Welcome to the December Newsletter
Hi Subscriber, welcome to the December 2011 newsletter of the Florida Review & Travel Guide.
This month there are more details of the major new expansion at SeaWorld (mentioned last month) and Discovery Cove plus water park announcements from both Fun Spot and Legoland Florida.
Also did you realise that Florida drivers are reckoned to be the fourth worst drivers in the United States according to one company report!
We’d like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The Christmas, New Year and Holiday season events are now in full swing, including the amazing ICE! exhibition at the Gaylord Palms resort.
Fun Spot News
Fun Spot who operate two parks, one in Orlando on International Drive and the other in Kissimmee have announced that they are going to build a water park next to their existing Orlando attraction, in partnership with SplashTacular Inc.
The new waterpark will cover around 10 acres and is scheduled to open in March 2013. It will compete directly with Wet ‘n’ Wild.
In separate announcements, there are plans to build two new roller coasters, one steel and one wooden and they have also introduced new annual passes. There is an introductory price on both passes and numbers will be strictly limited.
The Any Day Pass which gives access to both parks, will cost $100 until December 24, 2011. After that date the price rises to $150. Numbers have been limited to just 1,000 passes.
There is also the Fun Spot Week Day Pass which is available for $50 until December 24. After that date the price rises to $75. It excludes weekends and there are some blackout dates. Again numbers are limited, this time to 4,000 passes.
Fun Spot currently attracts around 1/2 million visitors a year.
Legoland Water Park
When Legoland bought the former Cypress Gardens park, they also acquired the adjoining Splash Island water park. It had always been their intention to renovate and re-theme the water park and a couple of days ago they announced their plans in more detail.
The Legoland Water Park will open in time for the summer of next year and will feature a number of rides and attraction geared towards young children. There will be a wave pool, tube and body slides, interactive play structures for both older and younger children and a lazy river. Similar rides are already in operation at Legoland’s California water park.
As mentioned in previous newsletters, the water park will not be by separate admission, it will be a $12 add-on to the existing Legoland Florida theme park ticket. Presumably the intention is to try and get people to visit more than one day.
It will however be included in the price of the new Premium annual pass.
The Legoland Water Park will not be open all year round but will be seasonal like most of the water parks outside of Orlando.
Read more about Legoland Florida.
End of Huricane Season
The end of November marks the official end of the hurricane season.
Like last year, 2011 has again been a very busy hurricane season, well above average, tying for the third most active season on record. In total there were 18 named storms of which luckily only 7 became hurricanes and of those, 3 became major hurricanes.
Over the past century, in an average year there are around 11 storms of which 6 become hurricanes and 2 turn into major hurricanes. This makes 2011 average with regard to actual hurricanes but well above average in terms of the total number of storms.
Most forecasters were fairly accurate when predicting the total number of storms though they all over forecasted the number of storms that would develop into hurricanes.
Read more about Florida’s tropical storms and hurricanes.
SeaWorld Fun Cards
After stopping the Fun Cards for Florida and Georgia residents earlier this year, SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens have re-introduced their annual Fun cards.
A Fun Card gives you unlimited admission to either SeaWorld, Busch Gardens or a combination of SeaWorld and Aquatica or SeaWorld and Busch Gardens until the end of 2012.
Read more about SeaWorld Fun Cards.
Old Town Zip Line
The Old Town attraction in Kissimmee on Highway 192 is the latest attraction to introduce a zip line ride.
The 300 foot zip line is part of a new AMPventure Experience. The adventure course offers a four story Ropes Challenge Course and a 35 ft Rock Climbing Wall as well as the “out and back” Zip Line.
Guests must be 4 ft tall to ride the zip line or ropes. For the climbing wall you have to be at least 3 ft tall if accompanied or 4 ft is alone.
Latest Hotel Deals
Amongst the travel offers in December, there are plenty of deals to be had including 3 star hotels in Daytona Beach from $45, Cocoa Beach from $56, West Palm Beach from $49, Pompano Beach from $83 and Miami Beach from $70. Other deals include:
- $119: 4-star Renaissance Orlando Hotel at SeaWorld + Rate includes breakfast, Book Anytime
- $229: 4-star JW Marriott Hotel Miami + Stay for Breakfast, Book Anytime
- $59+* - Sandestin Upscale Mystery Brand Hotel $59 4-STAR
- $146* - $146.00 & up 4-star hotels in Marco Island
- $70* - $70.00 & up 3-star hotels in Jacksonville Beach
[UPDATE - Please note these deals have now expired]
There are many more good deals this month as tour operators continue to offer discounts, so if you are planning a vacation to Florida during 2011/12, then let the Florida Review & Travel Guide help you on your way.
This is just a small sample. To see the rest of the great deals and more, check out our late Florida deals page.
The average pump prices in Florida have fallen to $3.31, down from $3.42 for a gallon for regular, a drop of 9 cents on last month.
