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August 2017 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • SeaWorld Electric Ocean
  • Cirque du Soleil
  • Disney Annual Pass Holders
  • Fun Spot Atlanta
  • Margaritaville Ground Breaking
  • Siemens Sponsorship at Epcot
  • Discovery Cove new Experiences
  • New Universal Roller Coaster Ride
  • Aerophile Balloon at Disney Springs
  • Universal Halloween Houses
  • Second JW Marriott Hotel
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Terralina Crafted Italian
  • D23 Expo 2017 News
  • Seaworld Killer Whale Calf Dies
  • Orlando Motorsports Park
  • Busch Gardens Halloween Houses
  • SeaWorld Dolphin Nursery
  • New Universal Hotels
  • Fuel prices
  • Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
  • August Events
  • Weather Forecast
  • August Books
Spaceship Earth at Epcot

August 1, 2017, #146

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State.

Spaceship Earth at Epcot

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

Big news this month is all the announcements from Disney’s D23 Expo 2017. Lots of changes at all of Disney’s Florida parks including Tron, Ratatouille and Guardians of the Galaxy. Unfortunately several old attractions are closing to make way for the new.

Not to be outdone Universal has announced they will be replacing Dragon Challenge with a new roller coaster.

Sad news is that the very last killer whale calf to be born at SeaWorld before they decided to stop breeding them has died aged 3 months.

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

SeaWorld Electric Ocean

SeaWorld has extended the number of nights for their Summer Electric Ocean performances. Originally scheduled to end of August 5, the show will now run from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on August 12, 19 and 26 plus September 2 and 3.

Read more about SeaWorld Electric Ocean.

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 - Cirque du Soleil

In a surprise announcement, Canadian based Cirque du Soleil has brought the New York based Blue Man Group.

Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba” show has been running at Disney Springs since late 1998 but earlier this year, it was announced that the show would close at the end of 2017. There has been no announcement about what if anything will replace it.

Over at Universal Studios, the Blue Man Group has been performing since the middle of 2007.

The Great Movie Ride

Disney Annual Pass Holders

With the imminent closing of both The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Ellen’s Energy Adventure, featuring Ellen DeGeneres at Epcot on August 13, Disney has relaxed the blackout dates for Florida resident annual passes for any guest with either a Weekday Select Pass or a Silver Pass.

Originally both passes were blacked out for the summer until August 10 but the blackout period has been shortened and guests will be able to access all four parks starting August 1.

Disney is also offering 30% discounts on a small selection of restaurants for annual passholders if they eat dinner either before 6:30 p.m or after 8:30 p.m. The promotion runs until September 30, 2017.

Participating restaurants include Artist Point (Disney’s Wilderness Lodge), Boatwright’s Dining Hall (Port Orleans), Captain’s Grille (Yacht Club), Citiricos (Grand Floridian), Flying Fish (Disney’s BoardWalk), Grand Floridian Cafe, Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge), Olivia’s Cafe (Old Key West), Turf Club Bar and Grill (Saratoga Springs) and The Wave (Disney’s Contemporary Resort).

The current 20% off of 45 participating restaurants also runs until the same date.

Read more about Walt Disney World Florida residents annual passes.

Fun Spot Atlanta

Fun Spot America who have two family amusement parks in Central Florida have purchased Fun Junction USA in Fayetteville near Atlanta, Georgia. The park is similar to the Fun Spot parks with go-karts, midway carnival rides and a roller coaster as well as several miniature golf courses. They operate a similar business model with free admission and then pay-per-ride.

At some point it will be renamed Fun Spot Atlanta and will likely feature a new roller coaster.

Read more about Fun Spot.

Margaritaville Ground Breaking

Ground has officially been broken on the construction of the hotel at the Margaritaville Resort Orlando on the site of the former Splendid China theme park on US 192 in Kissimmee. It is expected to open around Thanksgiving 2018.

Read more about the Margaritaville Resort Orlando.

Siemens Sponsorship at Epcot

Disney has announced that Siemens who currently sponsor both the “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” laser and fireworks show and the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot will end their relationship in October after a 12 year run.

There has been no indication yet as to whether Disney will seek new sponsorship or make any changes to the attractions.

Read more about Future World at Disney’s Epcot.

