You are here

July 2017 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • Star Wars Land Progress
  • Volcano Bay Capacity Issues
  • New Rollercoaster
  • The Hall of Presidents
  • Frozen Ever After Sparkling Dessert Party
  • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
  • Madame Tussauds New Exhibit
  • SpaceX and X–37B
  • Theme Park Attendance 2016
  • Disney Springs Preferred Parking
  • Ritz-Carlton Cruise Line
  • Disney Dining Plan Introduces Alcohol
  • Andretti Indoor Karting
  • Lion Coutry Safari
  • Fast & Furious Virtual Line
  • SpaceX and Launchpad 40
  • Walt Disney World Ticket Deal
  • Jungle Island Upgrades
  • Wet ’n Wild Site
  • Epcot France Pavilion Construction
  • Wolfgang Puck Correction
  • Disney Movie Magic
  • Fuel prices
  • Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
  • July Events
  • Weather Forecast
  • July Books
Harambe Market

July 1, 2017, #145

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State.

Harambe Market

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

There are more rumours about what Disney is planning for Epcot in both Future World and World Showcase.

Both Pandora - World of AVATAR and Universal’s Volcano Bay are proving too popular with guests resulting in long wait lines.

Amongst other stories is the news that attendance at nearly all Disney parks dropped slightly last year, Disney offer a special summer park ticket, Disney are introducing the option of alcoholic drinks into their Dining Plans and SpaceX continue to ramp up their launch inventory.

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

Star Wars Land Progress

Construction at the new Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando has been progressing slower than the equivalent site in California as a lot more preparation was required to clear the site.

However, the steel framework of two AT-AT Walkers at the Battle of First Order ride are now starting to take shape.

Read more about the upcoming Star Wars Land.

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.

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

STOP PRESS - Volcano Bay Capacity Issues

Volcano Bay continues to be so popular that it is reaching capacity by lunchtime some days with very long wait times on some rides. As it nears capacity, Universal is only allowing access to their own resort hotel guests.

Read more about Universal’s Volcano Bay.

Kraken Unleashed

New Rollercoaster

In June one new roller coaster was opened at Fun Spot and one re-imagined coaster re-opened at SeaWorld.

Over at Fun Spot Kissimmee, the Mine Blower wooden roller coaster has opened to rave reviews. What is unusual for a wooden roller coaster is the 360 degree barrel roll about half way through the ride.

Meanwhile at SeaWorld, they have re-opened Kraken only now it is called Kraken Unleashed and guests have the option of wearing a virtual reality headset. In conjunction with the re-opening of Kraken, SeaWorld has introduced a virtual queue called Spot Saver.

To use the system, you must be in the park and connect to it using your mobile phone. You are allocated a ride time for Kraken, but SeaWorld state that you could still have a 20 minute wait before boarding. SeaWorld will continue to operate a standby queue only as long as the wait time does not exceed 20 minutes.

The paid for Quick Queue front-of-line service will still operate.

Read more about SeaWorld.

The Hall of Presidents

Following last months story about President Donald Trump and The Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, Disney has now confirmed that the animatronic Trump will have a speaking role. However the original opening date of June 29 has been delayed and the latest from Disney is that the attraction will re-open in late 2017.

The attraction closed in January of this year and when The Hall of Presidents does re-open, it will feature a new high definition projection system, sound system and lighting.

Read more about Magic Kingdom.

Frozen Ever After Sparkling Dessert Party

Disney has introduced another Dessert party and it starts on July 17 on select nights at Epcot. It is the Frozen Ever After Sparkling Dessert Party and it replaces the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party.

As well as the actual dessert party you also get reserved seating for the evening IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show and an exclusive opportunity to ride Frozen Ever After! in the Norway pavilion, after hours. Note however that Anna and Elsa meet-and-greets will not be available after hours.

The dessert party takes place at the World Showcase Plaza East, overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon.

Read more about the Frozen Ever After Sparkling Dessert Party.

Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival

Two new academy award winning short films debuted at the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival in the Imagination Pavilion‘s Magic Eye Theater on June 19.

“Get a Horse” which premiered with Frozen is being retained but the adorable “La Luna” and funny “For the Birds” are being discontinued and replaced by “Feast” featuring a Boston Terrier called Winston and “Piper”, the tale of a baby sandpiper. The new films previously premiered with “Big Hero 6” and “Finding Dory” respectively.

The performance lasts around 20 minutes and is also a great way to escape the summer heat.

Read more about Epcot.

Madame Tussauds New Exhibit

A wax figure of the performer Justin Bieber was added to Madame Tussauds on International Drive on June 21 and joins a host of other singers including Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Beyonce, Rihanna, Pitbull, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Ricky Martin and Katy Perry.

Read more about Madame Tussauds.

SpaceX and X–37B

SpaceX has won the contract to launch the next flight of the top secret X–37B for the US Air Force on August 28 using a Falcon 9 rocket.

