Other Orlando | Page 2


  • With so much happening in and Orlando the area you owe to yourself to discover what is out there beyond the big 3!

    You’ve certainly heard the song…even though it’s doubtful if it really applies to you: “Summertime.” Heard most often from a version by legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald.

    “Summertime, and the livin' is easy Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high”

    Oops, maybe you’re not a fishermen.

    And so what if those fish really do jump?

    And that high cotton reference does not mean much to our high-tech lives, does it? But think about summer. It’s time…

    …For the most anticipated time of the year.

    And for many of us, it’s a time for a different kind of theme park.

    Water-related. As all visitors to Central Florida know…or quickly and sometimes painfully find out…it’s hot in the summer.

    So let’s take a look at what’s new (or should we say hot?) as summer heat encourages us to the water.

    There’s lots of news at swim-oriented theme parks. But other choices of what to do might also tempt you to put your toes in the water.

    Orlando’s pioneer water park was Wet 'n Wild on International Drive.

    Many people also argued it was the best.

    At least, during its time.

    It opened in ancient times: 1977.

    To give you an idea of time passing quickly: Disney Orlando ticket buyers that year only had been visiting the park for the past seven years when Wet ‘n Wild became the first area water park….

    If you can imagine that…

    Wet ‘n Wild no more

    So for its last year, the park is offering a Florida resident deal.

    Buy a ticket for $39.99 before May 31 and you can come back as many times as you like through the end of the year.

    But not after that.

    No more park after this year.

    In the future, Universal will open a new water park called “Volcano Bay” near the Wet site. If we’re lucky, that should be open in time for next summer.

    But since Orlando’s first, other area water parks have come in waves.

    Disney’s own Blizzard Beach in late May through almost the end of August announced it will have its throwing “Frozen Games.”

    The Olympics-inspired activities let you choose either Team Kristoff or Team Olaf to play watery games. These include the “Ice Pail Relays or “Snowball Toss” (snowball themed water balloons).

    There’s no extra cost in addition to admission.

    Water parks also offer fast passes

    Aquatica, SeaWorld's water park, is offering its version of a Fast Pass now for six of its thrill rides.

    Please note:

    These are only on select weekends in May and early June. The quick queue is an extra $20 or $25 depending on the day on top of normal park admission.

    They let you skip to the front of the line on “Whanau Way, Omaka Rocka, Taumata Racer, Walhalla Wave,” and other rides.

    Some other parks have little news this summer.

    Which is understandable.

    How many new water slide variations can you devise?

    OK.

    But here’s a look at why you may choose one park or the other.

    ---SeaWorld Orlando’s Aquatica offers it all: thrill rides, animal encounters, etc.

    One of the best slides anywhere is “Breakaway Falls, “while adults who also want action can dig “Roa’s Rapids.”

    Kids can splash around safely and securely in “Walkabout Waters.”

    ---Disney’s Blizzard Beach at Lake Buena Vista might make you think you’re in a ski resort. Huh?

    Summer ski lifts and toboggans

    The waterslides look like mountain toboggan runs. The “ski lift” takes you to the top of Mount Gushmore.

    But there’s a lot of thrilling rides here and a huge wave pool. So it’s geared for the whole family.

    ---Water slides are the stars at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.

    It’s one of the world’s largest surfing lagoons. And it has the biggest waves.

    You can snorkel among fish and coral and plant life.

    And there are also enough waterslides to keep all swimmers wet and content.

    ---You’re not likely to get any discount tickets (unlike Universal Studios discount tickets or LEGOLAND tickets or others) at Discovery Bay. But this is the best place to swim with bottlenose dolphins.

    PS: If you want education about them, you will get that as well.

    The park is particularly cozy, you might say, since it limits swimmers to 1000 people a day.

    Also limiting is the price, several hundred dollars…depending on tickets.

    But what you are paying for is the only water park to also have large aviary beaches, as well as a lazy river through waterfalls and lagoons.

    You get breakfast and lunch (drinks as well), parking, towels and snorkeling and other equipment and 30 minutes of instruction.

    Tickets also give you free access to SeaWorld Orlando or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Aquatica Water Park for two weeks after your visit. Upgrades are also possible.

    The expense may shock some but packages that offer you a chance to be a “trainer for a day” go for upwards of $400 a day.

    ---If you’re with children, don’t forget LEGOLAND Water Park in nearby Winter Harden. The DUPLO Splash safari is for kids under five years of age. And there are various rides for kids to build boats. Out of LEGOS, of course.

    Watery issues outside Orlando

    If you’re looking to get away from Orlando, to say Palm Beach County, you might want to take in “Rapids Water Park.”

    That park about a four-hour drive from Orlando is South Florida’s only large-scale water park (poor area residents and tourists: only one choice).

    The park maintains a daily opening schedule every day this summer.

    It’s newest and biggest attraction: “Brain Drain.”

    It’s two single-rider slides have what they are calling “Bombs Away.” Since the slides drop riders through bomb-bay style doors (kind of like those old World War II movies where B-52s drop bombs on Japan through double doors, bomb-bay style).

    Riders start at a height of 72 feet in the air. They travel through enclosed tubes at respectable speeds (up to 35 mph).

    There are twists and turns.

    The best part

    But here’s the best part (or most thrilling):

    Each slide offers a different experience. One tube called “Baby Blue” and “Burnt Orange” takes riders for a 395-foot-long drop.

    Not enough for you?

    Two other tubes (we’ll skip the names because what does that matter, anyway?) go on for eternity…or really for 420 feet. The park has 40 slide and ride options.

    In nearby Daytona Beach (about 50 minutes via I-4), there’s a formerly somewhat run-down water park that is being revitalized.

    Daytona Lagoon is right next door to Daytona Beach's Ocean Center.

    That park opened in 1998,

    The park is completing a $2 million renovation to its water park features, which also include go-karts and other entertainment such as miniature golf, a rock wall and an arcade.

    New water slides. A new one where the floor drops out under riders.

    There are several local hotels who have joined the tidal wave of water parks.

    We confess that it would be impossible to test them all.

    But we do have some positive (and negative) reports on them.

    Hotels have their own water parks

    One that has stood out in popularity is CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort.

    With its 391 rooms, the hotel on International Drive has a canopy covered outdoor water park. Water slides and swimming pools.

    Its emphasis is on families but it has draws couples.

