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  • Changes Coming to 'The Great Movie Ride'Turner Classic Movies will become the new sponsor the Disney's Hollywood Studios attraction
  • King Kong Construction UpdateWe share our first look at the blueprints for the new Universal Orlando ride
  • Time for ThanksgivingOur Top 10 reasons to be thankful this year, as theme park fans
  • Give the Gift of Theme Park Fun!Theme Park Insider has three books that make great gifts for theme park fans
Changes Coming to 'The Great Movie Ride' King Kong Construction Update Time for Thanksgiving Give the Gift of Theme Park Fun!
Robert Niles
Editor

Give the Gift of Theme Park Fun, with Theme Park Insider's Books

Published: November 26, 2014 at 12:28 PM

Looking for a holiday gift for a theme park fan? (Or... looking for something affordable for your Christmas wish list?) Theme Park Insider has three books that make great gifts for anyone planning a theme park visit next year.

Theme Park Insider books

If you're planning a trip to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter as a holiday gift, why not announce it with a copy of our new Theme Park Insider Visits The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Our booklet includes our reviews of all the rides, shows, restaurants and shops in Universal Orlando's two Harry Potter-themed lands, as well as looks at the history of the project and other Potter-themed attractions around the world. There's also a chapter with comments from the creative team and stars of the Harry Potter movies, talking about the lands.

If you want more information to help you plan a complete Orlando theme park vacation, choose Theme Park Insider Visits Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, our Orlando-area guidebook for 2015. This 232-page guide includes our readers' picks for the Top 10 attractions, restaurants, and hotels in several categories, to help you find the best way to spend your time in Orlando. Additional tips include advice on prepaid dining plans, line-skipping options, accommodating disabilities, special meal requests, celebrating birthdays, and even how to overcome a fear of riding roller coasters.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to work at a theme park, get a copy of Stories from a Theme Park Insider, our collection of tales from former Disney cast members (including yours truly). It's a warm, funny, and uplifting look at the people who help make your vacations wonderful.

If you've bought any of our books before, thank you! If you could please take a moment to follow the links above to submit a positive review, that would help us to spread the word to more potential readers, too. And if you haven't, we hope that you will support the Theme Park Insider community by trying one of our books, in addition to being part of the community here on the website. We've worked hard to make these informative and entertaining books, available for a reasonable price.

We wish you a happy Thanksgiving, and we'll see you in the parks!

Links to Our Books:

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Russell Meyer
Writer

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Brings Holiday Joy with Christmas Town

Published: November 26, 2014 at 11:35 AM

As temperatures begin to drop in northern climates, and families begin their preparations for their annual Thanksgiving feast, some theme parks are also treating guests to holiday-themed events. Just as Halloween has become a lucrative business of hard-ticketed and full-capacity events for many parks, Christmas is becoming nearly as profitable. Year-round operational parks have been hosting Christmas events for years, but even some seasonal parks are getting into the act. Many parks located in colder parts of the country are limited to simply light displays and holiday themed shows, but in its sixth year, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has continued to expand its Christmas Town event. This event requires a hard ticket — it is not included in any season pass level, even Platinum Passholders.

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My family and I were invited to experience opening night of Christmas Town as a contributor to Theme Park Insider and Busch Gardens Williamsburg Ambassador Blogger. Those who have experienced the event in the past will see much of the same, with millions of lights scattered around the park. Many of the familiar lands are tweaked, with Christmas theme like France overlaid with a 12 Days of Christmas theme and Germany accented with an O’Tannenbaum theme.

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Only one of the park’s roller coasters, Verbolten, operates during Christmas Town, along with a number of the flat rides, but Christmas Town is not really about the rides; it’s about the decorations, lights, and shows. The shows cater to a wide variety of audiences, with a gospel-inspired retelling of the Biblical Christmas Story (Gloria) to the new Broadway-caliber staging of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, "Scrooge No More." The new show, staged in the recently renovated Globe Theater, takes advantage of the theater’s high-tech projection system and delivers some strong original musical numbers to present the famous story of the miserly man and his search for redemption. The excellent cast, particularly the lead, are engaging, and the staging is unique. "Scrooge No More" is likely to be extremely popular and is almost singlehandedly worth the price of admission.

