June 27, 2017

Celebrate 2017 Sci-Fi 4th of July at Celebration Town Center near Walt Disney World


Our nation celebrates its birthday a week from today and if you’re looking for a place to celebrate with fellow Disney fans outside the theme parks, the town of Celebration is hosting its annual “A Sci-Fi 4th of July.”

Celebration is a master-planned community originally developed by The Walt Disney Company and located just off Walt Disney World property. It hosts free community events throughout the year in its Town Center, the downtown area that is a mix of retail shops, restaurants and offices.

This year, visitors are invited to come dressed as their favorite Sci-Fi or superhero characters for the chance to win prizes. There will be two categories for judging: those 15 and younger and those 16 and older. The costume contest takes place at 7 p.m.


A patriotic celebration begins at 9 p.m. with the singing of the national anthem by Gina Marie Inacandela and a synchronized fireworks spectacular set to a Sci-Fi themed soundtrack. (Fireworks are scheduled to end at 9:25 p.m.)

Celebration’s A Sci-Fi 4th of July will be hosted by Mark Daniel who also hosts "Inside Disney Parks" and the Disney Parks Blog LIVE Streams. The evening starts at 4 p.m. when DJ Tami begins performing. Katty Shack, known for its ‘80s covers, takes over from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and returns to the stage from 7:30 to 9 p.m. and 9:30 to 10 p.m. Also, don’t miss The Dixieland Jazz Band, made up of former members of the “Rosie O’Grady’s Good Time Band,” which will be performing patriotic favorites for the whole family to enjoy.

In addition, Celebration's Town Center will feature a KidZone with an assortment of inflatable games for kids and teens, such as a jousting area and bounce houses, face painting and more. And, of course, the shops and restaurants will be open for business. There are some wonderful places to dine, such as Cuban treasure the Columbia Restaurant, but for an inexpensive family meal, my family and I like the Market Street Cafe.

Admission and parking are free. There also will be a park-and-ride service from 215 Celebration Place that starts at 5 p.m. and runs through 11:30 p.m.

A Sci-Fi 4th of July is sponsored in part by Melia Suites Hotel, The Celebration Town Tavern, Axis Magazine and Sam Adams.

June 24, 2017

New Disney Dooney and Bourke, Vera Bradley, Harvey's purses debut for Summer 2017


Monday, June 26 is a big day for collectors of Disney designer purses and bags. Both Harvey’s Seatbeltbags and Vera Bradley will release new collections online. However, if you’re in the right place at the right time, you may be able to purchase pieces this weekend.

Vera Bradley has released a new Alice in Wonderland pattern "Painting the Roses Red" in various locations at Walt Disney World. The collection includes a tote ($175), tote ($165), small backpack ($140), crossbody ($130), mini hipster ($99), small leather wallet ($90), large wallet ($70) and scarf ($40).


If you’re not at Walt Disney World this weekend, the new Disney Parks Collection by Vera Bradley will be available on the Shop Disney Parks app on Monday.

Harvey’s Seatbeltbags are no longer sold in the parks, but the flagship store in California is having a release party today (Saturday, June 24) from 2 to 5 p.m. for its new Lilo & Stitch collection. Although the pieces and prices have not yet been revealed, photos posted on Harvey’s social media channels have given shoppers some sneak peeks.


So far, the company has unveiled a mini streamline tote with a Stitch face (so cute!); a tote, coin purse and park hopper backpack with black belts and a pattern of the Stitch character, hibiscus flowers and the word “Ohana”; a red-and-white foldover bag in the pattern on Lilo’s signature dress; and a purse charm with a tropical leaf, hibiscus flower, ukulele and the word “Ohana.”


If you can’t stop by the store, the collection will go on sale on the company’s website at 8 a.m. PT Monday, June 26. If you have your heart set on one of these bags, be sure you’re ready to shop at the start of the sale. Past Disney collections, such as 101 Dalmatians, Beauty and the Beast and The Nightmare Before Christmas, sold out within minutes.


