In what has become a recurring annual event, Disney will open some of its parks around-the-clock this Memorial Day weekend to kick off the summer season. Scheduled for Friday, May 23, guests will be able to visit the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort in California starting at 6 a.m. and hang out for a full 24 hours until Saturday, May 24 at 6 a.m. That could be lot of rides on Space Mountain.
Themed to this year's promotion at the Disney resorts, "Show Your Disney Side," the all-nighter will be called "Rock Your Disney Side: 24-Hours." Guests are encouraged to come in costume as their favorite Disney characters.
Speaking of characters, Disney announced the event with what it called a "Mega Tweet." The Twitter post included a cute (and clever) photo of 140 characters -- as in Mickey and his pals -- forming the shape of a hashtag. Disney has more info about the event, including details about a sweepstakes to win vacations to both of its U.S. resorts.
- Seven Cool Features of The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride- Opening this spring.
Photo: Disney. Used with permission.
Two water slides are set to open this year that will be taller than any slides at any other water park in North America. One of them will raise the threshold by a considerable margin and will earn its place in the record books as the tallest water slide in the world. That got me wondering. What are the tallest slides and where can they be found? If you share my curiosity, wonder no more. Just mosey on over to my rundown of the tallest water slides in North America.
Photo: © Arthur Levine.
If you want to see Shrek, the lovable green ogre from the highly popular film series, you could always go to Universal Studios in Hollywood or Florida. The Shrek 4-D attraction, which is offered at both parks, is a real hoot.
But would you visit a standalone attraction devoted to Shrek and his pals? DreamWorks Animation, the folks behind the movies and characters, hope that you would. According to NBC News, the Shrek creators, along with Merlin Entertainments, the company that operates the Legoland chain, the London Eye, and other parks and attractions, are planning Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure. The first of at least five planned Shrek-themed locations is scheduled to open in 2015 in London.
Not a theme park, per se, the 20,000-square-foot indoor facilities are being described as interactive walkthrough adventures. Other DreamWorks characters from movies such as Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon would also be part of the mix.
It is unclear how the concept might be received. Standalone theme park-like attractions have had a rocky history. Disney had planned to open a chain of DisneyQuest centers but closed its underperforming first location in Chicago soon after it opened. Merlin has done better with its successful London Dungeon and Legoland Discovery Centers.
So, the question remains. Would you visit Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure if one was located near you or was in a city in which you were on vacation? Click on "Comments" below and join the conversation.
Photo: Universal Orlando.
Texans really love water parks. Recently, I wrote about two new Lone Star parks opening this season that will be part of the Hawaiian Falls chain. One of the earliest water parks, Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, remains one of the biggest, most popular, and innovative parks in the industry. The family that operates it has opened other Texas locations (and one in Kansas City). It will be adding its fifth property this summer when it debuts Schlitterbahn Beach Country at Corpus Christi.
Like the other Schlitterbahns, it will offer onsite overnight accommodations, including "treehouse" villas, as well as a host of water park attractions. Featured rides will include at least two MasterBlaster uphill water coasters and a Boogie Bahn FlowRider surfing attraction, innovations that Jeff Henry, one of the family members behind the Schlitterbahn chain, developed. Read more about Schlitterbahn Beach Country at Corpus Christi.
It's no wonder Schlitterbahn and others keep building water parks in Texas. It gets mighty hot and humid there as I discovered last summer. I was also intrigued to learn that Texans don't really consider it a beach or water park day until the temperature hits 90 degrees (which it does quite often). Anything less than that is a bit too cool for them to get wet. Folks from Texas would probably be shocked to see the conditions in which hardy New Englanders (like me) jump into the water.
Photo: © Arthur Levine, 2013.
Let's say you're in Orlando for a convention, you have a day to kill, and you're thinking about visiting Disney World. Let's also say that you have a $100 bill burning a hole in your pocket. You saunter up to the ticket booth, ask for a one-day pass to the Magic Kingdom, hand over your Benjamin, and hold out your hand to pocket the change. Instead, the cheerful person in the glass booth asks you to cough up an additional $5.44. Say what?
Yesterday, Disney World raised the price of its park tickets. A one-day pass to the Magic Kingdom now costs a cool $99, or $105.44 with tax. Wow. It wasn't all that long ago that a $50 ticket seemed inconceivable. Now, we are teetering on the 3-digit, before-tax threshold.
Starting last year, Disney World began charging a premium price for its one-day Magic Kingdom tickets. One-day tickets to the other three parks "only" cost $94. With tax, you'd have to fork over another 11 cents with your $100 bill.
If you are planning an extended theme park vacation in Florida, it is still possible to get decent value on multi-day tickets. But you'll have to navigate through Disney's byzantine "Magic Your Way" ticket program. I deconstruct it for you, exploring options such as no-expiration tickets and water park add-ons, to help direct you to the best deal. Read more about 2014 Disney World Magic Your Way tickets.
Photo: © Arthur Levine, 2012.
The former Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is one of the most confounding stories in theme parkdom. Opened -- and closed -- in 2008, the gorgeous park had a compelling theme, wonderful attractions, a bustling vacation crowd from which to draw, and virtually no visitors. New owners bought the park for pennies on the dollar and reopened it in 2009 as Freestyle Music Park, but the modestly higher attendance they generated was not enough to sustain the struggling business for more than one season.
Most of the regional parks are closed now, but the destination theme parks are open. Since it is the off-season, they are dealing for your dollars. I regularly update Florida Theme Park Deals and California Theme Park Deals and just pulled together the latest batch of special offers. Here are some highlights:
- Universal Studios Hollywood: Discounted Front of Line Pass- Special off-season price valid through April 11 available for About.com users.
- 2014 SeaWorld San Diego Fun Card- Pay for a one-day ticket, get a pass for the rest of the year.
- 4th Night & 3rd Day Free Universal Orlando Vacation Package- Get a fourth hotel night and a third day at the parks thrown in.
- Go Orlando Card- Get passes to a bunch of Florida attractions for one price. Available at a special discounted rate for a limited time.
Photo: Disney. Used with permission.
Have you seen The LEGO Movie? Part CGI, part stop-motion animation, and wholly clever and winning, the film has been wildly successful and has earned widespread critical acclaim. Who would have thought that bucketfuls of plastic bricks could have been turned into an engaging movie?
Then again, who would have thought that the brightly colored blocks could have inspired entire theme parks? The two stateside parks, Legoland California and Legoland Florida (the chain of parks extends around the world), are quite charming and wonderful. (One might even say that "everything is awesome" at Legoland.) Geared to the under-12 set and their families, the parks are decked out in Lego's primary colors and feature many hands-on experiences that encourage children to interact with the attractions rather than passively ride or watch them.
In addition to the "dry" rides, both Legolands offer (separate admission) water parks. The California property is expanding its water park this season with attractions based on Lego's popular Legends of Chima characters. The Florida park will be introducing a Duplo Valley area designed for its youngest visitors. Given the boffo box office of The LEGO Movie, I'd imagine that the parks will be capitalizing on its success and will probably introduce lands, attractions, and shows that incorporate its characters. That would be awesome, indeed.
- Legoland California Photo Gallery
- Knight's Tournament Robocoaster- Review of Legoland California ride.
Photo: ©Arthur Levine 2007.
Many movie-based attractions at parks and other venues promise a 4-D experience. What is up with that? We all understand the eye-popping visuals that dimensional movies deliver to audiences decked out in nerdy 3-D glasses. But what is the significance of the additional "D?" Do 4-D movies promise a Doc Brown-like journey into the fourth dimension along the time-space continuum? Hardly.
Attractions such as Shrek 4-D at Universal Studios and Disney's It's Tough to Be a Bug! incorporate sensory ticklers to amp up the Ds. Some attractions even promise 5-D and 6-D experiences. Confused? I break it all down for you in my detailed overview that answers the question, What is a 4-D Movie?
Photo: Disney. Used with permission.
How much did I love Rocky Point when I was but a wee lad? One Sunday morning, my brother and I staged a "protest" by marching into our parents' bedroom chanting and holding crude picket signs on which we had written, "We Want Rocky Point TODAY!" Mom and Dad ultimately relented and made the trek to the traditional seaside Rhode Island amusement park.
I don't think the AFL-CIO would have been particularly impressed with our demonstration, but my brother and I were deliriously happy as we rode the log flume, the coasters, the Castle of Terror, and all of the other rides. As much as we loved the midway thrills, the food was equally compelling.