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7 New Theme Parks Openings in Orlando in 2017
From a brand new tropical water park, a celebrity hosted adventure to exploring an entirely new world; Orlando - Theme Park Capital of the World SM - is ramping up for another landmark year of new reasons to visit. We've gathered a list of 17 new openings coming to Orlando in 2017, featuring some of the largest expansions in theme park history, new resort hotels, dining experiences and a year packed with unforgettable sporting events.
1- Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort, opening June 1, 2017, is an all-new water park inspired by postcard-perfect tropical islands promising innovative, thrilling attractions made even more enjoyable with new technology eliminating long lines or wrestling with tubes.
2- "Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon" at Universal Orlando Resort invites guests to join the Tonight Show's studio audience on the ultimate race through the streets - and skies - of New York City.
3- Pandora - The World of AVATAR, the largest expansion in Disney's Animal Kingdom history, will feature floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and a Banshee flying attraction, as well as new after-dark entertainment.
4- Miss Fortune Falls at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon is a new family-style raft ride that is among the lengthiest at both Disney water parks with a ride time of two minutes.
5- SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken roller coaster will transform into Florida's only virtual reality roller coaster experience, taking guests on a deep sea mission alongside sea creatures.
6- SeaWorld Orlando's Electric Ocean, opening summer, is a new end-of-day spectacle event with bioluminescent lighting, immersing guests in a glowing sea of wonder.
7- LEGOLAND Florida Resort's LEGO NINJAGO World, a new immersive land opening in early 2017, features an interactive dark ride where guests can blast fire, lightning and ice with their hands. In addition, LEGOLAND Beach Retreat opens mid-2017.
The 10 best things you’re not doing in Orlando
It’s inevitable. When any single destination has as much to choose from as Orlando, there will be great places that simply get overlooked. Especially when you consider the ‘pack’ mentality that tends to develop among us Disney fans. We hear about a ‘don’t miss’ place and we all flock there – repeatedly. We’re a loyal group – there’s no doubt about that, but after so many visits to Disney World maybe it’s time to expand your horizons a little and take a chance on something new. And, if you’re not a veteran Disney visitor – if you’re planning your first or second visit to Orlando, this list will help point you to some great places that a lot of people are overlooking. Yes, you too can be the envy of all your friends as you regale them with your tales of the road less traveled. Well, perhaps that’s overselling it a bit – but you get the idea.
10) Wekiwa Springs State Park
okay, I’ll admit that this one is a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. If you would like to see what Florida looked like before it was overrun with tourists – a canoe ride up the Wekiwa river is a great way to do it. This is natural Florida at its very best. The spring that feeds the river keeps a constant temperature of 72 degrees year round. If you’re not into the canoe trip, you can always go visit the springs and take a swim. There are 13 miles of nature trails here, as well as horseback riding and bicycling. This is one of the most naturally beautiful places you’ll ever visit, and it gives you a much different perspective on what truly makes Florida special. The park is open from 8am till sundown 365 days a year. They offer guided tours for $35 per person (min of 4 people). Conoe rentals average $12 for 2 hrs and $3 p/hr thereafter. Details can be found at the website www.canoewekiva.com Horseback rides range from to
$150 (more info on Horseback riding can be found at.
09) Downtown Celebration, FL
the town that Disney built (and subsequently sold) has its share of fans and detractors. Regardless of what you think of the ultimate in planned communities, it’s hard to ignore the charm and warmth that embody downtown Celebration. Whether it’s the unique stores or outstanding restaurants – this is a great way to see another side of Orlando living.
08) Mama Dellas Ristorante Italiano
Located at Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel, this is, quite frankly, my favorite restaurant anywhere, period. It has it all – spectacular food, outstanding service and atmosphere for days. What it doesn’t have is crowds, and honestly – I can’t understand why. Yes, the prices here are on the high side – but consider that the portions served are also unusually large. No one walks away from Mama’s hungry. And if you’re looking for a very special romantic evening – reserve a table on the piazza for 7:30pm. At 8pm each night, Portofino Bay does “Le Bella Notte” (Music of the Night) where performers step out onto the terraces overlooking the piazza and perform musical numbers ranging from operas to more modern romantic songs. A visit to Mama Della’s is also a good excuse to walk around one of the most beautiful resorts in Florida.