Finally, Dooney & Bourke recently introduced two new patterns and has two more debuting in July. The Walk in the Park pattern, which currently is available in the Disney Parks and on the app, appears on three silhouettes: tote ($268), a Zip Satchel ($268), and a Crossbody Wallet ($178). Plus, there is a MagicBand in the same pattern that sells for $48. Last month, a special bag in a new shape – the Mini Barlow ($248) – was sold only to Walt Disney World and Disneyland annual passholders. It sold out quickly, largely because of the first-ever Annual Passholder hangtag. A Dooney Pirates pattern also can be found on three silhouettes available now. Look for the Satchel ($298), Crossbody Bag ($198) and Wallet ($158). The bags feature tassels, which is unusual for Disney Dooneys.


On July 22, the other two Disney Dooney & Bourke patterns will be released at a party at the Marketplace Co-Op in Disney Springs. (The Co-op opens at 10 a.m., but shoppers at other Dooney release parties have been known to line up hours beforehand.) Guests attending this launch party also will have the opportunity to meet Ian Ray, creative director for Dooney & Bourke, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. These collections also will be released at Disneyland on the same date.

One pattern features a large image of Princess Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog” on a tote bag ($268). The "Dream Big, Princess" collection also will have a Crossbody ($228) and a Foldover Crossbody ($178). The second Shopper Tote ($268) is part of a Madame Leota-themed collection inspired by the Haunted Mansion. This pattern also will come in a Lettercarrier ($198) and a Wristlet ($98).

After the store release, the new Dooney & Bourke bags will be available on the Shop Disney Parks app.

Are you excited about the new designer Disney bags? Tell us in the comments below.

June 21, 2017

SeaWorld Orlando's Aquatica to host World's Largest Swimming Lesson with Olympian Rowdy Gaines


It’s not too late to join the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, which will take place Thursday morning at Aquatica, SeaWorld Orlando’s water park. U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member and three-time Olympic gold-medal swimmer Ambrose “Rowdy” Gaines will lead the lesson and meet participants.

For the eighth consecutive year, SeaWorld Orlando and its guests will join together with hundreds of aquatic centers, pools and water parks around the globe to attempt to break the world record again. The World's Largest Swimming Lesson was created to draw attention to the fact that drowning is one of the top five causes of death for children between the ages 1 and 14 and to encourage participation in swimming lesson programs.

Event registration begins at 9 a.m. June 22 at the park’s Big Surf Shores wave pool. The swim lesson will take place from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Participants must have their own paid admission into the park and are asked to reserve their spots by emailing AquaticaReception@SeaWorld.com.


My son was a participant in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson at Aquatica two years ago. Although my son swims competitively and doesn’t need basic swim lessons, he wanted to see which skills were required for the 30-minute certified lesson for his age group, 10 and older. Among them were practicing swimming freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke; floating on his back; and streamlining off the wall. The “skill” he liked best, though, was jumping off the elevated side of Big Surf Shores pool, which is not allowed during normal operating hours at Aquatica. That year, 149 children took part.


My son also had the remarkable opportunity to interview Gaines about the importance of learning to swim early in life and how that shaped his life. As a native Floridian, Gaines grew up around water and learned to swim at a young age. However, he didn’t begin swimming competitively until he was 17 – after he tried out for five other sports. “Is there any other sport than swimming?” he asked. “I can’t think of anything!”


Still, he explained that learning to swim is more than just learning a sport, it is vital to children’s safety. He repeatedly said that as soon as kids learn to walk, they should learn to swim. SeaWorld’s press release states that research shows that if children don’t learn to swim before the third grade, they likely never will.

You can see my son’s interview with Gaines below:

Aquatica invited the public to sign up in advance for the attempt to set a new Guinness World Record and also allowed water-park visitors to sign up on the spot. Guests who did so received certificates and rubber bracelets for their efforts. Plus, their names were logged for the official entry should a record be broken.

DISCLAIMER: My son and I were guests of Aquatica for the World's Largest Swimming Lesson in 2015. This did not affect my story; my opinions are my own.

June 20, 2017

Pixar in a Box introduces students to filmmaking with free online lessons


If seeing Disney-Pixar’s “Cars 3” this weekend has renewed your sense of wonder about how Pixar consistently creates memorable stories, they have a cool way for you to find out! Pixar has partnered with educational service Khan Academy to explain – and teach -- the art of storytelling. Best of all, It’s online and it’s free so it’s widely available to everyone who is interested in filmmaking.

Pixar in a Box is a series of lessons taught by actual Pixar artists. The website states, “The goal of Pixar in a Box is to show you how the concepts that you learn in school are the same concepts that we use to tackle creative challenges at Pixar.” The concepts are ones that students typically learn in Grade 4 and above.


