Thursday, March 29, 2007


Listen to a Disney Legend

Charles Ridgway's new book, Spinning Disney's World: Memories of a Magic Kingdom Press Agent, is winning rave reviews in cyberspace from everyone from MousePlanet to to Jim Hill Media.

Charlie has also been sharing his wonderful tales of life with Walt and Mickey far and wide. For one-stop shopping, check out this collection of links to a bunch of Charlie's interviews and podcasts.

Charlie's embarked on a Central Florida speaking tour, so you have a chance to meet this Disney Legend in person. Here is a list of Charlie's speaking dates from an earlier post.

Even better . . . buy Spinning Disney's World.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Skull Kingdom Gives Way To Housing

Skull Kingdom, or more accurately the land under the macabre ex-attraction at the corner of I-Drive and Universal Boulevard, will have a new life as moderately priced rental housing.

The 9-year-old attraction with the walk-through cranium at the front door will be demolished soon to make way for a four-story, wood-frame apartment building, said Damien Madsen, a partner in Broad Street Partners, the project's developer. Construction should start by August, he said.

The 333-unit complex, wrapped around a parking garage at 5933 American Way, will be within walking distance of many I-Drive employers, Madsen noted. He said more than 40,000 people work within two miles of the site, which is opposite Universal Orlando on Interstate 4, by the corner of I-Drive and Universal Boulevard.

"It will be very pedestrian friendly," he said, though the developer is also considering shuttle-bus service for tenants to Universal Studios and the Orange County Convention Center.

Most of the units will be two-bedrooms. Rents will range from $850 to $1,200 a month. It's an interesting choice. Maybe the developer realized that Orlando's condo craze has run its course. (Although I could be in the market for a nice little pied a terre in the Universal area!)

If you never made it to Skull Kingdom, click on the link to see what you missed. Then check out the other roadside attractions in The Other Orlando.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Princess & Pirate Tips

Seth Kubersky, over at Orlando Weekly is keen on the Pirate & Princess Parties that have taken the MK by storm. He offers some tips:

• If you don’t already have a season pass, it’s a cost-effective way to see the Magic Kingdom. Adult party passes are about $20 cheaper than a one-day park ticket and offer 90 percent of the attractions available to day guests, along with the party-specific pluses.

• For safety reasons, Disney guests are normally prohibited from wearing costumes. But for these parties, dress-up is not just permitted, but encouraged. If your little one has a closet full of tiaras or eye patches, this alone may make it worthwhile. (That goes for adults, too: While booking tickets, I was reminded to dress as a pirate — seems like clear gender discrimination to me.)

• The specially themed parade and fireworks outdo the day-to-day shows. Highlights include a Captain Hook–led pyrotechnic assault on Cinderella’s Castle and a schooner sailing down Main Street, swarming with swashbuckling stuntmen.

• Short of visiting during a hurricane, this is your best chance to experience E-Ticket rides with little or no wait. Even slow-loading bottlenecks like Peter Pan and Dumbo are walk-ons, and you can ride Space Mountain until you need a spinal fusion. The only packed queue of the evening was the one to “Meet Jack Sparrow.”

• Most importantly, a high cast-member-to-guest ratio makes for a virtual “VIP” experience. Meet-and-greets with rarely seen characters (like Cinderella’s wicked stepmother), fistfuls of chocolate for the taking and other little bonuses abound. Seeing every cast member bow and curtsey to your little Snow White is a memory that money can’t buy for day guests.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


New "Baby Shamu" at SeaWorld

The calf doesn't have a name yet (heck, they still don't know its sex!) but what we do know is that the new addition to SeaWorld's family is a cute and cuddly 350 pounds.

The baby was born to Taima, whose name comes from the Icelandic word for "crash of thunder." Seems she was born during a thunderstorm back in 1989.

More details:

The birth brings the Orlando pod to nine whales, ranging from the 350-pound baby to a 12,000-pound male.

The calf is the 15th killer whale born at SeaWorld Orlando and the 23rd born and successfully raised throughout all three SeaWorld parks.

In other SeaWorld news, the new Shamu show, Believe, won a Thea Award for outstanding achievement in a live atttraction. The award is presented by a trade association representing the theme park industry.


New Ride at Wet 'n Wild

Wet 'n Wild has announced a new ride called Brain Wash.

Wet 'n Wild water park has started construction on a ride it says will be one of the attraction's most thrilling yet, with a 53-foot vertical drop that sends riders toward a huge, swirling funnel of water.

"Brain Wash" will feature lighting effects and video snippets that play on the walls of the ride. In groups of two or four, rafters will head toward a needle-nosed escape.

