Thursday, March 29, 2007

Top 10 Defunct Disney World Attractions

1. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Despite an extensive “Save the Toad” campaign, Disney’s Magic Kingdom replaced Mr. Toad with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in 1998.

2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. One of the original attractions at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, 20,000 Leagues closed in 1994 and has been partially replaced by a Winnie the Pooh playground and Disney character meet & greet area.

3. If You Had Wings. Sponsored by Eastern Airlines, If You Had Wings was one of the few rides at Disney’s Magic Kingdom that rarely drew a line. It was replaced by If You Could Fly in 1987 and now Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin stands on the site.

4. Captain EO. A big-budget 3-D movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Captain EO starred Michael Jackson and Anjelica Huston. It closed down in 1994 and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience now stands on the site in Epcot’s Future World.

5. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. This thrilling attraction opened at the site of the former Mission to Mars in Tomorrowland in 1995. ExtraTERRORestrial gained a cult following but has since been replaced by Stitch’s Great Escape.

6. World of Motion. Sponsored by General Motors, World of Motion was one of Epcot’s original attractions. The ride offered a humorous look at the history of transportation and closed in 1996 to make way for Test Track.

7. Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Play It! Based on the hit ABC TV show, this Disney-MGM Studios attraction closed in 2006 along Mickey Avenue. A new, yet-unnamed attraction is scheduled to occupy the soundstage in the near future.

8. Plaza Swan Boats. Opened in 1973, the D-ticket Plaza Swan Boats embarked from two Magic Kingdom loading docks: one near the entrance to Tomorrowland and the other near the Plaza Restaurant. The Plaza Swan Boats stopped running in 1983.

9. Mickey Mouse Revue. One of the Magic Kingdom’s original attractions, Mickey Mouse Revue opened in Fantasyland in 1971 and featured an audio-animatronic orchestra of popular Disney characters singing such classics as “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee.” The Mickey Mouse Revue closed in 1980 and was shipped to Tokyo Disneyland. Mickey’s PhilharMagic now occupies the site.

10. Flight to the Moon. Hosted by Mr. Tom Morrow, this “state-of-the-art” Tomorrowland attraction opened on Christmas Eve, 1971 and became hopelessly outdated by 1975 when it was replaced by Mission to Mars. Stitch’s Great Escape now occupies the site.

HONORABLE MENTION: Horizons. This Epcot ride made its debut in 1983 and closed in 1999 to make way for Mission: SPACE. It has developed somewhat of a cult following over the years, although I remember it as a mediocre Future World attraction that dated very quickly.

Monday, February 26, 2007

50 Things You Didn't Know About Disney

Think you know everything about Walt Disney World Resort and its four world-class theme parks – Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Think again! Even the biggest Disney fanatic will be amused, intrigued or surprised by some of the 50 fascinating Disney World facts listed below . . .

1. Walt Disney World encompasses 30,500 acres, making it approximately the same size as San Francisco.

2. When Disney’s Magic Kingdom first opened its doors on October 1, 1971, adult admission cost $3.50.

3. The opening day crowd at Disney’s Magic Kingdom was approximately 10,000 guests.

4. The eight “E ticket” attractions at Disney’s Magic Kingdom were Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, Hall of Presidents, Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small World and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

5. The estimated annual attendance at Disney’s Magic Kingdom is 16.2 million, followed by Epcot with 9.9 million, Disney-MGM Studios with 8.6 million and Disney’s Animal Kingdom with 8.2 million.

6. Cinderella Castle is Disney’s tallest structure at 189 feet, followed by Space Mountain at 183 feet.

7. Both the Carousel of Progress and It’s A Small World made their debut at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.

8. The 180-foot-tall Spaceship Earth at the entrance to Epcot weighs approximately 16 million pounds.

9. The Haunted Mansion uses state-of-the-art Omnimover vehicles called “Doom Buggies.”

10. The jolly headhunter who shows up near the end of the Jungle Cruise is known as “Trader Sam.”

11. In conjunction with the 2006 release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men’s Chest, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disney’s Magic Kingdom was renovated to add several characters from the movie such as Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa.

12. The icon of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, The Tree of Life, stands 14 stories, features more than 300 animal carvings and is 50 feet wide.

13. Built in 1917, Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel in Fantasyland was once located at Olympic Park in Maplewood, New Jersey.

