Monday, July 30, 2012

Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights Will Feature The Walking Dead, Silent Hill & Alice Cooper

Halloween Horror Nights invades Universal Studios Orlando on select nights from September 21 through October 31, 2012.  The event brings your worst nightmares to life and dares you to test your scare limits.  Winner of Amusement Today’s “Best Halloween Event” Golden Ticket award the last four years, Halloween Horror Nights is the premier Halloween event in Orlando.  For its 22nd year there will be all-new haunted houses, spine-tingling scare zones, live shows and more.

AMC's The Walking Dead, Silent Hill and Alice Cooper themed haunted houses have already been announced as features for Halloween Horror Nights 22.
The Walking Dead Haunted House Universal Studios creative director John Murdy explained, “For fans of the series, we’re going to put you in the footsteps of the characters on the show. You’re going to have to try to survive the zombie apocalypse. Only now, you’re not in your living room watching it, you’re living it.”
Silent Hill takes place in a world split between a foggy “real” world and a rusty, metal, demented version.  It will be turned into a pair of haunted houses based on the popular video game and film series.
The Alice Cooper themed haunted house has been dubbed “Alice Cooper – Welcome to My Nightmare.”  According to a press release from Universal Studios, the haunted house will “Journey into legendary rocker Alice Cooper’s twisted mind and witness the natural melding of horror and Cooper’s four decades-long career. Here you will follow Steven, the iconic character from many of Cooper’s works, as you come face to face with a myriad of tormentors who threaten an already-decaying sense of sanity.”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Christmas Town Comes to Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa is hosting their first ever Christmas event this winter.  Christmas Town at Busch Gardens will begin November 30 and include special holiday decorations, shows, shopping and musical guests.  It is an after-hours event and guests will need to purchase a special Christmas Town ticket to attend the holiday event.

One of most unique elements of Christmas Town will be its fusion of Christmas cheer with safari-style.  For instance, red and white lights will shine in the Nairobi area while animal-pattern decorations will found in the Cheetah Hunt walkway.  The Sesame Street Season of Fun will feature children’s TV characters decked out in holiday gar and a topiary version of the nativity scene will be the main attraction at Stanleyville.  Pink twinkling lights will add a festive touch to the flamingo area as well. 
Popular rides and attractions will be open during Christmas Town but guests will also have the opportunity to experience at least 15 attractions not available during the day.  Snow-related activities are the highlight of Christmas Town Park, while a ride on a steam locomotive for a Christmas carol sing-along, visit to Santa’s house and a penguin encounter add to the festive things to do. 
Entertaining Christmas show like Christmas on Ice, Christmas From the Heart and Christmas Celebration will be performed too.  New holiday shows for Christmas Town include a holiday light show at the Crown Colony House, Jimmy Osmond’s Christmas Jukebox, nightly performances by Christian group Jars of Clay and skating show. 
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa is scheduled from 6pm-11pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays November 30 through  December 23.  Tickets are $49.99. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Universal Orlando Resort Presents Two New Dining Experiences

Photo Credit: Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando Resort is offering visitors two new dining experiences, both of which are related to new attractions at the theme park. 

Universal’s Superstar Character Breakfast is wonderful way to start your day at the park.  It features characters from the Superstar Parade, including Hop, Despicable Me, Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob Squarepants.  Served at the La Bamba Restaurant, the Superstar Character Breakfast includes early admission to attraction like Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and Shrek 4D.  Cost is $26.99 for adults and $10.99 for children.  Universal Orlando theme park tickets are not included in the breakfast price.
The other new dining experience available is Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular Dining Experience.  Located at Lombard’s Seafood Grill, the Cinematic Spectacular dining experience gives guests a prime, reserved viewing spot for the Cinematic Spectacular lagoon show.  The price is $44.99 for adults and $12.99 for children. 
Reservations are highly recommended for both offerings. 
Universal Orlando tickets are not included in either dining experience.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kissimmee Hot Air Balloon Festival Takes to the Sky

A breathtaking display of hot air balloons will take to the sky during the Kissimmee International Balloon Festival.  Scheduled for September 21-23, the festival features more than 50 balloons in two launches, five road races, food and drink vendors, arts and crafts, live music and much more.  Be sure to bring your camera as balloon launches are on e one most photographed scenes in the world and are a remarkable sight to see.

