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November 2014 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • Universal Park in China
  • Colossal Curl Water Ride
  • Florida (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
  • Latest Ticket Deals
  • FastPass+ Changes
  • Wild Arctic Harbor Seals
  • Bok Tower Gardens Expansion
  • Hollywood Studios Speculation
  • Disney Coins
  • I-DRIVE NASCAR
  • Osbourne Family Lights
  • Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
  • November Events
  • Weather Forecast
  • November Books
abc Studios

November 1, 2014, #113

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State.

Disney continue to make changes at Hollywood Studios as more attractions close.


Hi subscriber, welcome to the November 2014 newsletter of the Florida Review & Travel Guide.

Good news for drivers as fuel prices drop below $3 at some gas stations in Central Florida. It is also good news for some guests with a number of the parks introducing special ticket deals through restrictions do apply.

Disney continues to close attractions at Disney's Hollywood Studios but still no clear answer as to what will replace them.

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

Fun Spot America

Fun Spot America has announced a new ride in time for Halloween. Called the Air Raid it simulates what it is like to fly in an aerobatic aircraft including pulling up to 4g.

The ride has eight arms, each with a double seat.



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

Disney has announced that the "Legends of Captain Jack Sparrow" attraction will close on November 6. The show replaced the "Journey into Narnia: Prince Caspian" attraction in late 2012.

See other Hollywood Studios stories this month.

Bok Tower Gardens Expansion

Bok Tower Gardens has announced an expansion that will see the creation of a 2.7 acre children's garden and an outdoor kitchen garden.

Seven acres of the northern garden will be enlarged into a new wild garden to include the existing Window by the Pond and Endangered Plant Garden.

A new oval walkway will be constructed behind the Visitor Center leading to the Singing Tower along with a Pollinator Garden.

The work will start this autumn and is expected to be completed in late Spring of 2016 and will include some remedial work on the carillon tower.

Colossal Curl Water Ride

Adventure Island water park next door to Busch Gardens Tampa has announced their first new ride for many years. A new four person family slide raft ride called Colossal Curl is expected to open during the 2015 season, replacing the Gulf Scream ride.

The ride will be almost 70 feet tall and 560 feet in length with corkscrews, waterfalls, a funnel and wave elements.

Adventure Island is currently closed for the winter and re-opens in the Spring of 2015.

Flamingo Crossing

There are plans to build up to seven hotels at Disney's Flamingo Crossing over the next four to five years.

The first two, TownePlace Suites and SpringHill Suites (both Marriott brands) are due to open in 2016.

Flamingo Crossing is at the western end of Walt Disney World and is aimed at budget conscious guests visiting Disney and teams attending events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.


Florida (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

Florida (Eyewitness Travel Guides) is one of the Eyewitness Travel Guide series published by Dorling Kindersley and is updated every one or two years.

The latest edition was published on May 19, 2014 and it is lavishly illustrated throughout with over 1,000 stunning photographs, illustrations including isometric street plans, cutaway diagrams of important buildings, floor plans and maps.

The Florida book follows the style of other Eyewitness Travel Guides with beautifully presented artwork so you can really see what the places look like and the best way to explore them.

The introductory chapter gives you a feel for Florida, its history, people, landscape and habitat, architecture and culture.

The main guide splits Florida into six regions with a separate section for the Miami area and each region is colour coded.

Read our complete review of Florida (Eyewitness Travel Guides).


Gasoline Prices

Fuel prices in Florida are at their lowest levels for over three years with prices as low as $2.85 in some gas stations in Central Florida. Analysts expect the prices to drop even lower over the next couple of months before rising again in the Spring of 2015.

In October, gasoline prices dropped considerably with the average pump price per gallon for regular in Florida at around $3.03, down 29 cents on last month.

You can always find the latest pump prices at GasPriceWatch.com.


Islands of Adventure

Latest Ticket Deals

Universal has re-introduced their "3 days for the price of 2" ticket offer but it is only available to US and Canadian residents. If you buy a two day park-to-park ticket, you get a third day free with certain restrictions.

The third day must be used within 14 days of first use and is valid until June 20, 2015 with blackout dates between December 26, 2014 and January 3, 2015. The ticket must be purchased by June 7, 2015.

Aquatica has introduced an Orlando Splash Pass with gives unlimited access until December 31, 2014 for $37.00 plus tax. The ticket is only available online.

US, Canadian and Puerto Rican residents can also take advantage of an Aquatica Orlando Splash & Save Ticket which gives one day access on a specified date for $19.00 plus tax.

Gatorland is offering a ride on the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line for $29.99 plus tax (instead of $69.99) for Florida residents until December 19, 2014. Ticket includes regular admission to Gatorland.

At Legoland Florida, military veterans can get free admission between November 1 and 23 with 50% off for their guests (maximum of six guests per veteran).

Check out full details of all the latest ticket deals.

