Harry Potter Expansion Update: Diagon Alley

Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Universal Studios Orlando, FL

Back in January there had been rumors that Universal Studios Orlando had begun construction on a Harry Potter expansion. ThemeParkInsider.com has now confirmed the speculation after they got a look at a few of the new rides and features in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter addition.

Not only will there be a Gringotts roller coaster there will also be a hidden area for Diagon Alley, which will be hidden behind Grimmauld Place, Wyndham’s Theatre and other London landmarks. The secret entrance to the mystical world will be next to the Leaky Cauldron.

The Leaky Cauldron will be the featured restaurant in the expansion and will basically be the entrance for the detailed Diagon Alley. Breaking from most theme park attractions Diagon Alley will be on multiple levels, with stairways, multi-story buildings and areas, elevated train trestles, and more. There will even be a Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour.

There will of course be other shops like Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, which will be the gift shop after getting off the Gringotts roller coaster – like every other theme park ride.

Slytherins won’t be left out either as Universal Studios Orlando, Florida has included Knockturn Alley, which will be about 1/3 of the new expansion, and includes Borgin and Burkes.

The main attraction in this massive expansion will still be Gringotts Roller Coaster but there will also be the Hogwarts Express train that will connect Diagon Alley with Hosmeade, the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

There will be many other shops and areas in the park but the aforementioned will be the big draws. According to ThemeParkInsider.com the new amazing Harry Potter World will most likely open in July 2014. That means back-to-back Summers of huge ride and world openings at Universal Studios, the first being Transformers this July.

Skycoaster Becomes The 10th Tallest Structure In Orlando

Last week brought another change to the I-4 skyline as a 250 ft high rollercoaster was completed at Fun Spot America. The Skycoaster arrived in Orlando from Las Vegas where it used to be located at the MGM Grand Hotel. The new Skycoaster will be different than the 300ft Kissimme Skycoaster and not just in height. It will be constructed using a metal frame and not just beams.

You might be saying, “This thing sounds pretty cool, but what the heck is a skycoaster?” A skycoaster is an amusement park ride where riders in groups of 1-3 are put together in a harness and then pulled up to the top of a launch tower. They are then released and fly, like a pendulum, back and forth under a giant arch.

There are a lot of impressive facts about the height of the Skycoaster. It is the 2nd tallest Skycoaster in the world and the first one at Fun Spot USA, Kissimmee, FL. Once it was completed it became the 10th highest structure in Orlando and the 2nd tallest on I-Drive. It is so tall that it will require FAA aircraft lighting! It will be visible for miles.

Skycoaster is only the start of a $20 million expansion to Fun Spot America, which will also include two roller coasters, rip curl, tilt-a-whirl and a crazy new wood and steel combination rollercoaster called White Lightning. There are also plans for a water park and other thrill rides in the near future.

These new additions add to the incredible expansions going on or planned in the Tourist District and Orlando attractions, including Universal Studios, Disney, and Sea World.  It is an exciting time to plan your group or class trip to Orlando.

Orlando’s New I-Drive Live

Orlando Attractions I-Drive Live

Construction on the new I-Drive Live shopping and entertainment area near the attractions is scheduled to start next month. The $200 million entertainment district will be over 95,000 square feet and feature a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Up until 2007 the area was home to The Mercado which was one of the most popular tourist spots on International Drive. The open air shopping area had hosted huge exhibits like Titanic and The Guinness World Records Experience. Competition took its toll on The Mercado and closed in 2007 when it was demolished. Enter Unicorp and Merlin Entertainments (operator of Legoland Florida) with plans of building a brand new shopping and entertainment area, which is now known as I-Drive Live and The I-Shops.

The centerpiece of the new I-Drive Live will be a huge observation wheel that will be modeled off the London Eye ferris wheel. It will be 425 feet tall and take visitors on a 30 minute ride so they can see the entire Orlando skyline. The new tourist attraction will also feature a huge 25,000 square foot Sea Life Aquarium and a Maddam Tussauds Wax Museum.

Some restaurants have already signed leases and include some well known eateries like Outback Steakhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Carrabba’s Italian Grill. Restaurants new to the area include Cooper’s Hawk Winery, Chuy’s Tex-Mex Restaurant, and Seafood Republic.

