By Krista Joy
Legoland Florida unveiled some of the most cherished pieces of Cypress Gardens' botanical gardens this week, reuniting the past with the present. They did an amazing job, and on this day I got reunite my own past and present in some ways. I was very fortunate to attend Legoland's brief ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday on behalf of ThemeParkInsider.com. Although I had not been to Legoland before, I grew up and still live in Orlando.Tweet
I remember visiting Cypress Gardens when I was very young. My Dad's brother and his family would come down from Ohio, and Cypress Gardens was always a place we would visit while they were here. It is about an hour's drive to the Winter Haven location, so I have to admit (other than maybe a couple of school field trips with my boys) I haven't been back much since. My Dad and my uncle are both in heaven now, and I have to wonder if they were watching on this special day, when I actually got to go back to some of those historic spots in the park that people have not been able access for so long. My Dad and my uncle loved this place, and I know they still would.
Reuniting the past and present, the park plans to bring more Lego bricks inside the gardens to make them a little more accessible to families.
"What makes Legoland Florida different than other Legoland parks is the fact that it is built in Cypress Gardens," Legoland general manager Adrian Jones said. "Cypress Gardens is still a brand that exists within the center and is almost the heartbeat of Legoland. It makes it different; it gives us a different edge, and it also makes it probably the most beautiful Legoland park in the world." The Florida-shaped pool and Oriental Gardens have been cut off to the public since the park opened in 2011, but park officials always planned to open them, Jones said.
First, they had to repair the iconic Florida Pool, built as a set for the 1953 Esther Williams movie "Easy to Love."
The tile that once surrounded the Florida-shaped pool (that juts out into Lake Eloise) has been replaced with mulch and light-blue cement. It was filled Wednesday with nearly 10,000 large Lego bricks and surrounded by oranges as an homage to Cypress Gardens' founder, Dick Pope Sr.
In yet another great way to reunite the past and present, the classic Cypress Gardens "Southern Belles" were on hand for the ceremony.
Even when the actual Southern Belles aren't there to visit with guests in person, their Lego counterparts will be there to smile and pose for pictures at all times.
The other iconic area that reopened was The Oriental Gardens. The Oriental Gardens look just as pristine as the rest of the 30-acre botanical gardens. The peacefulness and quiet of this place was something I did not appreciate as a child, but now, I finally get it. You can't help but become a little reflective listening to the gentle water fountains. I found myself speaking very softly to the people around me. You just feel like you should whisper to each other when you are in a place like this.
The garden could also play a key role as Legoland tries to position itself as a multi-day resort instead of a one-day attraction. The gardens could be opened to guests of the planned lakeside Legoland Hotel. Jones said the park is "full steam ahead" on building the four-story, 152-room Legoland Hotel after the final permits were approved Tuesday.
Bob Gernert, namesake for the Bob Gernert Jr. Museum of Winter Haven History and recently retired executive director of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce was also on had for the ribbon cutting. As part of the chamber, he played a significant role in urging the state to buy the botanical gardens.
Legoland has become a great steward of the state-owned land under consideration to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Gernert said "Legoland, just by the fact that they take such good care of the park, have really nurtured and maintained this treasure."
"I have never walked into the gardens in the last 2-1/2 years that they weren't perfectly manicured, trimmed, and taken care of," he said. "I think the most exciting thing about this for me is the fact that it makes this park whole again. Now, there's no area left in the garden that is not accessible to the public."
In a very sweet gesture, Legoland created Bob's dream car out of Legos, complete with Bob and his bride nestled inside. Bob would later place the car in any place of his choosing inside Lego City. I heard that they made Bob and extra car to keep in his own home as well, and that they would be surprising him with that news later.
Cypress Gardens brought Esther Williams and Johnny Carson to Winter Haven, where they ate at Christy's Sundown and put the city on the map. Countless teenagers worked there as skiers and Southern Belles. Those teenagers are now parents and grandparents who are all undoubtedly enjoying Legoland together. To me that is really what reuniting the past and present is all about - and Legoland has accomplished this in spades.
By Robert Niles
Our goal with this year's Theme Park Insider Tournament is to show our many friends throughout the United States some of the cool attractions and theme parks elsewhere in the world. Most theme park fans in the U.S. know about the big Disney and Universal parks outside America, but there are some other great parks in Asia and Europe that should earn a place on fans' wish lists to visit.Tweet
Germany's Europa Park is one of those. The second-most popular theme park in Europe, after Disneyland Paris, Europa Park is owned by the Mack family and the park serves as a showcase for Mack Rides products. One of those is Blue Fire, a Mack megacoaster that debuted in 2009.
It's not the tallest or fastest coaster in the park (wait a minute....), but it's a peppy launched coaster that features a vertical loop, twisted horseshoe roll and a heartline roll. Let's ride:
Blue Fire's opponent today is the park's tallest and fastest coaster, and one of the few non-Mack rides in the park. The Mercedes-Benz-sponsored Silver Star is another Bolliger & Mabillard hyper coaster, topping out at 240 feet and with a top speed of 79 miles per hour.
Climb aboard for your virtual ride:
Okay, it's decision time. Which of these coasters should advance to the next round?
