There are plenty of events in Orlando during the month of February, including the Mount Dora Art Festival, Silver Spur’s Rodeo, Central Florida Fair and Plant City’s ever popular Strawberry Festival.


February 01, 2009: Latin Sundays at Old Town
Every Sunday in February from 2 – 8pm enjoy authentic Spanish food while enjoying a live Latin band on the main stage.
More info: 407-396-4888
Free admission for concert

• February 05, 2009: 1st Thursday’s
Themed happy hour on the first Thursday of each month at the Orlando Museum of Art from 6pm – 9pm.
More info: 407-896-4231 x 260.
Admission charge.

February 05, 2009: Streetmosphere
Enjoy the Russian born members of CirqueMosphere as they perform feats of Mime, magic, juggling and balancing at Uptown Altamonte. Two shows start at 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
More info: 407-571-8180
Free admission

February 06 – 15, 2009: ArtsFest
A celebration of Free Arts and Culture Events in the Orlando Area. Local arts and culture from the Central Florida community.
More info: 407-628-0333
Free admission

February 06, 2009: Friday Night Live
Friday nights at Uptown Altamonte, from 7 – 9 pm enjoy outdoor entertainment in a beautiful setting. Local artists perform Jazz, Pop, Big Band and Contemporary music weekly.
More info: 407-571-8180
Free admission

• February 07, 2009: Downtown Concert Series
Free concert in Downtown Orlando at City Hall Plaza from 4:00pm – 10:00pm featuring America.
More info: 321-281-2000
Free admission

February 07, 2009: Cars for the Cure
This auto show extravaganza is held to benefit the American Lung Association. The annual event will be held at Colonial TownPark in Heathrow/Lake Mary. VIP and pre-show events are available.
Free admission

February 07, 2009: Jazzed in Sanford
Monthly Jazz Concert series held the first Saturday of the month in Magnolia Square, downtown Sanford from 4 – 7pm.
More info: 407-688-5004
Free admission

February 07 – 08, 2009: Mount Dora Arts Festival
Annual festival in downtown Mount Dora attracts over 275 artists from around the world. One of the area’s largest arts festivals is held the first weekend of February.
More info: 352-383-0880
Free admission

February 07 – 08, 2009: Osceola Art Festival
Held at the Valencia’s Osceola Campus, this annual festival features fine arts from local and visiting artists.
More info: 407-846-6257
Free admission

February 08, 2009: Latin Sundays at Old Town
Every Sunday in February from 2 – 8pm enjoy authentic Spanish food while enjoying a live Latin band on the main stage.
More info: 407-396-4888
Free admission for concert

Through February 15, 2009: ArtsFest
A celebration of Free Arts and Culture Events in the Orlando Area. Local arts and culture from the Central Florida community.
More info: 407-628-0333
Free admission

February 12, 2009: Movie in the Park
Enjoy a family movie on the second Thursday of the month at City Hall in Lake Mary.
More info: 407-585-1400
Free admission

February 12, 2009: Popcorn Flicks in the Park
Each month the Enzian Theater features free movies on the second Thursday of the month at Central Park.
More info: 407-629-1088
Free admission

February 12, 2009: Alive After Five
The second Thursday of each month in downtown Sanford, enjoy themed entertainment and activities.
More info: 407-302-2586
Admission charge

February 12 – 15, 2009: Ola Fest
The Annual Orlando Latin American Film & Heritage Festival.
Free admission

February 13, 2009: Music in the Galleries
In addition to free admission to the Morse Museum of American Art every Friday evening from 4 – 8pm from the beginning of November till the end of April, each month the museum will also feature live music in the galleries. Tonight’s performance: Beautiful Music Muse Duo (classical guitar and flute)
More info: 407-645-5311
Free admission

February 13, 2009: Friday Night Live
Friday nights at Uptown Altamonte, from 7 – 9 pm enjoy outdoor entertainment in a beautiful setting. Local artists perform Jazz, Pop, Big Band and Contemporary music weekly.
More info: 407-571-8180
Free admission

February 13 – 15, 2009: Orlando Spring Design and Remodeling Home Show
Visit the Orange County Convention Center to preview products and services to assist you in any phase of your remodeling project.
Admission charge

February 13 – 22, 2009: Osceola County Fair
Held Osceola Heritage Park. Enjoy midway rides and carnival games during the ten day event. There will also be educational, agricultural, horticultural, livestock events along with auctions, food and rodeo.
More info: 321-697-3050
Admission charge: $5.00 for adults, $3.00 children 5-11

