Wednesday, February 28, 2007


March Concerts at Cypress Gardens

On tap for March:

March 3 - Englebert Humperdinck
March 4 - The Drifters & The Tams
March 10 - Loretta Lynn
March 11 - The Rat Pack Tribute
March 17 - Little Big Town & The Wreckers
March 18 - Neil Sedaka
March 24 - The Guess Who
March 25 - Sara Evans

Before you go, read up on Cypress Gardens.


Ellen DeGeneris Tapes At Universal Orlando

From a Universal press release:
Fresh off her Oscar hosting duties, Ellen DeGeneres is ready for some fun in the sun. “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” announced today that the show is heading back to exciting Universal Orlando Resort at the end of March. Episodes are set to air Monday, April 2, Tuesday, April 3 and Wednesday, April 4.

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres announced the trip to Orlando today, she said, “I had so much fun in Orlando.. it was so great. I rode “The Hulk”, …I had so much fun that I’m going back to Universal Orlando Resort. It’s a cool place because it has three hotels and I like to stay in a different place every night and it’s got two theme parks with tons of rides.”

Likes to stay in a different place each night!! Hmmm. Wonder who does her packing.

Well, Ellen's weirdnesses aside, if you'd like to be in the audience, call 407-224-4244 about a week or less before taping for ticket info. It's first come, first served on the day of taping.

Better yet, you can enter for a chance to win a free trip to Orlando (and see a fun video of Ellen on The Hulk) on Ellen's web site.

To get a better idea of what it's all about read my review of the Hulk.


PR Society of Orlando To Host A Disney Legend

The Orlando branch of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) will host Disney Legend Charles Ridgway at its March 15 luncheon to be held at the Citrus Club, 255 South Orange Avenue, Orlando.
During his more than 30 years with Disney's publicity team, Charlie Ridgway rubbed elbows with celebrities like Bob Hope and Walter Cronkite, played a key role in the opening of multiple theme parks and even orchestrated the marching of 50 white Peking ducks down Main Street in celebration of Donald Duck's 50th birthday. But that doesn't begin to cover all of the great things he accomplished during his distinguished career as a journalist and communications professional.. . .

During his time with Disney, Ridgway assisted with the planning and execution of more than 150 major press events. He played an integral role in the openings of Walt Disney World, EPCOT Center, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. After his retirement in 1994, Ridgway consulted on many special projects including the launch of Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney Cruise Line.

His latest endeavor adds "author" to his long list of career accomplishments. In his new book, Spinning Disney's World: Memories of a Magic Kingdom Press Agent, he provides an entertaining and informative look into his more than 30 years of telling the Disney story.

Please join us as Mr. Ridgway shares:

What really goes on with the opening of a new Disney location
The challenges of publicizing one of the world's most recognizable brands
How the communications profession has changed during his career
And much more!

Sounds like a fun way to round out a good lunch (the entree is "Grilled Petit Filet"!).

The event is open to the public, $30 for non-members and $15 for students. Networking begins at 11:30 a.m. and lunch starts at noon on the 15th.

Click here to register.


Carillon Festival at Historic Bok Sanctuary

Historic Bok Sanctuary, formerly known as Bok Tower Gardens, is hosting the 20th annual Bok Tower Carillon Festival through March 4th.

There will be performances daily at 1 and 3 p.m., with a 7:30 p.m. "moonlight' recital on March 2.

The Festival is part of the general admission, now $10 for adults and $3 for kids. Admission is half price after 5 p.m.

Tip: Most people sit on the grass or on benches under the shady oak trees near the tower’s base during the recitals. You will have a better musical experience if you move somewhat farther away. Stroll down the slope away from the tower until the tower’s mosaic grilles reappear over the tops of the oak trees. Then find a spot with an unobstructed view of the top of the tower. This way, the music will roll over the tree tops and cascade down the slope towards you.

For more information, call 863-676-1408.

