A beverage menu featuring a frozen Dragon Berry Colada and frozen Rock Coconut Mojito is sure to conjure steel-drum fantasies.
With a swing across the Atlantic, guests will be transported to the new Portugal marketplace, where the Portugal Wine Bar will offer best sips to pair with calamari salad with olives and smoked paprika. The Scandinavia marketplace will return after a hiatus with a fresh new Xante Sunshine cocktail made from Xante pear and cognac liquer. And the Canada marketplace will introduce a sweet treat: apple ice wine.
Disney and celebrity chefs will team with winemakers and brew masters from around the world to get the party started Sept. 30. During the six-week festival, guests will discover:
* Three new tasting marketplaces — Hawaii, Caribbean Islands and Portugal — plus new menu offerings at popular returning marketplaces
* Celebrity chef appearances starring top culinarians like Jeff Henderson, Cat Cora, Alan Wong, Gale Gand, Suvir Saran, Jamie Deen, Rock Harper, Celina Tio, Robert Irvine, Andrew Zimmern, Buddy Valastro, Warren Brown, Art Smith, Keegan Gerhard and more.
* First-ever HGTV home entertaining seminars each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
* The Cranberry Bog display by Craisins telling the story behind the venerable cranberry’s rich agricultural heritage.
* Daily wine seminars, bottle signings, author events and culinary demonstrations at the Festival Welcome Center.
* Eat to the Beat! concerts three times nightly at America Gardens Theatre.
New Sips, Fresh Bites
Festival guests can make a day of circumnavigating the World Showcase Promenade, grazing and sipping as they go. Tapas-sized portions of regional specialties run $3 to $8 each, and recommended wines, cocktails and beers make perfect pairings at each marketplace. For quicker marketplace visits, guests can purchase a festival-themed mini-Disney Gift Card that can be worn on a wristband and loaded and reloaded at several park locations.
Live daily entertainment showcases many cultures with music, acrobatics and improv performances along the promenade. Evening Eat to the Beat! concerts at America Gardens Theatre feature acts from many musical genres. Appearing for the first time on the Eat to the Beat! stage are The Pointer Sisters, The Orchestra starring former members of ELO and Gin Blossoms. Fan favorite Taylor Dayne kicks off the festival Sept. 30-Oct. 2, and crowd pleaser Big Bad Voodoo Daddy wraps the event Nov. 11-13.
The festival attracts a diverse audience — from wine connoisseurs and epicures to novices wishing to boost their culinary IQs. Special culinary programs showcase a lineup of renowned winemakers, guest chefs and speakers participating in elegant dinners, luncheons, seminars and wine schools.
Festival highlights include:
* The Festival Welcome Center, with a Wine Bar, Authentic Taste Seminars, Authors Without Borders weekend conversations and more.
* More than 270 chefs including Disney chefs and culinary stars from across the country conducting culinary demonstrations and hosting dinners and tasting events.
* A complimentary Marketplace Discovery Passport to be stamped at each international marketplace visited for the perfect scrapbook souvenir.
* Popular returning events that include First Bites Opening Reception on Sept. 29; Kitchen Memories (formerly Celebrating Family and Friends in the Kitchen); Mixology Seminar; and “3D” Disney Dessert Discovery.
* The weekly Party for the Senses grand tasting event beginning Oct. 8 and with a new Saturday evening time of 7:30-10 p.m. featuring tempting bites from eminent chefs, more than 50 wines and beers and live entertainment presented by Cirque du Soleil.
Festival guests can enjoy fresh Epcot experiences including the latest Future World high-tech fun at Innoventions and the celebrated return of “Captain EO,” the classic musical 3-D production starring Michael Jackson in a rare big-screen performance. In World Showcase, new and recently updated restaurants welcome guests at the Italy, Japan, Mexico and China pavilions.
What’s Included with Epcot Admission:
Authentic Taste seminars and Authors Without Borders programs with special book signings at the Festival Center, Eat to the Beat! concerts, cultural adventures, Marketplace Discovery Passport and all attractions and park entertainment are included with regular Epcot admission.
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Do you like Disney entertainment “heritage”? Love music? Art? Sports “spectating”? Food and drink adventures? Theme park parties celebrating Halloween or the holidays?