You can always find the latest pump prices at GasPriceWatch.com.
Following on from last month, in early November, SeaWorld made their announcement about three exciting new attractions coming to their Orlando theme parks over the next two years.
The first is “TurtleTrek” which will take guests on the life journey of a turtle. The main part of the attraction is a new 3D “hyper-real” CGI theatre where you follow the life of a turtle from the egg into the ocean and the various dangers encountered along the way. TurtleTrek is being built on the site of the former Manatee Rescue attraction at SeaWorld and will open in the Spring of 2012.
Opening around the same time is the “Freshwater Oasis” at the neighbouring Discovery Cove. Here guests will be able to swim with Asiatic river otters through a rainforest spring with marmoset monkeys in the tree canopy. The attraction will also feature a faux sink hole and a swim up lounge called the Flooded Terrace.
The final and biggest new attraction is “SeaWorld’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin” which is slated to open at SeaWorld in the Spring of 2013.
There are few details yet but it will be a sit-down ride situated in the Penguin Plaza area of the park, replacing the current Penguin Encounter attraction. It will be based around the life of a young penguin and construction is expected to start in January of next year.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is being billed as the coldest theme park attraction in the world but if you cannot wait until 2013 don’t forget you can always visit the Christmas themed conversion of the Wild Arctic ride into “The Polar Express Experience” or the nearby ICE! attraction at the Gaylord Palms from now until the New Year.
Read more about the SeaWorld park in Orlando.
Gambling in Florida
Florida has very strict and complex gambling laws which is partly why there have been a number of casino cruises operating out of Florida’s ports over the years. At present apart from the state lotto, gambling is strictly limited to seven Seminole Indian Tribe run casinos on reservation land, pari-mutuels at dog and horse racing tracks and the offshore casino cruises. All this could be about to change though.
Some parties are pushing for a relaxation of the legislation to allow the building of three massive destination casino resorts in the South of Florida around Miami and Fort Lauderdale opening up the market to Las Vegas based casino groups and overseas interests and breaking the Seminole’s monopoly on casinos.
The Genting Corporation from Malaysia has already bought up over 30 acres of prime bay-front real estate in Miami in preparation for the construction of a $3.8 billion dollar resort, the world’s largest.
Not unsurprisingly, the Seminole Tribe is against this legislation claiming it breaks a 20 year compact signed in 2010 with the former governor, Charlie Crist.
Also firmly in the “no” camp is the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Disney who are worried that large casino resorts in the South of Florida could pull visitors away from Orlando and tarnish Florida’s family holiday destination appeal.
Whilst casino resorts would be unlikely to affect regular families with children on vacation, the enormous convention traffic that regularly comes to Orlando might be persuaded to go to Miami. The proposed destination casino resorts will include conference centres.
The South of Florida is also already a big attraction for Latin American visitors and again some of them might be swayed if Las Vegas style casino resorts started to appear in the Miami area.
As an aside Disney is the only large cruise operator in Florida who do not operate lucrative casinos on their cruise ships.
Read more about Florida offshore casino cruises.
The period between Thanksgiving and New Year is a magical time at Florida’s major theme parks with all of them specially decorated for the Holiday season.
Most of the parks put on memorable holiday entertainment and in many cases this is included in the regular admission price.
You will find festive entertainment at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios as well as Universal Studios, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. Even the newly opened Legoland Florida is celebrating Christmas with their Christmas Bricktacular.
SeaWorld re-theme their Wild Arctic ride into the Polar Express Experience especially for this time of year and at the Gaylord Palms hotel, over 40 Chinese artisans from Harbin toil for over a month to create a magical ice kingdom, this year featuring Shrek.
Read more about Florida’s theme park holiday season events.
Fido's Florida: A Dog-Friendly Guide to the Sunshine State
Fido’s Florida: A Dog-Friendly Guide to the Sunshine State is written by Ginger Warder who lives in St. Petersburg and was published on November 7, 2011.
With half of all US households owning a dog, it is not surprising that a lot of people like to take their pets with them when they go on vacation.
Many hotels allow pets but there is a big difference between pets being allowed and being pet friendly. If you have never taken your dog to Florida before, then Fido’s Florida could be a real help.
The Welcome chapter of Fido’s Florida gives you a basic introduction to taking your dog with you to Florida. Whilst most people taking their dog to Florida will drive, did you know that you cannot take you dog on any Amtrak services but two airlines actually offer doggy frequent-flyer miles.
There is plenty of useful safety advice especially with Florida’s hot climate. Every year pets die after being left to bake in an unattended car and a few even fall victim to alligators. If you are planning on visiting any of Florida’s State parks, there is useful information on the rules governing dogs in State parks and beaches.
Whilst many hotel chains will allow pets, pet-friendly rooms are limited so advice is given on making reservations and the likely limitations and extra costs; for example weight and breed restrictions, use of crates, proof of vaccination and flea treatment and cleaning fees.