The full schedule of events:
Friday, September 21
3:00pm Market Place open
5:00pm 5K and 10K Road Race
7:00pm Race award ceremony
7:15pm BALLOON GLOW (weather dependent. Balloons cannot inflate in winds greater than 8mph)
7:30pm Jazz and more
9:00pm Market Place closes
Saturday, September 22
7:00am 5K and 10K Road Race
7:15am Hot air balloon flights
8:30am Race awards ceremony
11:00am Market Place open
11:00am Kids Zone opens
3:00pm Band on stage
5:00pm Margarita contest begins
6:00pm Band on stage
7:15pm Tethered balloon rides
9:00pm MarketPlace closes
Sunday, September 23
7:15am Hot air balloon flights begin
11:00am Market Place open
11:00am Food vendors open
11:00am Kids Zone opens
11:00am Local talent or band on stage
1:00pm Local talent or band on stage
3:00pm Band on stage
5:00pm MarketPlace closes
Make a weekend of it and reserve a room at one our Kissimmee hotels.  Star Island Resort, Comfort Inn Maingate, FantasyWorld Resort and Ramada Gateway are just a few of the hotel options available.   

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Fantasyland at Disney's Magic Kingdom Promises Interactive Fun

Disney World’s Fantasyland is bringing all-new ways to play to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando.  The new FantasyLand will be nearly double the size of its predecessor.  Opening in phases, the new Fantasyland will include:

Copyright 2012 The Walt Disney Company

Storybook Circus: Home to the Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction, Storybook Circus treats guests to an interactive queue that’s almost as much fun as the ride itself.  When guests arrive they will be given a circus ticket pager that will virtually hold their place and notify them when it’s their time to board Dumbo the Flying Elephant.  In the meantime, guests are invited to go under the Big Top, and play fun and interactive games.  A second Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction has also opened in the same area too, making it even easier to hop aboard everybody’s favorite elephant.  Both attractions and Storybook Circus are now open.

Barnstormer:  Guided by the Great Goofini, the daredevil roller coaster twists and turns high above Storybook Curse grounds and has a brand new look.  It is currently open.
Casey Jr. Roundhouse:  This circus-themed water play area is located adjacent to the new FantasyLand Train Station.  It’s a great place for the little tykes to cool off, with water splashing from creatures like monkeys, elephants and camels.  This new attraction is now open.
Under the Sea with Ariel.  Copyright 2012 The Walt Disney Co.
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid:  Join Ariel as you voyage under the sea.  All of Ariel’s friends, including Sebastian and King Triton, appear.  Opening Holidays 2012.
Enchanted Tales with Belle:  Journey into Maurice’s workshop for a captivating storytelling experience.  A magical mirror will transport guests to the Beast’s library where Belle and Lumiere share a classic “tale as old as time.”  Opening Holidays 2012.
Be Our Guest Restaurant:   The story of Beauty and the Beast comes to life at this elegant restaurant that is themed to be located in the mysterious west wing of Beast’s castle.  Visitors can experience French dining during quick service lunches and full-table service dining.  Belle’s Village will also feature Gaston’s Tavern and Bonjour Village Gifts.  Opening Holidays 2012.
Princess Fairytale Hall:  Aurora, Cinderella and Tiana host a royal court where they will greet other princesses.  Opening late 2013.
The Severn Dwarfs’ Mine Train: Climb aboard this roller coaster for an amusing musical ride through Seven Dwarfs mine.  Music from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be featured.  Opening 2014.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dine With Shamu Experience Returns to SeaWorld

The Dine with Shamu Experience has returned to SeaWorld Orlando.  During the experience, guests will have an up-close look at beautiful whales while enjoying a delicious meal.  They’ll get an incredible glimpse into the interactions that occur between our trainers and whales. They’ll find out what makes killer whales such unique animals. And, they’ll learn about the little things we all can do to help save valuable ocean resources and habitats by enjoying sustainable and natural foods.

