From June 10 to Aug. 20, Wet ‘n Wild will host their Summer BBQ Beach Bash every Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., offering entertainment and food in addition to their rides and attractions. [Read more…]
By Don Gworek
The Orlando theme parks welcomed back thousands of guests attending the annual Gay Days week. Probably most well-known of the events is the so-called “red shirt day” at the Magic Kingdom. [Read more…]
Adventure Island, the 30-acre, Key West-themed water park next door to Busch Gardens, will open for its 2011 season with a preview weekend on March 12 and 13, with daily operation beginning on Saturday, March 19. Summer hours will be extended, with the park open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every night, from June 9 through Aug. 14. [Read more…]
Fantasy Surf, an indoor surfing facility just down the street from Walt Disney World is open and ready for adventurous waveboarders and surfers of all experience levels. [Read more…]
Catching a wave in landlocked Kissimmee doesn’t seem likely. But soon tourists and locals will be able to experience the rush of sliding, riding and surfing waves when Fantasy Surf opens this October. [Read more…]
By Don Gworek
What began with controversy 20 years ago is now one of Orlando’s top events each year, with attendance larger than many of the biggest convention groups. It started as just one day at the Magic Kingdom and has expanded to a multi-day event at multiple parks. [Read more…]
Coco Key Water Resort, a hotel and water park in one, opened today in Orlando. This is the 10th Coco Key Water Park and the first located in the southern part of the U.S. [Read more…]
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and its waterpark, Adventure Island, are now featured in Street View on Google Maps.
Virtual visits are now available to all 10 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment locations, including the SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego; Discovery Cove, a swim-with-dolphins resort, and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s waterpark, both in Orlando; Busch Gardens and Water Country USA, both in Williamsburg; and Sesame Place in Langhorne, Penn.
In Tampa, nearly every inch of Busch Gardens was mapped using one of Google’s “Trikes.” A state-of-the-art camera automatically gathered photographs from the back of a modified bicycle. Google software then blended the images, creating the interactive and moveable 360-degree scenes Street View is known for.
“I began thinking about building a bicycle-based Street View system after realizing how many great places around the world aren’t accessible by car, but still would be perfect to include in Street View on Google Maps. The immensely popular SeaWorld parks are perfect examples of fun and interesting locations that our Trike can add to Google Maps, benefiting families and tourists around the world,” said Dan Ratner, Senior Mechanical Engineer on the Street View team & creator of the Trike.
All of the Central Florida theme parks except Disney’s are available on Google Street View (Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and Universal). Viewers can start by going to maps.google.com and searching for the park name. Then drag the orange “Pegman” icon (found at the top left of the map) for a “walking tour.”
Today Merlin Entertainments announced a multi-million dollar investment for its biggest family tourist center in the world with the planned opening of Legoland Florida.
Merlin purchased the historical Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Fla. from property investment company Land South Group and will open Legoland Florida on the site at the end of 2011. The deal to buy the 145-acre site includes the current theme park and waterpark as well as an operating lease in perpetuity on the historic botanical gardens. Merlin plans a significant multi-million dollar investment over a number of years, up to and beyond opening, in what will be the biggest Legoland to date. In line with the group’s “resort” strategy for its theme parks, this is likely to include both accommodation and the addition of further branded attractions from the Merlin portfolio. This will build on the $100 million invested over the last few years in improved infrastructure on the site.
The Florida development will be Merlin’s second Legoland Park in North America. It will provide a full-day, year round, theme park experience geared towards families with children between the ages of two and 12. Its design will mirror the successful concept of the four existing Legoland Parks in Denmark, Germany, U.K. and California. However, as with the other four, it will also have its own unique “twist” reflecting its stunning location and adding a Florida flavour.
The decision to open a Legoland Park in Florida follows considerable research in the area by Merlin over a number of years. This indicated a high recognition of the Legoland Park brand and a 90 percent plus intention to visit by families in this target market. The issue has been to find the ideal site. Cypress Gardens has long been a popular location for millions of visitors. Merlin believes its Central Florida location, approximately 50 minutes from Orlando and also close to Tampa, is the perfect site for Legoland.
The development follows the success of Legoland California which opened in 1999. Legoland California was recently voted the country’s best children’s theme park by “Amusement Today” for the sixth year running. It is also recognized as the fastest growing theme park in the U.S., enjoying an increase in visitor numbers year-on-year, including six percent in 2009.
