Thursday, July 31, 2014

Universal Orlando Luanches New Mobile App

Universal Orlando Resort is making spending the day at their theme parks easier with the launch of an all-new mobile app, along with free park-wide Wi-Fi.  The new service will allow visitors to plan their day on their mobile device, even making on-the-go updates via the Wi-Fi service in the parks.  Read on to learn more about this new Universal Orlando Resort service.

The new mobile app gives guests the most vital need-to-know park information.  Access to immediate attraction wait times, interactive park maps, customizable favorites lists and more options make navigating the park and planning your day much easier.  Plus, the Universal app is a free download for Apple and Android devices making it a no-brainer for any Universal Orlando park-goer.

With free Wi-Fi now available throughout the park, it will be easy to stay connected without running up your data usage on your cell phone.  There are two ways to connect to the Wi-Fi hotspots known as XFINITY. If you’re an existing XFINITY customer, select the “xfinity” signal on your mobile device.  If you’re not an existing customer, select the “Universal” signal and follow the prompts.  It’s that easy!

Several other unique features are included on the Official Universal Orlando Resort App.  Need help finding your way around?  No need to grab a map.  Simply use your app.  It has an interactive directions function that utilizes GPS-enabled maps and real park images to visually guide you through the park.  You can also search the app by park, by activity or amenity, as well as find out information on special show times, ride updates and more.  Extra enhancements will be added over time, including customizable itineraries and social sharing.  For now, though, be sure to download the app to make your day at the park a seamless one.  Click here for the iPhone version and here for the Android version. 

Find out more about visiting Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida »
Ashley is Reserve Direct's travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Airboat Rides in Orlando, Florida Add Adventure to Vacation

Experience the natural side of Florida on a thrilling airboat ride.  Get an insider’s look at the gators, birds, eagles, trees and plants that can be found in the beautiful Florida wetlands.  When you're ready for a day away from the parks, choose an Orlando airboat tour to see the sunny state in a whole new way!

Wild Florida Airboat Rides
Airboat rides in Orlando, Florida we recommend include:
  • Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
  • Wild Florida Airboats
  • Wild Willys Airboat Tours
On any excursion with the above companies you’re guaranteed a fantastic Florida airboat ride.  You’ll fly like the wind into the swamps experiencing the awesome feel of an airboat ride traveling at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Reserve an Orlando airboat ride – where you can experience the beautiful Central Florida Everglades.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Culinary Adventures Highlight of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

Get ready to taste your way around the world at the 19th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  The Disney World special event is slated for September 19 through November 10, 2014 – a record 53 days long!  The culinary event is the highlight of the fall season at Disney.  With the purchase of Epcot tickets, you’ll gain access to world-renowned cuisine, entertaining concerts and excellent culinary programs geared towards to the foodie in all of us. 

Fresh things to do for the 2014 event include:

New Festival Marketplaces and Food:  Two new marketplaces have been added to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival.  The Patagonia Marketplace will offer dishes inspired by the flavors of Argentina and Chile, while the Farm Fresh Marketplace (replacing the Florida Local Marketplace) will serve local flavors and drinks.  Stop by the Brazil Marketplace to taste their popular crispy pork belly and their new tilapia with coconut water lime sauce dish.  Satisfy your eastern European cravings at the Polish Marketplace, serving a new sauerkraut pierogi and pork goulash.  In total, there are more than 25 ethnic and regional marketplaces at which you can sample international cuisine.
Boot Camp Series: This interactive challenge event will whip you into culinary shape with intense basic training enabling you to really step it up in the kitchen and tackle epicurean challenges reserved for the best

Food for Thought: On Friday mornings, visitors can attend celebrity cookbook events with their favorite culinary talents.
Sunday Mornings With…: Enjoy a plated brunch featuring a bakery or pastry chef, who will create three delicious desserts for sampling.

