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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

May 2012 - Orlando, Florida Theme Parks

In this issue:

Welcome to the May 2012 issue of USATourist News Magazine. Sunny Orlando, Florida is one of the most action-packed cities in America with more attractions and theme parks than any other U.S. city. This month we're featuring some of the newest theme park happenings in the area including new parks, updates, and expansions.

Hogsmeade Village

A snowy Hogsmeade Village is one of the magical creations you can explore at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
© Mike Leco / USATourist.com

See SeaWorld

SeaWorld is always a fascinating attraction with its marina-themed property, regularly featured animal exhibits, rides, and live entertainment. The new TurtleTrek invites guests to visit two new naturalistic habitats which consist of hundreds of freshwater fish, more than 1,500 saltwater fish and more than a dozen sea turtles. Afterward, watch the cutting-edge 3-D/360-degree dome theater film featuring the underwater journey of a sea turtle.

What's new at Universal

Universal's Islands of Adventure is home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which opened in 2010 and where you will also find one of the most innovative and popular attractions, the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. This attraction has been enhanced with new animation and crystal clear 4K high-def visuals. It's supposed to be a pretty big deal.

Universal Orlando Resort also added the new daily Superstar Parade at Universal Studios Florida featuring larger-than-life floats, beloved characters and hundreds of energetic street performers.

Tip: Purchase your tickets ahead of time and avoid waiting in line.

The Newest Theme Park

LEGOLAND Florida is one of Orlando's newest theme parks. Doors just opened in fall 2011. This park is geared to families with children age 2 to 12. The 150-acre interactive theme park has more than 50 rides, shows and interactive attractions. Coming soon are the latest add-ons: a water park with wave pools, "build-a-raft" lazy river, waterslides with 60-foot drops and a Duplo Splash Safari for toddlers. You can get discount tickets from the Official Ticket Center.

Dumbo ride in Disney World

Guests take a spin on "Dumbo the Flying Elephant," on March 12, 2012 at its new location in the new Storybook Circus area of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park during the first phase of the "soft" opening. The first part of the attraction features Dumbo spinning clockwise for the first time in Magic Kingdom history.
© Disney / David Roark, Photographer

Disney's Fantasyland is Growing

At the Walt Disney World Resort, the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland is doubling in size. Phase One is already open and includes classic attractions plus the new Storybook Circus area, the Great Goofini Coaster, and interactive role-play adventure games where young guests become apprentice sorcerers to help battle an army of Disney Villains. At the Enchanted Tales with Belle (from Beauty and the Beast), you'll find Belle and her friends sharing "the tale as old as time". Inside the new Princess Fairytale Hall, Disney princesses will greet guests in their elegant royal court. In addition, Disney decided that since the Dumbo ride has always been such a hit (the lines are always long) it would be best to open a second Dumbo ride, thus the "dueling Dumbo" rides were born.

In late 2012 look for Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid, a musical showcase that will feature Ariel and her friends. Another new ride will be the high-energy Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which is a family-style coaster that races through a diamond mine and past scenes from the Disney classic Snow White.

In Downtown Disney, the Splitsville bowling alley will be opening in fall 2012. The 45,000-square-foot, 31-lane retro bowling alley will feature billiards, dining, dancing, and an outdoor patio.

Calling Fast Drivers

If you like to drive fast, this one is for you. In January 2012, the Exotic Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway opened for guests to experience the thrill of driving the world's fastest and most exotic supercars. Drivers can opt for a Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570, Lamborghini Gallardo 560, Audi R8, a Porsche 997S, or all of the above!

Float Above the Parks

For a birds-eye-view of the Walt Disney World complex, take a hot-air balloon ride. It's an amazing experience to simply float in the air. Thompson Aire Balloons launch near WDW and limit their passengers to no more than eight to ensure everyone's comfort and enjoyment. Take the early morning flight which will have you back by 9:30 a.m. so you have plenty of time for visiting the parks.

Disney at Sea

Disney just launched its fourth and largest cruise ship, the Disney Fantasy. This latest ship has a 20th-century design that recalls the golden age of cruising while meeting state-of-the-art technology. Although the Disney ships are created with families in mind, 20% of Disney cruisers travel without children and take advantage of the adult-only pools, bars and restaurants. The nice thing about taking a Disney Cruise is that you can combine your excursion with your theme-park adventures. As for transportation, the Disney's Magical Express complimentary shuttle takes guests directly from the airport to any of the cruise ships.

