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September 2017 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • Flamecraft Bar
  • Indiana Jones’ Land Rumour At Animal Kingdom
  • Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge & Toy Story Land Models
  • Dragon Challenge Closing Soon
  • Busch Gardens Sale Rumour
  • Polar Express Train Ride
  • Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire
  • Grand Avenue
  • Walt Disney World Express Transportation Ends
  • Epcot Candlelight Processional
  • Vue at 360
  • Tourism Numbers
  • Gatorland’s Baby Gator Swamp
  • Disney Mobile Ordering
  • Boeing Starliner
  • Halloween Events
  • Wine Bar George
  • Fuel prices
  • Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
  • September Events
  • Weather Forecast
  • September Books
Flamecraft Bar by Seafire Grill

September 1, 2017, #147

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State.

Flamecraft Bar by Seafire Grill

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

This months big news includes rumours of an Indiana Jones land and the sale of Busch Gardens, a new land to open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, groundbreaking for the Vue 360 project StarFlyer and a new attraction at Gatorland.

If you have small children, there is a new Santa Claus train ride due to open in time for Christmas and Disney has made some improvements to their mobile app.

If you want to ride the Dragon Challenge roller coasters one last time at Islands of Adventure, they shut in a couple of days time.

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

Flamecraft Bar

A new bar has opened at SeaWorld Orlando. Called the Flamecraft Bar, it is located next to SeaFire Grill in The Waterfront at SeaWorld area.

There are 16 different craft beers to choose from plus house wines, cocktails and snacks. The patio look out over the lagoon.

Read more about SeaWorld Orlando.

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 - Indiana Jones’ Land Rumour At Animal Kingdom

A new rumour to surface in August suggests Disney might be looking at building an Indiana Jones themed land at Animal Kingdom. The most likely location would be DinoLand U.S.A.

There is already an attraction called Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland in California which is similar to the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom.

Read more about Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

One Man’s Dream

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge & Toy Story Land Models

When the “One Man’s Dream” attraction re-opens in mid September it will be called “Walt Disney Presents” and amongst its exhibits will be a new model of Toy Story Land as well as part of the large scale model of the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that was shown at D23 Expo 2017.

Walt Disney Presents will continue to look to the past, displaying historic Walt Disney and The Walt Disney Company artefacts like One Man’s Dream used to do but now it will also look to the future with previews of upcoming attractions.

Amongst the displays will be concept art for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction, a model of the ride vehicle from Battle of the First Order as well as Marvel character meet and greets like Star-Lord and baby Groot plus Disney’s Moana and previews of upcoming Disney films.

Read more about Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Dragon Challenge Closing Soon

To make room for a new roller coaster, Universal are closing the twin Dragon Challenge roller coasters and its last day of operation will be September 4, 2017.

Dragon Challenge is a pair of intertwined roller coasters, the Chinese Fireball and the Hungarian Horntail and it was formerly known as Dueling Dragons. When first built, the two trains were dispatched simultaneously resulting in three near-miss encounters but following a couple of injuries from loose objects hitting some of the riders, the trains are now dispatched separately.

Read more about Islands of Adventure.

Busch Gardens Sale Rumour

UK based Merlin Entertainments Group, the second largest theme park company in the world after Walt Disney Attractions has expressed an interest in buying Busch Gardens Tampa. They already operate a number of SeaLife centres, Madame Tussauds and eight Legoland parks including Legoland Florida (formerly Cypress Gardens) in Winter Haven.

SeaWorld Entertainment, owners of Busch Gardens have not commented about a possible sale but they are believed to have recently hired the investment company Evercore who specialise in mergers and acquisitions, re-structuring, public offerings and private placements.

Merlin continues to grow whilst SeaWorld is still struggling to turn their business around. Their woes continue with the death of a third killer whale this year.

Read more about Busch Gardens.

Polar Express Train Ride

A new historic train service is starting at Tavares offering scenic trips through the local area operated by the Orlando & Northwestern Railway. It will be called “The Royal Palm Railway Experience” and prices and schedules will be announced soon.

They also plan to offer special trips for Halloween and Christmas. “The Royal Pumpkin Limited” will run on October 21, 22, 28, 29, 30, 31 at 4:00 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. Starting November 17, there will be “The Polar Express Train Ride” complete with golden ticket and a chance to meet Santa Claus and his elves.

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire

There is a new permanent hyper-reality experience coming to Disney Springs and Downtown Disney in California. To be called “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” it is a joint collaboration between Lucasfilm ILMxLAB (Immersive Entertainment division of Lucasfilm) and the VOID who currently have virtual reality experiences in New York, Toronto, and Salt Lake City.

It is due to open this Christmas holiday season and will bring together sight, sound, touch, smell and motion to give guests the ultimate Star Wars reality experience. Guests will be able to move around freely in the environment.