Activities returning to Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival include:

Appearances by Celebrity Chefs:  Chefs in attendance include Warren Brown, Dean Max, Allen Susser, Rock Harper, Erika Davis, Jennifer Hill Booker, Paula DaSilva, Dana Herbert, Jerome Brown, Duskie Estes, John Stewart, Gale Gand, Jamie Deen, and “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro.
Eat to the Beat Concert Series:  A variety of acts will appear during the concert series, including Boyz II Men, Smash Mouth, Fuel, Wilson Phillips, David Cook, Hanson, and Sister Hazel, among others.  For the complete Eat to the Beat Concert schedule, click the schedule link. 

Festival Welcome Center:  Home to a champagne and wine bar, educational wine seminars and celebrity chef book signings, the Festival Welcome Center also hosts culinary demonstrations. 

Reserved Culinary Events:  Special culinary programs include presentations by winemakers, elegant dinners, luncheons, seminars and wine paring schools.  A few of the featured events include a Mediterranean Food & Wine Pairing, as well as an Italian White Truffle & Wine Pairing Dinner and Mexican Tequila Lunch.  These unique dining experiences can be reserved starting on July 31 by calling 407-939-3378. 
Party for the Senses: Sample great food from famous chefs, 50 wines and beers and live entertainment.  Tasting events are scheduled for October 4, 11, 18 and November 1 from 7:30-10pm.

More than 270 chefs will appear during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, conducting culinary demonstrations and hosting dinners and tasting events.  Servings for the sumptuous appetizer sized portions served range from $3-$8; drinks are $3-$6.  Purchase Epcot Disney tickets to be a part of this international flavor-filled festival.

Find out more about visiting Epcot »
Ashley is Reserve Direct's travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Orlando Water Parks Rank Among Nation's Best

Visitors to Orlando, Florida know this vacation destination is home to some of the top water parks in the country.  Apparently, TripAdvisor thinks so too as the four Orlando water parks have landed on the company’s list of the nation’s Top 10 Water Parks.  Check out the list below to see where your favorite parks ranked. 

The full list of the best water parks in the United States:

1. Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park, Orlando, Florida
2. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, Orlando, Florida
3. Aquatica, Orlando, Florida
4. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, Santa Claus, Indiana
5. Water Country USA, Williamsburg, Virginia
6. Morey's Piers and Beachfront Waterparks, Wildwood, New Jersey
7. Noah's Ark Water Park, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
8. Dollywood's Splash Country Water Adventure Park, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
9. Wet 'n Wild, Orlando, Florida
10. Cedar Point - Soak City, Sandusky, Ohio

Water park enthusiasts rank lazy rivers, water slides and wave pools as their favorite attractions.  Each water park in Orlando offers a different theme and entertainment options, with Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon appealing to families; Aquatica featuring a tropical oasis with an emphasis on life under the sea; and Wet ‘n Wild home to thrilling water rides where you can really make a splash. 

Find out more new rides at Orlando water parks »
Ashley is Reserve Direct's travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Explore Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center

The world’s most comprehensive attraction devoted to the space exploration is Kennedy Space Center.  The complex features an engaging exhibit – Space Shuttle Atlantis – and it brings visitors nose-to-nose with the priceless Atlantis spacecraft as only astronauts have seen it before, with payload bay doors open as if it were floating in space. More than 60 interactive, touch-screen experiences and high-tech simulators invite guests to “be the astronaut,” bringing to life the people, passion and patriotism behind NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program as well as the complexity of the engineering marvel that launched the Hubble Space Telescope and built the International Space Station (ISS).  

Guests can conduct a virtual EVA or extravehicular activity; practice docking to the ISS; extract cargo from the payload bay; create sonic booms and glide to a landing on the Re-entry Slide; experience the sensation of floating in space; explore a high-fidelity replica of the ISS; virtually mate Atlantis to the external tank; kick up a virtual chemical reaction to launch the shuttle;  get an “X-ray view” of Atlantis’ interior; experience an orbital sunrise; strap in to the sights, sounds and sensations of a shuttle launch; take the helm at the shuttle cockpit, and much more.

