Love to shop?  Then, Orlando has just become your new favorite place as it has been named the Best City for Bargain Shopping by Forbes Magazine.  This is the first year Forbes has created the Best Cities for Bargain Shopping List.

With over 500 outlet stores and 18 million square feet of retail space in malls, Orlando has a variety of shopping options.  Variety, in addition to budget-friendly prices, played a big role in Orlando being chosen as the #1 Bargain City.  From luxury stores like Louis Vuitton to low price tag shops like Forever 21, the shopping in Orlando features it all. 

Scoring a great deal in Orlando is easy if you know where to look.  Bargain hunt through these outlet malls:

Orlando Premium Outlets – International Drive
4951 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
Give yourself plenty of time to peruse the selections at this mall.  I’ve been there three times, and have yet to traverse the entire complex.  The impressive 180 outlet stores includes:

  • 7 For All Mankind
  • Baccarat
  • Betsey Johnson
  • Brahmin
  • Ed Hardy
  • Escada,
  • Judith Ripka
  • Juicy Couture
  • Lalique
  • L’Occitane
  • Le Creuset
  • Last Call by Neiman Marcus
  • Michael Kors
  • The North Face
  • Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th,
  • Thomas Pink
  • Ted Baker
  • Victoria’s Secret

Orlando Premium Outlets – Vineland Avenue
8200 Vineland Avenue
Orlando, FL 32821
The sister outlet to the Orlando Premium Outlets International location, this mall is just as large and just as impressive.  The 150 outlets stores available:

  • A|X Armani Exchange,
  • Banana Republic
  • Burberry
  • Calvin Klein
  • Coach
  • Diesel
  • CH Carolina Herrera
  • Fendi
  • Guess
  • Hugo Boss Factory Store
  • Kenneth Cole
  • Lacoste
  • Lucky Brand
  • MaxMara
  • Michael Kors
  • Nautica
  • Nike
  • Polo Ralph Lauren
  • True Religion
  • Tod’s
  • Zegna
Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores
15657 South Apopka Vineland Road
Orlando, FL 32821
Home to more traditional brands that are found in typical, middle-America malls, Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores is a bargain-lovers dream and a wonderful place to stock up on all your favorite brands.  Some of the stores available include:
  • Aeropostale
  • Disney Outlet
  • Eddie Bauer
  • Fossil
  • G By Guess
  • Gap
  • LOFT Outlet
  • Nike
  • Old Navy Outlet Exclusive
  • Timberland
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Under Armour
  • VF Outlet

This is just the start to shopping in Orlando.  However, a visit to these three malls will satisfy any need to splurge on yourself without breaking the bank.

Now is a spectacular time to plan your SeaWorld vacation as they have a full line-up of event scheduled for 2012.  No matter if you’re into music, animals or enjoy celebrating the holidays in all their splendor, Sea World Orlando has a variety of ways for your family to enjoy a day at the park.  In fact, you can enjoy two days at the park when you purchase discount SeaWorld Orlando tickets as they currently feature a second day FREE!  That’s on top off a $10 money-saving discount added to both adult and children’s tickets. 

The full line-up of SeaWorld Festivals:
Bands, Brew & BBQ: February 11 – March 4

Jack Hannah Weekend: Marc 24 – March 25

Viva La Musica: April 14 – May 5

Summer Nights at SeaWorld: June 23 – August 12

SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular: October 6 – October 28

SeaWorld Christmas Celebration: November 23 – December 31

New Year’s Eve at SeaWorld: December 31

SeaWorld is currently hosting the Just for Kids Festival through February 4.

Wet ‘n Wild Waterpark has announced details regarding their new attraction, slated to open in 2012. Covering an acre and featuring a new sandcastle-themed water playground, the new Kids’ Park is expected to be the largest of its kind in Florida. This will be the first new attraction at Wet ‘n Wild in four years.

The new interactive Kids’ Park at the Orlando attraction will feature an interactive water playground spanning more than 60-feet in height, expands across two pools (with an upper and lower level), and have more than 85,000 gallons of water for guests to soak up. The Sandcastle Playground area will encompass more than 15,000 square feet and will feature 17 slides and over 100 soakers, jets, waterfalls and water cannons. Built in the site of the existing Wet ‘n Wild kids’ area, this attraction will be a beach haven, complete with lush tropical landscaping and dedicated lounge areas.

Experience the world-class rides and attractions at Wet ‘n Wild Orlando, and you will see why Wet ‘n Wild is consistently voted America’s number one waterpark!

Universal Orlando Resort made some big announcements this morning during their media-only webcast.  Guests can look forward to a new parade and nighttime fountain show as the Orlando theme park celebrates 100 years of Universal Movies.  But that’s not all that was unveiled – an opening date for Despicable Me was also announced as well as an upgraded Spiderman ride and a new show for Blue Man Group. 

