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Dawn Henthorn

Dawn's Florida Travel Blog

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Ride, Slide and Fall for New Rides in Central Florida This Summer

Thursday May 29, 2014
Seven Dwarf's Mine Train

While Busch Gardens just announced that its expected opening late this month of Falcon's Fury — its new 335 ft drop tower — has again been delayed until later this summer, there are four more new attractions in store for those visiting Central Florida:

  • It's 126 steps to the top of the eight-story tower (that's nearly 80 feet) before guests will step into one of three colorful breakaway boxes. It's one of those heart-stopping moments where you'll hold your breath and cross your arms and listen to the sound of a heartbeat in anticipation of the drop that you know is coming... but you don't know when. It's Ihu's Breakaway Falls at SeaWorld's Aquatica Waterpark in Orlando... and, for those that dare to drop a stomach-churning 20-24 feet per second before launching into a spiraling speed slide before splashdown... it's fun!
  • Disney's Seven Dwarf's Mine Train is now open for exploration in Fantasyland at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. As the crowning jewel in the Magic Kingdom's largest expansion, the rocking and rollicking coaster sends guests on a musical adventure that immerses them in the timeless story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • The grand opening is June 12 at Wet 'n Wild and the starting line for Aqua Drag Racer is six stories tall — a full 65 feet in the air — and the four parallel racing lanes will provide a full-throttle descent through enclosed braided, twisting tunnels at a screaming speed of 15 feet per second for families who dare to take the plunge. Be among the first 500 guests to enter the park on Thursday, June 12, and receive a pass into the "fast lane" with a one-time Express Pass wristband!
  • Anticipation of Universal Orlando's expansion of its extremely popular Harry Potter attraction is building; and, while exact opening date has yet to be announced for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, most are confident it will be this summer. The new attraction will bring more Harry Potter adventures to life with thrilling and innovative technology, including 360-degree themed sets, 4K digital high-definition animation, state-of-the-art 3-D Infitec projection systems and live special effects that put you in the story.

Plan your Orlando vacation today to experience these new attractions.

Photo © The Walt Disney Company

Dr. Beach Names Florida Beaches Among Top in Nation

Friday May 23, 2014
Dr. Beach

You know its Memorial Day weekend when you hear that Dr. Leatherman (a.k.a. Dr. Beach) has released his annual list of the top beaches in America. The highly anticipated announcement gives the beaches bragging rights for a year and Florida can continue to brag about four beaches — three that have consistently made the cut over the last few years and one up-and-coming newcomer. Of course, there are the past Florida beaches that took top honors over the last decade and have been "retired" from consideration, but continue to be wonderful beaches — Sarasota's Siesta Beach (2011), Caladesi Island in Dunedin (2008), Fort DeSoto's North Beach in St. Petersburg (2005) and St. Joseph's Peninsula in Florida's Panhandle (2002).

This year Dr. Beach added "no smoking" to the stringent list of 50 criteria that makes up his annual evaluation. Also, he has announced that next year he is starting the list all over... so all of Florida's beaches will again be in the running!

Photo © Dr. Beach

AAA Forecasts Busy Memorial Day Weekend

Thursday May 22, 2014
Florida Highway

Memorial Day Weekend kicks off the summer travel season today and AAA is projecting a record number of Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday which runs from today, May 22 through Monday, May 26. AAA is forecasting the busiest Memorial Day travel weekend since the recession and in Florida that translates into a projected 1.6-million taking to Florida's highways. Over 138,000 are expected to crowd Florida's airports and another 61,000 may cruise or travel by train or bus during the holiday. Unfortunately, also up are prices — airfare about six percent, car rentals just one percent and lodging about two percent. Gasoline prices are about even or even slightly less compared to last year at $3.63 per gallon across the nation and slightly lower in Florida at an average of $3.61.

If you're traveling Florida's highways this Memorial Day Weekend, remember you can access traffic and roadway conditions in real time with Florida's 511 Travel Information System by phone, the Web or app. Also be sure to read this important holiday travel information that includes what you need to know about Florida's "click-it-or-ticket" and "move over" laws and these holiday safety tips.

