Howl-O-Scream 2012 – The Darks Side Of The Gardens

Howl-O-ScreamsHowl-O-Scream is back at Busch Gardens, Tampa.  This year’s theme is The Dark Side Of The Gardens and features 2 brand new haunted houses, Blood Asylum and Circus of Superstition 3-D, for your scary pleasure!

Blood Asylum involves “The Creature” escaping from a holding cell in a high-security asylum for the criminally insane. “The Creature” runs around the asylum skinning his former cellmates and turning the mental hospital into a giant, mostly metal, torture chamber. According to the Howl-O-Scream website, “this serial killer’s bloody playground will drive you out of your mind with fear”.

The Circus of Superstition 3-D is a crazy mix of evil clowns and superstitions. Evil crazy circus clowns come after you as you try to survive 13 superstitions in the 3-D Tent of Terror! “It will take more than luck to escape this whole new dimension of fear!” Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights had a 3-D haunted house last year but this is supposed to be much better.

The Howl-O-Scream also features scare zones and this years might be the best, literally. For the past 13 years Howl-O-Scream has featured some of the scariest and disturbing characters in the haunted houses and scare zones.  This year the scare zone theme is Faded Memories and features the “best of” and most scary characters from each of the past 13 years! Get ready to be scared out of your mind.

Howl-O-Scream has a Freaky Preview September 21 and 22 and begins regular dates and times on September 27th. It then runs every thurs-sat through October 27th. Get ready to scream and have a great time! For more information visit www.howloscream.com/tampa

The Amazing Adventures Of Spider Man Now In 3-D at Universal’s Islands of Adventure!

Amazing Adventures Of Spider ManThe old Spider Man ride at Universal’s Islands of Adventure was one of the most acclaimed theme rides in history and set a standard for simulator rides. This past March, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man was re-opened and is better than ever! It is now a 3-D ride with “mind-blowing new effects”, which gives it a brand new element of fun! Visitors now wear new high-tech 3-D glasses and get to experience new high-definition animation, audio, and lighting.

This family friendly ride has a new storyline too.  This time the diabolical villains of the Sinister Syndicate have stolen the Statue of Liberty and you and Spider-Man have to save the day. During the ride you feel like you are flying through the streets and scaling sky scrapers with Spider-Man.  Part of the fun is a 400 foot freefall, from one of the skyscrapers you climbed, to the streets below.

The new Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is the first ever combination of a motion-based ride vehicle, 3-D film, and live action. According to the website the simulator’s set includes 1.5 acres of adventure!

So visit Universal’s Islands of Adventure for Spider-Man, Harry Potter, and more!

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular

Student TravelWow, summer seemed to fly by this year and now that we are past the official end of summer it is time to start looking towards the spookiest time of the year, Halloween!  SeaWorld has a a great family-friendly Halloween celebration every year with trick-or-treating, dancing with sea creatures, and silly/spooky shows.  The kids can also create sea themed arts and crafts!

One of the crowd’s favorite shows is the Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween Live Musical Stage Show. Phew, long title. Count Von Count even has his own Spooktacular Breakfast! Penelope also gets in on the action with her own Party Zone that includes interactive ice DJ, games, and activities. Bring your kids to trick-or-treat and interact with fun-loving and fanciful sea creatures that will play and mingle with you along the way.The SeaWorld staff goes all out with great costumes and everyone has a great time!

The Halloween Spooktacular has been called a “must-do for little kids” and one of the “best Halloween events in Orlando”.

Music Makes Kids Smarter

Some still believe that listening to classical music will make your children smarter, which is true, sort of. Turns out that just listening to classical music only stimulates your brain for a short period of time and the effects can only be seen for around 20 minutes.  So if you need to study for a test or get a quick burst of brain power listen to classical music, but if you want there to be a long lasting effect you have to go a little further.

To get long term benefits kids must learn and acquire the skills that are needed to play music and not just listen to it. The same can be said for a variety of things from sports to public speaking, but for now we will concentrate on playing an instrument. A child who learns to read music and play an instrument, or two, benefits a lot more than a child who just goes to watch the concert. Students who learn music and play in school perform better on standardized tests than their fellow classmates and have fewer disciplinary actions against them and fewer absences from school later in life, even if students stop playing after a few years.

A German study, out of the University of Munster, showed that music lessons during childhood enlarge the brain, since musicians are able to access more neurons that are needed to process sounds.  The earlier a child starts taking lessons the more dramatic the effects on the brain. There is also a social impact to taking music, choir, or drama lessons since the students can make life long friends in all of these activities. While the social interaction isn’t unique to just artistic learning, the learning capabilities can be.  A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin divided a group of three year olds into separate groups and either taught them to use the piano or another skill.  When the kids were tested again the ones who had been taught keyboard skills and reading music scored higher on spatial-temporal reasoning than the other children, who had been taught different skills.

Sure, there are a variety of studies that indicate learning music at any age can make you smarter but it also adds a lot more to our lives and helps us enjoy a wide range of things we might not have before. Your child doesn’t need to be a musical prodigy to benefit from learning how to read music and play an instrument.

Halloween Horror Nights Lineup Released!

