April Events in Orlando are in Full Bloom. Here are a few of the Events scheduled in April:

Spring Fiesta in the Park April 4 – 5
Enjoy a myriad of booths offering tasteful regional arts and crafts along the banks of Lake Eola in downtown Orlando. The 19th annual festival provides entertainment, goodies and homemade items for sale.
Admission: Free.
Phone: 407-649-3152

Easter Weekend Open House April 10 – 12
Visitors can browse The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, showcasing the most comprehensive collection of Tiffany glass in the world.
Admission: Free.
Phone: 407-645-5311

45th Annual Ron Jon Surf Shop Easter Surfing Festival April 10 – 12
Enjoy the sun, surf and sand along beautiful Cocoa Beach, just one hour east of Orlando, as you watch championship surfers from ages 12 to 80 from around the world compete in this annual surfing competition. An Easter egg hunt and food court, as well as surf clinics and demonstrations are part of the fun.
Admission: Free.
Phone: 321-799-8888

81st Annual Easter Sunrise Service April 12
The Historic Bok Sanctuary in Lake Wales invites Easter morning worshippers to greet the dawn of this special day by watching the sun rise while listening to a 60-bell carillon and brass ensemble with the Lake Wales Chorale. Admission: Adults $10, Children ages 5-12 $3, Children 5 and under free.
Admission is free from 6-8 a.m.
Phone: 863-676-1408

22nd Annual Fiesta Medina April 19
As part of Orlando’s longest running Latin community festival, national and international performers take the stage to celebrate Latin culture and music at Festival Park in Orlando. The festival also features streets lined with displays and food along with a children’s carnival area. Admission: Adults $15, Children ages 12 and under free.

13th Annual Leesburg Bikefest 2009 April 24 – 26
Lake County comes alive with the roar of more than 200,000 bikers from throughout the South. Downtown Leesburg is open only to motorcycles for three days of nonstop street party fun. Bikefest features live bands, Ms. Bikefest Contest, Rat’s Hole Custom Motorcycle Show, biker games and festive food.
Admission: Free.
Phone: 352-365-0053

The Great American Pie Festival April 25 – 26
Enjoy endless samples of pies with close family and friends. Held in Celebration, the Pie Festival includes demonstrations, bake-offs, pie tastings and pie-eating contests.
Admission: Free.
Buffet tickets: Adults $10, Children ages 6-12 $5.
Phone: 407-566-1200

7th Annual Children’s Art Festival April 25
Held at the Maitland Art Center, this event exposes kids and families to the visual and performing arts. Presented in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, activities include hands-on art, open studio demonstrations, interactive puppet theater, children’s art exhibits, scavenger hunts and face painting.
Admission: Suggested donation of $3 for adults, Children free.
Phone: 407-539-2181

7th Annual Cabaret Festival April 30 – May 10
Life is indeed a cabaret, at least for a few weeks during the downtown Orlando Mad Cow Theatre’s celebration of musical theatre. Cabaret artists and acts are featured in more than 40 evening and lunchtime performances.
Admission ranges from $12-20.
Phone: 407-297-8788

Star Wars Weekends returns to Disney World’s Hollywood Studios for a special summer event celebrating the classic sci-fi series. The sci-fi fan-fest takes place every Friday, Saturday & Sunday from May 22 – June 14, and during this time Disney World Hollywood Studios is transformed into part of the Star Wars galaxy, complete with Ewoks, Wookies, Storm Troopers, Jawas and other Star Wars creatures. The specific Star Wars Weekend dates are May 22-24, May 29-31, June 5-7, and June 12-14.

Fans of the Star Wars universe will be able to face to face with many of their favorite characters during meet and greet sessions, where anyone from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader may appear. Youngsters can practice their lightsaber skills at the Jedi Training Academy which prepares them for a battle against Darth Vader himself.
Star Wars trivia contests will also give fans a chance to prove their mastery of the series, while a ride on the famed Star Tours attraction Starspeeder lets guests test their speed skills. One-of-a-kind Star Wars memorabilia will also be available for purchase. Plenty of the Star Wars characters will be on full display during the Star Wars parades as well. End your day with the Hyperspace Hoopa! Show, where Star Wars favorites cut loose and have fun with music, comedy & dancing.
For Orlando Hotel Reservations for Star Wars Weekends, please visit ReserveOrlando.

