2008 Mardi Gras at Universal Studios
Universal Orlando
Through April 19, 2008
Let the good times roll at Mardi Gras 2008! Universal Studios boasts the largest Mardi Gras celebration outside of New Orleans – complete with a live concert series that features a diversity of musical stars, colorful parades full of floats, plenty of beads to collect, elaborately costumed characters and delectable “Big Easy” cuisine such as jambalaya and shrimp gumbo. Mardi Gras 2008 at Universal Studios began on Saturday, February 2, 2008 and runs for 12 Saturday nights through April 19, 2008. Topping the entertainment list for Mardi Gras 2008 are such musical superstars as country singer Gretchen Wilson, rockers Third Eye Blind and Heart, rap artist L.L. Cool J and old-school crooners such as Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Smokey Robinson and Kool & The Gang.

2008 Bike Week
Various Sites, Daytona Beach, Florida
February 29 – March 9, 2008
The “World’s Largest Motorcycle Event” attracts more than 500,000 bike enthusiasts from all over the world for a raucous 10 days of motorcycle shows, exhibits, live concerts, races at the Daytona International Speedway and, last but certainly not least, hardcore partying on Main and Beach streets. Admission is charged to certain events.

2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational
Bay Hill Club & Lodge
9000 Bay Hill Boulevard, Orlando, Florida
March 1 – March 16, 200
The Arnold Palmer Invitational (formerly known as the Bay Hill Invitational) draws the world’s top professional golfers on the PGA Tour. The event traces its history back to 1966 when it began as the Florida Citrus Open Invitational. Tiger Woods, who lives in nearby Windermere, captured an unprecedented four consecutive Bay Hill championships from 2000 to 2003. Admission is charged. The 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational takes place from March 12-18 at the 7,137-yard, par-70 course at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando with a purse of $5.8 million ($1,044,000 to the champion).

2008 Central Florida Home & Garden Show
Orange County Convention Center Center, Orlando, Florida
March 7-9, 2008
The Central Florida region’s largest consumer home and garden showcase features more than 475 exhibits that will help you through every step of your home improvement projects. Whether you are looking for decorating ideas, remodeling plans or landscaping tips, you’ll find expert advice here. Admission is charged.

2008 Epcot® International Flower & Garden Festival
Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
March 19 – June 1, 2008
View colorful displays of roses, wildflowers, topiary displays of your favorite Disney characters and world-class horticultural displays at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which has expanded to 75 days for 2008. The floral festival – which includes a live Flower Power Concert Series, gardening seminars, workshops, demonstrations and children’s activities – is included with regular admission to Epcot.

2008 Florida Film Festival
Enzian Theater, 1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland, Florida
March 28 – April 6, 2008
Move aside, Sundance! For film buffs, the 10-day Florida Film Festival is the showcase for the best in American independent and foreign films, documentaries, narrative films, midnight movies, regional and family films, and animation. Sponsored by Enzian Theater, the Florida Film Festival has become one of the most respected regional film festivals in the United States. Festival events include Spotlight Films, International Showcase, Special Screenings, American Independent Competition, Midnight Movies, Student Works, Forums and Celebrations. Past attendees have included Oliver Stone, Gabriel Byrne, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy. Admission is charged.

2008 Central Florida Fair
Central Florida Fairgrounds, 4603 West Colonial Drive, Orlando, Florida
April 17-27, 2008
Since 1887, the 11-day Central Florida Fair has celebrated the best in regional arts and crafts, live music and dance, food, livestock shows, thrilling carnival rides, fascinating interactive exhibits and much more! The Wade Shows Midway boasts 100 rides and attractions. Admission is charged.

The Central Florida Home & Garden Show will be taking over the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida from March 7-9. The Central Florida Home & Garden Show features the area’s largest collection of the latest outdoor and indoor products and services for your home and garden. The show will feature over 600 exhibitors, celebrity demonstrations, workshops and seminars to help Central Florida residents improve their home and garden.

At the Central Florida Home & Garden Show attendees will be able to learn practical and inexpensive design tips from Angelo Surmelis, host of HGTV’s “24 Hour Design”, culinary tips from Chef Rock, recent winner of Fox’s ”Hell’s Kitchen”, creative cooking ideas from the comedic grilling duo of Mad Dog & Merrill. Attendees will also be able to experience over 6,000 square feet of gardens designed by six local landscaping firms, purchase orchids and tropical plants from some of the top area gardeners, participate in meet and greet opportunities with local home and garden radio show personalities, and enjoy kids activities.