14. The Great Movie Ride at Disney-MGM Studios is housed in a replica of Mann’s Chinese Theater.

15. Astro Orbiter first opened in Tomorrowland in 1974 as Star Jets.

16. The Hall of Presidents had its origins as an audio-animatronic exhibition called “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” which premiered at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.

17. Originally known as the “Tropical Serenade,” the Tiki Room in Adventureland was once sponsored by Florida Citrus Growers.

18. The 60-foot-tall Swiss Family Treehouse in Adventureland weighs approximately 200 tons and is made of concrete and thousands of polyethylene leaves.

19. Cinderella Castle, the centerpiece of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, features 18 towers and 13 gargoyles.

20. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at Fantasyland is located on the site of the former Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

21. The “Spirits of America” statues in The American Adventure at Epcot represent Adventure, Compassion, Discovery, Freedom, Heritage, Independence, Individualism, Innovation, Knowledge, Pioneering, Self-Reliance and Tomorrow.

22. Towering four stories over DinoLand U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Dino-Sue is an exact replica of the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered.

23. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland features six trains: I.B. Hearty, I.M. Brave, I.M. Fearless, U.B. Bold, U.R. Daring and U.R. Courageous.

24. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster – Starring Aerosmith at Disney-MGM Studios launches you at a speed of 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds.

25. A swinging suspension bridge leads from Tom Sawyer Island to Fort Langhorne, which was named after Samuel Langhorne Clemens (better known as Mark Twain).

26. The replica of the Liberty Bell that can be found in the center of Liberty Square was built from the same authentic cast as the original in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

27. The exit to Haunted Mansion features crypts with humorous names inscribed such as I.M. Ready, Rustin Peese, Pearl E. Gates, Manny Festation, Dustin T. Dust and Asher T. Ashes.

28. The Walt Disney World Railroad, which serves approximately 1.5-million passengers annually, is an authentic 1928 steam-powered train.

29. The Mission: SPACE thrill ride at Epcot is so authentic that motion sickness bags are available just in case of emergency.

30. Mickey’s Toontown Fair was once known as both Mickey’s Birthdayland and Mickey’s Starland.

31. Sonny Eclipse, an “intergalactic lounge singer,” performs daily at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Tomorrowland.

32. In order to rank as a “Galactic Hero” at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, you must score 900,000 to 999,999 points.

33. The audio-animatronic dog in the Carousel of Progress is named “Rover.”

34. Astronauts Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper and Jim Irwin were present at the grand opening of Space Mountain in 1975.

35. Stitch’s Great Escape in Tomorrowland lies at the former site of ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, which closed in 2003.

36. One of the original attractions at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland Indy Speedway was once known as Grand Prix Raceway.

37. Recently renamed The Seas with Nemo & Friends, The Living Seas pavilion opened at Epcot in 1986 and was originally sponsored by United Technologies.

38. “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” a 3-D film at Epcot, is located in Future World at the former site of “Captain EO,” another 3-D adventure that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starred Michael Jackson and Anjelica Huston.

39. Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus was the first champion at the Walt Disney World Open Invitational, which made its debut in 1971.

40. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority was originally called the WEDway People Mover (WED standing for Walter Elias Disney).

41. Disney’s Magic Kingdom, which encompasses approximately 107 acres, is itself larger than Disneyland, which only covers 80 acres in Anaheim, California.

42. The design of Main Street U.S.A. was loosely based on Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri.

43. The Swiss Family Treehouse is of the species Disneyodendron eximus or “Out-of-the-Ordinary Disney Tree.”

44. The 189-foot-tall water tower icon at Disney-MGM Studios is known as the “Earffel Tower.”

45. Jungle Cruise riverboats include Amazon Annie, Bomokandi Bertha, Congo Connie, Ganges Gertie, Irrawaddy Irma, Kwango Kate, Mongala Millie, Nile Nelly, Orinoco Ida, Rutshuru Ruby, Sankuru Sadie, Senegel Sal, Ucvali Lolly, Volta Val, Wamba Wanda and Zambesi Zelda.

46. Splash Mountain in Adventureland features a five-story, free-fall plunge at a 45-degree angle into a splash pool at a speed of 40 miles per hour.

47. The 8,500-acre Disney Wilderness Preserve, which lies 15 miles South of Disney World, features a Conservation Learning Center and hiking trails.

48. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is located at the former site of If You Had Wings in Tomorrowland.