Enjoy your weekend and travel safe! ~Dawn

Photo © FlaUSA/Visit Florida.com

Walk Up... Pay More at Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando

Tuesday May 20, 2014
Serengeti Safari Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and SeaWorld Orlando have announced a price increase of $3 for tickets purchased at the park entrance. Cha-ching... that means you'll pay $95 for a one-day admission at the gate. However, you can save money by purchasing your tickets online in advance. Weekday tickets are $65 and "any day" tickets are $80 when purchased online. While both tickets can be used within one year of purchase, the weekday ticket may only be used Monday through Friday of any week. Of course, Florida residents can purchase a Fun Card for $95, but it is good for unlimited visits through December 31, 2014... just pay parking each visit.

Photo © Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

2014 Hurricane Season Starts June 1... Are You Ready?

Monday May 12, 2014
Hurricane

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1, that's just two weeks away. Whether you live in Florida or will be traveling in the state, take the hurricane season seriously and begin making plans.

In April, The National Hurricane Conference that was held in Orlando, Florida had everyone in agreement... 2014 is forecast to be below average in the number of named storms and the number of Category 3 or above. Of course, there are many examples of below average forecasts that have produced incredibly strong storms — 1992's Andrew is an example. While the average number of storms per season is 12, one source forecasts only 9 storms, while another 11.

  • 9-11 Named Storms
  • 3-5 Hurricanes
  • 1-2 "Major" Hurricanes -- Category 3, 4 or 5

What can YOU do? Be informed, make a plan and take action TODAY!

I know first-hand that being prepared makes the difference between just surviving, and surviving comfortably — read my Personal Glimpses of Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan. While we all are aware that we should stock up on water and non-perishable food, we sometimes forget about some of the "other essentials" — things that make you safer or make your life a little easier under "not-so-perfect" living conditions.

Photo © NASA

They're Back... and They're Bugging Me!

Monday May 5, 2014

What's back? Love bugs, that's what! I just saw my first one yesterday. So, while I'm preparing for a trip this weekend, I'll need to pack something to get the crushed critters off my windshield. A couple of years ago, a reader wrote in response to reading my article "What's Bugging Florida?" where I wrote about the not-so-lovely love bugs: "Other than avoiding the peak hours for the 'bugs' flight, not much can be done to spare your automobile. Regular windshield wiper fluid often does not easily remove the bugs and the result of running your wipers is a streaked gooey mess that cuts visibility. Keeping a bucket in your car stocked with a bottle of water, a non-scratch pad, and baking soda is your best defense. The baking soda is known to make removal of the little critters easier."

Wanda had a better idea. She included this tip in her email: "I live in Louisiana the easiest fastest way to remove the love bugs you speak of on your website that plague Florida, Texas and Louisiana — use water and a Bounce fabric [softner] sheet, will remove the bugs instantly and not scratch the paint. Very best method there is."

Comment: This works great!!! I've even tried it with another fabric softner sheet — Snuggle — and it works just as well. Everyone should be able to keep a small supply of fabric softner sheets in their car along with a bottle of water. Great tip! Thanks again, Wanda!

How to Beat the Florida Heat

Thursday May 1, 2014
Florida Beach

If you blinked, you probably missed Florida's spring this year. After a longer-than-usual winter we had only a few comfortable spring-like days. Now, it's not even officially summer and we're experiencing temperatures in the mid- to-high 80s. Whether you're pounding the pavement at a theme park or basking in the sun at the beach, the heat can be a problem if you're not used to it and don't take the proper precautions. Remember these common sense and fun ways to keep your cool in the hot Florida sun. Also, if you're planning a trip this summer to Florida's favorite theme parks, try these great tips for overcoming the heat at Disney World.

