June 2017 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • Hall of Presidents
  • Springs Street Eats Food Truck Rally
  • Disney Springs Restaurants
  • Amtrak Services in Jeopardy
  • New Universal Hotels
  • Epcot’s Universe of Energy
  • Mobile Food Ordering
  • Volcano Bay Opens
  • SeaWorld and Sesame Street
  • New Holy Land Shows
  • Kraken VR
  • Florida Dolphin Tours
  • Pandora Grand Opening
  • The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters
  • Fuel prices
  • Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
  • June Events
  • Weather Forecast
  • June Books
Hall of Presidents

June 1, 2017, #144

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State.

Hall of Presidents


Hi subscriber, welcome to the June 2017 newsletter of the Florida Review & Travel Guide.

The big news in May was the grand opening of Pandora - The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Universal’s Volcano Bay water park, both in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

Both new attractions opened to very large crowds resulting in extended delays in getting on some of the new rides.

Amongst other stories is the news that The Holy Land Experience are introducing new shows, there is a new bus tour in Orlando and Universal has given first details about their plans for the former Wet ’n Wild site.

Read on for all the details on these stories and more.

Hall of Presidents

There are rumours that when the Hall of Presidents in Disney’s Magic Kingdom reopens at the end of June, the newest animatronic president, Donald Trump, may not have a speaking part. Disney has been very quiet on the matter.

Since Jimmy Carter, every new president has been given a speaking role in the performance but because Trump has been so outspoken and proved so unpopular with a large number of people, this may change.

The Hall of Presidents features models of every US president in a performance that last around 25 minutes.


Our aim is to bring you the latest news on what is happening in Florida each week with stories from the theme parks, beaches, resorts and everything else that Florida has to offer.

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STOP PRESS - Springs Street Eats Food Truck Rally

On June 2 and 3, there is a Springs Street Eats Food Truck Rally at Disney Springs.

From 4 to 11 p.m. on June 2 and noon until 11 p.m. on June 3, there will be eight food trucks parked outside Cirque du Soleil including two of Disney’s own food trucks, Fantasy Fare featuring hand-dipped corn dogs and World Showcase of Flavors offering treats from the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

The other six food trucks are drawn from some of Central Florida’s favourites; Caketeer, Philly’s Best Cheesesteaks, 900 Degreez Pizza, Magic 4 UR Palate , The London Fish and Chippy and Tikiz Shaved Ice.

As well as the food trucks, there will also be live entertainment.

Wolfgang Puck Grand Café

Disney Springs Restaurants

The number and variety of restaurants at Disney Springs continues to grow as existing restaurants are updated and new ones launched.

The latest restaurant to be announced is the Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill which will open in 2018 in the Town Center area and will compliment the existing Wolfgang Puck Grand Café restaurant located on the West Side. Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill will have a laid-back California style with a Mediterranean influenced menu.

Another new restaurant for 2018 is Jaleo from chef Jose Andres with a Spanish inspired tapas menu. It will be situated on the West Side.

Meanwhile in the Landings area, there will be three new restaurants opening in 2017; the Portobello Country Italian Trattoria operated by Levy Restaurants will re-open under a new name with dishes inspired by chef Tony Mantuano’s travels in Italy and there is Wine Bar George from master sommelier George Miliotes featuring over 100 different wines plus shareable plates, cheeses and charcuterie.

Finally The Edison styled on a 1920 Electric Company building will open on the site of the former BET Club and Adventurers Club nightspots of Pleasure Island. It will serve classic American food with speciality cocktails and live entertainment.

Read more about Disney Springs.


Amtrak Services in Jeopardy

All of Florida’s Amtrak services; the Silver Meteor, Silver Star and Auto Train, are under threat after President Trump released his 2018 budget.

The budget is suggesting slashing the grants for Amtrak’s long distance services which would affect the nearly one million passengers who use the services in Florida each year.

