The award-winning Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, located one mile from Walt Disney World and close to other area theme parks, recently unveiled their renovated lagoon pool and enhanced recreation amenities for timeless family fun. It looks absolutely gorgeous and I hope to head over soon to check it out and report on it in person. In the meantime, here are some official details about their summer specials in celebration of their new renovations and more details on what’s been added:
Central Florida Family Entertainment
Tampa, Fla.– Busch Gardens® Tampa recently welcomed three lion cubs to the park, one male and two unrelated females. After a week long poll, 6,000 Busch Gardens Tampa Facebook fans voted to name the two lion cub sisters. The winning names for the three-month-old cubs are Shaba, meaning “brazen”, and Shtuko, meaning “twitch”.
Southwest and SeaWorld revealed the aircraft at a ceremony a few weeks ago at Orlando International Airport (MCO) with real penguins, Southwest and SeaWorld Employees, community members, and executives, including Southwest Airlines Chairman, President, and CEO Gary Kelly, and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment President and CEO, Jim Atchison. The plane, filled with Southwest and SeaWorld employees, will be making stops in two other SeaWorld cities, San Antonio and San Diego.
The partnership between the two companies dates back to 1988, which began when SeaWorld opened in San Antonio. Southwest and SeaWorld launched their partnership in a high-flying way—with the introduction of a new Boeing 737, Shamu® One!
The featured penguin species on the aircraft is a gentoo, one of the species found at SeaWorld Orlando’s new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin™. The attraction includes a first-of-its-kind family ride that transports guests into the penguins’ icy world.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment President and CEO, Jim Atchison, and Southwest Airlines Chairman, President, and CEO Gary Kelly christen the new aircraft, Penguin One, revealed earlier this morning.
SeaWorld Orlando penguin experts Jill Lewis and Sharon Jarvis brought actual penguins to the reveal of Penguin One, along with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment President and CEO, Jim Atchison, and Southwest Airlines Chairman, President, and CEO Gary Kelly.
New SeaWorld-themed fleet, Penguin One, made its debut this morning at Orlando International Airport in celebration of the 25-year partnership between SeaWorld and Southwest Airlines.
Penguin One takes off from Orlando International Airport and heads to San Antonio for more festivities.
Tampa, Fla. – Don’t wait until July Fourth to celebrate Independence Day. Get a head start on the Fourth of July festivities at Busch Gardens® Tampa.
Summer Nights lets guests celebrate the red, white and blue all day, and even after dark, all summer long with an energetic acrobatics show, live entertainment and much more.
And test your courage as you take on Busch Gardens’ world-class roller coasters in the dark, including Florida’s first triple-launch coaster Cheetah Hunt®.
Eighteen-month celebration kicks off on March 21, 2014 at all three SeaWorld parks
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ announces a multi-park celebration to commemorate a key event in the company’s history. The original SeaWorld® park opened its gates for the first time in March 1964 on Mission Bay in San Diego.
SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration will feature a Sea of Surprises™ starting March 21, 2014. SeaWorld parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio will share the excitement throughout an 18-month celebration that highlights some of the most memorable SeaWorld experiences.
For nearly five decades, SeaWorld has surprised and amazed guests with unique entertainment, thrilling rides and up-close encounters with marine animals. During SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration visitors will be invited to take part in the celebration through new interactive experiences, shows and pathway performances, even more up-close animal encounters throughout the park and the SeaWorld “Surprise Squad” treating guests with prizes every day.
Just a few weeks ago, SeaWorld Orlando opened Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin™, an all-new realm that combines 30-degree temperatures, upclose encounters with more than 250 penguins and an all-family adventure ride to create the coldest theme park attraction in Orlando and a thrilling, chilling experience of a lifetime.
SeaWorld Orlando will continue to make news later this year when the park announces what’s new for 2014. Details will be shared this fall.
SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration Sea of Surprises™ Highlights
SeaWorld San Diego will celebrate 50 years with a new interactive entrance plaza. The area will be called Explorer’s Reef™ and will open in March for the celebration kick-off. The 16-month construction project will transform the existing front gate area through sculptural and design elements inspired by waves crashing over a reef, as well as up-close encounters with marine life. The new front gate concept will replace existing ticket booths with a beach-themed, concierge-style ticketing area that will provide guests with a single location to purchase admission, as well as sign up for tours, animal interactions and dining experiences.