Tickets to this show are $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12, and free for children under 5. Tickets for seniors age 60+ are $5 on Friday only. Guests can gain admission for only $5 after 5pm on Friday and Saturday. Save $2 on admission by purchasing advanced tickets online at www.FloridaHomeShows.com.

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 take a break from busy work and school schedules to reconnect and recharge without needing to venture a long way from home. New attractions near Kissimmee and in Orlando are opening just in time for Orlando’s 6th annual Family Spring Break.

Family Attractions

Aquatica – SeaWorld’s Waterpark, blending up close animal experiences with thrilling rides and whimsical underwater adventures.

A uniquely hilarious journey through Springfield with the Simpson family on Universal Studios Florida’s 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 four-acre attraction set in a lush landscape, featuring exciting signature rides, a family climbing area and exotic animal interactions.

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.

Family Events

Throughout the spring, Orlando is also packed with annual festivals, sports and special events that are perfect for families.

Visitors can take in a local community celebration where they can devour endless samples of pies April 19-20 at the Great American Pie Festival in Celebration.

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.

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.

An interactive song and dance extravaganza 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 happens March 7-30.

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.

Information courtesy of Orlando CVB

Orlando, Florida’s theme parks roll out new attractions each year just in time to welcome summer visitors. This year, the highlights include a new wildlife area, a prize give-away, and an interactive attraction at the area theme parks.

Here’s a park-by-park line-up of the novelties visitors will find, beginning in spring:

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is opening a new wildlife area, Jungala, this spring. Jungala’s observation area will allow visitors to get a bird’s-eye view of animals, such as orangutans and white tigers. Located in the park’s Congo area, Jungala also will have waterways, a waterfall and village.

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park will have a series of concerts and special events for spring and summer. Kidzpalooza will run from May 16 to June 22, with dozens of interactive activities, shows, concerts and parties. Kids can get messy in the park’s super-sloppy game show, Gunk’d. Other music events at Cypress Gardens include Celebrate America, June 27 to Aug. 3, with daytime and night-time entertainment, exhibits and laser shows. Wild Encounters (Aug. 8-10, 12-17, and 22-24) will feature close animal encounters, backstage access and educational events with animal keepers, experts and Animal Planet celebrities.

SeaWorld Orlando’s new water park, Aquatica, opens this spring, on International Drive, across the street from SeaWorld. This park is a 59-acre paradise for water lovers with crystal rivers, grottoes, waterfalls, rich greenery, flowers and exotic fauna including macaws and kookabooras under the South Seas theme. Aquatica offers up-close animal encounters, serene and extreme water experiences, high speed thrills and a white sand beach. There are also two wave pools lined by wide, sandy beaches, lagoons, rivers and 300 feet of clear tubes that send guest racing through a lagoon filled with black and white Commerson’s dolphins. Other park amenities include a children’s area, family play area, and personal cabanas.

Universal Orlando Resort will present Disaster! A Major Motion Picture ride, which will feature celebrity talent, new ride elements and a new storyline. This new ride, expected to open in late spring, relaces Earthquake. The Simpsons ride is expected to open in spring, replacing the Back to the Future ride.

Walt Disney World Resort has extended its Year of a Million Dreams, with new Disney Dreams Giveaway prizes awarded at random. Prizes include access that money can’t buy, such as a pass to spend New Year’s Eve in the Cinderella Castle Suite; a trip to Disney’s private island in the Bahamas for a day; a hot-air balloon ride over Epcot; a behind-the-scenes peek at Disney Imagineering; and the opportunity to serve as grand marshall leading the parks’ parades in France, California, Hong Kong and Florida.

Also new this year is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, formerly Disney-MGM. The Studios will host an interactive competition of “Toy Story Mania!” opening this summer. Riders will don 3-D glasses, board vehicles and zip into a series of midway-style games hosted by Toy Story characters Woody, Hamm and Rex. Inside Andy’s Toy Box, visitors can try to rack up points by using spring-action shooters to launch darts at balloons, eggs at barnyard targets and rings at aliens. Other new attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios include Block Party Bash, an interactive parade debuting in spring with Disney- Pixar film characters from The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2. “Playhouse Disney Live on Stage!” re-opened in February with a new cast of characters including favorite stars from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, the Little Einsteins and Handy Manny. There is also a traveling stage show for tweens: “High School Musical 2: School’s Out!”

