Sleuths TheaterAt Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show guests are greeted by a charming chap you might recall, Watson. Who else could guide you on this mysterious night full of mischief other than Sherlock’s trusted companion Watson?

Dear Watson serves up good cheer and appetizers before the Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show. Guests mingledabout in the gift shop and lounge at the bar before the mystery is scheduled to begin. The friendly chap Watson is more than happy to answer questions and stop for snapshots before he later guided us to Lord Mansfield’s Foxhunt Banquet.

Orlando visitors arrive as mere travelers on vacation and became nobility invited to Lord Mansfield’s annual fox hunt banquet. Jeffries, the butler, a kind, gent greets guests as you enter Mansfield’s Mansion, while an energetic maid serves up hors d’oeuvres. In the kitchen visitors can overhear the Gypsies preparing the feast while Lord Mansfield cooks up a potent home brew for his guest. Or so you think.

You’ll laugh until your sides hurt, and join forces to figure out the clues as Lady Mansfield and other unexpected guests appear. While at Lord Mansfield’s Foxhunt Banquet each guest begins to uncover the clues and decided who the culprit is in the death of one of the characters.
Ready For The Challenge?

Solving this crime is a challenge. From the moment you step into Lord Mansfield’s Foxhunt Banquet be on guard for clues because as you and your family and friends will soon learn everyone has a motive. Dinner at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows includes a Fresh greens salad, assorted crackers and our signature cheese spread, dinner rolls with butter, and hot and cold hors d’oeuvres before the show.

Guests have the choice of Entree: Honey-glazed Cornish game hen with herbed stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, vegetables, and cranberry sauce, Prime rib dinner ($3.00 extra + tax) with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables, or four cheese lasagna (with or without meatballs, your choice) with vegetables and garlic bread, and there’s a Mystery Dessert. All drinks are included in the ticket price and include: Michelob, California Blush wine, California Chablis wine, California Red Table wine, plus Soft Drinks, and Coffee and Tea.

Information courtesy of American Chronicle
Image courtesy of Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show

When the clock “strikes twelve” on Dec. 31, neither Cinderella nor Walt Disney World guests will need to worry about the party being over. The fun is not turning into a “pumpkin.” Another “Year of a Million Dreams” is on the other side of midnight…

In 2008, the Vacation Kingdom will unwrap a technologically cutting-edge theme park attraction, the most engaging parade the resort has ever showcased, taste-tempting new restaurant adventures, and the opportunity for lucky guests to win some over-the-top money-can’t-buy experiences in the Disney Dreams Giveaway. And that’s just for starters. Here’s a sneak preview of what’s in store to make 2008 great at Walt Disney World Resort:

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – It’s “Happy New Year and hello Disney’s Hollywood Studios.” Renamed from Disney-MGM Studios, Disney’s Hollywood Studios better reflects not only the Golden Age of Tinseltown but all that today’s Hollywood has to offer – in movies, music, theater and television. The name change launches with the new year.

“Playhouse Disney–Live on Stage!” – A whole new cast of friends from Playhouse Disney fills the popular Playhouse Disney stage. Children will be on their feet singing, clapping and dancing to performing stars from “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Little Einsteins,” “Handy Manny” and more. The new “Playhouse Disney–Live on Stage!” show debuts at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in February.

“Block Party Bash” – Guests will play, party and dance as the most interactive parade in Disney history arrives at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in spring 2008. Guests will be invited to rock to retro tunes, be dazzled by high-flying acrobatics and join in the fun as more than 20 partying DisneyPixar Film Pals fill the theme park streets. This immersive rolling spectacle will feature favorite characters from “The Incredibles,” “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “A Bug’s Life.” “Block Party Bash” will replace the “Disney Stars and Motor Cars” parade.

Toy Story Mania! – An innovative ride-game experience coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios summer 2008, Toy Story Mania! combines memorable film characters from DisneyPixar classics “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” with games that match their motion picture personas. Donning 3-D glasses, guests seemingly shrink to the size of a toy and hop fanciful ride vehicles that follow a midway-themed route. At each game booth, they aim for animated targets using a special spring-action shooter. The challenges are designed to be fun for everyone from beginners to serious gamers – and, for Disney theme park guests on both coasts, as Toy Story Mania! also is coming to Disneyland Resort in 2008.

