Growing up in the Midwest, only one thing could cut through the despair of another gloomy winter — the thought of driving down to Florida for Spring Break. Every mile south on the Interstate brought us one minute closer to the blue skies and sunshine that would melt the frost from our bones and the memory of endless school days from my mind. From Valdosta on, I'd smash my face against the backseat window, searching for the Florida state line sign — the point in the trip where my surely reliable memory tells me the clouds parted and the temperature immediately jumped 20 degrees.
These days, living back in my native Los Angeles, I get to Orlando by air now. And the weather's pretty much the same as what I leave at home. But I still look forward to every Florida trip just like I did as I kid escaping high school in Indianapolis. And I know that many of you feel the same way about your Florida vacations, too.
So let's look at what's new in Central Florida this spring, as many of us prepare for our Orlando spring break trips. I am flying from Los Angeles to Orlando on Monday and plan to see at least a few of these highlights during my trip to the area theme parks this week.
Universal Orlando Resort
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon — Universal's new flying theater ride, starring the host of NBC's The Tonight Show, started soft openings last week, and we'll be attending a media preview on Tuesday morning.
Mardi Gras — Universal's annual winter/spring festival expanded this year, offering New Orleans-inspired food and a Mardi Gras parade every night through March 25. And if you're visiting on weekends, Universal offers headliner concerts, too. This weekend it's UB40 on Saturday and Toby Keith on Sunday.
Walt Disney World Resort
Rivers of Light — The long-awaited (or, depending upon your point of view, long-delayed) new night-time show at Disney's Animal Kingdom is here. The show opened last month and should continue to play for packed houses throughout the spring break season.
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival — Okay, it's now more likely than not that some festival will be happening on any given day that you visit Epcot throughout the year. But there's no better way to get in the spring spirit than wandering around the colorful topiaries and floral displays of Disney's annual flower and garden event. And there are couple of new food marketplaces to check out this year, too.
Seven Seas Food Festival — SeaWorld is offering a new food festival of its own this spring. Running Saturdays through May 13, SeaWorld's Seven Seas Food Festival offers 11 food markets featuring cuisine from the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the north Atlantic, the Pacific coast, Polynesia, and more. And there are headliner concerts each week, too, with Justin Moore up this Saturday.
For those of you skipping the spring break trek and planning a summer vacation trip to Orlando, instead, you'll have plenty more to enjoy then, too, including Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom and the new Volcano Bay water park at Universal Orlando. We'll be back in Central Florida later this spring to cover the opening of those new attractions.
Update: Here's the latest Pandora hype video, released today by Disney:Tweet
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