07)Velvet Sessions – Hard Rock Hotel – Universal Orlando
Held on the last Thursday of each month, this is a chance for all you 30 and 40 something’s to get a close up look at the bands you idolized as kids. Recent acts have been The Ramones, the FIXX, Eddie Money among others. Held in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel, this is a sophisticated, high energy evening that is a real departure from most theme park experiences. It’s adults only (21 and older), so you’ll have to leave the kids with a baby sitter, but it’s well worth it! This event is very popular with locals and attire is ‘business casual’. The $25 per person cover charges gets you complimentary cocktails until 8pm, along with butler-served hors d’ouevres and a one hour ‘up close’ concert. Cash bar is available after 8pm (be warned, the drinks are pricey). Reservations are required – tickets and information is available at
06) Sunday Gospel Brunch – House of Blues / Downtown Disney West Side.
Unless you are an avowed atheist, I can’t imagine anyone not loving this brunch. The food is better than good, and there’s a decent variety of selections to keep just about anyone happy. The brunch menu consists of items ranging from fresh pastries to cheesecake, all the staples like bacon and sausage, scrambled eggs and biscuits and gravy are joined by unusual fare like broccoli salad (I’m gagging just typing it), But the food is just something you do until the entertainment starts – and that’s where this goes from a good brunch to a great time. This is a full on Gospel show that will have you clapping your hands and waving your napkins as you marvel at the sheer energy and passion that these performers bring to the stage. This is certainly one of the more unique ways to enjoy a Sunday morning brunch. This venue is a bit more popular than some others on this list, but it is still (in our opinion) woefully underrated. Advance reservations are recommended (but it’s not difficult to get last minute seatings during less crowded times of the year). There are two seatings each Sunday at 10:30am and 1:00pm Adults are $33.50 and children ages 3-9 are $17.25 Reservations can be made by calling 407-934-BLUE. More information at
05) Discovery Cove - Orlando
Discovery Cove is by far the most expensive item on our list. This brilliant off shoot of Sea World suffers from ‘sticker shock’ syndrome in a town already overrun with it. When people hear that the price of a 1 day admission to this ‘theme park’ is $269, they simply dismiss it out of hand, but consider what you actually get for that price. You get an all inclusive day at a park that’s not crowded (they strictly limit attendance every day), where lunch is included and you get up close and personal with a dolphin. And we’re not talking a petting pool here – you don a wet suit and get 30 minutes of quality time with Flipper.
Every person I’ve talked to who has gone to Discovery Cove complained about the price going in, and never mentioned it again after they left. (You can also experience Discovery Cove without the dolphin portion for a more reasonable $169.) Reservations are required and it’s always a good idea to book as early as possible, especially if you plan on visiting during busier times of the year. Reservations can be made at www.discoverycove.com Right now they are offering a 10% discount if you book more than 100 days in advance, and there appears to be plenty of availability all year – one of the reasons they made our list. Review / Photos
04) Captain’s Galley (formerly the Yacht Club Galley)
When a restaurant on Disney property has an inspired menu of excellent dishes, outstanding service and surprisingly reasonable prices, and is located in the lobby of Disney’s Yacht Club – you’d think it would be packed every night, right? But, while everyone else is trying to split the atom to get a reservation at Le Cellier, this gem of a restaurant sits virtually empty just a few minutes away. No, the Galley is not an elegant restaurant, nor does it exude ambiance. What it does have are very creative chefs who prepare an ever-changing menu that is well suited to just about any palate. The bold and timid alike will find something here to enjoy. I’ve been eating at this restaurant for about 9 years (except for the period where they closed it down), and the food and service have been consistently good.
03) WDW Swan and Dolphin
Before you say anything, I know that the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin are not exactly ‘secrets’. Everyone knows about them, but oddly enough, there are many people who haven’t yet actually stayed there – that’s the part that baffles me. Forget the fact that these hotels sit side by side with three of Disney’s premier resorts (Yacht Club, Beach Club and Boardwalk). Never mind that you can routinely get a room at the Swan/Dolphin for at least $100 per night cheaper than the aforementioned Disney hotels – and forget that the resort has one of the best pools on property (we rate it second after Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club). The beds here alone are worth the price of the room. Disney has no property that matches the Heavenly beds that have become so integral to the Starwood brand. Falling into one of these bad boys after 10 hours of ‘theme parking’ with the unwashed masses is one of life’s finer pleasures. While you don’t get certain perks at these hotels (Magical Express, Key to the World Card), you do get extra magic hours and Disney transportation (buses and water launches). Really – these hotels should be turning people away at the front desk given the sheer value of this. Also, the Swan and Dolphin offer excellent discounts to government and military employees, teachers, nurses, Disney annual passholders and others. It’s a good idea to book here as early as possible (that’s when the best deals are available) and take the money you save and have a blast.