The lessons are broken down by topics, such as animation, character modeling, patterns and effects. These topics represent the fundamental steps Pixar uses to make movies, and students can explore them in any order they choose.

“Each topic in Pixar in a Box contains two lessons. The first lesson contains videos and fun interactives that will get you solving problems and creating things with tools, while showing you some of the connections to math, science, arts, and humanities. The second lesson gives you a deeper dive into the concepts in the first lesson,” according to the Pixar in a Box introduction.

For example, in the “Crowds” lesson, students learn that modeling a character takes a lot of time, so Pixar has created ways to populate crowds quickly that don’t involve drawing each individual from scratch. Doing so uses a modular approach and the mathematical principle of combinatorics.

Special effects are not just used in live-action films, either. When animators want to create water, smoke and fire effects, they have to rely on engineering to do so. Pixar uses the laws of physics as well as computer programming to produce them, and students of Pixar in a Box will learn how this is possible.

One of the really cool features about the Pixar in a Box program is that students can submit questions and get detailed answers from animators. In addition, at the end of each lesson, there are hands-on activities to extend the lessons.

Ready to get started? Create an account here to save your progress and then dive in!

Pixar in a Box is a multi-year project, and new lessons are expected every few months.


June 17, 2017

Disney Store locations nationwide host free 2017 Summer Play Days


With summer upon us, parents everywhere are searching for activities and entertainment to keep their little ones occupied without breaking the bank. Look no farther than your local mall to escape the heat and take advantage of quality, free programs for little ones.

Disney Store locations nationwide – including Orlando’s only retail site at Florida Mall – are again offering a summer’s worth of free daily activities and giveaways for kids ages 3 and older. Summer Play Days take place now through Aug. 9 and feature Story Time; Trivia; The Art of Drawing; and Showtime. These activities take place every day at 3 p.m.


During Story Time, each participating guest will receive a finger puppet to take the story home. For Trivia, players each will be given a set of Collector Cards, which can be used to play Character Counts and also fit together to form a poster when the participant has a full set.


Showtime invites kids to move along, dance, sing and become immersed in exciting worlds from Disney films and TV shows. This year’s stories include: Star Wars Adventures, Princess Gathering, Elena of Avalor, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron Training Academy, Zootopia Training Academy, and Mickey and the Roadster Racers.

Plus, on each Wednesday (and one special Saturday), kids who participate in that day’s Summer Play Day activities can collect free embroidered patches depicting different Disney characters. Characters from “Cars 3” – which hit theaters this weekend -- will be the first available this month. Many of the designs are based on the Disney Emoji series.

Here the patch distribution schedule:

June 10: Lightning McQueen
June 10: Mater (Disney Visa Card Member exclusive)
June 14: Cruz Ramirez
June 21: Pascal
June 28: Stormtrooper
July 5: Spider-Man
July 12: Jackson Storm
July 19: Olaf
July 26: BB-8
Aug. 2: Iron Man
Aug. 9: Stitch


Guests who have collected all of the character patches at the end of the summer will receive an exclusive Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse patch on Aug. 9 when they present their collection of 10 patches.


Participation in activities is required to receive a patch. Each session is limited to store capacity, and no line can be formed more than 30 minutes before the event.

The Disney Emoji collection can be found on a variety of products sold at Disney Stores, including swimwear and accessories, such as towels and flip flops; plush faces; pillows, mugs; T-shirts; water bottles; and customizable bags and aprons.


June 15, 2017

Pass member preview: SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken Unleashed virtual reality overlay


SeaWorld Orlando has just revamped its Kraken roller coaster to add a new dimension for riders – the 3D Virtual Reality option. The new Kraken Unleashed opens to the public tomorrow (June 16), but my 12-year-old daughter and husband rode during pass member previews. Here, I share their experience and what you can expect if you choose to ride.

For those not familiar with Virtual Reality coasters, guests ride an actual roller coaster while wearing a headset that gives the passenger a 3D show to watch that is synced to the movements of the attraction. Earpieces contribute to the story with synced noises and music.

