If your father is a racing fan, and you have the money, you may be able to win the award for best kid this year by giving him an early Father’s Day present – a VIP Day with Christian Fittipaldi at the Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World. [Read more…]
A new offering at the Walt Disney World Speedway offers a chance to “drive your dream”, that is, if it’s always been your dream to drive a car that’s probably worth more than your house. The new Exotic Driving Experience offers some of the world’s finest automobiles with a track specifically designed for drivers to safely experience the cars’ powerful acceleration, speed and handling. [Read more…]
A unique Ford Explorer rolled off the assembly line today in Chicago. It featured the model’s trademark eye-catching craftsmanship with one notable distinction – it was created from more than 380,000 Lego bricks and marks the beginning of a long-term alliance between Ford and Legoland Florida. [Read more…]
The 8th Annual Celebration Exotic Car Festival, benefitting children’s charities, will be held April 9 and 10, 2011. This four-day event, hosted by the Ferrari Club of America, will be bigger and better than ever, with new activities and even more unique, exotic and race cars – as well as famous and movie and television cars to be displayed in Celebration, Fla. [Read more…]
By Kenny White
Safe Kids Worldwide recently hosted a one-day event at Epcot’s Test Track pavilion. The purpose of the event was to bring awareness of child endangerment when left inside a hot vehicle. Wes Bender, an operations manager with Safe Kids, explained that the mission of Safe Kids is to bring child safety to the forefront of parent’s minds. [Read more…]
Fun shifted into overdrive when Ridemakerz, the first-ever car customizing experience for kids and kids at heart, opened yesterday for a limited engagement at Downtown Disney West Side. This opening follows the October 2009 launch of a Ridemakerz shop in Downtown Disney in Anaheim, Calif.
Ridemakerz invites guests into a car customizing shop where they can build a one-of-a-kind radio control car or model. Between bodystyles and colors, tires and wheels, lights and sounds, accessories and decals, Ridemakerz estimates there are more than 649 million possible build combinations, not including individual decal placement.
Ridemakerz has agreements with several automotive manufacturers to offer versions of today’s most popular cars in its line-up. Guests can choose from the Ford Mustang and F-250 Super Chief Alternative Fuel Concept Truck, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R and C6RS, Dodge Ram, Challenger, and Viper, MINI Cooper S, and Scion xB. Retro hot rods, fire engines, racecars, cab-over tow and dump trucks, and many more favorites are also available.
The completed cars range in price from $10 to $32, depending on body and paint style chosen. Radio remote control can be added for an additional $25, and custom accessories range in price from $2 for grill guards, spoilers and hoods scoops to $15 for themed kits that include a wide range of complementary accessories. The cars are approximately 12 inches long, or 1:18 scale.
Ridemakerz, which occupies the former home of the Virgin Mega Store, delivers an even higher-octane experience to visitors by incorporating a specially designated radio-control test track and real-world auto salon. Eight world-class show cars are on display, including a Chevrolet C5.R racecar built by Pratt & Miller Engineering for General Motors. The display also features an F150 NASCAR Pace Truck and Dodge Ram from the personal collection of legendary car customizer Chip Foose, as well as a MINI Cooper from the private collection of famed movie car designer Fireball Tim Lawrence. Both Foose and Lawrence were on hand for the grand opening.
“The Ridemakerz brand and this shop, in particular, are close to my heart,” said Foose. “I learned about car customizing from my dad, and now I get to help pass that experience on to fathers, sons and families across America.” Foose also serves as an advisor to Ridemakerz.
Inspired by Build-A-Bear Workshop, a partner and investor, and the increasingly popular car customizing movement, Ridemakerz currently operates six shops in Arizona, California, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina and Virginia.
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By Kevin Yee
Welcome to Insider Top Tips. This column proposes to amalgamate some of the best “insider” tips for visiting Orlando and its world-famous attractions. Think of it as “tips from a local.”
I’m a local now, of course, though like most Floridians, I was a transplant from somewhere else (in my case, from Southern California and Disneyland, with stops in the Midwest and North Carolina along the way). I’ve been in Orlando since early 2004, and an East-coaster since 2002. Moving into the area has its advantages, since I got to experience the confusion, and sometimes frustration, of being new to just about everything.