The ride -- which has been in the works for more than six months -- was officially announced Thursday and is expected to open this spring.


Crash at Tico Warbird Air Show

A fun time on the Space Coast turned into tragedy yesterday.

A small jet performing a loop at an air show crashed Friday and burst into flames in front of horrified spectators, including the pilot's family.

Eilon Krugman-Kadi, a former Israeli fighter pilot and Gainesville lawyer, died when the plane slammed into woods just west of Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, police said.

"It was overwhelming," said Tony Quinonez of Orlando, who was watching the Tico Warbird Airshow when the L-39 Albatross, a small jet plane used as a trainer, went down.

"You could hear people crying, and some parents immediately walked off with their kids," Quinonez said.

Others sat in stunned silence.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


No Future For BTTF

Well, it's finally happening. Back To The Future will end its long run on March 30.

I had "predicted" the demise of the ride in the new edition of my book, but a snag in negotiations for a new ride based on the Simpsons prompted Universal to keep the ride open (at least half of it!) while they figured out what to do.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Meet A Disney Legend, Charles Ridgway

Attention Disney cast members, past and present, Disney fans and Disney fanatics. This is your chance to meet a bona fide Disney Legend, whose intimate knowledge of Disney parks goes back to the days before Disneyland opened, when he talked a neighbor kid into sneaking under the fence as a publicity stunt for an article he was writing.

To celebrate the publication of his new memoir, Spinning Disney’s World: Memories of a Magic Kingdom Press Agent, Charles Ridgway will make a series of public appearance across Central Florida in March and April.

Charlie will be sharing his reminiscences of Walt and Roy, Michael Eisner and an all-star cast of movie stars, royalty, television personalities, and journalists, as well as the unsung cast members who make Disney magic every day.

After serving as a publicist for Disney parks around the world for over 40 years, Charlie was a legend among journalists and public relations professions. In 1999, Disney made it official, proclaiming Charles Ridgway a “Disney Legend” and according him the rare honor of his own window on Main Street, USA.

At most of his bookstore talks, Charlie will be sharing seldom-seen archival photos of Disney history from his personal stash. These appearances offer a rare opportunity to learn the real story behind some persistent Disney folk tales and get answers to those questions about Disney history that have been nagging at you for years.

And don’t forget to ask Charlie everyone’s favorite question, “What was Walt really like?”

Spinning Disney’s World is published in hardcover by The Intrepid Traveler. It is available for sale and autographing at all of Charlie’s appearances.

Here is Charlie’s appearance schedule, which is subject to change. Please call ahead for more information and directions to each event.

Thursday, March 15 – Orlando
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
Orlando Chapter
Time: Noon
Place: The Citrus Club, 255 S. Orange Avenue, 18th floor
$20 members, $30 non-members, $15 students

Saturday, March 17 – Orlando
NFFC Disneyana Garage Sale
Time: 11 am to 1 pm
Place: Quality Inn & Suites, 8700 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 32809
Charlie will be signing books at the Bookendz booth.

Saturday, March 24 – Orlando
Book talk and signing
Time: 3 pm to 5 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble, Plaza Venezia
7900 W. Sand Lake Road
Orlando, FL 32819

Saturday, March 31 – Merritt Island
Book talk and signing
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble
780 E. Merritt Island Causeway
Merritt Island, FL 32952

Sunday, April 1 – Daytona Beach
Book talk and signing
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble
1900 W International Speedway
Daytona Beach, FL 32114

Saturday, April 7 – Orlando
Book talk and signing
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble
Colonial Plaza Market Center
2418 E Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803

Friday, April 13 – Celebration
Book talk and signing
Time: 7 pm to 9 pm
Place: Reading Trout Books
671 Front Street
Celebration, FL 34747

Saturday, April 14 – West Melbourne
Book talk and signing
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble
1955 W. New Haven
West Melbourne, FL 32904

Wednesday, April 18 – The Villages
Book talk and signing
Time: 6 pm to 8 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble
1055 Old Camp Road
The Villages, FL 32162

Thursday, April 19 – Sarasota
Book talk and signing
Time: 3 pm to 5 pm
Place: Sarasota News and Books
1341 Main Street
Sarasota, FL 34236

Friday, April 20 – Brandon
Book talk and signing
Time: 6 pm to 8 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble
Brandon Square
122 Brandon Town Center
Brandon, FL 33511

Saturday, April 21 – Gainesville
Book talk and signing
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble
Butler Plaza West
3910 S.W. Archer Road
Gainesville, FL 32608

Sunday, April 22 – Clearwater
Book talk and signing
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble
23654 US 19 North
Clearwater, FL 33765

Friday April 27 – Orlando
Book talk and signing
Time: 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Place: Urban Think!
625 East Central Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32801

Saturday, April 28 - Ocala
Book talk and signing
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm
Place: Barnes & Noble
Park Centre Commons
3500 SW College Road Suite 300
Ocala, FL 34474

Tell your friends. Bring your kids. getting to shake hands with a real Disney Legend is something they'll remember all their lives.

