May 2017 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • Portobello Country Italian Trattoria
  • Star Tours New Scenes
  • Manatees Removed from Endangered List
  • Kraken Virtual Reality
  • Last SeaWorld Killer Whale
  • Frozen Summer Games
  • Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure
  • Schlitterbahn Water Park Plans
  • SeaWorld Pilot Whales
  • BB–8 Appearances
  • Walt Disney World Transportation Futures
  • Infinity Falls
  • Legoland Star Wars Days
  • Fuel prices
  • Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
  • May Events
  • Weather Forecast
  • May Books
Na’vi River Journey at Pandora

May 1, 2017, #143

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State.

Na’vi River Journey at Pandora


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

SeaWorld is in the news this month, they have announced that they are building a new water raft ride in Orlando, Kraken will re-open shortly with virtual reality and the last killer whale to be born in captivity has been born in San Antonio.

Both Universal and Disney are premiering long awaited attractions this month at Volcano Bay and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, both in time for the Memorial weekend.

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

Portobello Country Italian Trattoria

The Portobello Country Italian Trattoria restaurant at Disney Springs has closed for refurbishment. It is slated to re-open in the autumn under a new name.

Levy Restaurants who also operate the recently re-opened Paddlefish and Wolfgang Puck at Disney Springs are bringing in celebrity chefs James Beard and Tony Mantuano to develop a new Italian inspired menu.


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.

Make sure that you add "" to your email address book/whitelist to guarantee receipt of future newsletters.

Don't forget you can keep up to date with the latest news and stories by following us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.


STOP PRESS - Star Tours New Scenes

Disney are going to add new Star Wars scenes from the upcoming “Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi” film which is released this December to their Star Tours ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The new scenes will include the mineral planet Crait.

Scenes from “Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens” with the new droid BB–8 were added to Star Tours in November 2015, a month before the film’s general release.

Read more about Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Manatee at Epcot

Manatees Removed from Endangered List

The Pacific Legal Foundation had threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of two commercial groups, Save Crystal River and the Florida Home Builders Association, to get the manatee removed from the Endangered Species List.

Following the release of a controversial computer model that predicts that the manatee population could double over the next 50 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has now downgraded manatees from “endangered” to “threatened” due they say to the increase in population in recent years. Some officials dispute the computer model and are trying to get the decision reversed.

This decision was taken despite the fact that over 500 manatees deaths were recorded in 2016 with a record number of manatees killed by boats, over 100 in total.

When Florida manatees were listed by the federal government as an endangered species in 1967, there were an estimated 600 animals alive. Current estimates put the population at around 6,620 animals.

The manatee still remains protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Read more about manatees.


Kraken Virtual Reality

The Kraken roller coaster at SeaWorld has now closed and will re-open on June 16 offering an optional virtual reality experience.

SeaWorld has also hinted at a new virtual line system to avoid guests having to wait in line for long periods of time.

Last SeaWorld Killer Whale

In March 2016, SeaWorld took the momentous decision to stop breeding orcas (killer whales) in captivity (it stopped taking them from the wild nearly 40 years ago).

25 year old Takara was already pregnant at the time at SeaWorld San Antonio and she has now given birth to a healthy offspring, the last to be born at SeaWorld.

There are now 23 orcas at SeaWorld parks in America.

Read more about SeaWorld.

Frozen Summer Games

Frozen Summer Games

The Frozen Summer Games are returning to Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park for a second year.

The event kicks off on May 26, 2017 but no closing date has been announced yet. In 2016, Frozen Summer Games ended on August 21.

Guests at Disney’s Blizzard Beach can choose to support Team Kristoff or Team Olaf and participate in a number of winter themed summer games. Olaf and Kristoff both open and close the games each day from the Observation Deck near Summit Plummet and give updates on team progress throughout the day.

Read more about the Frozen Summer Games.

Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure

Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure

Gatorland broke ground on April 19, 2017 for a new off-road attraction coming to their Orange Blossom Trail alligator park. Using an undeveloped area to the east of the existing park, Gatorland are building a half-mile off-road drive through pine and palmetto woods, hills, mud puddles, swamps and ponds. It will be the biggest expansion in Gatorland’s over 65 year history with a cost of around $2.5 million.

The new attraction, to be called the “Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure” is scheduled to open in September 2017.

Read more about the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure.


Schlitterbahn Water Park Plans

A judge has put a stop on a major new $110 million planned water park in Fort Lauderdale.

Premier Parks LLC who own the Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach filed a suit against the city of Fort Lauderdale in 2015 claiming that the city had not followed its own charter when awarding a lease to rival Texas based water park company Schlitterbahn.

The new Schlitterbahn water park was to be developed on the site of the Fort Lauderdale Stadium, once used as Spring Training ground for the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.

SeaWorld Pilot Whales

Following the replacement of the Blue Horizons show by the Dolphin Days show, the four rescued pilot whales that used to perform as part of the Blue Horizons show have been moved to the Shamu Stadium.

They will not share any tank spaces with the orcas but should be visible to guests at the underwater viewing area.

It is not clear at this time if SeaWorld intend to include the pilot whales in any future Shamu shows.

BB–8 Appearances

Guests visiting the Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can now meet-and-greet the cute round BB–8 droid that first appeared in “The Force Awakens” as well as Kylo Ren and Chewbacca.

Disney resort bus

Walt Disney World Transportation Futures

Further to our article in the March newsletter, the Orlando Sentinel has obtained documents that show that the proposed gondola lift system at Walt Disney World will have six stations with three different lines linking Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot with the Caribbean Beach Resort and the Pop Century/Art of Animation resorts.

Each enclosed gondola will hold up to 10 people and it is likely the system would be supplied by the European manufacturer Doppelmayr/Garaventa who have built a similar gondola lift across the River Thames in London.

Disney are also rumoured to be looking at driverless electric shuttle buses to transport cast members from the employee parking lots to the theme parks. If the trials are successful it could be rolled out to park guests next year.

Read more about Walt Disney World.

Infinity Falls

Infinity Falls

In April 2017, SeaWorld Orlando announced a new family orientated water raft ride to be called Infinity Falls located in the Sea Garden area of the park. It will be the tallest river rapid drop ride in the world.

Infinity Falls is set to open in the summer of 2018 and will be themed on the lush jungle rainforests and rivers of South America.

Guests will be transported in large eight person rafts up a vertical elevator to a height of 40 feet before dropping back down into twisting raging Class IV whitewater rapids. The ride time will be around 4 minutes in total.

Read more about Infinity Falls.

Legoland Star Wars Days

Legoland Star Wars Days

LEGO® Star Wars™ Days are returning to LEGOLAND FLORIDA in 2017, expanded to run over two weekends, May 6 to 7 and 13 to 14 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. the first weekend and 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on the second weekend.

The event will feature famous scenes from the Lucasfilm Star Wars films, made out of around 1.5 million LEGO bricks as part of Miniland USA including the Tatooine desert and snowy Hoth. Also look out for large models of Darth Vader, Darth Maul and R2-D2.

Read more about Legoland Star Wars Days.


Gasoline Prices

April saw a significant jump in fuel prices with regular unleaded hitting a near two year high of around $2.46 a gallon. Fuel prices this summer are expected to be higher than last year.

Prices fell back slightly at the end of the month to around $2.42 per gallon for regular, up 13 cents on last month. Prices in metro areas like Orlando are slightly cheaper at around $2.34 a gallon on average.

You can always find the latest pump prices at

May 2017 calendar

May 2017 and June 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 May 2017 (Dixie Lake at Lake Louisa State Park) and June 2017 (Lady & The Tramp Topiary at Epcot Flower & Garden Festival) 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 May or June 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 remaining dates in 2017.


May Events

May 5 is Cinco de Mayo, May 14 is Mothers Day and Armed Forces Day is on May 20.