Toy Story Mania

FastPass+ Changes

Disney is again experimenting with the new FastPass+ system and for a few days in October, they made the popular Toy Story Midway Mania ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios a "FastPass+ only" ride. This meant that in order to ride Toy Story Midway Mania during the test, you had to make a FastPass+ reservation, there was no standby line at all.

Since opening, Toy Story Midway Mania has always had long queues but "FastPass+ only" is a contentious topic as some guests seem happy to wait for hours to ensure a ride. Whilst guests who did manage to ride during the experiment found the wait times reduced, many other guests were annoyed that they were unable to ride at all, as all the FastPasses had been issued for the day.

There are rumours that the recently closed Soundstage 1 next to Toy Story Midway Mania could be converted into a third track for the ride, to ease the queues.

The popular restaurant "Be Our Guest" at Magic Kingdom has also gone FastPass+ only for lunchtime eating and is only available to guests staying at a Disney resort hotel. In the evening dining reservations can be made to eat at the restaurant in the usual way.

In the past, the meet-and-great with Anna and Elsa from Frozen at Magic Kingdom was also made FastPass+ only.

Read more about FastPass+.


Wild Arctic Harbor Seals

As reported last month, SeaWorld have decided not to try and replace their last polar bear at the Wild Arctic exhibit as polar bears are listed as a threatened species.

Instead they will transfer a number of their Pacific harbor seals from the Pacific Point Reserve to the exhibit instead.

Read more about SeaWorld Orlando.

I-DRIVE NASCAR

A new indoor karting attraction to be called I-DRIVE NASCAR is being built just off International Drive and will feature a half-mile track as well as a four-lane bowling alley, gaming arcade and restaurant.

The electric go-karts will be capable of 45 mph and tickets will cost from $22.

The attraction is at 5228 Vanguard St which is close to the new Artegon Mall (formerly Festival Bay Mall) at the North end of International Drive and is scheduled to open on December 19, 2014.


Mickey's Sorcerer Hat

Hollywood Studios Speculation

Speculation is rife at the moment about possible changes coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Both the "American Idol Experience" and the "Backlot Tour" have closed this year and rumours abound that the "Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show" and/or the "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" could also close to make way for new attractions such as an extended Star Wars themed land or a Pixar Cars land.

Just to add fuel to the fire, the latest map in a Disney brochure showed a big gap where the Mickey's Sorcerers Hat currently sits outside the Chinese Theater at the top end of Hollywood Boulevard. A few days later Disney confirmed that the hat would be moving in early 2015 though they haven’t said whether it will be placed somewhere else.

The hat was originally installed in 2001 as part of the 100 Years of Magic celebration at Walt Disney World.

Read more about Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disney coins

Disney Coins

The Pacific Island of Niue has entered into a deal with the New Zealand Mint to produce a special Christmas limited edition "Seasons Greetings" collectors coin. The 1/2 oz one dollar solid silver proof coin features Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on one side and a group of Disney characters in colour on the obverse.

The coin comes presented in a clear star-shaped coin capsule for hanging on a Christmas tree, inside a commemorative book cover. Circulation is limited to 10,000 copies and the retail price will be around $55.

The island of Niue bolsters their income by producing a number of precious metal collectors coins and stamps and in 2011, a set of coins featuring Star Wars film characters was minted as well as Disney characters.

We are just waiting for the Frozen inspired commemorative coins now!


Universal Park in China

Universal Parks & Resorts has announced that they are planning to open a 300 acre theme park in Tongzhou, an eastern suburb of Beijing with a local partner, the Beijing Shouhuan Tourism Investment Co. Ltd. There is the potential to expand to 1,000 acres.

Opening date is expected to be in 2019 and will include attractions based upon Chinese stories and heritage, a Universal CityWalk dining, retail and entertainment complex and a Universal themed resort hotel.

Also in China, Disney’s Shanghai park is scheduled to open late next year and other US companies like Six Flags and DreamWorks are also working on theme parks in China.

Osbourne Family Lights

The dates have been announced for the Osbourne Family Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They will run from November 7 to January 4 next year.

With all the closures currently happening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there are fears this might be their last year.

Read more about Disney's Hollywood Studios.

News In Brief

Some other news headlines:

  • Anyone travelling up International Drive cannot miss the construction at I-Drive Live. The inner wheel of the Orlando Eye has just been completed. Work will now start on assembling the outer wheel and fixing the gondolas.
  • The Cowfish restaurant at Citywalk is now very close to completion.
  • The first parking garage at Disney Springs (Downtown Disney) will start opening in phases over the next few weeks.

The Boathouse

New Disney Springs Restaurants

Disney has confirmed that there are two new upscale restaurants coming to The Landings at Disney Springs in 2015 as part of the Downtown Disney makeover.

The Boathouse will open in the spring of 2015 on the waterfront and offer live music, a restaurant with three distinctive bars and two private dining rooms. The Boathouse menu will feature steak and chops, fresh seafood and a raw bar.

