Walt Disney World is shutting down the six nightclubs at Pleasure Island to make its party district at Downtown Disney more family friendly.

BET SoundStage Club, Mannequins Dance Palace, 8Trax and three other clubs that have for years catered largely to young, single adults — rather than to Disney’s bread-and-butter family market — will close after Sept. 27.

During the next couple of years, Disney will reopen the Pleasure Island venues with a broader mix of restaurants and shops.

Pleasure Island’s change has been the subject of rumors for a while. Now 19 years old, it may have seemed an odd venture for Disney, but it appeared to thrive — so much so that some in the industry have blamed it for accelerating the decline of the nightlife district in downtown Orlando during the 1990s.

In announcing what they called “a bold new vision” for all of Downtown Disney on Friday, Disney officials framed the Pleasure Island nightclub closures as a response to customers who say they want more broad-based dining and retail opportunities throughout the 120-acre district.

“Right now we believe we’ve got a shortage of dining capacity and shopping capacity, so we’ll be adding to those areas, and we’ll be looking at some specialized entertainment options also,” said Downtown Disney Vice President Kevin Lansberry.

Pleasure Island opened in 1989, designed to look like a revitalized back-alley warehouse district. Today it is the middle section of Disney World’s dining, shopping and entertainment district. Though the two flanking areas, Marketplace and the West Side, also have nightclubs, they operate as parts of restaurants, appealing to broader, family-friendly crowds. Until recently, Pleasure Island has been mostly about music, dancing, drinking and partying — creating an awkward link between Marketplace and West Side.

“The rumor has been there that they would transform Pleasure Island into something else, but us regulars always thought at least Mannequins and 8Trax would stay alive,” said Jorge Vazquez, 41, an accountant who said he goes to Pleasure Island two or three times a month.

Pleasure Island and its counterpart at Universal Orlando, CityWalk, which opened in 1999, both offer coordinated clusters of high-quality, highly themed nightclubs with lots of free parking and security. They offered two carefully conceived alternatives to downtown Orlando’s once-vibrant counterpart, Church Street Station.

Orlando lawyer Mark NeJame, majority investor in the downtown nightclub Tabu as well as an investor in other nightclubs, said he is surprised at Disney’s announcement but that it could be good news for downtown Orlando.

“It’s a real opportunity for downtown to continue its revitalization,” NeJame said. “When Pleasure Island first opened, it devastated a lot of the local entrepreneurs and operators.”

Though the six nightclubs will close, the other businesses on Pleasure Island — a couple of restaurants, a cigar bar and a couple of clothing shops — will remain open. They already offer the broad appeal that Lansberry said Disney’s patrons want. He did not offer specifics about what might replace the clubs but said Disney was looking worldwide for restaurant and shopping concepts.

“Some of the offerings might feel like a nightclub, but they won’t feel like high-energy clubs like we have today in all likelihood,” Lansberry said. “Truthfully, our guests have really gotten out of that in the last couple of years. They want things that are a lot more geared toward family entertainment.”

Disney World also is sprucing up Downtown Disney’s other two areas, adding restaurants, expanding and updating a band shell, refurbishing and updating other businesses, and bringing in a giant tethered-balloon attraction that visitors will be able to ride in, going up more than 300 feet above Village Lake.

Bob Snow, who developed Church Street Station in the 1970s and has re-entered the picture this year by reopening one of that district’s centerpiece nightclubs, the Cheyenne Saloon, said he never blamed Pleasure Island for Church Street’s decline. But he, too, said he hopes Pleasure Island’s nightclub closures would create more opportunities in downtown Orlando.

Snow said he always was amazed that Disney got into the nightclub-district business in the first place.

“It really surprised me that they’re just going to throw in the towel,” he said. Then he added: “They got out of their knitting. They got out of their main line, what they do so well.”