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, presented by Disneynature, is a special spring event presented each year to highlight flowers, gardens, topiaries, live music and educational events. This year’s festival is scheduled for March 18, 2009 – May, 31 2009. Even if you’re not a gardener at heart, you’ll love this event because it showcases the beauty that is Mother Nature, all on the grounds of Disney World.

A few of the festival highlights include:
Poster Artist Heather French: Every Friday, Saturday & Sunday Heather French will be creating art at the Garden retreat, adjacent to the Canada Pavilion.

Garden Explorations: Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, from 9am – 12pm, guided tours of the award-winning gardens of Epcot are available. The three hour tours are guided by a Disney Horticulturist.

Garden Town Discoveries: Every Friday, Saturday & Sunday special events are held during the festival at Future World East. Tricks of the Trade is scheduled for 10am – 7pm and allows guests to get a behind the scenes look at how Disney’s horticulturalists create some of their most popular designs. Planting Pointers is held at 1pm & 4pm, and lets guests join gardening experts from IFAS at the University of Florida for great gardening ideas. Disney Gardening at Home is scheduled for 11am & 2pm. At this event guests can meet Disney gardening experts and also participate in a hands-on demonstrations. The Great American Gardeners show occurs at 12pm & 3pm, and will entertain with presentations from nationally recognized garden personalities.
Other events include Art in the Garden, a unique look at nature through the eyes of “Plein Air” artists, Environmentality, which shows visitors how to keep our planet green, the Florida Farmers Market, a bountiful market located in Garden Town, as well as continuous shows of “The Making of the Flower & Garden Festival.”
The 2009 Flower Power Concert Series at Epcot spotlights groovy tunes from the ‘60s and ‘70s and begins March 20. Flower Power concerts take place at the Americana Gardens Theatre at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 each Friday, Saturday & Sunday of the festival. Concerts are included with regular admission price.
The Flower Power Concert Series Line-Up:
March 20-22 – Davy Jones “Daydream Believer”
March 27-March 29 – Paul Revere & The Raiders “Good Thing”
April 3-April 5 – The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie “Happy Together”
April 10-April 12 – Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am”
April 17-April 19 – The Ventures “Hawaii Five-O”
April 24-April 26 – Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes (NEW) “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”
May 1-May 3 – Chubby Checker & The Wildcats “The Twist”
May 8-May 10 – Ricky Nelson Remembered featuring The Nelsons “Love and Affection”
May 15-May 17 – Jose Feliciano “Light My Fire”
May 22-May 24 – The 5th Dimension “Up, Up and Away”
May 29-May 31 – Tony Orlando “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”

If you are planning a trip to the Orlando area or a vacation to Disney World Theme Parks, you already know there is a plethora of lodging options to choose from. One of the best options for many visitors is The Point Orlando Resort, a brand new, all suite boutique hotel offers a convenient location and luxurious amenities that make a vacation retreat complete.

The resort is located less than a mile from Universal Studios Resort and Islands of Adventure, within walking distance of Wet ‘n Wild and only three short miles from SeaWorld and Aquatica. Disney World is just 10 minutes away. Plus, starting in April, complimentary van transportation will be available to the theme parks, as well as local shopping and local golf course. The I-Ride Trolley is also a transportation option as it passes by the front door of the resort and is an inexpensive way to access the attractions, shops and restaurants on I-Drive.
The accommodations at The Point Orlando resort consist of junior suites, one bedroom executive suites and two bedroom family suites. Every suite has a king bed, queen size sofa sleeper, flat screen cable TV and high-speed internet connection. All suites except for the junior suites also have full kitchens with refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, blender, microwave oven, coffee maker and toaster. It’s enough to allow a person to feel like they are right at home. The suites also have a washer & dryer, Jacuzzi tub in bathroom and balcony or patio.
The on-site amenities include a large outdoor heated pool, outdoor whirlpool, full business center, fitness center and meeting facilities. A new lobby bar will open in April.
The rates at Orlando’s Point Resort are reasonable too, with the junior suite starting at $119 a night and the one bedroom renting for $144 a night. The two bedroom family suite rents for $189 a night.
Choosing from all of the Orlando lodging options can be difficult, but if you choose The Point Orlando Resort, you can rest assured that your vacation will be a sweet retreat.

Millions of people flock to Disney World in Orlando, Florida each year. The parks Walt Disney made famous are synonymous with family fun and the magical whimsy of childhood. I missed out on the Disney experience as a child, but was bound and determined to not let my inner-child miss out on Disney World. So, at the age of 25, I packed my bags, mouse ears included, and made my way to the sunny state of Florida to spend a few days with the main mouse, Mickey, and all of his cohorts.