By Robert Niles
King Kong is set to make its return to the Universal Orlando Resort. The great ape, star of movies from the 1933 Fay Wray original to the 2005 Peter Jackson blockbuster, once made a home at Universal Studios Florida, before the Kongfrontation ride closed in 2002 to make way for the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster. When Kong returns, it will be to Universal Orlando's other theme park, Islands of Adventure.Tweet
We've known for some time that Universal Creative designers have been kicking around ideas for the Return of the Kong. As a result, theme park fans for months have been spreading rumors about a new Kong ride in one of the parks or the other. But ideas are worthless until they become reality. Lots of "blue sky" attraction ideas never make it to development. When parks start filing for permits with local authorities and start hiring contractors to develop the plans, that is when an idea become a project worth reporting as fact. That is when parks are putting real money behind an idea.
We appear to be at that stage now with Kong. Universal Orlando filed a permit application with the City of Orlando this week for a demolition project to clear space for either the new Kong attraction or possibly for a fifth hotel on the Universal Orlando property. We don't know for certain which project this permit represents, but we've heard from enough other sources within the industry to confirm that both projects are happening.
In addition, multiple Universal team members have reported seeing markers that suggest impending demolition work around the old Triceratops Encounter space in Jurassic Park, which is the land next to which industry sources have said a new Kong attraction would go. Frankly, space seems tight on that side of Jurassic Park with the show building for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey encroaching into much of that land's old empty space, which is why we've been skeptical of rumors that Kong would go in on that site. (Oh, please don't let this just be a Kong-topped polercoaster.) There's more space for a new attraction on the other side of Jurassic Park, near the new Cabana Bay hotel.
Universal lost the original version of the Kong animatronic attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2008 when the soundstage that housed that encounter on the park's backlot tour burned in a major fire at the studio. Universal ultimately decided to replace that attraction with the film-based King Kong 360/3D encounter, directed by Jackson, which opened in 2010.
With demolition on schedule soon, construction on Orlando's new Kong attraction, whatever and wherever it turns out to be, could begin once Diagon Alley opens to the public this summer. And development of the fifth hotel should be expected to begin not long after Universal wraps up its fourth hotel, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort later this spring.
Expect this as the new normal at the Universal Orlando Resort. As one major new attraction development wraps up, a new one will begin. As one new hotel opens, construction will start on the next. Meanwhile, new developments continue to begin over in CityWalk, too, beyond the new restaurants and shops that Universal Orlando already has announced for this spring and summer.
What are you hoping for in a new Kong attraction — or a new hotel — at the Universal Orlando Resort?
By Robert Niles
The Walt Disney Company has introduced, or at least popularized, many of the great ride systems that define dark rides today: omnimovers, motion simulators, motion-base vehicles. And in 2000, Disney welcomed a new "trackless" ride system to its Tokyo Disneyland park, with the introduction of Pooh's Hunny Hunt.Tweet
With a trackless ride system, visitors' ride vehicles can move around a themed space in seemingly unpredictable patterns. Designers can create multiple paths through which riders can experience an attraction, increasing the appeal of coming back to ride again and again. On Pooh's Hunny Hunt, different ride vehicles get to linger with different ride elements in several of the rooms of the ride, allowing for a more intimate experience than one can get on a never-stopping chain of slow-moving ride vehicles.
Last year, Disney went back to the trackless system in debuting Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland. The winner of the 2013 Theme Park Insider Award as the world's best new attraction, Mystic Manor was an instant hit, with on-ride videos winning raves from fans all over the world.
Today, in the Theme Park Insider Tournament, we're asking you to select one of these two wildly popular rides to advance to the next round of the tournament. Here are the on-ride videos:
Tokyo Disneyland's Pooh's Hunny Hunt:
Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor:
European theme park fans will get to experience a Disney trackless ride of their own this summer when Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquee de Remi debuts at Walt Disney Studios Paris. As for American theme park fans? Well... flights leave daily to Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Paris?
By Robert Niles
Based on the thousands of reader ratings that Theme Park Insider readers have submitted over the past couple years, it's clear that our readers love Bolliger & Mabillard roller coasters — especially B&M's hyper models. Tall, fast, smooth and offering plenty of airtime, the B&M hyper appeals to fans who want a thrilling physical ride experience without head-banging restraints or stomach-churning inversions.Tweet
A theme park pretty much guarantees itself a hit when it installs a B&M hyper. But, so far, there's only one theme park in the world that's gone for a sequel, offering its fans two B&M hypers.
That's Canada's Wonderland, in Toronto, and its two B&M hypers face off today to determine which will be North America's sole quarterfinalist in this year's Theme Park Insider Tournament, which features top theme park rides in parks outside the United States.
Our vote today features Behemoth, a 2008 hyper that reaches 230 feet with a top speed of 77 mph.
And the opponent?
It's Leviathan, opened in 2012, with a height of 306 feet and a top speed of 92 mph.
Time to vote! The winner advances to the semifinal round of the roller coaster bracket.
Tomorrow: Back to the dark ride bracket for Mystic Manor versus Pooh's Hunny Hunt.
Keep reading: March 2014 Archive
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