02) Kennedy Space Center
Often overlooked by many visiting Orlando, KSC is one of the true gems of Florida. As someone who grew up in the late 60’s and 70’s, it’s not hard for me to wax nostalgic about the space program, and the excitement that surrounded it during the hey day of the Apollo missions. KSC does a fantastic job of playing up its storied past, and presenting its current and future plans in the best possible light. It’s difficult not to feel a little of the romanticism surrounding the Mercury and Apollo programs as you walk around and look at artifacts from the early space race. The vehicle tour around the center is another highlight that should not be missed. It gives you a close up look (albeit from inside a bus) of the areas that make up the space program. If you time your visit right, you might even get to see the shuttle being crawled out to the launch pad. If your visit coincides with a launch, the experience of watching the shuttle rocket into space is something everyone should do once. It’s sad that so many people come to Orlando and don’t even think about taking the 45 minute ride out to the coast. This is a great way to spend a day, have fun and encourage the next generation of Astronauts!
01) Les Chefs de France
This fantastic eatery is not destined for a long life on our list. In fact, I predict that within 6 months, it will be off the list, and a reservation here will be hard to get. The fact is that this is the single most under-rated restaurant on Disney property – period. You know you’re guilty of the same crime I committed many times – walking past this restaurant saying somewhere in the back of my mind “I don’t really like French food – there are so many better places to eat”. Our combined experiences with this restaurant leave us no other explanation – this is simply the best restaurant in Epcot, and among the best on Disney property. And while a table is easy to get now, once the word is out on this place – that’s going to change. Make your ADR’s now! Chef’s De France Review
13 Things to do on Cruise Ship
1. Explore the Ship
Take some time to explore the ship as soon as you get onboard. You’ll want to get a feel for where things are and take note of any activities you want to try on your cruise. We recommend starting on the top deck and working your way down; Unless you’re looking to squeeze in a workout by climbing all those stairs.
2. Grab Something to Eat
It’s usually about lunch time when you board the ship. Therefore, it’s common for most people to head straight to the buffet. Instead of joining the crowd, try exploring some of the other eateries on board. Many cruise ships offer a variety of dining options on embarkation day, not just the buffet.
3. Enjoy the Pool & Waterslides
Why wait to begin your vacation? Hop in the pool or check out the waterslides as soon as you board. This is one of the best times to squeeze in some serious water play since there typically won’t be any crowds at the pool or long lines for the slides. Don’t forget to bring a swimsuit in your carry-on!
4. Take Pictures
Get those professional-looking pictures done early so you can relax and enjoy your vacation. If the weather is nice, you’ll want to head straight to the top deck to take those famous shots of your family by the ship’s railing. This may be one of the few opportunities to snap some photos before the ship becomes overrun with passengers.
5. Book Shore Excursions
If you haven’t already booked your shore excursions, make sure to get that done at Guest Services as soon as you board. Spots are limited and you won’t want to miss out because you didn’t reserve it when you had the chance.
6. Visit the Dining Room
Did you want to dine early, but got a late seating or want to switch from flexible dining to set-seating? If this is the case, make sure you pay a visit to the dining room. The maitre d’ is typically available to make any changes (if possible) and answer any questions on embarkation day.
7. Reserve Seats for OnBoard Entertainment
On some ships, you may be required to reserve seats in advance for certain shows. Book your tickets on embarkation day so you don’t miss out on any must-see productions.
8. Book Spa and Salon Appointments
The most popular spa and salon treatments tend to sell out quickly. Make sure to arrange any appointments on embarkation day.
9. Buy your Soda or Alcohol Package
Buy your soda or alcohol packages as soon as you get on board. This way you’ll get the most use out of them on your cruise. Just make sure to do your homework beforehand to make sure that you’ll actually save money by purchasing one.
10. Tour the Kid’s Club
If you brought children aboard, make sure you check out the kid’s club. There’s usually an introductory session for kids and parents to meet the counselors and get acquainted with the facilities. Even if you’re not sure if your kids will want to go, you can still sign them up on the first day. There’s no requirement to attend.
11. Watch the Sail Away
Head up on deck for the sailaway or even view it from your balcony. There’s usually a festive celebration by the pool with live music and flowing drinks. It’s definitely a fun way to kick off your cruise.
12. Meet your Stateroom Attendant
Your stateroom attendant is the person that will be cleaning your room, making you adorable towel animals and providing turn down service for the length of your cruise. Getting to know them on your first day can be very helpful, especially if you have any special needs or requests. Taking a few minutes to have a conversation with your stateroom attendant can really go a long way and may even lead to some special treatment.
13. Unpack Your Suitcase
Make sure you take some time to unpack and get your luggage out of they way as soon as your room is ready. No one wants to live out of a suitcase! Unpacking also makes the ship feel more like home.