The menu at Dining with Shamu consists of:
  • All-natural, grain-fed Black Angus strip loin
  • 100% natural cinnamon-cured roasted pork loin
  • Rosemary-glazed free range grilled chicken
  • Filet of cod (certified sustainable)
  • Seasonal sides including lemon butter herb roasted red potatoes, summer vegetable lo mein, cucumber salad, mixed green salad, summer fruit salad, and coconut Caribbean rice
  • Baked goods made fresh at SeaWorld
  • Signature desserts
  • Special kids’ buffet

A few changes have been made to Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld.  For instance, net barriers have been replaced with clear panels, allowing for better viewing.  The other is the trainers are not in the water with the animals.  Trainers do interact with the animals, though, as well as the diners. 
Dine with Shamu takes place at Shamu Stadium.  To make a reservation for the experience you will have to check-in at SeaWorld’s reservations centers at the entrance of the park or at Shamu Stadium.  The experience is not included with the purchase of SeaWorld tickets and costs an additional $49 for adults and $24 for children ages 3-9.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Star Wars Celebration VI Ultimate Fan Experience

Star Wars fans won’t want to miss the ultimate fan experience coming to Orlando this August.  For four days only Star Wars Celebration VI will bring fans of all ages together for an event featuring all things Star Wars.  From August 23-26, 2012, exhibits, an interactive floor show, screenings, exclusive merchandise, celebrity guests, panels, autograph sessions, fan-inspired activities and more will be available to fans.

Some of the spotlight guests already announced include Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Kevin Smith (Clerks), Anthony Daniels (C3PO), Seth Green (Robot Chicken) and Steve Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars director).  Numerous autograph sessions will be available, including those with make-up artists, stunt performers and the actors behind characters like Chewbacca, Nien Nunb, Boba Fett, Jedi Master Yoda, Anakin Skywalker and R2D2.  If you’d like to learn more behind-the-scenes information, a sound designer, visual effects artist, model maker and sculptor and effects artist will be on hand as well.  A costume pageant is being held the afternoons of Friday, August 24 and Saturday, August 25, planned for the Celebration Stage with celebrity host James Arnold Taylor. 
More is being added to the schedule of the Stars Wars Celebration Orlando daily.  If you’re interested in attending the biggest party dedicated to all things Star Wars, purchase tickets by clicking here.
Located at the Orlando Orange County Convention Center, the exhibition hall will be open from 10am-7pm August 23-26, with panels, screenings and special events continuing until 10pm or later.  Note the exhibit hall closes at 5pm on August 27.

Orlando Spas

Relax, rejuvenate and pamper yourself at one of Orlando's spectacular spas.  From one hour treatments to full day experiences, the spas in Orlando offer a full array of ways to feel fabulous.

Bella Vita Medi Spa & Salon
3200 S. Hiawassee Rd.
Suite 203
Orlando, FL 32835
View map of Bella Vita Medi Spa & Salon

Celebrity Day Spa at Star Island Resort
5000 Avenue of the Stars
Kissimmee, FL 34746
View map of Celebrity Day Spa at Star Island Resort

Eleuthera Spa and Salon at Bahama Bay Resort
400 Gran Bahama Blvd.
Davenport, FL 33837
View map of Eleuthera Spa and Salon at Bahama Bay Resort

917 West Fairbanks Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789
View map of Magnolias

Mandara Spa at Walt Disney World's Dolphin Hotel
1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd.
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
View map of Mandara Spa at Walt Disney World's Dolphin Hotel

