April 2006 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • Tourism Update
  • New Attractions at SeaWorld
  • Birnbaum's Walt Disney World Dining Guide 2006 Book review
  • KSC Shuttle Simulator Ride & NASA news
  • Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • April events
  • Weather forecast
April 2006 Florida Review & Travel Guide Newsletter

April 1, 2006

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State
Welcome to the April Newsletter

Hi subscriber, welcome to the April newsletter of the Florida Review & Travel Guide.

If you are visiting the USA this year, then watch out for the new colourful $10 bill.

In an attempt to stay ahead of the counterfeiters, the US Treasury are introducing $10 bills with shades of orange, red and yellow which will brighten up the plain green bills. These join the new $20 note introduced in 2003 and $50 note in 2004.

The $100 bill will get the new treatment in 2007 but there are no plans to update the $5 or $1 bills at this time. Read more about US currency and other useful practical information here.

Figures just released show that worldwide, the number of shark attacks went down to 58 with 4 fatalities. However, the number of attacks in the United States actually rose to 38, up from 30 in 2004.

Florida remains the US shark attack capital and the number of attacks in the State rose from 12 to 18. Despite these increases, they are well down on the peak numbers recorded in 2000 but sadly, one fatality was recorded in Florida in 2005 at Destin.

Manatee deaths over the winter month of January 2006 increased by a third on the previous year. All told some 396 manatees are known to have died during 2005. Despite the total population having risen to only 3,300, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWCC) Biological Review Panel are proposing that the manatee be taken off the "endangered" list and downgraded to the "threatened" list.

To learn more about Manatees and how you can help them, click here.

Tourism Update

Despite the terrible hurricane season in 2005, Florida continues to attract record numbers of visitors. Preliminary figures released, show that some 85.8 million people visited Florida in 2005, a 6 million (7.6 percent) increase on 2004. Of the nearly 86 million visitors, 79 million were from the USA and 2 million from Canada.

In line with the record number of visitors, there were a record number of fatalities on Florida's roads in 2005, up to 3515 from the previous record number of 3257 in 2004. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles think the increase is more due to the increase in the number of drivers rather than a fall in safety standards. So far this year, numbers are down. For advice on driving in Florida, click here.

New Attractions at SeaWorld

Following the launch of the "Blue Horizons" dolphin show last year, the Shamu killer whale show is now being revamped in May with a new show called "Believe" incorporating giant video screens all set to a musical score. The screens are linked to both above and below the water cameras so you will be able to see all the action from every angle.

In the children's Shamu's Happy Harbor adventure playground, three new attractions will open in the summer, namely an 800ft long family friendly roller coaster Shamu Express, a spinning tower ride featuring jellyfish and a teacup ride themed on beach buckets.

To read more about SeaWorld in Orlando, click here.

Book Review - Birnbaum's Walt Disney World Dining Guide 2006

Birnbaum's Walt Disney World Dining Guide 2006, ISBN 0786855509 is published by Disney Editions (October 5, 2005).

Birnbaum are the official Disney guide book publisher and like the other Birnbaum books, the Birnbaum's Walt Disney World Dining Guide is published annually.

It's compact size makes it easy to carry with you when you are in the parks.

The book is billed as the insiders guide to Disney dining style and every restaurant, lounge and bar at the four major Disney theme parks, Downtown Disney and the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels is separately described. Plus there are sections on all of the Disney character meals, dinner shows, clubs and lounges.

Every entry gives you details of where it is located, the kind of service available, an idea of the sort of menu and whether they serve snacks, breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is also a helpful rating of each restaurant according to a price band ranging from less than $10, $10-20, $21-45 and over $45 so you can budget in advance.

If you have purchased the Disney Dining Plan (a pre-paid meal plan that gives you one table service meal and one counter service meal each day), then the Birnbaum's Walt Disney World Dining Guide can help you plan your meals in advance no matter where you are in Walt Disney World.

To read the rest of this review and details of where you can buy this book, click here.

Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Simulator Ride & other NASA news

Over on the Space Coast, there is quite a lot of news from the Kennedy Space Center and NASA this month, some good, some not so good.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex have announced that a new $60m Shuttle Launch Experience ride will open in 2007 in a new purpose-built 44,000 sq ft building. This is a departure for the Visitor Complex, introducing a simulator thrill ride like those seen in Orlando. It is expected to seat around 40 guests and will simulate a shuttle mission from liftoff to orbit.

NASA has postponed the planned May launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-121 (ISS ULF1.1) because of faulty ECO sensors; the same problem that delayed Discovery's previous launch last year on 26th July. During tests one of the four sensors gave an unexpected reading so all four sensors are being replaced. A new launch date is set for July 1 through 19, nearly a year after the last shuttle mission.

On a happier note, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter made a successful insertion into Martian orbit on March 10 after blasting off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12 last year on top of an Atlas V rocket. The journey of 310 million miles (500 million kilometres) took nearly 7 months.

In a strange turn around, NASA announced on March 2 as part of a cost cutting exercise, the cancellation of the Dawn spacecraft mission to visit two large asteroids, Ceres and Vesta, in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Then on March 27, they re-instated the project but launch date has been put back until July 2007 with the spacecraft not expected to arrive at the asteroids until 2011.

To read more about NASA and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, click here.

In nearby Titusville, the Space Walk of Fame museum at the Searstown Mall has announced it may have to close in June if it cannot find the money to pay the large increase in monthly rent.

The museum is open from 11 am Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 pm on Sunday and houses a number of memorabilia from the early days of the space race including Alan Shepard's flight-countdown manual from the first American in space in Freedom 7, early Command-station consoles from Complex 36A at Cape Canaveral and Gus Grissom's Gemini 3 recovery suit.

Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

As you approach the Himalayan village of Serka Zong in Disney's Animal Kingdom, you see signs saying "Beware the Yeti" everywhere. The long awaited official opening of "Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain" is planned for April 7 but the ride has been open on and off since February.

It is estimated to have cost some $100m to build, that's $0.5m for each foot of the nearly 200 ft Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in Florida !!

Expedition Everest is a roller coaster ride which Disney are promoting as a "runaway train adventure family thrill ride" and it is hoped it will attract teenagers and young adults who may be less interested in the rest of the park.

The ride lasts just under 3 minutes and takes you on an old supply train heading for the Mount Everest base camp in the Himalayas. It is not an out and out scare ride (you are only held in by a lap restraint) like some of the bigger coasters at Universal Studios or Busch Gardens and it carries a storyline of the Yeti supported by some 8,000 authentic props. It does have some surprises though, such as finding yourself going backwards in the dark just as you reach the peak, an 80 ft drop and a double spiral.

Minimum height requirement is 44" (113 cm) and FASTPASS tickets will be available.

Landry's who run the Rain Forest Cafes at Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney are planning a second restaurant at both venues.

In late summer 2007, an Asian-themed restaurant will open in the Animal Kingdom near to Expedition Everest offering both table service and quick service.

At Downtown Disney, the table-service T-Rex restaurant will open in early 2008 and will feature life-sized dinosaurs, waterfalls, geysers and a fossil dig site as well as a retail area To read more about Disney's Animal Kingdom, click here.

April Events

You can expect long queues over the Easter at all the major theme parks. Easter is one of the busiest times of the year for the parks. If you are planning on eating out, particularly on Easter Sunday, then it is advisable to make reservations.

The 13th Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival runs right through from April 21 to June 11 with fantastic flowers, gardens and topiaries. Flower Power Concerts are held in the American Gardens Theatre at 5:45 pm, 7:00 pm and 8:15pm. On April 21-24 see The Nelsons, April 25-27 The Buckinghams and April 28-May 1 Gary Puckett.

At the Magic Kingdom they are celebrating all night Grad Nites parties on April 28, 29 and May 5, 6. Special live performances by Frankie J, Omarion, Teddy Geiger, Fefe Dobson, Fall Out Boy (April 28-29 only) and Simple Plan (May 5-6 only).

