A few days ago, Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, announced a new brand campaign that captures all the feelings of a Florida vacation experience in just four words: Must Be the Sunshine. The first television commercial, aired in Detroit during the Grammy Awards show and it lands the viewer in the afterglow of an epic Florida family vacation. Tell us what you think about it… does it capture those exclusive Florida moments or does it miss the target?
February 27, 2013
September 7, 2012
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.
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.
The LEGO Star Wars Miniland Cluster experience will be included with park admission and will be similar to the one already in LEGOLAND California.
“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.
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.
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.
The Force just got a lot stronger in Central Florida as we are rapidly becoming the center of the Star Wars Universe.
September 5, 2012
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.
It is not surprising that the variety of conventions here in Orlando run from the sublime to ridiculous and all points in between.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Wait a minute. I feel a disruption. Something big is heading this way. Watch this space.
May the Force be with Us.
March 29, 2012
Hi there! Michelle here and I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute to the Florida Leisure blog. I hope you enjoy my thoughts about some of the great things to do in Orlando and Central Florida and for my first post I thought I’d talk about a recent visit I made with my family to the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival. The festival is in full bloom this spring, adding bursts of vibrant color, whimsical topiaries and sweet scents down virtually every park path.
My husband and I took advantage of a gorgeous March day to bring our 8-year-old daughter, Gabby, who has been there several times, and her friend, Megan, who was visiting the park for the first time.
Among the featured weekend events of the festival are the home and garden presentations led by some of the biggest names at HGTV, as well as concerts by big name acts from the 1960s and 70s such as Starship and The Monkees. I would have loved to hear from Sabrina Soto from “The High Low Project” but with two kids in tow, the presentation was quickly relegated to the “maybe next year” list. Instead, we chose to spend our day hitting the everyday highlights of Epcot but still making sure we took plenty of time to smell the roses. And roses there were…
According to Walt Disney World Resort, Epcot boasts 30 million blooms, 240 floating mini-gardens on two ponds, 700 container gardens of flowers, herbs, plants and vegetables, dozens of Disney character topiaries, 30 “flower towers” of impatiens, and sweeping beds of original floral designs spread across 260 acres, all of which take more than one year and 400 Walt Disney World horticulturists to plan and prepare. The description promises a great deal—and it delivers.
The Disney character topiaries are perhaps the most impactful element of the festival, with the most beloved names from all generations of Disney films represented. I was instantly smitten with Mickey and Minnie Mouse in the Classic Characters garden, whereas the girls unanimously voted Lady and the Tramp, found in Italy, their favorite. Interestingly, it’s a movie they’ve never seen, yet it involved puppies, they reasoned, so it must be great. I have to admit, the long grasses representing Lady’s floppy cocker spaniel ears were a stroke of horticultural brilliance.
With the topiaries themed to various areas of the park, it seemed there was always a surprise waiting around the next corner, especially in the World Showcase, where we found greenery pandas and a flowery, mist-breathing dragon in China, and the ever charming Lumière and Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast frolicking in a garden maze in France, to name just a few.
Bambi’s Butterfly Garden was another favorite with the kids, with dozens of species flitting from flower to flower and occasionally finding rest on a guest’s head or shoulder. The oversized butterfly topiaries outside the tent made for yet another great photo stop but it was the chrysalis display that most interested Gabby, and the Bambi, Thumper and Flower topiaries that captured Megan’s attention.
The Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden was another delightful surprise. Although it’s billed for preschoolers, even the adults seemed to enjoy strolling through the garden of graceful green figurines and peering down into the tiny representations of their fairy homes.
Sprawling expanses of flower beds, often in whimsical flower patterns, line the banks of Epcot’s many lakes, while floating flower beds dot the surface of the water, making the concrete walkways from Future World to the World Showcase much more appealing.