Reflections Spa & Salon
8113 Resort Village Drive
Orlando, FL 32821
View map of Reflections Spa & Salon

Relache Spa at Gaylord Palms Resort
6000 W. Osceola Parkway
Kissimmee, FL 34746
View map of Relache Spa at Gaylord Palms Resort

Sanctuary Salon and Day Spa
8911 Conroy Windermere Rd.
Orlando, FL 32835
View map of Sanctuary Salon and Day Spa

Serenity Spa at Westgate Lakes Resort
10000 Turkey Lake Rd.
Orlando, FL 32819
View map of Serenity Spa at Westgate Lakes Resort

Shala Salon and Spa
9801 International Dr.
Orlando, FL 32819
View map of Shala Salon and Spa

The Spa LLC
1903 North Orange Ave.
Orlando, FL 32804
View map of The Spa LLC

The Spa at Buena Vista Palace
1900 Buena Vista Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
View map of The Spa at Buena Vista Palace

The Woodhouse Day Spa
8060 Via Dellagio Way
Orlando, FL 32819
View map of The Woodhouse Day Spa

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gaylord Palms Announces Dates for ICE 2012

It may be the middle of summer but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning your winter holiday vacation.  Orlando is a top Christmas vacation destination for a variety of reasons.  Orlando theme parks like DisneyWorld and Universal Orlando host festive celebrations, shopping in Orlando is superb and if you’re looking for a delicious holiday meal one of Orlando’s restaurants is sure to serve up a feast to please the finest palate. 

Of course, another highlight of the Orlando holiday season is ICE at Gaylord Palms.  ICE is an award-winning tradition at Gaylord Palms Orlando FL, with over 20,000 square-feet of frosty 9-degrees creating an enchanting winter wonderland. This year’s ICE will have hand-carved ice sculptures paying tribute to the Dreamworks classic Merry Madagascar. Five 30-foot ice slides and beautiful Christmas decorations make the event one families are sure to love. ICE at Gaylord Palms takes place November 10, 2012, through January 1, 2013.
Classic Christmas elements can also be found at ICE. An arctic forest, Christmas carnival with life-size carousel, ornament room, reindeer and a very special nativity made completely of clear ice add to the event. 
Reserve a room at Gaylord Palms Orlando for a fun-filled holiday experience unlike any other!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Upcoming August Events in Orlando

August 3:  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 $5 plus tax for adults.

August 5, 12, 19, 26:  Music at the Casa
Listen to live music and tour the Casa Feliz Historic Home on Sundays from 12-3pm. Bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful flower gardens. Children are welcome.

August 9:  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.

August 18-19:  18th 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 23-26:  Star Wars Celebration
Fans of all ages will be in attendance at the Star Wars Celebration to participate in panel discussions, exhibits, screenings, and autograph sessions. The event will be at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Individual adult passes start at $55, but multi-day passes are available. Tickets are available for purchase online

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Be Our Guest at the new Magic Kingdom Restaurant

Are you ready to be our guest?  Put our magic to the test?  At the new Be Our Guest Restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom you can do just that.  Be Our Guest will serve lunch and dinner, with quick service the theme for lunch and table service for dinner.  Lunch is set apart from other Disney quick service restaurants as visitors will order and then have the food delivered on china plates, creating an upscale feel to the midday meal.

Here’s a sneak peak at what the Be Our Guest Restaurant will look like:

Head chef Michael Deardorff has shared some his favorite items on the establishment’s menu, giving fans a sneak peak at that will be served at the eatery.  Simple, fresh ingredients bring delicious lunch and dinner foods to life, all with a French twist to keep in tune with the setting of the “Beauty and the Beast” movie, which inspired the restaurant.  A Croque Monsieur Sandwich with carved ham, Gruyere cheese, béchamel and pommes frites and a tuna Nicoise salad, grilled steak sandwich with garlic butter spread, braised pork and vegetable quiche were some of the items listed on the menu. 
Dinner selections at Be Our Guest continue the French bistro theme with main entrees like au gratin pasta, rotisserie rock hen with roasted fingerling potatoes, pan-seared salmon in leek fondue, grilled strip steak, sautéed shrimp and scallops with vegetables in puff pastry with creamy lobster sauce or oven-baked ratatouille listed on the menu.  Children can choose from Mickey meatloaf and whole grain macaroni, among other options.  For the full menu, click here.
A total of three dining rooms will seat a total of 550 people. With details such as the enchanted rose in the West Wing, snow effects in the Ballroom windows, and character-laden murals, guests will feel as if they’ve been transported inside the beloved film.
An opening date for this new Magic Kingdom restaurant is yet to be released but reservations can be made starting August 24. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Universal Orlando Announces Halloween Horror Nights Schedule

Universal Orlando Resort’s signature event – Halloween Horror Nights – has released dates and admission prices for Halloween Horror Nights 2012.  No theme has been announced yet, but as in years past, it is sure to be hauntingly good.  Last year’s event’s theme was 21 and invited guests to test their luck in houses and scare zones.

Tickets go on sale September 21.
The dates for the 22nd Annual Halloween Horror Nights are:
Sept. 21, 22, 27-30
Oct. 4-7, 11-14, 17-21, 24-28 & 31
Tickets prices start at $88.99 for a one night visit.  For more details about ticket prices, click here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Taste Your Way Around the World during Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

The 17th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival doesn’t begin until September 28 but we already have details on what is fresh at the 2012 event.  The culinary event is the highlight of the fall as Disney guests can taste their way around the world, listen to some of their favorite tunes during the Eat to the Beat Concert Series and attend culinary programs geared towards the foodie in all of us.  Purchase your Disney tickets today to enjoy all that available at this showcase of international delights.

Fresh things to do for 2012 include:
Marketplace Chef Tours:  Each Wednesday chefs will host a walking and tasting tour around World Showcase with stops at several international marketplaces.  The tour includes tasting of five marketplace dishes and five beverage items, like beer, wine and cocktails, and the chance to learn a few culinary secrets. 
New Festival Marketplaces:  Two new marketplaces add to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival this year.  Terra Marketplace offers vegan menu items and the Florida Marketplace serves modern twists on regional flavors.  In total, there are more than 25 ethnic and regional marketplaces. 
More Kid-Friendly Selections:  Newly crafted beverages and menu items are geared towards children and family dining with food items like cheese fondue and beef empanadas featured.
Activities returning to Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival include:
Eat to the Beat Concert Series:  Eighteen acts will appear during the concert series, including Smash Mouth, Javier Colon, Blue Traveler, Boyz II Men and Sister Hazel, among others.  For the complete Eat to the Beat Concert schedule, click the schedule link. 

HGTV Stars:  HGTV Design Stars will be making appearances ever Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during the festival and will focus on home entertaining. 

Celebrity Chefs:  Renowned chefs Robert Irvine and Rock Harper share their talents during culinary demonstrations, as well chefs such as Jamie Deen, Andrew Zimmern, Buddy Valastro, and Gale Gand.

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. 
Party for the Senses: Sample great food from famous chefs, 50 wines and beers and live entertainment.  Tasting events are scheduled for October 6, 13, 20 and November 3 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.  There will be around 12 dishes that will be completely new to the World Showcase Marketplace Booths this year.  Over the course of the Festival, there will be 1,200 beer and wine seminars scheduled with complimentary samples.

Be sure to pick up a complimentary Marketplace Discovery Passport so you can get it stamped at each marketplace visited.
Epcot admission grants you access to the Authentic Taste seminars, HGTV seminars, special book signings, Eat to the Beat Concert Series, cultural adventures and all the rides, entertainment and attractions available at the Epcot theme park. For some of the special dining experiences and seminars there is an additional cost. The festival lasts through November 12.