Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category

Gatorland Welcomes White Alligators with Florida Resident Discounts

Gatorland has announced they will soon be having some special guests visiting. Four white leucistic alligators will be appearing starting February 13th for a limited engagement at the reptile wildlife theme park.

These rare alligators are ivory white in color and have deep blue eyes. They are about 10 or so feet long and weigh over 500 pounds each.

These four reptiles were originally part of a group of seventeen babies discovered deep in the swamps of Louisiana. Most of the others didn’t survive, and experts are unsure if any others exist in the world.

To entice locals to check out the new albino-like guests, Gatorland is launching a Florida Residents special discount of only $9.99 a ticket per adult. Proof of residency is required and the promotion ends on February 28, 2009.

For more information, visit the Gatorland website.

SeaWorld Bud & BBQ 2009 Line-Up Announced

The annual Bud & BBQ festival kicks off at SeaWorld Orlando this weekend. The down-home-style event pairs country music with a barbeque buffet and ice-cold Budweiser for a series of Saturday concerts.

Here’s the line-up for this year’s fest:

Feb 07 – Blake Shelton
Feb 14 – Kenny Rogers
Feb 21 – Daryl Hall & John Oates
Feb 28 – Jason Aldean

Admission to the Bud & BBQ events are included with all SeaWorld tickets, Fun Cards and annual pass options. Food and drink are additional.

For more information, visit the Bud & BBQ website.

70 Jobs Cut at Universal Orlando

Following yesterday’s post about Disney’s voluntary lay-offs comes word via the Orlando Sentinel that Universal Orlando is also eliminating jobs.

From the OS:

Universal declined to identify the positions it eliminated. It described them as mostly management-level jobs, with some in administrative and support areas.

Yikes! For all that people gripe about tourists in Central Florida, this is proof positive that our local economy really needs them – now more than ever.

The park is set to open two new attractions within the next twelve months: “Hollywood, Rip, Ride, Rockit” roller coaster and “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” based on the famous literary wizard.

In related news, it appears that Universal has also started charging $3 for parking after 6pm in its garages. I can see where they might think that it’s a quick revenue source, but I wonder how that little nugget is affecting locals coming out to CityWalk at night for movies and entertainment. Not to mention they now have to pay employees to collect this extra toll all night, whereas before nobody manned the booths after 6pm.

SeaWorld Orlando to Increase Prices in 2009

SeaWorld Orlando will be raising ticket prices another $5 to $74.95 effective January 5th. In 2007 they raised prices in July and again in November. These prices held steady throughout the 2008 year. This price puts SeaWorld just 5 cents under a one-day one-park Disney or Universal Studios ticket who both raised their prices to $75 this past August.

For my family, the ability to convert your SeaWorld ticket into a year long pass for a little bit more still makes the price worthwhile for us, but we live here and can easily get the value out of that deal. I assume the bean counters at these organizations have run the numbers, but I would be curious to see how close the profit margin difference was for actually lowering prices to increase demand against this hike that may deter some locals. I think that’s where these price fluctuations have the biggest impact.

A family traveling here is not going to derail their plans for an extra $20 for the whole family. However, if you live here you may rethink that visit to the parks and go do something else more cost effective in the area. If you kid has a hankering to see sea life there’s a lot cheaper and even free ways to see a stingray, manatee or dolphin, that’s for sure. Add to that the hospitality house going the way of the do-do (I still think this is an unconfirmed rumor) and the “free beer” incentive is taken out of the value added column as well.

What do you think? Will these price increases keep you or any out of town relatives from checking out SeaWorld, or any other parks?

See Blue Man Group at a Discount

blue man groupYup, found another deal going on tickets. This time it’s on the Blue Man Group show over at Universal Orlando. I haven’t seen the Orlando version, but I have seen the Vegas version and I loved this show. It’s visually interesting, funny and I loved the interactive elements.

Through this Sunday (November 29), you can purchase Orchestra/Poncho area seats, which normally go for $74 for $54. That’s a $20 savings, which will at least get you a couple of drinks at the concessions stand.

To nab these tickets for shows through March 13, 2009, call 800-BLUEMAN (800-258-3626) or visit the theater box office at Universal CityWalk and mention the promotional code BLUEZOOUS. Blackout Dates for this offer are Nov. 24-30 & Dec. 22- Jan 1. The discount is also not valid for Friday and Saturday evening shows.