49. The three “talking heads” who introduce the Country Bears Jamboree are named Buff, Max and Melvin.

50. Approximately 46 million people visit Walt Disney World – including Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney – annually.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Classic Attractions Still Thrive in Orlando

Many great (and not-so-great!) Central Florida attractions have come and gone over the years such as Circus World, Boardwalk and Baseball, Jungleland Zoo, King Henry’s Feast, Mystery Fun House, Splendid China, Stars Hall of Fame, Terror on Church Street, The Guinness World Records Experience, Wings & Wheels Museum, Xanadu: Home of the Future, Skull Kingdom and Hard Rock Vault, among others.

However, a couple of classic attractions that were around well before Walt Disney World celebrated its grand opening in 1971 have stood the test of time and continue to attract new generations of visitors. For example, Gatorland is a 110-acre wildlife preserve and theme park that first opened its doors in 1949. Despite suffering a massive fire in November 2006, Gatorland has already reopened and today features fascinating live shows such as the world-famous Gator Jumparoo and Jungle Crocs of the World, as well as reptile habitats, nature walk, boardwalk, aviary, petting zoo, train ride and much more. Known as “The Alligator Capital of the World,” Gatorland is located at 14501 South Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando and open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Another classic roadside attraction, Jungle Adventures, first opened in the 1960s as Gator Jungle. A 20-acre wildlife sanctuary, Jungle Adventures offers live wildlife shows, animal habitats, a Native American Village and jungle cruise. Open daily from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM, Jungle Adventures lies approximately 17 miles East of Orlando in the town of Christmas at 26205 East State Road 50.

Near downtown Orlando lies another gem, the beautiful Harry P. Leu Gardens, which were donated to the City of Orlando in 1961. The Harry P. Leu Gardens boast Florida’s largest formal rose garden and the country’s largest collection of Camellias, as well as 50 acres of tropical plants and ancient oaks. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the restored 19th-century Leu home is now a museum. The Harry P. Leu Gardens at 1920 North Forest Avenue are open from 9 AM to 5 PM daily.

Citrus Tower, which first opened in July 1956, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Visitors to the Citrus Tower are still welcome to ride an elevator 226 feet to an observation deck for spectacular views of the Clermont countryside (however, today you are more likely to see sprawling suburbs than citrus trees!). Open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM, the Citrus Tower at 141 North Highway 27 also features a gift shop and Mexican eatery.

Glass-bottom boats have been cruising along Silver Springs near Ocala since the 1870s. In addition to its world-famous glass bottom boats, Silver Springs today features live shows, animal habitats, botanical gardens, attractions and rides. Billed as “Florida’s Original Theme Park,” Silver Springs is located at 5656 Silver Spring Boulevard in Silver Springs and open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.

Another great day trip from Orlando is Cypress Gardens Adventure Park, which opened in 1936 as Florida’s first theme park. Cypress Gardens is located in Winter Haven, which lies about an hour Southwest of Orlando. In addition to amazing water-ski shows, Cypress Gardens features thrill rides, kiddie rides and attractions, live shows, botanical gardens and live concerts at the Star Haven Amphitheater, as well as the adjacent Splash Island Water Park. Cypress Gardens is located at 6000 Cypress Gardens Boulevard and open daily at 10 AM.

“Each of these classic Central Florida attractions make the perfect day trip after you’ve already visited Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando,” said Kyle Collins, Director of Interactive Marketing for “And by purchasing discount attraction tickets before you arrive in Orlando, you and your family can enjoy substantial savings on your vacation getaway.”

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Lights, Camera, Action! On Location in Orlando

Although Central Florida has never quite lived up to its reputation as “Hollywood East,” many classic – and some extremely medicore – movies have been shot in the Orlando area over the years. The brief list below highlights some of the more notable films that were partly or wholly shot in Central Florida, as well as one cult movie that boasts a significant connection to the Orlando area:

Parenthood [1989] – Directed by Ron Howard, Parenthood starred Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Tom Hulce, Joaquin Phoenix, Dianne Wiest and Keanu Reeves. Although this comedy/drama dealt with the trials and tribulations of a “Midwestern” family, many scenes were shot in Central Florida, including Orlando, College Park and Altamonte Springs. The birthday scene was shot at the now-defunct Mystery Fun House across from Universal Orlando.

Lethal Weapon 3 [1992] – The building that gets blown up in the opening sequence of the film is actually the old Orlando City Hall building, which had been scheduled for demolition anyway. The rest of Lethal Weapon 3 was filmed elsewhere.