Jostens Center – represents the latest expansion project for Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex (220 acres), which is widely regarded as the leading sports venue for amateur and professional sports in the nation. The new multi-sport facility will include 45,000 square feet of competition space that will accommodate six basketball courts or 12 volleyball courts or two roller hockey rinks, as well as locker rooms and meeting rooms. The new facility, set to open in summer 2008, will allow Disney the ability to double the number of indoor sports events that it can accommodate.

Themed Restaurants – The introduction of innovative dining experiences continues with four restaurants opening during 2008. Landry’s Restaurants, which just introduced a taste of Asia to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with the opening of Yak & Yeti Restaurant, will treat Downtown Disney guests to a face-to-face encounter with a dinosaur at T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure, A Place to Eat, Shop, Explore and Discover, which combines table-service dining and retail in an interactive prehistoric environment built around water, fire and ice. At Epcot, China’s Nine Dragons table-service restaurant will close in early 2008 to make way for an innovative dining room, scheduled to open in the fall, featuring five cooking stations where guests can interact with chefs from China. At Disney’s Contemporary Resort, The Wave, opening in the spring, will serve up American cooking blended with world flavors. In the Italy pavilion at Epcot, Tutto Italia Ristorante (“Everything Italy”) is the newest restaurant for California-based Patina Group, which has a portfolio of nearly 30 restaurants. The location will be expanded for a grand opening late in 2008.

Disney Dreams Giveaway – When it was time to decide what to do for an encore to the 2007 “Year of a Million Dreams,” Disney Parks heard resoundingly from guests. They asked for more dreams. Even bigger dreams. More dreams money can’t buy. More dreams that only Disney can make come true. So Disney’s magic-makers went back to their dream drawing board and created over-the-top experiences for the 2008 Disney Dreams Giveaway that will be awarded to eligible lucky guests in the right place at the right time and mail-in participants, including: a chance for guests to stay inside Disneyland Park; a private day at Disney’s tropical island paradise, Castaway Cay; a New Year’s Eve night stay inside Cinderella Castle Suite at Walt Disney World Resort; a star-studded trip to the “High School Musical 3” film premiere; and a flight of fancy in a hot air balloon above a Disney theme park. But that’s not all. In 2008, Disney also will award hundreds of thousands of dreams in all shapes and sizes, including Dream FASTPASS badges, gourmet dining packages, special viewing for parades, Disney shopping sprees, an additional hour – known as Dream Time – for chosen guests to enjoy a Disney park, or special Dream Mouse Ears or Pin and Lanyard sets. It all adds up to over one million more dreams that will be awarded in 2008.

Information courtesy of Walt Disney World Public Affairs

Interested in heading south for the holidays? Here are some tips on celebrating Christmas and New Year’s in and around Orlando, Florida.

• The joy of snow: Missing the cold, white North? Snow falls nightly in Orlando through New Year’s Eve every hour from 6 to 9 on Market Street in Town Center in Celebration, a town built by Disney, a five-minute drive from the Magic Kingdom. Those who visit can have their photos taken with Santa, take horse-and-carriage rides and train rides, and listen to choirs, carolers and concerts. The town has a hotel, a 115-room Old Florida-style inn opened in 1999 that resembles a turn-of-the-previous-century lakeside hotel named Celebration Hotel.

• Snow — and fish: SeaWorld Orlando also features snowfalls. “Christmas at SeaWorld” includes festive decorations, snowfalls and live holiday music from classical musicians and carolers. The event is included in daily park admission, which is $64.95 for adults, $53.95 for children ages 3-9, and free for children 2 and under.

• A lantern-led tour in Amelia Island: In December each year the Museum of History presents Holiday Luminary tours of historic downtown Fernandina Beach. The tours are held Friday and Saturday by reservation only at 6 and 7 p.m. The tour begins at the train depot on Centre Street. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and military.

• Twinkling in St. Augustine: Holiday season in the country’s oldest city began Nov. 17 when more than 2 million tiny white lights were lit along its streets during its annual Nights of Lights. The lights remain until Jan. 31.

• Holidays with the mouse: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Disney’s Magic Kingdom features a series of fun nighttime events for the little ones including holiday shows, fireworks, and magic treats with Minnie and Mickey.