Information courtesy of South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Celebrating “Fun in the Sun,” the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is packed with new experiences for the entire family in Orlando, Florida. See millions of blooms and the largest collection of Disney Topiary anywhere! Interact with top horticulturists inside the Wonders of Life Pavilion at Garden Town, a new festival addition, where you can get gardening tips, participate in demonstrations, plan your day, and more! Have a fun evening “under the stars” at the America Gardens Theatre and enjoy the music that inspired generations during the Flower Power Concert Series. Try our new “Easter Brunch” on March 23rd. And mom will love our scrumptious “Mother’s Day Brunch” on May 11th so make your reservations early! Space is limited. Call 407-WDW-DINE for reservations.

EVENT DATES:March 19 – June 1, 2008

EVENT TICKETS:Admission to Epcot required.

2008 ENTERTAINMENT: (All entertainment is subject to change without notice)

Festival Highlights
Fun in the Sun – Main Entrance – Goofy catches the perfect wave as we celebrate all the fun you can have in the sun!

Green Garden – Future World East -Discover how you can create an environmentally friendly, low-input garden of your own as you explore this unique garden.

Minnie’s Magnificent Butterfly Garden – Test Track Walkway – Presented by Claritin®Experience hundreds of free-flying butterflies as you venture through lush foliage in this distinctive garden and butterfly house.

Peter Pan’s Neverland Garden – Imagination Walkway – Presented by ValleyCrest Landscaping Solutions, Inc. & Cherry Lake Tree FarmSee some of your favorite characters from Peter Pan in topiary! Most appreciated by children 2-5.

Dynamite Vegetable Garden – Future World West – Presented by Dynamite Plant Food®Discover the fun and great taste of growing fabulous vegetables.

Florida’s Wildflowers – Imagination Walkway – Presented by the Florida Department of AgricultureSee how Florida’s wildflower growers are helping to make our state a more beautiful place. Children may participate in a fun wildflower activity.

Tricks of the Trade – Future World WestGet a “behind the scenes” look at how Disney’s Horticulture makes some of its most popular elements.

Sculpture Garden – Future World WestWander among works of art on loan from some of Florida’s most prestigious collections in a beautiful garden setting.

Water Garden Wonders – Presented by Aquascape, Inc.Gather cool concepts for water gardens that add a “splash” of creativity to your landscape.

Fragrance Garden – France Pavilion – Presented by Guerlain, Inc.Let your senses take over as you experience the pleasure of this captivating garden, featuring the radiant and sensual fragrances of Guerlain. Explore the “love story” between plants, fragrance and perfume. Experience a complimentary twenty-minute tour with a Guerlain Representative at 2, 4 & 6:00 pm daily. Sign up at the Guerlain Shop in La Signature.

Spices of Life – Morocco PavilionExplore the savory world of spices that add pizzazz to food from around the world.

Bonsai Collection – Japan PavilionDiscover the ancient art of bonsai showcased throughout the serene Japanese garden.

Amore nel Giardino (Love in the Garden) – Italy PavilionFeast your eyes on bouquets of blooms as they tumble down the side of classic Italian containers. Collect planting ideas on how to combine colorful flowers, textured foliage and beautiful pots for dramatic results. Find Lady and the Tramp among towering Italian Cypress.

Growing Future Gardeners – Germany Pavilion – Presented by FNGLAVisit a collection of gardens where families can garden and grow together. Be inspired to create your own special garden at home where together parents, and children, can share and explore the magic that lives outdoors. Enjoy a play area for kids too! Ladybug releases daily 1:00 & 3:00 pm

Penjing (Chinese Bonsai) – China PavilionThis unique art form of dwarf trees is an ancient technique that predates its Japanese counterpart by hundreds of years.

Topiary Chinese Zodiac – China PavilionIt’s the year of the Pig! What’s your sign? Discover the Chinese Zodiac and see it presented in topiary.

Norway Troll Trek – Norway PavilionForest and rock trolls are around every corner. Test your skill at finding them all as you explore the gardens of Norway.

The Tea Garden – United Kingdom – Presented by Twinings

Perennial Garden – The American Adventure

Epcot® Gardens of the World Tour (Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday)Guided tours designed especially for garden enthusiasts! A Disney Horticulturist will be your host on a three-hour tour of special displays and the award-winning international gardens of Epcot. Register at Guest Relations or for advance registration information, call 407-WDW-TOUR. Price: $59 USD including tax (Guest ages 16 and up only). Theme Park admission required.