On April 22 it is Earth Day and coincidentally it is the 8th birthday of Disney's Animal Kingdom so you can expect Earth Day/birthday festivities in the park.

At SeaWorld, April is Just For Kids month. Live performances by Bill Cosby on April 8, Clifford The Big Red Dog Live! on April 12 and 13 and Hi-5 on April 22.

On April 7, NASA are holding a Space Shuttle 25th Anniversary Celebration where you can listen to John Young and Bob Crippen telling their personal stories and experiences of being in the crew of the first Space Shuttle mission.

The Palm Beach International Film Festival runs from April 20-28 and features over 50 international films from over 20 countries.

Also in Palm Beach on April 2 it is the Palm Beach Cajun Blues Crawfish Festival held on the waterfront. Further north in Jacksonville, the free outdoor Springing the Blues Festival runs from March 31 to April 2 (www.springingtheblues.com for more details).

The Florida International Air Show, Charlotte County Airport, Punta Gorda continues until April 2 and features the USAF Thunderbirds and US Army Golden Knights.

If you miss the USAF Thunderbirds at Punta Gorda then there is a second chance to see them on April 22-23 at Tyndall AFB, Panama City in the Gulf Coast Salute 2006.

In Lakeland, the 32nd Annual Sun 'n Fun Fly-In is from April 4-10 and the first civilian airshow appearance of the F-22A "Raptor" Stealth-technology fighter is expected.

If you are in Orlando over the Easter break then why not call in at the Kids' World's Fair from April 15-23 at the Orange County Convention Center.

Amongst the many festivals this month, look out for Ocean Fest 2006 Dive Show and Festival at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea from April 21-23 with over 200 dive-related exhibits and an underwater treasure hunt and underwater music festival.

On the same dates at Pompano Beach they are holding their Annual Pompano Beach Seafood Festival featuring fresh local seafood plus musical entertainment, arts and crafts and a children's play area.

In you are into parachuting, the Easter Boogie with Night Jumps runs from April April 8-15 and then on April 19-22 there is Z-Team Big Ways, both at Skydive City, Zephyrhills (www.skydivecity.com for more details).

Hot air balloon fans shouldn't miss the 23rd Annual Sunrise Charity Balloon Race at Kendall Tamiami Executive Airport, Miami on April 23 (www.sunriseballoonrace.org for more details).

Alternatively on April 1-2 at Fort Walton Beach there is the 2nd Annual Beach Kite Festival with free kid's kitemaking activities, stunt kite exhibitions and giant kite flying.

In Largo at the Heritage Village on April 15-16 they are holding the 20th Annual Heritage Village Antique Car Show with nearly 100 original and restored antique cars on display.

The 8th Annual Antique and Classic Boat Show takes place on April 22 at Apalachicola with all types of antique and classic boats and cars.

On Easter Saturday, April 15, there is an Easter Egg Hunt at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

On May 1-2, the McDonald's Air & Sea Show takes place at Fort Lauderdale Beach and features the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, U.S. Army Golden Knights, Canadian Forces Snowbirds and PT-728, an authentic WWII Motor Torpedo Boat. On the Saturday night, there is a jazz concert with Chuck Mangione (www.nationalsalute.com for more details).

Weather Forecast

April is a great month to be in Florida, it is neither too hot or too cold. This great weather does mean that April is a very popular month so expect large visitor numbers especially as Easter falls right in the middle of April this year.

To start with it will be sunny and warm but with afternoon thunderstorms in the north. The middle of the month will be sunny but cooler and then further thunderstorms are expected towards the end of the month.

In the North you can expect temperatures in the mid to high 70s around the Panhandle and mid 80s to start with in Jacksonville. From Tampa and Orlando down to the Keys, mid 80s are forecast, dropping to high 70s.

To check out the rest of the Florida weather including monthly temperature and rainfall charts across the State and the latest hurricane news, click here.

We plan to bring you a newsletter on the first day of each month with details of upcoming events and news from across Florida.

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