Trekkies [1997] – This hilarious documentary on obsessive Star Trek fans profiled a Central Florida dentist, Dr. Denis Bourguignon, who had opened a “Starbase Dental” office full of Star Trek memorabilia and whose staff wore Star Trek uniforms.

The Blair Witch Project [1998] – Although this incredibly successful independent movie was filmed entirely in Maryland, its director and cast all graduated from the University of Central Florida (UCF). Made for about $35,000, The Blair Witch Project eventually grossed nearly $250 million worldwide.

The Waterboy [1998] – The “Bourbon Bowl” game at the end of the movie was filmed at the Citrus Bowl in downtown Orlando. Many of the extras in the scene were UCF students. The Waterboy starred Adam Sandler as “Robert ‘Bobby’ Boucher Jr.,” as well as Kathy Bates and Henry Winkler.

Instinct [1999] - This mediocre thriller, which starred Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr., features scenes shot in Winter Park and Valencia Community College.

Monster [2003] – Charlize Theron captured an Oscar as “Best Actress” for her portrayal of prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was executed for a notorious killing spree during the 1980s. Monster, which also starred Christina Ricci and Bruce Dern, was shot entirely in Central Florida.

Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector [2006] - Larry the Cable Guy (real name: Dan Whitney) resides in Sanford, Florida, and his film debut was shot entirely on location in Orlando. Judging by the myriad of negative reviews, critics seemed decidedly underwhelmed by Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector and a sequel appears unlikely.

Other movies that feature scenes shot in Central Florida include Honky Tonk Freeway (1981), Jaws 3-D (1983), Stranger Than Paradise (1984), D.A.R.Y.L. (1985), Miami Connection (1986), Ernest Saves Christmas (1988), Days of Thunder (1990), Shakma (1990), My Girl (1991), Oscar (1991), Problem Child 2 (1991), Passenger 57 (1992), Dead Presidents (1995), The Walking Dead (1995), Rosewood (1997) and Olive Juice (2001).

In addition, before Disney closed its Central Florida animation studio at Disney-MGM Studios in 2003, a number of animated films were worked on there such as Mulan (1998), Lilo & Stitch (2002) and Brother Bear (2003), among others. The space is now occupied by an attraction called The Magic of Disney Animation, a behind-the-scenes look at the animation process.

“Disney-MGM Studios still maintains a backlot tram tour that takes you past movie sets and props, as well as Catastrophe Canyon, a showcase for state-of-the-art special effects,” said Kyle Collins, Director of Interactive Marketing for “In addition, both Disney-MGM Studios and Universal Studios feature a variety of rides and attractions based on popular movies such as Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Beauty & the Beast, Star Tours, The Great Movie Ride, Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black Alien Attack, Back to the Future the Ride and Twister . . . Ride it Out, among others.”

Central Florida is also home to the Florida Film Festival, a 10-day event in early April that features American independent films, foreign films, documentaries, regional and family films, animation, narrative films and midnight movies. Past attendees have included Dennis Hopper, Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy and Oliver Stone. The Florida Film Festival takes place at the Enzian Theater in Maitland.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

25 Great Ways to Save Money at Disney World

Believe it or not, you can live it up at Walt Disney World Resort – whether you plan on visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios or Disney’s Animal Kingdom – without making a huge dent in your wallet. By planning ahead, seeking out the best online deals and following the money-saving tips listed below, you can enjoy significant savings on your Disney World vacation getaway – without sacrificing any of your family’s comfort or enjoyment.

1. Seek out discount Disney World tickets, budget accommodations convenient to Disney attractions and individually tailored Disney vacation packages before you arrive in Orlando.

2. If possible, plan your Disney World trip during the off-season and you will usually discover significantly lower airfares and hotel/resort rates.

3. If you are staying at a Disney resort, take advantage of complimentary transportation to all Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney.

4. Some of the area factory outlet stores such as Orlando Premium Outlets sell Disney merchandise at significantly lower prices than you will find at stores within the Disney World theme parks.

5. Check out some of the free things to do at Disney World such as strolling around Disney’s Boardwalk and Downtown Disney, or hiking through the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

6. Take the family to one of the all-you-can-eat buffets that lie just outside Disney World property such as Bill Wong’s Famous Buffet, Sweet Tomatoes, Boston Lobster Feast, Golden Corral, Ponderosa, Sizzler, Captain Nemo’s Seafood Feast or Angel’s Lobster, Crab & Prime Rib Buffet.