Read more:

Learn how to treat common heat-related illnesses from About.com's First Aid Guide, Rod Brouhard:

Photo © St. Pete-Clearwater CVB

Florida Events Coming Up in May

Wednesday April 30, 2014
SunFest

Whether you're living in Florida or are here on vacation, you won't want to miss these marvelous May events:

What will the weather be like? Will there be lots of crowds? Learn what to expect in Florida during May:

Photo © SunFest

Car Masters Weekend Rolling Into Downtown Disney on Father's Day Weekend

Sunday April 27, 2014
Car Masters Weekend

If Dad is a car fan, then he'll enjoy Disney's Car Masters Weekend. In its fourth year at Downtown Disney, the automobile extravaganza features classic, muscle and exotic cars on display, along with appearances by automotive celebrities, character meet and greets, themed merchandise, live entertainment and more.

Give Dad a special weekend and park him and your family in a family suite at Disney's Art of Animation Resort's Radiator Springs. The cars-themed suites sleep up to six and as a Disney value resort, rates start at just $252 per night.

Mother's Day Weekend Adventures and Getaways

Wednesday April 23, 2014
Flower Child at Epcot International Flower and Garden FestivalMother's Day — May 11 — will be here sooner than you think. If you can't decide what to get Mom, there's nothing wrong with flowers and chocolate... but why not give her something a little different? Here are some suggestions for great Mother's day adventures and getaways that are sure to put a smile on her face.
  • Mom's get in FREE on Saturday or Sunday, May 10 & 11, to these great attractions. Be sure to read carefully — most offers require a purchase of a full-price ticket and some deals require printing a coupon.
  • Mom's are sure to have a good tine at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, and festival-goers can top off the day with a Flower Power concert featuring Chubby Checker & The Wildcats.
  • Book Mom on a Yacht StarShip Mother's Day Brunch Cruise sailing from Downtown Tampa on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 11 — the first 50 moms are FREE when you buy 3! Hurry on this one... the second cruise is already sold out, but the 11:00 a.m. cruise is still taking reservations. Call 813-223-7999 to receive this offer.
  • Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa is booking special Mother's Day Weekend getaway packages with deluxe rooms starting at just $130 and one- two- and three-bedroom suites at $150, $180 & $300 per night. Mothers will enjoy luxurious surroundings, pampering, recreation and special dining opportunities.
  • Biscayne Lady Yacht Charters will be sailing from Bayside Marketplace in Downtown Miami for a Mother's Day Brunch cruise on Sunday, May 11 at 11:00 a.m. Cost is $75 for adults and $43 for children — purchase online and save $10!
  • The Innisbrook Resort in Tampa Bay will be offering a Mother's Day Brunch Buffet in the Edinburgh Ballroom; a Mother's Day Dinner at Packard's Steakhouse; and, a Mother's Day a la Carte Brunch at the Market Salamander Grille. Reservations are suggested.
  • Enjoy a waterside Mother's Day Breakfast or Brunch at Lattitudes on the Beach located within the Marriott Hollywood Beach. This indoor/outdoor restaurant will fill up quickly, so call 954-924-2202 today for reservations!
  • Orlando's Rosen Shingle Creek Resort is hosting a number of Mother's Day special events, including their 4th Annual Mother Daughter Tea and Ballet (price $22 per person, plus tax; $16 for ages 4-7; 3 and under free). A Mother's Day Brunch will be available from 11:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. at Cafe Osceola ($65.95 for adults; $29.95 for children 4-11). What about a "Make our Moms Smile" (MOMS) stay package? The offer includes deluxe accommodations — book one night and get a complimentary second night — a 25% discount on spa services AND the Mother's Day Brunch; complimentary WiFi and late checkout. The offer is based on availability May 10-11, 2014. Additional activities include kids crafts — decorating a card and flower pot, breakfast in bed for Mom, poolside spa service, and more (some requiring additional charges).
  • The upscale Cafe Nola at Jacksonville's Museum of Contemporary Art will be serving a Mother's Day Brunch from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. with a FREE mimosa for all moms ($25 for adults; $8 for children under 10).
  • Celebrate with a Mother's Day JAZZ BRUNCH at the Hilton Garden Inn in Pensacola featuring live entertainment. Cost is $25.95 for adults; $11.95 for children 10 and under; children ages 3 and under FREE. Call 850-479-8900 for reservations.

Of course, there are many restaurants and hotels throughout Florida offering Mother's Day specials. Check with your favorite getaway location for details and cost.

Photo © The Walt Disney Company

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