Read my review of Historic Bok Sanctuary, then check out the other "Gardens & Edens" in the other Orlando.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Sharks Bite Orlando

Orlando has a new indoor soccer team, the Sharks.

They'll play 15 home games in the 2007-2008 season at Amway Arena, beginning in late October or early November.

The Sharks will be the eighth team to join the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). Rich Bradley, the team president, shed some light on the naming process:

“We offered a selection of geographic references, historical nicknames, mythical creatures and native species in the polling; ultimately, the most popular name was originally a write-in that was the clear winner in the final round of voting.”

After a total of 3,500 responses, the bull shark made the final cut as the new team name and logo. Bradley outlined upcoming events including the team’s first-ever draft pick during the MISL Collegiate Amateur Draft, to be held on March 8, as well as local team try-outs and community partnerships.

After the current MISL season draws to a close, there will be a dispersal draft of unprotected current MISL players, helping fill the rosters of Orlando and Newark, N.J. teams.

The Sharks will announce the team’s head coach, uniforms and mascot in the spring, as well as their plans for a series of local try-outs this summer throughout counties in Central Florida.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


My Big Fat Irish Wedding

No, not mine. I already had that.

But the fine folks who put on MurderWatch Mystery Theater in Orlando are gearing up for a new show in St. Augustine. It's "environmental theater" in the same mold as "Tony 'n Tina's Wedding," but this time it's Irish. From the press release:

The professional entertainers of Dreamland Productions have now made McKnight’s Little Ireland, on Anastasia Island, their NE Florida headquarters for their interactive dinner shows. This troupe has garnered rave reviews for their special themed dinner shows from Fodor’s Travel, TravelHost, PassPorter, and many others. During their audience-participation shows, actors talk with and sit among the audience members and creatively involve many guests into the shows. Dreamland Productions creates shows that are truly ‘environmental’ theatre - the show happens ‘real time’ and all action happens in the audience. There is no stage; the action happens all over the restaurant so everyone has a front row seat.

The new, original show created for this new St. Augustine location is entitled My Big, Fat, Irish Wedding. This clever show includes all the mayhem and comedy that abounds during even the best-planned wedding! The audience will feel as though they have been invited to a real wedding ceremony and reception. Even wedding photographs will be taken –and- wedding cake will be served!

McKnight’s Little Ireland is located at 113 Anastasia Blvd. St. Augustine, FL 32080, just over the famous Bridge of Lions. It is the only Dinner Theatre in St. Augustine. McKnight’s Little Ireland is a family-friendly restaurant, pub, and dinner theatre.

My Big, Fat, Irish Wedding is scheduled to open in mid-April, 2007, and will run every Saturday night. The show will also be available for special groups and conventions on other nights.

$39.00 per adult. $10.95 per child. Prices include appetizer, salad, entrée, champagne, wedding cake, show, tax, and gratuity.

Sounds like good, rowdy fun.


Ahoy! More Disney Cruising Off The Starboard Bow

Disney Cruise Lines is adding two new custom-built ships to the fleet. The as yet unnamed vessels will launch in 2011 and 2012, plenty of time to save up for that maiden voyage. Each vessel will have 1250 staterooms, a nice manageable size.

Is a Pirates of the Caribbean themed vessel captained by Jack Sparrow too much to hope for?

While you're waiting, explore The Other Orlando.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Cost of Parking Rises At Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando has raised its parking prices. Regular parking for cars and motorcycles is up a dollar to $11.

Preferred parking is up a buck, too, to $16.

Parking for RVs etc. is still $12.


Is There A Tiffany Scandal Brewing?

Folks over at the Morse Museum in Winter Park, home of the world's largest collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, must be raising some eyebrows today.

Seems there's a new exhibit opening at the New York Historical Society that makes the claim that many of Tiffany's designs weren't actually designed by Tiffany. From the press release:

Newly discovered correspondence, journal entries and photos belonging to Clara Driscoll, head of Tiffany Studios' Women's Glass Cutting Department, reveal that many of the masterpieces considered the exclusive design of Louis Comfort Tiffany were Driscoll's and executed by her staff of young female designers.