From the moment they enter the park, guests can connect with the sea through multiple touch pools featuring shark pups, stingrays and cleaner fish. Explorer’s Reef encompasses more than three acres, including new and innovative retail and culinary opportunities for guests. The multi-million dollar renovation effort will not only make entering the park faster and more efficient, but will significantly enhance the arrival experience.
- As part of SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration, there will be more surprise encounters with animal ambassadors throughout the day. A pair of Magellanic penguins, a lemur, or even a parade of flamingos could surprise guests at any moment at all three SeaWorld locations.
- What’s a celebration without surprises? The SeaWorld “Surprise Squad” will roam the SeaWorld parks giving away prizes and special gifts. Guests could receive exclusive access to rides or behind-the-scenes experiences, celebration t-shirts or Shamu-themed merchandise, reserved show seating and more.
- SeaWorld is known for amazing animal shows and each park will have something new for the 50th celebration. Even park pathways will come to life with spontaneous entertainment at unexpected moments, including performers with sea-inspired costumes and props, a bubble brigade and splash mob.
- To underscore SeaWorld’s commitment to the environment and passion for protecting the ocean, a series of giant sea life sculptures will be displayed throughout the parks. SeaWorld commissioned environmental art group Washed Ashore for the large-scale art created from ocean debris. The works serve as a reminder that our animal friends need healthy environments.
- As part of its continuing commitment to new technology that enhances the guest experience, SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration will include new ways for fans to connect to the parks and each other though digital devices. The parks will be launching a variety of enhancements, from interactive apps that provide fun new ways to experience the park to new games and video content.
For more information and continuing news about SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration and the Sea of Surprises, visit www.seaworld.com/celebration.
Celebrate Independence Day at SeaWorld® with a special Fourth of July extravaganza and even more Summer Nights fun next Thursday, July 4!
After seeing commercials and promotions for the ride attached to SeaWorld Orlando’s newest attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, I was quite excited to try out the new ride technology as well as visit the penguin habitat. I was unprepared for exactly how much theming has gone into this new area of SeaWorld Orlando. The story behind the area is that you are on an expedition to the South Pole, a place most people will never journey to, and you experience what the exploration would be like, as well as seeing things from the point of view of a newborn Gentoo penguin named Puck. When you first enter the Antarctica section, you see tall pine trees and soaring glaciers approaching. As you journey into the ride, more glaciers and icicles line your path and soon you enter an indoor queue full of colorful lighting as you wait for your penguin education to begin. In the pre-show area, you learn about the lives of penguins, and one family in particular, waiting for their egg to hatch so they can move on before a great storm approaches. This little hatching penguin is Puck. And as we enter the remainder of the pre-show area, it is Puck we are now following. We enter an enclosed room which you share with the rest of the riders for your vehicle. There we see Puck again and discover we will be following his journey. Similar to Turtle Trek, where you follow a particular turtle on his life journey, this animated portion of the attraction is full of cute, but dangers may lie ahead for little Puck.
**Below is a full ride-thru description, so if you don’t want any “ride spoilers” skip this next two paragraphs** Before entering this area, you decide if you want to ride “Wild” or “Mild”. Wild being the more accelerated, motion-enhanced version of the ride. Mild is just that, mild, with minimal spinning and motion. Once inside, your journey continues through a series of rooms full of brightly colored lights, icicles and other candy for the eyes. In these first two rooms, we are basically just experiencing the technology of the ride vehicle, dancing around other vehicles and exploring every aspect of the rooms. We then move on to a room with more of the animated sequences. Puck has grown and we are following him as he finds his way in the waters and ice of the South Pole. Our ride vehicle then “becomes” Puck in a sense, as we mimic his movements when he waddles and jumps. We then move on as another storm is approaching, and in this next scene, that danger I mentioned before shows up, in the form of a hungry seal. Puck makes it out okay, and as we see his is safe, the ride vehicles spin around to reveal the actual penguin habitat, full of 4 different species of penguins, frolicking, hopping, swimming, diving and waddling around their 30 degree enclosure. From there we move to the unloading area and get out to visit with the penguins in 3 different areas, including an underwater viewing area which is outside of the 30 degree enclosure.
According to SeaWorld spokespeople, the ride itself has many variations within the ride, promising a different adventure each time you ride. I rode it twice, and did notice a little variation within the vibrations of the ride vehicle and the way we entered the first room with the film was backwards vs. forwards the first time, so the possible changes are subtle (not a different ending or different movie on screen), but fun nonetheless. Bottom line, the ride itself is just a really fun way to get to the penguin exhibit. The ride technology is definitely fun to experience (for Disney buffs, similar to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in Tokyo Disneyland), and the colorful lights and penguin story are fun to look at. I do wonder if guests who just want to see the penguins without going on the ride will be able to enter through the exit to do so.