February 15, 2009: Latin Sundays at Old Town
Every Sunday in February from 2 – 8pm enjoy authentic Spanish food while enjoying a live Latin band on the main stage.
More info: 407-396-4888
Free admission for concert

February 15, 2009: Daytona 500
Annual running of the world’s most famous stock car race. The opener to the 2009 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season will feature the best stock car drivers in the world as drivers fight for NASCAR’s most coveted win.
More info: 386-253-7223
Admission charge: Varies with seating and events

February 16, 2009: Storytelling at Leu Gardens
Stories at 3 times for different aged children on the third Monday of the month.
More info: 407-246-2620
Free admission

February 19, 2009: Streetmosphere
Enjoy the Russian born members of CirqueMosphere as they perform feats of Mime, magic, juggling and balancing at Uptown Altamonte. Two shows start at 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
More info: 407-571-8180
Free admission

February 19 – 22, 2009: Mount Dora Music Festival
Enjoy artistic programs that include classic rock, cool country, folk music, jazz, classical and big band. The two day event is held at the Mount Dora Community Center.
More info: 352-383-2627
Admission charge

February 19 – 22, 2009: Central Florida Boat Show
The International Boat Show comes to the Orange County Convention Center for 4 days showcasing boats of all shapes and sizes.
Admission charge $8. Children under 15 are free when accompanied by an adult.

February 20, 2009: Cinema in the Park
Family movies on the third Friday of each month at Centennial Park in Sanford. Bring the family and a blanket or chairs for the 7:00pm showing of this month’s movie.
More info: 407-688-5004
Free admission

February 20, 2009: Movie in the Park
Free family movies on the third Friday of each month at Candyland Park in Longwood. Bring the family and a blanket or chairs for the 7:00pm showing of this month’s movie.
More info: 407-260-3484
Free admission

February 20, 2009: Spring Movie Classic
Enjoy a special springtime movie special. This family movie can be seen at City Hall in Lake Mary.
More info: 407-585-1400
Free admission

February 20, 2009: Friday Night Live
Friday nights at Uptown Altamonte, from 7 – 9 pm enjoy outdoor entertainment in a beautiful setting. Local artists perform Jazz, Pop, Big Band and Contemporary music weekly.
More info: 407-571-8180
Free admission

February 20 – 22, 2009: Antiques Show & Sale
The Council of 101 will be presenting their annual antiques show and sale at the Orlando Museum of Art106.
More info: 407-896-4231
Admission charge: $10

February 20 – 22, 2009: Extravaganza at Renninger’s
Three times a year during the 3rd weekends of November, January and February, thousands of antiques will be on display at Renninger’s Florida Twin Markets in Mount Dora. Purchase a daily or 3 day pass.
More info: 352-383-8393 or 1-800-522-3555
Admission charge: varies by day

February 20 – 22, 2009: Silver Spurs Rodeo
122 annual event of the largest rodeo in the Southeast. Sixty of the rodeo’s top cowboys perform. More info: 407-67-RODEO

February 20 – 22, 2009: Winefest XVIII
Annual event held at Lakeridge Winery features live music, food, wine arts & crafts.
More info: 1-800-768-9463
Admission charge: $2.00

February 21, 2009: Worship Under the Stars
Annual event at Cranes Roost Park. Come and experience this wonderful evening of powerful music in an inspirational atmosphere for the entire family. From 6pm – 10pm.
More info: 407-571-8180
Free admission

February 21 – 22, 2009: Downtown Art & Living Expo
An exciting weekend of art, music, fun and artists at the t Lake Eola Park & Amphitheater in Downtown Orlando.
More info: 407-592-0002
Free admission

February 22, 2009: Blues-B-Q
Annual event in downtown Orlando at Lake Eola Park. Enjoy blues music and barbecue.
Admission charge

February 22, 2009: Latin Sundays at Old Town
Every Sunday in February from 2 – 8pm enjoy authentic Spanish food while enjoying a live Latin band on the main stage.
More info: 407-396-4888
Free admission for concert

February 26, 2009: Velvet Sessions
Rock & Roll Happy Hour held the last Thursday of the month at the Hard Rock Hotel, Universal Orlando.
Admission charge varies according to the month’s theme.

February 26, 2009: DOP Social
Downtown Orlando Partnership holds their monthly social at different locations on select dates.
More info:
Minimal admission price generally includes a complimentary drink.