It would also prevent services being restored to Florida’s Panhandle which were suspended 12 years ago following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Previously presidential budgets are often severely altered by Congress.

Read more about getting to Florida by train.

New Universal Hotels

Universal has revealed details about their plans for the site of the now demolished Wet ’n Wild water park at the intersection of International Drive and Universal Boulevard.

They plan to build two or three hotels with about 4,000 rooms, split across either side of Universal Boulevard. A shuttle service will transport guests to and from the Universal Orlando Resort parks.

The new hotels will be themed to complement the existing Universal hotels with landscaping, pool, retail and food outlets.

Read more about Universal Orlando Resort hotels.

Epcot’s Universe of Energy

There are rumours that the Universe of Energy Pavilion at Epcot could be in line for a new attraction. Walt Disney World has submitted plans to the South Florida Water Management District which suggest they might be planning some construction work on the current site of the Universe of Energy Pavilion.

Several rumours have been circulating, one being a Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy attraction and another being a Tron Lightcycle Power Run coaster ride modelled on the existing attraction in Shanghai Disney Resort.

Tron has also been muted as a replacement for Tomorrowland Speedway at the Magic Kingdom which in some ways makes more sense.


Mobile Food Ordering

Disney is introducing mobile food ordering to a number of its restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

As well as the new Satu’li Canteen restaurant in Pandora – The World of Avatar which opens on May 27, Disney also plan to roll out Mobile Order to the Flame Tree Barbecue, Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus during the Summer.

Using the My Disney Experience app on their mobile phones, guests are able to pre-order and pay for their food before arriving at the restaurant, bypassing the regular lines.

When a guest arrives at the restaurant, they can click an “I’m here. Prepare My Order” button which lets the restaurant know to prepare their food and the app then alerts the guest when the food is ready and advises them to pick up from a designated window.

Initially you can only pay using a credit card, you cannot redeem dining plans or use other discounts and the system cannot handle dietary restrictions.

The system is likely to be enhanced and rolled out to other restaurants over time.

Volcano Bay opening day

Volcano Bay Opens

Volcano Bay opened on May 25 and is already proving very popular but it has suffered some early technical issues both with the rides and the new technology as Universal continue to work on the finishing touches.

The complimentary TapuTapu wristbands allow guests to reserve a ride time on an attraction and then return to the ride at the allotted time, similar to Disney’s FastPass+ system. However you can only reserve one ride at a time whereas at Disney you can reserve up to three attractions at any time. On some rides you have to reserve a ride time, there is no standby queue.

During the early days after opening, some guests were finding reserve times were up to 5 hours in the future and at the allotted time were still having to wait upwards of 30 minutes to ride.

However, it is possible to buy Express Passes which allow you to jump the queue.

Read more about Universal’s Volcano Bay.


SeaWorld and Sesame Street

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. and Sesame Workshop are extending their 37 year partnership in the USA from 2021 until at least 2031.

SeaWorld has announced that a new Sesame Street land will open at SeaWorld Orlando by the autumn of 2022 replacing the children’s Shamu’s Happy Harbor play area. There are also plans for another Sesame Street theme park to be built in the USA by mid 2021 with an option to build more.

In the past, some Sesame Street characters have made appearances at special holiday events at SeaWorld Orlando.

There are already Sesame Street lands in both Busch Gardens theme parks and the SeaWorld theme parks in San Diego and San Antonio.

At present there is one family orientated Sesame Street theme park in the USA, Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania operated by SeaWorld and featuring rides, water slides, live character shows, a daily parade and seasonal events.

New Holy Land Shows

The Holy Land Experience in Orlando is introducing two new theatrical productions to debut this summer.

The two shows, “Out of Darkness” and “Jesus: The Sacrifice” will be performed in the 1,800 seat, state-of-the-art Church of All Nations auditorium.

Kraken VR

The work on transforming the Kraken roller coaster at SeaWorld is nearly complete and it is due to re-open on June 16 giving riders the option to go on an underwater virtual reality ride.