There’s no shortage of information out there about visiting Orlando. You can find Web sites with volumes of data and ideas, and entire books (some the size of encyclopedias) chock full of things to see and do. I propose to do something a little different. First, this blog will be more selective; these are only the “top” tips. Second, I’m going to try to keep a broader focus than just rides and shows. You’ll find ideas here about effective planning, saving time, saving money, ensuring as smooth an experience as possible, and other such wide-ranging topics.
We’ll kick things off with a look at navigating around Orlando. Today’s article will be helpful only if you’re not using Disney’s shuttle service, Disney’s Magical Express, offered for free to guests of their hotels. If you have that service, you’re likely not traveling beyond Walt Disney World and have no need to navigate the streets at all. This is also true if you’re using the Mears shuttle service, the main source of transportation from Orlando International Airport to hotels.
For visitors wanting a more free-form experience, you’ll want to rent a car. This frees you up to visit different parks, and gives you enormous flexibility with timetables. (Expect a lot of waiting for buses and shuttles if you don’t have your own car, especially in peak moments such as closing time.). Some visitors may opt to rent a car once away from the airport (Disney’s Car Care Center offers Alamo rentals from the Magic Kingdom parking lot, for instance.), but it’s most common to arrange for car rentals from the airport directly. There’s even an entire floor in the terminal dedicated to these rental car counters.
But do you really know your way around Orlando? You probably know about Interstate 4, the main artery diagonally bisecting the city. (I-4 gives rise to a pun on Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, where one window honors the “Ayefour Corporation”.) And if you rented a car from the airport, you probably also encountered State route 528 (aka, the Beachline, formerly Bee Line). It’s an east-west toll road that passes right by the airport and is the conduit most visitors use to get to I-4 and the theme parks.
It’s possible you followed the signs from the airport, which prompt you to either head south away from SR-528, or even head on SR-528 “away” from I-4. What’s behind the ploy is to get more clueless tourists using an alternate route to Disney World, another toll road called Sate route 417. The SR-417 is longer and involves more tolls than the SR-528, hence the misleading signs.
All the major theme parks line up along I-4. You’ve got Disney in the south, SeaWorld in the middle, and Universal at the top. Some visitors know that a side-street connecting all of them, parallel to I-4, is International Drive (I-Drive). Indeed, this has become such an important conduit for tourists that countless hotels and restaurants have set up shop on I-Drive.
The trouble is, that level of activity translates into enormous traffic problems, sometimes even honest to goodness gridlock. Find yourself on I-Drive on a Friday night, for instance, and you could be in for a long wait to make it a few miles. As a result, you’ll want to bone up on alternate routes.
Your first choice as an alternate to I-Drive should be Universal Boulevard, which is a bit misleading since it doesn’t actually intersect with the Universal parks. It’s also parallel to I-4, and is “one street over” from I-Drive, further from I-4. Driving speeds here are unimpeded, and it’s a life-saver to skip past all the I-Drive traffic. Frequent cross-roads here all lead from I-Drive to Universal Boulevard; simply head away from the freeway to find the next stoplight and you should locate it.
Your second choice is Turkey Lake Road, which also parallels I-4, but on the other side from I-Drive. I’ve found drivers on Turkey Lake Road to be a touch more impatient, perhaps implying a higher percentage of locals. This may make the drive over here a bit more stressful, plus it’s a little easier to get lost as you approach Walt Disney World from the north. (Short version: It turns into Palm Parkway, then you’ll want to turn left at Apopka Vineland Road, also known as State route 535, before rejoining I-4 or simply turning into Downtown Disney via Hotel Plaza Boulevard.) There’s even a way to connect the dots between Turkey Lake, Universal Boulevard, Sand Lake Road and Apopka-Vineland Road, but that’s probably more than you need to know.
It may sound complicated (and on your first drive, it probably is), but trust me, when bottleneck sets in, you’ll do just about anything to avoid the very long delay you risk facing on I-4 or I-Drive. My advice is to print a copy of this story and keep it in your rental car, just in case.
• Kevin Yee is a theme park enthusiast and author. He’s written seven books about Disney theme parks, including his most recent work, an interactive children’s book called “Your Day at the Magic Kingdom“. He visits at least two Central Florida theme parks per week, and is now working on an upcoming book compiling all the best tips for a trip to Orlando. You can find out more about Kevin at his Web site, ultimateorlando.com.