- Nintendo and Universal
- Highway in the Sky Dine Around
- Disney UK Prices Hikes
- Rivers of Light
- MagicBand 2
- Volcano Bay
- Disney Springs Latest
- The Secret Life of Pets
- Brit Guide to Orlando and Walt Disney World 2017
- Tiana’s Riverboat Party
- Epcot Changes
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster
- Magic Kingdom Cabanas
- Pandora - The World of Avatar
- Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
- December Events
- Weather Forecast
- December Books
December 1, 2016, #138
Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State.
Hi subscriber, welcome to the December 2016 newsletter of the Florida Review & Travel Guide.
Disney has made several announcements about upcoming attractions at the Walt Disney World theme parks during the annual D23 Disney fan get together.
They have also come up with several more inventive ways to relieve you of your money including a $50 dessert party, a $150 dining package and a mouthwatering $650 cabana rental at Magic Kingdom!
Universal has started to hint about what will happen with their Nintendo deal.
We’d like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Remember that most Christmas attractions are included in the standard day admission ticket but some like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party require a separate ticket.
Read on for all the details on these stories and more.
Despite Disney announcing back in June 2015 that DisneyQuest, the video game attraction at the West Side in Disney Springs, would be closing in 2016, Disney has now confirmed it will remain open into 2017 with no clues as to when it will eventually close.
Apparently the NBA Experience is still planned to replace it but there is no news about the reasons for the delay.
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 "[email protected]" to your email address book/whitelist to guarantee receipt of future newsletters.
STOP PRESS - Nintendo and Universal
Nintendo signed a deal with Universal over 18 months ago and as expected they have finally announced that Nintendo video game themed lands will open in Universal theme parks in both Orlando, Hollywood and Japan over the coming years including the iconic Mario.
After seeing how Universal have created a truly immersive and interactive Harry Potter world, the upcoming Nintendo game world should be amazing with highly themed attractions, shops and restaurants appealing to all age groups.
There is not a lot of space left in the existing Universal parks in Orlando but they have purchased back over 400 acres of land not that far away. There are also rumours that they might redevelop Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone in Universal Studios Orlando or Toon Lagoon in Islands of Adventure.
Highway in the Sky Dine Around
Disney has announced a new “Highway in the Sky Dine Around” private party package which starts on December 2, 2016 on select evenings.
You eat a five course dinner around the three deluxe Resorts on the Seven Seas Lagoon before watching the evening Wishes fireworks show over the Magic Kingdom.
You check in at The Wave…of American Flavors restaurant at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for an appetiser and cocktails.
You then priority board the monorail for the short journey to Disney’s Polynesian Resort where you are served island-inspired drinks and appetisers.
It is then a short hop on the monorail to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa where you sit down to a main course meal with wine at Citricos restaurant. This is following by after-dinner sparkling wine and cheese in the lobby.
One last monorail journey takes you back to the starting point, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, for dessert, cordials and coffee served on a private patio. From the patio, you can then relax and watch the Wishes fireworks show over Cinderella Castle at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Read more about Disney’s new Highway in the Sky Dine Around.
Disney UK Prices Hikes
Following the Brexit vote in the UK, the pound has fallen badly against the US dollar and as a result Disney has increased their UK specific multi-day park tickets with prices around £25 to £30 more than before for 2016 and a much bigger increase for 2017 with prices up around £80.
Read more about Disney’s special 7, 14 and 21 day Walt Disney World Resort tickets.
Rivers of Light
The Rivers of Light show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was originally planned to open in April of this year but it seems to have suffered a number of technical difficulties which has resulted in the opening being pushed back several times.
Disney recently announced that they planned to run cast member previews starting on November 27 which suggests it may actually open in time for the holidays.
Read more about Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The latest proposed addition to the Skyplex complex on International Drive is a go-kart track planned for the basement of the parking garage.
At the D23’s Destination D: Amazing Adventures convention, Disney announced a new version of their MagicBand, to be called MagicBand 2.
It is similar to the original MagicBand but has a detachable centrepiece which can be transferred to something else like a lanyard, pendant, carabiner or keychain making it more customisable for everyone.
They will start rolling out MagicBand 2s to Annual Passholders first, in the next couple of weeks and then they should be generally available by the end of December. As well as the standard bands, they will also be available with special graphic and limited editions designs.
Unlike the newly announced Universal TapuTapu, MagicBand is still only a one way device, it cannot receive information and present it to the wearer.
Read more about Disney’s new MagicBand 2.
Wet ’n Wild closes at the end of December and work on Volcano Bay is moving forward apace with an opening date slated for early summer 2017. Universal has started selling some combination tickets for use from June 1, 2017 onwards but they are yet to announce prices for single day tickets or annual passes.
All guests when they arrive will receive a complimentary wearable technology wristband called TapuTapu. You will be able to use TapuTapu to reserve ride times on the main slides at Volcano Bay and activate special effects like firing water cannon, controlling water jets and illuminating images inside the volcano.
