The International Speedway Corporation has approved multimillion dollar funding to redevelop the front stretch of Daytona International Speedway. The renovations are set to enhance the overall experience for fans, including new larger seats, upgraded ticket gates and entrances, 40 escalators, 10 elevators, 11 fan entertainment areas (each the size of a football field and called "neighborhoods") and new additional restrooms, concessions and merchandise locations.
The 54-year-old flagship motorsports facility will begin undergoing renovations when the multi-year project breaks ground on July 5, 2013 and is targeted for completion in January of 2016 (in time for the 54th Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 58th DAYTONA 500).
The backstretch grandstand will eventually be removed, moving all seating to the front stretch. New "neighborhoods" the size of football fields are designed to enhance the fan experience. The neighborhoods' open-sightline design and dozens of added video screens will enable fans to meet and socialize during events without missing any of the on-track action.
Although there will be no capacity changes for the 2014 DAYTONA 500, there will be an eventual decrease in seating capacity occurring in stages through 2016. The renovations may impact certain events at the Speedway through 2014; however, major races will be held as scheduled. Additional information on events beyond 2014 will be provided when the full construction schedule is completed.
Rendering © International Speedway Corporation
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay just announced plans for Falcon's Fury, a new "drop tower" that will rise an amazing 335 feet before giving riders five seconds of free-fall... face down! That's right, after rising slowly to an unimaginable height, the 32 riders' seats will pivot 90 degrees so that they are facing the ground and then will plunge straight down at 60 m.p.h. and 3.5 Gs. The ride will be the tallest drop tower in Florida. Disney's Tower of Terror at its Hollywood Studios is just 199 feet tall.
The new ride is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2014, and riders must be 54 inches tall to ride.
Take a minute to read About.com's Theme Parks Guide, Arthur Levine's preview of Falcon's Fury and his take on the questionable hype.
It's Father's Day weekend and other than the usual scattered afternoon thunderstorms, the weekend's weather should be pretty nice for these events:
- Universal Orlando's Summer Concert Series continues Saturday with Gavin DeGraw performing.
- Sounds Like Summer Concert Series at Epcot will feature Stayin' Alive with a tribute to the BeeGees through Saturday and Sunday will begin a salute to the Eagles from Hotel California.
- Car Masters Weekend is rolling into Downtown Disney's West Side this weekend to rev up car fans. This family-friendly event makes a great getaway for dad!
- Dad's get in free for Jungle Island's Father's Day Bash on Sunday, June 16 from 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m.
- Busch Gardens' Summer Nights continue with extended hours and a street party atmosphere.
Photo © The Walt Disney Company
Lots of fun will rev up at Downtown Disney this weekend — Saturday and Sunday, June 15 & 16, 2013 — as classic cars meet the car stars from Disney-Pixar's animated motion pictures "Cars" and "Cars 2." Car fans are sure to delight in a family-friendly weekend devoted to all things cars, that includes activities from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. each day at Downtown Disney's West Side:
- More than 150 classic, muscle and exotic cars are expected to line the Downtown Disney West Side promenade as the local Muscle Car Network of Central Florida displays their cars for families and judges to view. Guest will have the chance to vote on their favorite car to win the "People's Choice" and "Kid's Choice" awards.
- Automotive designer Chip Foose and Disney-Pixar "Cars" filmmaker Jay Ward will host celebrity chat shows on the Car Masters Stage throughout the weekend. Foose contributed to the design of Ramone in the Disney-Pixar "Cars" film, will also be on-hand for a signing of his Cars-inspired images and Foose design items will be available for purchase at the event.
- Put the pedal to the metal and test drive remote-control model cars of "Cars 2" at RideMakerz.
- Vehicles from the new Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World Speedway will be on display.
- New this year! Splitsville, the luxury bowling emporium, will hosts the first Car Masters Weekend Sock Hop on Saturday, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The event, which will feature live entertainment, bowling competition, a buffet of Splitsville delights, limited bar, raffle prizes and special appearances by Foose and Ward. Limited tickets at $69 per person are on sale at DisneyCarEvent.com
- Pose for photos inside the newest Chevrolet models!
- Live performances by the car Masters Singers and DJ's spinning classic-car tunes from the 50's and 60's. Of course, special "Cars" merchandise will be available throughout Downtown Disney.
- Finally, cars fans can purchase tickets and cool off at the AMC Downtown Disney 24 Theatres for an all-day movie marathon featuring the Disney-Pixar "Cars" and "Cars 2" films.
Photos © The Walt Disney Company
A few years ago I named "The 7 Wonders of Florida" and included both natural and man-made "wonders." Now two of my choices will be voted on by visitors to VirtualTourist.com for the 8th Wonder of the World. Florida's landmarks are among more than 300 world-wide wonders in the running, including such well-known sites as Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England; Niagara Falls; and, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Of course, everyone has their own favorite, but there are some really "out there" choices, including Hardy's Reindeer Ranch in Alaska; Iowa 80 Truckstop (world's largest truck stop?); National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and, Stew Leonard's (a family-owned fresh food store) in New Haven, Connecticut.
