With so much happening in and Orlando the area you owe to yourself to discover what is out there beyond the big 3!
If you are like me, you may have read about the possibility of a “Fast and Furious” ride coming to Universal Orlando Resort. Only a long-standing rumor, sure, but the possibility brought up the question in your mind as well as mine: what else can theme park goers expect in the future?
Now, this is no immediate gratification because we will have to wait.
But really not for long.
That’s because SeaWorld Orlando is set to make its biggest splash yet.
For those who can’t or don’t want to wait, there’s also Mako -- due to open any time. It is said to give SeaWorld Orlando its biggest splash yet. Why?
It is the tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster here. Named for a fast-moving shark, Mako almost flies with speeds up to 73 miles per hour, the attraction says. And it is a fast-moving experience like a predator swimming speedily through the water at top speed chasing dinner.
"It will be a wild mix of fear, thrills and fun," predicts Brian Morrow, SeaWorld’s attraction creative director.
But what’s next? And when?
This is a subject that theme parks prefer to tell you themselves. But speculation, often based on part performances, is normal.
The biggest possible future attractions are associated with “Nintendo, Star Wars and Avatar.”
A quick look back at 2014 shows that it was an extremely active one.
Consider what opened: “Diagon Alley,” the second Harry Potter land at Universal Orlando, a slew of roller coasters, including the “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at the Magic Kingdom,” and others. They made it a vintage year for roller coasters and new rides. This year has not seen that type of activity or record-breaking rides generating huge lines.
Theme park experts attribute the success of attractions like Harry Potter’s at Universal as spurs to push parks trying to up the ante and compete with Disney. Meanwhile, competition everywhere for theme park-goers should continue to draw a lot of speculation, but also obviously add up to many new attractions
There are a lot of minor but possibly significant new rides and activities planned soon.
Another Starbucks, for example, is coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom (apparently proving that visitors to that particular park like their coffee). And while this may be good news for the caffeine-starved, it has limited appeal to many other visitors.
So for purposes of what you read here, we will try to confine this report to major areas.
Kong will be back
One of these you probably already know.
We already know, for example, that more than a decade after "Kongfrontation" closed, the big ape is coming back. "Skull Island: Reign of Kong" is scheduled to open in the summer of next year at Islands of Adventure.
It’s inevitable that will be a “multi-sensory, multi-dimensional experience.”
It will also take ride-goers back to the 1930s, when the film first came out. Universal consulted with Peter Jackson, director of the 2005 remake of the 1933 movie, for suggestions on the new ride.
It will be a major attraction, of course.
This will be the second King Kong attraction at Universal Orlando. The first, “Kongfrontation,” one of the original rides at Universal Studios, was closed in 2002 to make room for “Revenge of the Mummy.” There have also been two “King Kong” attractions at Universal Studios in Hollywood. All have been different.
The Skull Island ride “is not a story line from any movie or attraction. It’s next generation,” a spokesman said.
The ape breaks out of The Big Apple
This time, the ape won’t be wreaking havoc on New York.
“The fact you’re there in his home instead of him coming to your home is what sets this attraction apart,” said the spokesman.
Ride-goers will walk through the jungle and the ruins of a temple, then board an expedition truck for Skull Island. Here, they will encounter a lot of hazards, hostile natives, and some so-far unnamed terrors. The final one of these is Kong himself.
Nintendo. Yes, it’s coming to Universal.
The companies had this to say in a joint statement:
"Universal theme parks offer incredibly popular, innovative themed family entertainment experiences based on compelling stories and characters – using powerful storytelling and innovative technology, Nintendo has created remarkable and imaginative worlds filled with captivating stories and beloved characters. Now, for the first time, those stories and characters will be brought to life in entirely new ways – only at Universal theme parks."
When and exactly what are still speculation. More details are expected later, of course.
New territory for theme parks
But at least one newspaper account termed this “entering new territory” for theme parks. The idea conjures up life-size Mario Karts and Splatoon water parks.
Universal Orlando has created haunted houses based on video games "Resident Evil" and "Silent Hill" for its Halloween Horror Nights events. But in general, theme parks are "very, very new to the concept of gaming," said Susan Arendt, managing editor of GamesRadar+.