7. If you don’t mind staying off Disney property, you will discover numerous budget motels and hotels (many of which provide complimentary transportation to Disney World theme parks) along Highway 192 in Kissimmee just East of the main entrance to Walt Disney World Resort.

8. Look for free publications such as I Love Orlando magazine, which contain a multitude of discount coupons to Disney area attractions, restaurants and specialty shops.

9. Before you book a hotel or motel, check if they offer guests a complimentary continental or full breakfast each morning.

10. Check out comprehensive online guides to Disney World such as Orlando, Florida Guide for in-depth information on Disney World discount tickets, accommodations and vacation packages.

11. For larger families, reunions or any other get-together at Disney World, it may make better financial sense to look into renting a vacation home, many of which offer enclosed garages, private backyard pools and washer/dryers.

12. If you are visiting one of the Disney World theme parks with young children, don’t forget to bring along a backpack with some snacks or juice boxes.

13. You don’t have to shell out big bucks to stay on Disney World property at one of Disney’s budget all-star resorts – Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s All Star Music Resort and Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort (all of which offer complimentary transportation to Disney theme parks and feature onsite food courts).

14. Instead of spending a fortune at a Disney character breakfast, take your kids to Town Square at Main Street, U.S.A. for autograph and photo opportunities with Disney characters.

15. Choose the appropriate Disney World ticket deal based on your family’s length of stay in Orlando and remember not to overdo things – you will want to schedule time for rest and relaxation during your trip.

16. If you choose to eat at the Disney World theme parks, try to make lunch your big meal of the day when prices are considerably lower than for dinner (especially at Epcot’s World Showcase).

17. Whenever you leave one of Disney World’s theme parks, make sure to get your hand stamped. Then after you rest awhile and enjoy a cheaper dinner off site, you can head back to the park after the crowds have thinned out.

18. You may want to schedule your Walt Disney World vacation around one of Disney’s highly acclaimed annual events and festivals, many of which are included with the price of admission such as the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, Star Wars Weekends, Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Festival of the Seasons, ABC Super Soap Weekend, Festival of the Masters and Holidays Around the World.

19. Carry your own water bottle into the Disney theme park and you can fill it up at any of the abundant water fountains throughout the day.

20. Establish a budget for Disney World souvenirs and stick to your budget (no matter how many cool gifts you see as you stroll through Epcot’s World Showcase!).

21. If you are an AAA or AARP member, take advantage of any special rates or discounts that are available during your Disney World vacation.

22. Many off-site hotels and motels with onsite restaurants offer “Kids Eat Free” deals (one child eats free per paying adult).

23. Purchase such necessities as film and sunscreen before you arrive at Disney World, since prices at the theme parks are more expensive for such items.

24. If you are staying at one of the Disney resorts, take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express, which provides complimentary shuttle service to and from the Orlando International Airport (reservations are required for Disney’s Magical Express).

25. If possible, try to avoid Disney World during holiday weekends and Spring Break when prices are higher and the theme parks are most crowded.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Super Bowl XLI Trivia: Colts vs. Bears

Below are some fascinating facts about Super Bowl XLI, the greatest spectacle in American sports, which will take place at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday, February 4, 2007, and feature the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Chicago Bears vs. the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Indianapolis Colts.

• Super Bowl XLI will be the ninth Super Bowl hosted in Miami since 1968 and the fourth Super Bowl to be played at 75,000-seat Dolphin Stadium.

• The Colts will make their first appearance in the Super Bowl since defeating the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 (as the Baltimore Colts) in Super Bowl V, which took place on January 17, 1971.

• The Bears return to the Super Bowl for the first time since crushing the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX, which took place on January 26, 1986.

• Before Super Bowl XLI, no African American coach had ever taken a team to the Super Bowl. Both Tony Dungy, the head coach of the Colts, and Lovie Smith, the head coach of the Bears, are African American.

• The official slogan for Super Bowl XLI is “One Game, One Dream.”

• The world-famous Cirque du Soleil circus troupe will provide pre-game entertainment at Super Bowl XLI.

• The “Piano Man” himself, Billy Joel, will sing the National Anthem for Super Bowl XLI.

• Legendary Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino will participate in the coin toss at the beginning of Super Bowl XLI.