For fun-seekers with any of those passions and special interests, fall 2011 is a season to make some memories at Walt Disney World Resort. Here’s a look at what’s in store from Labor Day through Thanksgiving …
A ‘Tropical Serenade’ rekindling memories
The Sunshine Pavilion, featuring a show variously known as “Tropical Serenade” and “The Enchanted Tiki Birds,” debuted on Oct. 1, 1971, in Magic Kingdom. In 1998, following substantial refurbishment, it re-launched as The Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management, with two famous Disney birds – Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from The Lion King – taking control and trying to spruce up the show.
The “new management” has been let go and the future of the Adventureland landmark is in the wings and wit of José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre – four crooning parrot hosts who ushered in sophisticated Audio-Animatronics technology at California’s Disneyland in 1963 at The Enchanted Tiki Room.
In time for fall 2011 vacations, The Enchanted Tiki Room (as the Magic Kingdom attraction now will be called) is being prepared to reflect the show at Disneyland that represents a milestone in Disney theme park entertainment. While Walt Disney’s creative team previously had produced movable figures, none had the sophistication of the bird-brained cast of the Tiki Room. José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre produce movements when solenoid coils hidden inside receive signals recorded onto magnetic tape and are regarded as the first “true” Audio-Animatronics figures.
They introduce a musical presentation by more than 200 birds, flowers and tikis. Even the audience gets into the act, joining in during the musical ditty “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing.”
The Enchanted Tiki Room (tentatively slated for opening in August 2011) has shows throughout Magic Kingdom operating hours.
Events to suit all sorts of tastes
Some of the most popular and enduring special events at Walt Disney World Resort happen during the fall. Here are snapshots:
Disney’s Night of Joy – TobyMac, MercyMe, newsboys, Jeremy Camp, Jars of Clay and Skillet will headline one of the most-decorated lineups in the 29-year history of Disney’s contemporary Christian music event Sept. 9 and Sept. 10, 2011, in Magic Kingdom. The 16 artists have a 20-year legacy of accolades – 70 GMA Dove Awards and eight GRAMMY® Awards including reigning Christian music Artist of the Year (Francesca Battistelli). Night of Joy is an after-hours event that requires a special ticket. Event hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. each evening. More information is available at www.nightofjoy.com.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party – The headless horseman romps down Main Street, U.S.A. aboard his steed, ghostly apparitions flit among the buildings of Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle is draped in eerie hues and the night sky is painted with bursts of orange and green fireworks during this popular after-hours Magic Kingdom party on 23 select autumn evenings between Sept. 13 and Nov. 1, 2011. The special-ticket event features trick-or-treating throughout the park, “Happy HalloWishes” fireworks spectacular, “Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade” – including Disney characters and the stars of the Haunted Mansion attraction – and the opportunity to experience popular attractions. Information about dates and tickets is available at www.disneyworld.com/halloween.
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – A veritable world of culinary adventures is on the menu Sept. 30-Nov. 13, 2011, during the 16th edition of the festival presented by Vanity Fair Napkins. The journey along the promenade around World Showcase Lagoon includes more than two dozen marketplaces where everyone from neophytes to epicures and aficionados can nibble and sip their way across six continents of food and beverage adventures. Talented culinarians from across America and around the world will be involved with specialty dinners, seminars featuring cooking demonstrations and wine tastings, the popular Saturday night grand tastings – Party for the Senses – and more. The festival also will feature the popular Eat to the Beat! concert series each evening. Details are available at www.disneyworld.com/foodandwine.
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic – PGA TOUR thrillers have been the norm in this $4.7 million season-ending event on Disney’s Magnolia and Palm courses. Twelve of the most recent 16 editions of the pro golf event have been decided by one stroke or a playoff. A field of 128 players will tee off in the 41st Classic Oct. 20-23, 2011. The 2010 winner was Robert Garrigus. More information: www.ChildrensMiracleNetworkClassic.com.
Festival of the Masters – Nearly 150 award-winning artists who turn clay, wood, metals, oils, watercolors and more into creations that treat the eyes – such as paintings, jewelry, sculptures and photographs – will show off their works Nov. 11-13 at Downtown Disney. One of the Southeast’s most highly regarded juried art festivals since 1975, Festival of the Masters features live entertainment and family-friendly activities each day. Admission and parking are complimentary. For more information, guests may visit www.disneyworld.com/artfestival.