Memorial Day is on May 29 so you can expect the parks to busy over the preceding weekend, especially Disney’s Animal Kingdom when the long awaiting Pandora - World of Avatar opens on May 27.

Universal’s Volcano Bay water park also opens just before Memorial Day weekend on May 25.

LEGOLAND Florida are repeating their LEGO Star Wars Days on May 6 to 7 and 13 to 14.

The Country 500 music festival at Daytona International Speedway runs from May 26 to 28 this year.

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

The brand new Seven Seas Food Festival at SeaWorld continues until May 13.

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs until May 29.

There could be three launches from Cape Canaveral in May.

SpaceX launched a secret US government satellite on May 1 (launch scrubbed on April 30) and again they successfully recovered first stage booster rocket to LZ–1 at the Cape.

SpaceX hope to launch two further Falcon 9 rockets on May 15 and 31.

Weather Forecast

Following a heatwave and little rain in April, in May, Florida will experience above average temperatures for the time of year and average rainfall.

In the North around Pensacola and Jacksonville there will be plenty of sunshine with the occasional rain shower during the first week. Daytime temperatures will be between the mid 70s and the high 80s with overnight temperatures between the mid 50s and mid 70s. Like last month it will be generally warmer on the Atlantic Coast.

Across the Central region, the outlook is similar but warmer and more showers. Daytime temperatures will be in the high 70s to mid 90s with low 60s to high 70s overnight.

Down in Miami and the Keys, it will be mostly sunny interspersed with the odd rain shower and thunderstorm in the middle of the month. Temperatures will be in the low to high 80s during the day and high 60s to high 70s 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.

May Books

This month, there are a series of city maps of major Florida cities plus a series of restaurant guides.

May Book List

  • Fodor’s In Focus Florida Keys: with Key West, Marathon & Key Largo by Fodor’s Travel Guides
  • Journeys Through Paradise: Pioneering Naturalists in the Southeast by Gail Fishman
  • Florida Keys Paddling Atlas by Bill Burnham and Mary Burnham
  • The Solo Theme Park Traveler’s Guide: Tips and Tricks for Solo Theme Park Hopping in Florida by Nikky J.
  • City Maps Tampa Florida, USA by James McFee
  • City Maps Cape Coral Florida, USA by James McFee
  • City Maps Tallahassee Florida, USA by James McFee
  • City Maps St. Petersburg Florida, USA by James McFee
  • City Maps Hialeah Florida, USA by James McFee
  • City Maps Orlando Florida, USA by James McFee
  • One Perfect Trip to Key West 2017 by Cindy Loe
  • Ultimate South West Florida Golfing Guide by Ace High Publishing
  • Greater Than a Tourist – Tallahassee, Florida, USA: 50 Travel Tips from a Local by Katelynn Ogle
  • Haunted Tours: Most Haunted Places In Florida by Jalbert Brothers
  • Cape St. George Lighthouse and Apalachicola Bay (Images of America) by James L. Hargrove and Carol A. Talley
  • Florida Getaway Travel Guide: A Tour of Adventures in the Cities of Florida by Adi Ketchum and Triston Howe
  • Florida Photo Spots: Naples and Collier County by Peggy Farren and Joe Fitzpatrick
  • Days Out Around Fort Lauderdale by Gillian Birch
  • Tampa Restaurant Guide 2018: Best Rated Restaurants in Tampa, Florida - 500 Restaurants, Bars and Cafés Recommended for Visitors, 2018 by Richard K. Gundrey
  • Tallahassee Restaurant Guide 2018: Best Rated Restaurants in Tallahassee, Florida - 400 Restaurants, Bars and Cafés Recommended for Visitors, 2018 by Andrew D. Villeneuve
  • Orlando Restaurant Guide 2018: Best Rated Restaurants in Orlando, Florida - 500 Restaurants, Bars and Cafés Recommended for Visitors, 2018 by Richard F. Briand

Other pages of interest