    The hotel on International Drive bills itself luxurious but it is not known primarily for that, though if not four stars, it at least would rank three stars.

    It does have a convenient location to area attractions, both water related and others (there’s a shuttle to Walt Disney World Resort, for example). But the Water Resort is even more convenient. Built within the hotel itself.

    Unlike some hotels, no extra fees are needed for parking and Wi-Fi.

    A $24 resort fee per day includes water activities. Day passes are available for non-hotel guests.

    There are activities and rides geared for all ages. The names of rides give you an idea of what to expect.

    There’s “Cyclone Slide,” “Over the Falls” and “Surfer Splash,” among others.

    There’s alcoholic bars for adults. And plenty of soft and other drinks for kids.

    An attraction of the park is its food prices. They start at just $4, but more typically are $10 and above.

    PS: Unlike some theme parks, you can’t bring in your food and beverages.

    Warning: the park does sell out, particularly on very hot days.

    Hot days can mean sellouts

    Another popular park in Kissimmee is Flamingo Waterpark Resort. Also family-friendly.

    Three water slides. Six kiddie play zones. Two pools.

    An onside snack bar and grill.

    The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is among the area’s most luxurious hotels (some of the highest rates as well). But it has compensations for water lovers.

    It underwent a $54 million renovation.

    For adults, that included a lakefront pool bar that they will love. It overlooks a huge 800,000 gallon lagoon pool.

    But that’s not all.

    There are four huge, 60-inch-screen TVs, shaded seating with misting fans, more than a dozen bar seats, and more.

    For kids, the resort added water slides and specific areas for children such as a splash zone.

    Some Disney hotels also offer waterparks.

    Disney’s Beach Club Villas, for example, has a waterpark area with a super-fast slide and a pool that is a virtual waterpark.

    $400 a night rooms

    The only disadvantage: the cost is upwards of $400 a night.

    Cheaper alternatives are to do what many residents do:

    Go to the springs.

    Florida has more than 700 springs.

    Temperatures are cool here: always 70 degrees F.

    Almost all are north of Interstate 4 because they bubble up through the Florida Aquifer, an underground limestone formation.

    Bad news?

    Maybe. But maybe not.

    There was already enough bad news when you heard or read this one: “Disney World’s Attendance Slips.” But if your reaction was similar to ours, you thought:

    Ho hum.

    So what?

    So attendance was down.

    And the very next day you may have read that Disney profits were up.

    It’s obvious that Disney Orlando ticket buyers (and Universal Studios Orlando ticket buyers and other theme park attendees) are paying more these days for your favorite theme parks.

    But that is boring news.

    The only reason you might care about lower attendance is that it might mean shorter waiting lines…and wouldn’t that be nice?

    And the second news part of all this…if Disney and Universal are making more money, who is surprised?

    And who cares, anyway?

    Please Disney: continue to make money and add more thrilling rides to astonish us and at the same time, do something more about those long lines.

    The real news, at least for most of us, is what is happening this summer. No, it’s not just warm weather.

    Plenty of daylight and sunshine at

    Disney World Orlando Resort and other parks.

    You’ve certainly heard about it.

    They are opening a record wave of rides and attractions.

    And some of what might be called “daring” food offerings as well.

    Coasters getting ready to roll

    It’s a real roller coaster ride. And by that, we mean real roller coasters.

    And Star Wars, too. And king-size new attractions.

    Etc. Etc. Etc.

    You may have heard about some of them but here we’ll try to mention the most significant ones.

    But also some more details have come out.

    So we’ll show you some previews and insider looks…

    We’ll get into what you can expect this summer when you get your Disney World tickets (or visit other area theme parks).

    The Orlando area’s promotional agency is known as Visit Florida. And they had a lot to brag about.

    Or reasons for you to come here as summer approaches.

    Here’s what they said:

    “From the colossal return of King Kong to a ‘Galaxy Far, Far Away’ coming closer than ever, to the launch of the tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster----Orlando’s newest attractions are bigger, bolder and better than ever.”

    Yes, some bragging there, sure.

    Let’s start with coasters.

    You remember the Hulk

    But let’s look first at an old favorite re-opening.

    We’re thinking here of the “Incredible Hulk Coaster” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

    Here’s a behind-the-scenes fact to you to digest and perhaps pass on to others:

    Modern military aircraft was an inspiration for the design.

    Or so revealed Neil Engel, a show producer for Universal Creative.

    And when can we try the Hulk out?

    All we know is you should be able to board it in late summer.

    But we also know it’s a completely new version of waiting lines and the ride itself.

    New immersive effects and high-tech components will help us experience what it’s like to be Dr. Bruce Banner.

    You certainly know it has twists and turns.

    Previews and some released information show that you will immediately see the major changes in this beloved coaster.

    Entering the line, you will see the towering figure of…who else…the Hulk. That should get you in the proper mood, anyway, though it’s only an image of him holding up pieces of the track (these are said to have come from the original track).

    The queue or line area will give you a hint of what’s to come.

    New story line too

    The story line here calls for General Thaddeus Ross to ask for volunteers. They’re needed for a new experiment.

    The general is doing bio-radiological experiments. You will pass by the high-tech equipment in his laboratories.

    Getting curious?

    Your only clue is that you will get a high level of radiation through “Hulk-a-fication.”

    This is dangerous because the life-altering process was first introduced by Dr. Bruce Banner.

    You already know what it does?

    Massive strength.

    More than just muscles

    But you can’t trust it as being just a new positive power, can you?

    You will see the Gamma core that basically supplies the massive energy (don’t be afraid of it…you are protected by a think pane of glass).

    You will see others transformed into Hulks themselves.

    Then rushed to the Gamma accelerator that will give you superhuman strength…

    You’re prepared now for a real ride --   very unlike the old one.

    This new one is sleeker. More dynamic.

    On board, a new in-seat audio system has an original score created by Patrick Stump, known for his work with the rock band “Fall Out Boy.”

    Then, you’re speeding…call it rocketing along…a new launch tunnel with wow-creating special effects.

    But in another world…

    At the park where Pottermania first began, another old friend is returning.

    Kong's new home will be in Islands of Adventure's Jurassic Park area.

    If the attraction will be similar to Universal Studio Hollywood's King Kong 360 3-D…which most people suspect…the ape will have more than dinosaurs to beat up.

