Sunday, May 27, 2007


New Kiddie Rides at SeaWorld

According to the Sentinel, SeaWorld GM Jim Atchison is claiming that SeaWorld now has the "best children's-themed area in town."

Well, that's debatable. And when asked for comment, Disney and Universal didn't rise to the bait.

Still, the new additions to Shamu's Happy Harbor sound like fun.
With the openings Thursday of the Sea Carousel, the Flying Fiddler drop ride and the Ocean Commotion rocking boat ride, Happy Harbor now features six children's rides, two climbing structures, a music attraction and a water attraction. It's all in an enclosed area with a single, easy-to-monitor exit, and relaxation space and amenities for parents.

At the end of 2005, Shamu's Happy Harbor amounted to the climbing structures and water attractions. Last spring, SeaWorld walled off the area and added a children's roller coaster, a spinning swing ride, and a teacup-style ride, plus a satellite first-aid station and a baby-care center.

Nice photos, too.

And, of course, consult my complete guide to SeaWorld.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Nostalgic Coaster Comes To Cypress Gardens

Cypress Garden is breathing new life into a beloved Panama City roller coaster.

The 45-year-old Starliner, which closed in 2005 along with its home, Miracle Strip in Panama City Beach, is getting a new $5-million lease on life as part of Cypress Gardens' coaster collection.

The all wooden coaster won't win any prizes from the thrill crowd, but it is nice to know that a small piece of Florida's first theme park (Miracle Strip opened more than 70 years ago) will live on.

Be sure to check out my complete guide to Cypress Gardens.

Friday, May 18, 2007


Fringe Festivals Opens

The Orlando Fringe Festival runs from May 17 through May 28 in nine venues revolving around Loch Haven Park.

Seth Kubersky has a nice "survival guide" to all the avant garde nuttiness.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


New Stores for Prime Outlets

Prime Outlets is set to get some new stores, along with a slightly different name.
Prime Outlets, located on the north end of International Drive, has been redubbed Prime Outlets International and has two phases of store openings scheduled. The first phase, set to open Aug. 1, includes White House Black Market, Clarks Bostonian, Esprit, Jones New York Outlet, Calphalon, Crabtree & Evelyn, Tourneau, Starbucks, Sean John and Hugo Boss factory store. Existing retailers in the center -- Nike SuperStore, Tommy Hilfiger and Under Armour Factory House -- will move to new locations within the first phase.

Retailers in the second phase, scheduled to open in spring 2008, are Banana Republic Factory Store, BCBG Max Azria factory store, Brooks Bros. factory store, Michael Kors, J.Crew Factory store, Hickey Freeman, Bath & Body Works and kate spade.

Read more about outlet shopping in Orlando.


Sheikra Goes Floorless

The already pretty terrifying SheiKra vertical drop coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa is set to get even scarier.

The ride will shut on May 29 so the floor can be removed. The new, floorless version will debut on June 16, if all goes according to plan.

Read my review of SheiKra.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007


Will Smoke Get In Your Eyes?

For those who were wondering whether the wildfires plaguing much of Florida might interfere with an Orlando vacation, there's good news.
The long dry winter is hitting Central Florida hard, as the wildfires continue to crop up, grow and pour smoke, sometimes thick, across much of the community. The effects are spotty, dependent on conditions, wind direction etc. A few roads have been closed due to smoke, including part of Florida's Turnpike around Kissimmee. So far, Central Florida's theme parks and other major attractions aren't being affected much.

I was out at Universal Orlando for a couple of hours late this morning. While there was a haze of smoke, it was pretty thin, and didn't seem to bother anyone. From there I went to Disney's Animal Kingdom for part of the afternoon and encountered blue skies and only a mild odor of smoke there. On the way to and from I drove past SeaWorld Orlando and the smoke in that area was minimal.

A round of calls to theme parks, the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford and other attractions found no reports of anything worse than what I encountered. No reports of any significant issues with visitors either.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Pointe Orlando's New Multiplex Opens

Planning on seeing Spiderman 3? Wait until you get to Orlando.