Not entirely new, however.
Rosen College of Hospitality Management associate professor Duncan Dickson pointed to the success of Disney's "Wreck It Ralph," an animated comedy that revolves around a video-game character, in 2012.
Star Wars: the reality
Another attraction with few details that seems inevitable in part because it is heard about so often: Star Wars. The trade publication ”Variety” called the Star Wars franchise a continuing “big tease.” No wonder.
When Disney announced a strong financial results earlier this year, head Bob Iger told Wall Street analysts that the presence of the film characters were becoming a force. He said the company Imagineers were looking at many locations around the world.
Specific plans would be announced later this year, he said.
“Fairly soon, I’m sure we’ll be ready to go public with some specifics. But it’s safe to say that you’ll see a lot more ‘Star Wars’ at Disney and at Disney parks in the near future,” Iger said.
His future announcement may very well coincide with the new release of the latest film “The Force Awakens” in December.
Disney has has an obvious uptick in attendance after the introduction of new rides and themed lands designed around its popular film properties. So films understandably remain as popular ride themes.
Disney already is building an “Avatar”-themed land at its Animal Kingdom Park in Orlando. That land is set to open in 2017.
Ride the flying banshees
Avatar land will feature Pandora’s floating mountains, plants that glow in the dark and a boat ride through the jungle. But its star attraction will be a ride on flying banshees like the ones that the Na'vi ride in the movie.
Disney President Bob Iger rode recently on the back of a flying banshee. Not surprisingly, he reported in Variety that it was “so real, so lifelike…There’s never been anything like it.”
Rides are described as “banshees brought to life” via large video screens. The rides promise 3-D action inside a huge movie theatre. The attraction is said to include Pandora’s floating mountains and various huge plants that include restaurants, of course.
The themed addition, designed with film director James Cameron, represents the largest expansion to Animal Kingdom since the park opened in 1998, according to newspaper reports.
Another potentially very popular ride is from the hit movie “Frozen.”
It is being built in the space in the Norway pavilion that had been occupied by Maelstrom, a boat tour of Norway’s cultural and geographic highlights. It is scheduled to open at Epcot in the first half of 2016. Because the ride will open relatively quickly — less than two years after Maelstrom closed — theme park experts say the new ride probably will be built on the same track as Maelstrom rather than starting from scratch. Disney is also building a separate meet-and-greet space nearby for Frozen’s heroines, Anna and Elsa, but has not said when it will open.
What else is new?
As for “Fast and Furious,” speculation was raised during the opening of Universal Studios Hollywood’s hosting the new “Fast & Furious: Supercharged” attraction in late June. During a talk with media, actress Michelle Rodriguez discussed her excitement about the ride and the potential of it moving to other parks. "So I'm wondering if this thing is going to travel, if it's going to go to Florida and then maybe China," she said at a news conference.
No ride confirmation, of course, but the possibility of another movie attraction is a long-running rumor. Even if it does not happen, it shows that rumors of new rides are not limited to the general public. They are also of interest even to movie stars who are in the shows that may end up as theme park rides.
A lot of small businesses in heavily tourist-oriented areas have been successful by suggesting they are so good they also attract local residents. In other words:
Head to where the locals go, folks.
In the Orlando area, it’s Crane’s Roost.
The streets here are closed daily.
No, not for the birds, though they are there.
Walking around is the only way to travel here.
The attractive park is in the Orlando suburb of Altamonte Springs, a large, thriving city where there are year-round events that draw not only residents but visitors.
These events cater to all ages. And many of them are free.
There’s entertainment, games, activities, crafts, food and more.Big-name entertainers who have performed here include Jimmy Buffet. There’s also events that include wine tasting, concerts and free movies.
Everyday Events For Entire Family
A typical special event recently included a fishing derby on the boardwalk, a zoo animal and live animal exhibit, face painting, various kid and interactive games, and even drawings for various prizes, including free passes to LEGOLAND.
Even visitors unfamiliar with the area can’t miss Cranes Roost Park. It is right off and visible from I-4, the area’s major artery that also connects to the theme parks south of Orlando.
