Summertime Is Underway At Disney Parks

minetrail118974LARGE-613x616May 27, 2014–
We just wrapped up the Rock Your Disney Side 24-hour event here at Disney Parks our big kick-off to summer!

There’s so much to see and do at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts this summer!!

At Walt Disney World Resort, the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens on May 28. The crowning jewel of New Fantasyland, the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom Park history, this new attraction takes guests on a rollicking musical ride into the mine “where a million diamonds shine.”

Also at Magic Kingdom Park, the new Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade features innovative parade floats, vibrant costumes and an original soundtrack that includes songs from favorite Disney films along with a new parade theme song.

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the popular “Festival of the Lion King” returns this summer in the new Harambe Theatre. The park will offer Harambe Nights on Saturday evenings, June 7 through August 9, featuring a dazzling theatrical experience and energetic street party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Disney’s film, “The Lion King.”

At the Disneyland Resort, guests can enjoy the newly reopened and enhanced Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, along with dazzling summer entertainment that, beginning in mid-June, will include “Frozen” characters in a special pre-parade float for Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. The pre-parade unit features Queen Elsa, Princess Anna and snowman Olaf.

Other summer entertainment in Disneyland includes daily performances of “Mickey and the Magical Map,” nightly performances of both “Fantasmic!” and “Magical” fireworks spectacular and a variety of new entertainment daily in Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree. At Disney California Adventure park, guests continue to enjoy Cars Land and the popular nighttime offerings, “World of Color” and Mad T Party.

By Deborah Fitts


Season Passholders Get Line Bypass At La Ronde

logo_laronde_frMario Beauregard-Montreal Quebec CanadaMay 27, 2014–Montreal,
Skipping the line during your next trip to the amusement park may be at your fingertips, literally.

La Ronde has introduced finger point scanners for season pass holders, which will allow amusement park goers to bypass the line at the entrance.

Jules Hebert, a spokesperson for La Ronde, said that the introduction of this program will provide season pass holders a better experience by allowing them to avoid long wait times.

However, despite claiming to allow entrance in only nine seconds, patrons are concerned about the security of their information.

Hebert explained that there is nothing to worry about.
“The system uses points on the finger that are then verified by a mathematical algorithm, instead of the whole fingerprint,” he told Global News.

Some are suggesting that La Ronde is arguing semantics and that “fingerpoints” and fingerprints are one in the same. But experts disagree.

Eric Talbot, the CEO of security company S.I.C Biometrics told the press that people shouldn’t be concerned about the information that La Ronde is taking.

“On an image like ‘fingerprints’, where you have 92,000 points and you just extract five, there is no concern,” he said.

“Everybody can have fun at La Ronde.”

La Ronde has said that worried pass holders will not be penalized for refusing to opt into the new initiative and they will still be able to use the standard identification card at the gate.

By Deborah Fitts

How Is Legoland Becoming Florida’s Must New See Attraction?

2014-05-26-Cardens3-thumbMay 27, 2014–
Back when our grandparents used to visit the Sunshine State, there was always one place that they had to visit. And that was Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida. Started back in 1936 by Dick Pope Sr. and his wife Julie, this 170-acre park quickly became world-famous for its lush botanical gardens & elaborate water skiing shows.

But with the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971, the center of gravity for Florida tourism suddenly shifted over to Orlando. And with fewer & fewer folks now willing to drive on out to Polk County to sample Cypress Gardens’ admittedly old-fashioned charms, the Sunshine State’s first commercial tourist theme park went through some tough financial straits. Beginning in the 1980s, Cypress Gardens changed hands multiple times, with each new owner not knowing quite what to do with the property.

Finally in January 2010, Merlin Entertainments the world’s second largest theme park and attraction operator purchased Cypress Gardens with the intent of turning this beautiful piece of lakeside property into Legoland Florida. Which caused a lot of folks around the United States to fret. Mostly because they believed that their grandparents’ favorite Florida vacation stop was about to disappear under a blizzard of plastic bricks.2014-05-26-Cardens2

“You have to understand that Merlin Entertainments knows the value of mixing the old with the new,” Jones explained during a recent phone call. “Take for example the Alton Towers Resort, our flagship property. We’ve got the Towers ruins right there inside of that theme park. The public is welcome to tour those ruins during daylight hours. And honestly, they’re one of the more popular attractions at this UK theme park.”