February 26 – March 08, 2009: Florida Strawberry Festival
Held at the Plant City Festival Grounds – The Florida Strawberry Festival is a celebration of strawberries that dates back to 1930. The festival features daily entertainment by some of music’s biggest stars. Events and exhibits of the popular festival include agriculture shows, livestock, a baby contest, and the Midway featuring over 60 rides. Competitions range from cook offs, clogging and strawberry shortcake eating contests.
More info: 813-754-1996
Admission charge: Charge varies by date & event

February 27, 2009: Friday Night Live
Friday nights at Uptown Altamonte, from 7 – 9 pm enjoy outdoor entertainment in a beautiful setting. Local artists perform Jazz, Pop, Big Band and Contemporary music weekly.
More info: 407-571-8180
Free admission

February 27 – March 08, 2008: Bike Week
The “World’s Largest Motorcycle Event” roars in to Daytona Beach for 10 days. Activities include motorcycle shows and exhibits, concerts, racing at Daytona International Speedway and festivities on Main Street. Admission charge: Charges vary by event

February 28, 2009: Posh Pooch Festival
Enjoy a day with your puppy at Celebration Town Center. There will be a look-a-like contest, doggie and human fashion show, have your picture taken with your puppy and ride the Celebration Doggie Train. There will be booths containing information about dog nutrition, health and pet adoption.
More info: 407-566-2200
Free admission

February 28, 2009: Kissimmee Festival of Rhythm & Blues
The largest concert at the Kissimmee Lakefront Park, the Festival of Rhythm & Blues offers a variety of Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Caribbean and African musical styles. To enhance the festive mood, storytellers, crafters, ethnic foods, and black history displays showcase local and nationally recognized African American artists.
More info: 407-847-3174

Information courtesy of

For anyone that has wanted to be a kid in a chocolate store…you now have your chance!

The Festival of Chocolate, Central Florida’s only Celebration of Everything Chocolate is scheduled for March 7 and March 8, 2009 at the Florida Hotel adjacent to the Florida Mall.
The Vendor Showcase will feature chocolate tastes, treats and temptations including cookies, cakes, brownies, cupcakes, ice cream and truffles from some of the areas most acclaimed dessert and confection companies.
The “Best of” Chocolate Indulgences in 9 categories takes place live at the event on Saturday, March 7th by randomly selected judging panels each represented by a pastry/culinary expert, a celebrity and a self-proclaimed chocoholic.
The Kids-4-Chocolate Workshop allows the littlest chocoholics to create their own creative chocolate masterpieces and a one-of-a-kind self-standing artistic chocolate museum display introduces guests to rich history of chocolate, the production process, health and wellness, traditions and much more.
Cooking Demonstrations presented by The Orlando Culinary Institute, special historical presentations, book signings, multiple creative chocolate-themed kid competitions and live music make the Festival of Chocolate weekend the Sweetest Two Days in Central Florida.
The Festival of Chocolate
Saturday, March 7, 2009 10am – 6pm
Sunday, March 8, 2009 12am – 6pm
Location: The Florida Hotel adjacent to the Florida Mall
Information courtesy of Festival of Chocolate

The word “Magic” brings up many connotations. It may recollect ancient and secret magics in Egypt, or conjure up the image of a dark sorcerer of mythology, or summon to our mind’s eye dark cloaked members of a coven encircling a field. The word has the power to frighten or enchant, but it always and inevitably leads in one direction … to wonder and awe.

It can also pack in more than 20 million audience members and make more than $1 billion over the last decade for a master of the art of illusion.

So it goes for David Copperfield, who in just a few short days will be bringing this world of magic for two shows at Orlando’s Bob Carr Performing Arts Center stage with his current touring show, “David Copperfield: An Intimate Evening Of Grand Illusion.”

Not bad for a nice Jewish boy from Metuchen, New Jersey – one who just happened to begin performing professionally at the age of 12, was the youngest member of the Society of American Magicians, was teaching magic at New York University at age 16, made the Statue of Liberty disappear, and is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 13th highest-paid performer in the world.

But with 18 award winning television specials that have reached more than three billion viewers in 40 different countries – netting Copperfield 21 Emmy Awards for artistic excellence on television – one could wonder why he continually returns to the live stage.

When posed with that question, and the comparison to film and its own technological marvels, Copperfield hit directly on the very nature of live performance.