Information courtesy of Orlando Sentinel
Storytelling at Leu Gardens
Date: July 1st – May 17th 2010
Location: Harry P. Leu Gardens
Storybook fun for your little one is held the third Monday of every month. Sponsored by the Orange County Library System.
The World of William Joyce
Date: July 1st-Aug. 31st
Location: Orlando Museum of Art
This exhibition features work from one of the most dynamic and talented picture book artists working today. Joyce works in a variety of media, including watercolor, pencils and computer graphics.
Independence Day at Walt Disney World Resort
Date: July 4th
Location: Walt Disney World
Magic Kingdom: Traditionally, the 4th of July fireworks at the Magic Kingdom include an enhanced presentation featuring patriotic music themed to spectacular pyrotechnics that ring through the park. This year’s schedule:
9:00PM: Holiday Fireworks
10:30pm – 12:30am: Spectromagic
Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
9:00PM: Holiday Fireworks
10:30PM: Fantasmic
Epcot: The America Pavilion will have extra performances of the “Voices of Liberty” choral group and visits by “Historic Figures” talking about their era.
10:00PM: Illuminations with special Fourth of July finale
Downtown Disney:
10:30PM: Holiday Fireworks

Fireworks Over The Fountain
Date: July 4th
Location: Lake Eola Park Orlando
Celebrate United States independence at the free fireworks display and laser show around Lake Eola. Pack a picnic basket, comfy blankets and the kids and head out to Lake Eola for an old-fashioned summertime picnic.

Edwin McCain
Date: July 5th
Location: House of Blues Orlando

Peter Murphy
Date: July 6th
Location: House of Blues Orlando

Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
Date: July 8th
Location: Hard Rock Live – Orlando
Come see Pat Benatar play all her classics and a few new favorites!

Sounds Like Summer Concert Series
Date: July 9-July 10
Location: Disney’s Epcot
Families can gather together for an unforgettable night of music and memories in the open-air America Gardens Theater at Epcot. Tribute bands will cover favorite songs from Elton John, ABBA, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Chicago, and more.

Alexis & Fido “The Concert”
Date: July 11th
Location: House of Blues Orlando

Arts & Crafts Show at Festival Bay Mall
Date: July 17-20
Location: Festival Bay Mall Orlando
Shoppers can come and shop some featured Arts and Crafts vendors such as camphor secret art boxes, handmade silver wire jewelry with semi-precious stones, hand crafted candles, unique photographic art, hand cut solid oak name key chains, handmade country & angel crafts, hand crafted alligator skin products and much more!

Alkaline Trio
Date: July 19th
Location: House of Blues Orlando

Zappa Plays Zappa
Date: July 23rd
Location: Hard Rock Live Orlando

Frank Caliendo
Date: July 25th
Location: Hard Rock Live Orlando

1st Annual Bass & Bellows Car Show
Date: July 26-27
Location: Gatorland
The ultimate car show and sound off at Orlando’s only theme park with bite & attitude.

Cinderella
Date: July 27th
Location: Hard Rock Live Orlando
Information courtesy of Orlando CVB

Upper view of family in swimming poolOrlando, Florida is synonymous with family fun. Home to some of the best theme parks in the world, Orlando offers exciting thrills, close encounters with your favorite cartoon characters and amazing ways to spend your summer days with your family. This summer season money is tight for many families and some are struggling to ensure their families can still have an unforgettable, deserved vacation. Look no further than Orlando, Florida for the one-stop, do-it-all destination you and your family have been searching for. Even though budgets are tight and gas prices are high, Central Florida is a vacation destination offering discounts and cheap things to do in Orlando making it easy for any family to enjoy some summer fun.

Here are 8 ways to save on your Orlando Vacation:

1) Purchase a Go Orlando Card for discounts on over 50 Orlando attractions, including Cypress Gardens, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, Kennedy Space Center, Wonderworks and more. Do as much as you like each day for one low, affordable price. The Go Orlando Card is easy to use….simply present the card. Visit as many attractions as you want in a day! Admission to all listed attractions is included with the card. It comes in 1, 2, 3, 5 & 7 day increments and is activated the first time you use it. Days do not have to be used consecutively, and you can take up to 2 weeks to use it.

2) Discover our Orlando Direct Deals page on ReserveOrlando.com. There are great deals on Orlando tickets and discounts for Orlando attractions. A few of the discounted Orlando activities include Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show, Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Tours, Wet ‘n Wild and Arabian Nights Dinner Show to name a few.

3) Orlando vacation packages are another great way to save in Orlando. On ReserveOrlando.com there are packages available featuring Universal Studios, Disney World, Gatorland, Cypress Gardens and Wet ‘n Wild. They are a great way to save money and still have fun!

4) Your won’t find Cheap Disney Tickets anywhere, but you’ll certainly find the best Discount Disney Tickets and Park Hopper Passes on ReserveOrlando.com. There are special deals offering free days at Disney World or you can get a great low price ticket for a 1-3 day pass. The deals are available, are you?