Holidays Around the World at Epcot features international holiday storytellers, a daily character tree lighting ceremony and a stunning display of snow-white lights.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights electrifies Disney Hollywood Studios with millions of sparkling lights. The event is included in daily park admission.

• Go wild in Tampa: Busch Gardens Africa hosts a “wild” celebration concluding with its New Year’s Eve spectacular. Guests will enjoy four nights of special entertainment, which culminate with a night of fantastic thrills on Dec. 31. The adventure also includes a dazzling fireworks display and nonstop coaster rides until 1 a.m.

• Find comfort and joy in Winter Park: For the 29th year, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, known for its comprehensive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany jewelry, pottery and leaded-glass windows, lights up century-old Tiffany windows in downtown Winter Park, just north of downtown Orlando, on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. The lighting ceremony is complemented by a free outdoor concert featuring the 150-voice Bach Festival Society choir.

Information courtesy of Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The train crested the mountain, then tipped downward, rushing like a roller coaster. And, as if they were on a roller coaster, many of the children seated inside raised their arms, and some squealed.
Of course, they were all sitting in a room, inside a building at SeaWorld Orlando, rocking up and down, back and forth or side to side, yet going nowhere while watching a movie. They were experiencing SeaWorld’s newest attraction, the Polar Express Experience, taking a wild but simulated train ride to Santa Town.
As recently as mid-November, riders in that same room were taking a much different ride, a simulated helicopter flight over the edge of a cliff somewhere in the Arctic. And a couple of weeks from now, the helicopter ride will be back.

SeaWorld has developed what many in the industry have been expecting to see in a major theme park for some time: a quick-change conversion package for a high-tech simulator ride.
All it took was acquiring the rights to a theme-park version of the movie The Polar Express, investing more than 100 hours in engineering and computer programming and building sets based on the film.

“I’m not going to say it’s easy, but we have a phenomenal team, from the art direction to the programming of the ride to the visuals,” said Michael Fletcher, SeaWorld’s vice president for entertainment.
Other theme-park companies have swapped out simulator-ride films and changed themes before; Universal Studios is doing that now with its old Back to the Future: The Ride attraction, to create a new ride based on The Simpsons TV show. And there is always industry talk of new possibilities, such as whether Walt Disney World would replace at least part of its Star Tours simulated spaceship ride with a new Star Wars-based pod-racer experience.
But SeaWorld’s changeover is different because it’s temporary and was swiftly executed. In a matter of weeks, the park switched off its regular attraction and replaced it with what its new general manager, Dan Brown, calls a new holiday-season centerpiece.

“I’m intrigued by the idea,” said Kevin Coons of Gary Goddard Entertainment, a California-based attractions-design firm that helped develop simulator rides such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. “I think it’s a smart way to go.”

A new simulator ride would cost tens of millions of dollars to build. A new software package that creates a new experience — converting an arctic helicopter flight into a polar train ride, for example — costs a small fraction of that amount.”If it is successful, you’ll see an expansion of that sort of concept to other attractions,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati.

The Polar Express Experience didn’t start out as a ride. Working with Warner Bros. Pictures and Shangri-La Entertainment, which produced The Polar Express movie, California-based attractions company Iwerks Entertainment had created a short version of the 2004 animated feature for possible use as Christmas-season entertainment in theme parks.

Meanwhile, Busch Entertainment Corp., which operates SeaWorld, was looking for a new holiday attraction. Mike Frueh, Iwerks’ vice president and general manager, said he and others at Iwerks were not thinking of the film as the basis of a simulator ride until Busch suggested Wild Arctic as a platform.

“The Busch team, they’re visionaries and they’re quite creative,” Frueh said. “We’ve had a long relationship with Busch in different roles, and had mentioned the film to them. It kind of evolved from there.”

SeaWorld’s Fletcher said the film was an obvious choice for the ride. Engineers took Iwerk’s film and used hand controls similar to video-game joysticks to program new movements into the Wild Arctic simulators to accompany small sections of the film. Once the motions were synchronized with the film’s movements, the package was fine-tuned on a computer to create a seamless ride.

“When you’re working on a project like this, it’s always a joy to work with an idea that is a perfect fit,” Fletcher said.