“I do over 500 shows a year and never get bored because every show elicits a different reaction from the audience, and each new audience member I bring on stage makes it all very fresh and unexpected,” he said. “When you can create awe and wonder for a person, live before their very eyes from the stage, I think it even tops the impact of what someone sees on the movie theater with CGI, green screen and the like.”

In “Grande Illusion,” Copperfield strives to take one’s dreams and bring them to reality using his art.

Sometimes this very personal dream is of winning the Lottery – one of his Grandfather’s unfulfilled dreams which helped to inspire this night of magic. And sometimes it’s much more:

“This entire show is based on making dreams come true,” he said.

“People don’t dream of pulling rabbits out of a hat, but they do dream of seeing someone they haven’t seen in some time coming back into their lives. I’m not bringing people back from the grave, but I am transporting 13 people off the stage and hopefully bringing them back safe and sound.

“More than anything,” he added, “it’s the audience participation – whether grand or intimate – that keeps things as fresh as ever … and moving them emotionally.”

But it’s not just onstage that Copperfield attempts to make dreams a reality.

Since 1982 his “Project Magic” – billed on his Web site as a “rehabilitative program established in March 1982 to strengthen dexterity and motor skills in disabled patients, using sleight of hand magic as a method of therapy,” has helped disabled patients in 1,100 hospitals throughout 30 countries.

It does this not only through magic, but by motivating the individuals and helping to build self esteem.

After so many years of creating illusions, one would think that the effort to continue to surpass each past show would get exhausting.

Each illusion takes an average of two and a half years to develop for the stage (with an illusion such as “Flying” taking seven years). Keep in mind that this is the man known for levitating across the Grand Canyon, who escaped from Alcatraz, and – in midair over a circle of spectators – made a seventy ton Orient Express car vanish.

But Copperfield continues to explore and push his own limits as well as those of his audience, and his influences might be a bit surprising.

“I try to look at a challenge and think ‘why not’ rather than “It can’t be done,’ and then devise a means of creating the illusion,” he said. “My influences – unlike what most people think – came largely outside of the field of magic.

“Although magic greats like Keller or the Frenchman Robert Houdon – where Houdini got his name from – were certainly great for the profession, artists like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly have greatly influenced how I present my show on stage.

“Also, in an attempt to move my audiences emotionally, I would have to say film directors like Orson Welles, Stephen Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola have had a great impact on my career,” he added.

While musing about the future and longevity of magic, Copperfield has large faith in the sustaining popularity of this entertainment.

As he put it, “Magic has been around since the caveman first plucked that pebble out of some unsuspecting cavewomen’s ear – much to her delight. The art of magic has a very rich history, and I imagine it will do just fine for many millennia to come. A few things I have always wanted to do is straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa, put a woman’s face on Mount Rushmore, and vanish the moon. So, it looks like I have a busy schedule ahead of me!”

David Copperfield: An Intimate Evening Of Grand Illusion” comes to the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre in Orlando for two shows on Thursday, Jan. 29, at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m.

Information courtesy of The Ledger

At ICEBAR Orlando, patrons don’t need to order drinks on the rocks.

“You have a vodka IN the rocks,” said co-owner Patz Turner.

Make a reservation, pay a $30 cover charge, don an insulated cape and gloves and you can have a vodka drink in a 27-degree room. There, the couches, chairs, walls, glasses, bar and even the fireplace are made of ice. Lights alternately bathe the room in subtle colors, and the drinks are served by waitresses dressed in stylish all-white snow suits and Russian-style fur hats.

The bar is touted as one of the first permanent ones of its kind in the United States. Ice bars are popular in Northern Europe, where entire buildings are sometimes carved from ice.

Turner said she reluctantly went to an ice bar in Sweden several years ago, but enjoyed the experience and began planning a similar venue.

Orlando has all kinds of adventures,” Turner said. “This is an adventure into the Arctic.”

Mark Ferguson surprised his wife, Lorraine, with a 15th wedding anniversary party at the bar’s opening night Oct. 1. The Fergusons, who travel from Lancashire, England, to vacation in Orlando every year, marveled at the sculptures, which included a fireplace lit with low-wattage electric flames and carved to look like Old Man Winter.

“Whoever built it, I’d like to see how his mind works,” Ferguson said.

Ohio artist Aaron Costic did the sculpting, based on Turner’s vision.