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Similar to last year, I was invited to experience Santa’s Fireside Feast, which is a buffet-style meal hosted by none other than St. Nicholas, along with Mrs. Claus and two of his elves. In addition to the all-you-care-to-eat dinner, guests are entertained by a rousing rendition of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and the opportunity to meet Santa. The buffet includes turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, salad, and more. The cost ($31 for adults and $20 for children 3-9) is a bit pricey, but well worth it when compared to character buffets at many other theme parks.

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Also new this year, Busch Gardens is launching a service called PhotoKey during Christmas Town. We had seen the service being offered at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa last month, and it seems as if SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment is pushing the service to all of the parks in its chain. We were given access to the service during our visit, which is somewhat similar to Disney’s PhotoPass/Memory Maker. Guests can currently purchase access to the service for a single day or for the entirety of the Christmas Town event. Users are provided a lanyard with a unique QR code printed on it that links to their PhotoKey account. As guests walk around the park, there are numerous opportunities to have pictures taken, and park photographers shoot the QR code prior to taking the guest photo. Guests have the opportunity to view their photos at many of the PhotoKey locations, and can also view them through the PhotoKey app (currently available for both Android and IOS mobile devices). From our experience during the first night PhotoKey was being used, the park has a lot of bugs to work out. Because of the technology used, we experienced significant delays in being able to view photos within the app (we’re actually still waiting for a couple to show up), and we also ended up with a lot of photos in our account that were not ours. The service has promise, but at a price of $35 per day ($60 for the entire Christmas Town season), that’s a lot of money for a service that still seems like a work in progress, and is limited to just eight different staged photo locations around the park. It is interesting to see other parks attempt to compete with Disney’s popular and profitable PhotoPass/Memory Maker, but PhotoKey and Universal’s Photo Connect still have a long way to go.

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Despite the chill in the air, our trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Christmas Town was an enjoyable one, and the weather actually helped to enhance the feel of the event. The event runs on select days through New Year’s Eve.

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Robert Niles
Editor

Turner Classic Movies Steps in to Sponsor Disney World's Great Movie Ride

Published: November 25, 2014 at 7:32 PM

The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios will be getting pre- and post-show changes as part of a deal that the company will announce tomorrow with the cable television channel Turner Classic Movies, the New York Times is reporting.

Casablanca scene in the Great Movie Ride
Here's lookin' at you, TCM....

TCM, which is owned by Time Warner, will become the presenting sponsor of the attraction, whose Chinese Theater home will again become the main visual "weenie" in the park with the removal of the Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat that has blocked the view of the theater facade over the past decade.

The pre- and post-ride film montages will get TCM branding as part of the deal, with new clips hosted by TCM's Robert Osborne. There's no word that anything on the ride itself will change under the deal. The changes are expected by next spring.

In return, Disney will provide TCM with old "Disneyland" and "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" episodes for a quarterly special programming block on the cable channel to be called "Treasures From the Disney Vault." The first block will run in the evening of Dec. 21.

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Robert Niles
Editor

Calorie Counts are Coming to Restaurant Menus, but Probably Not at Theme Parks

Published: November 25, 2014 at 11:58 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Where to Eat: Dinner at The Cowfish at Universal Orlando's CityWalk

Published: November 24, 2014 at 6:04 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Monday Top 10: For Which Theme Park Fans Give Thanks

Published: November 24, 2014 at 1:17 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

King Kong Construction Update, Plus a First Look at the Blueprints

Published: November 23, 2014 at 12:52 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Vote of the Week: Do You Play Carnival Games?

Published: November 21, 2014 at 11:42 AM

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Derek Potter
Writer

Master the Midway: The Theme Park Insider Guide to Winning Carnival Games

Published: November 21, 2014 at 9:57 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Looking Ahead to the Next Great Transformation in the Theme Park Industry

Published: November 21, 2014 at 9:05 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Disney Springs Construction Update

Published: November 20, 2014 at 10:12 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

11 Things You Might Not Have Known About Disney and the 1964 New York World's Fair

Published: November 19, 2014 at 9:23 PM

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