Unlike Disney’s MagicBands though, TapuTapu offers two-way communication and can advise guests when their ride time is approaching by vibrating for example when it is 15 minutes before the start time.
Read more about Volcano Bay.
Disney Springs Latest
The latest store to open at Disney Springs is D-Living which offers Disney-inspired housewares, decor, and furnishings. It is located next to UNOde50 in the Town Center.
The re-opening of The Planet Hollywood Observatory at Disney Springs has been delayed but should be open sometime in December with a revised menu.
Fulton’s Crab House will also scheduled to re-open in December as Paddlefish.
Read more about Disney Springs.
The Secret Life of Pets
Starting in December, two of the floats in the Universal Studios daily Superstar Parade will be themed on “The Secret Life of Pets”.
Brit Guide to Orlando and Walt Disney World 2017
The Brit Guide to Orlando and Walt Disney World 2017 by Simon and Susan Veness was published on November 1, 2016.
It is now in it’s 22nd edition and is Britain’s best selling travel guide with updated information on all the new attractions in and around Orlando.
The authors have a permanent base in Orlando and through a fully interactive website linked to the book they can bring you the very latest updates throughout the year including a personalised itinerary planner (separate charge) and a month by month busy day guide.
As its name suggests, Brit Guide to Orlando & Walt Disney World is written primarily for British people planning a trip to the central region of Florida and in particular to Walt Disney World but don’t be put off by the title. This book is very readable and is good for anyone planning a visit to the Orlando area.
Read more about Brit Guide to Orlando and Walt Disney World 2017.
Tiana’s Riverboat Party
Disney has added yet another dessert party to their offerings, this time at the Magic Kingdom. This one is themed on Princess Tiana from the 2009 animated film “The Princess and the Frog” set in New Orleans.
Tiana’s Riverboat Party takes place on the Liberty Square Riverboat in Liberty Square in Frontierland and offers guests a unique viewing location for the afternoon Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, which starts at 3:00 p.m. each day. Check-in is 45 minutes before the parade starts.
Read more about Tiana’s Riverboat Party.
Over at Epcot, a major transformation has been promised to make the park more family friendly whilst still true to the original vision, but there are no details at this time.
Disney has already replaced the Maelstrom ride by a Frozen ride. There are rumours that they might build a Ratatouille ride, similar to one at Disneyland Paris and even a Guardians of the Galaxy thrill ride to replace Ellen’s Energy Adventure in Future World.
One thing Disney has been doing at Epcot is gradually increasing the length of the various festivals they host and include special food and drink stalls. The newest edition is the Epcot International Festival of the Arts event which will run in January/February next year (see events below).
Read more about Epcot.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
There are no opening dates yet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for either Toy Story Land or Star Wars Land but it has been confirmed that the Tower of Terror drop ride will not be getting a “Guardians of the Galaxy” makeover like the version at Disney California Adventure.
In addition, the “Star Tours - The Adventure Continues” ride will be updated to include scenes from the upcoming eighth Star Wars film.
Read more about Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Krakatau Aqua Coaster
Universal has released more details about the ride at the 200 foot high central volcano. Called Krakatau Aqua Coaster it is a combination of a dark ride with waterfalls and slides and features inflatable four seater canoe shaped rafts.
Unlike a conventional gravity water slide where you have to climb to the top to start, on the Krakatau Aqua Coaster it uses linear induction motor (magnetic) technology used on some roller coaster to allow the rafts to ascend sections of the ride.
The ride starts inside a temple in the jungle before dropping down into a river and then travelling up inside the volcano. Special effects include volcanic eruptions, rumbling and smoking.
Read more about Volcano Bay.
Fuel prices in Florida spiked in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Matthew but have now dropped a little. Pump prices have fallen back around 16 cents a gallon and are now around $2.13 per gallon for regular. Orlando prices are generally a bit cheaper at around $2.07 a gallon.
You can always find the latest pump prices at GasPriceWatch.com.
Magic Kingdom Cabanas
Disney has announced that visitors to Magic Kingdom can now rent a cabana for the day from November 27, 2016.
Typically seen in water parks, cabanas have been erected in Tomorrowland near Space Mountain. Each cabana has space for a maximum of 8 people and includes shaded seating, couches, a lockable storage trunk, a small refrigerator and charging stations. You also receive complimentary snacks, a fruit basket, cold drinks, personalised Mickey ears, sunscreen, hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
You get one ice cream delivery and you can also arrange for food deliveries but they are not included in the rental price.
The cost is $649 per day (plus tax) and does not include park admission but does include reserved viewing for parades and the fireworks display.
Read more about Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Pandora - The World of Avatar
Disney has also announced that the new land, “Pandora - The World of Avatar” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will open in summer 2017.
The entrance to the new land will be via a bridge near the new Tiffins restaurant on Discovery Island, which leads you towards the Alpha Centauri Expeditions base camp.