5) Universal Studios Orlando discounts are also available on ReserveOrlando.com. We are proud to offer the some of the best discount Universal Studios tickets around, with deals the whole family will enjoy. Our prices are way lower than gate prices, and offerings include a 2 park unlimited admission pass and a CityWalk Party Pass ticket.

6) There are plenty of Free Things to do in Orlando. Spend some time at Lake Eola Park, visit a museum like the Cornell Fine Arts Museum or explore Old Town, where every Saturday night free rock-n-roll concert and a parade of 300 vintage cars. There are plenty of outdoor activities for families and historical sites to visit, so be sure to check out all of the Free activities in Orlando.

7) Get a Central Florida Play Pass. This 7-day pass features unlimited admission to seven unique and out of the ordinary attractions and museums, including Cypress Gardens, Fantasy of Flight and Bok Tower Gardens. The pass is flexible, you can come and go as much as you like at each location, plus it’s a great value for families!

8) Take a short trip to the beach. Orlando may be in central Florida, but a trip to the beach is just a short drive away. Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to Orlando, with about an hour drive time on SR-528 to the east. Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach are about an hour and a half away, and are located east on I-4. A trip to the beach is cheap, fun and family friendly!

This July 4 & 5, families can join SeaWorld Orlando and celebrate the red, white and blue with the exciting firework spectacular Let Freedom Ring. This impressive production features a giant projection screen illuminating some of America’s greatest historical moments set to stirring music and patriotic narration. Guests will have the opportunity to experience the 12-minute extravaganza twice nightly at 9:15 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.

SeaWorld also is giving guests a great reason to stay late to experience the park in a whole new way. Now through Monday, Sept. 1, evenings will rock as SeaWorld AfterDark debuts and immerses guests in a rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza including Shamu Rocks, Bayside Ski Jam and Mistify.

* Shamu Rocks is an amazing killer whale show driven by a beat that’s larger than life and featuring stunning visual effects. Shamu Rocks has received rave guest reviews, and this year’s rendition is no exception.

* Bayside Ski Jam is an all-new, nighttime action-packed ski show that jams on the lake and in the sky. The art of water sport merges with fun, funky music to provide plenty of fast-paced action. Bayside Ski Jam features expert skiers using the water as their stage to entertain guests at Bayside Stadium.

* SeaWorld AfterDark infuses the park with a rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere, from DJs mixing music in several park locations to the fireworks, flames and fountains of Mistify, the park’s biggest finale ever.

SeaWorld Orlando is one of 10 Worlds of Discovery parks operated by Busch Entertainment Corporation. The other Florida Worlds of Discovery parks are: Aquatica, SeaWorld’s waterpark in Orlando; Discovery Cove in Orlando; Busch Gardens Africa and Adventure Island in Tampa. Multi-park tickets are available for guests seeking the best value and flexibility when planning their vacation. Admission to Discovery Cove includes seven days of admission to either SeaWorld or Busch Gardens.

Information courtesy of Thrill Network
Image courtesy of Sea World

The country’s largest observation-wheel will open in Orlando in 2010, offering panoramic views of Disney, SeaWorld and other locations as far as 25 miles away.

Official plans for the 400-foot attraction were announced Wednesday, June 25, by Singapore-based Great Wheel Corp.

“As one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations, Orlando provides the ideal location for North America’s first Great Wheel,” says Florian Bollen, Chairman of Great Wheel Corporation. “We are bringing the Great Wheel not just to Orlando but to the millions of visitors who vacation here each year.”

The Ferris wheel-like attraction will sit next to the Orlando-Orange County Convention Center in the heart of the thriving tourism corridor at 6503 Westwood Boulevard.

The attraction’s 30-minute rides will also offer views of launches from Kennedy Space Center and nightly fireworks unlike anywhere else in North America, according to Bollen.

“The Great Orlando Wheel will attract visitors and locals, young and old alike,” Bollen said. “They will come to enjoy one-of-a-kind dining and shopping, with the added benefit of spectacular views.

The Great Orlando Wheel is one of several observation wheels currently under development in gateway cities around the globe, including Beijing, Singapore and Berlin.

Orlando is the first North American site for the Great Wheel Corp.

The London Eye is one of the tallest structures in Europe and it welcomes an average of 3.5 million customers each year, according to its Web site.