The previously unrecognized women, known as "The Tiffany Girls," and their central role designing and creating lamps, windows, mosaics, enamels and ceramics take center stage in the show, which features dozens of masterpieces from the Historical Society's unmatched collection of Tiffany designs.

The exhibit opens February 23 and runs through May 28, 2007 at the NYHS, 170 Central Park West (77th St.).

A tempest in an arty teacup, or the start of a major reassessment of the work of an American master? Time will tell.

Good news! If you can't afford a Tiffany original, you can afford the Orlando Three-Pak!

Monday, February 19, 2007


NASCAR Sports Grille's New Menu

The new NASCAR Sports Grille at CityWalk has posted it's new menu.

It's heavy on steaks and BBQ and it looks like there's going to be a lot of overlap with Hard Rock, NBA City, and other CityWalk eateries.

It'll be interesting to see which entrees emerge as the "signature" dishes.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Mixed review for "Crime and Punishment"

The Sentinel's Elizabeth Maupin gives mixed marks to the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's production of "Crime and Punishment" by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus, based on the famous Dostoyevsky novel.

There is much to admire in the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's production of Crime and Punishment, adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus from Dostoevsky's1866 novel. Director Jim Helsinger has used an arsenal of tricks gleaned from the Festival's gothic-horror tales to lead his audience into the desperate world of the criminal.

Eric T. Haugen's eerie lighting isolates Raskolnikov in a hell of his own making, an unsettling series of dreary rooms defined by Bob Phillips' off-kilter walls. And Campbell and Columbus' 90-minute adaptation boils down the 20 or more players in Dostoevsky's vast book to three actors and three main characters.


Still, there's something about this production that slows it down, a protracted quality that didn't show up in the Festival's staged reading a year ago.

Good notices for actors Beth Brown, Timothy Williams, and Dan McCleary, though. Sounds like a show worth seeing.

Check the Festival's web site for details.

And don't overlook all the other ways to experience the arts in Orlando.


Tigger Beats The Rap

A costumed actor who portrays Tigger at Walt Disney World will not be tried on charges of punching a 13-year-old at the MGM Studios park.

I'm surprised it took them this long to realize there was no case here. Check the video and see if you agree.

Looks to me like the kid pulled something on the back of the costume, the performer reacted, and the "punch" was purely accidental. But, of course, that's just my personal opinion.

Monday, February 12, 2007


KSC To Open Shuttle Blast-Off Simulator

Looks like Epcot's Mission:SPACE won't be Central Florida's only "vomit comet." Kennedy Space Center has announced plans to open a new attraction.

The attraction, called the Shuttle Launch Experience, is part of a 10-year development plan, according to information provided by the visitor complex, which also said that former astronauts helped design the attraction.
The ride is designed to recreate the sensation of blasting into earth's orbit.

The space center is 45 minutes from Orlando. The Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau said the ride will have a motion platform, multiple video screens, special audio effects and special-effect seats.

Mission:SPACE has been associated with several deaths of riders that have been attributed to pre-existing heart conditions. That ride comes with copious pre-ride warning notices and motion sickness bags.

No word on how or if KSC hopes to avoid similar problems. The new ride will open Memorial Day weekend.

To learn about all the other attractions KSC has to offer, CLICK HERE.


NASCAR Sports Grille Opens Wednesday

The wait is over and the starting flag is about to drop.

The totally redone NASCAR Sports Grille (formerly just plan old NASCAR Cafe) will be unveiled on Wednesday, February 14.

NASCAR drive Robby Gordon and the group Collective Soul will be on hand for the festivities. More info from the press release:

The 25,000 sq. ft., $10M, two-level NASCAR Sports Grille combines quality design and finishes, great food and service and state-of-the-art audio and visual attractions for the passionate sports fan including: a 37’ media wall, booth-side interactive plasma screens with advanced audio and video reception - perfect for watching that big game and interactive simulators and games. Museum-quality sports memorabilia provides additional décor along with a 20’ artistic adaptation of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup flanking the main entrance. A retail shop, featuring NASCAR merchandise will be located on the ground floor of the restaurant.