SeaWorld’s Vice President of Theme Park Design Experience Brian Morrow described Kraken Unleashed’s story this way: “It’s going to take you into a new story told by SeaWorld of legendary sea creatures and exotic underwater environments like you’ve never seen before. When you put your headset on, you’re going to be in Sea Base. Our coaster station will be transformed into this environment digitally – 3D, 360 stereoscopic-sound-involving conversion experience. Once you leave the sea base, you dive into the ocean and we found there is seismic activity taking place. And we go take a look. We get sucked into a glowing crack and into a world we could not have imagined. … This is an action-packed cinematic coaster experience we are delivering.”


For my daughter and husband, Kraken Unleashed was their first experience with a Virtual Reality overlay on a roller coaster. They had previously ridden attractions with Virtual Reality, such as Sum of All Thrills at Epcot and Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride at DisneyQuest, but those experiences cannot exactly compare because they lack the G-forces of a coaster ride. However, both by daughter and my husband are quite familiar with Kraken and have ridden it often over the years because we are SeaWorld Orlando annual pass members.

So, what was Kraken Unleashed like?

Approaching the entrance, they first noticed that the Kraken sign has been updated to reflect the new name and the sculpture of the sea beast has been repainted different colors. Plus, the wait time clocks have been replaced with a single, large digital clock, which is much easier to read. Guests still are not permitted to bring bags on this ride, and lockers are available outside the entrance. They cost $1 initially and $2 for every subsequent hour.

Although the queue is the same queue, it has been repainted primarily in blue and yellow patterns and graphics to re-enforce the idea that the ride starts at a Sea Base. There are larger video screens throughout, as well. Visitors will notice that the Kraken Unleashed cars still have the overhead restraints, but now they have a box attached to the seatbelts for the storage of the headsets. Plus, handles have been added at seat level for new places to grip during the ride.

When you board the Kraken Unleashed cars, you will have a choice of whether you want to wear the Virtual Reality headset. If you do, your face must be free of any cuts or scrapes and if you wear glasses, they must be removed. (You can put them in a pocket or store them in bins next to the coaster.)


Once the headset is on, a team member will make sure it is tightened appropriately. (The headset remains tethered to the ride.) Although she didn’t need it, my daughter noted that there are additional settings to make the headsets fit younger children. Kids have to be at least 54 inches tall to ride. Riders also can adjust their view of the 3D graphics with a knob on top of the headset to prevent blurry vision.


And then they were off!

“I know the ride well, but after the first two elements, you lose track of where you are, so it instantly changes it from the coaster you knew to a very different experience [with the headset],” Morrow said.


Both my husband and my daughter agreed with Morrow. However, my daughter enjoyed the experience a lot more than my husband did. He said that even though the movement of the coaster matched the story, he still experienced motion sickness -- and he usually is not prone to motion sickness on roller coasters and simulators. My daughter enjoyed the new experience but said that she thinks roller coasters are more thrilling when you can actually anticipate and see where you are going.

On the straightaway into the station, passengers are asked to remove their headsets. Once the train is stopped, team members clean each headset before allowing a guest to exit. Clearly, this process adds to the loading time – and, in turn, the wait time – for Kraken Unleashed. That may be a deal-breaker for some guests. However, Morrow told members of the media at an event recently that SeaWorld Orlando will be introducing a new system to help visitors manage wait times.


June 13, 2017

Where to find and interact with Disney's Descendants 2 cast at 2017 D23 Expo


Disney Channel viewers are keenly aware that “Descendants 2” is set to premiere in just a little over a month on July 21, and fans who want to get close to the stars of the franchise about the wayward children of Disney’s villains should make plans to attend the D23 Expo.

The official Disney fan club, D23, is hosting its 2017 Expo at the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center from July 14 through 16, and the “Descendants 2” principal cast will be there. Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Sofia Carson, Booboo Stewart and Kenny Ortega are scheduled to take the stage on Friday, July 14. The quartet will reprise their roles as Mal (daughter of Maleficent), Carlos (son of Cruella de Vil), Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen) and Jay (son of Jafar), respectively, and Ortega returns as the director, executive producer and choreographer.


Since its debut, the original “Descendants” ranks as cable television’s fifth highest-rated movie of all-time. It only falls behind “High School Musical 2” as the most-watched movie on Disney Channel. As such, the sequel has been eagerly anticipated and Disney is premiering “Descendants 2” on five networks simultaneously – Disney Channel, Disney XD, ABC, Freeform and Lifetime.