The park is encircled by one mile of continuous walkway with benches and covered seating areas. Within the 45-acre park is a European-style plaza which includes a choreographed fountain show and a 62-foot picturesque tower as well as the Eddie Rose Amphitheater with stadium-style seating and a floating stage. Walking the Park
The park itself is an attraction if for no other reason than just walking the one mile loop. There’s also a choreographed fountain show running nightly at 7, 8 and 9 p.m.
The park is pet-friendly in most areas with a free map detailing the pet walk.
Hours during the week are from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., or on the weekends until midnight.
Restaurants at the area include Care Murano, which has received glowing ratings from diners. The pasta is recommended.
For visitors, there are a variety of nearby hotels with reduced prices because they are outside of the main tourist corridors of South Orlando
Other areas of interest to both residents and tourists include the Altamonte Mall, where the 165 stores and restaurants are within a walkable block. The mall also has the AMC Altamonte Mall, an 18-screen theatre. Everything in this area is about ten miles north of downtown Orlando. The theme parks are about an hour away.
For a schedule of events at Crane’s Roost, www.altamonte.org/calendar.
Care Murano, www.caremurano.comor 407/834/5880. 309 Crane’s Roost Blvd., Altamonte Springs.
Altamonte Mall, www.altamontemall.com.51 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs. ###
Uh, oh. Somebody’s stealing Disney’s magic.
And they’re getting away with it.
Look for it at Orlando’s International Drive as often referred to as I-Drive.
Nothing left to experience in the area? No way.
If you have that illusion, Merlin will disprove it
Merlin Entertainment, that is.
You may not know of them. But you will. They are the second largest entertainment company in the country.
Behind only Disney. And still growing.
New Attractions Not Seen Before
They just announced three new attractions: The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds Orlando and Sea Life Orlando
Nothing new about that. But what does it mean to you?
If you are one of the 62 million visitors a year here, you will get to do something you were not able to do before.
Here’s what is new:
See Orlando From High Above on The Orlando Eye
You can now see a swirling view of the entire area. It’s the tallest observation wheel on the US East Coast. The view includes downtown Orlando’s skyline, lakes and lush landscapes. And even the space shuttle at Cape Canaveral on clear days. There’s never before been anything like this. You have to go to London for something similar: the London eye. Here, you ride in air-conditioned comfort to a height of 425 feet above the ground. That is more than 100 feet taller than the Statute of Liberty. There are restaurants at the top. You can see Central Florida in all directions. It’s the new Orlando Eye.
Secondly, shoot “selfies” with you and Tiger woods or Dan Marino or even Juan Ponce de Leon (if you don’t know him, try your history book). Newly opened Madame Tussauds Orlando offers 800 wax figures.
Finally, see more than 5,000 sea creatures at the new Sea Life Orlando Aquarium. Sharks. Jellyfish. Sea horses. More. All found in a 12-foot deep ocean tank. That’s for adults. And for kids: a touch pool and discovery trail.
I-Drive is located at 8445 International Drive, near Kissimmee and all the major theme parks.
A Moderate Price Tag
Tickets to each attraction start at $25 ($20 for children 12 and under). However, combination tickets are available across multiple attractions and sister attraction LEGOLAND®Florida. Children age 12 and under will receive a $5 discount off of the adult ticket price, which is $25 for one attraction, $39 for two attractions and $49 for all three. For $99 ($94 for children 12 and under) adult guests will receive tickets to all three attractions as well as a ticket to nearby LEGOLAND Florida.
Wait, before you head off to buy tickets, we got Discount tickets to the IDrive 360 attractions!
Merlin Entertainments PLC is already known in the area for its ownership of nearby LEGOLAND Florida.
For more on attractions and activities in the International Drive resort area: internationaldrive.com. For maps and schedules of the International Drive Trolley: iridetrolley.com.
Maybe you thought there could not be anything else new here.
Predictions are that Merlin magic will continue to conjure up new tricks. And you’ll be hearing more from Merlin. ###
If there is one secret to the overall success of Disney, it has to be showmanship. And that extends not only to theme park rides and other entertainment, but also to food offerings. A perfect example: American Q and its new expanded menu.