Read our complete review of Fido’s Florida: A Dog-Friendly Guide to the Sunshine State.
Florida drivers are ranked amongst the worst in the United States, coming 4th according to a Seattle based car insurance company report.
Using a number of factors including fatalities per million miles, ticket violations, careless driving and drunk driver offences, the company found that the further south you travel in the USA, generally the worse the driving gets. Factors affecting this include the general lack of public transportation and a more rural environment in the South, meaning more people tend to drive anyway.
The worst state was Louisiana, followed by Missouri with Texas and Florida ranking equally bad. The best states were all in the North east, namely Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
In Florida drivers get more tickets than any other state and are the second worst for carelessness “beaten” only be Arkansas. On a more sobering note, Florida drivers scored low on drunkenness!!
All of these factors mean one thing especially to drivers on vacation. You can expect higher car rental charges because of increased insurance costs.
You also need to take extra care as other drivers could easily cause an accident to yourself and your passengers.
Read more about driving in Florida.
Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
December 2011 and January 2012 desktop wallpaper calendars
The free Florida desktop wallpaper calendars are now available in new widescreen and netbook format as well as standard format so if you have a widescreen monitor or a netbook you can now download a new widescreen calendar. From July we have introduced some additional sizes for widescreens.
Free desktop calendars for December 2011 (Universe of Energy Pavilion at Disney’s Epcot) and January 2012 (Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios) are ready to download now.
Note that some of the larger files can be up to 1mb in size so if you are on a modem dialup line it will take a few minutes to download.
Click to view and then download the Florida free desktop wallpaper for December and January now.
Also don’t forget if you are looking for inspiration on what to do on your Florida vacation, why not take advantage of our collection of free Florida brochures where you will find information on many activities including golfing vacations, eco-tours, scuba diving and Caribbean cruises.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, there is a short lull before the main holiday season starts. This month there is just one public holiday; on Christmas Day, December 25.
All the major theme parks are going to be very busy in the run up to Christmas and the New Year.
It is a great time to visit as the weather is still quite good and all the Christmas decorations are up and the theme parks are in full swing with their Holiday season activities.
Noticeable artists on tour in Florida this month include Smokey Robinson, Andrea Bocelli, Hall and Oates, Paul Simon, The Temptations, Alice Cooper and Paul Anka. Looking further ahead, in January there are a number of stage shows including Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus, Rock of Ages and Wicked plus B.B. King, Gregg Allman, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jimmy Buffett and Bob Seger.
Read the full coverage of the latest events throughout the State of Florida or view a comprehensive list of upcoming Florida concerts.
The end of November is the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season. At the final count there were 18 named storms and seven hurricanes, well above the average.
This month, temperatures will be around seasonal averages across the whole state and rainfall will be below average. Temperatures will continue to fall with daytime temperatures in the high 50s to low 80s. The main difference will be in overnight temperatures where it will be noticeably cooler the further north you are with the chance of freezing on a few nights.
In the North around Pensacola and Jacksonville, the month will start out with plenty of sunshine but then there will be prolonged periods of cloud and rain, particularly on the West coast where temperatures will be cooler. Daytime temperatures will be in high 50s to mid 70s. Overnight temperatures could fall as low as freezing in the low 30s to high 50s.
Across the Central region, the weather outlook is better with fewer clouds and rain. It will also be warmer with temperatures in the low 70s to high 70s during the day with mid 40s to high 50s overnight.
Down in Miami and the Keys, the weather will be better with even fewer clouds. Temperatures will be in the mid 70s to low 80s during the day and high 60s overnight.
Check out the rest of the weather for all of Florida including a live weather map, monthly temperature and rainfall charts across the State and the latest hurricane news.
Only one book is published this December, namely Traveller Guides Florida from Thomas Cook Publishing so it is a good opportunity to list a number of other Florida travel books that have slipped through the net during the last few months. Follow the links to read our reviews.
December Book List
- Traveller Guides Florida by Thomas Cook Publishing
- Look Up, Florida!: Walking Tours of 12 Towns In The Sunshine State by Doug Gelbert
- The Key West Bucket List by David L. Sloan, Rachel Curran
- A Year in Palm Beach: Life in an Alternate Universe by Pamela Acheson, Richard B. Myers
- Days Out Around Orlando by Gillian Birch
- A Florida Sketch-book by Bradford Torrey
- Orlando Popout Map
- Florida Keys Ports Of Call: A Boating And Travel Guide To The Florida Keys by Thomas A. Henschel
- Camping And Cruising In Florida by James Alexander Henshall
- Camp Life In Florida by Charles Hallock
- Historic Sites and Architecture of St. Petersburg by Ken Breslauer
- Brit Guide to Orlando by Simon and Susan Veness
- 2012 Miami Restaurants by ZAGAT Restaurant Guides
We plan to bring you a newsletter on the first day of each month with details of upcoming events and news from across Florida.
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