The penguin habitat itself is impressively put together, with no glass walls and very little separating guest from the penguins. As they swam by and flipped their little tails, we did get wet, which is cool – literally, with the 30 degree temperatures in the room! The most dramatic and for me, most fun to watch was actually the floor to ceiling underwater viewing area. Even though we are separated by glass, we can observe the penguins diving and floating and interacting. It was really enjoyable to see.
I’ll have more reviews coming up, including a video featuring SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment creative director Brian Morrow, details on the food and drink offerings, merchandise and more. Until then, enjoy this Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin photo gallery
Last week a brand new live music show premiered at Busch Gardens in Tampa. Madagascar Live: Operation Vacation brings all your favorite Madagascar characters to the stage, with original high-energy songs and dance numbers. The show is held in the Stanleyville Theatre, right near the Sheikra coaster. When we saw it, the theatre was filled with school groups, who were super excited about the show and really enjoyed it. The songs are catchy and you can’t help but want to get up and dance, no matter what your age. Of course, King Julien’s signature number “I Like to Move It, Move It” is played as well, which makes the crowd go WILD (pun intended).
“We are thrilled to partner with DreamWorks Animation to bring the hugely popular Madagascar characters to Busch Gardens,” said park President Jim Dean. “Both Busch Gardens and DreamWorks share a core the mission to provide quality entertainment to audiences. This show is certain to have families engaged and amused and will round out the triple play of amazing shows, thrilling rides and unique animal encounters that our park delivers.”
The lively stage show encourages families to sing, clap and dance along to original songs and party favorites on a 20-minute musical adventure. Singers, dancers and a live band join the rollicking Madagascar characters as they amp up the party to full throttle. And as part of each show, guests can meet the characters following the performance in Stanleyville Theater, which has been renovated and is now an enclosed and air-conditioned theater.
Here is a gallery of show images to get you excited. Be sure to add Busch Gardens to your summer “must-do” list this year!
Busch Gardens is fast becoming one of my favorite parks to just hang out in. I’m not a huge coaster person, but there is still so much to do here from animal habitats to shows to sky rides and train tours. It’s a great place to make a day trip over to, and don’t forget Adventure Island water park next door to cool off!
I recently got a sneak peek peak at the newest creation at LEGOLAND Florida, the World of Chima expansion. I loved seeing the plans for this new area of the park and the rides and characters who will fill this section. Today, the opening date was announced, here is the official press release:
An army of animal tribes from LEGOLAND® Florida’s newest expansion featuring interactive family fun, The World of Chima presented by Cartoon Network, invaded Central Florida today with an important announcement. The dozens of three-foot LEGO® models of characters from the new product line, LEGO® Legends of Chima, descended upon downtown Orlando and downtown Tampa, bearing tags announcing that the park’s The World of Chima attraction will open to the public on July 3.
Laval the Lion, Eris the Eagle and members of other Chima animal tribes are searching for the missing CHI, a powerful energy source needed to power LEGOLAND Florida’s newest attraction that was stolen by Cragger, the leader of the Crocodile tribe.
Soon fans can join The Quest for CHI to help Laval and his friends find the CHI needed to power The World of Chima presented by Cartoon Network by joining an interactive Facebook contest beginning May 27 at www.facebook.com/
This expansion will be one of the centerpieces of the new LEGO Chima brand, which already includes a major LEGO product line, a stunningly animated television series to air on Cartoon Network beginning in July and multiple interactive video games and apps. LEGOLAND Florida is the only place in the world that LEGO fans can go to unleash the power and be fully immersed in The World of Chima, providing an experience like no other.
The centerpiece of the new World of Chima at LEGOLAND Florida is an interactive, family-friendly water ride, The Quest for CHI. Guests will enter The World of Chima through a fantastical stone and moss covered entrance which leads to the Lion Temple at the base of the majestic 45-foot tall floating Mount Cavora. There, guests will explore a diverse landscape setting and join the Lion Tribe in an epic battle to recover the stolen CHI orbs. Guests will board a watercraft which will take them on an interactive experience using water cannons to help their hero, Laval the Lion Prince, defeat Cragger the Crocodile King as he attempts to steal the precious supply of CHI. The journey will take them through the land of Chima where they will meet some of the highly advanced animal tribal habitats, including the Rhino Quarry, Raven’s Roost, Eagle’s Nest, Wolves Encampment, Gorilla Forest and Crocodile Swamp among other imaginative settings.
