ALL POSTS TAGGED "[Disney World]"

Photo courtesy Disney

More than 2 years after the announcement of an Avatar-themed land at Animal Kingdom Park, Disney has released much anticipated details of the plans to idolize James Cameron’s blockbuster movie through rides and attractions.

The new “land” is expected to open to the public in 2017 and will transport visitors to the mythical world of Pandora featuring floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees. The expansion will be the largest in Animal Kingdom history.

The detailed plans were released at the first ever D23 Disney fan expo in Japan, with Cameron appearing in a video filmed on the Avatar performance capture stage to talk about the inspiration for the new park.

Photo courtesy Disney

“In my wildest imagination growing up I don’t think I could have ever envisioned a day when something that I created would live inside a Disney theme park,” Cameron said.

Features of the new attraction include chances to “fly” across the planet on the wings of giant creatures as well as explore the scenery of the mythical planet.

“The land comes to life when you interact with it and seems to be a living creature itself,” said Joe Rhode, a veteran executive at Walt Disney Imagineering. “All of the beauty, the wonder, the scale, the grandeur that you remember from that film, that’s going to be yours.”

Even though the announcement comes more than 8 years after the release of Avatar, the hype of the “blue people” will continue through the opening of the new attraction with the premiere of Avatar 2 in 2016, Avatar 3 in 2017 and Avatar 4 in 2018.

Photo Courtesy of Susan Balsley

My amazing adventure in 2012 was an adventure … that was almost not meant to be. Due to an intense 10U travel baseball schedule, my family was not planning on a 2012 vacation, beyond a visit to beautiful Omaha, NE, for a baseball tournament and to pay a visit to the NCAA Men’s College World Series. Unfortunately, the team, and ultimately our plans for that trip, fell through and we were faced with time, and money, still left to spend. When in doubt, go Disney, or go home!

Along with my parents, we were able to find a time share available close to the Disney property.   Within 2 weeks, the van was packed up and we were ready to start our adventure! Traveling with a 10 year old, 6 year old and a 2 year old, we had TVs hooked up and iPods charged to get us through to Valdosta, GA, where we stopped for the night, outlasting 6 rush-hour car accidents in the Atlanta metro area. The next morning, we set out for the last few hours of our drive into Orlando. We met my parents, who flew in from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), at the resort and settled in, each with our own unit (we learned THAT lesson the hard way!). Our resort was packed full with miniature golf, pools, cabanas, batting cage, paddle boats and a huge inflatable waterslide.

On this trip, I decided we were going to play it by ear. We chose Sunday to visit SeaWorld, which is actually my kids’ park of choice. The crowd was minimal, I’m guessing due to travel weekend and others choosing to start their vacation at the Disney theme parks. My 2 year old got to see Elmo & Friends in a live show, while my 2 older children decided to sit in Shamu’s “Splash Zone” and found that description to be accurate! That show turned into the purchase of a couple of beach towels to dry off. We ventured on to other shows: dolphins, walruses,  sea lions and more.

We did stop by Dolphin Cove. However, we played by the rules and did NOT hold our plates over the water for the dolphins to jump at! We fed stingrays some dead fish (yick!) and were able to pet them as they zipped past us in their tank. We moved on to the water ride Atlantis and then to the Kraken and Manta, which my 10 year old declared the “BEST ROLLER COASTER EVER!” We ended our night with Shamu Rocks, and rock we did!

We took the next day off and hung around our resort. Pretty low-key. The following day was Magic Kingdom day! As expected, we shared the park with over 100,000 of our closest friends, many coming from far and wide. Our Fastpasses were a huge success for rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The little ones enjoyed It’s a Small World, again and again and again. We visited with Disney princesses and the stars of the park, Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

The day ended with an extended stay in the parking lot due to a diaper bag snafu whereby my parents left the park to take the 2 year old back to the resort, along with the car keys! A family leaving at the same time was kind enough to offer us drinks/snacks from their cooler in their car to get us through the wait.

Again, the following day was an off day, and we visited more family staying at Bonnet Creek resorts. The boys golfed at the Waldorf Astoria, while the girls hit the pool and lazy river. Poolside entertainment included an adult women vs. men trivia game, of which I was on the losing end. (Who knew I would ever need to know the words to the Flintstones theme song?!) Our last day in Orlando was spent at Downtown Disney, where we ate at the Rainforest Café (and were served by someone who is from our hometown and had my brother as a teacher!). We also had a Louisville Slugger bat engraved, and turned my 6 year old into a Fairy Mermaid Princess.

At the end of the long week, we packed up the van and headed home. We drove through the night to take advantage of sleepy children. While impromptu, our adventure made memories to last us a lifetime. Every single day, my now 3 year old asks me, “Mama, are we going on bacation today? I want to see the whales.” And every day I shake my head gently and say, “No, not today, but maybe soon.” Just maybe …

- Written by  Susan Balsley

Disney Goes Hi-Tech

According to MSNBC, there’s a new batch of mobile apps available to help make family visits to amusement parks more efficient and fun. Most of the apps are currently geared toward Walt Disney World.

Disney will roll out its newest version of the “Disney Mobile Magic” app soon. It’s exclusively for Verizon Wireless phones. The app uses the GPS feature in Verizon phones to help users find character appearances, attractions, restaurants and other points of interest. It also has an interactive trivia game that allows users to play against other users in the same park. “Disney Mobile Magic” works in Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

These new apps also provide thrill seekers with maps and wait times for rides. A free iPhone app called “Universal Wait Times” provides accurate wait times for rides inside the 2 Universal Orlando parks. Wait time information is especially helpful for popular rides or areas, including “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” attraction at Islands of Adventure.

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