Our first order of business for the morning was to grab Fast Passes to ride Soarin’ in the late afternoon. The whole family loved the feet-dangling, free-spirited feeling of flight and the incredible scenery. After several hours passed, we were able to obtain early evening Fast Passes for Test Track, another family favorite. The speed lap at the end didn’t sit well with our guest, who crossed her arms and scrunched up her nose at being “tricked” into riding a “roller coaster” but promises of Mickey-shaped ice cream sandwiches soon smoothed over any hard feelings.
We found a surprisingly short line for Mission: SPACE, for both the green and orange teams, but the girls kids agreed that the dizziness they experienced, even on the less intense green team, put a damper on the overall ride experience.
Of course, educational opportunities are always close at hand at Epcot, and the girls were quickly drawn to a manned exhibit of dolphin bones at The Seas with Nemo and Friends. In typical “tween” fashion, they couldn’t recount exactly what Mark the cast member had to say, but they somehow came away with the knowledge that dolphins swallow their food whole and that their teeth feel something like pegs. Good job, Mark!
We made time for a few other rides, including Ellen’s Energy Adventure, the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros at Mexico, and Maelstrom at Norway, however, the girls were most excited to participate in Kidcot, in which they traveled to each country in the World Showcase to obtain stamps and often colorful drawings of each countries’ flags from the attendants at each. While passport books can be purchased at various World Showcase gift shops, children can receive a complimentary cardboard cutout of “Duffy the Disney Bear,” the handle of which can be stamped much like a passport. Seeing the colorful costumes and hearing the authentic accents of World Showcase cast members was part of the thrill but the kids especially enjoyed seeing their names written in various alphabets of the world, from Chinese to Arabic.
Living in Central Florida for the last 12 years, I’ve been to the Disney parks and to Epcot numerous times, but I’ve decided there is perhaps no better way to spend a warm, sunny springtime day than strolling among the millions of blooms and stopping to admire and photograph the cast of characters, albeit in greenery form. These photo opportunities of my daughter are even more meaningful to me, as the last photo I have of her with a Disney character was taken when she was just a year old. Looking back at that photo, I realize that her unease around (ssshhh!) people in costumes was evident even then: in the picture, she’s practically jumping out of my arms, giving Mickey Mouse a glare that would warn him to keep his distance— if only he had peripheral vision… Luckily, the floral variety of characters were above suspicion and she posed happily… for the first dozen shots or so. After numerous “Just one more!” requests to “Stand right over there” or “Just sit up nice and tall!” this snap happy journalist was chided with groans and growling faces and eventually put the camera away.
Although kids get tortured by too many photos, it’s the dads who often get the short end of the stick at the theme parks: Carrying the camera bag and the backpack full of snacks and sunscreen; ordering lunch and balancing a tray of food and drinks while mom and the kids relax and “save a table” in the café, or having to backtrack halfway around the world after Duffy the cardboard bear somehow got swallowed up by the Maelstrom. Most of the time, seeing their children having fun is reward enough for Dad. But just in case, a nice cold Pilsner at the “Bier Garten” in Germany certainly never hurt…
The Epcot Flower & Garden Festival runs through May 20. For tickets, information and a schedule of festival events, visit www.FloridaLeisure.com.
For the best part of the last five years this blog has mainly existed because of the posts I have created. It’s been a fun time as we’ve explored some of the great things to do in Orlando and Central Florida together. In that time we’ve gone from just a few people following or “liking” our posts and content to over 150,000 people who regularly read, watch and follow our thoughts, articles, videos and posts! It’s been exhausting work keeping up and as things get busier and busier I’ve decided to get some help!
That’s why I’m delighted to introduce Michelle Salyer to you all and to welcome her to a regular guest blogger spot on Florida Leisure’s Blog.
Michelle is a Central Florida based freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Florida Monthly, SpaceCoast Living, Florida Today, Spaces magazine and Space Coast Parent, among many others. With a passion for words, travel, and simply learning what makes people tick, Michelle has covered a multitude of diverse topics over her nearly 20-year journalism career, including apparel, food and wine, arts and culture, parenting, interior design, healthcare, marketing, the space industry, and more. As a parent and a proponent of simply getting out and having fun, she has always had a particular love for Orlando — its attractions great and small, as well as its shopping, dining, arts and culture, and special events. Through her guest appearances in this blog, Michelle aims to share tips, trends and other timely tidbits to help you and your family make the most of your time in magical Orlando.