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship

The Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship is a luxury liner with all the current technology, comfort, entertainment and dining amenities that knowledgable cruisers demand.
© Beth Blair / USATourist.com

Forever Florida EcoSafaris

This 4700-acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area called Forever Florida EcoSafaris is Florida at its finest. Set in the wilderness with natural streams, wetlands and dense cypress forests, adventurers can choose from four packages: Coach Safari, Horseback Safari, Florida's biggest and All New Zipline Safari or pedal through the treetops on the New Cypress Canopy Cycle. What's new here? The Rattlesnake, a new zipline rollercoaster.

100 Year Celebration

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking and her sole voyage, Titanic - The Experience exhibition reopened in Orlando in January. The exhibit features over 100 never before seen artifacts and the massive hull piece, the second largest piece ever recovered from the ship.

The Closest Beaches

Orlando is located inland, but the beaches aren't that far away. In fact there are several just over an hour away. These four beaches are all under an hour and 10 minutes driving time from Orlando:

  • Cocoa Beach
  • Daytona Beach
  • New Smyrna Beach
  • Canaveral National Seashore

Swim with Dolphins

One of the most memorable activities while in Florida is to swim with dolphins. During this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you'll get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. Foot pushes, dorsal tows, water fights, kisses and handshakes are just a few of the amazing behaviors you'll witness while in the water with the dolphins.

Where to Stay

Lodging is one of the biggest concerns while traveling, especially in the Orlando area. There are many choices, price ranges and aspects to contemplate. For example, if the Disney World Resort is your only destination it would be ideal to stay on the property to avoid the cost of rental cars and parking. However, if you plan to visit several theme parks and attractions in the area, staying at a stand-alone hotel and renting a car is ideal.

In May 2012 the family suites in Disney's Art of Animation Resort will open at the Walt Disney World Resort with three sparkling swimming pools, four playful courtyards, and 1,120 suites designed after Finding Nemo, Cars and The Lion King, and 864 rooms inspired by The Little Mermaid.

Another option -off site - is the 200-acre tropical Orlando World Center, the largest Marriott property in the world with 2,000 rooms, a championship 18-hole golf course featuring the prestigious Bill Madonna Golf Academy, six pools, including a one million gallon lagoon pool, a private spa pool, cascading waterfalls, and a 106-foot waterslide, as well as ten on-site dining options.

If you are traveling with the whole family, a vacation home rental can be a more economical option than multiple hotel rooms. There are a lot of vacation rentals in the Orlando area. Most feature private pools. With a full kitchen at your disposal, you can cook meals in home and save even more money. Visit our Florida Vacation Homes page for information on some rental properties.

Orlando - Most $25 Gift Certificates for $10

Featured Hotels

Nickelodeon Suites Resort - This hotel is conveniently located near all the major theme parks. And the bus transportation will get you to all the attractions in style. The Nickelodeon was built for kids with each suite including a kids bedroom with a TV and video game system. Each night live interactive stage entertainment is provided on site where one lucky kid gets slimed! Rates start at $119 USD.

Waldorf Astoria Orlando - This hotel is the first-ever newly built Waldorf Astoria outside of New York City and is a luxurious escape for the adults. Get pampered at the European Spa. Relax at the resort style pools. And please your palate at the 7 premium restaurants. Traveling with kids? No problem! The Waldorf Astoria Kids Club will be sure to keep kids entertained with supervised activities. For all this luxury, $208 is a bargain!

Walt Disney World Swan - If you want to stay on the Disney property, the Swan is an excellent choice. It is one of the higher rated hotels but offers rooms at lower rates. This award winning hotel starts at $210.

Travel Deals

If you're visiting Universal, why not see the Blue Man Group? This popular show is great for the whole family.

Some of the best rides can be found outside of the theme parks. Take a ride with Thompson Aire in a hot air balloon. You'll get a panoramic view of Orlando and see things like you've never seen them before!

Explore Orlando Theme Parks for One Low Price!

Book Early & Save: Orlando air + 4 nights from $200

Find Today's Daily Deal on the Best in Orlando!

Maps.com has your Orlando Florida maps!

Orlando 5% off Compact, Midsize, Full-Size Cars Minivan

Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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