“It’s the Crystal Palace as I imagined,” said Turner, who co-owns the bar with Wylie Plummer. “It’s a fantasy, created in my mind, of things frozen in time.”

Turner said they’re careful that those frozen in time don’t include the patrons or the staff. Visits are limited to 45 minutes and a variety of warmer drinks are available. The bar staff has a 30-minute in, 15-minute out rotation.

Chuck Taylor, construction project manager, said efforts were made to limit electric consumption by using bioclimatic filters, which refresh and recycle the cold air.

Her husband, Fred Turner, said the projected average monthly electric bill is $3,500.
The bar aims to draw conventioneers and vacationing parents looking for a more adult adventure after a steady diet of theme parks, Turner said.

Anne Taylor, who moved to Orlando from Minneapolis, joked that it makes frostbite an equal opportunity malady. “People in Orlando can freeze every day just like people in Minnesota,” she said. “It’s great that Orlando now has a winter.”

Ferguson said he joked that the experience wasn’t that different for him.

“Because this is what we call summer in England,” he said.

Information courtesy of The Atlanta Journal – Constitution

The religious holiday for the patron saint of Ireland has inspired many festive celebrations. Irish themed restaurants and bars take this opportunity to party with green beer, traditional Irish meals and good times. Some of the St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in the Orlando area include:

St. Pat’s Block Party at Wall Street Plaza in Orlando will be hosting not just one, but two of the largest parties in the downtown area. On Saturday, March 15th, the music will go from 8 to 11 pm but feel free to come early as doors open at 1am. On Monday, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, music will start at 6pm. Enjoy live music while enjoying traditional Irish Fare.
Admission is $10 for each night. Order tickets in advance, on-line.
Starting at 2:00 pm and going till 2:00 am, Pat O’ Brien’s at Universal’s CityWalk will once again have their St. Patty’s Day party. On March 17th, wear your green and enjoy the luck of the Irish with live rock and roll, traditional Irish food and more. A live band, dueling piano bar, leprechauns, stilt walkers and giveaways are on hand. General admission is $12 and VIL (very important leprechaun) is $20.
On Saturday March 15th, 2008, Grammy Award-winning recording artist Hootie and the Blowfish will perform a free St. Patrick’s Day Concert in Celebration Town Centeras a part of the Robert Gamez Celebrity Weekend benefiting local charities. In addition to Hootie and the Blowfish, additional acts will include Rock and Pop Masters featuring performances by Jimi Jamieson (Survivor), Mike Reno (Loverboy), John Cafferty and Michael Antunes (Beaver Brown Band), and Larry Hoppen (Orleans). The event begins at 7:00PM and parking and admission are free.
Fiddler’s Green in Winter Park – Don’t miss the beer garden in the back constructed just for the event.
Kitty O’Sheas Irish Pub in Lake Buena Vista – A favorite with locals and tourists alike.
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Ken McBride, an Irish entertainer that performs as extraordinary number of tunes spanning the gap from current ballads to old folk songs. Irish favorites to Broadway standards at the Helen Stairs Theatre in Sanford. Tickets are $25, $30 and $35 for this concert held on March 15, 2008 at 7:30.
Information courtesy of

Don’t just stand there… Let the Music Move You at Universal Studios’ Mardi Gras Saturdays and select nights from February 7 through April 18. Party in the streets with music that reaches right down to your soul to lift your spirits high! Enjoy live performances by some of the biggest stars from pop, rock, R&B;, country, hip-hop, you name it… all in Universal Studios’ brand new concert plaza!

The concert line-up features:
Feb. 7 – KC & the Sunshine Band
Feb. 14 – Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
Feb. 21 – Ne-Yo
Feb. 28 – Pat Benatar (featuring Neil Giraldo guitar)
Mar. 7 – Barenaked Ladies
Mar. 14 – Montgomery Gentry
Mar. 21 – Collective Soul
Mar. 27 – Boys Like Girls
Mar. 28 – Kelly Clarkson
Apr. 4 – MC Hammer
Apr. 11 – Trace Adkins
Apr. 18 – Nelly.
The party’s not limited to Saturday nights this year. On Sunday, February 15, the Village People will perform; and on Friday, March 27, you can enjoy Boys Like Girls.
You’re right in the middle of the celebration with outrageous street performers and a spectacular parade featuring colorful costumes, dazzling floats, and beads by the handful. Plus, the air will be filled with the spicy aroma of authentic Cajun food, and the sweet sounds of real bands direct from New Orleans.
Each night when Mardi Gras ends, the excitement is just beginning! Head to Universal CityWalk®, the official Mardi Gras After-Party, for more live music, food and fun.
So join in the festivities at Universal Orlando Resort with Mardi Gras at Universal Studios®. It’s the biggest party this side of the bayou!
Information courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort

If you haven’t been to Universal Studio in Florida for the past year or two, you might not realize that the classic Back to the Future simulator ride is gone. On the flipside, if you’re an Orlando local, you probably know all too well, courtesy of the flurry of commercials that took over television for several weeks.