Before the Orlando attraction, the Pepsi company announced it planned to create America’s largest Ferris wheel in New Jersey. The attraction would be 287 feet tall, according to a Business Wire report.

Currently, the largest observation wheel in the world is the Singapore Flyer.

Information courtesy of Local 6 Orlando

Universal Studios Orlando is a massive 400+ acre vacation destination with thrilling rides, production studios, film sets, a water park and onsite luxury hotels. Located within the Universal Orlando Resort area, this Florida attraction features four exciting entertainment experiences in one location and includes over 40 exciting rides and 3-D shows based on pop culture’s most compelling films and television shows.

Universal as a company has been known for terror for many years, and with its emphasis on Universal’s legendary film catalog, Universal Studios Orlando does not disappoint. Thrill seekers will love the action and adventure lurking around every corner and the many rides and attractions that make them feel like they are living out some of their favorite scenes. A ‘Ride the Movies’ concept links all the attractions found throughout Universal Studios’ four distinct areas listed below:

1. Universal Studios Orlando has six themed sections in a Hollywood back lot area where guests can enjoy attractions based on some Hollywood favorites. The Production Central area features the attractions “Shrek 4-D” and “Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast” while the New York area features the “Revenge Of The Mummy – the Ride” roller coaster. The Hollywood area is where live action stunts and special effects come together in “Terminator 2: 3-D” and the San Francisco/Amity area is where guests can participate in live shows like “Fear Factor Live”. World Expo features the interactive ride, “Men In Black Alien Attack” while the Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone allows guests to board flying bikes and cross the sky in the “E.T. Adventure”.

2. Islands of Adventure offers a journey through five islands where attractions feature favorite comic books, cartoon heroes and children’s stories. High tech thrills include the “Incredible Hulk” and “Dueling Dragons” coasters along with the “Jurassic Park River Adventure”. During the Jurassic adventure, guests board boats and try to escape from the Raptor Containment Area full of animatronic dinosaurs and end up shooting down an eight-story drop into a pool below. For the younger ones, attractions include “The Adventures Of Spider-Man” at Marvel Superhero Island and “The Cat In The Hat” ride at Seuss Landing.

3. Universal Studios City Walk is a 30–acre entertainment complex offers live music, famous name restaurants and nightclubs, unique shopping and a 20 screen AMC Universal Cineplex. Conveniently located at the entrance to both theme parks, it also contains world-class film and television production facilities.

4. Wet ‘n Wild Water Park features a variety of tube rides like the “Bomb Bay” and “Der Stuka” extreme speed slides and “The Storm” water coaster. Multi-person tube rides include the “Brain Wash” funnel ride, the “Disco H2O” raft adventure, the “Surge” and the “Bubba Tub“. Other raft rides include the “The Flyer” and “The Blast” toboggan rides and the new “Black Hole:The Next Generation“. The water park also has plenty of kid-friendly attractions like the “Bubble Up” inflatable bouncer and the tipping bucket, shallows and slides of the “Kids Park.”

Universal Studios Orlando combines family fun with film themes and puts guests right into the center of all the action with wild rides, live shows and sneak peeks behind-the-scenes. With more vacation adventure than you could ever imagine, your next family vacation to Florida should definitely include several fun-filled days and nights at Universal Studios Orlando.

Information courtesy of Family Theme Park Vacations

It’s a weekend full of faith against a backdrop of theme park excitement as Universal Orlando Resort unleashes Rock the Universe 2008 on September 5th and 6th. Tickets are on sale now for guests to enjoy more than a dozen mega-talented artists who will transform Universal Studios Florida into the ultimate destination for Christian music and unforgettable thrills.

Throughout the two-day event, guests will have the opportunity to see live performances by today’s hottest Christian rock bands and artists, witness moving testimonies from celebrity guest speakers and experience thrilling rides and attractions.

Rock the Universe 2008 features a powerful lineup of music ranging from contemporary Christian and hip-hop to punk. On Friday, September 5th, the event features Grammy-nominated alternative rock band Switchfoot, pop/punk rock group Relient K, contemporary Christian band Newsboys, hard-rock group Skillet, hip-hop groups Grits and Group 1 Crew and up-and-coming artist New Method. On Saturday, September 6th, internationally-acclaimed group Third Day, singer/songwriter Jeremy Camp, Grammy Award-winning band Jars of Clay, pop-punk group Stellar Kart and rock bands Leeland, This Beautiful Republic and Special D will take center stage at the event.