It’s shaping up to be a big year for Universal Orlando, with new experiences beginning in February:
  • Blue Man Group: Debuting in February at CityWalk, Blue Man Group is featuring a new show environment, new music, new technology and new experiences.  Signature Blue Man Group moments will remain, but new segments include the Blue Men interacting with an enormous “GiPads” and a new finale with an original Blue Man Group music score.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman: The ride upgrade for this attraction opens in March at Islands of Adventure.  Universal has transformed the ride into an all-new adventure as the attraction will have 4K digital high-definition animation, new high tech 3D elements, and set upgrades such as audio and lighting systems.  The upgraded attraction has an entirely new level of detail and creator of Spiderman – Stan Lee – even makes a cameo.
  • Universal’s Superstar Parade: Set for a Spring opening, Universal’s Superstar Parade will include some of today’s most beloved characters and stories.  Larger-than-life floats, state-of-the-art technology and hundreds of street performers will make the parade come to life.  Characters like the minions from Despicable Me, E.B. from Hop, Nickelodeon’s Dora and Diego and SpongeBob Squarepants will join the interactive experience. 
  • Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular – 100 Years of Movie Memories: Morgan Freeman will narrate this nighttime spectacular, celebrating the most powerful and emotional moments from Universal Pictures’ most iconic films.  The new nighttime show will appear on cutting-edge waterfall screens within the Universal Studios lagoon, surrounded by colorful fountains and pyrotechnics. 
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem: Universal’s newest ride attraction will open in Summer 2012.  The attraction will take guests on a 3D adventure with their favorite characters from the hit film, with the characters being voiced by the film’s original cast.  The attraction experience recruits riders for “minion training,” but once things don’t go as planned guests find themselves on a hysterical journey highlighted by an interactive, minion-inspired dance party.
  • Hollywood Drive-In Golf:  Located at CityWalk, this unique 36-hole miniature golf experience inspired by the classic drive-in movie era opens in February.
  • SpongeBob Squarepants Store:  A new SpongeBob Squarepants Store will take over a space at Universal Studios, although an opening date has not yet been set.
  • Family Splash Play Area: Universal Orlando’s sister park – Wet ‘n Wild – will open its first interactive family water place area this Summer.  Set in lush, tropical landscaping the new area will feature 15 waterslides and more than 100 soakers, jets, waterfalls and water cannons. 
This is undoubtedly a big year for Universal Orlando Theme Parks.  Be sure to get your Universal Orlando tickets today to experience all of the new things to do at Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios and Wet’n Wild.

Heading to Orlando?  Many people visit Orlando to explore the many Orlando theme parks, but there is a lot more to Orlando than just Mickey Mouse and Shamu. 

Take a look at some of the other things to do in Orlando, and you might be surprised at what you find.
  • Forever Florida:  This eco-attraction is home to Florida EcoSafaris that take guests into the heart of the real Florida.  Explore the 4700 acres of conservation area at Forever Florida galloping on horseback, flying through the skies on a zipline or on a guided coach safari.  Best of all this attraction packs a real value, with a safari trek starting at only $28. 
  • Gatorland:  Everyone knows Florida is famous for its gators, so what better way to experience Florida than to get up-close to this iconic creature.  At Gatorland, there are 110 acres to explore teeming with alligators and crocodiles.  The Gator Wrestling Show is a one-of-a-kind experience you have to see to believe and you’ll also want to feed the gators during your visit.  Strangely enough, the gators love hot dogs.  Be sure to buy a bag at the park and watch the feeding frenzy!
  • Downtown Disney: Okay, it might have Disney in the name but this entertainment hotspot is a different destination that caters to not only kids, but adults. At Downtown Disney, you’ll find an AMC Movie Theater boasting 24 screens, and some of the screening rooms even feature a dining option. This takes dinner and movie to a whole new level. Cirque di Soleil La Nouba is a unique and intriguing show that will captivate your attention, and if you’re seeking a music show check out the House of Blues. They consistently feature popular touring music acts. I recently caught a Colbie Caillat performance there and was impressed by the venue, the prices and the atmosphere.
  • Kennedy Space Center: This attraction may be a bit outside of Orlando’s orbit, but it is definitely worth the trek. Located about an hour’s drive east of Orlando, Kennedy Space Center covers 219 square miles. There is a lot to see and do here, but I recommend taking one of the bus tours from the visitor’s center to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. At the Apollo/Saturn V Center, you can climb the LC39 observation gantry overlooking the two main shuttle launch pads. It’s a historical sight to say the least and gives you an entirely new perspective of shuttle launches. For even more out-of-this-world insight, have lunch with an astronaut at Kennedy Space Center. It is included with their space pass admission.

LEGOLAND Florida has several special events planned for 2012. In its first full year of operation, the park is featuring events and festival that families, especially those with kids ages 2-12, can really enjoy. Build some memories at LEGOLAND this year.

2012 Events:

LEGO Friends Weekend
March 24-25
This is a daytime party for girls that includes a LEGO friends building event, entertainment, games, activities and more. This event celebrates individuality and building character.

