Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Cypress Gardens Goes for $16.8 Mil

You could've picked up a bargain.
For the third time in a dozen years, Cypress Gardens has a new owner.

Mulberry-based Land South Holdings bought the oldest theme park in the state Tuesday for $16.8 million at a bankruptcy auction in Georgia.

Former owner Kent Buescher plans to stay on as CEO of the Gardens.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Living Orlando

I just discovered a new site (new to me at least) that covers much of the same ground as this blog and The Other Orlando site as a while.

It's called Living Orlando and I think you'll agree with me that it's pretty nifty.

Always ready to welcome a fellow laborer in the vineyard!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Tight Squeeze at Dudley Do-Right


Universal has installed lapbars on the Dudley Do-Right ride in Toon Lagoon, and not everyone likes it.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007


World Space Expo Celebrates 50 Years in Space at Kennedy Space Center

Fifty years? Where does the time go?

To mark the event, World Space Expo will set up shop at Kennedy Space Center from November 1, 2007 through November 4.

The biggest draw will probably be the "Aerial Salute." From the press release:
Space flight and flight training have deep roots that originate with military aviators. World Space Expo will highlight these roots with a special Aerial Salute to 50 Years in Space featuring some of the most significant aircraft in use by our military today. The Aerial Salute will take place on the NASA Causeway overlooking the Banana River and will include the following aerial demonstrations:

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration Squadron
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor
U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet
U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle
U.S. Air Force 920th Rescue Wing, responsible for Mercury and Gemini capsule recovery
U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights
P-51 Mustang Heritage Flight

Advance one-day tickets can be purchased here.


Fire at Islands of Adventure

The initial reports are a little fuzzy, but it appears that at about 5 a.m. today a fire in IOA ignited a diesel truck and damaged a building "near" Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges.

Universal said the fire would not affect the regular opening time.

WESH TV's report.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Oy Canada

The Circlevision 360 film in Epcot's Canada pavilion was finally replaced with an updated edition last week, leaving "Impressions de France" as the last opening-day film still running in the park. The old "O Canada" was derided by Canadian visitors for offering a very dated view of life in their country, but I'm not sure they'll be much happier with the new show.

The good:
1) The new film is shorter by at least 5 minutes, a welcome change in the seat-free theater.
2) The footage that has been recycled from the old version has been nicely restored, and looks nearly as clean as the new material.
3) There are a few nice new arial 360 shots of Canadian cities and landscapes.
4) The new recording of the "O Canada" theme song is inoffensive, and the Canadian Idol singer acquits herself adequately with the vocals. (Shame about the Casio keyboard instrumental arrangement).

The bad:
1) Martin Short as the host. I'm no Short-hater (I even paid to see his one-man show on Broadway last year) but he only works in small doses. Short is best when playing one of his characters, like Jiminy Glick or Ed Grimley. When he's "playing" himself, he wears out his welcome quickly.
2) The comedy writing is extremely weak. There are so many big pauses for laughs that never come, I could have sworn there were crickets chirping on the soundtrack.
3) Despite explicitly attempting to show the more "modern" side of Canada, the film reinforces the impression that the country is little more than a source for outdoor recreation and B-list celebrities. Even the cities are made to seem like cheap copies of more cosmopolitan centers. I came away thinking that Canada has contributed nothing unique or important to world culture and industry beyond William Shatner.
6) The vast majority of the new footage was not shot by Disney, but provided by the Canadian Tourism Board in an effort to save money. This new footage isn't 360, but just standard single-camera shots that are mirrored or tiled around the room. The Cirque du Soleil footage in particular would have been much more compelling had it been shot in 360 (and not so obviously at filmed here at La Nouba instead of in Montreal).
5) Did I mention the comedy?

And the ugly:
1) The tounge-in-cheek, poke-fun-at-Disney-park-conventions, hip-&-ironic attitude throughout the script. It's not quite as grating as in Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management, but it's close. Inside jokes about "invisible narrators" and "Soarin' fastpasses" just serve to take us out of the moment, and reiforce the idea that Canada is nothing but a punchline. Or maybe I wouldn't object if they were actually funny...

In short (pun intended): worth seeing once, especially when the humidity is high and you need an air-conditioned escape. But I expect it to age even worse than the old film, which despite it's dated fashions at least had a cheesy retro charm.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Cypress Gardens Up For Grabs

I was never a huge fan of the "new" Cypress Gardens, but this is sad.
When Kent Buescher swooped into Winter Haven in 2004 with $7 million in his pocket and a complex financial deal involving state, local and non-profit money to reopen Cypress Gardens, he was hailed a genius by local business leaders.

His complicated plan, however, has crashed in bankruptcy court.