Discovery Cove new Experiences

Discovery Cove has announced two new experiences. As well as the dolphin swim, you can now choose to swim with sharks and feed rays. Both experiences are chargeable extras and can be booked as “add-ons” to the main ticket.

Read more about Discovery Cove’s new experiences.

Dragon Challenge

New Universal Roller Coaster Ride

Universal has announced that the two Dragon Challenge roller coasters in Hogsmeade, Islands of Adventure will close for good and the last day of operation will be on September 4.

They are to be replaced by a new highly-themed Wizarding World roller coaster which will open in 2019 and be suitable for the whole family. Universal say you will encounter some of your “favourite characters and creatures” combining story telling with an action-packed adventure.

One rumour suggests that the ride may be designed by Intamin, be called “Forbidden Forest” and be themed on Hagrid’s motorbike and sidecar combination. Another that it is a powered inverted coaster design by Mack.

Dragon Challenge started out as Duelling Dragons when the park first opened in 1999 and was re-themed for the Wizarding World in 2010.

Read more about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade.

Aérophile: The World Leader in Balloon Flight

Aerophile Balloon at Disney Springs

The Characters in Flight balloon at Disney Springs has been renamed as “Aérophile: The World Leader in Balloon Flight” to better reflect its current theme.

When it first opened at Disney Springs in 2009 it was decorated with Disney characters such as Mary Poppins, Dumbo and Peter Pan. These were then replaced by Tinker Bell, Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear, Dumbo, Jasmine and Aladdin in 2012.

When the envelope was refurbished again in 2016 the original red, yellow and blue colour scheme was replaced with a water theme in shades of blue without any Disney characters.

Read more about Aérophile: The World Leader in Balloon Flight.

Universal Halloween Houses

Universal has announced the name of their third house for Halloween; “Ash vs. Evil Dead” based on the TV series 1 and 2. It follows “American Horror Story” and “The Shining”.

Read more about Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights.

Second JW Marriott Hotel

It looks like a second JW Marriott hotel will be built close to Disney’s Epcot resort, near the Wyndham’s Bonnet Creek Resort.

Called the JW Marriott at Bonnet Creek, it will be at the corner of Epcot Center Drive and Interstate I–4 with around 516 rooms, split over 16 stories.

Meanwhile another dual-branded JW Marriott hotel is about to open at Clearwater Beach. Called The Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach, the two units will have a total of 255 suites, connected by a central lobby.

Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

The new Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are now open, the 14th Disney Vacation Club Resort.

The new cabins and villas offer rustic but elegant lodgings as part of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort. You can choose from Deluxe Studios, one or two Bedroom Villas, three Bedroom Grand Villas or private waterfront Cabins, all close to the Magic Kingdom.

Read more about Disney Vacation Club.

Terralina Crafted Italian

The former Portobello Country Italian Trattoria at Disney Springs is to be renamed as Terralina Crafted Italian when it reopens in the Autumn of 2017.

The menu is inspired by the Italian Lakes region by award-winning chef Tony Mantuano and will include hand-tossed pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven.

Read more about Disney Springs.

Star Wars battle attraction

D23 Expo 2017 News

Disney announced a raft of new attractions and changes coming to Walt Disney World at the annual D23 Expo held in the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. D23 is the ultimate Disney fan event.

Many of the news items had been expected from rumours circulating over the last few months but there were a few surprises.

Amongst the many announcements was confirmation that Disney are building a Skyliner gondola system to connect Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to several Disney Resort hotels, Tron is coming to Magic Kingdom and Ratatouille to Epcot. Also Guardians of the Galaxy will replace Ellen’s Energy Adventure at Epcot and a new Mickey inspired ride will replace The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Read more about all the D23 Expo 2017 news.

Killer whale with calf

Seaworld Killer Whale Calf Dies

In a cruel twist of fate, the last killer whale born in captivity at SeaWorld has passed away after being treated for an infection, most likely pneumonia.

Kyara was born three months ago in April to the 26 year old female Takara at SeaWorld’s San Antonio, Texas marine park. Back in March 2016, SeaWorld said it would no longer breed killer whales but Takara was discovered to already be pregnant when the announcement was made. The average gestation period is 17 months.

Tilikum, the adult male killer whale at the heart of the “Blackfish” controversy died of bacterial pneumonia in January of this year, in Orlando.

Read more about SeaWorld.