In addition there will be guided champagne and strawberry tours on a 40 foot Venetian water taxi as well as amphibious Amphicar rides.

The second restaurant is Morimoto Asia from celebrity "Iron Chef America" Masaharu Moritmoto, scheduled to open in the summer of 2015. The menu will have a distinctive Japanese and Asian theme.

Morimoto Asia is also in a waterfront location split over two levels, with terraces, waterfront seating, a grand hall and a cocktail lounge.

Read more about Disney Springs.

Pacific harbor seal

Golden Ticket Awards 2014

Now in its seventeenth year, the Golden Ticket award for Best Amusement Park went to Europa-Park in Rust, Germany for the first time. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio came second.

Cedar Point has won every year since the awards were first introduced but the gap with Europa-Park in Rust, Germany closed to just one percentage point last year but this year, Europa-Park took 25% of the vote with Cedar Point at 16%.

Universal's Islands of Adventure moved up one place to sixth place with Magic Kingdom in seventh place.

Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas also continues to be voted Best Water Park with Aquatica dropping out of the top five (third place in 2013) with Blizzard Beach in fourth place and Typhoon Lagoon fifth.

SeaWorld Orlando, Universal's Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios and Epcot all won awards.

Read more about the Golden Ticket Awards 2014.


Disney Wilderness Preserve

November and December 2014 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 November 2014 (Disney Wilderness Preserve, Poinciana) and December 2014 (Christmas at SeaWorld) 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 November or December now.

Also don't forget if you are looking for inspiration on what to do on your Florida vacation, why not take advantage of our collection of free Florida brochures where you will find information on many activities including golfing vacations, eco-tours, scuba diving and Caribbean cruises.


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.


November Events

This month there are two public holidays; on Tuesday, November 11, it is Veterans Day and then on Thursday, November 27 it is Thanksgiving.

With the end of Halloween, all the major theme parks start gearing up for Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holiday season with events like The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and Macy’s Holiday Parade at Universal Orlando.

Read more about the Christmas celebrations at the theme parks.

Thanksgiving weekend is one of the biggest holiday weekends in America so you can expect very large crowds all over Florida.

Once the Thanksgiving weekend is over, the parks then become very quiet until the Christmas/New Year Holiday season, which makes it 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.

The annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival and Eat to the Beat concert series runs until November 10. Admission is included with the regular Epcot admission ticket. This year also introduces several new exclusive dining packages.

Read more about both the Epcot Food & Wine Festival and Eat to the Beat concert series.

Weather Forecast

November will see temperatures fall particularly in the North overnight with some rain and thunderstorms. Overall Florida will experience average temperatures and average rainfall for the time of year.

In the North around Pensacola and Jacksonville, there will be periods of sunshine interspersed with a few thunderstorms and showers. It will be cooler on the Gulf coast. Daytime temperatures will be in the high 70s falling to high 50s. Overnight temperatures will be in the low 60s falling to high 30s.

Across the Central region, there will be more sunshine but still the occasional shower and thunderstorm. Daytime temperatures will be in the mid 80s falling to high 60s with mid 60s falling to high 40s overnight.

Down in Miami and the Keys, it will be warmer with fewer showers. Temperatures will be in the mid 80s falling to mid 70s during the day and low 70s falling to low 50s 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.

November Books

Amongst this month's book list are the latest editions of some of the guide books from Fodor plus a trilogy of natural history books from the Florida Magnificent Wilderness series.

November Book List

  • Theme Park Insider Visits The Wizarding World of Harry Potter by Robert Niles
  • 20 Best Historic Homes in Florida: A collection of restored properties open for public tours by Gillian Birch
  • Florida's Magnificent Coast by James Valentine, D. Bruce Means
  • Florida's Magnificent Land by James Valentine, D. Bruce Means
  • Florida's Magnificent Water by James Valentine, D. Bruce Means
  • Legendary Locals of Jacksonville by Laura Jo Brunson, Kendall Brunson
  • Historic Homes of Florida's First Coast by Mary Atwood, William Weeks
  • Streetcars of Florida's First Coast by Robert W. Mann
  • Lake Mary by John Hope
  • Zellwood by Museum and Library Inc. Zellwood Historical Society
  • Fodor's Florida 2015 by Fodor's
  • Palm Beach People by Hilary Geary Ross
  • On This Day in Florida History by Nick Wynne
  • The Ringling: Visitor Guide by David Berry
  • Florida Month-by-Month Gardening: What to Do Each Month to Have A Beautiful Garden All Year by Tom MacCubbin
  • Discovering Vintage Miami: A Guide to the City's Timeless Shops, Hotels, Restaurants & More by Mandy Baca
  • Florida by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
  • African Americans of Tampa by Ersula Knox Odom
  • Frommer's EasyGuide to Miami and the Keys by David Paul Appell