In addition to music, attendees of Rock the Universe 2008 will hear the life-changing testimonies of celebrity guest speakers AJ Styles and Brian “Head” Welch. Styles is one of TNA’s best high-flying pro wrestlers, and Welch is the former lead guitarist of the popular rock group Korn. Thrill-seekers attending the event will also have the opportunity to enjoy immersive theme park rides and attractions at Universal Studios, including the all-new Simpsons Ride, Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride and Shrek 4-D.

Tickets are on sale now for Rock the Universe 2008. For additional information or to purchase tickets, visit www.rocktheuniverse.com or call 1-866-RTU-INFO.

Universal Orlando Resort has created some of the world’s most innovative theme park attractions based on pop culture’s most compelling films and stories. The resort includes two exciting theme parks – Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure; Universal CityWalk, a 30-acre entertainment complex; and three magnificently themed on-site hotels – the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

Information courtesy of Christian Newswire
Image courtesy of Rock the Universe

Vacation time is here, and families are headed to Orlando, Florida, with plans to go to Disney World and Universal Studios. But there’s so much more to Central Florida than those theme parks. There are incredible places to see that have nothing to do with long lines and animatronics.

Just south of Orlando, Polk County is packed with super family-friendly activities. It’s a sportsman’s paradise, with everything from championship golf courses to bragging rights for being the largemouth bass fishing capital of the world, thanks to the bountiful Winter Haven Chain of Lakes. Other water sports include leisurely kayaking or wild airboat rides on some of the 554 lakes in the area.
A great place to soak up some of the local excitement is Florida’s very first tourist attraction, Cypress Gardens. Founded in 1936, it has been entertaining families for generations and is now better than ever with an expanded Adventure Park.
In the heart of Winter Haven, less than 60-minutes from Orlando or Tampa, Cypress Gardens still has the same entertaining Ski Show Spectacular that made it world famous. The young athletes who perform are amazing, defying gravity as they slice through beautiful Lake Eloise on their water-skis. The signature human-pyramid of skiers along with the aqua-acrobatics is a treat for all ages, with shows scheduled three times a day.
The must see place is a photographer’s delight, with the lovely “Southern Belles” in their traditional hoop skirts, strolling the well manicured Botanical and Plantation Gardens, and the colorful and comical Topiary Trail.
In addition to the Swamp Critters animal show, Shenaniguns Wild West comedy show, and the Treasure of Cypress Cove comedy pirate show, there’s a lot of other entertainment throughout the park. Plus shops and dining places to suit every taste.
But let’s face it, kids (and adults who never grew up) love thrill rides, and Cypress Gardens’ Adventure Grove has a bunch– more than 30! For folks who enjoy “old school” thrills, there’s a couple of heart-pounding classic “woodie” roller coasters called Triple Hurricane and Starliner. The Okeechobbee steel coaster, the Swampthing suspended coaster, and the Thunderbolt strap-in-and-hang-on, are a variety of ways to produce screams of delight.
And you’ve got to love the Storm Surge- a six-person raft ride that carries passengers more than 60-feet into the air before careening down a twisted river route, while spiraling. Oh my!

If that’s not enough, cool off at Splash Island, a great water park within Cypress Gardens, included with your very reasonably priced admission ticket. They also have special events and a summer all-star concert series at their amphitheatre. And, yes, general seating is included with your admission price, which includes a second day free within six days of your first visit. It’s an unbelievable bargain for families who can introduce the next generation to the classic Florida destination.

Information & Images courtesy Entertainment Today

Fireworks, fireworks and more fireworks — Orlando’s Independence Day events combine the traditional and the high-speed. From state-of-the-art displays at the theme parks, to family outings to Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, we know how to celebrate July Fourth. And for those of you who want to make a weekend out of it, don’t forget the 50th Annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series — adrenalized racing and fireworks.

Independence Day at Universal Orlando Resort (July 4)
Enjoy fireworks at Universal CityWalk with activities for families and a preferred viewing area on the lagoon stage (fee required). Admission: Free for regular viewing area at CityWalk, $10 for preferred viewing area. Call 407-224-2691 for more information.

Independence Day at Walt Disney World Resort (July 4)
All four theme parks come alive with special shows celebrating the Fourth of July. Downtown Disney Pleasure Island also celebrates with a street party and patriotic music by live bands. Admission: Included in regular park admission. Adults $71, Children ages 3-9 $60, Children ages 2 and under free. Admission to Pleasure Island is free, $20.95 nightclub admission charge for adults 21 and older. Call 407-824-4321 for more information.