The grand opening festivities start at 6:45 p.m., but regular fans will have to wait until the 15th to sample the fare. The opening night is reserved for a private party.


Sentinel Slams Disney (Again)

This time it's Scott Joseph, the Sentinel's restaurant critic. In an otherwise glowing review of the new chef at Citrico's, he takes a swipe at Disney's reservations policies for diners.

Something's been going on with the restaurants at Walt Disney World. There seems to be a shift in the way the tourist destination looks at its local constituency. There was a time when Disney, quite wisely, I thought, considered the local trade an important part of its target market. Yes, the restaurants on property cater primarily to visitors, but the culinary leaders seemed to understand that locals were a built-in market that could supplement the tourist trade and help fill the restaurants during the off-season.

Now I'm not so sure anyone even cares about the local market. It starts with the phone call to secure a reservation, or, as Disney prefers to call it, priority seating. There is a general assumption that everyone calling the number is a Disney guest. Which resort are you staying at? was the first question I was asked, and when I said I was staying at my house the young woman taking the reservation wanted to know if I was enrolled in a meal plan. Huh? I said I had no idea what that meant, so she moved on to ask if she could have the ages of the children in my party. I told her no, she could not.

The questioning seems to assume no local would care to dine at a Disney restaurant, which, of course, is indeed a stance that certain Central Floridians take. And it's too bad because it keeps them from experiencing a fine restaurant such as Citricos, which I consider to be among the top tier of Disney restaurants and certainly one of the better ones in the Orlando area.

Joseph's sentiments were seconded by the Windermere community blog, also at the Sentinel.

As frequent Disney guests, we notice the second-class treatment just because we're not staying on-site. It's been especially apparent since the promotion of the pervasive "dining plan."


Oh well, if Disney doesn't welcome you, there's still plenty to do in the Other Orlando.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


New Universal Ads Touts Price Advantage

Take that, Mickey! Universal Orlando is running a new TV commercial that takes an open swipe at the mouse-eared competition down the Interstate.

Just in case viewers think they've already planned enough immersive, unique experiences in an Orlando vacation, the ads take one of Universal's most direct swings yet at rival Walt Disney World.

"Now get unlimited admission to both Universal Orlando theme parks for less than the price of one Disney World Park Hopper," the commercial declares.

The claim is a reference to Universal's $85 "EarlyBird Exclusives" ticket that allows unlimited visits to two parks for seven days, and compares it with Disney's minimum price of $112 for a Park Hopper, which provides admission to all four Disney World parks for one day.

Note to Universal marketing department: If you posted your ads to YouTube, they'd get picked up by blogs like this, giving you a lot of added exposure. Dude, it's the twenty-first century!


February is Funuary at Cypress Gardens

Well, the ad slogan may be dumb, but the entertainment line up at Cypress Gardens for February and March looks like a lot of fun. Here's what's in store:

Feb 10 -- Tommy James and the Shondells
Feb 17 -- Diamond Rio
Mar 3 -- Engelbert Humperdinck
Mar 10 -- Loretta Lynn

Also, for the month of February only, there will be free bungee bouncing, rock climbing, and a free Cypress Belle day cruise

Monday, February 05, 2007


Blue Man Group Auditions in Orlando

Blue Man Group was in Orlando auditioning performers for its new Universal Orlando venue (as well as other shows around the world) and Seth Kubersky was there.

The several-dozen-strong crowd waiting for the start of the two-day open auditions was almost exclusively male, despite the casting call’s insistence that a Blue Man is “an egoless, genderless being.” Speaking of which, there was no sign of Arrested Development’s Tobias Fünke, though there was a colorful gentleman with “Will Dance for Tips” emblazoned on his jacket who might have gotten lost en route to the Gong Show. Aside from a strict height range (5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet, 1 inch), there were few barriers to entry. You didn’t need to shave your head or chew WonkaGum to apply, and being able to “catch balls in [your] mouth” (like Orlando’s mayor) isn’t a prerequisite.

