Orlando welcomed 46.6 million visitors in 2009, making it the most visited U.S. destination of the year. D.K. Shifflet & Associates reported the visitor number in a new report, which also highlighted that there was only a decrease in visitation numbers by 4.7%, as opposed to the 9.9% decrease that was forecasted. This strong performance is a good indicator of what is to come in the travel and tourism industry, especially in the Orlando vacations market.

93% of Orlando visitorship came from domestic travel, totaling 43.3 million. International travelers totaled 3.3 million, including a large share of visitors from Canada & the United Kingdom. This year, as expected, Canada overtook the U.K’s spot as being the top international market. There were 865,000 visitors from Canada compared to 831,000 visitors from the U.K. Orlando moved up to the #4 spot in the international visitor destination in 2009.

D.K. Shifflet & Associates is a travel research firm specializing in consumer-based travel data.

Busch Gardens Tampa is a popular way to spend a day in Orlando. Themed as an African adventure, the park is a great mix of thrill rides, animals and live stage shows. Although it has new owners, the Blackstone Group, the park plans to stay true to its identity while continuing to evolve.

A new Sesame Safari play area was recently opened, featuring the characters from Sesame Street. Plus, a new animal encounter with baby Australian kangaroos and wallabies is planned, with construction on the exhibit currently underway. It is planned to be an immersive environment and appeal to young families, in the same vein as Sesame Safari.
A new thrill ride is planned to open in 2011, but so far details on the new attraction are scarce.
However, new pathways to the Edge of Africa and updates to the railroad track at Nairobi Junction provide a few hints as to the location of the new attraction.
Busch Garden tickets are on sale now.

Universal Orlando® Resort is kicking off the summer season with the 2010 Summer Concert Series, scheduled for every Saturday night June 12 – July 17. Located at Universal Studios®, the Summer Concert Series features an array of multi-platinum selling artists.

The Summer Concert Series line-up includes:
June 12: Train
June 19: Pitbull
June 26: Earth, Wind & Fire
July 3: Pat Benatar & REO Speedwagon
July 10: Rob Thomas
July 17: Counting Crows
All concerts will take place at the Universal Music Plaza. This state-of-the-art outdoor music venue is located in front of the Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit® Coaster.
Universal Orlando® Resort’s Summer Concert Series is included in regular admission to Universal Studios.
Universal Studios tickets are on sale now.

Walt Disney World Resort is going to light up the summer season with Summer Nightastic! From June 6 – August 14, 2010. To accommodate the summertime fun, Disney World park hours have been extended during the summer.

Summer Nightastic! At Disney World will include:
Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade: Located at the Magic Kingdom Theme Park, the Main Street Electrical Parade features Tinker Bell as the host, with plenty of festive floats, including ones inspired by Pinocchio and Snow White lighting up the night. The parade will include more electrifying audio and new lighting technologies that create a pixie-dust effect.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: This Disney Hollywood Studios ride will have a new drop sequence and special glow-in-the-dark lighting features for an all-new thrill.
Summer Nightastic! Fireworks Spectacular: This new fireworks show will include vivid colors, brilliant visual effect and whimsical music. You’ll have to go to the Magic Kingdom to see this special summer spectacular for yourself!
Sounds Like Summer Concert Series: Located at Epcot, this live concert series features the best sounds in music by great tribute bands. Listen to the recreated sounds of music superstars June 12 – July 31.
Disney Tickets are on sale now.

Busch Gardens is hosting Summer Nights June 11 – August 15, 2010. This event promises to make your summer nights super cool! The theme park will stay open late all summer and great Busch Gardens rides, animal encounters and fantastic entertainment will be available for visitors to enjoy.

An all-new show – Kinetix – will debut during the Summer Nights event. The colorful acrobatic show will feature live musicians, dancers and pyrotechnics. Show time is at 9pm at Gwazi Field.

Busch Gardens rides will be a little wilder during Summer Nights as well. Music, lights and a few added surprises will make every ride seem like a new experience.

A special Fireworks Finale is planned for July 3 and 4.

Busch Gardens tickets are on sale now.

Sea World is diving into another great summer with SeaWorld AfterDark, an event that transforms some of the parks favorite daytime activities into unbelievable nighttime spectacles. Great SeaWorld entertainment will be available, and rides will be open too! The event is scheduled for May 29 – August 15, 2010.Some of the SeaWorld shows that will be performing at SeaWorld AfterDark include Shamu Rocks, Sea Lions Tonite and Reflections. Shamu Rocks is a rock ‘n roll themed show featuring killer whales, a stunning light show and great music. Show times are at 8pm and 9:15pm. Sea Lions Tonite is a comedy show featuring the hilarious antics of SeaWorld’s famous sea lions, otters and walruses. Show times are at 6:45pm and 8:15pm. Reflections combines highlights from some of SeaWorld’s favorite shows with dazzling fireworks, fountains and music for a beautiful production. Show times are at 9:50pm.