    As yet, no previews to get a better idea of what is coming.

    But a wild ride is expected with enormous…by enormous we mean bigger than ever….animatronic creatures at “Reign of Kong.”

    Seeking Kong off-road

    We do know you will board huge off-road vehicles to explore ancient temple structures. You will be fighting off oversize terrors of the time.

    In other words, king or super-size monsters to match Kong himself.

    In another coaster ride elsewhere…

    SeaWorld Orlando showed off its Mako hypercoaster during a media event. It gave a much better idea of what it will be like.

    Here’s what we learned:

    One of the best things about the ride is that when you’re getting slowly…or so it seems…to the very top, you keep waiting for the track to stop curling when…suddenly…you’re going straight down.

    Or so it seems.

    No wonder.

    When you recall that Mako has a 200-foot drop.

    Yes, that’s just a number. But 200 feet is a long, long ways.

    It also has speeds of 73 miles an hour. Or faster than you are supposed to go driving on your local interstates.

    Mako is first since Kraken

    On the new ride, you can’t help but notice the nearby Kraken (and perhaps want to try it after this glimpse).

    An interesting sidelight about Mako is why you might want to try it.

    It’s the first time in seven years that SeaWorld Orlando had a thrill ride (the Manta coaster).

    So it fills a void for teens and older coaster riders who want that experience.

    As you may recall, its attraction is also that it will be the tallest and fastest in the entire Orlando area.

    And officials say it will appeal to all members of your family, no matter their ages…though the very young and the very frail might want to skip it.

    They might want to concentrate on the redesigned areas around “Shark Encounter.”

    The two-acre Shark Realm will have a “Shipwreck Reef” with interactive and educational areas for non-thrill seekers

    The queue or waiting line will have an under-the-pier look. Its wooden composition will provide that.

    For non-riders, there’s also education

    You’ll also see a shipwreck motif in the loading station.

    Of course, stops with information about sharks should satisfy the more educational-minded riders.

    The coaster train itself will have seven rows with four passengers seated across.

    A blue-colored panel above will show below the surface food figures for sharks.

    No, not people for eating or for food, as SeaWorld makes clear.

    Instead, fish.

    Sound and visual effects will get you in the proper mood.

    Mako is classified as a hypercoaster, meaning fast, with "relentless" air time and no inversions.

    The design of the thrill ride calls for nine moments of "air time," the weightlessness that riders experience when topping a hill or heading into a curve.

    Mako will have no inversions, or upside-down stretches, and, thus, no over-the-shoulder harnesses.

    You should be able to ride it after June 10.

    Busch also part of coaster boom

    As for buyers of Busch Gardens Tampa tickets…you will also soon be getting its largest coaster -- 2100 feet of track. A lot, in other words.

    If a human being measures say five feet…for an easy to figure comparison…that is the length of 40 humans stretched out.

    It’s called “Cobra’s Curse.”

    It could be broken down into three stages.

    In the first, you go up a 90-degree vertical lift. Surprise!

    Or maybe not.

    You get there.

    You are now facing King Venymuss.

    He’s not a real king.

    Because he or she is not human.

    But an 80-foot snake.

    Gold, in color.

    The second phase gives you something you might not have expected…but perhaps should when encountering an 80-foot snake…you have the good sense to go backwards.

    Help.

    Backwards…didn’t you expect that?

    You want to get away. From the huge snake.

    The final phase is a free-for-all.

    Not entirely free. It spins you in a pattern randomly based on weight distribution.

    For more new thrill rides

    For other thrills while in the area, there’s something new and very different to try.

    It’s a free event June 11 called “Fly into Summer” at Aerospace Discovery.

    Where’s that?

    The Florida Air Museum, which you may not have heard that much about (no promotional budget such as Disney or Universal).

    It’s in nearby Lakeland.

    This family-friendly event includes free admission to Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum.

    This is known as the Official Aviation Museum of the state of Florida. Attractions here do not…we repeat, do not…include roller coasters.

    But they do offer STEM.

    STEM is a term short for (science, technology, engineering and math).

    It usually refers to jobs but in this case, it is exhibits and attractions based on scientific arts and crafts.

    Educational, in other words (for families, or kids, or the kid in you, as we said).

    But there are other G-rated events here such as a scavenger hunt, etc. Also, movies.

    For G-rated families

    Check their web site (www.sun-n-fun.org) for other events.

    In other non-major park news, the Calypso Cay Resort in Kissimmee this summer should be opening its so-called “High Action Adventure” products.

    These include a “FlyWrite Zipline, Extreme Air Jumper, Rope Quest and Balloon Battles.”

    The Zipline alone is a 300 foot journey.

    Or the Jumper will take you up to 25 feet high.

    Water battles are another choice on a custom rope course.

    And also at Disney, some new food that in many cases can be easily dubbed adventurous.

    The new dining options just about everyone is looking forward to at Disney Springs are opening or have by now.

    There are several new options.

    These include “D-Luxe Burger,” where you definitely want to dare another part of your body, your taste buds, to the El Diablo.

    It’s a classic cheeseburger with a bite: That comes from chorizo, and other ingredients.

    Also worth trying: gelato. But not in a cup or bowl. But as a milk shake.

    Cakes and pastries, always in demand here, will be a high point of Amorette’s Pattisserie. You can watch chefs preparing classic macaroons or chocolate-chocolate chip cookies.

    Dare to try it

    Canada is hardly known for adventurous food. But the Daily Poutine will show you why residents of that country like their unusual French fry toppings. These include beef poutine gravy (yes, why the restaurant got its name), fried yucca or black beans and other toppings only the adventurous would associate with French fires.

    And how about sake?

    Yes, a drink. But “YeSake” at their new kiosk offers a bourbon version. Or a freeze (good timing in the hot summer).

    And Sprinkles, which we have reported on before. Dubbed part of a long line from the first cupcake bakery (so says the Food Network).

    With ATM sold cookies. Also vegan and gluten cakes.

    And we should not forget nearby LEGOLAND.

    There’s a variety of new attractions and movies.

    For the younger crowd, the kids here for the first time can build and race their own boats at the attraction’s water park this summer.

    It’s also a good way to cool off after sampling all of the season’s hot new attractions. ###

     

    dollar store

    Buying All You Need at The Dollar Store

    Here’s a thoughtful touch for you: Get yourself some soft drinks or water bottles and even sunscreen once you get inside the theme park.