Take this link to VOTE on these Florida landmarks:
- Bok Tower - Lake Wales
- Castillo de San Marco - St. Augustine
- Everglades - Everglades National Park
- Hotel Ponce de Leon (home of Flagler College) - St. Augustine
- Shell Island - Panama City
- Space Shuttle Atlantis - Cape Canaveral
- Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve - Jacksonville
- Warm Mineral Springs - Sarasota
Photo: Bok Tower © Dawn Henthorn, licensed to About.com
Just as I predicted... on the heels of admission price increases at Disney World and Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and SeaWorld Orlando are raising ticket prices. A single-day admission to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will increase $4.00 to $89.00, plus tax ($79 online) for adults and parents will have to shell out $81.00, plus tax ($71 online) for a child's ticket for children ages 3-9. SeaWorld Orlando will charge $3.00 more or $92.00 ($82 online) for an adult admission and $84.00 ($74 online) for children ages 3-9.
If you're looking for ways to save at the theme parks, try a meal deal. Each park has its own version with choices ranging from "all-day dining" to "all-you-can-eat" deals.
As of 11:00 a.m. (EST), Tropical Storm Andrea was located approximately 110 miles west of Tampa, Florida. The storm gained strength during the night and is now packing maximum sustained winds of 60 m.p.h. with higher gusts. Some damage from small tornadoes has been reported and much of the state has been soaked with heavy rainfall. Forecasts call for no significant change in strength before the center of Andrea reaches the coast later today.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the West Coast of Florida from Boca Grande (near Fort Myers) to Indian Pass (in Florida's Panhandle) and Flagler Beach (on Florida's East Coast) to Cape Charles Light, Virginia. The warning also extends from Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds in North Carolina and the lower Chesapeake Bay South of New Point Comfort in Chesapeake, Virginia. A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the warning area within 36 hours.
Rainfall accumulations may cause localized flooding. Also, a combination of storm surge and high tides will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded. Lightning is a risk, and there is the possibility of tornadoes. Florida residents and visitors are encouraged to monitor local news for further information and avoid unnecessary travel.
Today, the National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm warning for Florida's west coast from Boca Grande (near Fort Myers) to the Ochlockonee River (Florida's Big Bend area in the Panhandle). A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the warning area within 36 hours.
Tropical Storm Andrea formed in the Gulf of Mexico and is located approximately 270 miles west-southwest of Tampa, Florida and is moving north at 6 m.p.h. Andrea's maximum sustained winds have been clocked at 40 m.p.h. The storm is expected to move northeastward at a faster forward speed on Thursday and Friday. The center of Andrea is forecast to reach the coast of the Florida Big Bend on Thursday afternoon or evening and move over Southeastern Georgia and Eastern South Carolina Thursday night and Friday.
Subsequently, a tropical storm watch has been issued for the Eastern Coast of the United States from Flagler Beach, Florida northward to Surf City, North Carolina. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.
Florida residents and visitors should monitor local news. The weather system is expected to produce rain accumulations of 3 to 6 inches over much of Florida, with isolated maximum amounts of up to 8 inches possible causing localized flooding. Isolated tornadoes are possible overnight Wednesday and through Thursday. High tides and storm surge may cause coastal flooding.
If you're visiting Florida, here are some ideas for things to do when it rains and some specific ideas for things to do when it rains at Disney World.
Nik Wallenda, known as "King of the High Wire" and a member of the storied Wallenda circus family, will train for his untethered high wire walk across the Grand Canyon at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota County from June 6-19, 2013. Wallenda's walk at the Grand Canyon will take place Sunday, June 23 at 8:00 p.m. (EDT), and will be telecast live exclusively on the Discovery Channel's worldwide network.
The Wallenda family's ties to Sarasota County's circus heritage dates back to the early 1900's when the Ringling brothers came to the area. Today, visitors to the Ringling Circus Museum can relive the glory days of The Greatest Show on Earth with tributes to many circus greats.
Wallenda's training — on a wire about 25 feet in the air — will take place twice daily from Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and again at 6:00 p.m. There will be no training on Mondays, June 10 or 17. Local spectators will get a free, optimal view of essentially a recreation of the distance of his walk across the Grand Canyon.
Nathan Benderson Park is located at 2500 N. Honore Avenue, Sarasota. The park, when completed, will be one of the top three Rowing and Aquatic Nature facilities in the world.
© Nik Wallenda
Do the math, South Florida teachers and get to Jungle Island this weekend! All teachers will get a free annual pass (that's 365 days of free admission to Jungle Island)! In addition, their families will get 50% off a one-day admission and they may upgrade to an annual pass for just $10. That adds up to BIG SAVINGS!
Teachers must present a valid ID. This offer is only valid from Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9, 2013.