Last Call for Disney’s Pleasure Island

For those who haven’t heard the news, tonight is the last night for the clubs at Walt Disney World’s Pleasure Island. Even though last ditch attempts have been made by fans of venues like the Adventurer’s Club, Disney says they have plans for the space currently occupied by the clubs which include more dining and shopping options.

The Rock’n’Roll Beach Club was closed in February, but tonight is the last hurrah for Mannequins, 8-Trax, BET Sound Stage, Motion, the Comedy Warehouse and the Adventurer’s Club. To celebrate, PI is bringing back Frankie and the West End Boys for one last night to play the waterfront stage (since the West End stage was replaced several months ago by the new pedestrian bridge to the West Side of Downtown Disney). They will play four 45-minute sets at 7:30pm, 8:45pm, 10pm, and 11:15pm.

The Adventurer’s Club will also open early at 6pm with additional Library shows, as will the Comedy Warehouse with shows at 6:55pm, 8pm, 9:10pm, 10:25pm, 11:35pm and 12:45am.

It’s free to be on PI, so you can enjoy the waterfront and DJ entertainment outside. Individual club admission is $10 (plus tax) with a multi-club pass costing $20 (plus tax). Annual PI passes will still be valid this last night, too, and holders can then request a pro-rated refund for the balance. Or you can use that pass and trade it in for a special Universal Orlando CityWalk party pass good until next March.

Even though I haven’t been to PI much in recent years, it’s still sad to see Disney close it all down. When I first moved to Orlando thirteen years ago, I knew nobody and many of the friends I have today are ones I made by going out to PI the first few years I lived here. I also have many good memories of celebrating birthdays and other special occasions with friends there.

So, I think I’m gonna head out to say goodbye and maybe take some photos. Will I see any of you out there?

Two Annual Theme Park Fests Start Today

For who look forward to those fall fests at the area theme parks, two of the biggies start today.

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A trio of champagnesEpcot’s Food & Wine Fest starts today. It’s the 13th year of the festival which offers up samples of food and drink from around the world, and this year’s focus is on “culinary cities,” along with the state of Louisiana. You do need to buy a park admission or have an annual pass of some kind for Walt Disney World, but once inside, you can stroll the World Showcase in the back of the park and try food and drink native to countries and cities from around the world. Average samples will set you back $2 to $5 per item, so it’s an inexpensive way to try something you’ve never had before.

There’s also free seminars daily, which usually offer up samples (though the lines can be very long to get in to one, especially on weekends), and free nightly entertainment from nationally-known entertainers. This year’s fest kicks off with the sounds of ska-swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy tonight and tomorrow (Saturday) and continues over the weekend with Sheena Easton on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

For more info, visit the official Walt Disney World Food & Wine website.

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Universal OrlandoFor those that would rather be scared than wined and dined, Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights also starts tonight. It’s the 18th incarnation of the annual event and this year’s theme is Urban Legends, Fairy Tales & Myths, epitomized by the legend of Bloody Mary, who comes to life if you chant her name into a mirror. Universal says over 300 new characters were created for this year’s event, which runs September 26-27, October 2-5, 9-12, 16-19, 22-26 and October 29-November 1.

Separate park admission is required for Halloween Horror Nights, even if you have a Universal Orlando annual pass, but special Florida-resident discounts and multi-night passes are available. The event’s official website has all the details.

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Are you planning to go to one or both? Do you prefer one over the other? Let us know in comments.

Disney Free on Your Birthday in 2009

In a New York City ballroom on Sept. 18, 2008, Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo (pictured) announced that Disney Parks will welcome guests in 2009 with free theme park admission on their birthday.

LET THE CELEBRATION BEGIN: In a New York City ballroom on Sept. 18, 2008, Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo (pictured) announced that Disney Parks will welcome guests in 2009 with free theme park admission on their birthday.

In a stroke of genius that in hindsight makes me wonder, why haven’t they done this before, Disney announced they will be offering free admission for people on their birthday in 2009. What a great way to get people out to the park, especially locally. Hitting the parks on your “special day” is always on the list of possible activities for most any local resident, and this move probably just made up hundreds of thousands of people’s minds for what to do next year. No one goes to the park without dropping some cash on food and merchandise and likely won’t go alone. Further, they created a special reason to pull the trigger for tons of people on a rotating schedule every day of the calendar next year! That’s genius! Give the guy that got that idea off the ground over there a raise.