Garden Town – Inside the Wonders of Life PavilionOpen Daily 10:00 am – 7:00 pmStart your day here! Festival information, new displays, demonstrations, shopping and more! Discover all this year’s Festival has to offer and get tips on how to get the most out of your visit!

Flower Power Concert Series – The America Gardens Theatre – performances daily at 5:45, 7:00 & 8:15 pm

Relax under the stars and groove to your favorite music from the ’60s and ’70s.

Information courtesy of Walt Disney World

wine in the gardenImagine breakfasting together in flight at sunrise, with orange and red blanketing the sky. Then, lounge by the pool, soaking up the warm Orlando weather. Paddle your way to lunch at noon, surround yourselves with dolphins in the afternoon, and finish the night with warm fondue. And that’s just one day. For couples, the options are endless in Orlando.

Enjoy a seafood entrée soaked in light garlic sauce with a red velvet cake for dessert at Seasons 52. Celebrate an anniversary at The Melting Pot, and take turns dipping fresh strawberries in chocolate and French bread in a savory cheese. Orlando offers plenty of opportunities for a romantic dinner in a magical setting.

Bobs Balloon Flights, Magic Sunrise Ballooning and Orlando Balloon Rides located near the Walt Disney World Resort area, offer daily hot air balloon rides at sunrise which include champagne and breakfast. Lake Eola features a breathtaking view of downtown, with picnic settings and paddle boat rentals. Or head to Winter Park to stroll down the streets of Park Ave. Walk hand-in-hand while browsing through an array of local shops, and then relax at a café with a pastry and tea. Spend an evening at Downtown Disney having dinner in a romantic setting at the Portobello Yacht Club, and afterwards, enjoy a night of entertainment by Cirque de Soleil and their mesmerizing acrobatics and costumes.

Orlando’s theme parks offer plenty of fun for adults, too. From high-energy thrill rides to spectacular shows and parades, grown-ups will find adventures just from them.

Enjoy pampering treatments and massages at a number of resort spas located throughout the Orlando area. You’ll want to be a newlywed again at the Spa at Buena Vista Palace, which offers a special package for couples including a “Chocolate Blitz Scrub & Wrap,” followed by a couples’ massage in an outdoor private cabana. Then spend a few hours relaxing by a private pool and dining on a gourmet lunch. Other area spas include: The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Grand Floridian Spa & Health Club, Papillon the Spa at Westgate Lakes Resort, Mandara Spa at Portofino Bay Hotel and Mandara Spa at the Walt Disney World Dolphin.

Make plans to attend spectacular performances by the Orlando Ballet, performing shows like Die Fledermaus by Strauss, the Orlando Opera or the Orlando Philharmonic. Or, for edgier entertainment, explore the Orlando International Fringe Festival or the annual Florida Music Festival. Just be sure to leave time to explore the Unexpected Orlando.

Relax after a long day at The Blue Martini in The Mall at Millenia. Enjoy a night out at Glo Lounge Orlando which has 50-inch plasma screens, billiard tables, VIP couches and one of the best in town. From the streets of downtown Orlando to the entertainment complexes at area theme parks, Orlando offers plenty of places to party the night away.

With an impressive collection of dining experiences, luxurious resorts and spas, and remarkable entertainment options, couples can rekindle their relationship with an array of vacation options in Orlando.

Information courtesy of Orlando Travel & Visitors Bureau

The storybook setting and amorous ambiance of Walt Disney World Resort has lovebirds flocking to the Vacation Kingdom for a romantic getaway. Moonlit strolls, luxurious spas and intimate dining make it feel like Valentine’s Day every day at the Vacation Kingdom.

Couples who’ve been bitten by the love bug don’t need a fairy godmother to find romance at Walt Disney World Resort. This is, after all, home to some of the world’s most famous romances: Cinderella and Prince Charming, Lady and the Tramp, Beauty and the Beast — and don’t forget America’s sweethearts, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Throughout the 25,000-acre playground, love is in the air at the Vacation Kingdom. During a couples spa experience. In the middle of a romantic dinner. Or on one of the “love boats” that cruise Walt Disney World waterways.

Honeymooners thrive in the romantic allure of Walt Disney World Resort — a top-rated honeymoon destination, according to industry experts.