I was as excited as any child, and was filled with awe over what to expect. The night before the big day, I had visions in my head of doing the robot with Buzz Lightyear, skipping through the park with Snow White and quacking along with Donald Duck himself. The whole event was already playing in my mind like a Disney Movie, and I already had a perfect ending: dinner at Disney’s California Grill, perfectly timed so I could watch the firework displays as I dined.
The next morning, as I drove towards the gates of Disney, I was ecstatic to see Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom signs flash before my eyes. I was on a mission at Disney, and was bound and determined to experience as much of Disney as I could in one day. Due to a time constraint, one day was all I was allotted at Disney, so one day had to fulfill my inner child’s wishes.
With Disney ticket in hand, I started at the Animal Kingdom, since they close the earliest (5pm.) I headed straight towards the Tree of Life to get an up close view of this iconic tree. The detail and design of the tree was incredible, and so was the It’s Hard to be a Bug attraction held inside, at the base of the tree. Starring “Flik,” from the Disney-Pixar Film “A Bug’s Life,” this 8 minute 3D film is fun for those of all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed the 3D look at a bug’s life, and the special effects made me feel like I could reach out and grab the butterflies, snakes and other creatures. I even felt mice running on the floor. I don’t want to give too much away; just be sure to make time for this during your visit to the Animal Kingdom. Another highlight from the Animal Kingdom was the Kilimanjaro Safari, where I sat in an open air safari bus for a one-of-a-kind look at some of the Sahara’s most beautiful animals. The landscape was right out of Africa, and the animals were very energetic and lively, something you don’t always witness at zoos. I was amazed at the variety of animals, and have to say the elephants and giraffes were my favorite safari finds.
After a delicious lunch at the Rainforest Café, my companion and I headed to Epcot for a quick trip around the world. First, though, we made a trip around Earth on the attraction Spaceship Earth and then shrank back down to size at the Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, a 3D show where scientific fun turns into mayhem for the audience. My favorite ride, though, was Soarin, an interactive attraction that simulates hang-gliding in coastal California. The line was long for this attraction, but it was worth the wait! The world showcase pavilions, where France, Germany, Italy, Norway, America, Canada, Japan, China, Mexico, Morocco and the United Kingdom are represented, are truly a sight to see. It was if I had packed my passport and had been flown around the world. The architecture, food, and ambiance of each pavilion made you treasure the unique aspects of each culture. By the time I had toured every country, I felt like my passport had a whole new set of stamps in it.
However, my world tour had to make an important pit stop at a special, far away land known as the Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom is what first comes to mind for many when they think of Disney. Images of Cinderella’s Castle, Mickey Mouse and Splash Mountain are conjured in one’s mind as the epitome of the Disney Concept. I had these images floating through my head as I made my way, by tram, to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom. However, nothing prepared me for actually seeing Cinderella’s Castle in all her glory. It is a magnificent structure that harkens visitors, or at least me, to become giddy with joy. Even at the age of 25, I was compelled to run towards the castle, eager to see what it held. Be sure to make time for Castle tours they do periodically throughout the day, as there are some neat behind-the-scene discoveries.
My exploration of the Magic Kingdom found seven different lands to journey through, each with a theme like Tomorrowland, Frontierland or Main Street USA to distinguish it from the sprawling 107 acres consisting of the Magic Kingdom. I visited Adventureland first, where I climbed through the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse before I murkily made my way through the treacherous waters of the Pirates of the Caribbean. From there, I ventured to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland for a runaway train coaster ride. Fantasyland and Tomorrowland were up next, but before we made it there, we encountered the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party that had me grooving along with Disney characters such as Genie, from Aladdin, & Sebastian, from The Little Mermaid. I found several character greetings at Fantasyland, and although the lines were too long for my time constrained trip, I will definitely make it a priority on my next trip. When else can you have your picture snapped with Goofy? Tomorrowland lived up to its name with Space Mountain, a rocket of a ride that visits our mysterious galaxy.
By the end of my ride on Space Mountain, it was time for dinner at Disney’s California Grill. It was a great way to end my special day. So special in fact, that the glittering night sky boasting colorful fireworks felt like it was just for me. It was truly magic, truly Disney and truly worth the 25 year wait.