Well, Cypress Gardens wasn’t quite as far gone as the ruins at Alton Towers were when Adrian arrived in Winter Haven nearly four years ago. But it was clear that this 170-acre parcel needed some TLC ASAP.

“I mean, I remember when I was walking around the grounds for the first time. And I went down to take a look at the Florida state pool. Which is this outdoor pool that MGM had built back in the early 1950s, back when they were shooting an Esther Williams movie on location at Cypress Gardens,” Jones continued. “Well, by the time I got there, Esther was long gone but a trio of alligators had moved in. And it took us quite of a while to persuade those gators to vacate the premises.”

But even with how overgrown the botanical gardens had gotten and the general disrepair of the pathways & benches through the backmost part of the property, Adrian saw the obvious potential of the place. A theme park that he hoped could be turned into something that would only celebrate the Sunshine State’s past but also become a must-see attraction for the next generation of Florida tourists.

“And that is how Merlin Entertainments went about transforming Cypress Gardens into Legoland Florida. Wherever possible, we kept pieces of the previous version of this theme park things like the Island in the Sky and the water skiing show in place. While at the same time, we brought in this wide array of brand-new LEGO-based rides, shows and attractions. All to give Central Florida visitors a reason to drive on out to Lake Eloise and see all of the changes that we’d made to the place,” Jones said.

And the changes didn’t stop once Legoland Florida officially opened to the public on October 15, 2011. Merlin Entertainments made sure that every six months or so, something new was popping up at the park.

“It was all about striking just the right balance. For the parents & grandparents who’d been here previously, we wanted them to see & appreciate the various tributes to Cypress Gardens that we’d scattered around property. Things like those LEGO southern belles we have out by the gazebo. It took over 60,000 plastic bricks to replicate the exact look of those hoop-skirted dresses the Popes used to have their female employees wear,” Jones stated. “But for the younger members of the family, we also added things like our Star Wars Miniland in November of 2012 and the World of Chima in July of 2013.”

And that ongoing effort to mix the old with the new continues at Legoland Florida. For right on the heels of re-opening the newly restored Florida state pool & Oriental Gardens back in March, this past Friday, this theme park threw open the gates to DUPLO Valley. Which is a brand-new farm-themed area geared towards toddlers ages 2 to 5 years of age.

Of course, there’s still the matter of trying to persuade people who are vacationing in and around Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld to journey all the way out to Polk County to visit Legoland Florida. But Adrian believes that the two key pieces to that puzzle will click into place by the middle of 2015.

We’re going to start offering bus service that will take people from I-Drive straight out to Legoland Florida from the Orlando Eye complex,” Jones explained. “I think that transportation option will really appeal to Central Florida tourists who don’t relish the idea of taking their rental car out on I-4 and then trying to find their way back to Highway 27.”

Just about that same time, Legoland Florida expects to be opening its first on-site hotel. This four-story tall structure will feature 152 Lego-themed rooms. And once that multi-million project throws open its doors, Adrian is hoping that this will change the public’s perception of this Polk County attraction. That they’ll then stop thinking of Legoland Florida as a place that you visit for just a day and start thinking of it as a destination resort.

“We’re especially hopeful that international travelers those people who already know how much fun our other Legoland parks around the world are will, once the Legoland Hotel opens, will start using this resort as their base of operations during their next Central Florida vacation,” Jones continued. “And this LEGO-themed hotel along with its restaurant and its pool, will feature some spectacular views of Lake Eloise. And when people look out at that lake, they’ll understand exactly why the Popes chose this spot in Central Florida as the place to build Cypress Gardens.”

So as you can see over the past three years Merlin Entertainments has been taking a methodical approach to revamping the Sunshine State’s first commercial tourist theme park. Leaving just enough in place to please old Cypress Gardens fans while at the same time adding something new like some character meet-n-greets built around Warner Bros’ surprise smash, The LEGO Movie.

“But that just how we do things here in the LEGO world,” Jones laughed. “One brick at a time.”

By Deborah Fitts

Memorial Day At Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Was Busy, But Great

giantdipper1May 27, 2014–Santa Cruz,
On a busy Memorial Day weekend, warm weather and a three-day weekend combined to bring thousands flocking to the shore on a sun-baked but otherwise uneventful weekend. Santa Cruz lifeguards estimated that on Main Beach alone, 60,000 brought their towels, picnics and umbrellas, leaving no inch of beach unoccupied.