Welcome to the blog Michelle…we look forward to your first blog post.
And… if you’d like to become a guest blogger for Florida Leisure… send us a note at Blogger@FloridaLeisure.com
March 14, 2012
With two events already played, The “Florida Swing” is well upon us. Two events have been and gone, ( The Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens and WGC Cadillac Classic in Miami) and it’s traditionally the time when the PGA Tour season takes things up a notch. Fields become stronger and the chance to warm up for the first major championship of the year, the Masters at Augusta puts all that much more pressure on the game’s best to get their swing sharp.
Coming up this weekend is the Transitions Championship at Palm Harbor before the event everyone looks forward to in Orlando hits town next week… the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Sandwiched in between is the Tavistock Cup which is being held at Lake Nona this year on 19th and 20th March. (Here’s our report from last years event – Day 1 / Day 2 )
It’s a great chance for all golfing fans to get up close and personal with some of the best players in the world. The Tavistock Cup is a chance to see some team golf as it features the top-ranked golf professional members of four international golf clubs; Albany, Isleworth, Queenwood and this years host Lake Nona. The two-day tournament is an officially sanctioned PGA Tour event and up until 2010, the Tavistock Cup was contested by Isleworth and Lake Nona golf clubs only.
In 2011, the Tavistock Cup was expanded with the addition of the two new teams representing Albany, a resort and golf community in the Bahamas, and Queenwood, a private golf club outside of London. Each team consists of six golf professional members who play for prize money, team hole-in-one prizes and the title of World Golf and Country Club Champion. Members of the four clubs have collectively won more than 860 tournaments worldwide, including 62 major championships through 2011!
Tickets are not sold to the public and only club members, residents, sponsors, designated charities and invited guests are able to attend the event. Once in, there are no ropes separating spectators from the players and spectators generally wear the official team colors of Albany Pink, Isleworth Red, Lake Nona Blue (last years winners pictured above) or Queenwood Green to show their support for Team Albany, Team Isleworth, Team Lake Nona or Team Queenwood.
From there, most of the players will then head over to the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and will compete from 22nd to 25th March.
Martin Laird enjoyed two firsts on a late Sunday afternoon last March when he walked off the final green at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge. He got to shake the hand of Arnold Palmer, and he successfully converted a 54-hole lead into a victory, which allowed him to enjoy the aforementioned handshake.
“You know, I had never met Arnold until I walked off that last green and shook his hand. That’s an awesome way to meet someone, especially someone who is such a legend in the game,” says Laird, recalling those moments immediately after his hard-fought win in the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. “It was exciting to walk up that hill and tell him what a thrill it was to win his tournament.
“Before I was ever on the PGA TOUR I remember watching on TV and seeing guys walk off the green and shake hands with Arnold, and I thought that was so incredibly cool. Besides winning majors, I feel like an event where Arnold Palmer is the host is about as big a tournament as you can win.”
Not only is this the time of year when the eyes of the sports world really begin to follow pro golf, but these four weeks are also the most publicly accessible stretch of courses the PGA Tour plays all year long. Nowhere else on tour will you find four public golf courses right in a row, all in the same state and once the pros have pulled out of town, your golf group can pull right in and enjoy near tour-quality conditions.
Your golf group could feasibly play all four on the same trip if you don’t mind a little drive time between the courses. Simply start in south Florida at Miami’s Doral Resort, then head north to PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. Then, zip across the state to Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club near Tampa, and finish up at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando. It’s a cool way to play but that of course, assumes you’re happy to miss some of the play when you’re playing!
If you can’t make it here in the next few weeks then we look forward to seeing you in Florida for some great golf at some other time… as really, you can play golf in Florida pretty much anytime of year!