Although it has not yet been officially confirmed, it’s also likely that the “Descendants 2” cast will take part in meet-and-greets with D23 Expo visitors. They did so at the last convention in 2015, and my daughter was thrilled to meet them. Stewart was not there but the other three actors couldn’t have been nicer, posing for selfies and photos. She will forever remember Boyce telling her that they were “freckle twins.”

Based on her experience, I would advise those who are interested in meeting such popular performers to be prepared for hours-long waits. We found that with most meet-and-greets at the expo, guests had to first stand in line to get wristbands. Then, those who secured wristbands had to wait in a separate line to actually meet the stars. And although that might not sound appealing to adults, to my then-11-year-old daughter, it was totally worth it.


In addition, the “Descendants 2” cast is likely to take part in a show on Radio Disney, which airs live from the convention. When my family and I attended in 2015, the Radio Disney booth was set up so that convention-goers could gather to watch or see the action as they passed by. Be sure to check the official 2017 D23 Expo schedule when it is released to confirm opportunities to interact with the “Descendants 2” cast.

We also saw the newest “Descendants” merchandise at the Disney Consumer Products booth, so I wouldn’t be surprised if attendees at the 2017 Expo had the same opportunity.

Tickets to D23 Expo 2017 are still available. Three-day tickets can be purchased for $238 for adults and $174 for children ages 3 to 9. Single-day tickets are sold out for Saturday but are available for Friday and Sunday and can be purchased for $81 for adults and $59 for children ages 3 to 9. D23: The Official Disney Fan Club members can purchase tickets at a discount. Visit d23expo.com for details.

Disney Channel is describing “Descendants 2” this way: “When the pressure to be royally perfect becomes too much for Mal, she returns to her rotten roots on the Isle of the Lost where her archenemy Uma, the daughter of Ursula from The Little Mermaid, has taken her spot as self-proclaimed queen of the run-down town. Uma, still resentful over not being selected by Ben to go to Auradon Prep with the other Villain Kids, stirs her pirate gang including Captain Hook's son Harry and Gaston's son Gil, to break the barrier between the Isle of the Lost and Auradon, and unleash all the villains imprisoned on the Isle once and for all.”

Kristin Chenoweth returns as Maleficent, too. Plus, newcomers Thomas Doherty (Harry, the son of Peter Pan's Captain Hook), China Anne McClain (Uma, daughter of The Little Mermaid's Ursula) and Dylan Playfair (son of Beauty and The Beast’s Gaston) join the cast.


June 10, 2017

Disney's Beauty and the Beast live-action remake available now for home viewing


Can Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” already be available for home viewing on discs and devices? It sure can! The movie was released in theaters in mid-March and less than three months later, we are able to own our own copies. I’m not complaining!

Like so many others, my children and I really were enchanted with the live-action remake, and my daughter was counting down the days until we could purchase it. (You can read my review of “Beauty and the Beast” here.) Our Blu-ray-DVD-digital HD copy came loaded with bonus features, including a sing-along version of the movie and many deleted scenes.


The Blu-ray-DVD-digital HD offers the most extensive package of extra content, including three ways to view the movie, supplemental material and deleted scenes. This version is bulging with bonus features! (The DVD-only package gives the audience a music video, while the digital-only version offers all the bonus content without the different modes of viewing.)

Here’s a look at the all-new supplemental features:

** Enchanted Table Read – Join the cast for the movie’s elaborately staged table read, complete with singing and dancing to live music, set pieces and more.

** A Beauty of a Tale – Explore the process of transforming a beloved animated film into a new live-action classic.

** The Women Behind Beauty and the Beast – Emma Watson introduces several of the talented women in all aspects of production who helped bring this enchanted tale to life.

** Making a Moment with Celine Dion – Celine Dion shares what it’s like to sing “How Does a Moment Last Forever” – and be a part of the legacy of “Beauty and the Beast.”

** From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences Making the Musical Sequences – See what goes into making some of the best-known moments from “Beauty and the Beast.”

The deleted scenes include:

** Introduction by Director Bill Condon — Director Bill Condon presents a collection of scenes that, for one reason or another, ended up on the cutting-room floor.

** Gaston Courts Belle — Pleased with himself after settling a disturbance with the townspeople, a triumphant Gaston attempts to woo Belle.