The World of Chima also features a super-charged, super-fast SpeedorzTM Arena where multiple players build their LEGO Speedorz and compete to win the precious supply of CHI by participating in-group challenges and competing in a series of obstacles. Families can also enter Cragger’s Swamp, the Croc Tribe’s secret hideout, where they will find a lush green foggy swamp filled with playful bubbles, intermittent water spouts and interactive elements that trigger swamp water effects. A new 4D movie, the LEGO Chima 4D Movie Xperience, will further immerse families into The World of Chima by bringing the characters to life on the big screen. Kids will also get to meet their hero Laval the Lion Prince and Cragger the Crocodile King at daily character meet and greet sessions. Plus, with the largest supply of LEGO products in Central Florida, guests can find their favorite LEGO Legends of Chima sets and Speedorz.
For more information regarding The World of Chima presented by Cartoon Network and the more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, visit www.LEGOLAND.com. The best way to experience LEGOLAND Florida is with a Florida Resident Annual Pass for just $99 plus tax. Pass members will receive unlimited admission for 12 months to LEGOLAND Florida and the LEGOLAND Water Park along with other Merlin U.S. attractions including LEGOLAND California Resort & Water Park, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers, Sea Life Centers and Madame Tussauds with no blackout dates. The LEGOLAND Florida Resident Annual Pass also includes admission into special events throughout the year including Red, Brick & Boom, Brick-or-Treat, Christmas Bricktacular and Kid’s New Year’s Eve. Additionally, pass members will enjoy free parking and discounts on all food and merchandise throughout the year.
I’ve been a fan of the Nickelodeon Suites Hotel since it first opened (in fact, I stayed there while it was under construction waaay before Zannaland existed). I think the combination of a family suite with bunk beds and a separate adult bedroom, mixed with SO many fun activities and characters that kids know and love, is just perfect for any family visiting the Orlando area.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Nick Hotel’s new Bikini Bottom Breakfast and see their brand new 4-D movie experience featuring the whole SpongeBob gang. It was a super fun day and I can’t wait to take my kids back to see it first hand. The character breakfast is not your average breakfast with characters coming to the table and that’s it – here they dance, they sing, it’s action-packed and fun for all. The breakfast buffet and omelet station was a great complement to the fun.
The 4-D movie – The Great Jelly Rescue – was better than some I’ve seen in theme parks! The interactive “4-D” level of sights, smells, and action was spot on and the computer animated version of Bikini Bottom and its inhabitants were enjoyable for all. The Nickelodeon Suites Hotel has a bunch of new things for this summer:
- Make a splash at SpongeBob’s Bikini Bottom Breakfast. Hula your way to the breakfast buffet and hang out with SpongeBob SquarePants and some of your other favorite deep-sea dwellers. It’s high tide at the Nicktoons Cafe, so catch a wave and come on by! Check out the photos of the breakfast below:
- Discover Dora’s Friendship Fiesta as Dora takes us on an amazing adventure, exploring everything about friendship on our way to the Meet & Greet Fiesta. With Boots, Team Umizoomi’s Milli and Geo, and other friends, you’ll help find the way to this one of a kind celebration.
- Dive into SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D: The Great Jelly Rescue! The 4-D Attraction joins SpongeBob with his friends in tow on a rollicking adventure when the villainous Plankton abducts all the Jellyfish with his pollution-belching contraption. It is up to SpongeBob SquarePants to save the day, free the Jellyfish and destroy Plankton’s terrible machine. See how SpongeBob’s big heart puts him oceans above the rest! It’s all in digital 3-D with awesome 4-D effects like bubbly bubbles, windy wind and more sensory surprises.
There’s always something fun happening here, and I was really impressed with the property and especially the “mall” area with different food options (including dinner with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), an arcade and shops, the 4-D movie and of course, SLIME! Definitely add the Nick Hotel to your list of must-sees when you visit Orlando! Here are some photos of the suites:
You can find out much more about the Nickelodeon Suites Hotel, pricing, special packages and costs for the character meals, movies and Double Dare Challenge at NickHotel.com.
Disclosure: I was provided complementary breakfast and 4-D movie showing – my opinions are my own.