On Sept. 25, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park and its sister park in Valdosta, Ga., Wild Adventures Theme Park, will be sold at court-ordered Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction, the park's parent company announced Thursday.

Thye good news is that, apparently, the parks will survive. At least for now.
Both parks will remain open, and passes and discounts will be honored. The park's 400 full-time and 700 seasonal employees should not be affected, Sumner said.

The park won't close "not even for a day," Sumner said.

By the way, if you'd like to own your own theme park, the opening bid for CG is a mere $17.4 million.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007


Jungala is growing in Tampa

Busch Gardens Africa officially announced their Jungala project this morning. The 4-acre development in the Congo section of the park will combine animal exhibits, some modest rides, and new entertainment and dining options. Highlights include Bengal Tiger and Orangutan habitats and a kid-sized zip-line ride. Looks like a cross between Animal Kingdom's walking trails and Islands of Adventure's Camp Jurassic. Opening is scheduled for 2008.

Read the press release here:


Hidden Mickeys Uncovered

Our own Seth Kubersky has a nice review of the all-new third edition of Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets over at Orlando Weekly.
HMs can inspire Mickey mania in hard-core hunters, who will sometimes convince themselves that any coincidental circular concordance is an intentional emblem. I claim no immunity to the madness: A decade ago I found myself unemployed in Kissimmee with little to my name but a WDW annual pass, and became briefly obsessed with tracking down every dubious design documented on the nascent Internet. Luckily, today’s mouse-seekers pick up Steven M. Barrett’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets, now in its third edition. While there is no official Imagineer-approved list of Hidden Mickeys, this book is the next best thing, and that Disney sells it in park gift shops attests to its authority.

He also reviews David Koenig's Realityland in the same article. Worth reading.

Also worth looking into is this special offer on Hidden Mickeys. And don't forget your Hidden Mickeys tee-shirts!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Big Aquatica Announcement Tomorrow

Well, at least that's my guess, based on this email from SeaWorld:
Busch Gardens is announcing its most ambitious area enhancement. Visit at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 6, to view a live Web cast of the adventure park’s announcement. The Web cast will feature Busch Gardens’ Executive Vice President and General Manager Daniel Brown, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund President Virginia Busch, Busch Gardens’ Vice President of Zoological Operations Glenn Young and Busch Gardens’ Vice President of Design and Engineering Mark Rose.

I'll be on the road, but you can check it out.

In the meantime, check out my special offer on The Orlando 3-Pak.


For Once Disney Chases Universal

And it has nothing to do with thrill rides. It's all about parking.

Disney has matched Universal's $11 a day parking charge. SeaWorld stays at $10.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Changes at MurderWatch

MurderWatch Mystery Theater, one of my favorite Orlando dinner shows, is relaunching in a new restaurant in a new hotel. Well, actually, a refurbished restaurant in a refurbished hotel with a new name.

You see, the old Grosvenor (nicknamed the Gross-venor by some) is now the Regal Sun Resort and the former Baskervilles Restaurant is now the Lakeview. Looks appropriately baronial, even if they've lost the Conan Doyle reference.

The creative minds behind MurderWatch are also launching a new show, MurderWatch CSI, which will be performed in repertory with their other shows. I wonder if the food will be as good as it was at Baskervilles.

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Baby Gators at Gatorland

(Photo: Gatorland)

Even baby alligators are cute. Don't believe me? Then get you to Gatorland where the latest batch of newborns is on display.

Gators mate in May and the results of all that lovemaking are now being born. Check 'em out. And to learn what else to do while you're there, click here.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007


Scott Joseph Throws Monkey Wrench at NASCAR Sports Grille

Wow! Sentinel restaurant critic Scott Joseph was at his bitchy best as he did his worst on the recently reopened and renamed NASCAR Sports Grille at CityWalk.
The pit crew pulled pork and the Talledaga cheesy burger were neither good nor bad, they just were. My chicken and rib combo, however, had rubbery fowl and hard and chewy ribs. One of my companions had the strip steak, which was thin, overcooked and dry.

All of this was served by glum strangers who would appear at the table to ask, with perhaps a touch of surprise in their voices, if we had ordered the food they were carrying. Why are all these people so unhappy? Do the managers beat them?


I must say I'm a bit puzzled. I know the food is nothing to write home about (although Joseph and I agree that the onion rings are tasty), but the service I received on all my visits was never anything less than cheerful.

Off night?

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Halloween Horror Nights = More

(Photo: Universal Orlando.)
More haunted houses, more shows and more infamous villains stalking the sidewalks should result in customers spending less time in lines this year at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights events.

That's the word from Universal Orlando, via the Sentinel.
Another thing that could help keep the crowds down is the price — $64.95.

Now that's scary.

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