** Bread and Jam for Agathe — On her morning market rounds, Belle stops by to see Agathe, the village beggar woman.

** Storming the Ice Gates — The angry mob of villagers, led by Gaston, overwhelms the castle’s defenses.

** Lumière Torches LeFou — As the fight rages around them, LeFou scuffles with Plumette … until he experiences a sudden, extremely heated interruption.

** Monsieur Toilette — LeFou escapes from the brawl into a small room, where he’s startled by a castle resident.

** Cogsworth Rescues Lumière — When Clothilde the fishmonger threatens Lumière, Cogsworth leaps into the fray.

** Treacle the Lasses — Three village lasses chase Chip and Froufrou – Madame Garderobe’s dog-turned-footstool – into the kitchen, where a surprise awaits.

** LeFou and Monsieur Toilette Reunite — After the spell is broken and the castle residents are returned to human form, LeFou and his new acquaintance meet again.

Plus, enjoy these musical features:

** Extended Song: “Days in the Sun” – Learn more about Beast’s childhood in an alternate version of this beautiful song, introduced by director Bill Condon.

** “Beauty and the Beast” Music Video – Award-winning artists Ariana Grande and John Legend perform a moving version of this iconic song.

** Making the Music Video – Go on set to capture the magic as it happens in Ariana Grande and John Legend’s “Beauty and the Beast” music video.

** Disney Song Selection – Jump directly to all your favorite songs and sing along with the movie.
“How Does a Moment Last Forever” (Music Box)
“Belle” (Reprise)
“Be Our Guest”
“Days in the Sun”
“Something There”
“How Does a Moment Last Forever” (Montmartre)
“Beauty and the Beast”
“The Mob Sing”
“Beauty and the Beast” (Finale)

Will you be watching “Beauty and the Beast” again at home? Tell us about it in the comments below.


June 8, 2017

Where to find Cars characters at Disneyland and Walt Disney World


With Disney-Pixar’s “Cars 3” hitting theaters next week, fans of Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater may be wondering where they can meet the popular characters at Disney Parks. If that is a major consideration for your family vacation, then it’s time to head to the West Coast where Disneyland boasts the only Cars Land to be found in Disney Parks.


Quite frankly, even if the “Cars” characters aren’t your favorites, this collection of rides, restaurants and stores and more will wow you. That’s because stepping into Cars Land truly feels like you are stepping into Radiator Springs – and the canyons are breathtaking. My family and I visited Cars Land in Disney California Adventure for the first time in 2015 and just loved hanging out there. The signature attraction is Radiator Springs Racers, which could be compared to Test Track at Walt Disney World. The majestic red rocks that form the backdrop of the ride are a big part of what makes the area so immersive, and you can enjoy the view from many vantage points, including dining al fresco at Flo's V8 Café.


My family and I also really enjoyed stopping by the Cozy Cone Motel almost every day for a snack, usually a frozen drink or soft-serve ice cream, and soaking up the atmosphere. Plus, there are two other “Cars”-themed rides, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters. Be sure to allow plenty of time to visit Cars Land -- both during the day and at night. Seeing the area lighted at night is amazing and a totally different feel than the daytime experience. (You can read more of my family's tips here.)

If you are planning a visit to Walt Disney World this summer, your little ones still can find the beloved “Cars” characters, but the experience will be immersive in a different way.

Previously, children and adults could actually ride in Lightning McQueen at stock-car speeds at the Walt Disney World Speedway. My daughter did just that and you can read about her experience here. However, since that time, the racetrack has been torn down to make room for other projects. There also used to be meet-and-greets with “Cars” characters at Hollywood Studios, but those ended when large sections of that theme park were closed for the Star Wars and Toy Story lands construction.

So, where does that leave a “Cars” fan in Orlando? Turning the wheel and heading to the Art of Animation hotel. One entire section of this hotel is devoted to the “Cars” franchise, and there are life-size reproductions of many of the familiar places and faces outside.


Inside, if you choose to stay in the “Cars” suite, which sleeps six people, just about everywhere you look you will see “Cars” memorabilia. From the dining room table that converts to a Murphy bed to the traffic one lights to the black-and-white checkerboard floor, these suites will thrill any “Cars” fan. The “Cars” suites sleep six people and have a separate master bedroom, a kitchenette and two full bathrooms. There is a small pool located in this section of the hotel and it features the four traffic cones from the Cozy Cones motel. (Guests can choose to sit in lounge chairs inside the cones when they want shade.) The pool’s theme is reinforced with the building facades facing the pool painted like desert landscapes.