Old Spice Classic – The eight-team college basketball tournament again will be held over Thanksgiving weekend – Thursday, Friday and Sunday, Nov. 24, 25 & 27, 2011 – at the HP Field House at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Arizona State, Dayton, DePaul, Fairfield, Indiana State, Minnesota, Texas Tech and Wake Forest make up the field. Seven of the teams reached the 2010 postseason. The Old Spice Classic will feature 12 games over the three days. Each team will compete in one game per day, advancing through a bracket-tournament format. The two teams that remain undefeated throughout will face off in a championship match Sunday, Nov. 27. Additional information can be found on the Old Spice Classic website at www.OldSpiceClassic.com.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – On 19 select evenings between Nov. 8 and Dec. 18, 2011, guests can experience the enchantment of Castle Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle plus two special entertainment extravaganzas, “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade” and the holiday-themed fireworks spectacular, “Holiday Wishes-Celebrate the Spirit of the Season.” The special after-hours party, which requires a separate admission ticket, also features live Disney character stage shows, character greetings, cookies and cocoa, and even “snow” on Main Street, U.S.A. More details are available at www.DisneyWorld.com/holidays.
Have you made your vacation plans for the Summer? If not, you’ll want to check out what’s going on in Orlando as there’s lots of new stuff going on at the theme parks this year. There’s a killer whale show, a new roller-coaster, a cheetah habitat, a zip-line ride over alligators and there’s also the chance to get close to sharks by wading through a coral lagoon with a special diving helmet
It’s a great place to be as Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Busch Gardens, Gatorland and Legoland Florida – opening in October, all have a lot of new things to do.
The home of Shamu the killer whale is now the venue for One Ocean, an incredible show involving all the park’s majestic orcas. Replacing the Believe show, One Ocean brings new staging, music and special effects to showcase the talents and special co-ordination of SeaWorld’s trainers and their killer whales. Fountains, video screens and clever lighting all combine for a spectacular 25-minute experience.
SeaWorld’s swim-with-dolphins sister park debuts it’s new Grand Reef attraction in June, giving its 1,000 visitors a day a chance to swim and snorkel with thousands of tropical fish and graceful rays. There will be an underwater walking tour, SeaVenture where for an extra $59 per person guests can don special diving helmets and venture beneath the surface to handle sea urchins and star fish, and stand among huge schools of feeding fish as well as observe some fierce looking sharks.
Just an hour away in nearby Tampa, Busch Gardens boasts America’s most dynamic and eye-catching ride this year, Cheetah Hunt. With a fast-launch start that blasts from 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds and more than 4,429ft of track that twists, turns and dives underground, it features a 130ft drop as well as a figure-of- eight loop in its three-and-a-half-minute duration.
Themed to feel like a cheetah hunting its prey, it will also offer a short stretch where the park’s eight cheetahs will be able to sprint alongside the ride as they chase a special lure as part of their exercise regime. The attraction is due to open on May 27.
Although it’s not one of the mainstream parks, this is Orlando’s oldest, dating back to 1949, and from early June it will offer the Screamin’ Gator zip-line ride, a high-flying adventure taking riders up and over the park’s residents – more than 1,000 alligators and crocodiles. The series of four zips, nature walk and swinging bridge take 45 minutes at a height of up to 56ft and speeds of 30mph to give a new perspective on this collection of flora and fauna. It costs $69.99 per person, including all-day entry to Gatorland.
Opening in October the latest member of the worldwide Lego family will offer 150 acres of fun and rides for the two-to-12 age group in classic brick-building style in ten distinct ‘lands’ but all with natural overtones as it is built on the site of the former Cypress Gardens, on the shore of Lake Eloise in Winter Haven, 40 minutes south of Orlando.
Walt Disney World
Star Tours II is Disney’s big offering for 2011, a revamped, version of the classic Star Wars simulator ride that now blasts off for Tatooine and Coruscant, plunging riders into the Boonta Eve Classic pod-race (from the film Star Wars I), in high-definition 3D from May 20 at Hollywood Studios.
The Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun is the new daily parade with all the favorites from films such as Up, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Toy Story and others. Disney Junior – Live On Stage is now open for pre-school fans of programs such as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einsteins and the new Jake And The Never Land Pirates. Finally, at the Animal Kingdom park, guests can enjoy a three-hour Wild Africa Trek, a small-group journey through the animal savannahs for an extra $189 per person.
You’ll also want to check out what’s going on at the smaller parks and attractions.
Fantasy Surf is a new opportunity to try surfing on an indoor FlowRider system. It is great for novices and experienced surfers alike. Check out this video :
In Orlando city centre you can check out the Skyline Tour (from the Visitor Centre on Orange Avenue) and learn about the 19th Century ‘boom-town’ from a 16th-floor vantage point while nearby, the Orange County History Centre has more insight into Central Florida’s past, some 12,000 years of it, including the area’s Native American heritage and the huge cattle industry, with its own cowboys known as ‘crackers’.
Check out the video below of the chic suburb of Winter Park which features more natural charms, with its own boat tour through the local lakes plus, for art lovers, the unusual Morse Museum of American Art, which boasts one of the largest glass collections by Tiffany in the United States.
Aviation enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Fantasy of Flight which hosts an amazing collection of vintage aircraft and daily flying exhibitions put together with real artistry by millionaire collector Kermit Weeks.
And no one should leave without seeing something of the real Florida. Enjoy an airboat ride from Boggy Creek Airboats, the area’s specialists, offering a variety of trips that get off the beaten track for personal, up-close encounters to capture the spirit of the Sunshine State.
One thing’s for certain: you’ll never be short of something to do in Orlando!
I went along to check out the construction progress at Discovery Cove’s “The Grand Reef” earlier today and things look to be going very well. The reef is well under construction and everything looks set for an opening sometime in June. It’s going to be another great visitor experience from what I can see and the all new SeaVenture is going to be something completely different for guests to enjoy.
The Grand Reef will feature multiple levels of exploration, from shallow waters to deeper swimming adventures and white sandy beaches with hammocks swaying in the breeze. You’ll also be able to enjoy snorkeling among canyons inspired by reefs from around the world.
The Grand Reef footprint is approximately 2.5 acres and will have close to a million gallons of water in it. The water temperature will be a comfortable 77 degrees and approximately 10,000 animals, representing 125 different species of fish, rays and sharks will be housed at the site.
Thousands of tropical fish will dart through crystal-clear waters, creating a whirlpool of color inside the reef’s grottos and crevices as Discovery Cove’s experts chose only the most colorful of species whose natural populations are healthy and sustained. The fish will include angelfish, butterflyfish, wrasses and tangs as well as larger, unusual-looking hogfish and filefish. A showcase moment will happen when snorkelers get up-close to the venomous lionfish but safely behind panoramic windows! Thousands and thousands of schooling sardines, shining in the sun, will also swim freely throughout the main reef making it a spectrum of color.
Dozens of rays, gliding through the water, are always a beautiful sight and four species of rays will fly among swimmers, including the spotted eagle, cownose, southern, and bluntnose rays. Spotted eagle rays are typically found in Caribbean and Pacific waters and these unique animals with white spots and greater than 5-foot wingspans are a protected species. Discovery Cove is one of the few, and most successful, eagle ray breeding programs in the world.
A variety of long and slinky exotic eels will also swim among The Grand Reef’s canyons but the good news is that they will also be behind glass and other interesting species including grouper and triggerfish will also make their home with the eels. In essence, eels are really just elongated fish, ranging in length from two inches up to 12 feet for the giant moray and there are approximately 800 species of them that us humans love to hate!
Sharks are always a big attraction providing we know we’re safe and The Grand Reef aims to provide a view like no other…from the water. Exciting new views of sharks will allow non-swimmers to gaze down from above while snorkelers and SeaVenture participants can gaze through 10-foot-tall panoramic windows into a habitat filled with zebra, nurse and blacktip and whitetip reef sharks. New to Discovery Cove will be the species known as zebra sharks and they are found in Southeast Asia, Southern Africa and Western and Northern Australia. Typically they are cream-colored with spots even though they’re born with stripes – somewhat suggesting a sharky zebra. They’re also known as Australian leopard sharks.
SeaVenture Dive Helmets
And here's me trying one on...
