Soar over the Grand Canyon or test your fear factor
By Phyllis Steinberg
If you thought last year’s Mission Space attraction at Epcot was the most thrilling attraction ever at Disneyworld, you will be even more impressed with Soarin, the new ride that has been a gigantic hit on the west coast at Disneyland. Now, this masterpiece of Disney imagination has landed in Orlando for the 50th anniversary of magic at Disney Parks and Resorts at Disneyworld. Thousands of people are enjoying the exhilarating rush of this free-flying hang gliding adventure over California’s natural wonders. Your feet tangle above treetops and the scent of pine forests fills the air as you fly over majestic mountains, valleys, rivers and oceans.
But don’t expect to just hop right on Soarin. The lines are long and the best way to see the new attraction is to get a Fastpass at Epcot as soon as you enter the theme park and go back a few hours later. We got to Epcot late in the day and had to wait 75 minutes because all of the Fastpasses were gone, but it was worth the wait. The people with the Fastpasses walked right on the ride.
Also new at Epcot is the Sunshine Seasons Food Court. This brand new venue for dining in The Land pavilion offers a fast casual menu with no fried food, pizza or burgers. There are wood-fired grills and rotisseries, fresh vegetables, made-to-order sandwiches served on artisan breads, a salad shop with distinct flavor combinations and a wok station serving stir-fries inspired by crisp, spicy flavors. So, if you want a quick bite of healthy food, head to this new food court that is a cut above the usual theme park fare.
Families will enjoy watching the new stage show at The Magic Kingdom called Cinderellabration. Witness Cinderella’s enchanting princess coronation pageant in a delightful musical stage show at Cinderella’s castle. Check the times of the performance when you enter the Magic Kingdom so that you don’t miss the new show. It is given to guests inside of the Magic Kingdom Guide Map.
It’s a Small World has always been my favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom but this year it is even better because it has been restored with new colors and a new, digitally enhanced sound. This ride is a Disney tradition for families from around the world. Don’t miss it if you go to the Magic Kingdom.
Disney’s MGM studios also has a new show, Lights, Motors, Action with a thrilling showcase of tire-squealing flying motorcycles and an ultimate peek behind the scenes at how the hair-raising stunts are created.
Disney’s MGM also has the lovable Muppet Vision 3-D Show and the Magic of Disney Animation which are my personal favorites but there are many more attractions which are MGM Park favorites such as Star Tours and Voyage of the Little Mermaid. The Tower of Terror is for the bravest of Disney patrons. Here, a runaway elevator has been reprogrammed to drop you 13 stories into the belly of The Twilight Zone.
Don’t leave the park without seeing the unbelievably beautiful Fantasmic show which is shown twice in the evening. This show will absolutely astound you. The show is held in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater with Sorcerer Mickey doing battle with Disney villains in a spectacular show of lasers, lights, dancing fountains and dazzling special effects. The 25-minute show is always filled to capacity, so plan to get there at least 30 minutes from show time to get a good seat.
The easiest way to see Disney theme parks is to stay at a Disney Resort. I stayed at the Disney Beach Club which offers free bus and ferry service to the theme parks. The ferry service goes from the Beach Club goes to Epcot and MGM and the bus takes guests to the other theme parks and Downtown Disney. The Beach Club also has a Character breakfast with Disney characters visiting tables and chatting with guests and posing for photos. You have to make reservations for the Character breakfast as it is usually sold out.
Universal Studios Florida has also added a brand new attraction to its theme park. It’s called Fear Factor Live, based on the television show only this show uses guests from the theme park audience for the show. Fear Factor Live is the first ever theme park experience based on a reality show. It’s unscripted, unpredictable, and unlike anything you have ever seen at a theme park. If you want to test your fear factor, you have to go to the attraction 75 minutes prior to the show at the kiosk located in front of the stadium. The stunts I saw were thrilling from a woman having spiders and other insects being put on her head while her hands were strapped down to other contestants jumping on a car in mid-air to remove flags on the dashboard.
There are so many fun attractions at Universal Studios from Revenge of the Mummy to Twister…Ride It Out and Earthquake-the Big one. I really enjoyed the Universal Horror Make-up Show. It’s inside and gives you a chance to sit down in an air-conditioned theater and be entertained. There are also attractions for the children, such as E.T. Adventure and Animal Planet Live.
While in Orlando, take in some of the sights of the city, not just the theme parks. There are golf courses, dinner theaters, water parks, museums, live theaters and art galleries. Always changing, Orlando is a great place for a family vacation.
Photos provided by Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Phyllis Steinberg.
For more information about Orlando, log on to www.orlandoinfo.com or call 407-363-5872
For more information about Disneyworld, log on to www.disneyworld.com Or call 407-W-Disney
For more information about Universal Studios, log on to www.universalorlando.com or call 1-877-688-8011