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December 2017 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure
  • La Nouba Closure
  • Italian Eateries at Disney Springs
  • Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire
  • IAAPA Attractions Expo Announcements
  • The SpectacuLAB
  • Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
  • Universal Christmas Celebrations
  • IAAPA Brass Ring Awards
  • 2018 TEA Thea Awards
  • El Mariachi Coco de Santa Cecilia
  • Astronaut Training Experience
  • Polar Express Train
  • SpaceX Launch Delay
  • Fuel Prices
  • Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
  • December Events
  • Weather Forecast
  • December Books
Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure

December 1, 2017, #150

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State.

Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure

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

With Thanksgiving out of the way all the theme parks turn their attention to Christmas and the New Year celebrations.

If you like Italian cuisine then you can look forward to three new Italian eateries opening at Disney Springs in the near future.

Rocket launch fans will have to wait a little longer as SpaceX delays the launch of the amazing Falcon 9 Heavy again.

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. If you fancy a ride on a “Polar Express” train to see Father Christmas there are now two opportunities in Florida this year.

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

Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure

The Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure has soft-opened at Gatorland ahead of the grand opening on December 13. The ride costs $10 on top of the regular park admission.

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

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

STOP PRESS - La Nouba Closure

Don’t forget that the Cirque du Soleil — La Nouba at Disney Springs closes for good on December 31, 2017 so you do not have much time left to see the show. Disney is yet to announce what if anything will replace it.

Italian Eateries at Disney Springs

Italian Eateries at Disney Springs

Italian food lovers will be pleased to hear that Disney are introducing three new Italian cuisine restaurants at Disney Springs Landing run by the Patina Restaurant Group. Opening date will be this winter but no precise dates have been announced yet.

The Sicilian cuisine inspired Maria & Enzo’s is an old fashioned 1930s style trattoria located in an abandoned airline terminal. Adjoining Maria & Enzo’s is the Enzo’s Hideaway Tunnel Bar themed on a Roman aperitif bar which will serve speciality “Prohibition era” cocktails and also has a casual dining menu.

Lastly there is a fast casual restaurant called Pizza Ponte serving pizza, Italian sandwiches, pastries and desserts.

All three are located close to the site of the upcoming Edison restaurant which is situated where the former Pleasure Island Adventurers Club used to be. The Edison is also run by the Patina Restaurant Group along with Morimoto Asia.

Read more about Disney Springs, The Landing.

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire

The hyper-reality Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire attraction opens at Disney Springs on December 16, 2017 and tickets are now on sale.

Read more about Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire.

IAAPA Attractions Expo Announcements

At the 2017 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Attractions Expo, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment took the opportunity to confirm they will be opening seven new attractions plus two Sesame Street parades in 2018 across their US parks.

As far as Florida is concerned, in the spring of 2018, Vanish Point will open at Adventure Island, Tampa Bay. Infinity Falls will open at SeaWorld Orlando and Ray Rush will open at Aquatica Orlando, both in the summer of 2018.

Read more about SeaWorld’s Infinity Falls

The SpectacuLAB

A new interactive fun science show that appeals to all age groups called “The SpectacuLAB” has opened at Innoventions East in Epcot.

Two scientists from Science from Scientists are joined each day by an eager Disney intern “Frankie” as they work through a series of experiments to demonstrate the basic principles of science and show how these scientific principles have inspired today’s technologies.

Read more about the attractions at Innoventions including The SpectacuLAB.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Disney has revealed that the new Star Wars land, “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2019 will be based on a planet called Batuu in the Outer Rim on the edge of the Star Wars galaxy.

To celebrate the film release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, new scenes from both Crait and Batuu have been added to the “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue” simulator ride.

Read more about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Universal Christmas Celebrations

Universal Christmas Celebrations

Universal has made a couple of changes for their Christmas celebrations for 2017.

Universal has revamped their annual Macy’s Parade with a new soundtrack. The floats are now self-propelled and include minions from “Despicable Me” plus characters from “Shrek” and “Madagascar”. Of course no Christmas parade would be complete without Santa.

The parade kicks off at 6 p.m. each evening up to January 6.

In Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure, Hogwarts Castle is illuminated in a special seven minute nighttime projection show. Diagon Alley is also specially decorated for the holiday season and there are new seasonal songs from the Frog Choir and Celestine Warbeck

Read more about all the Christmas celebrations at Universal Studios.

IAAPA Brass Ring Awards

IAAPA Brass Ring Awards

Several Florida theme parks won Brass Ring awards at the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017.

In the Games and Merchandise Excellence category, Best Plush – Annual Attendance Less than 1 Million went to “Uno the Cougar” at Naples Zoo and Disney won the Judges Choice with “Disney Avatar Banshee Rookery” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

In the Live Entertainment Excellence category, SeaWorld picked up two awards for Best Live “Edutainment” Show with “Dolphin Days” and Most Creative Show Featuring Animals with “Sea Lion High”.

Meanwhile Busch Gardens Tampa won the Most Creative Sports/Stunt Show with “Turn it Up” and the Most Creative Christmas Show went to “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration” at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

In the Excellence in Marketing category, Best Outdoor Advertisement went to The Florida Aquarium, Tampa.

2018 TEA Thea Awards

Other announcements at the IAAPA Attractions Expo included the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) 2018 TEA Thea Awards and three Walt Disney World attractions won outstanding achievement awards.

  • Attraction Reimagining — Frozen Ever After ride at Epcot in the Norway pavilion
  • Theme Park Area Development — Pandora – The World of Avatar
  • Attraction — Avatar Flight of Passage

Frozen Ever After was a controversial refurbishment of the Maelstrom ride.