The original Kraken was eel like whereas the new Kraken is based on a giant squid and so the entrance and queue area to the ride has been remodelled.

If riders chose the virtual reality option they will be transported in a submarine on a deep sea mission through a crack in the sea floor and come face-to-face with the prehistoric sea monster Kraken.

Kraken is SeaWorld’s oldest roller coaster and it opened in 2000.

Read more about SeaWorld.

Florida Dolphin Tours

Starting June 1, red and black double-decker open topped buses will be offering sightseeing tours in Orlando under the CitySightseeing Orlando brand.

Florida Dolphin Tours who operate a number of day trip tours plus 1 and 2 day excursions will be launching two new Orlando services; a Hop-on / Hop-Off service with 18 stops including Pointe Orlando, I-Drive 360 (Orlando Eye), the Orange County Convention Center, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando Resort, Disney Springs, Florida Mall and Premium Outlets and a Theme Park Express Service to Walt Disney World and Universal.

The Hop On / Hop Off service will cost $28 per day for adults and $20 for children ages 3 to 12. A week pass is also available at $75 for adults and $60 for children.

Transportation tickets to Walt Disney World will cost $14 per day and $8 per day to Universal Orlando Resort.

Pandora hanging mountains

Pandora Grand Opening

Prior to the grand opening on May 27, Disney ran a series of soft openings for Disney Annual Pass holders.

Guests soon discovered that neither ride, the Na’vi River Journey boat nor Flight of Passage, can take guests in wheelchairs or ECVs (mobility scooters). All riders must be walk-ons.

The Flight of Passage ride is similar in technology to Soarin’ but instead of joined together rows of suspended seats, each rider sits on an individual seat, a bit like sitting on a motorbike with back and leg restraints to prevent you falling off during the ride.

A significant number of guests discovered they were unable to ride the Flight of Passage attraction because their shape/size prevented the restraints from fully locking.

It is unclear if Disney will address these issues over time but they have installed a test seat for Flight of Passage outside the ride so guests can check if they are able to fit before going inside only to be turned away.

Read more about Pandora - The World of AVATAR.

Music of Pixar LIVE!

The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters

The “Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters” opened on May 26, 2017 and is now playing three times a day (late afternoon and evening) at the Theater of the Stars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Theater of the Stars on Sunset Boulevard is currently home to the long running “Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage” show which continues during the daytime.

Soundtrack music is combined with a giant wide-screen showing montages of Pixar film clips and outtakes, live Pixar costumed characters including Buzz Lightyear and Woody from “Toy Story” and Sully and Mike Wachowski from “Monsters, Inc.” on the stage and mingling with the crowd, interviews with composers and directors and commentary from the head of Pixar, John Lasseter.

The music is provided by a live orchestra and features pieces from a number of Pixar films including all three “Toy Story” films, “Up”, “Cars”, “Monsters, Inc.”, “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles”.

Read more about Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters.


Gasoline Prices

Fuel prices fell during May but started to climb again as Memorial weekend approached. Fuel prices this summer are expected to be higher than last year.

Prices climbed again at the end of the month to around $2.37 per gallon for regular, down 5 cents on last month. Prices in metro areas like Orlando are slightly cheaper at around $2.35 a gallon on average.

You can always find the latest pump prices at GasPriceWatch.com.

June 2017 calendar

June 2017 and July 2017 Desktop Wallpaper Calendars

The free Florida desktop wallpaper calendars are available in widescreen and netbook format as well as standard format so if you have a widescreen monitor or a netbook you can download a widescreen calendar.

Free desktop calendars for June 2017 (Lady & The Tramp Topiary at Epcot Flower & Garden Festival) and July 2017 (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom) are ready to download now.

Note that some of the larger files can be up to 1mb in size so if you are on a modem dialup line it will take a few minutes to download.

Click to view and then download the Florida free desktop wallpaper for June or July now.