When customers belly up to this bar, instead of a few cold brewskies they’ll find a nice, warm Whopper that they can customize with 22 different toppings.

Burger King on Tuesday unveiled its first Whopper Bar at Universal CityWalk dining and entertainment complex in Orlando. The protoype concept features an open kitchen where customers can watch their food prepared and a limited menu aimed to capitalize on the brand equity in the Whopper.
The menu features a choice of a Whopper, Double Whopper and Steakhouse XT with toppings like smoked bacon, pepperjack cheese, guacamole, sautéed mushrooms and crispy onions. Some toppings are free and others cost 50 cents each.
There also is a chicken sandwich. Plus, there are a selection of favorites including the Bourbon Whopper, Angry Whopper and Three-Cheese Steakhouse XT. There’s also french fries and milk shakes, plus future locations may include those cold brews.
Featuring a red, black and gray color scheme the aim is to create a hip-looking destination. The Whopper Bar is designed to fit into places where there wouldn’t be room for a full-size restaurant like in shopping malls, casinos, cruise ships and universities.
”There are more and more nook and cranny real estate opportunities that are perfectly suited for a concept like this,” said Russ Klein, Burger King’s president of global marketing, strategy and innovation.
Plans call for opening about half dozen Whopper Bars before the end of the year in locations including Munich, Singapore and, Los Angeles. If it proves successful, Klein says the company sees potential for between 300 and 500 Whoopper Bars over the next three to five years.
The Whopper Bar costs between $600,000 and $800,000 to build, making it about 30 percent cheaper than the smallest Burger King restaurant protoype. Burger King expects the concept to generate well over $1 million in sales, Klein said.
”We’re looking for a cash on cash return equal or superior to that of a regular Burger King,” Klein said. `We need to prove the concept out in as many key regions and venues around the world as we can.”
Information courtesy of Miami Herald

Ten days and 160 films make up the 18th annual Florida Film Festival. This year’s event will pair some of the best of independent films with a food and wine indulgence. The highly acclaimed festival is recognized as one of the top in the nation, where a win at this event can qualify the film for Academy Award consideration. The event, beginning March 27 and continuing until April 5, 2009, is sponsored by the Enzian Theater and Full Sail University.

The 2009 Florida Film Festival emphasizes the origins of passion and creativity through the
theme “Original Cinema.” The Food and Wine Weekend, the opening weekend component of the Festival, takes this theme one step further with a gastronomical exploration of “Temptation, Indulgence, and Redemption.” Celebrity chef Cat Cora—Food Network’s first and only female “Iron Chef”—will be among the weekend’s special guests.
“This year’s program continues to reflect all of the exceptional qualities we’ve come to associate with Enzian; pairing the best in independent film with the indulgence of food and wine,” said Sigrid Tiedtke, President & CEO. “It was important to bring special guests – like Iron Chef Cat Cora – who embody the sensual and spiritual edge that defines year’s festivities; masters in the culinary and cinematic world who see no boundaries within their craft.”
Want to mix and mingle with the stars? Four-time Academy Award nominated actress, Glenn Close will attend the 18th Annual Florida Film Festival’s closing weekend event, “An Evening with Glenn Close,” on April 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for the special parties, events and movies at Florida Film Festival 09.

Information courtesy of About.com & Florida Film Fest

A number of sharp-eyed fans have spotted the rooftop of a structure rising in Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter that looks an awful lot like Hagrid’s Hut, home of the half-giant character from the Potter novels and movies.

Looks like those fans nailed it.

Building permits pulled by Universal for the much-anticipated, highly secretive Potter project show that the resort is indeed constructing Hagrid’s Hut. The setting, according to the permits, is being built for Universal by the Nassal Co. of Orlando, which specializes in themed construction projects.

While the permits offer few details, it appears Hagrid’s Hut will be mostly for display purposes. The documents suggest the interior of the building will be used for prop storage.

“Hagrid’s Hut is an unoccupied themed prop structure,” according to one permit description.

A dream is a wish . . .

With Walt Disney World‘s latest attraction, the American Idol Experience, formally open in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the company is kicking its vaunted publicity machine into full gear.

Billboards have sprouted around Orlando featuring a slogan for the attraction that ties a quintessential Disney character to a production that’s otherwise best known for airing on FOX.

The slogan: “Be part of the next Cinderella story.”

Cypress Gardens changes

Cypress Gardens is getting ready to announce new management this week, according to the park’s lawyer and spokesman, Rick Dantzler.