In addition to these great shows, thrilling rides like Manta and Kraken will be open, as will up-close animal encounters. A fantastic fireworks finale will end the night, at approximately 10:30pm.

Sea World tickets are on sale now.

Star Wars Weekends returns to Disney Hollywood Studios at Disney World in Orlando on select weekends starting May 21. This annual special event celebrates the Star Wars saga and is a special treat for Star Wars fans of all ages. Jedi Masters, Sith Lords and Star Wars celebrities will be on hand for special shows, presentations and memorabilia.

The Jedi Training Academy will be available to younglings who want to hone their light saber skills, while other visitors may prefer to board the Star Tours attraction, where they’ll experience a runaway Starspeeder. Trivia contests, parades, autograph sessions and more will all celebrate the legacy of Star Wars.

Each day of the Star Wars Weekends ends with the Hyperspace Hoopla Show, where music, comedy and dancing take center stage.

The 2010 dates for Star Wars Weekends:

May 21-23
May 28-30
June 4-6
June 11-13

Star Wars Weekends events are included with regular admission to the Disney Hollywood Studios Theme park. Purchase your Disney tickets today!

The return of the Captain EO attraction starring Michael Jackson is scheduled for July 2, 2010, at Epcot Theme Park in Disney World.

The attraction was re-opened at Disneyland in California on February 17, and is now schedule to open on international Disney Parks as well, including Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.

The Captain EO attraction is a 17-minute musical space-fantasy 3D film that features Michael Jackson as Captain EO along with Disney created space characters. The attraction uses dance, light and music to turn a colorless planet into a world of color and life.

The attraction originally debuted in 1986 but was closed in 1994, when Honey, I Shrunk the Audience replaced it. Today, although it is a bit dated, it offers a stunning glimpse at the King of Pop in his prime, as well as a look at the Imagineering process.

Purchase your Disney World tickets today!

WonderWorks Orlando has added a whole new way to explore its interactive museum. They have added a ropes challenge course and 4D Theater for 2010. The new museum attractions opened on April 30, 2010.

The ropes course is the first of its kind in Orlando. It allows visitors to scale to a maximum height of 36 feet. The three-story adventure features a glow-in-the-dark course, more than 20 different obstacles including suspension bridges and swinging beams. The ropes course is located indoors, so it offers year-round fun no matter what the weather. The ropes course was designed for those of all ages and abilities, so more advanced athletes and novices will all enjoy the attraction.

The XD Theater 4D extreme motion simulated thrill ride features three movies – Canyon Coaster, Haunted Mine and The Adventures of Jett and Jin. The movies will be on a rotating schedule. The 4D Theater experience will take visitors on an amazing adventure, during which special effects and full motion seats add to the one-of-a-kind experience at WonderWorks.

To experience the 4D ride and the ropes course, guests can upgrade their regular WonderWorks tickets at the ticket counter of WonderWorks for only $5.

Downtown Orlando is hosting Snap! Orlando, a photography festival showcasing the works of international, national and local talent, on May 20-13, 2010. The event will take place in a dozen art galleries, cafes, boutiques and op-up exhibition spaces, and will showcase more than 30 artists, including master photographer David Kirkland. Snap Orlando will include artist appearances, photography workshops and seminars, VIP parties, community art projects and performance art.

Several photography contests are available for the Snap event, including Instant Snapification – an online competition in which participants can submit a digital photo taken by a cell phone or smart phone. The deadline is May 14. There is also a Student Photography Contest for central Florida schools, universities and colleges. Youth workshops, titled “1000 Words” and “This is Me” are planned for the weekend preceding the event and the photos will be displayed in a Youth Art Exhibit and Reception during Snap! Orlando.
Photography workshops will be held throughout the weekend of May 20-23. Special speakers and book signings are also planned. For a full schedule of Snap! Orlando events, click here.
A Snap! All Access Pass, which includes admission to the Opening Night Party (Friday), the Snap! Photography party (Saturday) and to all ticketed galleries, openings, seminars and workshops Friday through Sunday, is $35 and $20 for students. Day passes are $15 and $10 for students.