June 11, 2013
February 3, 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.
March 8, 2012
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Orlando, one of the world’s most popular theme park experiences, is now even better.
The attraction reopened today with all-new 4K digital high-definition animation, a new highly-sophisticated Infitec 3-D projection system, a new music score and new high-tech 3-D glasses so that guests can experience the improvements the way the attraction’s creators envisioned. The attraction’s sets, audio system and lighting have also been upgraded.
The new animation comes to life across the attraction’s towering visual spaces – some of which are more than four stories tall and just as wide. Live special effects such as heat blasts and water surges as well as the motion of the ride vehicle are precisely calibrated to match the animation so that riders will feel as if the entire adventure is happening to them.
As they reanimated the attraction film, the creative team added hundreds of new details and effects. Guests will see moss swaying in the wind, rats scurrying through the streets and hear electricity arching so close it will raise the hair on the back of their necks. And for the first time ever, Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee will make a cameo appearance inside the attraction. Lee was meticulously animated in 3-D and placed in more than one scene inside the new animation.
“The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man was so wonderful before,” said comic book icon and Spider-Man co-creator, Stan Lee. “But now – with all of the new technology that’s been added – it is indescribably spectacular.”
“We took an incredible theme park ride experience and made it even better,” said Thierry Coup, senior vice president of Universal Creative. “If you have been on this attraction before, then it will seem like the first time. If you have never been on it, then you will simply be blown away.”
Here are the top 10 unique new elements in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man:
- The action is more life-like than ever. Guests will actually see the movement of the characters’ muscles and the changes in their facial expressions.
- The new HD film animation combined with brand-new, highly sophisticated Infitec 3-D projection, allows guests to experience mind-blowing details they’ve never been able to…from the flames spewing from Hobgoblin’s pumpkins to the electricity arching through Electro’s body to the stitching on Spider-Man’s gloves.
- Guests will experience the ride’s new details through all-new 3-D “Spider-Vision” glasses, complete with new lenses made of dichroic filters for amazing color and clarity.
- The enhanced attraction features a new original music score. It is the same Spider-Man theme you love – with a rockin’ twist.
- The ride vehicle’s audio system has been upgraded from 8-channel to 16-channel so riders will be even more immersed in the action. Guests will experience 3-D sound quality.
- All of the film animation for The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man has been completely reanimated in 4K high-definition – that’s one of the highest HD resolutions available.
- Every single scene in the attraction has at least one new element.
- There are hundreds of cool new details for guests to discover in the attraction. Lighting, sets, graphics, props and even scenic detail have been updated to further enhance the animation’s tremendous improvements.
- Legendary comic book icon and Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance in the new film animation.
- The attraction experience continues to use the latest technology to provide guests a fully integrated and immersive experience with some of their favorite Marvel characters.
January 13, 2012
Visitors to Busch Gardens will soon be able to closely observe and take part in the animal care experience when the Tampa based park opens its new Animal Care Center on January 23rd.
The new 16,000 square foot facility will offer guests a behind-the-scenes glimpse into various animal care practices. These range from seeing how the animals nutrition is handled through to how their health is carefully monitored.
The Animal Care Center replaced the rhino exhibit in the Nairobi area of the park and will be the operation center that takes care of more than 2,000 animals in the park.
“We are proud of the care we provide our animals,” said Mike Boos, vice president of zoological operations. “We welcome the opportunity to share our level of care with our guests, and to continue our mission of connecting guests to animals and the natural world. No other zoological facility can offer the unique, up-close experience that this new facility will provide.”
Recently we paid a visit to Busch Gardens and we took a look around. The first thing you notice as you enter the building is the nutrition center and the kitchen that is similar in set up to a cooking show on television. It’s here that guests will learn and take part in preparing and feeding a wide range of food that the park provides to its animals. Nutrition demonstrations are scheduled to take part during each day and educators will demonstrate how they plan and prepare a wide variety of animal diets.
Leaving the nutrition center you head towards the treatment center and as you turn the corner, you are immediately impressed with the fantastic facilities that have been built. The treatment center is a state of the art facility that many human beings would be more than happy to enter to have a medical procedure carried out. I’m not so sure that humans would enjoy having guests watch what is happening to them through the large glass windows but in an effort to educate, guests are able to watch check ups, treatments and even surgeries up close.
The new facility also features a clinical lab and an interactive diagnostic activity and visitors will be able to speak to vets working behind the glass. Cameras placed over the exam table will show unique vantage points to those watching on monitors.
During treatments and surgeries, zoo educators will also be on hand to talk about what’s taking place. Since it is a working center, procedures will vary daily and will not take place during all scheduled park hours due to field work, office work and other projects requiring the vets’ time and attention.