Legoland Florida will be the biggest Legoland Park ever opened and will offer a unique mix of more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, including spectacular Lego models and other interactive elements for the whole family to enjoy together.
The park is expected to create more than 1,000 new jobs by opening; as well as boosting the Florida economy through the use of local contractors for development.
Frequently Asked Questions:
When will the park open?
The Legoland makeover will take approximately two years. They’re expecting to open at the end of 2011.
Why open it in Polk County?
Officials said they visited Cypress Gardens in past years and fell in love with the place. They explained that their other theme parks are located on beautiful grounds. They looked at many locations in Orlando but ultimately chose Cypress Gardens. They also added that if they had built from scratch on another location, it would have taken them five or six years.
Will the gardens remain?
Yes. They stressed that they will keep the beautiful gardens.
What about the Southern Belles and the Florida shaped pool?
They haven’t decided if they’ll remain yet or not.
Will they keep the water ski shows?
They haven’t decided for sure, but they hope to. They think the water ski show could easily be themed with the Lego brand.
Will the Cypress Gardens name remain?
Maybe in some form. The location will be called Legoland Florida, and eventually Legoland Florida Resort. They are thinking about calling the gardens part of Legoland “Cypress Gardens”. If so, you’d go to Legoland Florida to visit the Cypress Gardens.
How many attractions will there be?
Somewhere around 50 all together. This includes rides and shows.
Will any of the Cypress Gardens rides remain? What about the wooden roller coasters?
Some of Cypress Gardens’ rides have already been removed. Some of them have been sold but not moved off property yet. Officials said they will probably keep some of the rides and retheme them. They are thinking about keeping one of the wooden roller coasters but didn’t say which one.
Will a Legoland hotel be built?
They plan to eventually build an onsite hotel, but not until a while after the opening.
Where is it located and how do I get there?
The property is about a 45 to 55 minute drive from Downtown Disney. From Orlando, you would take I-4 West to exit 55, (U.S. 27 South), then turn right on Cypress Gardens Boulevard. It’s an easy drive if I-4 traffic isn’t bad.
Will they offer promotions with other Central Florida theme parks?
They hope to. They said they’re willing to work with any of the other theme park companies including Disney.
Will the water park remain? Will it become a Legoland waterpark?
Yes, the water park will remain. It won’t become a Legoland Water Park right away, but if their upcoming first Legoland Water Park, which opens in California in June, does well, they may bring it here.
Will the waterpark be included with admission to Legoland?
No. It will require a separate ticket.
How much will ticket prices be to Legoland?
They haven’t announced prices yet, but a current one-day adult ticket to Legoland California is $67.
Here’s video from the press conference:
Here’s a look at the Legoland California Resort. This will give you an idea of the types of attractions that are coming to Legoland Florida:
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CoCo Key Water Resorts are adding Orlando to their portfolio of water resorts and hotels. Set to open in March at 7400 International Drive (near the convention center) [Editor’s Note: It’s actually not that close to the Convention Center. It’s closer to Sand Lake Road.], the 58,000 square-foot canopy covered water park will be the company’s first outdoor water park. Other locations include Chicago, Omaha, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Boston and more.
The water resort with a Key West feel will feature three water slides – the Boomerango, Surfer Splash and Over the Falls. The Coconut Grove lazy river, Palm Paradise spa, and Parrot’s Perch interactive play island will offer water park fun for families looking for a quieter experience. Other attractions will include Minnow Lagoon toddler pool, CoCo’s Beach and a teen pool, Coral Reef Cove. Also look for Key Quest Arcade and Parakeet’s Playhouse, a multi-function space for parties and events.
The hotel part of the resort will include 391 completely renovated guest rooms and family suites, the new Gator Grab and Go coffee and convenience shop, fitness center and a new restaurant/food court. Guests 21 and older will be able to enjoy a beverage in the tropical bar along the wharf.
Look for “CoCo”, the resort’s parrot mascot, to make special appearances and pose for pictures.
For more information on CoCo Key Water Resort properties, visit CoCoKeyWaterResort.com.
By Andy Guinigundo
Carlsbad, Calif. – Several months ago, Legoland confirmed rumors that a water park was being added to the Legoland Resort in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. At that time other than the confirmation, no further details were released. Recently, at their yearly conference for media and invited guests, they finally presented the lowdown on the water park.
