Monday, January 23, 2017

SeaWorld Orlando Shares Details of New Seven Seas Food Festival

Starting on February 11th and running for 14 consecutive Saturdays (through May 13th), SeaWorld Orlando will soon debut their all-new Seven Seas Food Festival.  Described as "combining unique culinary delights with memorable performances," the festival will offer visitors a new reason to check out the party each week.

©SeaWorld Orlando
Each day of the Seven Seas Food Festival SeaWorld Orlando will feature international coastal cuisine offerings that can be paired with craft beers and wines.  There will be a total of 55 different craft brews available, featured exclusively during the festival.  A wide variety of wine and specialty cocktails will also be offered.

The food will be set up among eleven new "global markets," featuring Asian, Latin, European, Polynesian and North Atlantic dishes - more than sixty different treats in all.

© SeaWorld Orlando
The menu of just some of the samplings could easily make you hungry, such as the cinnamon slow roasted pork belly with sweet plantain mash at the Caribbean Market, or the southern creamy cheese grits with blackened shrimp at the Gulf Coast Market.

Along with the food and beverage will be special live performances each Saturday from top country, rock and Latin artists.  Already on the line-up are acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Styx, Phillip Phillips, ZZ Top and Oscar D'Leon.

The Seven Seas Food Festival will start at 11 a.m. each Saturday during its run, going until the park closes.  The event is included with park admission.  To learn more, check out the event's website here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Look at California's Great America's Bright Future

It is already well established that Cedar Fair has worked on a new zoning plan for California's Great America, one that would set the stage for the park to grow significantly in the next 20 years.  As part of the approval process the park created a presentation about the future of the property, shared via the planning commission for the meeting where it approved the plan.

© Cedar Fair
The master plan document gives a look at just why the park wants to expand, how it is able to justify the new zoning, and how it intends to grow over time.  Above is a look at the park as it currently is, which makes a nice starting point for review.

© Cedar Fair
This map is an imagined 20 year plan of growth for the park.  There are some significant changes - but keep in mind that this is a concept, not a hard blueprint for the future.

First, a portion of the theme park around the current entrance is set to become an entertainment district, not a gated part of the park (similar to Knott's Berry Farm).  The water park will take over some of the existing theme park space, and through use of existing open areas and other changes, there are plenty of new rides and attractions listed.  If you click the larger image you can see some of them lined out - keep in mind though that this is a 20 year concept - a lot of the items listed could easily be swapped out over time for the latest or greatest of that period.

If you look at the acreage chat on the before and after maps, you'll see how the park's land will be redivided:

                          Before     After  (in acres)
Theme Park       75            52
Water Park         11            15
Entertainment     4             34

© Cedar Fair
So, even though the theme park is envisioned to become more than 20 acres smaller in size, that doesn't mean there won't be big new rides to draw in guests.  Several pages give ideas of what could be coming, starting with a steel hyper coaster that could be up to 250 feet tall.  The document references Diamondback at Kings Island as a similar ride, and even without that happening it seems B&M is a logical choice to supply the ride.  Another coaster listed here is an Intamin launched coaster, like Wicked Twister at Cedar Point.

© Cedar Fair
This page references a new wood coaster for the park, specifically stating that and "out-and-back version" would work at the park.  Seems a bit odd considering the park just added Gold Striker, but in the span of 20 years it doesn't seem so strange.

© Cedar Fair
Other large attractions that are mentioned are a 250 foot StarFlyer type swing ride, a new water flume ride, and a slingshot tower.  Mentioned elsewhere in the planning documents, but not on this slide, is a large pendulum ride as well.

© Cedar Fair
Family attractions will also be added, with some potential rides coming online such as a mid-sized steel coaster (referenced is the inverted family ride at Kings Island), a "mini wood coaster" that would be 35-40 feet tall and 1,400 feet long, and of course new "flat rides" for kids.

© Cedar Fair
Also listed as ideas are a large climb and play structure, which I think would be a first for the Cedar Fair parks, and also a Dinosaurs Alive type exhibit, certainly not the first for the Cedar Fair parks.

© Cedar Fair
California's Great America's water park would also see plenty of new changes.  Several water slide towers, like those that have gone into a half dozen Cedar Fair parks in the past few years, is listed as an example addition up front.

© Cedar Fair
The water area would expand to take over some of the existing theme park, and have a new dedicated entrance built for it - so guests could access it from outside the park.  A water coaster is listed as a possible addition, which is fantastic because Cedar Fair outdoor water parks lack these.

© Cedar Fair
Rounding out other potential water park additions are the ever-popular mat racing tower, slides with aqua drops, and a family raft ride which is currently missing from the park's line up.

The document also goes through the details of the special event area that is planned, along with other seasonal special events that could be used to make the park a year-round operation.  It sounds like the future of the park is very bright, and I personally cannot wait to see what is announced for 2018 to kick things off.  In more current news, the park has removed their Top Spin ride, and though no official announcement was made, photos of the ride being taken out have appeared on social media.  Change is certainly in the air!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Latest on Kings Island's Mystic Timbers Coaster Progress

© Kings Island
After getting an early start on construction this past fall, Mystic Timbers, the brand new wooden roller coaster at Kings Island, is now proudly standing over the park's Rivertown section.  Not only standing over, but also snaking through the woods of the land as well, with the structure weaving around and over the White Water Canyon rapids ride.