• Prince is set to perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show, where he will be accompanied by Florida A&M University’s “Marching 100” Band.

• Hall of Fame football coach Don Shula will present the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the winning team at the conclusion of the game.

• An estimated 141 million TV viewers in the United States are expected to watch Super Bowl XLI, which also will be broadcast live in more than 230 countries and territories.

• Tiffany & Co. of New York has been commissioned to make the Vince Lombardi Trophy at a cost of $25,000 (while Super Bowl rings cost $5,000).

• Each player on the winning Super Bowl team will take home $73,000, while each player of the losing team will take home $38,000.

• Future Super Bowl sites include Arizona (2008), Tampa (2009) and Miami (2010). offers the best online deals for Miami vacations, including incredible deals on Miami hotels, discount Miami attraction tickets and individually tailored Miami vacation packages.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Orlando Teems With Animal Attractions

Take a safari adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, watch killer whales perform at SeaWorld Orlando, swim with bottlenose dolphins at Discovery Cove and witness the world-famous “Gator Jumparoo” at Gatorland. All of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and much more are available in Orlando – “The Vacation Capital of the World.”

Make Disney’s Animal Kingdom the first stop on your fun-filled tour of Central Florida animal attractions. In addition to live shows and thrill rides, Animal Kingdom is home to a variety of diverse animal habitats. Highlights of Animal Kingdom include Kilimanjaro Safaris, where you will ride in open-side safari jeeps through the Harambe Reserve to view African elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, lions, crocodiles, baboons and more; Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek, two walk-through attractions that allow you to view an abundance of wildlife; Affection Section, a petting zoo for kids; Flights of Wonder, an exotic bird show; and the walk-through Oasis Exhibits, which are full of exotic animal habitats.

Next on your itinerary should be SeaWorld Orlando, the home of the world-famous killer whale, Shamu, as well as great live shows such as Believe, Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island, Blue Horizons and Pets Ahoy! Animal habitats at SeaWorld Orlando include Dolphin Cove, Dolphin Nursery, Manatee Rescue, Pacific Point Preserve (California sea lions and harbor seals), Penguin Encounter, Shark Encounter, Stingray Lagoon and Turtle Point. Don’t miss the opportunity to view magnificent Clydesdale horses at the Clydesdale Hamlet next to the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center.

At Discovery Cove, SeaWorld Orlando’s sister theme park, you can interact with bottlenose dolphins, sharks, barracuda and stingrays, as well as snorkel through a colorful reef full of exotic fish. Note: Reservations are required for Discovery Cove. Other nearby animal attractions include Gatorland, known as the “Alligator Capital of the World”; Green Meadows Petting Farm, an interactive, two-hour guided tour of a working farm; NatureWorks at Orlando Science Center, which features alligators, snakes and turtles; and Reptile World Serpentarium, home to more than 50 species of snakes from around the world.

Seeking a day trip from Orlando? You can choose from several eclectic animal attractions that lie just an hour or so from Disney World such as Busch Gardens Africa, which is full of animal attractions, as well as thrill rides and live entertainment; Central Florida Zoological Park, a 100-acre zoo that lies in Sanford, North of downtown Orlando; Jungle Adventures, a 20-acre nature park and wildlife sanctuary; Brevard Zoo, which features approximately 500 animals that represent 130 different species; and Silver Springs, “Florida’s Original Theme Park,” which is home to unique live animal shows and habitats.

“The sheer variety of attractions throughout Central Florida makes it the ideal destination for family vacations,” said Kyle Collins, Director of Interactive Marketing for “And with a little research, you can find discount tickets as part of an Orlando vacation package that will allow you to enjoy incredible savings for your next vacation getaway.”

Orlando, Florida Guide, the most comprehensive online guide to Orlando and Walt Disney World, also features discount Disney World tickets, incredible deals on Orlando hotels and individually tailored Orlando vacation packages.

Orlando: A World-Class Golf Destination

With dozens of championship golf courses, Central Florida has evolved into a true golfer’s paradise. Whether you are a beginner who wants to take lessons at one of the area’s renowned golf academies or a more experienced golfer who seeks new challenges, you will find a golf course in the Orlando area to meet your specific needs.