    Free.

    Free? Did you say?

    Yes.

    But you have to go to Indiana to a park called “Holiday World.”

    Like all theme parks, they have a captive audience. And they do give those items away free.

    But don’t expect to find a lot for free at Orlando’s theme parks.

    Which brings us to serious financial matters.

    Such as the cost.

    Buying so-called “necessities” at theme parks is similar to buying admission tickets.

    You can buy regular Disney Orlando tickets. At Disney.

    But you can also buy Disney World discount tickets or Universal Studios discount tickets.

    Similarly, you can buy sunscreen, sodas, whatever else you need…at any of the Orlando theme parks.

    Or buy it beforehand.

    Buying it beforehand saves money.

    Call it Discount Necessity Ticketing.

    Buy before, save your money

    So you can buy most if not all you need at a dollar store or similar discount place…

    And save your money for other must-have items at the parks.

    Now this is a subject that should be dear to your hearts.

    It is hacks to save money.

    No matter how much money you have.

    Because no matter how wealthy you are, the costs of theme parks keep going up.

    Sure, you can take the attitude that the “happiest Place on Earth” and others somewhat similar are priceless experiences.

    But even the least cost-conscious park-goers among us has to face this fact:

    Costs keep going up.

    Far faster than you can even keep up with them.

    Disney is just one example.

    Though as Disney raises prices, you can make a sure bet:

    Others will follow.

    Disney’s latest pricing increases just the other day…

    Latest price increases for longer hours

    The park will charge you $39 if you want to have someone pick up your runner’s package the day before the new Star Wars villain themed half marathon.

    So you’re not a runner. You prefer to walk the park.

    How about a shorter walk?

    Available for another $15 extra. The cost of parking closer to the park.

    Or about long lines…Bothering you?

    Pay $69 in the morning or $149 at night to avoid those long lines.

    These all come shortly after Disney surveyed guests about possible resort fees and introduced a new seasonal pricing structure that sent the cost of a Magic Kingdom one-day ticket to $124 during busy periods.

    This is not just any Indiana theme park but Disney?

    Disgusting, bloggers complain.

    Or what would Walt think of this all these new prices?

    The company in a statement says:

    It has “long offered options such as backstage tours, ticketed events and other unique selections for guests who are looking for ways to further customize their visit based on their interests.”

    So like it or not, face it.

    It will cost you more to visit not only Disney but all the other parks…as they follow the Disney lead.

    Disney has long been known for being different from other parks.

    One example is Universal Orlando, which has been a leader in add-on charges such as preferred parking.

    Disney used to resist price add-ons

    Disney also allows visitors to bring their own picnic lunches, unlike Universal and SeaWorld

    “Disney says there is guest demand for its new add-on services, but fans fear the all-inclusive philosophy is starting to erode,” notes The Orlando Sentinel.

    Those lunches that you bring to Disney…to eat healthier perhaps, but certainly to save money…could they be the next add-ons?

    Possibly.

    Believable, at least.

    Which leads us to saving money.

    How much money can you save by buying many necessary items beforehand or before having to purchase them at the theme parks?

    There is no real number here, but can anyone doubt the money saved?

    You save a lot by buying beforehand

    You must know this but it is always less cost to buy just about anything (maybe some sale items are the exception, so we say almost) off-site than in a theme park.

    That helps explain why there are dollar and discount stores near wherever you are staying within virtual walking distance of the theme parks.

    Of course, not everything is really at a cost of $1 dollar at the dollar stores.

    It used to be.

    But even at more than that single dollar, these stores sell much of what you might buy at a theme park…though you won’t find the autographed character toothbrushes, among other items.

    You don’t really have to buy everything at dollar stores, either.

    You can shop at Wal-Mart, Target or other discount places as well.

    Up to you.

    So here are some hacks for what to buy before you get your Disney World discount tickets or Universal Studios discount tickets…or any other theme park admission prices.

    The key is to have what you need before you get to the theme park.

    Where this gets more complicated is deciding what you really need.

    You can compile a long laundry list of needed items.

    Similar to a vacationing family whose single suitcase soon balloons into a dozen large trunks as you prepare for all events: rain or shine, cold or hot, sickness or good health…or whatever.

    As an important side issue here, the hacks we are suggesting does not mean you have to go totally frugal. Or don’t spend any money.

    But think about your spending.

    Thinking outside the box or park

    Something else to consider is that items you buy before the park can often be used again later…in different settings.

    So your savings are even more.

    So before looking at just what you absolutely, positively must have…consider how to get it there.

    What we mean:

    What type of bag do you need?

    Not just any suitcase

    We’re not going to tell you specifically what kind of bag to get…any more than we suggest you do all your shopping at any one or even several dollar stores…but a few words or hacks on what to look for:

    Our first consideration of a bag is not its well-known name, or even necessarily its price.

    But its weight.

    Light. As light as possible.

    Why is that?

    Because a heavy bag at the end of a long day at a theme park will feel like you are carrying a horse on your back.

    Something else to think about: One bag is best.

    Per person.

    And before going, you might want to put labels on your property with names, phones, etc. Just in case it gets misplaced, forgotten somewhere or otherwise lost.

    A half dozen other things to think about when it comes to bags:

    1. Backpacks are usually the best choice when it comes to type.

    2. Several compartments, easily separated.

    3. Large, strong zippers that work well. Beware the bag that has zippers that are hard to close or those drawstring type of things.

    4. Padded, adjustable straps.

    5. Compression straps to tighten when the bag is not nearly full (does make a difference).

    6. Rain-repellant (nice to have but not a necessity or not always).

    There are a lot of things you will need but many you will not.

    So if you think about it, a fat or thick wallet is not something you want to carry around.

    On the do-not-need list

    Choose a smaller container for some essentials like a driver’s license and a couple of credit cards and a hotel charge card if you have one (those family pictures, delightful as they are to show others, are not really needed here).

    Now for what to bring.

    Check the weather before leaving.

    If you are going in the winter, it doesn’t take a lot of sense to remember to bring a sweater or light jacket.

    The rainy season is also a good time to consider an extra shirt or pair of shorts in case you get wet.

    What is definitely needed in your bag

    Water bottles, of course. Or not? Country Time or Kool-Aid and other powdered drinks are easier to pack and carry.