Fireworks Over the Fountain (July 4)
Celebrate United States independence at the free fireworks display and laser show around Lake Eola in downtown Orlando. Residents and visitors alike pack their picnic baskets, comfy blankets and fun-loving kids and head out to Lake Eola for an old-fashioned summertime picnic. Admission: Free. Call 407-246-2827 for more information.

50th Annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 400 (July 5)
Formerly the Pepsi 400, this series has been an Independence Day weekend tradition for nearly five decades, and this year’s event promises to be the best ever. Motorhead fans are on the edge of their seats as racing stars tackle the 31-degree high banks of Daytona International Speedway. Enjoy the spectacle of night time racing followed by a fireworks extravaganza. Admission: Reserved Grandstand $50-140, three-day package $250. Call 386-253-7223 for more information.

Information courtesy of Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is becoming party central at Walt Disney World.

As it undergoes a change in theme during its 20th year, “The Studios,” as the theme park is nicknamed, is adding performance venues and drawing events away from the resort’s other three parks, becoming the site for most official Disney parties aimed at teens and young adults.

That party mission went largely unspoken last August, when Disney announced a slew of theme, attraction, entertainment and name changes for what had always been the giant resort’s third-most-popular park, known until then as Disney-MGM Studios.

Yet Hollywood Studios — which already possessed the most concert and show venues in Disney World, not to mention several attractions popular among youth, such as Tower of Terror — now has a broader entertainment theme and is getting even more venues. It also is quietly grabbing a larger share of the after-hours party crowd.

Epcot appeals to older revelers with its shopping, dining, wines and flowers, and oldies acts such as Herman’s Hermits. Magic Kingdom’s parties offer visitors an array of princesses and pirates, as well as Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Hollywood Studios is ready for those who want to rock.

“Now, with the new venues coming on board . . . and with our major attractions, that kind of resonates with these age groups, with the teens coming in,” said Rilous Carter, Disney World vice president for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Already home to three major annual bashes — including this month’s Star Wars Weekends — and a number of annual after-hours private parties, The Studios also is taking over Disney World’s annual high school “grad nights” and its annual “Night of Joy” Christian music festivals. Both grad nights and Night of Joy had until now taken place in Magic Kingdom. Disney’s eighth-grade grad nights made the move to The Studios this year from Animal Kingdom. Last year, The Studios grabbed the High School Musical Pep Rally from Magic Kingdom.

“We think this is probably a better fit for these age groups,” Carter said. “Magic Kingdom is a great venue — they’ve loved it over the years. But this gives it [a youth-oriented event] more concert venues to stage musical shows or dance floors.

For most of its history, The Studios has been a solid third in popularity behind Magic Kingdom and Epcot in terms of general-admission attendance. But last year it narrowly missed being overtaken by Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the resort’s newest theme park, where attendance has been growing at faster rates in recent years.

This year, The Studios is getting:

*The only major Disney World ride to open this year, Toy Story Midway Mania.

*The resort’s only major new show, American Idol Experience.

*Two new parades, Block Party Bash and the revised High School Musical 2: School’s Out rally.

“I think this is our year,” said Carter, the park’s chief executive.

In addition, a new indoor concert venue to be called the Premiere Theater is being fashioned from an unused open-air theater. The air-conditioned venue will soon be joined by the American Idol Experience theater and two other stadiums that can each hold thousands of people. Large temporary stages and dance floors are also easily erected in front of the park’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and its giant Sorcerer’s Hat.

Ronald Logan, a former Disney park-entertainment executive who now is an associate professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said Disney World designs its show venues to be available for alternative uses, provided those uses fit the surrounding park’s overall theme. With the added venues and other changes, The Studios is now much more flexible in that regard, he said.

“There has been a broadening of the whole mission and theme, where you can address anything you want,” Logan said.

Still, unlike Universal Studios‘ signature events — Mardi Gras and Halloween Horror Nights — after-hours events in Disney’s Hollywood Studios might never feature such edgy entertainment as Kid Rock or the Bill & Ted shows. Not the official events, anyway. But like all theme parks, Hollywood Studios is available for rent, and under private control, the various show facilities could take on a different tone.

Information & Image courtesy of Orlando Sentinel