Highlights of the Atlantis Shuttle Include:
  • The Entrance – Outside Space Shuttle Atlantis, guests are greeted by a full-scale, upright, replica space shuttle stack, including external tank and two solid rocket boosters. The 184-foot-tall assembly gives visitors a true sense of the massive size and awesome power used to thrust the shuttle into orbit.
  • The Building – Space Shuttle Atlantis features two sweeping architectural elements or “wings” representing the space shuttle’s launch and return.
  • Shuttle Launch Experience – Incorporated into Space Shuttle Atlantis is the adjacent Shuttle Launch Experience, which simulates the vertical launch aboard the space shuttle. Guests are immersed in the sights, sounds and feelings of a space shuttle launch, designed under the guidance of NASA and veteran space shuttle astronauts. 

Reserve your day of space exploration by purchasing Kennedy Space Center tickets.  You can save almost $5 when you purchase tickets prior to arrival. 

Find out more about visiting Kennedy Space Center »
Ashley is Reserve Direct's travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pamper Yourself at one of the Top Five Orlando Spas

Treat yourself to a little bit of pampering on your Orlando vacation.  At area Orlando Spas you can get refreshed and rejuvenated and walk away relaxed and ready for a day of fun at Orlando attractions.  There are many award-winning spas located in Orlando, all of which offer an array of world-class services and treatments.

The Top 5 Orlando Spas are:
1) Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain:  A visit to the Waldorf Astoria Spa is a luxurious experience.  Featuring 22 treatment rooms in 24,000-square-feet of space, the spa’s therapists begin each treatment with a systematic analysis and precise skin diagnosis to reveal each guest’s primary focus; be it nutritional, environmental, emotional, or physical.  Waldorf Astoria Spa transforms each treatment into a customized moment created exclusively for each guest.  A variety of services are offered including facial therapies, men’s therapies, body sublimation, hydrotherapy, and harmonizing massage.
2) The Spa at Hilton Orlando:  The menu of services at The Spa at Hilton Orlando promotes wellness and relaxation using Neroli based products. Neroli is the essential oil that comes from the Orange Blossom and is the key ingredient in the Kerstin Florian products that are used throughout The Spa.  There are 15 Treatment Rooms including a couple’s room and facial rooms, Men's and Women's locker rooms, Full body showers, Eucalyptus Steam Room, Hair and Nail Salon, and a Spa and Salon retail area.

3) The Ritz Carlton Spa Grande Lakes: Immerse yourself in a world of relaxation at the Ritz Carlton Spa.  The Ritz-Carlton Spa Orlando features 40 treatment rooms, a private 4,000-square foot heated outdoor lap pool, a boutique and a café, all intended to create an atmosphere of total relaxation. Plus, there are poolside services available as well as exclusive spa treatments for mothers to be, kids and teens and gentlemen.
4) Mandara Spa:  Mandara Spa, located at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel, blends the unique Walt Disney World Dolphin architecture with its signature Balinese style to provide a fresh and original setting where guests may indulge in world-class pampering and beauty services. Your spa visit becomes an adventure both sensory and physical as guests explore the Palm Gardens’ unique “Asian Bale” and the Meditation Garden’s signature “Meru Temple”.  A variety of signature services are available. 
5) The Spa at Hyatt Regency Orlando:  Your journey to complete serenity awaits at The Spa at Peabody Orlando. Situated in the heart of The Peabody Orlando on the Pool level of the Regency Tower, The Spa is the perfect place to discover the ultimate in relaxation-from the inside out. Their spacious sanctuary, with its peaceful sounds, inviting colors and soft lighting, has been specially created to surround you in tranquility and envelop you in calm.  Start your day at the spa with a massage and then indulge in a European facial or body wrap.  A full-service salon is also located on-site.

Find out more about spas in Orlando.
Read More »
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know. Before you pack your bags, get the latest scoop on Orlando vacations from Ashley.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Your Guide to Disney World Resorts

Disney's Yacht Club Resort
Planning a trip to Disney World Theme Parks in Orlando, Florida?  If so, you’re probably researching where to stay, what to do and how to squeeze so much fun into one vacation.  One of the best ways to enjoy the full Disney experience is by staying at a Disney World Resort. 