Information & Image courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

The Orlando entertainment experience just got bigger. An Imax digital-projection screen will be installed in the AMC Altamonte Mall theater in Altamonte Springs as part of an agreement announced this morning between Imax Corp. and AMC Entertainment Inc. that will bring such big screens to 100 U.S. theaters.

The Imax screen at the Altamonte Mall will be installed sometime after next July, the companies said in a news release. It will join local Imax theaters already in place at the Regal Pointe Orlando Stadium on International Drive, Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex in Brevard County, and the Pepsi Imax Theatre in Daytona Beach.

Company officials said the new Imax theaters will use a digital-projection system that will nearly eliminate the need for film prints. Current IMAX theaters, such as those in Central Florida, use film projection systems.

Information courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

Orlando is blooming with New Adventures and Special Events For Family Spring Break 2008, with events such as Florida Strawberry Festival.

Spring Break may be a time-honored tradition for college students, but in Orlando it’s becoming an event for the entire household. During Orlando’s Family Spring Break® in 2008 families can enjoy the perfect atmosphere to take a break from busy work and school schedules to reconnect and recharge. From major new attractions and special events to family-friendly cultural activities, Orlando offers families varied experiences sure to please even the most opinionated family member.

New attractions opening just in time for Orlando’s 6th annual Family Spring Break include: Aquatica, SeaWorld Orlando’s Water Park, blending up close animal experiences with thrilling rides and whimsical underwater adventures, offering journeys from serene to extreme; a uniquely hilarious journey through Springfield with the Simpson family when Universal Studios Florida opens its new ride, The Simpsons based on FOX’s blockbuster series and the longest running sitcom on television; “Block Party Bash,” an interactive parade featuring over 20 Disney•Pixar characters and the latest “Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage” show, featuring characters from “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Little Einsteins,” “Handy Manny” and more at new to open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios); Jungala at Busch Gardens Africa, a 4-acre attraction set in a lush landscape, featuring exciting signature rides, a family climbing area and exotic animal interactions; and the continuation of Disney’s Year of a Million Dreams campaign, where special dreams from free ice cream to a night in Cinderella’s Castle Suite are awarded to guests.

Throughout the spring, Orlando is also packed with annual festivals and special events that are perfect for families. Enjoy the Annual Central Florida Fair at the Central Florida Fairground, April 17-27, where the carnival like midway is packed with games and rides for the whole family. Devour endless samples of pies April 19-20 at the Great American Pie Festival in Celebration. Festivities include cooking demonstrations, children’s pie making, pie-eating contests and the Never-Ending Pie Buffet. The Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, February 28 – March 9, celebrates the fabric of American life through ethnic traditions, contests, and top-name entertainment, together with an abundance of juicy strawberries. The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens presents “Hippity Hop Adventure” March 22-23, when kids receive a free bunny tail, win prizes, enjoy face painting and more as they discover clues along an adventure trail leading them to the Easter Bunny.

Orlando’s cultural scene has plenty of offerings to enlighten and entertain the whole family. A classic children’s book comes to life when the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre presents “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” February 23 – March 16. Embark in an interactive song and dance extravaganza by connecting the clues with Steve, Blue, Goldilocks and many other favorite storybook characters in “Blue’s Clues Live! The Most Spectacular Place” presented by the Orlando Repertory Theater March 7-30. Engage young travelers in the enchanted land of make believe and happily ever after when the Orlando Ballet presents “Fairy Tale Princes and Princesses” March 15. The event, part of the Family Series, provides the ballet experience in less than an hour and offers behind-the-scenes interactions including learning how a tutu is made and a ballerina meet-and-greet.

Baseball fans can enjoy a sneak preview of the upcoming Major League Baseball season at The Ballpark at Disney’s Wide World of Sports® Complex February 27 – March 29 during the Atlanta Braves spring training season. As the NBA playoff battle heats up, spend an evening filled with fast-paced NBA hoopla as The Orlando Magic battle in 14 home games throughout the months of March and April at the Amway Arena. Enjoy themed events, including Kid’s Day, and nightly giveaways like youth jersey’s or get up close and personal as a Magic Ballkid or Jr. Magic Dancer.

Orlando’s Family Spring Break provides the catalyst for families to spend quality time together and grow individually and as a family.

Information courtesy of Orlando Travel & Visitors Bureau