Winter Haven Hospital Foundation Citrus Classic 5K
April 14
Run or walk during this charity 5K. The health event is designed for those of all ages.

Red, Brick and Boom
July 4
Celebrate the 4th of July with a band at LEGOLAND Florida. Guests will receive special 3D glassed that turn fireworks into millions of exploding bricks.

October Weekends
This Halloween event is held at LEGOLAND Orlando Florida every Saturday and Sunday in October. Themed treat stations with candy, snacks and surprises will be available.

LEGOLAND’s First Birthday
October 15
Celebrate LEGOLAND’s first anniversary in Florida with a special celebration.

Christmas Bricktacular
December Weekends
Festive decorations, a 270,000 brick Christmas tree and daily appearances by Santa Claus are planned.

Countdown to Kids’ New Year’s Eve
December 26-30
This event features nightly fireworks over Lake Eloise. Guests will receive special 3D glassed that turn fireworks into millions of exploding bricks.

Kids’ New Year’s Eve
December 31
The Kids’ New Year’s Eve features a giant LEGO brick drop to countdown until a kid-friendly midnight – 7pm. The event also includes fireworks and a DJ dance party.

All of the special events planned at LEGOLAND Florida theme park are included in park admission, except for the Citrus Classic 5K. It does require an admission fee to participate. Purchase discount LEGOLAND tickets to build memories with your family in 2012.

Walt Disney World Theme Parks in Orlando, Florida is welcoming President Obama as he visits the Magic Kingdom on Thursday the 19th.  The President will make a speech to Disney World Cast Members and his remarks are not open to the public.  In fact, an invitation is required.  He will discuss ways to boost tourism and travel and other opportunities for the Orlando area.

Here is what you need to know about the President’s visit and how it affects your day at Disney World:
  • Main Street U.S.A., including shops like the Emporium, will be closed to guests from the time of park opening to late afternoon.
  • When Magic Kingdom guests arrive, they will be directed through alternate routes to enjoy other areas of the park.
  • Main Street U.S.A will open in time for the “Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade” at 3:30pm.
  • All Walt Disney World transportation will operate on a normal basis, but delays are expected.
  • Package pickup will operate as normal.  Baby Care and First Aid will be moved to the entrance of Space Mountain.

All four theme parks, including Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom will be affected by the Presidential visit.  All parks will feature longer operating hours, with extended hours in the morning for Animal Kingdom, and extended hours in the evening for Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  Plus, a special fireworks show dubbed “Rock the Night!” is planned at 7pm at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Orlando has been named one of the World’s Top Destinations for 2012 by CNN.

The destinations for the CNN list were chosen by four travel experts from sites such as Smarter Travel and Lonely Planet, and include suggestions from Travel + Leisure and Budget Travel Magazine. Nine destination were picked in all, with Orlando ranked as No. 9 on the list.

Orlando, with over 50 million visitors each year, is a popular vacation destination for domestic and international travelers. Contributors at CNN stated the city was picked as a Top Destination for 2012 because of its abundance of Orlando attractions, as well as the unique elements that make up the city itself. They suggest making time to explore the city’s lakes, museums and scenic neighborhoods, as well as dine at some of the areas culinary delights, with an array of authentic, worldwide cuisine restaurants on the rise.

National events are also coming to Orlando, Florida in 2012, including the 61st NBA All-Star Weekend in February. This is just one more reason to make plans for an Orlando vacation in the New Year.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay begins their Real Music Concert Series today, January 18.  The concert series runs through March 24. Concerts are held each day at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

The Real Concert Series presents top names from music’s most notable eras.  Everything from big band music to sock hop classics will be performed, Wednesday through Saturday, at the Stanleyville Theater.
Schedule of Performers:
January 18-21: The Terry Myers Orchestra with The Swing Sisters
January 25-28: The Glenn Miller Orchestra with The Diamonds
February 1-4: Tony Orlando

February 8-11: Frankie Avalon
February 15-18: The Osmond Brothers
February 22-25: Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone
February 29-March 3: The Ventures
March 7-10: Rita Coolidge
March 14-17: The Grass Roots
March 21-24: Marylin McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.
All performances are included with the purchase of Busch Gardens tickets.

Universal will announce more details regarding new and exciting entertainment experiences for Universal Orlando Resort on January 25th.

Universal Studios is promising a big year for guests, as previously reported in an article about marking their 100th anniversary of moviemaking.  A brand new attraction, a mini-golf course and enhancement’s to one of their existing attractions is in the works.  However, more details will be released about what’s to come in 2012 during a media-only webcast on January 25th at 10:30am. 
The current speculation includes of what’s in store includes:
  • A new lagoon show to replace Cinesphere 360 – It is believed that new show will pay homage to Universal Studios movies
  • Jaws ride replacement – Rumor has it the area will be used for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Expansion
  • New Parade
  • Hollywood Drive-In Mini Golf – An opening time is expected to be announced

Stay tuned for details regarding the Universal Orlando announcement.