When completed, Mystic Timbers will have 3,265 feet of track that starts with the 109 foot lift hill that can been seen in the photo above.  As trains plummet down the curving first drop (right near Diamondback's first drop) the trains will hit speeds of around 53 miles per hour.

Kings Island has done a great job of keeping updated construction photos of Mystic Timbers available on the park's website; if you haven't kept up with it make sure to check them out here.  Also, there are some really great aerial photos of Mystic Timbers available on this blog.  It's really neat to be able to get a feel for just how many times the coaster will use bridges to pass over the river ride below!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Presidential Gallery at the NMUSAF

A few months ago we brought you stories about the new gallery of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Since it houses over 70 aircraft, we just gave you a brief overview, and in honor of Inauguration Day, here is some more detail on the Presidential Gallery, sponsored by Boeing. On a cold day in April 2016, some of the final planes were brought across taxiway to their new home. Here is what it looked like:

This VC-121E, Columbine III, served during President Eisenhower administration. It was parked close to VC-118, Independence, used by President Truman, and VC-54C, Sacred Cow, used and specially modified for President Roosevelt. There is a total of ten aircraft at the present time.

If you were alive when President Kenndy was assassinated on 11/22/1963, you will remember SAM 26000, the plane where President Johnson was sworn into office and it also carried President Kennedy's body back to Washington, DC. You can see where the bulkhead was cut to allow the loading of the casket on the top deck because the flight crew did not want to put it in the cargo hold. This aircraft is presently being retrofitted with LED lighting for preservation and guest comfort and will be open for walk-through tours again on 2/4/2017.

You can actually walk through many of these aircraft and get closer to history than you ever thought possible.

These aircraft represent more than 70 years of fulfilling the United States Airforce mission of dedicated presidential service. They have even planned ahead for the retirement of the present aircraft, as the main repository for aircraft retired from the presidential fleet.

Something not widely known is who takes care of these planes and how do they do it? Retired Master Sargent Danny  Bowen talked to us and shared a little about how difficult it was to go home and tell his family that they would have to find out where he was by watching for the plane on TV. He also mentions that they spent lots of time cleaning and polishing because when the plane is overseas it is the symbol of the United States of America.

All of these aircraft were formerly on the other side of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where about seventy-thousand visitors could tour them annually. Now, they are open daily, with some brief exceptions for restoration and refurbishment for future generations, every day the museum is open. Effectively, every one of the approximately one million visitors to the museum can step back into, and experience these unique historical artifacts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Michigan's Adventure Releases Concept Art for 2017 Expansion

Toward the end of this past summer Michigan's Adventure released plans for an expansion of the Half Pint Paradise kids area in their WildWater Adventure water park.  At the time there was no concept art for the development, but since then the park has given us a look at the new area:

© Michigan's Adventure
The new Half Pint Paradise will be a combination of several small water slides for kids, along with a splash pad play area.  In the art above (click for more detail), you can see that the expansion will have a colorful and modern look, just like similar expansions at other Cedar Fair parks in recent years.  This area will also be connected to the Beach Party interactive water funhouse as well via some new pathways, creating a larger section aimed at smaller guests.  Additional seating and cabanas are also a part of the plans.

Michigan's Adventures plans to have work on the expanded Half Pint Paradise ready for WildWater Adventure's 2017 opening day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

EPCOT's Candlelight Processional

Each winter Epcot guests experience a remarkable transformation, Holiday Around the World changes the World Showcase yuletide celebration, with the centerpiece being the Candlelight  Processional at the American Garden Theatre.

With this wide angle shot, you can see just how many performers are required for this Walt Disney World classic. 

Joe Morton, Emmy winner of Scandal and The Good Wife fame, was the guest narrator for the night we attended, and his rich voice resounded through the air as he recounted the Christmas Story

Trumpeters move around the audience during the performance, lending a new definition to surround sound. Here they are on the side wings of the theater, which resemble stain glass church windows.

The music director has a 50 piece orchestra at his disposal, who start out with the Candlelight Overture, an instrumental medley of Christmas Music. The choir is assembled with processional music, composed of traditional Christmas Carols. In this photo, he is conducting the guests as they sing along with Silent Night.

Also under direction is a tremendous choir, led by the Voices of  Liberty singers. If you plan your day just right, you can catch a performance of the Voices of Liberty just prior to a showing of the American Experience. Check in with any of the cast members at the American Experience for details.The acoustics in the lobby area are a great way to indulge yourself in the Christmas Spirit and cool down if it is 84 degrees outside like it was during our visit.

Here are a few of the highlights of the Candlelight Processional performance that we attended. If you plan to go next year, we highly recommend a dining package to ensure a less stressful experience. These performances are so popular that people line up hours prior to the venue opening to make sure they get in. Although this isn't too bad, because then you get to hear the music twice. Our thanks to Mike at Walt Disney World, for helping us and giving us tips for a better experience.