El Mariachi Coco de Santa Cecilia

To celebrate the release of the latest Disney/Pixar animated film “Coco”, a new Mexican mariachi band is now performing songs from the film outside the pyramid at the Mexico pavilion in Epcot.

Astronaut Training Experience

The Kennedy Space Center is introducing two new Astronaut Training Experiences (ATX) from December 18 as it transitions from the original Space Shuttle missions to the new Mars explorations.

The original ATX missions are designed primarily for children and last around half a day. The two new missions, Mars Exploration Simulators and Spacewalk Training last 45 and 30 minutes respectively.

Check the various ticket options for the Astronaut Training Experiences.

Polar Express Train

You can now relive the Polar Express™ Train Ride in Florida in both Miami and Tavares near Orlando. They are two of the 42 Polar Express trains that are licenced by Warner Bros throughout the United States.

The recently introduced Orlando and Northwestern Railway operating out of Tavares joins the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami in offering nostalgic train rides to meet Santa and his helpers.

In previous years, SeaWorld re-engineered their Wild Arctic simulator ride into a Polar Express ride but it ended in 2016 when they switched over to a Rudolph attraction.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy

SpaceX Launch Delays

SpaceX has delayed indefinitely the launch of the secret Project Zuma satellite for the US government following issues with the fairing shroud. It is unclear if the fairing problem is specific to the Zuma payload. Launches to the International Space Station appear to be proceeding as planned as the Dragon capsule does not employ a fairing but other launches have also been delayed.

The first ever launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy has been pushed back to January 2018 though SpaceX hope to static test all 27 engines in December. Now that pad SLC–40 is due to be operational again in December it frees up the former shuttle pad LC–39A for the Falcon 9 Heavy.

Read more about upcoming launches at the Kennedy Space Center.

Gasoline Prices

Despite a brief respite, prices rose slightly in November but are expected to fall again during December.

Prices are around $2.46 per gallon for regular, up 6 cents on last month. Prices in metro areas like Orlando are about 6 cents cheaper but prices in the South remain a lot higher.

You can always find the latest pump prices at

December 2017 calendar

December 2017 and January 2018 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 2017 (Christmas Tree at Universal Studios) and January 2018 (Pinewood Estate Courtyard) 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.

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.

December Events

This month there is just one public holiday; on Christmas Day, December 25.

The end of November sees the official end of what has been a very busy hurricane season but it is not unknown for tropical storms and hurricanes to still form into December and even January.

The Epcot International Festival of Holidays and the Epcot Candlelight Processional continue on select nights until December 30.

At Magic Kingdom, Mickey’s Very Merry Xmas Party runs on select nights until December 22.

Over at Universal the Universal Christmas Celebrations continue until January 6, 2018, whilst SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration and Busch Gardens Christmas Town both finish on December 31.

The Gaylord Palms ICE! Christmas Around the World show runs until January 7.

There should be at least one launch from Cape Canaveral in December.

There is a SpaceX launch of a Falcon 9 on December 8 to the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9 launch with a mystery payload called “Zuma” which was scheduled to lift off last month has been postponed indefinitely whilst SpaceX resolve a fairing shroud issue.

SpaceX still hope to position the Falcon 9 Heavy on launch pad 39A for a static hold-down firing test of all 27 engines during December but the launch will be no sooner than January 2018.

Weather Forecast

December should again see average temperatures and below average rainfall across the whole region. Temperatures could drop into the 30s in the North.

In the North around Pensacola and Jacksonville it will be a mixture of sunshine and clouds getting cooler as the month progresses. Daytime temperatures will be between the low 50s and high 70s with overnight temperatures between the high 30s to low 50s. Like last month, there will be more sunshine on the Atlantic coast.

Across the Central region, the outlook is similar but a lot warmer and fewer clouds. Daytime temperatures will be in the mid 60s to low 80s with high 40s to low 60s overnight.

Down in Miami and the Keys, it will be similar to the Central region but warmer overnight. Temperatures will be in the low 70s to low 80s during the day and low 60s to low 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.

December Books

Just a few new books in December including the latest edition of the Brit Guide Orlando 2018 and Frommer’s EasyGuide to Disney World, Universal and Orlando 2018 (both delayed from last month) plus the latest edition of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2018.

December Book List

  • Insight Guides Flexi Map Orlando (Insight Flexi Maps) by Insight Guides
  • Rockhouse: Max Strang (Masterpieces) by Oscar Riera Ojeda
  • Florida Lore: The Barefoot Mailman, Cowboy Bone Mizell, the Tallahassee Witch and Other Tales (American Legends) by Caren Schnur Neile
  • Brit Guide Orlando 2018 (Brit Guides) by Simon Veness
  • The Rosewood Massacre: An Archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence (Cultural Heritage Studies) by Edward González-Tennant
  • Geology of the Florida Keys by Eugene A. Shinn, Barbara H. Lidz
  • Frommer’s EasyGuide to Disney World, Universal and Orlando 2018 (EasyGuides) by Jason Cochran
  • The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2018 (The Unofficial Guides) by Seth Kubersky
  • I Am Not a Tractor!: How Florida Farmworkers Took On the Fast Food Giants and Won by Susan L. Marquis
  • The Marching Chiefs of Florida State University: The Band That Never Lost a Halftime Show by Bill F. Faucet
  • The Complete Walt Disney World 2018: The Definitive Disney Handbook by Julie Neal, Mike Neal

Other pages of interest