The water park will sit on 5.5 acres on the northern edge of the Legoland resort property behind Fun Town. The descriptive, if not very creative, name for the park is Legoland Water Park. Some of the attractions will include a six-person raft ride, tube slides, body slides, a lazy river and an interactive toddler area. Guests will be able to “build” their own rafts with special rubber Lego bricks before embarking on their lazy river ride.
Admission to the water park is separate from Legoland admission. There is a $10 up-charge with a Legoland park ticket purchase. With the Resort Hopper option, guests can visit Legoland, Sea Life Aquarium and the water park. The water park is expected to open in June.
• Andy Guinigundo is the author of the Out of The Loop column in “Orlando Attractions Magazine”. Out of the Loop keeps you up-to-date with attraction news outside of Central Florida. Andy lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and three daughters. He grew up frequenting theme parks around Ohio and making trips to Orlando with his family. While for most of the year, he’s out of the Orlando loop, he tries to visit Florida at least once a year.
Anheuser-Busch InBev and The Blackstone Group announced today that Anheuser-Busch InBev will sell its entertainment business to Blackstone Capital Partners V L.P. for up to $2.7 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, Blackstone will acquire Anheuser-Busch InBev’s wholly owned subsidiary, Busch Entertainment Corporation (BEC), the second largest entertainment park operator in the United States with approximately 25 million annual visitors
The purchase includes:
- SeaWorld, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida
- Busch Gardens and Adventure Island in Tampa Bay, Florida
- Two more SeaWorld parks in San Antonio, Texas and San Diego, California
- Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia
- Other Busch/InBev-owned family entertainment attractions in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
In addition to the new purchase, Blackstone also currently owns 50 percent of the Universal Orlando theme parks. The firm also owns Merlin Entertainments Group, which owns Legoland theme parks, Madame Tussauds Wax Museums, The London Eye and more.
Worlds of Discovery President Jim Atchison made this statement:
“A short time ago, Blackstone Capital Partners V L.P., an investor fund advised by The Blackstone Group, announced that it had reached agreement with Anheuser-Busch InBev to purchase the company’s entertainment park division, Busch Entertainment Corporation (BEC). While you may have never heard of BEC, if you are reading these words you know who we are.
“BEC operates 10 Worlds of Discovery – SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Diego, SeaWorld San Antonio, Busch Gardens Tampa, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Sesame Place, Adventure Island and Water Country USA – some of the best-known and most-loved entertainment parks in the world today. More than 25,000 men and women make up our team. Each is dedicated to providing you the very finest family entertainment experiences and service anywhere.
“For all of us at Worlds of Discovery, this is an exciting development. This new phase in our history is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the principles that have guided us for the last 50 years. This is also our opportunity to make a promise to you. We pledge to deliver an experience that exceeds your expectations; an experience that brings you closer to those you love; an experience that is as enriching as it is thrilling and fun.
“Visit a Worlds of Discovery park. If it isn’t everything you hoped it would be, contact us. We’ll refund your admission. On behalf of the Worlds of Discovery team, thank you for your interest in our great parks. We hope to see you soon in one of our Worlds of Discovery.”
Carlos Brito, Chief Executive Officer of Anheuser-Busch InBev, said:
“Busch Entertainment Corporation is a high performing asset with a world-class management team, but not a core business for Anheuser-Busch InBev. We are pleased to have reached an agreement with a buyer who understands the industry and has a strategic vision for the business. The sale of BEC represents another important milestone in our commitment to de-leverage the company and will also allow us to continue to focus on our core brewing business. “The Blackstone Group is a preeminent private equity firm and we are very happy to have reached an agreement with Blackstone. We have great respect for BEC’s management and employees and know they will continue to prosper under Blackstone’s ownership.”
Joseph Baratta, Senior Managing Director of The Blackstone Group, said:
“We have long admired the Busch Entertainment Corporation parks. They are the premier collection of entertainment parks in the United States and offer a unique family experience. We are pleased to have the opportunity to acquire this business. We have deep sector experience and look forward to working with the excellent BEC management team to continue to invest in and grow the company.”
The owners of Cypress Gardens announced today that the park and Splash Island Waterpark have closed. The park closed last fall for five months then reopened earlier this year without its many amusement rides. Since the end of March, it has operated with just its water park, gardens and ski show.