The unmanned Boeing X–37B looks like a miniature Space Shuttle and is reusable.

The two X–37Bs have amassed 2,085 days in space between them on four previous missions, all launched using Atlas 5 rockets from Vandenberg Air Force base in California.

The fourth flight ended with a touchdown in Florida for the first time in May and all future flights are expected to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Diagon Alley crowds

Theme Park Attendance 2016

The annual theme park attendance report has been published by TEA/AECOM and it makes interesting reading. Universal attendance figures soared whilst Disney dropped back a bit and SeaWorld continues to falter.

All of Disney’s North American theme parks including the water parks showed an average 0.5% drop in attendance in 2016 but revenues increased no doubt brought on by higher ticket prices and in-park sales.

Universal continues to grow with 4.3% growth at Universal Studios Florida and an impressive 6.5% at Islands of Adventure which pushes Islands of Adventure ahead of Disney California Adventure.

SeaWorld is still struggling in the aftermath of Blackfish with a 7.9% drop in numbers in Orlando.

Read more about theme park attendance through the years.

Disney Springs shopping

Disney Springs Preferred Parking

Disney Springs now offers “preferred parking” close to the Marketplace in the Lemon car park and the Grapefruit car park near West Side. The cost is $10 per day.

Valet parking has been available for some time at $20 per day; near the entrance to the Orange garage from 10:00 a.m., in front of the Cirque du Soleil from 4:00 p.m. and in the Lemon car park from 10:00 a.m.

The Orange and Lime multi-story parking garages still offer free parking. Free surface parking is also available in the Watermelon and Strawberry car parks.

A third garage which will provide a further 2,000 parking spaces is to be built on the other side of the road near the Casting building.

Read more about Disney Springs.

Ritz-Carlton Cruise Line

Ritz-Carlton (part of Marriott International) is launching a luxury cruise line that will offer their first cruise in the last quarter of 2019. They are planning on commissioning three 298 passenger luxury yachts offering cruises to destinations such as the Mediterranean, northern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. No home ports have been announced at this time.

Disney Dining Plan Introduces Alcohol

There is a major change to the Disney Dining Plan slated for 2018, alcohol!

From January 2018, the Dining Plan will include speciality and alcoholic drinks as well as non-alcoholic drinks but they must be redeemed as part of the meal.

Note you must be over 21 to buy and purchase alcohol in Florida and you may need to show ID.

Read more about the Disney Dining Plans.

Andretti Indoor Karting

A new go karting attraction will open in Orlando this summer. The Andretti Indoor Karting attraction is scheduled to open on Universal Boulevard, just north of the Orange County Convention Center.

It will feature electric go karts running on a multi-level banked track plus video arcade games, virtual reality racing simulators, laser tag, 10 pin bowling, a ropes course and a zip line. There will also be a theatre, restaurant and bar.

There is already an outdoor Andretti Thrill Park in Melbourne, Florida.

Lion Coutry Safari

It looks as if Lion Country Safari in Palm Beach which opened in 1967 and houses around 1,000 animals, is to be sold to wildlife conservationist Marchella Leone.

There are plans to expand the park, bringing in new types of animals such as African black-footed Penguins, orangutans and cheetahs from the Leo Zoological Conservation Center in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Fast & Furious Virtual Line

Universal Orlando has announced that the Fast & Furious — Supercharged ride will open at Universal Studios Florida in the Spring of 2018. It is being constructed on the former site of the Disaster ride and Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue location in the San Francisco part of the park.

It will have a virtual line allowing guests to reserve a ride time in advance using either the official Universal mobile app or through a kiosk at the ride itself. The virtual queue is expected to be similar to that introduced at the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

SpaceX launch

SpaceX and Launchpad 40

SpaceX hope to have launchpad 40 back up and running before the end of the summer following an explosion last September during a fuelling exercise of a Falcon 9 rocket. The explosion destroyed the rocket and its satellite as well as damaging the pad and the strongback arm which supports the rocket prior to launch.

Following the accident, SpaceX accelerated the recommissioning of the old Apollo and Space Shuttle launchpad 39A to handle Falcon 9 rockets whilst pad 40 was repaired.

Once launchpad 40 is operational again, SpaceX can then concentrate on completing the upgrade to launchpad 39A to handle the newer and larger Falcon 9 Heavy which is yet to fly.

SpaceX hope to launch a Falcon 9 about every 14 days from Cape Canaveral.

Read more about upcoming rocket launches.

March of First Order

Walt Disney World Ticket Deal

Disney has introduced a limited summer time 4-Park Magic Ticket. The ticket must be purchased by July 30, 2017 and must be used within 14 days of first use or by September 30, 2017, whichever occurs first.

It offers four one day admissions, one day to each of the four Walt Disney World theme parks.

The price is $316 for adults and $296 for children (plus tax) compared to $350 for adults and $330 for children for a regular four day ticket.

However, unlike a normal four day multi-day Disney ticket, you can only enter each park once.

