January 2018 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • Disney to buy part of 21st Century Fox
  • Brightline
  • Disney Springs Hotel Perks
  • Up at Animal Kingdom
  • Disney Skyliner
  • Pizza Pointe
  • Super Nintendo World
  • Hall of Presidents
  • Cirque du Soleil
  • Texting whilst Driving
  • 2018 and Beyond
  • Space in 2018
  • Astronaut Training Experience
  • Fuel Prices
  • Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
  • January Events
  • Weather Forecast
  • January Books
Cirque du Soleil

January 1, 2018, #151

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State.

Cirque du Soleil


Hi subscriber, welcome to the January 2018 newsletter of the Florida Review & Travel Guide.

Firstly, a Happy New Year to all our readers. 2018 promises to be an exciting year for theme park and space fans with new “lands”, rides and new “heavy” rockets all due to make an appearance.

There is also a new higher-speed rail service that will ultimately connect Orlando International Airport with Miami.

Disney has announced a few more details about the people mover, the “Disney Skyliner” and a new Pixar inspired show coming to Animal Kingdom. There will also be a new Cirque du Soleil show replacing La Nouba at some point in the future.

Read on for all the details on these stories and more.

Disney to buy part of 21st Century Fox

Disney are set to purchase a large chunk of 21st Century Fox in a $52.4 billion deal including 20th Century Fox Movie and Television Studio.

The sale would give Disney access to a number of new intellectual property characters from comic books, TV and films including X-Men, Fantastic Four, Ice Age, Deadpool and The Simpsons.


Our aim is to bring you the latest news on what is happening in Florida each week with stories from the theme parks, beaches, resorts and everything else that Florida has to offer.

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STOP PRESS - Brightline

A new higher-speed rail service is due to start the week commencing January 8, 2018.

Initially the service will run the short distance from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale and then in few months time it will be extended to the new downtown MiamiCentral station just north of the Miami-Dade County Courthouse.

The ultimate aim is to provide a faster service between Miami and Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Read more about the Brightline train service.

Disney's Contemporary Resort

Disney Springs Hotel Perks

As expected, Disney has announced a couple of major perks for guests staying at seven Official Walt Disney World neighbourhood hotels situated around the Disney Springs area starting on January 1, 2018 and running until December 31, 2018.

Guests staying at any one of these hotels will be able to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours each day and from January 10, Disney has also extended the 60 day FastPass+ booking window perk for guests who book a hotel package including park tickets at one of the named resorts.

Prior to this announcement, only guests at Disney’s own resort hotels plus the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin were able to make FastPass+ bookings 60 days in advance. All other Walt Disney World visitors must still wait until 30 days before arrival.

Read more about Disney’s FastPass+.


Up at Animal Kingdom

Disney has announced a new show featuring characters from the Disney-Pixar film “Up” will debut next Spring at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. To be located in the Caravan Theater in the Anandapur village part of Asia, the “Up” show will replace “Flights of Wonder” which had its last show on December 31.

Like, Flights of Wonder, the new show will also feature a number of different bird species accompanied by Wilderness Explorer Russell and his short-attention span dog, Dug.

Read more about Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Disney Skyliner

Disney has released a few more details about their new Skyliner gondola transportation system first announced at the D23 Expo. Each station will be themed to reflect where it is in Walt Disney World.

The main hub will be at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort where guests will be able to transfer lines.

One line will transport guests to the Epcot theme park, entering via the International Gateway situated in the World Showcase between the France and United Kingdom pavilions.

There is one hub at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and another between Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.

Pizza Pointe

The new Pizza Pointe restaurant is now open as Disney Springs, specialising in Sicilian-style pizza by the slice, Italian sandwiches and desserts.

The adjoining The Edison opened on New Year’s Eve and Maria & Enzo’s and Enzo’s Hideaway will open early in 2018.

The Edison will operate as a regular restaurant during the daytime but come 10 p.m. it will convert into a 21 years and older nightclub, the first time since Pleasure Island closed many years ago.

There will be a cover charge (not yet announced) and a dress code banning shorts, baseball caps and flip-flops.

Read more about Disney Springs The Landing.

Super Nintendo World

Super Nintendo World

Building permits reveal more details about Universal’s plans for their Super Nintendo World project in Orlando including a Super Mario Land with Donkey Kong and Mario Kart attractions. Another possibility is a Super Mario Brothers CG movie collaboration with Illumination Entertainment who created “Despicable Me”.

It looks as if a chunk of the Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone in Universal Studios Orlando which is aimed at the younger visitors will be demolished to make way for the new Nintendo World. Attractions that will likely be closed include Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, Fievel’s Playland, Curious George Goes To Town, Barney, the Animal Actors show stage and some of the kids’ play areas. The E.T. Adventure ride looks to be safe at this time.