“A lot of businesses around here said this was the busiest Memorial Day they’ve seen,” said Capt. Josh Coleman of the Santa Cruz Fire Department’s marine safety division.

At the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Memorial Day kicks off a summer of daily operations through Labor Day. Lines for everything from the Giant Dipper to Dippin’ Dots were long.

“It was one of those perfect Boardwalk weekends where people are on the beach having fun and everyone’s on the Boardwalk, enjoying themselves,” Boardwalk spokesman Kris Reyes said. “People are excited. … It’s been great.”

Temperatures throughout the weekend were in the mid to upper-70s along the coast, and in the upper-80s in the mountains. By early afternoon, sheaths of morning fog burned off to reveal blazing blue skies.

Business was brisk at places like Cowell’s Beach Surf Shop. Even as the waves petered out through Monday, customers kept up the pace when it came to buying bathing suits and other merchandise.

“It’s been really busy,” employee Cece Lynch said.

At the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor, pleasure-boaters and fishermen made it out to sea and back Ok, Deputy Harbormaster Blake Anderson said. But the beaches were busy, he added, echoing a theme.

“It’s definitely record crowds for us,” Anderson said.

The California Highway Patrol arrested about 10 people for driving under the influence and attended to about 25 crashes on area roads, neither number being out of line for a holiday weekend, officer Jeff Lutz said. And with traffic mostly gridlocked throughout the weekend, none of the accidents had life-threatening injuries.

“Traffic coming down 17 into the city was backed up for most of the weekend. Same with Highway 1 because of the Blues Festival down in Aptos,” Lutz said.

Coleman said lifeguards were busy helping swimmers throughout the weekend, but there were no drownings or serious injuries. Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jed Wilson said there were only a few moments of peril, including a North Coast water rescue that ended well.

Mike DeMars, a spokesman for the Central Fire Protection District, said the biggest thing to happen all weekend was the agency raising $12,000 in a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

While Mother Nature was good to the tourists this holiday weekend, she also has a treat in store for locals: Over the next few days, temperatures are expected to rise even higher.

By Deborah Fitts

Port Royal Waterpark Resort & Conference Center Coming to Jasper, GA.

Port Royal 3May 27, 2014–Jasper, GA.
World Class Development Team Announces Plans to Develop $145 Million Resort in Jasper, Pickens County, Georgia.

Port Royal Holdings, LLC, a New York development firm whose principals include famed music and entertainment executive Mathew Knowles, held their first public meeting to unveil plans to develop Port Royal Resort, Jasper, Georgia.Port Royal 1

Over 400 enthusiastic guests, including government officials, local residents, civic leaders and business owners learned that Port Royal Resort will be the first North American, fully themed, year round, waterpark resort and conference center replicating the historic City of Port Royal, Jamaica – bringing the colorful Caribbean tropics to Georgia year round.

“Our business plan plots the course toward establishing Port Royal as the premier family and business leisure and convention destination in the Southeast as well as a local community hub and regional entertainment venue,” said Mathew Knowles, Chief Entertainment Officer.

Jasper Mayor John Weaver acknowledged the potential of Port Royal. “This project turns the switch back on to restart development in Pickens County,” said Weaver.

The new state-of-the-art waterpark resort and conference center will feature a 400-room, full service hotel with a day spa, two restaurants, indoor/outdoor lounges, sports bar and retail space, indoor and outdoor waterparks, family entertainment center, conference center, 16,000-seat amphitheater, artificial lake and lush gardens. The resort will be located on a 176-acre parcel of land along Highway 515 atop beautiful rolling hills in the City of Jasper, Pickens County, Georgia.

In addition to the waterparks, the resort will offer a number of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities and activities for families, as well as fully appointed executive meeting rooms and business facilities for corporate guests. The conference center’s flexible meeting rooms and banquet halls will accommodate business meetings and social gatherings of all sizes.

Damion Barrett, Chief of Development, added, “Port Royal, Jasper will set a new leisure industry standard and redefine the concept of a waterpark resort by providing a unique leisure and business guest experience.”

Operating Green
“We firmly believe that being a good steward of the earth is not only good for business, it’s also good for the community and our country,” said Timothy Smith, Port Royal Project Director. “Accordingly, our architectural firm is focused on using technologies designed to save energy and preserve resources. Moreover, construction and day-to-day operations are being designed for the lowest possible carbon footprint.”