Florida Villa by the lake at sunset

Orlando Florida Villa Rental

Read the latest reviews of our luxury 4 bed/2 bath villa with its own private pool overlooking a lake on our Facebook page or check our availability and rates.

Mention this newsletter to get a special discount on the few remaining dates in 2017.


June Events

Jefferson Davis Birthday is on June 3, with Flag Day on June 14 and Father’s Day on June 18.

Also do not forget that June 1 is the official start of the 2017 hurricane season (see Weather below).

With Pandora - World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Universal’s Volcano Bay water park both opening just before Memorial Day weekend you can expect both parks to be busy for the foreseeable future.

Disney has not announced plans for their annual Sounds Like Summer concert series at Epcot this year which normally starts in early June.

For fishing fans there are two licence free weekends in June, 3rd to 4th for saltwater and 10th to 11th for freshwater.

Island Nights at Adventure Island in Tampa kicks off on June 16 and runs until August 5, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.

At Busch Gardens they start their Busch Gardens Summer Nights on June 16 and it runs until August 6.

Fantasy of Flight re-opens their interim museum for the summer season from June 16 to July 30.

This year, SeaWorld has renamed their Summer Nights event as Electric Ocean and it runs from June 17 to August 6.

The Frozen Summer Games kicked off on May 26, 2017 at Disney’s Blizzard Beach but no closing date has been announced yet.

A new event is coming to the Kennedy Space Center called Summer of Mars and it runs from June 5 to September 4.

There could be two launches from Cape Canaveral in June. SpaceX is attempting to launch a rocket from the Cape roughly every two weeks.

SpaceX plan to launch the next mission to the International Space Station on June 1 and then a second launch is scheduled for June 15 using a pre-flown first stage booster.

Weather Forecast

Following a heatwave and little rain in April, May proved to be equally hot and dry with record temperatures particularly in the Central and Southern regions.

In June, Florida will again experience above average temperatures for the time of year and average rainfall.

Note that June 1 is the official start of the 2017 hurricane season and forecasters are predicting that 2017 will be an above average season.

In the North around Pensacola and Jacksonville there will be periods of sunshine with the occasional rain shower and afternoon thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures will be between the low 80s and the low 90s with overnight temperatures between the mid 60s and high 70s.

Across the Central region, the outlook is similar but slightly warmer. Daytime temperatures will be in the high 80s to mid 90s with low 70s to low 80s overnight.

Down in Miami and the Keys, it will also be similar with the odd rain shower and thunderstorm. Temperatures will be in the low 80s to mid 90s during the day and low 70s to low 80s overnight.

Check out the rest of the weather for all of Florida including a live weather map, monthly temperature and rainfall charts across the State and the latest hurricane news.

June Books

This month, there are just a few books including a new NASA book about plans for Mars exploration and a series on the Florida Gators football team.

June Book List

  • Archaeology of the Everglades (Florida Museum of Natural History: Ripley P. Bullen Series)
  • Flagler County, Florida: A Centennial History by Randy Jaye
  • Great Coaches in Florida Gators Football: This book begins with Coach Forsythe and tells the story of all the great Florida Coaches by Brian W. Kelly
  • Great Moments in Florida Gators Football: This book begins at the beginning of football and goes to the Jim McElwain era by Brian Kelly
  • Great Players in Florida Gator Football: UF has a great record thanks to its many great players by Brian W. Kelly
  • Scenic Rides To Florida Destinations by Steve Finz Finzelber
  • Seminoles of Florida, The by Minnie Moore-Willson
  • UFOs over Florida: Humanoid and other Strange Encounters in the Sunshine State by Albert S Rosales
  • Legendary Locals of Amelia Island by Rob Hicks
  • Florida Coral Identification Guide Waterproof Card by Franko Maps Ltd.
  • Trailblazing Mars: NASA’s Next Giant Leap by Pat Duggins

Other pages of interest