Most days visitors will see a parade of animals getting 30 to 60 minute physicals or preventive treatments like a sloth getting his innards checked by ultrasound, a hedgehog in for dental work or a flamingo whose chapped feet are treated with a cold laser. But you could also happen upon an animal undergoing surgery like the kangaroo that just had a lung operation.
Inspired by similar glassed-in facility at Cleveland, St. Louis and in a rural Australian animal park, the new $5 million center quadruples the space where Busch vets treat and monitor the health of 2,000 animals across 300 species.
“We will alert the squeamish if there is going to be blood,” said Peter Black, senior vet. “But it’s going to be hard to get in if we are operating on a tiger (because of crowds). The surgery would take hours.”
Jack Hanna, pictured with me above right, American zookeeper and one of the most notable animal experts in the world was also on hand and he remarked “You can’t have conservation without education. This facility is the new state of the art. In the next six months, hundreds of zoo vets will travel here to see it.”
All of this goes to reinforce the fact that Busch Gardens and its parent company, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, are world leaders in animal care. They care for more than 60,000 animals and they do it in a manner that helps educate the public and puts the interests of the animals first and foremost.
More pictures at Facebook.com/FloridaLeisure and here’s some video:
June 21, 2011
Here’s a great picture of a professional stunt driver taking flight on the set of “Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the theme park’s iconic “Earffel Tower” standing tall in the background. The new, 30-minute show features cars, motorcycles and high-powered watercraft piloted by highly trained stunt drivers. Later this summer the star of “Cars” and “Cars 2″ will join the cast of high-octane characters.
June 20, 2011
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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June 19, 2011
June 17th marked the first anniversary of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park. The new attraction has established a loyal theme park following and in a lot of ways the books and films featuring a boy wizard created by author J. K. Rowling have transformed the Orlando area.
In May 2011, Universal Orlando announced that attendance rose by 1.1 million visitors January through March, from 1.7 million a year earlier to 2.8 million and that the overall park’s revenue nearly doubled for the quarter, to $309 million. IOA saw 5.9 million guests in 2010, a boost of 30 percent more than the previous year, according to estimates by AECOM, a Los Angeles consulting company, and the Themed Entertainment Association. Further, in 2010, Orlando welcomed more than 51 million visitors, up 10.5 percent from 2009 and that officially makes the city the first destination in the country to top 50 million visitors. It’s some achievement and it speaks volumes for what the right product in the right place can do to transform an economy even in a recession.
From a visitor point of view, there is a lot to see and do at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Visitors can go inside Hogwarts castle, swig two kinds of butterbeer while soaking in the atmosphere of the “real-life” Hogsmeade village as well as purchase all kinds of Potter memorabilia that includes a series of magic wands. Some guests take their devotion to an extreme and we’ve heard of guests who have ridden the rides over 600 times in a year!
So all in all it’s been a fantastic year for Universal Orlando and for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter… it’ll be interesting to see how things develop in the next year.
June 18, 2011
There’s no better place to be when the sun sets in Orlando than at Summer Nights at SeaWorld when waves of fun wash over the park with fantastic shows, thrilling coasters under the stars, and a nightly fireworks and fountain finale.
Summer Nights starts tonight, June 18, and runs through August 14 … and even better, SeaWorld is now open until 10 p.m.
Headlining Summer Nights is Shamu Rocks, a larger-than-life experience where guests jam to a rock-n-roll beat; Sea Lions Tonite, an uproarious show featuring Clyde and Seamore that will have everyone in stitches; and Reflections, the sky-filling fireworks and fountains finale that ends the night with a bang.
New this year, Summer Nights Central, located on Bayside pathway, comes alive every night at 6 p.m. Guests dance the night away at this family-friendly, nightly party as a DJ spins the latest tunes and rockin’, live bands perform each weekend. In addition, beer, wine, frozen drinks and plenty of delicious snacks such as soft pretzels, melt-in-your-mouth cotton candy and tasty Blue Bunny® ice cream will be available.
And now, adults pay the kid’s price plus get a second day free at SeaWorld to enjoy the park on their schedule. It’s the best way to experience Summer Nights.
Oh …and here’s a secret tip… something to look forward to this Christmas…. I was talking to SeaWorld Orlando President Terry Prather recently and he said that this years Christmas as SeaWorld is going to be even more spectacular than before. Now this promises to be something because last Christmas SeaWorld had the best event of all the attractions in my opinion.