Yes, the price to stay at a Disney Resort is higher than an off-site property.  But, there’s a good reason why!  The perks of a Disney Resort stay are endless.  A few of the benefits include:
  • Free Ground Transportation:  Disney World hotel and resort guests can board complimentary Magical Express buses at the Orlando International Airport, and be shuttled directly to their resort.  Once there, you’ll never need a car as you can use Disney’s Magical Express buses, the monorail, and ferry boats to hop from park to park. 
  • No Hassling with Luggage:  With Disney’s free ground transportation from the Orlando Airport, guests can avoid the baggage carousel all together as Disney delivers luggage directly to your hotel room.  On your return trip to the airport, which is also free, visitors can save time by checking their luggage and receiving your boarding passes at your Disney Resort.  Travel to the airport and let Disney take care of the rest!
  • MyMagic+:  The MyMagic+ program allows Disney visitors to pre-plan their visit, and by doing so they can maximize their fun at the park and minimize line time.  All on-property Disney resort guests receive complimentary MyMagic+ bands.
  • Extra Magic Hours: Take advantage of this unique opportunity to have a more private park experience. Each day, one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks opens one hour early or remains open up to two hours after regular closing time. Additionally, Disney Water Parks offer Extra Magic Hours during select times of year.
Walt Disney World Resorts are available in three tiers, from value resorts to moderate places to stay to deluxe accommodations.  I’ll guide you through each category, so you can easily choose which option is perfect for your family vacation. 

Disney Value Resorts: A relatively low price point coupled with the standard Disney amenities make value resorts a good option for many families.  Many of the Disney Value Resorts feature over-the-top theming geared towards kids, excellent poolscapes, on-site fast food options and kid-friendly amenities like arcades.  Value Resort options include:
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Disney Moderate Resorts:  For an upgrade in amenities, Disney Moderate Resorts are the accommodations that strike a decent balance between cost and services.  These mid-level resorts and hotels have more elaborate theming, larger play and pool zones, more elegant and varied dining options, as well as more on site options such as fitness centers and lounges.  Moderate Resort options include:
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
  • The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort
Disney Deluxe Resorts: At Disney’s top level resorts visitors will be treated to the white glove experience.  Expect high-end amenities with a luxurious touch, including spa services, valet parking, character dining and gourmet restaurants.  Each Disney Deluxe Resort has an elaborate theme and backstory, as well as a prime location for easier park access.  Deluxe Resorts include:
  • Disney’s Polynesian Resort
  • Disney’s Animal Kigndom Lodge
  • Disney’s Beach Club Resort
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Two other on-site Disney Resort options include the high-end Walt Disney World Dolphin and Walt Disney World Swan hotels.  These posh hotels are where adults come to play at Disney.  Although they are operated by a third-party, both offer all of the benefits of a typical Disney Resort excluding the Magical Express airport transportation.

When you visit the home of the world’s most famous mouse, stay where Mickey and friends call home.  You’ll be able to avoid the hassle of travel time, as well as paying parking fees, car rentals and for gas.  Plus, you’ll be at the forefront of the magic so you’ll never miss a moment of fun.  Choose the Disney World Resort that fits your budget and vacation needs, and be on your way to vacation memories.

Find out more about Disney's MyMagic+ program »
Ashley is Reserve Direct's travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Nights Concert Series Heats Up Busch Gardens

Bring your family to Busch Gardens Tampa to experience Summer Nights!  The seasonal festival features amazing firework displays, along with an end-of-night show – Kinetix – featuring live musicians, singers, dancers and artists from around the world.  In addition, there are Summer Nights Concerts that really heat up the night! 

Grab a craft beer and sit back and listen to your favorite tunes from pop, R&B, alternative and Latino music artists.
  • June 28: ZZ Ward and Hot Chelle Rae
  • July 5: Bridgit Mendler
  • July 12: El Gran Combo 
  • July 19 - Pentatonix
  • July 26 – Zion y Lennox
  • Aug 2 – Cher Lloyd
  • Aug 9 – Taking Back Sunday
  • Aug 16 – The All-American Rejects

Concerts are included with Busch Gardens Tampa tickets.  Concerts take the place of Kinetix on Saturday nights only. All concerts are held at Gwazi Park at 8:30pm. 