There is no announcement as yet as to the exact location, ticket prices or opening dates.

Read more about Disney Springs.

Muppets Courtyard

Grand Avenue

A new “land” is coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Called “Grand Avenue” it effectively incorporates the “Muppets Courtyard” and part of the former “Streets of America” and is due to open in the Autumn.

Grand Avenue is themed on parts of downtown Los Angeles featuring a number of facades including a music shop, a tailors and converted lofts. A corner pub located in an old print works will be called the “Baseline Tap House” and will serve California wines, beers plus a selection of snacks.

The Muppet theatre will continue to host Muppet Vision 3D but is to be renamed the “Grand Arts Theatre” whilst the courtyard will be known as “Grand Park”.

Read more about Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Epcot Candlelight Processional

The list of narrators at the Epcot Candlelight Processional continues to grow, latest names include Matt Bomer (from Magic Mike), Whoopi Goldberg and Warwick Davis.

Read more about the Epcot Candlelight Processional that runs three times a night at Epcot between November 24 and December 30.

Vue at 360

Work has started on the StarFlyer swing ride at Vue at 360, next door to I-Drive 360 and the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye.

The Vue at 360 complex is being developed by Unicorp National Developments and already includes the Kings Bowl, Sleuth Mystery Dinner Show and a number of restaurants. It shares a multi-story parking garage with I-Drive 360.

When it is completed, the StarFlyer will stand over 420 feet tall, the largest in the world. It is expected to open in the first quarter of 2018.

Tourism Numbers

The annual passenger count at Orlando International Airport topped a record 43 million last year. Domestic traffic increased by over 6 percent.

A new terminal is in the works but will take years to complete. In the short-term, the number of check-in desks in the existing building is being increased.

Statewide, it is estimated there were 60.7 million tourists in the first 6 months of this year, a 4.1 increase on the same period last year. The increase is largely made up of out of state US visitors with the number of international tourists including from Canada going down slightly.

Read more about Florida tourism.

Gatorland’s Baby Gator Swamp

Gatorland has opened a new exhibit called the Baby Gator Swamp. Located near the Gator Gully Splash Park and the Florida Panther enclosure, the Baby Gator Swamp showcases a group of about 50 baby American alligators, all of which have been born at the park.

There are around 2,000 alligators on display at Gatorland.

The Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure is due to open in the next few weeks. This is an extra-ticket off-road adventure ride through the backstage area of Gatorland in custom-built 12 seater monster trucks.

Read more about Gatorland.


Disney Mobile Ordering

Disney has expanded their mobile restaurant meal ordering option through their mobile app to include the D-Luxe Burger restaurant at Disney Springs.

Originally, mobile ordering was only available in Animal Kingdom at the new Satu’li Canteen, the Flame Tree Barbecue, Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus but now there are now around 15 restaurants in the programme.

There is also a service called “Order Ahead” which lets guests order a meal up to 30 days in advance using the Disney web site, for breakfast or lunch orders at Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom only.

In an update to the My Disney Experience app, you can now keep track of your purchases charged to your room if you are staying at a Disney resort, track your Disney Dining Plan usage showing you remaining credits for the day and for annual passholders, you can now renew your passes through the app.

Read more about Disney’s My Disney Experience app.

Boeing Starliner

A mockup of the Boeing CST–100 Starliner deep-space manned space capsule is to be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center as part of the NASA Now & Next attraction in the IMAX Theater building. Guests will be able to look inside the open hatch to view the crew quarters.

The Starliner joins a flown Orion crew module, Dragon cargo module, engineering model of the Vector Space vehicle and a 1:20 scale model of the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser.

Read more about the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Halloween Events

Both Universal Studios and Busch Gardens continue to drip-feed their Halloween event news for 2017.

Universal Studios has now announced all five of their scare zones and that 2017 will be the last year to see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure as the show is to be retired after a run of 26 years.

Over at Busch Gardens, they have released details of two more of the seven houses to be featured this year.

Read more about all the Florida theme park Halloween events.

Wine Bar George

Another new venue is expected to open soon at Disney Springs. Wine Bar George by Master Sommelier George Miliotes will now open in early 2018 and feature over 100 different wines.

Wine Bar George will be located near to the Raglan Road Irish pub in The Landings neighbourhood.

Read more about Disney Springs.

Walt Disney World Express Transportation Ends

For anyone who was planning to use the internal park-to-park Walt Disney World Express Transportation service, the trial ended on August 23, 2017.

The Walt Disney World Express Transportation service took guests directly from and to locations inside the four theme parks avoiding having to exit and re-enter each park and was introduced in December 2016.

Of course there is now the new Minnie Van transportation system but it is not a direct replacement.