Walt Disney World Resort itself boasts five championship golf courses: Osprey Ridge, Palm, Magnolia, Eagle Pines and Lake Buena Vista. Designed by legendary architect Tom Fazio, Osprey Ridge is arguably the most difficult course at Disney World. The Palm course has been rated 4 stars by Golf Digest. The Magnolia course is known for the abundance of beautiful Magnolias that line the fairways. Eagle Pines is a par-72, 18-hole course designed by Pete Dye. Opened in 1971, the par-72 Lake Buena Vista course features 6,819 yards of golf. Disney World also offers the nine-hole, par-36 Oak Trail golf course.

Plenty of championship-caliber golf courses lie just minutes from Walt Disney World Resort. For instance, the award-winning MetroWest Golf Club was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and offers a wide range of challenges, including numerous bunkers and plentiful water hazards, as well as expansive fairways. Celebration Golf Club, which lies just 5 minutes from Disney World, was also designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., along with his son Robert Trent Jones Jr. ChampionsGate Golf Resort boasts 36 holes of championship golf and is also home to the world-renowned David Leadbetter Golf Academy. Designed by Ron Garl and Howard Swan, the par-73 Eagle Creek Golf Club boasts five par 5 holes. The new Shingle Creek Golf Club has already received the “Greens of Distinction” award from Corporate & Incentive Travel magazine.

Two area courses, Grand Cypress Golf Club and The Golden Bear Club at Keene’s Pointe, were both designed by “The Golden Bear” himself, Jack Nicklaus. The award-winning Grand Cypress Golf Club features three nine-hole courses, as well as the 18-hole New Course. It is also home to the Grand Cypress Academy of Golf. Amenities at the Golden Bear Club at Keene’s Pointe include a 24,000-square-foot clubhouse, full-service restaurant, fully stocked pro shop and driving range.

Orlando also hosts several golf tournaments on the PGA tour such as the Arnold Palmer Invitational (formerly known as the Bay Hill Invitational) at Bay Hill Golf Club in March and the Walt Disney World Resort Classic (formerly known as the FUNAI Golf Classic) at Walt Disney World Resort’s Palm & Magnolia Courses in mid-October. Both of these immensely popular tournaments draw some of the top professional golfers in the world such as Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson.

“The presence of championship golf courses, along with world-class theme parks, makes Orlando the ideal destination for family vacations,” said Kyle Collins, Director of Interactive Marketing for “Visitors can choose from a variety of discount vacation packages that allow them to experience Disney World and also enjoy some quality time on the links during their stay.”

Orlando, Florida Guide, the most comprehensive online guide to Orlando and Walt Disney World, also features discount Disney World tickets, incredible deals on Orlando hotels and individually tailored Orlando vacation packages.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Thrill Rides Abound at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World’s four world-class theme parks – Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom – each boast not-to-be-missed thrill rides with names like Expedition Everest, Rock ‘n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Mission: SPACE, Test Track and Splash Mountain. Be sure to check height and medical restrictions that are listed at the entrance to each of Disney’s thrill rides.

One of the most popular new Orlando-area thrill rides, Expedition Everest, can be found in Asia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Expedition Everest, which towers nearly 200 feet high, is a thrilling train adventure through icy canyons and mountain caverns toward a terrifying encounter with the ferocious Yeti or abominable snowman. You must be at least 44 inches tall to ride Expedition Everest.

At Disney-MGM Studios, thrill seekers have their choice of Rock ‘n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, a classic indoor roller coaster that features classic songs from the legendary rock group; and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which features a scary, 13-story plummet aboard a faulty elevator within a decrepit, 199-foot-tall Hollywood hotel. You must be at least 48 inches tall to ride Rock ‘n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and 40 inches tall to ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Epcot is home to Mission: SPACE, which opened in 2003 and takes you on a simulated space flight to Mars (complete with motion sickness bags) at the “International Space Training Center.” Each member of the four-person crew is assigned a specific role – pilot, commander, navigator and engineer. Adjacent to Mission: SPACE lies Test Track, a six-passenger vehicle that cruises onto 50-degree banked curves at speeds up to 65 miles per hour. You must be at least 44 inches tall to ride Mission: SPACE and 40 inches tall to ride Test Track.

Space Mountain, the original thrill ride at Walt Disney World, still draws huge crowds in Tomorrowland. Two roller coaster tracks wind their way through the 183-foot mountain at speeds of 28 miles per hour in total darkness. You must be at least 44 inches tall to ride Space Mountain.