    Water at the drinking fountains is always there. Or a glass of ice water at restaurants.

    So just one empty bottle should be enough to carry.

    Sun tan lotion, of course. Even in the winter, when the sun is at its weakest, fair-haired people can get too much of the rays.

    Sunglasses. Cheap ones are best in case they break (they often do). The ones with a strap are best because they are least likely to get lost (and they do).

    Snacks to include: granola bars, raisins and snack crackers. And balanced with more healthy items like fruit. For health reasons. Individual portions are best.

    Hand sanitizer, hand wipes and hand lotion. This is for the really fastidious who worries about these things. Mini hotel sizes if you’re staying at a local place do the job fine.

    Many people tell you to bring umbrellas…particularly during rainy summer days. But a better idea: ponchos have hoods. Less to carry around, too.

    Those little misty fans. They do the job. And a lot cheaper at discount stores where you don’t need Mickey or a character design on them.

    Ziplock bags. Not only for trash but also to keep electronics dry (say you go on a water ride).

    Batteries. For just about everything. Not just for kids, of course.

    Fans/water misters. Battery operated (don’t forget those extra batteries). Look for the ones with straps to make them more easily wearable.

    Charging chords, of course. Don’t leave home without them.

    Only in case of emergencies

    A small First aid kit. You would be surprised how often you might need it. Put in it bandages for bruises and cuts, aspirin for headaches and minor irritations, motion sickness or nausea tablets, and eye drops.

    Hats are more than handy. Wide brimmed ones are best. Visors are good, too.

    Insect repellant. Especially essential during the summer. Smaller sizes are preferable.

    Your phone is fine for taking pictures, but if you are a serious photographer, you might want to bring a real camera.

    Any feminine hygiene products you might need. Nail polish, nail clippers, etc.

    Anything else your particular situation requires.

    Other items that you might want but not necessarily have to have”

    Guide books and a pen or pencil. You never know when you might want to make a note or leave someone a note.

    A comb or brush. For men and women.

    Lip balm. Lips can get dry in hot climates.

    A small flashlight or penlight. Useful for reading in dark places. You never know.

    Quarters and other chance for pressed machines, other miscellaneous uses.

    Some items you may not have thought about:

    Gum. The number one and two item.

    If you are a gum-chewer at some parks, and you know the one, gum is not sold. So if you have to chew it, bring it along.

    And water proof bags for cameras, cell phones, and many other uses.

    Thinking about the kids

    If you have children, your list has to be more thoughtful but might include these items:

    Autograph books. Buying them at theme parks: expensive. But buying at discount stores: reasonably prices. Personalize them yourself with family photos and other homemade touches.

    Entertainment items. Cards, games, small books, even a deck of cards…whatever you can think of. All invaluable tools when you have to wait in lines or elsewhere.

    Disposable cups with lids. For sharing kid drinks.

    A handful of toys bought before going to the park. Movie related items are usually the best.

    Ditto with costumes. Simple ones. Much cheaper anywhere but the parks.

    For smaller ones, you won’t forget the diapers or hand wipes. Never, not you, but this is just a reminder.

    Their very own snacks: personalized to fit your own children.

    And there are many more useful items that we didn’t include for anyone to consider

    Portable dental floss ticks.

    Vaseline.

    Duct tape.

    Did we mention a change of clothing? Perhaps just shorts and shirt, if you want to be minimal. But these come in handy not only when it rains but for any type of water related rides.

    And a pair of underwear, perhaps?

    ###

     

    Imagine you are building a theme park. Yes, that does take some doing.

    But going even further:

    Here are two choices for you to make:

    Would you prefer:

    A. More and faster and scarier roller coasters; or B: More rides based on popular movies?

    Actually, both A and B are common themes for Universal Studios Orlando ticket and Disney World ticket buyers. And Busch Gardens Tampa ticket buyers, LEGOLAND tickets….etc…or just about everywhere for theme park-goers.

    But let’s consider those parks and rides that were NOT BUILT.

    So why look at parks that in common with “never never land” never happened?

    A good question.

    The answer:

    A glance at what might have been…for one reason.

    And what you might have missed and still be missing, for another.

    And maybe even what might happen in the future…when you consider that many proposals that did not get built had ideas and concepts that you’re currently seeing…even if you don’t always know it.

    You never know what’s next

    Actually, Disney’s most famous park that never existed was influenced by at least one movie and a popular TV series.

    Attribute its sad ending mainly to America’s founding father’s practices or principles:

    Slavery.

    Or what people thought of it.

    But while the park’s inspiration might have come from the minor and not-very-influential Disney movie Pocahontas, there’s a lot more to the story of what happened to it.

    The 1995 film was part of what was termed a “Disney Renaissance,” a resurgence of the Walt Disney Company’s feature animation program that stretched through the late 1990s.

    But the proposed park’s downfall was even more prompted by a television series seen by millions more: Ken Burns’ 1990 PBS series “The Civil War.”

    To understand some of this, you have to go back to the early 1990s.

    Those were the days when Disneyland Paris was opened as a global tourist destination.

    It’s largely forgotten today…But Euro Disney was at first a flop.

    Disney was doing fine until then.

    Euro Disney termed violent

    The park was compared to potential nuclear disaster sites.

    And its vary American cultural orientation was blasted by European critics.

    One called it an “American act of unprecedented violence” towards Europe.

    Disney officials were high not on any substance but on the growth of its planned theme parks.

    There were going to be many.

    Pointing to the success of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, and others, an avalanche of new parks were outlined.

    Fifty of them.

    That’s why they termed it the “Disney Decade.”

    Near this time, then CEO Michael Eisner was looking for other parks. But noting the Paris failure, the idea was to build smaller, more compact areas.

    When Disney officials visited Colonial Williamsburg, they came up with the idea for “Disney’s America.”

    It would be based on children. And America.

    What better representatives of Disney could they conjure up?

    A perfect fit…or so they thought

    Pocahontas would be proud of it.

    The company bought a 3,000-acre site in Prince William County, Virginia. It’s nearness to the nation’s capital was a critical factor.

    There would be high speed thrill rides with historically American themes.

    These were mainly thrill and/or coaster rides with serious themes.

    The park was to include a ride through a blast furnace. And virtual reality Revolutionary War battles, in which visitors would have had a chance to fire muskets.

