Author Archive | Jessica Banks

Spring Training in Florida

Though baseball season isn’t quite here just yet, we have arrived at the next best thing: Spring Training in Florida. Our state is a huge hub for baseball during Spring Training, with fans coming out in droves for the opportunity to see their favorite players warm up for the season— and for the chance to see some of the up-and-coming rookies before they hit the majors. According to flasports.com, in 2015, over 1.5 million baseball fans headed down to Florida to see their favorite players get ready for the season. That’s a record-breaking amount of people!

Spring Training in Florida featured team logos

Of course, with 15 different major league teams from all over the country spread out over Florida, its no surprise that so many people are flocking down state come March! With Florida’s fair climate year round, March is the perfect time to take a break from the unending northern winter and head down to get some sun during your favorite team’s pre-season games! Here’s a list of the MLB teams that spend Spring Training in Florida and of where you can find them.

  • The Atlanta Braves (Lake Buena Vista)
  • The Baltimore Orioles (Sarasota)
  • The Boston Red Sox (Fort Meyers)
  • The Detroit Tigers (Lakeland)
  • The Houston Astros (Kissimmee)
  • The Miami Marlins (Jupiter)
  • The Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers)
  • The New York Mets (Port St. Lucie)
  • The New York Yankees (Tampa)
  • The Philadelphia Phillies (Clearwater)
  • The Pittsburg Pirates (Bradenton)
  • The St. Louis Cardinals (Jupiter)
  • The Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte)
  • The Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin)
  • The Washington Nationals (Viera)

Clearly there is a widespread variety of teams and locations, which offers each individual sports fan the opportunity of an experience that is unique to their desires for a Florida vacation. ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: Take advantage of your time in Florida and the location of the teams you decide to watch play! If you are traveling with kids who are itching to see Disney World, consider seeing the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, or the Astros in Kissimmee! If you are aching to get some time in the sand and surf during your trip to Florida, there is a huge variety of teams you can consider who are playing near the coast, with the Red Sox and the Twins both stationed in the same city!

Spring Training in Florida is Highly Recommended

Whether you are a casual baseball fan or a diehard, we definitely recommend Spring Training in Florida. The tickets are typically much, much cheaper than regulation games, and it is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with your favorite players! With the pressure of regulation games off their shoulders and the season only just beginning, the players tend to be a lot more relaxed. Who knows, if you find yourself in the right place at the right time you might end up with an autograph or a photo with your favorite player! Not an easy task during regulation games!

ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: Bring a ball, hat or other souvenir (or a program if available) and a permanent marker, such as a Sharpie. Come early or stay late, because many of the players will gladly autograph your item, especially if your children ask!

Whether you decide to come down purely for the love of the game or more for the weather, we highly recommend at least spending one afternoon at a pre-season game. The combination of the game, the music, and the new and old players, it’s bound to be a good time for every different type of baseball fan you can imagine.

Now, let’s play ball!

 

Holidays at Orlando Theme Parks

Holidays at Orlando theme parks are special (and warm). Orlando may not be able to supply a white Christmas, but there sure are a lot of other things it has to offer come wintertime! As the reigning theme park capital of the world, there is certainly no shortage of family-friendly holiday fun! Each park offers their own unique holiday celebration, filled with lights, music, decorations, events and more!

General Overview of Holidays at Orlando Theme Parks

holidays at orlando theme parks seaworld

1. Sea World’s Christmas Celebration

Holidays at Orlando theme parks provide an opportunity to enjoy Sea World’s Christmas Celebration as carols fill your ears and the many Christmas lights dazzle your eyes. For young children, Sea World has a show called Elmo’s Christmas Wish, where, with the help of his friends, Elmo searches for his Christmas wish and discovers the true meaning of Christmas! Sea World’s sea of trees is bound to be a family favorite, with over 100 trees that shine to the music and illuminate the water. You will even have an opportunity to visit with Santa Clause himself if you decide to embark on the Polar Express Experience, where the sights, sounds, and scents from the classic holiday story will surround you. This is only a taste of what the park has to offer, with ice skaters and Shamu also getting in on the holiday fun. Remaining dates for Sea World’s Christmas Celebration are Dec. 4-6, 11-13, 18-31.

universal studios holiday events

2. Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Studios also gets in on the holiday fun with a plethora of fun Christmas spectacles and experiences! If you have always wanted to see the Macy’s Holiday Parade in person but haven’t had the chance to get to New York, why not watch it in Orlando? Holidays at Orlando theme parks offer a way to enjoy the holiday parade in a t-shirt and shorts at Universal and enjoy watching the procession of floats straight from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! Fans of the classic holiday tale The Grinch will have the opportunity to have breakfast with their favorite folks from Whoville. After, feel free to take a trip to Seuss Landing, which will be transformed into a winter wonderland and the host of the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of the beloved holiday tale which will feature everyone’s favorite Grinch!