The Grand Reef’s innovative experience, SeaVenture, will be an underwater walking tour where guests, wearing some futuristic looking dive helmets, will feel right at home under the sea. After climbing down a ladder and setting foot on the reef floor, guests will immediately come eye-to-eye with the sharks although they will be behind a full, 8-foot-tall, 21-foot long panoramic window. During their journey, guests will encounter velvety rays, exotic-looking lionfish hiding under a dock and even touch a star fish or sea urchin found along the way. The adventure ends with schools of fish feeding around the divers with the massive open reef as the backdrop.
The ladders to descend to start your SeaVenture tour...
Some say it’s similar to walking on the moon … only you are surrounded by fish. SCUBA certification is not required and the program is about an hour long for groups of up to six people per excursion while the cost will initially be $59 per participant. Other Reef Facts
Discovery Cove is using a unique technology to ensure The Grand Reef’s man-made coral maintains its vibrant colors. Each piece of coral, most weighing around a ton, is actually inflatable. When filled with air, the coral sections float to the surface for easy maintenance and cleaning. Overall, The Reef will have 90 pieces of the colorful coral in four different sizes.
The trick to making the coral float...and sink.... valves!
It takes about 140 tons of salt to make The Grand Reef’s crystal clear water but the recipe is a closely guarded secret and Discovery Cove’s staff aren’t giving it away!
Discovery Cove has found the perfect beach sand for The Grand Reef and it’s used throughout the park. It is actually mined in nearby Davenport, Florida, and is actually from Florida’s ancient beach dunes. More than 5 million pounds will be used around The Grand Reef, and every pound is sifted and grated in order to make the sand feel just right – not too coarse and not too fine.
Finally, eight new cabanas will be found at The Grand Reef and these private, shaded areas are available for rental at an additional fee and are located right at the water’s edge. Complete with table and chairs, chaise lounges and rolled towels, the cabanas provide a special place for guests to relax when they’re not in the water, swimming among thousands of tropical fish.
Discovery Cove is a really cool day out and it is very exclusive. When the reef is finished the park will still only allow 1,000 guests per day to visit. The all-inclusive adventure includes one-of-a-kind opportunities to swim with dolphins, rays, and tropical fish as well as hand-feed exotic birds.
Discovery Cove is a tropical oasis in Orlando and you’ll be sure to relax and enjoy the paradise of rocky lagoons surrounded by lush landscaping, tropical reefs, winding rivers, a resort-style pool complete with waterfalls, and pristine white-sand beaches.
It’s quite an achievement when you look at some of the companies listed there. Most of the illustrious company we find ourselves among, spend millions of dollars a year on their marketing to attract guests and to feature prominently on the internet. In my opinion, most of them do it badly as they really fail to communicate with their audience and the people who matter most to them… their followers and their customers.
I suppose that’s the one thing we excel at more than most. We certainly aren’t the cheapest vacation home company in Orlando but neither do we want to manage homes that aren’t being kept up to the highest standards by owners scraping by to hold onto their homes. Our guests and our followers seem to appreciate us for what we are, a small family sized business doing their utmost to give everyone a fantastic experience when visiting Orlando.
Sure, we could just focus on what we do…namely, renting vacation homes, but we don’t… we want to know more about our friends, our guests and those that follow us. We want to make sure they have a great time visiting our City and seeing everything there is to do. That’s why I personally write this blog and it’s why I insist on the highest standards possible from everyone involved in our business. You see, it’s really more than a business, it’s a passion, and I think that’s really what comes home when you see us listed in 3rd place of the Top 25 Vacation Rental Pages on Facebook.
Thank you to everyone…you’ve sure made my day
If you’re not already following us on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or even on this blog…make sure you click the appropriate button below and “friend”, “like” or “follow” us.
Here’s the full list of Top 25 Vacation Rental Pages on Facebook – click on it to open as a better image :
PPS. Because it’s my birthday, I’m going to do something special until 5pm tonight… I’m giving everyone a whooping 20% off a reservation in one of our vacation homes if you book today When you call my front desk staff on 1-800 – 760-1114 make sure you quote “Nigel’s Birthday! Or, you can email email@example.com and quote “Nigel’s Birthday!” in the title.
It's Nigel's Birthday and here he celebrates the news that Florida Leisure is placed 3rd on the Top 25 Vacation Rental Pages on Facebook!