One member of the troupe is already definite.

One person who will perform here is Anthony Parrulli. A Tampa native and self-confessed band geek, you may have seen him in the late ’90s as a Jaminator at Epcot or as a drummer in Universal’s Mardi Gras parade. After an open audition in Orlando, Parrulli joined the Vegas BMG show in 1999. He’s enthusiastic to return as the captain of the new show, and he makes it sound like a great life: Call time isn’t until 4 p.m., the makeup takes less than 45 minutes, and Gary Busey once invited them to ride Clydesdales to the Dairy Queen drive-through.

While you're waiting for Blue Man Group to arrive, why not explore The Other Orlando?


Tattoo Parlor Comes To CityWalk

Hart & Huntington Tattoo is coming to CityWalk. And they're hiring. Word is the shop will be moving into the space formerly occupied by Glow on the zig zag descending staircase, formerly known as Lombard Street, that runs between the upper exit of the Cineplex and NASCAR Sports Grille.

Hart & Huntington was made famous by the A&E reality series, "Inked."

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Floor Drops Out Of SheiKra

Yikes! the ultra-scary SheiKra vertical dive coaster over at Busch Gardens is going to get even scarier.

After Memorial Day (May 28), Busch will close down the coaster to remove the floor and fit the seats to a new chassis. Temporary floors will let folks board easily, but once the coaster is underway, feet will dangle freely in the air and, one can only imagine, you'll get an even better view during those endless seconds when the vehicle teeters on the edge of those 90 degree drops!

The ride will reopen in its new incarnation on June 16.

Listen to the official announcement and see a doctored photo of the new ride here.

Don't forget: Explore the Other Orlando!

Friday, February 02, 2007


Update: Harry Potter and the Island of Adventure

Hmmm. Maybe that buzz about a "new island" at Islands of Adventure featuring that loveable gang from Hogwarts may be all hog warsh. Back in October, Disney maven Jim Hill reported this:

Disney officials very quietly began talks with J.K. Rowling, the acclaimed author of the "Harry Potter" series. And after months of negotiations, Rowling finally signed a letter of intent. Which then awarded the Walt Disney Company the right to begin preliminary development of a theme park-related project featuring the Harry Potter characters.


Disney's New Public Affairs Site

Walt Disney World Resort has launched a new web site designed to publicize Disney's public service and conservation activities on the local and national scenes.

According to the Orlando Business Journal . . .

The Web site is designed to provide community groups and individuals a way to partner with the company, says Jerry Montgomery, Disney's senior vice president of public affairs, in a prepared statement.

Montgomery says the new Internet operation is a clearinghouse of information about how Disney and the community interact.

It contains information about Disney employees, also known as cast members, as well as how to request donations and apply for grants, Disney's environmental programs, industry and governmental partnerships, minority business development and a media relations site for journalists.

Gee, think they'll give me a grant to write another book about The Happiest Place on Earth®?


iVillage Gets Renewed

iVillage Live, the new occupant of the often empty Pandaemonium Amphitheater in Toon Lagoon over at Islands of Adventure is a hit -- at least if being renewed means anything. The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the TV show, which broadcasts daily from IOA, will be around for a while longer.

Universal Orlando announced that the 10 NBC-owned TV stations that have been carrying the Universal-based TV talk show/theme park show have agreed to pick it up for second season, extending its life through June 2008.

The show began in early December broadcast at noon in 10 big markets, and the following day all over the country on the Bravo network.

The show is produced in an amphitheater at Islands of Adventure, and run as a theme park show, though people can attend without going through the theme park.

Check it out for yourself Monday through Friday from noon to one, with seating starting at 11:15. You can get free tickets by calling toll free to 866-448-5360. You can also email Let 'em know the date(s) you want and how many will be in your party. If you're visiting the park, just drop by. It's first come, first served.

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