And for couples who want to make their own fairy tale dream come true — complete with Cinderella’s coach and her famous glass slipper — Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings can create an enchanting, unforgettable union.

The four Walt Disney World theme parks create a perfect setting for unscripted romance — whether it’s a stroll along the lush Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or a relaxing stop for espresso and pastries at a sidewalk table in the France pavilion at Epcot World Showcase. Beyond the parks, couples can embrace a collection of romantic experiences that seem designed just for them:

The Couple that ‘Spas’ Together, Stays Together — What’s more enjoyable than a luxurious spa treatment? Imagine sharing it with that special someone. The Grand Floridian Spa & Health Club, in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, features a “couples room” where guests can enjoy specialized spa treatments — such as massages and facials — with the one they love. For information about these spa treatments, call 407/824-2332.

Magical Resorts — From the romance of an African lodge to the Victorian splendor of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the mood is set for an enchanting stay at a Walt Disney World resort. Disney’s fantasy hotels transport couples to faraway places with lavish theming, picturesque views and superior service. For reservations, call 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639).

The Love Boat — The Grand Floridian’s Grand 1, an elegant 52-foot yacht, can give couples, or parties up to 18, a stunning view of “Wishes” fireworks showering above Magic Kingdom during select evening cruises along Seven Seas Lagoon. Private butler service and gourmet meals also are available. Romantic evening cruises begin at $450/hour (plus tax), including captain and private deck hand. Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance by calling 407/824-2682.

Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Marina — A 1930s-style 26-foot mahogany runabout is available for private rental. Half-hour afternoon cruises are $95 (plus tax) for up to six people. For $275 (plus tax), up to six guests can take a Fireworks Cruise (45-50 minutes) for an exhilarating, one-of-a-kind view of “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.” The craft travels across Crescent Lake to Epcot for the nightly fireworks, sound and laser show. Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance by calling 407/WDW-PLAY (939-7529). Oh, and the name of the boat is perfect for couples in love: Breathless II.

Disney Dining Serves Romance — Couples find Disney dining infused with romance in settings ranging from the subdued to the spectacular.

California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers a panoramic view overlooking the Magic Kingdom theme park. Here, stellar cuisine and the restaurant’s award-winning selection of California wines set the stage. Lovebirds can catch a Florida sunset over Magic Kingdom.
One of the most romantic dinner spots at Walt Disney World Resort is a table for two at Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The elegant restaurant has been honored with the Five-Diamond Award from AAA for its gourmet cuisine. Combining Royal Doulton china, Cristofle silver and personalized menus, Victoria & Albert’s is the “crown jewel” of the Grand Floridian’s dining destinations. Soft harp music fills the air as “maids” and “butlers” provide stellar service to each of the 18 tables in the intimate dining room. Ladies also receive a long-stemmed red rose.

For the ultimate romantic experience, an evening at the Chef’s Table is unsurpassed. Couples are seated at a table in Victoria & Albert’s kitchen and treated to a culinary feast custom tailored to their specific tastes by Chef Scott Hunnel.

Guests who prefer to dine in an even more intimate setting at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa need only to pick up the closest telephone. The Grand Floridian can arrange a private dinner for two, served against the elegant backdrop of the Grand Floridian beach — or aboard the Grand 1 — on a sunset excursion around Seven Seas Lagoon. Certain menu items can be specially prepared for the evening. Twenty-four hours notice is requested.

For all Walt Disney World dining information, call 407/WDW-DINE (939-3463).

Nature Lovers — A horseback ride through one of the backwoods trails at Walt Disney World Resort is just the thing for couples who share a love of nature and each other. Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground offers wrangler-led tours (45 minutes) through the deep, pine-scented woods that make up part of the Vacation Kingdom’s 25,000 acres. Tours leave several times daily from Trail Blaze Corral, and may be reserved by calling 407/WDW-PLAY (939-7529).

Romantic Evening — Horse-drawn carriage rides through the wilderness of Walt Disney World Resort are a romantic treat for couples looking for a secluded nighttime outing. The antique carriages depart from Pioneer Hall at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and traverse throughout the scenic landscape of the 700-acre rustic resort. Or guests can choose a relaxing old-fashioned carriage ride through Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-Riverside with pickup at Boatwright’s Dining Hall. Each respective excursion is 25 minutes long for $35, available nightly from 5:30-9:30 p.m. For reservations, call 407/WDW-PLAY (939-7529).

Information courtesy of MagicalMountain.net