All of the construction has a timeline of 24 months and should be ready by the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015. It will be an exciting new spot to visit on I-Drive and a great place to go hangout after a long day at the Orlando Attractions.

For help with booking your group trip to Orlando, Florida to visit Disney World, Universal Studios, or the other multiple attractions visit our Start Planning page.

More Rumors Of A Harry Potter Expansion At Universal Studios

Months after rumors began to circulate because of construction at Universal Studios Orlando a Harry Potter expansion has still not been confirmed. Most theme park goers are convinced that it is coming but without official word we are still left with just speculation.

Photos of Universal Studios still unannounced expansion keep popping up, which have lead to rumors of a Gringotts Wizarding Bank roller coaster with a recreation of the part of London featured in the Harry Potter movies around it. The roller coaster may be modeled after the scene in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 where Harry Potter rides a small cart through the underground bank vault.

Other than the Universal Studios construction there isn’t any other unknown construction at other theme parks. So the last mystery remains. Hopefully the construction is done soon or the studio at least makes an announcement on what we can expect. Now would be a good time to start booking your tickets for class and group trips planned for later this year or next year. That way you will be ahead of the game and some of the first to experience all of these exciting expansions at Orlando’s wide variety of theme parks!

For more information on booking class, band, and dance trips to the Orlando area please visit the Orlando page at American Tours and Travel and fill out an inquiry form today!

Simpsons Expanding At Universal Studios

Simpsons Universal Studios Orlando

The Simpsons ride and themed area opened in 2008 and has been a featured attraction at Universal Studios Orlando since. Lately park goers have noticed construction around The Simpsons ride area, which has people talking about a possible expansion. The most popular rumor is that the new construction will include a Krusty Burger and maybe even a Moe’s Tavern, which would excite any Simpsons fan.

Universal Studios has been very focused on creating total fan experiences at the theme parks which completely immerse the fans in the make believe worlds. The best example would be the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which has been hugely successful for Universal and one of the experiences most people go back to see.

Universal Studios has been working on keeping it fresh so they have visitors who want to come back to the park and check out the new experiences or expansions. Building a completely immersive experience for fans of The Simpsons would be a great way to get visitors to come back to the park and enjoy The Simpsons ride all over again. Just the thought of being able to visit my favorite places from Springfield in real life is exciting.

Universal Studios Orlando is rumored to be making an announcement soon about the construction and we will let you know when the expansion will be complete so you can book your tickets to Orlando to get the first look.

Antarctica: Empire Of The Penguin – Opens In Spring 2013

SeaWorld Antarctica - Penguins

Sea World recently introduced its newest and biggest ever, expansion, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, which looks amazing.

The new expansion, set to open in the Spring of 2013, will feature four species of penguins found in the Antarctic and subantarctic. The penguins will be located throughout the attraction in areas designed to mimic and give visitors a glimpse into their natural habitat.

The attraction will also feature a state of the art ride that will utilize an industry first ride system, which will use trackless navigation. The idea is to give the riders the feel of a penguin waddling and sliding on the ice in Antarctica. The new SeaWorld ride will follow the adventure of a penguin in the wild.

Empire of the Penguin cars can each carry 8 passengers. Each ride will be unique with the ability to be flexible and unpredictable. There will be two levels of intensity that riders can choose from and there will be multiple paths the ride’s cars can take.

Here is the description of the Antarctica: Empire Of The Penguin expansion found on SeaWorld’s official blog:

You’ll be surrounded by the sights, sounds and awesome encounters found in this frozen place,embarking on a one-of-a-kind ride and an incredible family adventure. You’ll experience the mystery and wonder of life on the ice through the eyes of a penguin, sensing the beauty and drama of their sometimes-dangerous habitat. Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin combines closer-than-ever animal connections with state-of-the-art interactive ride technologies for adventures that are different each time. And, it’s safe to say Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin will be the coldest theme park attraction in the word!

Plan your visit to Orlando’s SeaWorld for Spring 2013 at American Tours and Travel.

Disney Will Buy Lucasfilms for $4 Billion – Will They Create A New Sci-Fi Theme Park?