Halloween Horror Nights

Universal Studios has announced three more haunted houses to complete the Halloween Horror Nights lineup. They have also unveiled a huge change to Horror Nights’ scare-zone concept.

The new scare zones rule is there are no rules. Universal says there will be no boundaries and actors, dressed up like a variety of different characters, “will find you and invade your personal space like never before,” a Universal news release says. The old Horror Nights’ rules won’t apply anymore and it should make for an extra scary experience!

New characters that will be roaming the streets of Universal include vampires, ghosts and goblins with a twist, a variety of beasts, “patrons of death” and a group of all female deceased convicts who have come back to reak havoc with chainsaws.

The latest haunted houses that were recently announced and complete the Universal Halloween Horror Nights are: Gothic, Dead End and House of Horrors, featuring Universal’s classic monsters of fear. Universal had already announced four additional scare houses this summer, which included mazes based on the television series The Walking Dead, which we covered in a previous blog post, and the Silent Hill videogames and films. There will also be two celebrity houses, Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas and Alice Cooper — Welcome to My Nightmare.

The hilarious and fun Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure will be returning and a new magic show for people with questionable tastes will be debuting.

Halloween Horror Nights starts Sept. 21 and goes for 25 select dates. Halloween Horror Nights requires a seperate ticket from Universal Studios Theme Park.  For more info and tickets visit www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com/orlando.

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.

Holidays Around The World At Disney’s Epcot Theme Park

Disney and Epcot's Holidays Around The World Celebration

Each year during the holidays Epcot Theme Park is turned into a worldwide celebration of winter holiday traditions.  There is a variety of live entertainment and the whole park is decorated top to bottom with holiday themed decorations. The live entertainment and events include the traditional Candlelight Processional and a production of Holidays Around The World.

The Candlelight Processional is the main special event during the Holidays Around The World celebration. It is a nightly event held at the America Gardens Theater in Epcot. This event tells the story of Christmas with celebrity narrators and is accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a mass choir. Some of the celebrity narrators scheduled to appear are: Neil Patrick Harris, Geena Davis, Whoopi Goldberg, Andy Garcia, and Gary Sinise.

The Disney Epcot Theme Park Candlelight Processional is a great way to get yourself, your family, and your friends in the Christmas spirit. For many visitors this has become a family tradition and must go to event. Once you experience the grandeur and excitement of the Candlelight Procession and Holidays Around The World you will want to go back each year.

Make sure to purchase your Candlelight Dinner Packages soon because due to how popular it is the event fills up quickly. These packages give you a “guaranteed seating section and pre-arranged fireworks viewing”. 

The Walking Dead is Taking Over Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights

The scary zombie drama, The Walking Dead, is going to be the first TV series to be featured at Universal Studios and in Halloween Horror Nights at the Orlando, Florida theme park.

Visitors will experience The Walking Dead themed mazes, which will feature elaborately designed sets that include locations and scenes from the show. Of course there will have to be “walkers” as well. The goal will be to have people experience what it would be like to be a character in the show.

AMC has collaborated with Universal’s talented creative teams to bring the world of The Walking Dead to life. Universal’s creative teams have brought Halloween Horror Nights to life for more than 20 years and have featured stage shows, mazes, and other interactive attractions.

Make sure to visit Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios this Fall and check out the premier of The Walking Dead October 14th on AMC.

American Tours and Travel Just Named Top Producer for Festival Disney, Again!

At last week’s Disney Symposium in California, American Tours & Travel was named the Top Producer for Festival Disney for the 2011-2012 school year.

This distinction is given to the agency that brings the most student groups to the festival in a given year. American Tours & Travel also received Top Producer recognition for the 2009-2010 school year. As long-time partners of the Walt Disney World Resort, we are honored to be involved with Festival Disney and excited and proud that we have been recognized for our efforts.

Festival Disney is an annual musical performance festival open to concert bands, marching and parade bands, orchestras, jazz bands, vocal ensembles, show choirs, and auxiliary performers, such as Color Guard and Majorettes. This festival typically runs for multiple weekends in the Spring and is one of Orlando’s premier performance destinations for the musically or instrumentally inclined. Students can also enter the park and enjoy a day of fun with their group at Walt Disney World.

For more information on Festival Disney, contact American Tours & Travel to book your group at the next festival.

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem Set To Open July 2 At Universal Studios Orlando

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem Universal Orlando

The all new Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem ride at Universal Studios Orlando is set to open July 2nd.

The new attraction replaces the old Jimmy Neutron ride at Universal and will feature characters from the Despicable Me film. The ride starts off in Gru, Margo, Edith, and Agnes’ home and learn that they will become Minions. The ride is in 3-D and guests will pick up their 3-d “Minion goggles” while they are in the living room of the home. Then they enter the Minionization Prep Room where they will be scanned for any “human germs”. Once they have been cleared guests, or the new Minions, will board Minion Transformation Pods and begin their training. As can be expected things don’t go as planned and the new Minions find themselves “on an unforgettable adventure through Gru’s lab that’s filled with laughter, chaos and tons of Minions!”

Sounds a like a great ride! Some guests have already had the opportunity to ride Minion Mayhem because Universal has random days where guests can get sneak peeks at the ride. Should be a lot of fun!