There is also the possibility that Universal will bring Nintendo based attractions to Islands of Adventure and utilise some of the nearly 600 acres of land on the other side of the I–4 interstate.

Hall of Presidents

Hall of Presidents

After nearly a year long refurbishment, the animatronic version of Donald Trump was unveiled at the re-opened Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square at Disney’s Magic Kingdom on December 19.

There has been a lot of conjecture on the internet as to whether the controversial 45th President of the United States would get a speaking part during the 20 minute show featuring all previous presidents and it turns out he does like every president since Bill Clinton.

Whilst the attraction has been closed Disney has taken the opportunity to update the audio-animatronic technology with high quality sound, lighting and projection on a 180 degree panoramic screen.

Read more about the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square.


Cirque du Soleil

Fans of the Cirque du Soleil will be pleased to know that the closure of Cirque du Soleil “La Nouba” after 20 years on December 31, 2017 does not signal the end of Cirque du Soleil at Disney Springs.

It has now been confirmed that a new Cirque du Soleil production will replace La Nouba, inspired by Disney’s heritage of animation. No name for the new production or timescales have been revealed at this time.

In the past Cirque du Soleil has created productions based on the pop culture of The Beatles and Michael Jackson.

Read more about Cirque du Soleil at Disney Springs West Side.

Texting whilst Driving

Forty three US states have already made texting whilst driving a “primary” offence meaning a police officer can stop and ticket a driver.

Despite having some of the most dangerous drivers in the USA, Florida still treats texting as a “secondary” offence which means the driver has to have also committed a primary offence like speeding before they can be stopped and charged.

The Florida Legislature is shortly to consider making texting a primary offence.

Nearly 2,700 people were killed on Florida’s roads in 2017 though there are no specific figures for deaths caused by texting. Some studies suggest a texting ban could reduce deaths by around 3%.

Read more about driving in Florida.

Toy Story Land Model

2018 and Beyond

Though everyone is eagerly awaiting the opening of “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the summer of 2019, there is plenty to look forward to in 2018.

Firstly in the spring of 2018, Universal Studios Florida will open their second virtual queue ride, “Fast & Furious: Supercharged”. They are also opening their sixth resort hotel, the 600 room Aventura in August.

At Walt Disney World, a new show featuring characters from the Disney-Pixar film “Up” will debut at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the spring followed by the major new construction, “Toy Story Land” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the summer.

A new water ride, “Infinity Falls” opens at SeaWorld in the summer and Legoland are re-imagining their Project X roller coaster with Virtual Reality. It will become The Great LEGO Race and is expected to open in the spring. Read more about Legoland Lego Technic.

There are also several exciting rocket launches planned for 2018 (see separate story).

SLS Model

Space in 2018

For space rocket fans, early 2018 should see the first ever launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy which will be the most powerful rocket in the world, since the Saturn V moon rocket. The Falcon Heavy is powered by 27 Merlin engines and can lift a payload of 54 metric tons.

SpaceX intend to launch CEO Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla roadster car as the payload and possibly insert it into Mars orbit.

Also scheduled to launch for the first time ever in late 2018 is the even more powerful NASA Space Launch System which replaces the cancelled Constellation programme.

Both SpaceX and Boeing also hope to launch their first crewed missions to the International Space Station (ISS) which will allow NASA to stop relying on Russian rockets to send and retrieve ISS crews. NASA also intend to launch another Mars rover called InSight.

Read more about upcoming launches in 2018.

Astronaut Training Experience

Astronaut Training Experience (ATX)

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is switching its Astronaut Training Experiences from the earlier Space Shuttle inspired missions to deep space Mars based missions and introducing shorter experiences.

The new ATX building is located at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex in a new space next to the upcoming Mars Rover exhibit and the new entrance to the Kennedy Bus Tours.

When completed the new ATX will feature three simulators and a Mars Base Camp 1. Activities will last from less than an hour to an entire day.

Guests must be 10 years or older and o n each experience, guests work in teams taking it in turns to perform the various activities.

Read more about the new Astronaut Training Experience (ATX).


Gasoline Prices

Prices were expected to fall again during December but in the end they remained fairly static.

Prices are around $2.45 per gallon for regular, down 1 cents on last month. Prices in metro areas like Orlando are about 4 cents cheaper but prices in the South remain a higher.

You can always find the latest pump prices at GasPriceWatch.com.

January 2018 calendar

January 2018 and February 2018 Desktop Wallpaper Calendars

The free Florida desktop wallpaper calendars are available in widescreen and netbook format as well as standard format so if you have a widescreen monitor or a netbook you can download a widescreen calendar.