Disney Buys Star Wars

On Tuesday the Walt Disney Company announced it had agreed to acquire Lucasfilms for over $4 billion in stocks and cash. This announcement comes a few years after acquiring Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion and 6 years after acquiring Pixar for $7.4 billion. Disney has been very aggressive in acquiring new pieces to add to the growing empire.

The latest acquisition by Disney came as a surprise to most and was announced over a conference call with investors. Disney’s CEO Robert Iger said he plans to revive the Star Wars franchise and release a seventh feature film in the series in 2015 and then continue with new films coming every couple of years after with George Lucas consulting on each film. Disney received story/script treatments for the next three Star Wars films as part of the deal. The last Star Wars film was released 7 years ago and that amount of time has created a demand for a new film.

Many have assumed there are already Star Wars rides and theme areas in development at Disney and some have even suggested that Disney will create a completely new sci-fi fantasy theme park to house Star Wars and the growing stable of super hero and sci-fi franchises.

It will be exciting to see what Disney does with the legendary franchise and it will be interesting to see how it creates an interactive and entertaining experience for the millions of Star Wars fans.

Watch Out Orlando, The Transformers Are Coming!

Transformers The Ride Universal Studios Orlando

There had been rumors for months that a new Transformers ride would be opening at Universal Studios Orlando and those rumors were confirmed by Universal November 1st. The ride will be a 3D experience and opens next Summer. The attraction will be located near the middle of Universal Studios Orland Florida, very close to the Shrek attraction.

Before the announcement there had been wide speculation on what the ride would include and what it would feature. We now know it will build on attractions like King Kong 3D and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, which were both created by the same team as the new Transformers ride. The ride is based off of Michael Bay’s Transformer’s franchise (sorry to all of those who hoped it would be based off the cartoon).

The ride will be two stories high and feature a 2,000 foot multi-level ride-track with Hollywood style special effects and have a similar ride system to that of Spider-Man, which is located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. There will be 14 different screens utilized to create a realistic environment. Universal describes the ride:

As the battle begins with Transformers: The Ride 3D, an immersive, next generation thrill ride that blurs the line between fiction and reality. Fusing HD 3D media and flight simulation technology, this epic ride creates an experience unlike anything this planet has ever seen. Based on the popular movie franchise, this mind-blowing new Transformers adventure puts you in the middle of the ultimate war zone. Fight alongside Optimus and try to survive as you protect the All Spark from Decepticons over four stories tall. Remember, the future of the human race is counting on you. Prepare for the greatest battle you’ll ever ride.

Below is the announcement that was shown on big screens at Universal Studios

The Seven Dwarfs Are Coming To Disney World!

The new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is heading for Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom! The Mine Train is a steel roller coaster and is part of a major expansion of Fantasyland. The ride will be based on the classic Walt Disney animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Fantasyland is undergoing a huge expansion and renovation, which is being done in phases and should be completed by 2013.  This is the same time many of the rides and new experiences are expected to open, but the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which will also feature Snow White’s cottage, is not expected to open until 2014.  Snow White’s Scary Adventures was permanently closed in May and will be replaced by Princess Fairytale Hall.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride will be a steel roller coaster that will travel both in and outdoors.  This attraction will be more family friendly than some of the other rides which include California Screamin’ and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith. It will be a traditional roller coaster but will also feature a new ride system that simulates swaying and moving as if you were in a mine cart.

Disney revealed today that the first tracks had been laid for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride.  The ride will join the new Little Mermaid based ride and the Beauty and the Beast themed area in the updated Fantasyland. Below is a time lapse video that Disney released showing Fantasyland’s build out.

The Disney Honors Program – American Tours and Travel

Disney Honors

The Disney Honors program is a non-competitive music festival that is specifically designed for middle and high school choirs, concert bands, and orchestras. Disney describes the festival as “an educational and inspirational festival, which includes performances for evaluation at the magical Walt Disney World Resort.”

The program experience guides the young musicians through post-performance clinics and evaluations with distinguished music educators.  The program is designed to help take the choirs, bands, and orchestras’ performances to the next level.  It also includes presentations by guest speakers, director’s roundtable discussions, and evening events that only Disney could produce.