Here’s the owner’s statement regarding the closing and possible sale.
From the earliest moment that our firm purchased Cypress Gardens and Splash Island Waterpark, our highest priority has always been to maintain the park’s beauty and protect its proud traditions as a mainstay of the state’s history and natural treasures. It is with these ideals in mind that we must announce that the park will be closed for business as of Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009.
During the last two years, Land South Adventures, LLC, has explored numerous management frameworks and exhausted every possible approach to keep the park running in its traditional form. Now we are in the process of negotiating with several potential purchasers and lessees for all or part of the property, and do not feel it is fair to our employees, the guests or the public to continue operations heading into the fall with the future of the property in flux.
We are optimistic that the outcome will be in the best interests of both the park and the residents of Polk County and the State of Florida.
Even if Orlando is center of the amusement park universe, there are great and wonderful happenings everywhere. These amusements occur in little towns with names like West Mifflin, Penn. and big cities like the greater Los Angeles area. Fun is had in exotic locales like Dubai and Australia. There is even plenty of amusement park news generated right here in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.
If you are a subscriber to Orlando Attractions Magazine (and if you aren’t, why not?), you may have read my column toward the back of the magazine. Out of the Loop covers the goings-on at attractions across the United States and the world.
The idea behind the blog is that many of you, like me, live outside of Orlando. While most of us can’t get to Florida more than once a year, it doesn’t mean our lives are void of amusement park thrills. On the contrary, I contend that there are many thrills to be had outside Orlando. For most, a theme park is within a tank of gas away. We have an ongoing need to know “what’s up?” in the amusement industry. Breaking out of the confines of a magazine page, the Out of the Loop online column will seek to cover some of the news from outside Orlando. Mind you, I didn’t say all the news. However, I’ll definitely cover the big announcements, but also the interesting news, and perhaps some off-the-beaten-path stories.
– Andy Guinigundo
Here’s our first installment:
Holiday World to build world’s largest water coaster
About 75 miles west on Interstate 64 from Louisville, Ky. is Santa Claus, Ind. Santa Claus is home to Holiday World theme park and Splashin’ Safari, its water park. This is a one-price, two parks type of adventure. The theming of Holiday World is obvious. Instead of Tomorrowland or Fantasyland, they have Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, etc. and all the associated themes. Splashin’ Safari has African safari theme. This park is the real deal. For example, their three wooden coasters are as thrilling or more thrilling than anything out there.
The parks have a very friendly, welcoming feel. Many times they’ve been voted the cleanest park in the world. It’s common to see the park matriarch, Pat Koch, in the park making sure everything is just right – even picking up a stray food wrapper or cleaning off a table or counter.
I suppose someone forgot to tell the Koch family (son Will, is president of the park) that we’re in a recession. They give guests free soft drinks, free sunscreen and free parking. Rather than hunker down and weather the financial storm, they instead decided to build the world’s tallest water ride in the Pilgrim’s Plunge that debuted this spring. The incredible Voyage coaster is the park’s biggest investment. The Pilgrim’s Plunge was second until now.
On Thursday, Holiday World/Splashin’ Safari announced the $5.5 million Wildebeest that will be the world’s largest water coaster. It’s supposed to open in May 2010. The traditional water slide is propelled by gravity – what goes up must go down. In addition to gravity pulling down, a water coaster has mechanisms that propel riders up hills much like their dry track and train coaster counterparts. A similar, but shorter ride in Orlando is Crush ‘n’ Gusher at Typhoon Lagoon.
The ride will start with a conveyor belt ride promptly followed by a 45 degree drop. During the remainder of the ride, linear induction motors or LIMs will propel the four-rider rafts up seven more hills. The LIMs are a similar technology to that employed in the initial launch of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It will reach a top speed of almost 25 mph. The ride will cover 2.1 acres, have a ride time of two minutes and 30 seconds, and will be 1,710 feet in length, making it the largest water coaster in the world.
The fall is like Christmas for amusement park fans. Many of the new ride announcements start to pour in now. Look for more Out of the Loop posts here on the Orlando Attractions Magazine blog each Sunday.
• Andy Guinigundo is the author of the Out of The Loop column in Orlando Attractions Magazine. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and three daughters. He grew up frequenting theme parks around Ohio and making trips to Orlando with his family. While for most of the year, he’s out of the Orlando loop, he tries to visit Florida at least once a year.