Two other classic thrill rides at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, lie within Frontierland. Splash Mountain takes you on a wild flume ride as you visit characters such as Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear and Brer Fox from Disney’s 1946 classic, Song of the South. However, the real highlight of Splash Mountain is the five-story free fall at a 45-degree angle into the splash pool below at 40 miles per hour. Adjacent to Splash Mountain lies Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a “runaway train” that winds its way through an Old West mining town around mountains, through caves and over sulfur pools. You must be at least 40 inches tall to ride both Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

“When you plan your itinerary around Disney’s popular thrill rides, make sure you take advantage of Disney’s FASTPASS, a free reservation system that will help you avoid long lines,” said Kyle Collins, Director of Interactive Marketing for “To use FASTPASS, simply visit the FASTPASS ticket machine at the entrance to the ride and insert your admission ticket. The FASTPASS ticket you receive will indicate a time frame that allows you to return later without waiting in line.”

Orlando, Florida Guide, the most comprehensive online guide to Orlando and Walt Disney World, also features discount Disney World tickets, incredible deals on Orlando hotels and individually tailored Orlando vacation packages.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What's New at Disney World for 2007

A magical lineup of new attractions, live entertainment and special events will make their debut at Walt Disney World Resort as part of Disney’s “Year of a Million Dreams” celebration, which lasts until December 31, 2007. To top it all off, Disney cast members will award “a million dreams” to guests selected through a random process daily during the “Disney Dreams Giveaway.”

New “Year of a Million Dreams” attractions at Disney World include Finding Nemo – The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot. Based on Disney’s animated classic, the Broadway-style Finding Nemo – The Musical boasts music, dance, acrobatics, puppetry and incredible animated backdrops. Finding Nemo – The Musical takes place at the state-of-the-art Theater in the Wild. The Sea with Nemo & Friends allows you to ride aboard a “clamobile” and revisit all of your favorite Finding Nemo characters, including Nemo, Dory, Marlin and Crush. The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion (formerly The Living Seas Pavilion) boasts a 5.7-million-gallon saltwater aquarium.

Other special events and attractions that will take place at Disney World during the “Year of a Million Dreams” include Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial (Adventureland), The Happily Ever After Party (Cinderella Castle), Woody’s Cowboy Camp (Frontierland), High School Musical Pep Rally (Tomorrowland), the Dream Along With Mickey stage show (Cinderella Castle), Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club (Tomorrowland) and Main Street Family Fun Day Parade (Main Street, U.S.A.).

In addition to the “Year of a Million Dreams,” Disney will introduce a new after-hours event for 2007, Disney’s Pirate & Princess Party, which enables children to dress up as their favorite princess or pirate and seek out royal beads and chocolate doubloons, explore pirate coves and take part in princess courts, as well as enjoy a variety of great activities throughout Disney’s Magic Kingdom such as Disney’s Enchanted Adventures Parade and the “Magic, Music and Mayhem” fireworks display.

Disney’s Pirate & Princess Party runs during select days during January, February and March from 7:30 PM to 12:30 AM. Advance ticket prices are $36.95 plus tax for ages 10 and over and $29.95 plus tax for ages 3 through 9.

Visitors to Downtown Disney will also notice some new changes and a few construction projects underway for 2007. One popular addition to Pleasure Island is Raglan Road, a lively Irish pub that features authentic Irish cuisine and four bars, as well as live Irish music and dance. Within The World of Disney Store at Downtown Disney Marketplace lies the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a “magical salon” that offers princess makeovers by “Fairy Godmothers-in-Training.” Finally, construction is scheduled to begin in late 2007 on the T-Rex Café, “A Prehistoric Family Adventure” that boasts life-size dinosaurs, waterfalls, geysers, a fossil dig site and much more. The T-Rex Café will be located next to the McDonald’s in Downtown Disney Marketplace.

“With Disney World’s constantly evolving entertainment options, it’s more important than ever to plan ahead and craft your itinerary so you will get the most out of your Disney vacation,” said Kyle Collins, Director of Interactive Marketing at “By seeking out discount Disney World theme park tickets, accommodations convenient to Disney attractions and individually tailored Disney vacation packages before you arrive in Orlando, you will enjoy significant savings when you treat the whole family to a once-in-a-lifetime getaway to Walt Disney World Resort.”

Orlando, Florida Guide, the most comprehensive online guide to Orlando and Walt Disney World, also features discount Disney World tickets, incredible deals on Orlando hotels and individually tailored Orlando vacation packages.