disney mickey mouse christmas party

3. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

While Guests don’t have to buy special tickets to enjoy seeing the park shine with dazzling Christmas lights, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is Magic Kingdom’s exclusive, event-ticket-only Christmas event. Holidays at Orlando theme parks encourage tourists to come prepared to be met with tons of holiday cheer as Christmas carol’s and lights fill up the park! Free cookies and hot chocolate are also available at designated park locations. Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas Parade is not to be missed, with Character’s like Jiminy Cricket, Tigger, and Scrooge McDuck all making appearances alongside dancing gingerbread men and elves! Anna, Elsa, and a few other Frozen favorites will also make an appearance in A Frozen Holiday Wish, where Elsa uses her ice powers to present a gift to everyone in Magic Kingdom. Other events include the Celebrate the Season Show, A Totally Tomorrow Land Christmas, and of, course, a special Holiday Wishes Fireworks display to end the night with a dazzling display of Christmas Cheer. ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: For fans of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this is the last year for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing lights, so be sure to get tickets!

Busch Gardens Christmas lights

4. Busch Gardens Christmas Town

Busch Gardens put their own spin on the holiday season by transforming the park into Christmas Town for their holiday celebration. Guests will have the opportunity to meet Santa and friends, ride a Christmas train, and be dazzled by the holiday lights (there’s more than one million of them) at this event. Special shows include the We Three Kings Show, which musically tells the story of the tree wise men making the famed journey to Bethlehem. Busch Gardens also offers a Christmas on Ice skating show, which captures the spirit of Christmas in this breath-taking, fun family show. If you have little ones and didn’t make it to Sea World, Busch Gardens offer another opportunity to have fun with Elmo and friends during the Elmo’s Christmas Wish show! This is another great way to celebrate holidays at Orlando theme parks.


Other Holiday Shows & Opportunities

Christmas may not be conventional here in Orlando, but we sure do have a lot to offer! If none of these theme parks offer the holiday experience you are looking for, the Kennedy Space Center, Capone’s Dinner and Show, The Holy Land Experience, and LEGOLAND are all also offering unique holiday experiences! Enjoy the holidays at Orlando theme parks and have a warm and merry Christmas!

Black Friday & Thanksgiving Day Shopping in Orlando

Black Friday Shopping – Complete Mall & Shopping Center Hours Listing

Black Friday shopping

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and with this holiday comes Black Friday! Stores all across the country offer extended hours and incredible, once-a-year deals, and Orlando is no exception! With a wide variety of malls and stores scattered across the city, Orlando is a great place to kick off your holiday shopping and to get a huge variety of deals!

With both local and international shopping locations spread throughout the state, it’s easy to find deals on gifts for all your family and friends. The following list includes many Orlando stores and shopping malls and stores across Central Florida. Happy shopping!

Here’s a list of Black Friday hours for all your favorite shopping locations:

Shopping Malls and Shopping Centers Hours

  • Altamonte Mall, Altamonte Springs: Thursday: 6 p.m. to midnight • Friday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Disney Springs: Thursday: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. • Friday: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Florida Mall: Thursday: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. • Friday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores: Thursday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. • Friday: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Lake Square Mall, Leesburg: Friday: 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • The Loop, Kissimmee: Varies
  • Mall at Millenia, Orlando: Friday: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Melbourne Square Mall: Thursday: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. • Friday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Merritt Square Mall: Thursday: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. • Friday: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Orlando Fashion Square: Friday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Orlando Premium Outlets — I-Drive: Thursday: 10 a.m. to midnight • Friday: Midnight to 11 p.m.
  • Orlando Premium Outlets — Vineland: Thursday: 10 a.m. to midnight • Friday: Midnight to 11 p.m.
  • Oviedo Mall: Friday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Paddock Mall, Ocala: Thursday: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. • Friday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Seminole Towne Center, Sanford: Thursday: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. • Friday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Waterford Lakes Town Center, Orlando: Thursday: 6 p.m. to midnight • Friday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • West Oaks Mall, Ocoee: Friday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Winter Garden Village: Varies
  • Volusia Mall, Daytona Beach: Thursday: 6 p.m. to midnight • Friday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Store Sale Hours

  • Bass Pro Shops: Thanksgiving: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. • Black Friday: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Bealls: Thanksgiving: 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. • Black Friday: All day
  • Best Buy: Thanksgiving: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. • Black Friday: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Costco: Thanksgiving Closed • Black Friday 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods: Thanksgiving Closed • Black Friday Call local store for hours
  • HH Gregg: Thanksgiving 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. • Black Friday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Home Depot: Thanksgiving Closed • Black Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • JCPenney: Thanksgiving 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. • Black Friday Call local store for hours
  • Kmart: Thanksgiving 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. • Black Friday All day
  • Kohl’s: Thanksgiving 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. • Black Friday Varies by store
  • Lowe’s: Thanksgiving Closed • Black Friday 6 a.m.
  • Macy’s: Thanksgiving Closed • Black Friday 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Office Depot: Thanksgiving TBA • Black Friday Call local stores
  • Old Navy: Thanksgiving 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. • Black Friday 3 a.m. to 12 a.m.
  • Sam’s Club: Thanksgiving Closed • Black Friday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Sears: Thanksgiving 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. • Black Friday 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Sports Authority: Thanksgiving 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. • Black Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Staples: Thanksgiving Closed • Black Friday 6 a.m. to varies
  • Target: Thanksgiving 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. • Black Friday 12 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Toys R Us: Thanksgiving Closed • Black Friday 12 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Walmart Supercenter: Thanksgiving All day (most stores) • Black Friday All day

ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: If you are visiting the Orlando area and want to know more about shopping opportunities, check out our shopping directories and locate a shopping center near you on our shopping map. We’ve covered many malls, outlet centers, farmer’s markets and other places to shop in Orlando.