June 14, 2011
Orlando is home to three of the World’s most famous theme parks, with many wonderful and thrilling rides and attractions, but one of the smaller and oldest of the attractions has possibly unveiled the most thrilling ride of all. For over 50 years, Gatorland in South Orlando has been a family friendly, affordable natural attraction featuring thousands of alligators in an environment that is equal parts education and entertainment. That all changes on June 16, 2011 when they open their all-new Screamin’ Gator Zip Line Experience to the general public.
Florida Leisure were invited to have an early preview of this experience so we sent along our intrepid reporter, Colin Bowman, who sent in a great report and he says his heart is still pounding from the expeirence! Here’s his report:
Gator Zip Line Experience
by Colin Bowman
This 2½ hour experience begins with you meeting your guides for the trip, an orientation video with the hilarious and inept “Bubba” and “Cooter” and then time to truss you up in your safety gear. With all the harnesses on and your helmet you feel pretty good and invincible, a feeling that lasts right up until you arrive at the first tower and look up.
Tower one stands over six stories and has what feels like 100 stairs (it’s probably less, but believe me, counting steps was the last thing on my mind). If that fact takes your breath away, try and find it once you have actually climbed to the top. Your guide then informs you that the launch platform is over fifty feet above the ground and of course you are compelled to look down. He’s right … above the ground … concrete below and lots of people looking up at you, video cameras in hand … and you know what they want to have happen.. Having never ziplined before, it was a big test of intestinal fortitude to step off that platform and believe me I prayed that all these harnesses, which now seem extremely flimsy, are going to hold you in place as you travel almost 250ft at about fifteen miles per hour through the tree tops. Anyway, away we go …
And we land at tower two which is slightly bigger, standing at 56ft tall, but the launch platform is only 46ft off the ground. The line itself is only 265ft in length , so traveling at twenty miles per hour should be a doddle … except that this time you are going over a pool with about 30 alligators below you … oh joy … here we go again … backwards, because the cute little girl with the camera says she can get a better photo and of course you have to impress her … but stepping off a platform backwards wearing a piece of material and a couple of lanyards is an daunting experience for sure … whoosh … see you later gators …
This is getting easy … now for tower three. It stands at 65ft and has a launch platform 56ft off the ground. We will be traveling 230ft at over twenty five miles per hour. Wait a minute, that’s getting higher and faster … dammit … “Try running off this one,” says my guide … “Oops I can’t hear you,” I reply as I grab everything and use my trusty sit-down take off method … Then I hear drums … only to discover that it is actually my heart, because straight ahead I see an even bigger tower and with that I arrive at …
Tower four which looms over the park like King Kong. It stands over seventy five feet tall, the launch platform is sixty five feet off the ground and the line is 520ft long. This means I will be traveling at almost thirty miles per hour. Did I mention the breeding marsh below with 130 of the biggest alligators that you have ever seen plus one particularly angry crocodile. At this point, I also became aware of the fact that these towers rock and sway a lot in the wind. My mouth is also very dry and I am very grateful for the water provided at this station, although I am just praying that the contents of my bladder will remain there. “Don’t forget the photo op,” says my cheerful guide … I am just praying I am not going to become the latest YouTube sensation for all the wrong reasons … GERONIMO (I wish I had shouted something brave) …
And a few seconds later … touchdown … I feel like I have won the SuperBowl … one to go. “Just cross over the rickety bridge to get to the last zipline. “RICKETY BRIDGE?” How did I miss that? Bridges, why did it have to be bridges. I hate them. I hate rickety ones in the wind even more and being clipped to the safety line 31ft up in the air crossing this 150ft long bridge was not my idea of fun … even less when my companion decided it would be fun to start her crossing when I was halfway across and started bouncing … fortunately she weighs about the same as a bag of flour, so the effect wasn’t as great as she hoped … but still, the people below obviously thought it was funny. I am sure the smiles would’ve been wiped from their faces if I had used them as a landing mat.
Finally, after a nerve-wracking eternity I made it over to tower six (five is where the bridge starts). This is my favorite, side-by-side ziplines so you can drag race and attempt a measure of revenge on any companions who may have slighted you, by smoking them over the 340ft line traveling at speeds up to thirty miles per hour … or not!!!! Even though I did attempt to run off the platform, there was a definite stutter step at the end when I realized that is I didn’t reach the other side, I would be dangling over another lake chocked full of alligators … hopefully they haven’t mastered the art of acrobatic pyramids, but for some reason I couldn’t get Fantasia out of my head (the Disney movie, not the American Idol).
But I survived and this really was so much fun and should be added to your bucket list of things to do next time you vacation in Orlando and if you are fortunate enough to live here, what are you waiting for.
Known internationally as the “Alligator Capital of the World,” you can find out more about this experience and Gatorland in general at http://www.gatorland.com/ScreaminGator.php