Find out more about Summer Nights at Busch Gardens »
Ashley is Reserve Direct's travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Frozen Summer Fun Live! Takes Over Disney's Hollywood Studios

Fans of the movie Frozen rejoice because Frozen Summer Fun is taking over Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando.  The world of Frozen will be featured July 5 through September 1, 2014.  Spend the day enjoying all-new interactive experiences, geared towards Frozen fans everywhere!

Frozen Summer Fun Live! Experiences include:

Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome: At 11:00am each day watch Anna and Elsa embark on a goodwill tour of neighboring kingdoms. The royal sisters are joined by Kristoff, the ice cutters and joyous citizens of Arendelle who skate and snow ski their way through the procession. The magic culminates in an enticing moment at the Sorcerer’s Hat Icon Stage to officially welcome Frozen to the kingdom of Hollywoodland!

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration: Join Anna, Elsa and the newly-appointed royal historians of Arendelle in the Premiere Theater to enjoy For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Musical Celebration. Laugh and sing along while enjoying this humorous and heart-warming retelling of the kingdom’s history.  Show times are at 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm, 5:00pm, 6:00pm and 7:00pm.

Oaken’s Frozen Funland: Blow into Soundstage One to see how Oaken and his closest cousins have been creating winter magic! Frozen festivities include ice skating and snowman building!

Frozen Fireworks Spectacular: At the end of a fun-filled Frozen day, Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf come together at the Sorcerer’s Hat Icon Stage for a grand finale—complete with an awe-inspiring fireworks display set to the glorious music of the movie. July 5 through August 16, show time is 9:45pm; show time is 9:15pm August 17 through September 1. 

Olaf on Summer Vacation: Throughout the day, Olaf will share updates from his summer adventures at the Sorcerer’s Hat Icon Stage. Pick up your very own take-a-long Olaf so he can join you on your summer vacation. Be sure to tag your pictures #OlafSummerVacation and they just might be shared in the day’s grand finale!

Coolest Summer Ever Dance Party: Rock out to a medley of the hottest Frozen hits! Every evening starting at 5:30 PM, a dance party with a DJ and live band breaks out over Sorcerer’s Hat Icon Stage.

Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post: Strap on your snowshoes and adventure to the Soundstage One for a wonderland of Frozen merchandise, food and beverage offerings. Don’t miss out on this big summer “blowout”!

Find out more about visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios »
Ashley is Reserve Direct's travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Monday, July 7, 2014

August 2014 Orlando Events

August 1-10:  Summer Nights at SeaWorld
See a nighttime spectacular every evening at SeaWorld Orlando during Summer Nights. There will be special night shows like Shamu's Celebration and Sea Lions Tonite, capped off by a fireworks spectacular.

August 1-17:  Summer Nights at Busch Gardens Tampa
Stay after dark for a music and acrobatics show every night at Busch Gardens.
 An amazing fireworks display will end each night.
August 1:  Date Night at Leu Gardens
Enjoy an outdoor movie in beautiful Leu Gardens in Orlando. Alcohol and picnic baskets are allowed. Don’t forget a blanket or chair. Admission is $6 plus tax for adults. The featured film will be You Can’t Take It With You. 

August 14:  Popcorn Flicks in the Park
The City of Winter Park and Enzian Theater will be showing a free film in Central Park at 8pm. Bring snacks, drinks, and a blanket. Central Park is located at 251 S. Park Avenue in Winter Park. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone will be the featured film for August 8th. 
August 16-17:  20th Annual Harvest Grape Stomp
This family-friendly event at Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards will have grape stomping competitions, live music, food, and wine. Event will be held 10-5 on Saturday and 11-5 on Sunday. A $2 donation to benefit The Boys & Girls Club is requested.
August 23: Villains Unleashed! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
From 8pm-1am, join Over 50 Disney villains will be taking over the park until the 13th hour!  Guests are encouraged to wear costumes and "show their Disney Villain side."  Adults: $67, plus tax; Children (ages 3-9): $62, plus tax.