Interestingly, attendance dropped at every one of Disney’s theme parks worldwide except for the recently opened Shanghai Disneyland, after Disney raised ticket prices and introduced seasonal pricing.

Read more about Walt Disney World single day tickets.

Jungle Island Upgrades

There are plans to upgrade Jungle Island on Watson Island in Miami to include a lagoon for swimming, sailing and kayaking plus water slides.

For the more adventurous there will be seven zip lines above the tree canopy along with rope courses and high wires.

Jungle Island originally opened in 1936 as Parrot Jungle and first phase of the new development should be open in 2019.

Wet ’n Wild Site

It looks as if Universal are definitely planning two hotels with pools and poolside bars on the site of the former Wet ’n Wild water park.

Latest proposals show one hotel each side of Universal Boulevard with their own parking garages. Total occupancy is expected to be around 4,000 rooms.

Read more about Universal Orlando Resort hotels.

Epcot France Pavilion Construction

Further to last months news of plans submitted around Epcot’s Universe of Energy, Disney has now filed permits for construction around the France pavilion in the World Showcase.

There are rumours that Disney might be thinking of building a Ratatouille trackless 3D dark ride attraction, similar to the one in Disneyland Paris.

Wolfgang Puck Correction

Correcting last months story about the new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill coming to Disney Springs in 2018, Levy Restaurants has announced they will be closing the existing Wolfgang Puck Grand Café restaurant located on the West Side, on August 1, 2017 but the Wolfgang Puck Express in the Marketplace will remain open.

The new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill will be located next to the Coca-Cola store in the Town Center.

Another Levy restaurant, the Portobello Country Italian Trattoria is currently closed for major renovations and is expected to re-open with a new menu later this year.

Read more about Disney Springs.

Disney Movie Magic

Disney has released another music and projection mapping show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios called “Disney Movie Magic”. It runs for 10 minutes and starts 30 minutes before the nightly “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular” fireworks show projected onto the front of the Chinese Theater and surrounding buildings.

It features clips from dozens of classic Disney films including “Mary Poppins”, “Roger Rabbit”, Nightmare before Christmas”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Jungle Book”, “Tron”, “Indiana Jones”, “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

Read more about Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Gasoline Prices

Fuel prices fell again during June to their lowest levels since February.

Prices are around $2.18 per gallon for regular, down 19 cents on last month. Prices in metro areas like Orlando are slightly cheaper at around $2.09 a gallon on average.

You can always find the latest pump prices at

July 2017 calendar

July 2017 and August 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 July 2017 (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom) and August 2017 (Northrop T–38 Talon at Kennedy Space Center) 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 July or August 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.

July Events

July 4 is Independence Day and there will be celebrations taking place throughout Florida. You can expect very heavy traffic on the roads and crowds in the parks and on the beaches.

Read more about Florida’s Independence Day celebrations.

Expect Pandora - World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Universal’s Volcano Bay water park to continue to be busy for the foreseeable future.

The Coke Zero 400 racing event takes place at Daytona International Speedway on July 1.

Island Nights at Adventure Island in Tampa continues until August 5, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.

At Busch Gardens their Busch Gardens Summer Nights continue until August 6.

Fantasy of Flight are operating their interim museum for the summer season until July 30.

This year, SeaWorld has renamed their Summer Nights event as Electric Ocean and it runs until August 6.

The Frozen Summer Games continues at Disney’s Blizzard Beach but no closing date has been announced yet.

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

There could be one launch from Cape Canaveral in July.

SpaceX plan to launch the Intelsat 35e communications satellite on July 2.

Weather Forecast

July should see above average temperatures particularly in the Central and Southern regions and average rainfall.

In the North around Pensacola and Jacksonville it will be mostly sunny with the occasional rain shower and afternoon thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures will be between the mid 80s and the low 90s with overnight temperatures between the mid to 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 mid 70s to low 80s overnight.

Down in Miami and the Keys, it will be a lot dryer but slightly cooler. 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.

July Books

This month, there are just a few books including the latest edition of Fodor’s South Florida: with Miami, Fort Lauderdale & the Keys.

July Book List

  • Key West TODAY: The Very Best 153 Things You Must Do by Bucky Montgomery
  • Footprints in the Sands of Longwood: Collection of local history stories from longtime residents of Longwood, Florida by Longwood Historic Society
  • Natural Florida Photography by Edwin Wilke
  • F is for Florida by Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida
  • Trees: South Florida and the Keys by Andrew K. Koeser, Melissa H. Friedman, Gitta Hasing, Alan R. Franck, Holly Finley, Julie Schelb
  • Florida Sweets: Key Lime Pie, Kumquat Cake & Citrus Candy by Joy Sheffield Harris
  • Lost Suwannee County by Eric Musgrove
  • Fodor’s South Florida: with Miami, Fort Lauderdale & the Keys by Fodor’s Travel Guides

Other pages of interest