Regal Cinema has opened a brand spanking new 21-screen multiplex at Pointe Orlando, replacing the one run by Muvico. There's been plenty of remodeling, including a new vehicle access area.

But best of all, there's an IMAX screen showing midnite screenings of the latest Spidey epic. Can't wait.

According to Orlando Business Journal:
The theater is one piece of a $40 million remodeling of Pointe Orlando. Along with five new restaurants under construction set to open by this summer, Maggie Moo's Ice Cream and Treatery opened Wednesday and L'Occitane en Provence debuted in April. A revamped SGH Sunglass Hut is slated to open next week in a new location within Pointe Orlando, while Brighton Collectibles is a new tenant that will open later this year.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


iVillage Heads to Windy City

Looks like the successful run of iVillage Live at Islands of Adventure is coming to an end, a victim of its own success.

Seems the producers want to move the show to Chicago, where it will get "edgier," which is TV-prodicer-speak for "more sex." Seems the show felt reluctant to talk about naughty topics in a setting filled with kids from a theme park. Many people would probably ask, "So what's wrong with that?"

But ratings are ratings and NBC obviously thinks they can raise theirs with a move. From the Sentinel:
"It's got nothing to do with the show doing well or not doing well. The show is doing well. It's all part of taking the show to the next level," said Steve Schwaid, senior vice president of the NBC Stations Group, which produced the show. ...

The show will continue to be produced before live audiences at the iVillage Live amphitheater at Islands of Adventure through June. Shows will be taped in July, and the show will go into summer hiatus in August. When it returns in September, it will do so from Chicago.

The show always was hyped as a new type of hybrid -- TV talk show, Internet community and theme-park attraction. And at the start officials from both Universal Parks & Resorts and NBC vowed long commitments to their experiment.

Though the theme-park-attraction part of the mix drew strong, loyal followings, the hybrid apparently was too awkward a mix for the other two aspects. From the start, producers acknowledged that sexier topics popular on the Web site would be taboo in front of a theme-park crowd.

"The folks at Universal have been absolutely wonderful. We were looking at plans to continue Year 2 there. But as we looked at the show itself, and we looked at some of the research and content, when we talked with viewers, they said they wanted the show a little bit edgier," Schwaid said.

Officials at Universal, which is partly owned by NBC, offered no regrets.

"We were thrilled for the opportunity to host iVillage Live at Universal Orlando and to be a part of the successful launch," said spokesman Tom Schroder. "We wish them well."

It is undetermined who among the hosts or crew will follow the show to Chicago, Schwaid said.

It also is undetermined what will be done next with the amphitheater, Schroder said.

Well, if iVillage Live was such a success, it would seem the answer is obvious -- another TV show-theme park attraction hybrid, maybe one that doesn't yearn to be sexy. Something along the lines of Double Dare, where kids could get slimed would be ideal. Imagine the publicity for Universal!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Dubai! Oh My!

Here's a new Island of Adventure for you. Universal is going to develop a new theme park in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf!

The Sentinel reports:
The park, to be called Universal Studios Dubailand, will be comparable in size to Universal Studios Orlando, should open by 2010 and is projected to eventually draw up to 5 million visitors a year.

Officials of Orlando-based Universal Parks & Resorts and the United Arab Emirates, including Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice president, prime minister and ruler of Dubai, announced Monday that a Universal park will be built in the quickly developing Arabic vacation land.

The city already features worldwide landmark hotels, a gigantic Mall of Arabia, stadiums, museums, golf courses and beaches. The master-planned tourist district caters Western-style vacations to the Middle East and draws heavily from Russia, India and much of continental Europe markets. Plans also have been discussed for a water park and other parks.

Universal Parks & Resorts won't own or run the theme park but will license the company's name, expertise, training, operational methods, products and top attractions, such as Revenge of the Mummy. That arrangement makes Universal Studios Dubailand much like what Universal Parks & Resorts has in Japan and Spain, and especially like the new Universal Studios planned in another multiattraction tourism city being built from scratch in Singapore.

Saddle up the camel, Basheer, and throw a spare burnoose into the saddle bag, I wanna go!

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