Gasoline Prices

Fuel prices were expected to rise anyway in the run up to Labor Day on September 4 but Hurricane Harvey caused major damage and flooding in Texas which resulted in around a quarter of Gulf oil and gas rigs being evacuated and the second largest refinery in the US being shut. Florida gets most of its petrol from Texas so supplies have been badly hit.

Prices are currently around $2.45 per gallon for regular, up 16 cents on last month but could rise further. Prices in metro areas like Orlando are about 4 cents cheaper.

September 2017 calendar

September 2017 and October 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 September 2017 (Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom) and October 2017 (Echo Lake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios) 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 September or October now.

Florida Villa by the lake at sunset
h3 id="orlandofloridavillarental">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.

September Events

Monday, September 4 is Labor Day, a state holiday so expect the parks to be busier over the preceding weekend.

No sooner is summer over, than Halloween season kicks in. Halloween seems to get earlier every year and this year, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party started on August 25 and continues on select nights until November 1.

At Universal Halloween Horror Nights starts on September 15, a week later Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream starts on September 20 and then on September 30 it is the turn of the SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular. The Legoland Brick-or-Treat does not start until October 14.

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and accompanying Epcot Eat to the Beat concert series are on every day until November 13.

Anglers can take advantage of the Licence-free Saltwater Fishing day on September 2.

Electric Ocean at SeaWorld Orlando has been extended to September 3 (on select nights).

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

Both Universal’s Rock the Universe and Disney’s Night of Joy Christian music festivals run over the Friday/Saturday of September 8 and 9.

There is a special Guy Harvey Weekend at Busch Gardens on September 9 and 10.

There could be three launches from Cape Canaveral in September.

SpaceX plan to launch a Falcon 9 on September 7 followed by a second one on September 27. There is also an Atlas 5 launch scheduled for September 28.

Weather Forecast

August saw the arrival of the strongest storm to hit the United States in 13 years. Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coastline near Corpus Christi as a category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 160 mph. Rainfall of up to 30 inches was reported in places with major flooding in cities like Houston.

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

In the North around Pensacola and Jacksonville it will be mostly sunny with the chance of a thunderstorm on most days, especially on the Gulf coast. Daytime temperatures will be between the low 80s and the low 90s with overnight temperatures between the mid 60s to mid 70s. It will be slightly cooler on the Atlantic coast.

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

September Books

This month, there are a lot of new books including the latest editions of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2018, Birnbaum’s 2018 Walt Disney World, Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World For Kids by Kids! and Fodor’s Florida.

We are continuing to review the latest books, click on the links below.

September Book List

  • Drinking In Orlando: A Cheap Blokes Guide by Bob Preston, Debra J Preston
  • Mississippian Beginnings by Gregory D. Wilson
  • Beyond the Sunshine: A Timeline of Florida’s Past by Rick Baker
  • River and Road: Fort Myers Architecture from Craftsman to Modern by Jared Beck, Pamela Miner
  • Florida by Tamra B. Orr
  • Tales of Yesterday’s Florida Keys by John Viele
  • Eerie Florida by Mark Muncy, Kari Schultz
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas in Florida
  • Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland by Dave Barry
  • Beyond the Castle: A Guide to Discovering Your Happily Ever After by Jody Jean Dreyer
  • Before the Pioneers: Indians, Settlers, Slaves, and the Founding of Miami by Andrew K. Frank
  • Silent Films in St. Augustine by Thomas Graham
  • Tales from the Miami Hurricanes Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Hurricanes Stories Ever Told by Jim Martz
  • Champions Way: Football, Florida, and the Lost Soul of College Sports by Mike McIntire
  • Oh, Florida!: How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country by Craig Pittman
  • The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2018 by Bob Sehlinger, Liliane Opsomer, Len Testa
  • Norman Van Aken’s Florida Kitchen by Norman Van Aken
  • Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band by John Capouya
  • Harney Flats: A Florida Paleoindian Site by I. Randolph Daniel Jr. Jr., Michael Wisenbaker
  • Fodor’s Florida by Fodor’s Travel Guides
  • Florida Reptiles & Amphibians: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species of Florida & the Everglades by James Kavanagh, Waterford Press
  • Flagler County by Sisco Deen, The Flagler County Historical Society
  • Fort Clinch by Frank A. Ofeldt III
  • Florida Weather and Climate: More Than Just Sunshine by Jennifer M. Collins, Robert V. Rohli, Charles H. Paxton
  • Birnbaum’s 2018 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide by Birnbaum Guides
  • Birnbaum’s 2018 Walt Disney World For Kids: The Official Guide by Birnbaum Guides
  • Backcountry Trails of Florida: A Guide to Hiking Florida’s Water Management Districts by Terri Mashour
  • Constructing Floridians: Natives and Europeans in the Colonial Floridas, 1513–1783 by Daniel S. Murphree
  • Biscayne National Park by James A. Kushlan, Kirsten Hines

Other pages of interest