Free desktop calendars for January 2018 (Pinewood Estate Courtyard) and February 2018 (Indian River looking towards the VAB) 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 January or February now.

Florida Villa by the lake at sunset

Orlando Florida Villa Rental

Read the latest reviews of our luxury 4 bed/2 bath villa with its own private pool overlooking a lake on our Facebook page or check our availability and rates.


January Events

January 15 is Martin Luther King Day which is a State holiday. It is also Robert E Lee’s birthday.

SeaWorld starts off the New Year with a new event, the Three Kings Celebration from January 1 to 6. The event starts at 11:00 a.m. and continues to park close at 7 p.m. It is free with regular admission.

As well as the Christmas O Wondrous Night and Sea of Trees, there is also a Three Kings Processional which tells the story of the arrival of the Three Kings, a special menu at the Sharks Underwater Grill, live music and festive food and drinks.

Over at Universal the Universal Christmas Celebrations continue until January 6. Then from January 26 to 28 they celebrate the “Celebration of Harry Potter”.

The Gaylord Palms ICE! Christmas Around the World show runs until January 7.

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park closes on January 7 for its annual maintenance until March 17 but Disney’s Blizzard Beach will be open.

The Busch Gardens Real Music Series concerts run from January 8 to March 3.

SeaWorld continues with their Praise Wave Christian musical festival which is included in the standard admission and for 2018 runs on four consecutive Saturdays, January 20, 27, February 3 and 10.

There are three new musical acts at Epcot in the World Showcase in January. At the Germany Pavilion, Groovin’ Alps will be playing from January 10 to March 27. Returning to Morocco is Matboukha Groove from January 1 to July 1 and Bodh’aktan also return to the Canada Pavilion’s from January 12 to 28.

Also at Epcot is the Epcot International Festival of the Arts from January 12 to February 19 celebrating art and performance along with musical Broadway performances and gourmet food and drink.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona runs from January 27 to 28.

There could potentially be four launches from Cape Canaveral in January.

The Falcon 9 launch with a mystery payload called “Zuma” which was scheduled to lift off in November has been rescheduled for January 4 and a second Falcon 9 could lift off on January 30.

There is also a Atlas V is scheduled for January 18.

Finally SpaceX positioned the Falcon 9 Heavy on launch pad 39A during December and are now suggesting a potential first launch attempt some time in January.

Weather Forecast

A cold snap in mid December saw all of central Florida’s major water parks closed for several days and there were even signs of snow around Destin and Miramar Beach in Northwest Florida.

The New Year will also start off cold by Florida standards but January should again see average temperatures and average rainfall across the whole region with slightly above average temperatures in the South.

In the North around Pensacola it will be a mixture of sunshine and clouds with the odd rain shower in the latter half of the month. In Jacksonville it will be noticeably warmer with fewer rain showers.

Daytime temperatures will be between the mid 40s and mid 60s with overnight temperatures between the mid 20s to low 50s. Like last month, there will be more sunshine on the Atlantic coast.

Across the Central region, the outlook is warmer with fewer clouds and less rain. Daytime temperatures will be in the high 50s to high 70s with low 40s to high 50s overnight.

Down in Miami and the Keys, it will be similar to the Central region but warmer overnight. Temperatures will be in the high 60s to low 80s during the day and high 40s to 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.

January Books

Just a few new books in January including a series of Lonely Planet guides.

January Book List

  • Moving to Naples: The Un-Tourist Guide by Alysia Shivers
  • Travel Miami By Bus Photo Book by Caroline Gilmore
  • Sail Away! a Kid’s Guide to Key West, Florida by Penelope Dyan
  • Miami: A Backward Glance by Muriel V Murrell
  • Tampa Bay in History by Rodney Carlisle, Loretta Carlisle
  • Lonely Planet Miami & the Keys (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet
  • Lonely Planet Pocket Orlando & Walt Disney World® Resort (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet
  • Lonely Planet Pocket Miami (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet
  • Lonely Planet Florida (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet
  • History of the Third Seminole War: 1849–1858 by Joe Knetsch and John Missall
  • Historic Tampa Churches (Images of America) by John V. Cinchett
  • Fringe Florida: Travels among Mud Boggers, Furries, Ufologists, Nudists, and Other Lovers of Unconventional Lifestyles by Lynn Waddell
  • Lonely Planet Florida & the South’s Best Trips (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet
  • Palm Springs: A Modernist Paradise by Tim Street-Porter and Trina Turk
  • Tiny the Florida Easter Bunny by Eric James

Other pages of interest