    There would also be nightly recreations of the Civil War battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack, the first duel between ironclad ships.

    One headline in the Washington Post said:

    “Disney Says Va. Park Will Be Serious Fun.”

    But within days of its announcement, the park faced serious opposition.

    Bob Weis, a senior vice president and the park’s creative director, said, to a room full of reporters:

    “How can you do a park on America and not talk about slavery? This park will deal with the highs and lows . . . We want to make you feel what it was like to be a slave, and what it was like to escape through the Underground Railroad."

    Uh, oh.

    That was trouble.

    Opponents began pointing out that the site was near famous Civil War battle sites and dozens of historical districts.

    The perception: a park about slavery

    But slavery dominated the park’s public image.

    Eisner himself in his autobiography began to complain that he kept reading how Disney was doing a park about slavery.

    A founder of the Black History Action Coalition organized a boycott:

    “We don't think that it is a historically dignified or accurate portrayal, or suitable fare for an amusement park.”

    The Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers, quoted Eisner’s response: “We're not going to put people in chains.”

    He was quoted as being particularly concerned about little souvenir slave ships being sold in shops, which was never planned.

    Historians joined the fight to oppose the park.

    Prominent newspaper and TV columnist George Will called Michael Eisner a “Hollywood vulgarian” and suggested that he should follow the example of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and “surrender.”

    That is what happened.

    The New York Times wrote:

    “The Walt Disney Company announced last night that it had abandoned its chosen site in Northern Virginia for a sprawling American history theme park, a project that was reviled by historians and environmentalists and hotly debated at local planning boards as well as the United States Senate.”

    When it comes to coasters, one of the most famous of the unbuilt attractions in Orlando was Thunder Mesa/Western River Expedition.  

    Its story became something of a legend.

    Why did it become a legend?

    Legendary because others followed it

    Various reasons, including Walt’s famous statement that “Disneyland will never be completed as long as there’s imagination left in the world.”

    While it never came to be a reality in itself, the evolution and influence of the design itself was reworked into other rides.

    Disney guests today are often unaware they are on rides that incorporated many ideas from the intense five years of design and planning for Thunder.

    Many concepts today are not obvious but are re-worked versions of what might have been.

    The planned ride seemed a sure thing, everyone thought.

    Coming to Frontierland.

    So much so that that a postcard of it was released to the media.

    Also, an Audio-Animatronic owl talked about it in the famous showings of the “Walt Disney Story” film.

    Not only that, but it was shown in coming park guides, guides and maps.

    Elements of it were used in the “Big Thunder” Mountain.

    Thunder was planned in place of “Pirates of the Caribbean” at Orlando version of Disney World.

    Disney executives apparently felt that attraction was not attractive to guests for one reason or another…perhaps because it was so familiar in California or because there were real pirates at one time operating out of nearby Tampa Bay area, where there to remains a festival-fueled celebration to this day.

    This was to take its place.

    It featured the latest in advanced technology.

    Historical accounts tell us Marc Davies, a famous Imagineer, proposed a bigger and better wild west themed version of pirates.

    Davis’s goal was to create something “like” Pirates of the Caribbean,” yet completely different.

    The idea: design it as a boat ride and make greater use of audio-animatronics.

    The story would also have to be different.

    Davis’ challenge was to culminate everything Imagineering had learned and roll it into what became known as Big Thunder Mesa.

    A key element was a rocky backdrop feature called “Thunder Mesa Mountain.”

    That would be the backdrop for a runaway mine-train ride. Outlined in theory at least as the first roller coaster in the park.

    Largest of its kind

    It was planned to be one of the largest of its kind at that time. Almost three times larger than Splash Mountain.

    It was also budgeted for being the most technologically complex and most costly attractions to have ever been built.
    The ride was five years in the making for concept, large scale models, and a story and characters.

    All developed in great details.

    Riders would experience walking trails, Indian villages and mule rides through the Mesa Mountains. One of its then innovative thrills was a backwards ride portion.

    For part of the ride, guests would pass through wilderness scenes, a stagecoach robbery and encounter local cowboy characters. Guests would find the climax of their journey by escaping stagecoach bandits down a flume style drop.

    Construction was set to be completed within five years of opening of the Magic Kingdom park.

    So what happened?

    Many reasons have been cited.

    One of the most compelling was public reaction.

    They expected the popular “Pirates.”

    There were many complaints.

    This apparently convinced Disney to decide on a “Pirates” ride to open in1973, two years after the Orlando park opened.

    That shifted money earmarked for the Thunder Mesa ride.

    Then, the US economy had something of a downturn in the mid-1970s.

    Thunder was postponed in part because of its enormous cost.

    Then, construction began in the late 1970s on “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.”

    That was a stand-alone revamp of the Mesa mine train project.

    Imagineer Davies was said to have led a lonely campaign to finish the Thunder Mesa ride. But EPCOT also drew funds away from the project.

    In typical Disney fashion of utilizing partially conceived concepts, Big Thunder Mountain’s western themes were included in that ride. But other ideas also were carried out in other coasters and rides.

    And Splash Mountain, while themed to “Song of the South” eventually included many elements of the Thunder Mountain ride.

    Other elements of it are visible today such as Frontierland’s fictional town: Thunder Mesa.

    Proving Walt Disney was right, a lot of theme parks didn’t come off because their own “Imagineers” were not both dreamers and doers.

    A lot of uncompleted parks and rides were left out because the follow through was not complete.

    Perhaps in part because of Disney’s success but also in part due to its year-round easy-living weather, many of these parks were in Florida.

    The best-known in Orlando was a good example of why visitors should not believe a new park until they see it.

    The decaying and run-down buildings that were put up and eventually torn down within sight of Disney was to be “Little England.”

    A British theme park

    It even had a preview center near Kissimmee built in the early 1980s.

    Its expensive buildings were imported from Great Britain.

    A grocery store tycoon, Lewis Cartier, was behind the project that included theme park coasters and rides.

    It was abandoned and turned into several single-family home building projects in the 1980s.

    Another Orlando project should have had some real thrilling rides, though it was also designed as a hurricane research center.

    Rides would have simulated giant storms. Or hurricanes.

    Gone with the wind, you might say.

    Attention: Coaster fans

    Another planned park in Orlando would have thrilled any coaster fan.