See the full press release here.

Disney and Universal Raise Ticket Prices Again

Yes, you read that heading correctly. Even in the midst of record high gas prices and nickle-and-dime tactics from airlines, two of the three major Orlando theme parks have decided this is a good time to raise prices on their admission tickets.

Walt Disney World was the first, raising its one-day, one-park pass price on Sunday to $75 (plus tax). Now word comes that Universal will also be raising their basic ticket to $75, starting today.

Now you can say that the $4 or so increase is minor, but for most people working minimum-wage type jobs, they now have to work 10-12 hours to afford to spend one day at the park.

To be fair, Florida residents can still save a bit by purchasing annual passes or special ticket combos, like WDW’s Play 3 or Play 4 day passes or Universal’s 1-day/2-park combo tickets. But one has to wonder if it’s a good idea to raise ticket prices when millions of families in the U.S. are already having their paycheck’s stretched thin with basics like housing costs, rising food bills and gas prices that are keeping many closer to home on their vacations.

At any rate, SeaWorld so far appears to be the lone hold-out, keeping prices at $69.95 for a single day ticket, with a $10 online discount for advance purchase. They also allow Florida residents to turn that ticket into a fun card good for admission through the end of the year for free.

How about it? How do you readers cope with the ticket prices of the area theme parks? Do you rely on friends to let you in? Do you have annual passes? Or do you just not bother going anymore? Let us know in comments.

Travel Channel Airs New Sam Brown in O-Town

Samantha Brown Passport to Great Weekends in Orlando [photo: The Travel Channel]Anyone who watches the Travel Channel on a regular basis knows who Samantha Brown is. Her “Passport to…” series generally gives a half-hour snapshot of a given locale with her visiting a cross-section of hotspots, tourist “must-sees” and the like.

Well, in February, Brown visited Orlando for a new show, called “Passport to Great Weekends.” The results of her visit aired last week on the Travel Channel when the Orlando episode premiered. Yeah, I missed it, too, but just watched it this weekend on TiVo.

Surprisingly, she visited some cool, more off-the-beaten path type of stuff – you know, the “non-theme-park” side of Orlando that everyone gripes the tourists never visit.

She based herself downtown at The Grand Bohemian Hotel, then visited Winter Park to take in the Saturday Farmer’s Market. She also got a little tipsy at The Wine Room and shoe shopped at Shou’ture Salon. She ate some soul food at Johnson’s Diner on Church St., spun her own hand-blown pint glass at Keila Glassworks at the CityArts Factory, then drank out of it later at NV on Pine. She rounded out the show by doing some indoor skydiving at SkyVenture, over by Universal Orlando.

Overall, I enjoyed the episode. Over at the Pulse of Central Florida, their biggest complaint was that it should have been an hour to include something other than the Winter Park area. I agree, that would have been nice (some suggestions: Lakeridge Winery on a festival weekend, Mt. Dora, more on the downtown area, etc.). But, considering she had 30 minutes (ok, probably closer to 20-25 after commercial breaks) to showcase the city beyond the theme parks, I think she picked some rather fun things for visitors to check out. And anything that encourages travelers to not only visit but explore Orlando is a good thing, imho.

According to a pre-show interview with Orlando Sentinel TV Critic Hal Boedeker, Brown said, “Being in Orlando and showing it in a light few outsiders see it in was so much fun, and after seven years of coming to Orlando to only do the theme parks, a real eye-opener. It’s a great city.”

Thanks Sam…I think so, too.

If you missed the episode and want to check it out for yourself, the Travel Channel has two more airings of it this week: Jul. 16 at 11pm (that’s tomorrow) and Jul. 17 at 11am (Thursday morning).

Those who want a little more in-depth on Brown’s visit can read her blog online about it at the Travel Channel. Her crew also blogged about the skydiving. There’s even a small “webisode” online about her kayaking in the area that didn’t make it into the show (unless I just missed it).

So I have two questions for you dear MB readers. Did you see the show and what did you think? Also, if Brown were to revisit for “Great Weekends” part 2, where would you suggest she go?

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