The Na’vi River Journey water ride through a bioluminescent rainforest has been described as “family friendly” and compared to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride that opened recently at the new Shanghai Disneyland Resort.
The second major attraction is an aerial ride on a Banshee, called Avatar Flight of Passage. There will also be a restaurant called Satu’li Canteen feature Na’vi art plus Windtraders, a gift shop and Pongu Pongu serving speciality drinks.
Read more about Pandora - The World of Avatar.
December 2016 and January 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 December 2016 (Holidays at Disney Springs) and January 2017 (Split Oak Forest) 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 December or January now.
This month there is just one public holiday; on Christmas Day, December 25.
With Halloween and Thanksgiving behind us, all thoughts now turn to the Christmas Holiday season including the amazing ICE! attraction at the Gaylord Palms resort so if you want to get into the holiday spirit, there are plenty of places to celebrate.
All the major theme parks are going to be very busy in the run up to Christmas and the New Year.
It is a great time to visit as the weather is still quite good and all the Christmas decorations are up and the theme parks are in full swing with their Holiday season activities:
- Magic Kingdom - Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party; November 7 to December 22
- Epcot - Candlelight Processional; November 25 to December 30
- SeaWorld - Christmas Celebrations; November 25 to December 31
- Universal Studios - Christmas Celebrations; December 3 to January 1, 2017
- Busch Gardens - Christmas Town; November 25 to December 31
- Gaylord Palms - ICE! featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas; November 18 to January 1, 2017
Fantasy of Flight has re-opened their interim attraction for the winter season. The museum will be open Fridays through Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. from November 11, 2016 to April 30, 2017.
Typhoon Lagoon closes for it’s annual maintenance on December 25 and Blizzard Beach re-opens.
There are three potential launches from Cape Canaveral in December. On December 7, a Delta 4 rocket is set to launch and on December 16 an Atlas 5. On December 12 there is a planned air launch of NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) from a Lockheed Tristar by a Pegasus XL rocket.
SpaceX hope to restart launches of their Falcon 9 rocket in January 2017.
A brand new Epcot International Festival of the Arts event will run for six weeks over extended weekends from January 13, to February 20, 2017. The event will be open Friday through Monday and is included in regular park admission.
It will combine Disney artists and their artwork, Food Studios and performing arts in concert from Disney Theatrical and Broadway performing at the America Gardens Theatre stage.
The hurricane season is now officially over but tropical storms have been known to form in December and even January.
In December, Florida will again experience average temperatures for the time of year and below average rainfall.
In the North around Pensacola and Jacksonville there will be occasional periods of sunshine interspersed with rain showers and the odd thunderstorm on the Gulf Coast. Daytime temperatures will be in the high 70s dropping to mid 50s with overnight temperatures between the low 60s and high 30s. It will be a few degrees warmer on the Atlantic Coast.
Across the Central region, the outlook is similar but generally warmer with fewer showers. Daytime temperatures will be in the mid 80s dropping to mid 60s with mid 60s to mid 40s overnight.
Down in Miami and the Keys, the month will start out wet with extended periods of sunshine later on. Temperatures will be in the low 70s to mid 80s during the day and high 50s to mid 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.
Amongst the Florida books published in December are a couple on the Everglades and a book detailing 50 locations used in the Netflix Original series “Bloodline” set in the Keys plus the latest edition of The Brit Guide to Orlando which we have reviewed (see above).
December Book List
- Florida: A Bicycle Travel Journal by Applewood Books
- Magic Guidebooks Walt Disney World 2017 Guide: Secrets, Money Saving Tips, Hidden Mickeys, and Everything Else You Need to Know by Magic Guides
- Gainesville Restaurant Guide 2017: Best Rated Restaurants in Gainesville, Florida - 400 Restaurants, Bars and Cafés recommended for Visitors, 2017 by George R. Scripps
- The Brit Guide to Orlando 2017 by Simon Veness, Susan Veness
- Something Old, Something New: Savannah to Orlando by Bob Hocking
- A Local’s Guide to Bloodline: 50 Famous Film Locations In The Florida Keys by David L Sloan, Brad Bertelli, Dorothy Drennen
- Withlacoochee Trail: A Portrait by Mr Walter Judson Moore
- The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas
- Backroads of Florida - Second Edition: Along the Byways to Breathtaking Landscapes and Quirky Small Towns by Paul M. Franklin
- Marathon: The Middle Keys by Laura Albritton, Jerry Wilkinson
- Late Prehistoric Florida: Archaeology at the Edge of the Mississippian World by Keith Ashley, Nancy Marie White
- Patrick Air Force Base by Roger McCormick
- US Life-Saving Service: Florida’s East Coast by Sandra Thurlow, Timothy Dring
- Color My Miami
- Florida’s Minority Trailblazers: The Men and Women Who Changed the Face of Florida Government by Susan MacManus
- The Everglades Handbook: Understanding the Ecosystem, Fourth Edition by Thomas E. Lodge