Port Royal’s sustainability plan includes: local purchasing whenever possible; extensive day lighting; factory engineered components to reduce waste; a combination of permeable pavers, concrete and asphalt, bio swales and retention ponds for natural storm water drainage; low flow, energy efficient and solar powered fixtures; and no or low VOC carpeting, paints, adhesives, caulk and cleansers.

The new resort is estimated to cost $145 million, and within the first year create approximately 1,247 construction jobs, 395 permanent, full-time jobs, 600 permanent part-time jobs, generate approximately $11.9 million in additional county and state tax revenue, and an estimated $54 million of additional economic activity within the county, according to an independent economic impact study performed by Hotel & Leisure Advisers, LLC, a leading leisure industry consulting firm.

“These are significant job numbers and opportunities for a county with an estimated 15% unemployment rate, not including residents that have to commute outside of the county for employment,” said Eric S. Lund, COO of waterpark industry pioneer S & L Hospitality, LLC, and the former founder of the Great Wolf Lodge chain of waterparks, whose new firm will manage the Port Royal Resort’s day-to-day operations.

The development will be financed by a combination of developer and investor equity, debt and existing federal and state economic development programs the project is eligible for.

“This project would not have been possible without the City of Jasper and Pickens County’s hands on assistance, which was instrumental in developing the site,” said Barrett.

To fully articulate their vision, the developers have assembled a world class, globally recognized development team of leading local, national and international professionals that include: Architectural Design Consultants, Inc., Horizon Construction Group, Weber Group Inc., Aquatic Development Group, S&L Hospitality, Hotel & Leisure Advisers, LLC, Ross Consulting Engineers, P.C., and Acts of Creation, Inc.

The project is scheduled to break ground in 2014 and open in 2016.

By Deborah Fitts

Modelled On The ‘ London Eye ‘, The ‘ Kolkata Eye ‘ Coming Soon!

Modelled-on-the37235May 27, 2014–Kolkata,
Kolkata will soon have its ‘Kolkata Eye’ modelled on the ‘London Eye’, a giant ferris wheel, providing a magnificent view of the metropolis from a height of 120 metres.

The ‘Kolkata Eye’ will be constructed at Millennium Park on the bank of the River Hooghly, Urban Development ministry sources said.

“It will be an icon of the great city of Kolkata and will enrich the ongoing river-front beautification project,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

“This project, the first of its kind in size and magnitude in India, is already underway and is expected to be ready in a year’s time,” she said in a Facebook post.

The view of the skyline of metropolis from the ‘giant wheel’, she said, would be a tourist attraction. The contract was awarded on Wednesday to a UK-based company for the construction of the ‘Kolkata Eye’ for Rs 300 crore, the sources said.

It would have 36 air-conditioned capsules which would rotate slowly affording a wonderful view of the skyline.

The London Eye, standing 135 metre tall on the south bank of the River Thames in London was erected in 1999.

By Deborah Fitts

Wild Adventures Invites Military To Theme Park For Memorial Day

Wild+Adventures+logoMay 27, 2014–Valdosta, GA.,

“To come out and spend time with other military people away from the post and everything.. it’s good”, says Aaron Rogers, U.S. Army Veteran.

Veterans, active members of our military, and their families flocked to Wild Adventures Theme Park this weekend for their Memorial Day Celebration. The park offered free admission to all active, retired, disabled, and reservists on Sunday and Monday, and discounted tickets to family and friends.

“It’s just a small way that Wild Adventures can say thank you to all those folks that have given so much to our country”, says Laurie Windham, with Wild Adventures.

As part of the Wild Adventures Memorial Day Celebration, guests were invited to grab a piece of chalk on their way in and leave a message in honor of their favorite military member right at the front gate.

Rogers says he lost friends in Iraq and appreciates that Wild Adventures gives him… and other vets… the opportunity to spend time together on these important holidays.

“There aren’t really a lot of places that do a whole lot for the military, but it’s coming around a little more than what it used to be”, says Rogers.

Windham says guests were in for a special treat this weekend, as the park introduced many new shows, including Swifty Swine Racing pigs.

Windham says the Celebration comes with a new 7-day-a-week park schedule. It includes some evenings and other special events. For more information on the Wild Adventures summer and holiday schedules, visit Wild

By Deborah Fitts