    The Baker Leisure Group and some investors in International Drive in 2010 announced a thrill-oriented Orlando Thrill Park near International Drive.

    The group said it had the right plans. And the money.

    It would include 70 acres of thrill rides.

    What could go wrong?

    Neighbors in the nearby single-family communities that included the Tangelo Park section of Orlando complained about noise and traffic. They fought the plans.

    They won.

    In the Tampa area, there was at one time a Charlie Daniels Western World and Theme Park under construction.

    In 1994, Country fiddler Daniels and Florida stockbroker Michael Vandiver were at a Las Vegas rodeo when they got the idea of developing a rodeo arena back home in Florida.

    Soon the project grew into a huge complex offering a full arena, concert venues, hotels, golf courses, and a western themed theme park on 1,954 acres.

    A popular Daniel’s song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was part of a planned 3D show.

    Unfortunately, the devil in the details was a lack of funding.

    The park was to open in 1997. But it never made it.

    In Miami, huge billboards for years advertised a new theme park called “Interama.”

    It was planned near Biscayne Bay.

    Disney inspired another doomed park

    A permanent international exhibition park was planned.

    The inspiration for it was taken both from past World’s Fairs and the new Disneyland in California.

    It would be a theme park, but unlike other similar projects, it was hoped that the governments of the various countries would contribute to its building. Similar to how world’s fairs operate.

    South Florida congressmen got involved in setting aside land and funds for the development.

    That’s when the huge signs went up in the 1960s and 70s.

    South and Central American nations were reluctant to provide funds.

    So private financing was highly sought after….for years…and more years.

    The signs stayed.

    The state of Florida in 1985 finally sold the land to expand a state college.

    So instead of a permanent world fair with roller coasters and rides, the site became part of the campus for Florida International University’s Bay Vista extension.

    Another ill-rated South Florida park combined movies and rides.

    Wayne’s World a movie-ride park that sputtered

    It was known irreverently as “Wayne’s World.”

    The development was to have included a theme park, a waterpark, sports stadiums, and more on over 2,400 acres

    Named after Blockbuster owner H. Wayne Huizenga, founder of the Fort Lauderdale-based home rental movie company.

    Home rental movies?

    We all know what happened to that business.

    Not enough dreamers and doers. ###

    Uh, oh. Did you hear about this one:

    Roller coaster riders at a major amusement park are left hanging upside down for almost 20 minutes.

    What in the world happened?

    A small bird landed on a safety device, tripping it off to stop the ride in mid-air.

    Not scary enough for not-so-easy riders?

    They all were stranded high up: 100 feet in the air.

    Or about a ten-story building…if you fell to the earth.

    All happened at the Happy Valley Amusement Park in Beijing, China.

    The Happy Valley park describes the ride on its website as "facing down, you can experience the feeling of flying like a bird."

    No comment needed about that.

    No one was seriously injured.

    But no surprise: there were reports of nausea and dizziness.

    If this makes you wonder about the safety of coasters back here in Orlando or elsewhere…we have some good news there.

    Actually, a lot of theme park news about coasters not in China but right here in Orlando.

    Updates on new ones coming soon, etc.

    Not only what is news these days…but also what you can expect to hear more about in the near future…but let’s start with coasters.

    Safety, that is.

    How safe are coasters for all you buyers of Disney World Tickets, Universal Studios Orlando tickets and even LEGOLAND tickets?

    Safety questions are obvious

    The latest statistics turned up only a handful of minor injuries and or coaster-related illnesses while at the parks.

    Though you can’t help but be sympathetic to those Beijing riders stuck high in the air for exactly 18 minutes, according to news accounts…

    Hard to believe that a mere little bird did that…But it should help you realize why coasters are mainly safe to ride…at almost any speed…and all the safeguards built into today’s rides…

    Down to earth, the latest figures we saw about local coasters:

    There were less than a dozen reported incidents, according to state of Florida records.

    Most also involved older riders.

    And riders with pre-existing physical conditions that perhaps should have made them stick to less active events and reconsider thrill rides.

    One case involved a 71-year-old who reported feeling somewhat ill after riding the “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.”

    Another impacted a 75-year-old man who complained of pain and tremors in his right arm after leaving “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” (both were Walt Disney World Resort).

    On “Pirates of the Caribbean,” a 43-year-old woman with a pre-existing condition had a seizure.

    At Disney's Animal Kingdom, a 69-year-old man riding “Expedition Everest” felt chest pain and dizziness after riding.

    At Typhoon Lagoon, a 27-year-old woman suffered a laceration while riding “Humunga Kowabunga.”

    At Universal Studios Florida, a 21-year-old woman had motion sickness on the “E.T. Adventure.” And a 66-year-old woman felt dizzy on “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.”

    No incidents were reported on rides at LEGOLAND.

    All minor ailments involving only a handful of incidents over several months.

    After millions and millions of riders got happily off (and we won’t repeat the numbers that show there’s more danger from bathtubs than roller coasters).

    News from the coaster world

    As for updates on new coasters…

    Some more news came out about Universal’s King Kong attraction: the ride vehicles for “Skull Island: Reign of Kong” will be…to say the least…humongous.

    They will be 40 feet long. They will weigh 17 tons. Carrying 72 people.

    The vehicles will not be on a track, however.

    When you ride it, you won’t see any tracks or rails.

    This will be Universal’s first trackless ride.

    Drivers of the vehicles will tell various stories. Making the ride a different experience for repeat guests.

    The drivers themselves were identified. Believed to be for the first time. And they make for an interesting assortment.

    “Jinks” for one is an ex-con. From New York City, of course.

    Look for the attraction between Jurassic Park and Toon Legoon.

    An opening date has not been given.

    Snakes alive everywhere

    Busch Gardens’ own Cobra’s Curse will be known for its huge hissing snake. Nothing new in details about that 80-foot monster with four-foot-long fangs.

    But we find that he (or she) won’t be alone.

    New details show that while standing in line, you will pass an enclosure with four species of deadly snakes. They are described as “pretty” but deadly.

    "This is going to be the prettiest, most elaborately themed snake habitat that you've ever seen," said Jeff Hornick, regional director of design and engineering for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which owns the park.

    Don’t worry too much because the snakes are safely behind an eight foot wide window.

    “Cobra's Curse” will be in the Egypt section of Busch Gardens. But its path will be a thrilling location in itself: over and under the train ride at very close levels.