The showmanship is already there in its buffet offerings from (of all places) a 1951 cherry-red-colored Ford FI pickup truck. The kids who dine here are also measured by a somewhat unusual standard: their height compared to a chicken.
Now offering “swine pig” on the surface does not sound appetizing. But both meat-lovers and vegetarians find food here to their taste. And new offerings at the modern barbeque concept at the B Resort & Spa make it even more on everyone’s menu. These include:
New Food Appeals to All Tastes
---Meatless Mondays. The flatbed buffet (on that cheery, cherry-colored red Ford truck) offers vegetarian style food such as tofu chili and Mac ‘n Cheese. The meatless buffet is a discounted price of $19.95.
---Prime Rib Tuesdays. For meat-lovers eating from the Flatbed Truck buffet. Smoked prime rib at no additional charge ($34.95 for adults and $10 for children). The spread includes unlimited table visits from the Brazilian steak house-style carvers who offer a parade of proteins such as smoked turkey drumstick with mahogany glaze and bacon wrapped boneless chicken thighs.
---“Swine & Spirits.” That is what the B Resort calls its Wednesday buffet offering, which includes a whole roasted pig. Described as a “Tangerine and Whiskey-Brined Suckling Pig” in addition to the regular 20+ offerings. A free “spirited” drink is also available.
Located inside B Resort & Spa at 1905 Hotel Plaza Boulevard in Lake Buena Vista, American Q is described as a modern take on classic barbecue. Many local items are made from scratch.
The restaurant is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Dinner is served from 5-10 p.m. The bar has a daily “Happy Hour” with drinks half off from 4-7 p.m.
The American Q Restaurant is within walking distance of Downtown Disney located in the the 394-room B Resort, just five miles from Walt Disney World. The hotel targets not only families but also business travelers (the Orange County Convention Center is just 10 minutes away).
The “Flatbed” buffet also has its own touches of showmanship. The bar menu, for example, offers “Swine Candy,” which is smoked bacon roasted with spices served in a glass jar.
And about those kid meals: the $10 price is good for anyone less than “seven chicken’s tall,” or (in case you don’t measure things that way) about 4 feet, 7 inches.
For more information, visit bhotelsandresorts.com or call 954-389-1919. ###
Simple. And cheap, sure. But also necessary.
Water rides, of course (though not the only reason).
Many theme parks have them (not bags, those you have to provide yourself). To protect your cell phones and any water-sensitive item, just get out the zip-sealed bags.
‘Bagging’ it is always a good policy
Of course, there are many other uses for a bag. Any type of bag.
Your wadded-up, no-longer-chewable-worn-out gum. Given up its elasticity (darn it, just when it got good) when you are not near a convenient trash can.
And even more common: melting ice cream wrappers. These are known for their kid connections, but are also suspiciously common among adults as well.
Just about any old bag of any type will do for the ice cream wrappers, but also for other types of storage in case you did not bring a backpack (slightly cumbersome) or a fanny pack (degrading to the cool-hand image).
But while we are on the subject of the importance of every-day objects when you are enjoying the dream-like magic of theme park make believe, here are some other things to consider:
Did you remember to bring these:
---Plastic, folding ponchos? (Not just for water but rain as well). Featherweight and easy to pack inside any bag.
---A water bottle. Refillable, of course. You never know when you can get dehydrated, particularly n brutally hot climates. Water fountains are not always nearby. And who wants to pay $4 or so for a concession-stand bottle of water, anyway? Remember: not all parks allows your bottle, so check beforehand.
---A money belt? Really old fashioned and dated, sure, and associated with a backpacker’s trip to a crowded Third World city known for its pickpockets. But wait. These usually inexpensive belts are great for safekeeping for any kind of driver’s license, ID cards, etc., even if you don’t use them for money. PS: Pickpockets are probably not much of a concern but the use of a belt might actually save you some money.
Two other suggestions:
You will probably want to keep your phone with you. Most people do. And there are good reasons. But might you consider leaving some stuff behind such as a hair brush or even a comb or even all those credit cards? They should be safe in your hotel room.
Or as an alternative, how about renting a locker? They are always around, and are certainly among the cheapest (read bargains) things you can buy at any theme park.