Universal Orlando is putting the finishing touches on its new Harry Potter Attraction, which is set to open in the Spring. The exterior of Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is just about complete, and with this new milestone Universal Studios releases this official statement & photo:

The magical transformation continues. Although still very much a work in progress, the magnificence of Hogwarts castle is beginning to take shape above Hogsmeade as work continues on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Hogwarts will be the home of a thrilling, new, state-of-the-art attraction – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – that uses ground-breaking technology to bring the magic, characters and stories of Harry Potter to life in ways never before experienced. Set to open in Spring 2010 only at Universal Orlando Resort, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will feature multiple themed attractions, shops and a restaurant.

Sea World and Busch Gardens, two of the premiere theme parks in Orlando, are gearing up for Bands, Brew & BBQ. This event, which features country and classic rock stars, will take place during the month of February. Performances will be held on Saturdays & Sundays.

This four-weekend long event celebrates music from award-winning artists, delicious barbeque, refreshing beer and the exciting rides and shows offered at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens daily. Plus, this event is included with standard Sea World tickets admission and standard Busch Gardens tickets admission.
Performers scheduled for Saturdays at SeaWorld:
February 6: LeAnn Rimes
February 13: Montgomery Gentry
February 20: John Rich of Big & Rich
February 27: Yes
Performers scheduled for Sundays at Busch Gardens:
February 7: Dennis DeYoung – The Music of Styx
February 14: Willie Nelson
February 21: Huey Lewis & the News
February 28: Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo

The Festival of Chocolate returns to Orlando March 6 & 7, 2010. The Festival of Chocolate, central Florida’s premiere chocolate tasting, shopping, interactive experience, has partnered with The Orlando Science Center to offer visitors four floors of chocolate flavored fun.

The event will feature the area’s best chocolate and confection companies selling tasty treats featuring deliciously decadent chocolate. Everything from truffles to cookies to pastries to chocolate drinks and more will be available.

Interactive presentations and live experiments are also planned. Pastry chefs and professional chocolatiers will share techniques and host classes. A chocolate themed exhibit is also planned, which will showcase chocolate in production, health qualities, history and more.

Kids will also be able to join in on the fun at the Kids-4-Chocolate Craft area where they can create their own edible creations.

A “Best Of” Chocolate Indulgences is also planned, as well a chocolate cookie stacking contest, chocolate cinema, historical presentations, book signings and live music.

Entrance into the Festival of Chocolate is included with an Orlando Science Center ticket purchase on March 6 & 7. The festival will be open from 10am – 5pm.

The situation in Haiti is growing worse and worse by the minute.

Tuesday’s earthquake has affected three million people, and the Red Cross estimates as many as 50,000 may be dead. Survivors are doing what they can to rescue those who are trapped, but they need help.

If this happened here, we hope people would give anything they could to help out.

Please take a minute to donate to these reputable charities that are providing care to fund their emergency efforts:

Doctors without Borders
http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

Oxfam America
https://secure.oxfamamerica.org/site/Donation2?df_id=3560&3560.donation=form1

The Red Cross
http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&s;_subsrc=RCO_ResponseStateSection

And a super-easy way to donate with your mobile phone:
Donate $10 to the Red Cross to be charged to your cell phone bill by texting “HAITI” to “90999.”

Thanks for your time.

The Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting the 25th Annual Chowder Cook-Off on Friday, February 5th, 2010 from 6pm – 9pm at Cruise Terminal #3 in Port Canaveral.

Local area restaurants will be participating in a cook-off, competing for the coveted Judge’s Choice Award for best chowder, and there will also be live music from “Hayfire,” drinks, and a silent auction. A People’s Choice Award & Best Decorated Booth Award will also be part of the event.
The 2010 Chowder Cook-Off tickets are available now.
Admission includes sample tastings of all entries, hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, silent auction, drawings and live entertainment.

Universal Orlando will begin its 15th year of Mardi Gras February 6th, 2010. The event will run every Saturday night through April 17, with additional dates on Sunday, February 14 and Friday, April 9. Mardi Gras is included in regular admission to Universal Studios.Universal Studios Mardi Gras Event is the biggest and most authentic celebration outside of New Orleans. It features hundred of costumed characters, tons of souvenir beads, Cajun cuisine, an elaborate parade and live concerts by artists like Flo Rida and Sheryl Crow.

This year’s parade is being handled by Blaine Kern Artists, Inc., the same company that designs the floats for the New Orleans parade. They are incorporating new elements into some of the most memorable floats in the events history. This elaborate Orlando parade will feel even more authentic during the 2010 celebration as its theme is heritage.

Guests who attend the Mardi Gras Celebration will also be able to take advantage of Universal Studios exciting rides, like Hollywood Rip, Ride Rockit, and groove to music at Universal’s very own “French Quarter,” a replica of the New Orleans’ famed district.

The full line-up of concerts during Mardi Gras is as follows:

• Sat., Feb. 6: KC and The Sunshine Band
• Sat., Feb. 13: Heart
• Sun., Feb. 14: Kool & the Gang
• Sat., Feb. 20: Blondie
• Sat., Feb. 27: Dierks Bentley
• Sat., March 6: Akon
• Sat., March 13: Aretha Franklin
• Sat., March 20: Miranda Lambert
• Sat., March 27: 3 Doors Down
• Sat., April 3: Beach Boys
• Fri., April 9: Sheryl Crow
• Sat., April 10: Flo Rida
• Sat., April 17: Chicago

Sea World recently released details regarding its new water slide planned for Aquatica in 2010. This is the first new attraction at Aquatica, since it opened almost two years ago.

The slide will be named Omaka Rocka (which means rocking river) and will feature moves reminiscent of extreme sports, like skateboarders and BMX bikers. The new Aquatica Water Park ride, which is scheduled to be completed by March, will send a pair of guests in a two-seater tube through a set of three tunnels that will replicate the half-pipe experience. Riders will slide up one part of the slide and get a sensation of near weightlessness. They’ll come down that side and back up another, in what SeaWorld officials are calling a vertical thrills experience.

This new water slide will be a great addition to the Orlando attractions at Aquatica. It features a new design that includes semi-transparent tubing. The semi-transparent tubing will allow for riders inside the tube to experience a bright atmosphere, instead of the dark one generally associated with tube rides. Guests waiting for or watching the ride will be able to see the riders sliding around above them.

Omaka Rocka will have no height restrictions.