Na’vi River Journey Canoe Ride

At the recent D23 (Disney’s official fan club) expo in Japan, it was announced that the still under-construction Pandora section of Animal Kingdom will include a family-friendly canoe ride called the Na’vi River Journey.

Na'vi River Journey

Na’vi River Journey will open with Pandora – The World of AVATAR in 2017 within Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

This new attraction will allow park visitors to get an up close and personal view of the environment and creatures first introduced in the Oscar-winning 2009 film, Avatar. As guests venture down the sacred river during the Na’vi River Journey, they will be cast in purple and blue hues as the bioluminescent rainforest springs to life around them. The journey comes to an end upon encountering a Na’vi shaman, who has a strong connection to the life force of the Pandora landscape. She will be sending positive energy throughout the entirety of the rainforest with the music she makes, a portrayal that rings true with the spirituality of the Na’vi people originally presented in the film.

Though the details surrounding Animal Kingdom’s Pandora are rather elusive, a 2017 opening date can be expected for the Na’vi River Journey, along with the rest of Pandora. Disney originally announced the Pandora Project in September of 2011, with construction beginning in early 2014.

Also recently announced for Pandora is an attraction called Avatar Flight of Passage, an experience meant to simulate flying with banshees (if you don’t remember, those are the giant dragon-like creatures the Na’vi people fly around with). Speculation has run rampant around this ride, with some saying that the technology employed with be similar to what Universal Studios used for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. Guests with young children will probably be more apt to ride the Na’vi River Journey — the banshees and technology used for Avatar Flight of Passage does not sound like it is geared towards younger children.

Other Animal Kingdom attractions that are currently being worked on are Rivers of Light (the Animal Kingdom Equivalent to Magic Kingdom’s Wishes firework show or Hollywood Studios’ Fantasmic), a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro safaris and live performances on the park’s Discovery River.

ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: If you’re staying on Disney property, be sure to book those fast passes early! Resort guests get first dibs on fast passes up to 60 days before their hotel check-in date, while annual pass holders don’t get access until 30 days before their visit. In the past, when Disney has opened new attractions (most recently, Mine Train at Magic Kingdom), the queues have been outrageously long, with wait times regularly running higher than two hours on particularly busy days. Folks who purchase day passes have virtually no chance of snatching up the limited number of fast passes offered for these new, big ticket attractions such as Na’vi River Journey, so odds are, they’ll have to endure the lengthy wait. Resort guests, take advantage! Animal Kingdom has limited ride offerings as it is, so these new additions are bound to be swarmed!

 

Jimmy Fallon Ride Coming to Universal Studios

Jimmy Fallon  Ride – Race Through New York – 2017

Jimmy Fallon Ride

Folks visiting Orlando will now be able to get a taste of New York on their trip: Universal Studios has confirmed that Jimmy Fallon will be getting his very own theme park ride, set in New York. Tonight Show lovers and theme park enthusiasts alike, rejoice!

The Jimmy Fallon ride will be located in Universal Studios (not to be confused with Islands of Adventure). It will be replacing the Twister… Ride It Out experience, which closed on November 2, 2015. The SNL alum announced the ride himself on his late night TV show. (Watch the You Tube video below.)

While details are limited, Fallon wants the ride to pay homage to his hometown, New York. The ride, Race Through New York With Jimmy Fallon, is inspired partly by the crazy celebrity races that have been so popular on The Tonight Show since Fallon began hosting.

Supposedly, riders will get to embark on a journey through the infamous studio 6B for a taping guests aren’t likely to forget— where they themselves will be challenged by Jimmy to an epic race throughout the streets of New York that they will not soon forget.

Guests will find themselves shooting through the New York streets, seeing everything from the insides of subway tunnels, to Central Park, to skyscrapers, with some familiar faces and famous landmarks thrown in. ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: Some surprises should be expected— Jimmy likes to make detours! Smoke and water effects will also to be a part of the experience.

Fallon went as far as to compare his ride to the renowned Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, with the main difference being that “it’s New York City” instead of Hogwarts!

Fallon seemed to be biting his tongue during the announcement, so we can only imagine what other surprises are in store! Unfortunately, Universal Studios guests will have to be content with other attractions for now — Race Through New York With Jimmy Fallon isn’t expected to open until 2017.