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Royal Pacific Gets New GM

Welcome to David Bartek, new General Manager at Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.

He's taking over a great property and, given his background (including 10 years at at other Orlando hotels), he should maintain RP's high standards.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


More on Aquatica

Check out the Sentinel's coverage of yesterday's announcement at SeaWorld.


Changes At Wekiva Marina

Wekiva Marina has a spiffy new web site.

Also the boat launch fee is now $5, still a great deal.

Remember, The Other Orlando has lots more information on all the great things to do in Orlando.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Be Poker Star . . . Or At Least Play The Part

The Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival has come up with a pretty clever way to raise a little money. It combines the current craze for No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em poker and the universal desire to play act.

On Saturday, March 24th, you can play the part of one of those high-rollers who regularly win (and lose!) hundreds of grand on each hand. But without getting fleeced.

The first 100 players to register get entered into a tournament that will be played with funny money. No million buck payoffs, but there are prizes, including a $500 gift certificate to the Mall at Millenia, tickets to Disney World and Cirque du Soleil, and more.

Always an evening of fun, food, and great prizes, registration begins at 6:00PM, poker kicks off at 6:45PM, and the event concludes at approx. 11:15PM. Players must be 18 years of age or older.

For those wishing to make this tournament their introduction to Texas Hold-'em, the Shakespeare Festival will distribute sheets that explain how to play the game, the card rankings, house rules, and a few tips. Beer, wine, soda, snacks and pizza will be made available.

A donation of $60 is suggested, but not required.

For more info, call 407-447-1700, ext 1, Monday through Saturday, 10 to 5.


"From Serene To Extreme" at SeaWorld's New Aquatica

The official announcement of SeaWorld's new Aquatica water park was broadcast on the web today and it confirmed what's been known for quite some time now -- namely, that this is going to be one whale of a water park.

The signature ride (out of a total of 36 slides!) will transport riders down twisting tubes that become transparent as they whoosh riders underwater through a pool filled with black and white dolphins. They say the experience will be like flying underwater and the resemblence of these black and white dolphins to Shamu is purely not coincidental.

Other tidbits from the announcement:

• Aquatica will have the "highest attraction capacity of any park in Florida" resulting in less time waiting in lines. That's quite a boast.

• There will be side by side wave pools, a unique feature, capable of nine different wave patterns.

• There will also be two "rivers" -- one the typical "lazy river" found in most water parks, except that this one runs through a clear acrylic tunnel past swarms of tropical fish. The other will be a swifter stream filled with rapids.

• There will be a special emphasis on service, with private cabanas and waiters on the beach!

For more of a preview of Aquatica, click here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Adventure Island Opens March 10

Adventure Island, the water park close to Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, has set a March 10th opening date.

From the press release:
The park will be open weekends only from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Saturday, March 10. Starting Monday, March 19, the park will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Single-day admission tickets for Adventure Island are $35.95 for adults and $33.95 for children.

This year, Florida Residents save $10 on admission through April 15. Children ages 2 and younger are free, and all children must be accompanied by an adult. Park hours are subject to change.

The prices represent a modest increase from last year.


Discovery Cove Gets Even Better

Omisgosh! Somebody stop me!

Discovery Cove has announded a new Trainer For A Day program that's going to be mighty hard to resist. In additoon to the usual stuff you might expect with something like this -- touring the facility, helping out the real trainers, feeding the dolphins, this one adds some bells and whistles that up the ante considerably over what has been offered in the past.

In additon to the "normal" dolphin encounter for which the park is known, participants in the Trainer For A Day program will experience an "advanced interaction" and get a photo shoot with two, count 'em, two dolphins.

And what might that advanced interaction be?

According to Discovery Cove sources, it will be "the ride of a lifetime -- a breathtaking trip through the water, riding on the front of two Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. This deep-water interaction, known as a double-foot push, is the highlight of the new program."

"Highlight" doesn't come close to describing it, if you ask me.

The messy details: Pricing starts at $459 per person (plus tax) and will rise with the seasons. Just 24 people per day (book early!) and participants must be at least six years old and in good physical condition. Those under 13 must be accompanied by a paying adult.

Read my in-depth description of Discovery Cove, then book by calling 877-4-DISCOVERY.

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