If you wander out to that corner of the park, you’ll now be greeted by Krustyland instead of Doc Brown’s research facility. Indeed, there is a cartoon in the queue line that explains just how the Doc lost his facility to Krusty. You can still occasionally find him hanging out by his DeLorean, which has been moved to an area closer to Finnegan’s.

Because it is a simulator, the Simpsons Ride is suitable for most ages and ride-tolerance levels. It’s much smoother than the old herky-jerky Back to the Future, although it can still be a bit whiplash induced, especially if you’re sitting in the back row. But overall it’s a fun experience for Simpsons fans and pretty much anyone else who enjoys a good simulator experience.

As the storyline goes, you are joining the Simpson family as the first riders on a new ride at Krustyland. Unfortunately, the perpetually homicidal Sideshow Bob is hot on their trail and trying to kill everyone. You’ll run through everything from a roller coaster to a water ride to a giant drop. The effects are particularly convincing, even the roller coaster loop (don’t worry, you don’t really go upside down), and there are sensory effects thrown in for good measure.

This ride can be a slow loader, as you’re counted off to wait in designated sections, then sent to a designated room to wait for your simulator car. Fortunately, there is plenty of entertainment in the form of cartoons on various monitors and detailing sets like food stands, carnival game booths, and the like. If you are staying at an onsite hotel or have purchased an Express Pass, your wait will be cut down considerably.

Back to the Future was a classic, but the Simpsons are worthy successors. Enjoy their new ride, and keep an eye out as you’re walking through the park. You might just catch Bart, Lisa, Homer, and Marge hanging out for a photo opportunity.

Information courtesy of

Disney World‘s specialty is fantasy, but a new attraction opening Feb. 14 will deal in real-life dreams.

The American Idol Experience, a near-exact replica of the theater the “American Idol” TV show uses, will give singers a chance to audition, perform and maybe even get a spot to try out for the real “Idol.”

If the singing is as polished as the set, it should be another Mickey triumph.

If the singing is bad, no Disney magic will be able to fix it.

I got a look at the “Idol” set. It has a black, blue and silver stage, replete with hi-def cameras, judges’ table and a 1,000-seat auditorium.

American Idol Experience is in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios area (formerly MGM).

Here’s how it will work: Up to about 400 people a day will be able to sign up for auditions online (at or in person. Each singer will do a short a cappela song of his or her choice, in front of a casting director in a private room. That casting director will give the singer tips and determine whether he or she goes on to the next stage or, like most, gets the boot.

“The majority of people who watch the show know that only a small percent of singers will go on, but they will still have fun. So even if you experience what you would call rejection, they’ve still had a good experience,” says Laura Offerdahl, Disney entertainment producer for the Idol Experience.

Those who make it through will go to a VIP room to choose songs from 113 choices, get vocal tips, then sing in front of a producer, using a microphone and taped music.

Every day, producers will choose 21 people from the VIP level to sing in front of the Disney audience — three singers at each of seven performances.

That’s no small thing. The huge audience will have armchair electronic voting pads to vote for their favorite performer — and determine who wins. The final seven favorites (one from each performance) will sing in a finale at each day’s end, and the ultimate winner gets a prize — a “head-of-the-line” pass to audition for the real “Idol.”

Restrictions? You must be 14 or older. You must be available to come back for shows later that day if selected. And hopefully, you must be able to sing.

The American Idol Experience is the biggest of the rather small number of new attractions at Disney this year. Recently opened is Toy Story Mania, a tame but fun ride where riders wear 4D glasses and shoot at targets, just like a high-tech carnival midway game. Opening on Jan. 28 is Kim Possible, a scavenger-hunt game for children; participants get a cell-phone type communicator at a stand, then play along by finding spots and clues at Epcot and working to solve a mystery.

In addition, there’s a new rule this year that visitors get free admission to one Disney park on their birthdays — a $63-$75 value. Already, that’s a big hit.