Orlando Motorsports Park

There are plans to build an Orlando Motorsports Park racing attraction on a 200 acre plot of land near the new Margaritaville Resort Orlando where US Highway 192 meets State Road 429 in Kissimmee.

Consisting of three tracks, there would be a small one for go-karts, a general public driving course and a much larger 2 1/2 mile members and professionals only private course with club house, maintenance and storage facilities.

The courses are being designed by Tilke Engineering from Germany who also designed the Atlanta Motorsports Park and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Other possible amenities include automobile related retail outlets, restaurants, driving instruction and even a museum.

Busch Gardens Halloween Houses

Two new houses have been announced for Busch Gardens Howl-o-Scream Halloween event, namely Death Water Bayou and Unearthed.

The special “early bird” $29.99 Halloween ticket promotion ends on August 16.

Read more about Busch Gardens Howl-o-Scream.

SeaWorld Dolphin Nursery

The SeaWorld Dolphin Nursery has re-opened with a new clear front wall allowing you to see the dolphins underwater more easily. There are also cut-outs in the rock for additional views.

A new video screen can be used to display educational stories or it can project chalk-art drawn by the kids.

Read more about SeaWorld.

New Universal Hotels

There are more details for the two new hotels Universal plan to build on the former site of Wet ’n Wild and its carpark on International Drive. One hotel will be built each side of Universal Boulevard with about 4,000 rooms between them.

Concept art shows each hotel being around ten stories high in a series of blocks with three parking garages, pools and landscaped gardens.

Read more about Universal Resort Hotels.

Gasoline Prices

Fuel prices have spiked after falling in June. Prices are expected to continue to rise in the run up to Labor Day on September 4. They should then start to drop again as summer driving slows down and refineries switch to the cheaper winter blend.

Prices are around $2.29 per gallon for regular, up 11 cents on last month. Prices in metro areas like Orlando are around the same on average.

You can always find the latest pump prices at

August 2017 calendar

August 2017 and September 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 August 2017 (Northrop T–38 Talon at Kennedy Space Center) and September 2017 (Tree of Life at Animal 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 August or September 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.

August Events

August sees the end of Florida’s summer season with quite a few events coming to a close this month.

Frozen Games at Blizzard Beach ends on August 13, the same day that both The Great Movie Ride and Ellen’s Energy Adventure also close for good.

Island Nights at Adventure Island ends on August 5, Busch Gardens Summer Nights on August 6. Electric Ocean at SeaWorld Orlando was also due to end of August 6 but it has been extended to September 3 (on select nights).

As some events end so others start. Halloween seems to get earlier every year and this year, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party starts on August 25, followed by the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and accompanying Epcot Eat to the Beat concert series on August 31.

The Kennedy Space Center Summer of Mars event runs until September 4.

There could be three launches from Cape Canaveral in August.

SpaceX plan to launch their next cargo flight to the International Space Station on August 14, followed by an Atlas V satellite launch on August 20 and a Minotaur 4 launch on August 25, the first from Cape Canaveral.

Weather Forecast

August should see above average temperatures and average rainfall across the whole region.

In the North around Pensacola and Jacksonville it will be sunny with the possibility of thunderstorms most days especially in the first half of the month. Daytime temperatures will be between the low 80s and the low 90s with overnight temperatures between the low to mid 70s.

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

Down in Miami and the Keys, it will be similar again. Temperatures will be in the mid 80s to low 90s during the day and high 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.

August Books

This month, there are just a few books including the latest edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2018.

August Book List

  • Tales from the Florida State Seminoles Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Seminoles Stories Ever Told by Bobby Bowden
  • Florida by Ann Heinrichs
  • The Spooky Express Florida by Eric James
  • Adventurism and Empire: The Struggle for Mastery in the Louisiana-Florida Borderlands, 1762–1803 by David Narrett
  • Water from Stone: Archaeology and Conservation at Florida’s Springs by Jason O’Donoughue
  • The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2018 by Bob Sehlinger, Len Testa
  • The Supreme Court of Florida: A Journey toward Justice, 1972–1987 by Neil Skene
  • The Yucks: Two Years in Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL History by Jason Vuic
  • A Journey With Juan Ponce De Leon by Laura Hamilton Waxman
  • The Florida Keys Bucket List: 100 Offbeat Adventures From Key Largo To Key West by David L Sloan

Other pages of interest