Although the suites and the pool are for the exclusive use of guests registered at the hotel, the restaurant and the hotel grounds are open to everyone – and there is enough to see and do to make it worth your while to stop by if you have a diehard “Cars” fan in your family.

First, little ones might get a thrill from having breakfast, which is served from 7 to 11 a.m., in the Landscape of Flavors quick-service restaurant. That’s because they can choose Cars-themed waffles for breakfast, something that is unique to this location. Usually, there also are sweets that depict “Cars” characters for sale, as well, if you don’t make it for breakfast and want a treat for your little one.


Afterward, take a walk outside through the “Cars” wing. Guests will see scenes from the movies, such as Luigi’s Casa Della Tires, Sarge’s Surplus Hut, Wheel Well Motel and Tow Mater’s Garage, come to life outside the buildings. They can take photos with life-size models of Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, Sally, Flo, Ramone, Sarge, Fillmore, Luigi, Guido and more. This is as close to a meet-and-greet with “Cars” characters thatyou will get at Walt Disney World right now. But who knows what will be added to promote the movie? “Cars 3” debuts in theaters on June 16.


June 7, 2017

SeaWorld Orlando pass members: Sign up now for extra summer perks


SeaWorld Orlando pass members should be receiving notices by mail and/or email about a host of summer offers just for them – and most are free! Many experiences require the pass member to reserve a space online, so if you’re interested, don’t delay because the events fill up quickly.

Beginning this week – June 8 to be exact – SeaWorld Orlando is hosting a pass member preview of its new Kraken Unleashed. Each pass member can register to bring a guest to the event, but he or she must have or pay separate admission into the park. The popular roller coaster will have a Virtual Reality overlay, and guests can choose whether to wear the headsets or not.


“It’s going to take you into a new story told by SeaWorld of legendary sea creatures and exotic underwater environments like you’ve never seen before,” said Brian Morrow, vice president of theme park design experience. “When you put your headset on, you’re going to be in Sea Base. Our coaster station will be transformed into this environment digitally – 3D, 360 stereoscopic-sound-involving conversion experience. Once you leave the sea base, you dive into the ocean and we found there is seismic activity taking place. And we go take a look. We get sucked into a glowing crack and into a world we could not have imagined. … This is an action-packed cinematic coaster experience we are delivering.”

Kraken Unleashed roller coaster opens to the public on June 16. If you miss the preview, pass members will be given early access to the ride on Tuesdays and Saturdays June 17 through Aug. 5 during the hour before the parks opens. (It’s not necessary to sign up for early entry.) Also, in July, pass members can register for one-time, front-of-the-line access to the ride.


SeaWorld Orlando’s new “Pop” bubble show starring world record holder and bubble master Fan Yang debuted over Memorial Day weekend in the Nautilus Theater. Pass members still have time to register for reserved seating, which is offered daily through June 16. Each pass member can register to bring a guest, but he or she must have or pay separate admission into the park.

“It is a show inspired by our natural world, a show inspired by the bubbles we find in the natural ocean – the bubbles we find in the froth and the foam at the shore, the bubbles a penguin can leave behind as it is diving through the water, the bubbles that dolphins and beluga whales actually blow, and even shapes like jellyfish and deep sea creatures,” said SeaWorld’s Steve Welch. “Those things were inspirational for us, and they are core and crucial to make this show a SeaWorld experience.”


Pass members also have the opportunity to sign up for reserved seating at Shamu’s Celebration: Light Up the Night. Part of the new nighttime Electric Ocean celebration, Light up the Night features orcas performing to high-energy music and a fireworks finale. (You can read my review of the show here.) Pass members can sign up online for one-time reserved seating at shows daily from June 17 through 30.

Other summer pass member benefits include:

** Celebrate Mako’s one-year anniversary with a one-time, front-of-the-line access to the ride and a ride photo for just $10. Sign up online.

** 1 free SeaWorld car magnet per pass member in July. Print receipt online and redeem in the park.

** Meet marine wildlife artist and conservationist Guy Harvey on June 24 and 25 in the park. Pass members can donate $5 to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and receive a dolphin-themed commemorative hard stock pass.

** The redesigned dolphin nursery is expected to reopen this month, and pass members will be given early access on Tuesdays and Saturdays, one hour prior to park opening.


Return to Blog Central