    Line-agitated riders will be glad to know they will wait in an air-conditioned queue.

    The story line is that you are back 2000 years ago. When a snake king ruled. But villagers demolished his temple.

    An angry snake now returning with a vengeance is the threat to riders.

    Ride delays should not be overly long since the Cobra can handle 1,000 people an hour.

    What it will be like to ride the Cobra

    What to expect: spends up to 40 miles an hour.

    Some backwards action. And a free-fall at the very end.

    Who is the ride catering to: It has a 42-in height restriction, but Busch officials say it should be fine for entire families of all ages.

    Meanwhile, Mako’s track topped out at 200 feet. It is the fourth roller coaster at SeaWorld, joining Kraken, Manta and Shamu Express, a junior coaster

    The Mako shark served as inspiration for the ride.

    Some details match the physiology of a real Mako shark. The animal and the ride vehicle has five gills, whereas most sharks have six, for example.

    New details show the coaster will be unusual on that it will have no shoulder restraints. It will depend on individual lap guards to keep riders on board.

    The importance of that?

    "This allows for everything above your waistline to be free. You can lean forward, you can lean backwards and you really get to experience the freedom of the weightlessness," a spokesman said

    Riders will sit four across. Each train will have seven cars, making for 28 passengers per train.

    SeaWorld has touted the ride's "air time" along with it becoming the longest, fastest, tallest roller in Orlando.

    Seventy-three miles-an-hour, if you want to be reminded.

    That floating sensation is "what every coaster fan covets," said Chris Kraftchick, regional representative for the Florida Region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

    Mako's seat design is a good choice, he said.

    "Basically, as you're navigating the hills, you're allowed to float up and down and you're not really being jammed into some steel bar or overly padded seat," he said.

    Like riding a real shark

    Magnetic brakes and polyurethane wheels cut down on friction, which will help deliver a smooth, shark-like experience, designers said.

    Mako will be the centerpiece of a new shark-based land. It will have an ocean floor/shipwreck theme,

    "We relate what we're doing here to nature and to reality. So you can feel like the Mako shark as you're gliding through the reef," said Mike Denninger, vice president of theme-park development. "The coaster is going to be completely smooth. It will be fast, but when you make these turns, you're gliding through the turns."

    An opening date for the thrill ride and its land has not been announced.

    This will mark the first major addition to SeaWorld Orlando since opening the Antarctica

    And new at Disney

    As for Disney itself, nighttime is getting more attractive these days.

    And the coaster there will be running then as well.

    After dark used to be bedtime at Animal Kingdom.

    Let the animals sleep. Give them a rest.

    But that’s all changing as new attractions are coming to life.

    Beginning the evening of April 22, you’ll be able to see the elaborate “Rivers of Light.”

    It’s just in time for the park’s birthday. And Earth Day as well.

    Kilimanjaro Safaris will then include a sunset effect.

    Also a new “Tree of Life.”

    There will be entertainment and parties added to the Harambe Village and Discovery Island areas as well.

    “Rivers of Light” showings will go on daily after sunset.

    And Animal Kingdom’s closing time will be later.

    Existing rides such as Expedition Everest roller coaster will operate into the evenings.

    What this will do is throw light on Animal Kingdom’s reputation as more than just a half-day park.

    Actually, that meets the original concept of the park.

    It was intended not as a place where guests go from ride to ride.

    “Rivers of Light” is said to be an original story using water screens, animal spirits, floating lantern and floating lanterns. Live performers are also part of the show.

    "Rivers of Light" eventually will have FastPass and dining-package options. But it won’t have any fireworks.

    One good question:

    If you want to see the animals after dark, will they be visible?

    Disney says yes.

    There’s apparently a lot of nocturnal activity among them…similar to humans.

    Disney says the entire park’s atmosphere will feel authentic.

    But the view will be different, partly to encourage daytime visitors to return at night.

    More than Orca news

    Whales have been in the news at SeaWorld but prices as well.

    SeaWorld earlier introduced a new price structure, It switched out a system with two different prices for online tickets, depending on the day of attendance, and replaced it with just one cost — $79. Tickets at the gate still cost $99.

    SeaWorld also introduced an annual pass that it says offers $400 monthly benefits. It also tosses in a year's worth of visits to Aquatica. Cost to Florida residents: $168.

    The SeaWorld ticket includes parking, and has no blackout dates.

    News from LEGOLAND

    Legoland Florida Resort is going to expand with the development of 24 acres. It’s the new Legoland Beach Retreat.

    Several expansions were announced, including a new Ninjago Land.

    The beach retreat marks the attractions first significant growth beyond its original opening.

    “This kind of expansion is something special … where we've kind of moved over the road to expand the resort into different areas," said Adrian Jones, the resort's general manager.

    There’s been what park officials call a “huge demand” since a 152-room hotel opened last year.

    Present hotel accommodations will be doubled as part of the expansion.

    Other announcements included the new "Lego Nexo Knights 4D: The Book of Creativity" movie.

    Also new:

    Legoland Night Lights fireworks display and plans for a new theme-park land, Lego Ninjago World.

    The 13-minute, 4-D movie is inspired by Lego's new toy franchise and television show. It is the story of five young knights battling the evil Jestro and the Book of Monsters. That is set to open May 26.

    The park's “Night Lights” is a new summer offering on Saturdays and Sundays from June 18 to July 31. The fireworks display will be themed around the Ninjago line.

    The updated fireworks display is also the park's attempt to attract even more families for the new Ninjago World. It will be built on the north end of the park between Lego City and Coastersaurus.

    The world is expected to open early next year.

    The park will have extended hours until 8 p.m. on weekends with fireworks.

    Parking costs going up

    Finally, not a very exciting subject, but the prospect is you may want to pay more for parking at Disney.

    Why?

    Less distance to the parks.

    The news from Disney is that it is testing a program where you pay more for a spot closer to theme park entrances.

    It costs an added $15.

    Regular parking is already $20.

    But in this case, at least, Disney is looking to Universal and SeaWorld for inspiration.

    Both already have upgraded parking options.

    Regular parking for cars in Universal's garage is $20; preferred parking is $30. It has valet parking that ranges between $20 and $50.

    SeaWorld parking is $18; its preferred parking is $23.

    No news about any extra charges for new coasters, however. ###