“It’s only the beginning of the year, but it’s already been used by twins and triplets,” says Disney spokesman Rick Sylvain.

But the Idol attraction should be the big draw this year. It will have an extra virtue for audience members.

“It’s not a Disney thing, but it’s even OK to boo the judges if you disagree with their comments,” says Offerdahl.

No booing, however, in the happy-go-lucky rest of the park.

Information courtesy of Detroit Free Press

Let the mind games begin. International Drive’s upside down attraction WonderWorks, unveils “Mindball” the latest exhibit to challenge visitors’ minds.

Mindball is a game that goes against the conventional competitive concept. Instead of activity and adrenalin, Mindball relies on calmness to measure a participants’ success. The goal is to be more relaxed than your opponent in order to move a physical ball away from you into your opponent’s goal. Ultimately winning by relaxing!

This same technology is used as a training tool for cadets at The United Stated Military Academy at West Point. Officers are trained not only to be alert but also to control their thought process and remain calm in high-pressure situations. Mindball records and examines participants’ brain waves. In a battle of the minds, the participant who is able to achieve the level of least stress wins.

Mindball is a self-contained table top gaming experience. On the table top a rubber-coated steel ball is moving back and forth during the game. The players wear headbands containing electrodes which are constantly measuring the participants’ brains’ EEG (Electroencephalogram is an electrical waveform that is recorded from the brain by using electrodes placed on the head) activities. Players use their Alpha and Theta brainwaves to control the rubber-coated steel ball allowing them to push the ball across the table with their mind into their opponent’s goal and score a point. Alpha and Theta waves are strongest when a person is calm and relaxed, or concentrating intently.

The players and the audience can follow the mental process during a game as the players’ brain wave activity is presented graphically on a 52-inch monitor. Mindball is an exciting and social game where the audience is also part of the experience.

About WonderWorks
The WonderWorks attraction is an “amusement park for the mind,” combining education and entertainment in over 100 hands-on exhibits that will spark the imagination and stimulate the mind. Visitors to the attraction will enjoy a variety of experiences including feeling the magnitude of a 5.3 earthquake, being blown away by 65 mile per hour hurricane-force winds, maneuvering the controls of a NASA spacecraft to land the shuttle, lying on a bed of 3,500 nails, piloting a fighter jet, designing and riding a 360 degree virtual roller coaster. Special features include lazer-tag and The Outta Control Dinner Show. WonderWorks first opened in 1998 and now has a second location in Pigeon Forge, TN which opened in 2006.

Information courtesy of WonderWorks

Universal Orlando is unleashing the biggest Mardi Gras celebration this side of the bayou with the most powerful and diverse concert series in the event’s history. With a combined total of more than 300 million records sold and a dozen Grammy Awards, this year’s Mardi Gras line-up features 13 of the most popular names in pop, rock, R&B;, country, hip-hop and more.

Guests will experience a Mardi Gras concert series like no other, with performances by Billboard Chart-topper Ne-Yo, “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson, country music-duo Montgomery Gentry and Grammy Award-winning rapper Nelly. Other headliners include the hit artists behind classics such as “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Too Legit to Quit,” and “Y.M.C.A.” – Pat Benatar, MC Hammer and The Village People, respectively. In addition, New Orleans bands will showcase their authentic bayou music in the “French Quarter,” a replica of New Orleans’ famed district.

“This year’s Mardi Gras will be our best party ever,” said Jim Timon, senior vice president of entertainment for Universal Orlando Resort. “We’ve got the best music line-up in the history of the event, along with a non-stop celebration filled with an amazing parade, floats, food and all of the beads you can catch.”

Guests will experience the most authentic Mardi Gras celebration outside of The Big Easy when the event kicks off on February 7 and runs every Saturday night through April 18, with additional dates on Sunday February 15 and Friday, March 27. Guests will enjoy hundreds of costumed characters, tons of souvenir beads, Cajun cuisine and an elaborate parade featuring floats designed by Blaine Kern Artists, Inc, who designs floats for the New Orleans parade.
This year’s parade theme is “Stories,” giving guests a glimpse into the world of literature. Themed floats featuring iconic characters and settings from the pages of the most popular and beloved books featuring genres such as Mystery, Romance and Horror will cruise the streets of Universal Studios throughout the event.
Mardi Gras is included in park admission to Universal Studios.
Information courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort