There's a lot of noise going on in the Orlando area, between the Haunted Mansion, Legoland and Busch Gardens Tampa, its amazing that any of the guests can enjoy their experiences. That aside, the team still managed to find the wonderful things that we tend to overlook or walk right past. KingEric shows us how Fieval does it at Universal Studios and Aimster shows us that Big Bird and Sesame Street aren't as far away as we'd like to think.

Grad Nite Update at Walt Disney World
Grad Nites being discontinued in WDW after 2011 due to it becoming "challenging to schedule special events during April and May."


Town Square Expo Hall was renamed Town Square Theater and while nothing inside is open yet, the new sign has been installed on the outside.

Construction of the Haunted Mansion Queue is still ongoing and is a week behind schedule. Unfortunately, its because of this that they have been working on loud projects while guests are in the park, luckily for us Professor Brainard was available to capture these moments.


Tom Bricker Disney Photography

The Vacation Kingdom of the World's Highway in the Sky | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

This is a shot that I first contemplated after seeing something similar in a 1982 EPCOT Center pictorial. While that shot was gorgeous, I wasn’t too hopeful that I would be able to accomplish it, as I thought it would require some pretty awesome timing. Knowing that the folks in the Disney photography department probably had perfect conditions (i.e. two parked monorails before the park opened), I doubted there was much a fan photographer like myself could do to make a similar shot happen.

Then, it hit me--I realized I could make the shot happen. In October 2009, I endeavored to do exactly that. Since I wanted my shot to be unique, I decided to go for it at night, when Spaceship Earth would be perfectly lit. Unfortunately, since my monorails would be moving, this made the shot much more difficult. To make a long story short, I pretty much captured what I had in mind with my first attempt, although due to a display for Food & Wine Festival, and because my wide angle lens wasn’t quite wide enough, I didn’t get my ideal shot. So I tried again in June 2010, with this being the result.

While I won’t divulge any of my secrets here, if you click through to the image’s Flickr page, you will see my October 2009 shot (and in the comments to that shot, speculation as to how I did it), the 1982 shot that inspired it all, and a shot taken shortly after this one with the (hideous) Tronorail. This shot has now become a signature shot of sorts for me, and I already have plenty of ways to improve it in mind. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the next trip and hoping it works!

Speaking of flowers and Epcot, the International Flower and Garden Festival is in full swing so if you haven't come out to visit your favorite HGTV star or grooved with your favorite Flower Power Concert favorite, you might miss them!

Flower Power Concert Series Lineup (remaining dates)
  • March 18-20 - Chubby Checker and the Wildcats
  • March 25-27 - Melissa Manchester
  • April 1-3 - Starship starring Mickey Thomas
  • April 8-10 - Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.
  • April 15-17 - Juice Newton
  • April 22-24 - Ricky Nelson Remembered featuring The Nelsons
  • April 29 - May 1 - Paul Revere & The Raiders
  • May 6-8 - Davy Jones
  • May 13-15 - Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone

In addition to the Concert lineup for Flower and Garden, HGTV, the official sponsor, is bringing you events with a different celebrity host, every weekend during the festival.

HGTV Line Up (remaining dates)
  • March 18-20 - Kim Myles, Myles of Style
  • March 25-27 - Brian Patrick Flynn, Design Happens,
  • April 1-3 - Taniya Nayak, Designed to Sell and Destination Design
  • April 8-10 - Ahmed Hassan, Yard Crashers
  • April 15-17 - Patti Moreno, Garden Girl,
  • April 22-24 - Michele Beschen, B. Original
  • April 29-30, May 1 - John Gidding, Curb Appeal: The Block
  • May 6-8 - Frank Fontana, Design on a Dime
  • May 13-15 - Vern Yip, HGTV Design Star

A Festival Guide is available for those that would like more information.

But for those that can't always get to the parks, we have some great event photos to share with you!

Rapunzel's hair glows on the magical tower topiary made for the Flower and Garden Festival. And yes, she sings too!

The idea what you call them really... but those spiral ribbon things in Epcot's Innoventions Plaza are being removed. This shot is of the last one in existence, all the others have been removed due to a pavement replacement project and unfortunately Epcot has definitely lost some kinetic energy in that area.

The African Cats sand sculpture is looking great.


RIDEMAKERZ Wins "Pop-Up Store of the Year" Second Year in a Row by Chain Store Age
RideMakerz wins Pop Up Store of the Year, yet it looks like it might be closing at its current location at the old Virgin Megastore:

IRVINE, CA--(Marketwire - March 8, 2011) - RIDEMAKERZ announced today its Downtown Disney shop at Lake Buena Vista, Fla. won worldwide "Pop-Up Store of the Year." This is the second year in a row that RIDEMAKERZ has claimed the award presented by Chain Store Age magazine. The award recognizes RIDEMAKERZ for its creativity in transforming a 16,000 plus square foot retail venue into an auto-garage where kids and kids at heart can customize their own 1:18 scale toy vehicles, or RIDEZ.

"It's an incredible acknowledgement for RIDEMAKERZ to win Pop-Up Store of the Year two years in a row, especially given the momentum and creativity in this rapidly expanding category," said Larry Andreini, ZEO (CEO), RIDEMAKERZ. "Disney offered us an incredible space, and we were able to deliver a one-of-a-kind RIDEMAKERZ experience for the ages."

Of the two big festivals in Epcot, I prefer Food and Wine; it just “speaks” to me more than Flower and Garden. But my children like Flower and Garden better—they have temporary playgrounds! Fair enough. But is it my imagination, or are these playgrounds getting more minimal as time goes by?

Where are the smaller contraptions on the side they had in previous years?

It’s true that HGTV’s new sponsorship has brought benefits. The stages in the Festival Center, for one thing, are newly built and seem kind of plush. Of course, they were abandoned when we visited at 4:30pm—apparently, late in the day is not when to drop by the Festival Center.

The Making of Me Theater has a new name. And it plays HGTV shows all the time.

“Abandoned” is a good work for the Festival Center. Not only was the food counter unstaffed except for some plants, they didn’t have the secondary merchandise location operating nearby. The building felt empty even by its standards, which says something.

“Forlorn” also comes to mind.

I’m not convinced that this year had as many topiaries as previous years. The centerpiece at the entrance to World Showcase was a fairly inconspicuous wall of hanging plants—is this temporary, I hope? If so, why wasn’t it ready for opening weekend?

Didn’t there used to be topiary dinosaurs at the Energy pavilion?

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the “streams/ponds” exhibit in Future World, let alone the bamboo clackers from some years back. The cutbacks have so far been relatively small, but they are nonetheless cutbacks, and deserve to be called as such.

KingEric takes a look at a commonly overlooked portion of Universal Studios Orlando.

That little blip on the map is Fieval's Playplace, that is an amazing playground where young and old are shrunk down to the size of a mouse and can play, with a great dry water slide that you can go down with your children or by yourself.

At the entrance

Great themeing in the the signs.

A reminder to us adults that in Kidzone Kids Rule.

There are no cats in America...

The wait time sign for the water slide

A video of the Dry Water Slide (you don't get wet).

A fun place to explore

The cool slide and super fast slide

Video of the rockin' the slide

When visiting Universal Studios Orlando whether young or old, take a moment and enjoy Fieval's Playland!

Universal Studios Mardi Gras: (remaining dates)
  • March 18 - Neon Trees
  • March 19 - The Roots
  • March 25 - OneRepublic
  • March 26 - Blake Shelton
  • April 1 - Sean Kinston
  • April 2 - Ne-Yo
  • April 9 - Lifehouse
  • April 16 - The Beach Boys
  • April 23 - Thirty Seconds to Mars

This week Aimster takes a look at Busch Garden's main children's area, Sesame Street Safari of Fun!

Sesame Street Safari of Fun opened in 2010, replacing the Land of the Dragons kiddie area.

At the entrance to the area is the main store, Abby Cadabby's Treasure Hut.

Just about anything and everything Sesame Street can be found here (plush dolls, clothing, DVDs, books, etc.)

The stage where the show "A Is for Africa" is performed several times a day. Very cute show featuring lots of favorite Sesame Street characters like Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby and more!

There are meet & greet opportunities with the characters after the show.

There are several kid-sized rides in Safari of Fun.

Air Grover is a kiddie coaster that's designed so parents can ride with their little ones.

Other attractions are:

Snuffy's Elephant Romp, a Dumbo-like spinner

Elmo's Safari Go-Round Carousel

Telly's Jungle Jam

Cookie Monster's Canopy Crawl

Big Bird's Whirly Birdie

Rosita's D'Jembe Fly-Away

Elmo's Treehouse Trek

Zoe-Patra and the Hippos of the Nile

Bert & Ernie's Watering Hole

Oscar's Swamp Stomp

The Count's Zambezi Rally

There's a character dining location that's open for breakfast and lunch.

The other shop in the area is Cookie Monster's Trading Post

This is a great place to go if you have kids.

Cheetah Hunt construction update! This is coming along great! The drop out of the figure 8 element is pretty much complete and more track has been laid in the 2nd trench just before the jump over the Skyride. A couple of the Skyride towers are being lowered a little to better accommodate the jump.

This past week, The Osmonds were at Busch Gardens as part of the park's real Music Series. The Osmonds are touring in celebration of 50 years in the entertainment/music business! It was a surprisingly good show and even more surprising were a few Walt Disney/Disneyland references as they showed footage of the brothers when they were little kids performing at Disneyland (might have been from opening day), a mention how Walt Disney loved them and then a photo of Walt during a musical montage of the Osmond family over the years.

L-R: Jay, Jimmy, Merrill & Wayne

Showing the Blues Brothers a little love

Ramp Jam at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
April 9 - 10 & April 16 - 17
The ASA Action Sports World Tour amps up the excitement at Busch Gardens with the world's best pro skateboarders, BMX riders and inline skaters shreddin' a 14' tall half-pipe.

Scheduled to appear:
  • Simon Tabron
  • Kevin Robinson
  • Pierre Luc Gagnon
  • Anthony Furlong
  • Jimmy Walker
  • Eito Yasutoko

Viewing of the Ramp Jam events is included with park admission.

Jack Hanna Weekend
April 22-24
Busch Gardens welcomes celebrity animal expert Jack Hanna for an Earth Day celebration. “Jungle Jack” -- recognized world over for his deep knowledge of and boundless enthusiasm for wild animals and wildlife conservation – introduces guests to exotic and endangered animals in his own inimitable way during special shows and exclusive up-close encounters.
Animal shows daily at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the Stanleyville Theatre.
Other events during Jack Hanna Weekend include "Breakfast With Jack Hannah", "Jack Hannah Family Sleepover" and "Jack Hannah Serengeti Night Safari". More details on these events can be found at the link below.
  • Daily: Animal Show - 2pm and 4pm
  • April 23 - Breakfast with Jack Hannah
  • April 22 & 23 - Jack Hannah Family Sleepover
  • April 22 & 23 - Jack Hannah Serengti Night Safari

Real Music Series (remaining dates)
  • March 16-19 - Tony Orlando
  • March 23-26 - Charo

For the Real Music Series, shows are included with park admission, but you need to obtain a complimentary ticket to get in, (tickets can be obtained at the Stanleyville Theater) there are 3 shows daily.

Viva la Musica (remaining dates)
  • March 20 - Jose Alberto "El Canario"
  • March 27 - Angel & Khriz
  • April 3 - Ismael Miranda

5th Annual Florida Wildflower and Garden Festival
March 26 - Deland, FL

Bay Area Renaissance Festival
Now thru Apr 17
- Tampa, FL
Grab a turkey leg, put on your best corset and take in a joust. There is a lot of fun to be had at the Annual Bay Area Renaissance Festival. Get dirty with the Filthy Rotten Scoundrels and then clean yourself up with the Washer Well Wenches. Located on the MOSI grounds in Tampa, off Fowler Ave, there is something for everyone in what promises to be a day of fun and merriment. Huzzah!!

Great American Pie Festival
April 9 - 10 - Celebration, FL
$10 adults, $5 kids. All you can eat and drink.

Silver Springs 2011 Concert Series
Select Dates Through April 30 - Silver Springs, FL
Silver Springs is holding it's annual Concert Festival, with a variety of musical guests and offering up some wonderful BOGO's to make your visit more affordable.
2011 Concert LineUp
  • March 19 - Tanya Tucker
  • March 26 - Three Dog Night
  • April 30 - Jars of Clay

Legoland Florida
The now defunct Cypress Gardens is currently in the process being transformed into Legoland Florida. Scheduled to open in October 2011, Professor Brainard brings us some great construction photos to share with all of us.

Don't forget to check out the other areas of MiceChat that offer news, updates and photos about the other Disney Parks around the World!
  • Dateline Disneyland which is packed with great news and photos from the Disneyland Resort.
  • Weekend Update Offers a world of Disney theme parks as well as other sights and landmarks!
  • In The Parks offers news, updates and tips from Disneyland and other Southern California offerings.
  • SAMLAND - Your weekly look at some interesting tales from Disney history.
  • And you'll always find something of interest on the forums or MiceAge!

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