The small Winter Haven theme park, known for its botanical gardens, ski shows and Southern belles, closed in November after struggling with low attendance. The owners plan to reopen in late March with a new game plan that involves eliminating the park’s amusement rides and focusing on the original gardens and a water park that is popular with locals.

The new management will replace Baker Leisure Group, an Orlando-based company that ended its management role at the park last summer.

Under its new structure, Cypress Gardens will likely have two admission prices: one for the gardens only, and another that includes the water park.

Information courtesy of Orlando Sentinel
Image property of Universal Orlando Resort

Special Events in Orlando during March 2009:

International Flower & Garden Festival
March 18 – May 31, 2009: The annual brings entertainment, food, education and of course loads of beautiful flowers to Epcot during this festival.

Viva La Música
Join the fiesta every weekend, March 7, 2009 through the 29, when Grammy and Latin Grammy-award winning acts perform salsa, merengue, reggaeton and more for Viva La Música. The red-hot lineup includes El Gran Combo, India, Tito El Bambino and Fonseca Saturdays at SeaWorld, and R.K.M and Ken-Y, Guayacan, Grupo Mania and El Gran Combo at Busch Gardens Sundays. Live music, Hispanic food and the fiery flair of Latin heritage combine for this lively experience.

Mardi Gras
February 7 – April 18, 2009: On Saturday nights in February, March and April, Universal Studios Florida celebrates the spirit of New Orleans with the annual Mardi Gras celebration.

• Bok in Bloom!
January through March: Seasonal blooms throughout the historic Bok gardens.

• Music in the Galleries
November through April, free admission into the museum on Friday evenings from 4:00 – 8:00pm. Live music in the galleries on Friday, March13, Beautiful Music Muse Duo (classical guitar and flute).
• A Brilliant Setting – American Cut and Pressed Glass Tableware 1876-1917
Through September 15, 2009: Includes more than five dozen examples of American-made glass tableware from the late-19th and early 20th centuries.

• Of Cloth & Culture: African Textiles
Through December 2009: Exhibit features textiles from various regions of the African continent, including Kente cloth from West Africa, beaded aprons fron the Kirdi of Cameroon, and beaded animal skins of the San people of South Africa.
• American Portraits & Landscapes
Through December 2009: Features works by Benjamin West, Thomas Moran, Rembrandt Peale, John Henry Twachtman, and Carl Wuermer representing art from the Colonial period through the early 20th century.
• 19th & Early 20th Century American Art
Through December 2009: Drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition features paintings by George Inness, John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, William Harnett, Alfred Bricher, William Merritt Chase, Frank Weston Benson, and the museum’s recent acquisition, The Sun Vow, 1901, a sculpture by Hermon A. MacNeil.

• Manatee at Blue Springs
November through March: Manatee fleeing the cold ocean waters flock to the warmer temperatures of Blue Springs during the months of November thru March.

Please call to verify specials and free admission as museums occasionally change their policy during special exhibits.

Morse Museum of American Art
Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival open house. Enjoy free admission to the galleries on Friday, March 20, 21, 22, 2009. Call 407-645-5311 to confirm.

Disney’s “Armed Forces Salute”
Active and retired U.S. military personnel can receive a free five-day multi-pass to Walt Disney’s Orlando Theme Parks. Special pricing for up to 5 friends and/or family members is also available. Call 1-407-939-6244 to confirm.

Disney’s Free Admission on Your Birthday
“What Will You Celebrate?” Throughout 2009, Walt Disney World is offering one day of free admission to any one of their theme parks for your birthday. Call 1-407-939-6244 to confirm.

SeaWorld’s Fun Card
Florida Residents can pay for a day and receive the rest of 2009 free!

SeaWorld’s “Here’s to the Heroes”
Free admission to Worlds of Discovery Theme parks for Military members and direct dependents during 2009.

Morse Museum of American Art
Free admission to the galleries every Friday evening from 4pm to 8pm from the beginning of November till the end of April. Music in the galleries on select nights. Call 407-645-5311 to confirm.

Leu Gardens
Free admission to the gardens every Monday from 9am till noon. Be sure to arrive early as parking is at a premium on Monday mornings. Call 407-246-2620 to confirm.

Orlando Museum of Art
Free admission to the museum on Thursday afternoons from 1pm to 4pm for residents of Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola Counties. Call 407-896-4231 to confirm.

Information courtesy of About.com