Blue Man Group 1When one vacations in Orlando, Florida feeling blue is out of the question.  The sunny skies, palm trees and laid back atmosphere simply leave no room for the blues.  The Universal Orlando Resort, however, knows a little blue is just the ticket when it comes to entertaining the masses. Famous for their thrilling rides at Islands of Adventure and behind-the-scenes fun at Universal Studios, this Orlando theme park excels at providing quality amusement. CityWalk, their outdoor entertainment complex featuring restaurants, clubs, movies, music, shops and dancing, also offers plenty of ways to entertain, including the Blue Man Group, who perform at the Blue Man Theater.  They provide all the blue one needs while vacationing in Orlando.

Blue Man Group_UO_1Attending a Blue Man Group show is an amazing experience for a number of reasons.  When I arrived at the massive Universal Orlando Resort complex, I quickly headed towards CityWalk and thoroughly enjoyed the sights and sounds that surrounded me.  Because CityWalk has so many things to do, I decided to take part in some pre-show festivities at the Hard Rock Café, which is located very near to the Sharp Aquos Theater.  I’ve been to several Hard Rock Cafes, and this one is definitely one of my favorites.  The rock ‘n roll memorabilia, rotating pink Cadillac and attention to good music created an atmosphere perfect for relaxing and enjoying the company of good friends.

Blue Man Group_UO_4As my 7pm show time drew near, I made my way to the theater and easily found my seats, which were close enough to see all the action and nuances, but not close enough to have to wear a poncho. The first couple of rows of seats require patrons to wear ponchos as things can get pretty messy, pretty quickly when paint, food and blue men are on the stage.  Before the show began, my fellow audience members and I took part in what I can only call “Mass Simon Says,” as phrases are scrolled on a digital screen and the audience is prompted to repeat them.  The hilarity ensues when the phrases become pointed at certain audience members, and moreover, signals the high amount of interactivity this show requires from guests. Throughout every segment, I felt a part of the show as opposed to feeling likeI was watching a show.

Blue Man Group_UOThe energetic mix of music, comedy and multimedia theatrics during the Blue Man Group Orlando show create a unique production that leaves an undeniable impression, and yet, it also leaves you at a loss for words as to how to explain the show to others.  How do you explain how simple nuanced facial expressions can make an entire audience howl with laughter?  Or how a girl plucked from the audience to dine on stage with the Blue Men could make a simple scenario one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen?  Furthermore, how can one possibly put into words how gleefully fun it is to have rolls of toilet paper  move over your head as you get covered in mounds of tissue?  And to describe the musical elements of the show, especially the Cyber Café segment, would be bordering on the absurd, as there are simply no words to express what my eyes witnessed.

The truly amazing thing about the Blue Man Group Show at Universal Orlando Resort is that afterwards you feel like you just watched something special.  You can’t quite put it into words, but you know you liked what you saw and even more, you can’t wipe the silly grin from your face that’s been plastered there for the past two hours.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

When you vacation at Disney World the memory-making experiences are at every turn. You’ll want to capture these special moments with photos, both personal and those taken by professional Disney photographers. Get everyone in the picture at scenic spots, attractions and even during Disney character greetings. Curious about how to make the most of Disney World PhotoPass service? Follow these tips.

IMG_46351) Understand PhotoPass Service
Before you can make the most of the Disney World PhotoPass service, you need to understand exactly what it is. PhotoPass is Disney’s photo service that makes it easy for you to view, share and even download your photos. Disney PhotoPass photographers are located at all of the iconic locations at Walt Disney World, and photos taken on rides like Splash Mountain are also synced to your account. How are they synced? You can link your photos to your account via a MagicBand, Disney PhotoPass card, Memory Maker card or annual pass.

2) Ask for What you Want
It’s your vacation—don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, politely of course. For example, the Disney PhotoPass photographers can take photos with your personal camera. This way, you can avoid paying for professional photo downloads. Photographers are more than happy to do this, so be sure to ask. Generally I have them take one professional shot, then have them snap a few on my personal camera.

IMG_47823) Put the My Disney Experience App to Work
Relatively new to the Disney World scene, some park-goers are still unsure about using the My Disney Experience app. Don’t be! It’s a lifesaver when it comes to managing your FastPasses, finding ride wait times, navigating the park, making dinner reservations and for syncing your Disney photos. When you use your MagicBand, an essential component of the My Disney Experience app, you can automatically sync your ride photos and Disney PhotoPass photographer photos to your mobile app for instant viewing, sharing and downloading. The app even shares where Disney PhotoPass photographers are located, and with free Wi-Fi throughout the park, using it won’t run your data plan up.

1574) Be Unique
Everyone gets their photo taken on Main Street U.S.A. with Cinderella’s Castle, and you should too. But, don’t be afraid to be unique and switch things up. There are over 8 different vantage points of the picturesque Cinderella Castle, so start with a classic on Main Street and then let Disney photographers point out other perfect spots. Be sure to include a photo with the castle lit up at night—it’s gorgeous! The Magic Kingdom is an ideal place for character photos, all of which can be synced to Disney’s PhotoPass service. When you interact with Mickey, Minnie and friends be yourself and have fun. Some of my favorite’s photos have been me spontaneously hugging Minnie, making magic moves with Mickey and flexing my muscles with Buzz Lightyear. Whatever you do, just be you!

1045) Consider Using Memory Maker
Memory Maker can be a bit pricey (on average $169), but for families who love photos it can be totally worth it. Purchasing the service lets you obtain any photos taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers, as well as some candid shots, dining location photos, and attraction photos. There is no limit to how many photos you can take and with so many photo ops available throughout the park, it can quickly become a money saver as individual prints from Disney can get expensive (around $14.95 per photo). Keep Disney’s Memory Maker in mind if you want to capture every minute of your vacation.

Put these tips to use to make the most of the Disney PhotoPass service. You’ll come away with priceless photos that can be cherished for years to come. Get ready to get your grin on!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Families can count on LEGOLAND in Orlando to build fun times geared towards kids. This year, with the theme park celebrating its 5th birthday, the special events and attractions are bigger and better than ever. What’s happening at LEGOLAND in Orlando for 2016? Read on to find out.

LEGOLAND_Florida_(45959)January 29: The LEGO Movie 4D: A New Adventure
“The LEGO Movie 4D A New Adventure” picks up where the smash-hit movie left off when this dazzling new attraction premieres to guests. In an all-new story created exclusively for LEGOLAND® theme parks and LEGOLAND Discovery Centers, Emmet, Wyldstyle, Unikitty, MetalBeard and Benny reunite at the invitation of a shady new character, Risky Business, who plans to open a curious theme park bearing a suspicious resemblance to LEGOLAND. The 12 ½-minute 3D film will play several times a day in the Wells Fargo Fun Town Theater, with “4D” effects such as wind, water, fog and more bringing the action bursting off the screen and into the audience.

February 6-28: “The LEGO® Movie 4D” Weekends
Every Saturday and Sunday, you’re invited to celebrate the new adventure of Emmet and his friends with an awesome new event featuring extended park hours, kid-centric activities and meet-and-greet opportunities with every character from the new attraction, including some never seen before in a LEGOLAND® theme park. A fantastic firework display will close out each night.

2011.10.14_LEGOLANDWATERPARK.jpgMarch 12: LEGOLAND® Water Park Opens
For the 2016 season, there’s an all-new attraction for kids in an expanded area that puts a nautical new twist on the park. Come enjoy a full summer floating along Build-A-Raft River, splishing and splashing in DUPLO® Splash Safari and the Joker Soaker water playground, enjoying a dip in the LEGO Wave Pool, or speed down the Splash Out and Twin Chasers slides. LEGOLAND Water Park will be open on select dates March 12 through October, with daily operation in June, July and August.

April 16: Brick Dash 5K Fun Run and Walk
This Polk County fundraising tradition benefits Winter Haven Hospital Foundation’s Fund for Women and Children by winding its way through the early-morning beauty of LEGOLAND® Florida theme park. The community-focused wellness event welcomes runners and walkers of all ages and offers every participant an exclusive discount to enjoy the park after the event. Registration is required, along with a nominal fee to participate, and will be available online soon.

2011.08.28_LEGOLANDFL_RIDES_001.jpgJune 18 – July 31: LEGOLAND Night Lights
Every Saturday and Sunday, celebrate summer during LEGOLAND®Night Lights, another brand-new event that lets kids party past their bedtime with extended park hours, high-energy dance parties, uniquely LEGO® light displays and much more. Plus, enjoy a spectacular, brick-tacular fireworks show in the sky above Lake Eloise each night of the festivities with a special patriotic show on July 4th.

September 10 and 11: LEGO® Club Weekends Featuring LEGO® Star Wars™ Miniland Model Display
LEGOLAND brings the force to guests in 2016. Meet LEGO Darth Vader, learn tricks of the trade from one of our resident Master Model Builders as they show you step-by-step how to build a LEGO Star Wars set, find the hidden items in our Yoda Scavenger Hunt, help build a LEGO Star Wars mural and engage in many more out-of-this-world activities. Best of all, end the night with a custom fireworks show designed just for this event.

LEGOLAND_HalloweenSelect dates in October: Brick or Treat
Brick or Treat will be back with more spooky, kooky Halloween fun for kids. Expanded in 2015, the friendly-not-frightening event features trick-or-treating along the Brick or Treat Trail, larger-than-life LEGO models, LEGO build activities, the world’s largest LEGO® jack-o-lantern, a scavenger hunt with prizes, and an exclusive, Halloween-themed fireworks show in Pirates’ Cove.

October 7, 14, 21 and 28: Firefighter Fridays
Firefighter Fridays return in conjunction with the National Fire Protection Association. Come kick off NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week with fun, educational activities that teach kids the importance of fire safety. Every Friday during the month, you’ll also be able to meet some of the real-life firefighters who help keep Polk County safe.

LEGOLAND_Florida_(016)October 15: LEGOLAND’s 5th Birthday
The park’s fifth birthday arrives after a whirlwind of growth and expansion, including additions like LEGOLAND® Water Park, World of Chima™, DUPLO®Valley, Heartlake City and the five-story LEGOLAND Hotel. Come celebrate during a day of fun and surprises.

Select Dates in December: Christmas Bricktacular
Christmas Bricktacular returns to deck the halls with a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree made of thousands of LEGO® and DUPLO® bricks, festive decorations, a life-size LEGO Santa, reindeer and sleigh, holiday-themed scavenger hunts with prizes and opportunities to build with LEGO alongside our Master Model Builders. Meet LEGO Santa and LEGO Toy Soldier during daily park appearances and end the evening with a not-so-silent-night fireworks spectacular set to classic Christmas melodies.

LEGOLAND_4thofJulyDecember 31: Kid’s New Year’s Eve
Kids’ New Year’s Eve is the perfect way to ring in the New Year before bedtime. Come see the giant LEGO® brick drop at a very kid-friendly hour, move and groove at an exclusive dance party and wind down the year with awesome fireworks – all before midnight.

This is what’s happening at LEGOLAND in Orlando for 2016. Which event are you most excited about?

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

If you’re looking to be close to all the action in Orlando, book a hotel along International Drive. I-Drive is home to theme parks like SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and Wet ‘n Wild, along with hundreds of stores and restaurants. Our hotels on International Drive in Orlando offer convenience and great amenities that will make your vacation unforgettable.

Floridays_Resort_(001)Some of the top hotels on International Drive in Orlando include:

Floridays Resort
A luxurious condo-style resort, Floridays Resort offers all-suite accommodations in the heart of Lake Buena Vista on International Drive. Each two- and three-bedroom suite feature Mediterranean-style décor with full kitchens, a washer and dryer set, flat-screen TVs, and more. Floridays Resort also features two pools, a game room, an on-site convenience store, Wi-Fi, and scheduled shuttle services.Enclave Suites

Enclave Suites
Enclave Suites is centrally located in Orlando, Florida one block from famous International Drive . Enclave Suites Orlando is close to many restaurants, shops, and attractions. Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, City Walk, SeaWorld and Walt Disney World are nearby. Your family can also visit Wet ‘N Wild, just a short walk from our Orlando suite hotel.

CoCo_Key_Hotel_and_Water_Resort_(030)Coco Key Orlando Hotel & Water Park
CoCo Key Orlando Hotel & Water Park delivers family-friendly fun for everyone. Capturing the tropical spirit of the Florida Keys, this Orlando resort offers a relaxing, sun-filled vacation for adults and an exciting, fun-filled adventure for kids. Kids will love the outdoor/canopy-covered water park while parents will enjoy basking in the warmth of the beautiful, tropical themed Orlando resort.

The_Point_Orlando_Resort_(028)The Point Orlando Resort
The Point Orlando Resort, Orlando’s newest luxury condominium hotel of contemporary European elegance, is located in the heart of International Drive less than 2 miles from Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando/Orange County Convention Center, minutes from Walt Disney World Resort, Sea World and walking distance to the I-Ride Trolley, shopping, dining, Wet N ’Wild and nightlife entertainment. Orlando Int’l Airport is just about 10 miles away.

Westgate_Palace___A_Two_Bedroom_Condo_Resort_(27900)Westgate Palace
Located just off world-famous International Drive, Westgate Palace is in a class by itself. The two-towers vacation resort feature 408 lavishly appointed suites with fully equipped gourmet kitchens. Westgate Palace is within walking distance of Wet ‘n’ Wild Water Park, Universal Orlando Resort and area outlet malls. Enjoy a spectacular view of the surrounding area, elegantly decorated lobby, heated swimming pool with panoramic sun deck and pool bar, video arcade, and a complete line-up of daily family activity fun.

Lake_Eve_Resort_(067)Lake Eve Resort
Lake Eve Resort is well removed from the crowded resort areas, yet still conveniently located to Orlando entertainment. The resort is on the quiet side of International Drive in an ideal location that provides both tranquility and convenience to the most popular Orlando attractions. At Lake Eve Resort, our spacious two and three bedroom luxury suites are furnished to the highest quality and taste. Experience sophisticated resort living with true luxury features and services yet, still have all the comforts of home. 

Clarion_Inn_and_Suites_International_Drive_(14653)Clarion Inn & Suites
The Clarion Inn and Suites is located off world-famous International Drive, minutes from Orlando International Airport and adjacent to Orange County Convention Center. The Clarion Inn & Suites is a Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotel and provides free scheduled transportation to Disney World and Universal Studios. All rooms have hairdryers, flat-screen televisions, coffee makers, safes, irons, ironing boards, work desks, pillow-top mattresses, voice mail and cable television.

Ramada_Plaza_Resort___Suites_International_Drive_(029)Ramada Plaza Resort
Overlooking Sandy Lake, the Ramada Plaza Resort & Suites International Drive Orlando is centrally located on world famous International Drive adjacent to Magical Midway Thrill Park and just 2 blocks from Wet ‘n Wild, 1 mile from Universal Orlando® Resort, 3 miles from SeaWorld® Orlando, 9 miles from Walt Disney World® Resort and only 20 minutes from Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Reserve a room at any of these properties and you’re sure to have a relaxing yet exciting time in sunny Orlando.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.


Check out these Orlando events happening February 2016:

February 6 – April 16:  Universal Studios Mardi Gras
Take part in one of the most spectacular Mardi Gras celebrations outside of New Orleans at Universal Orlando. On Saturdays and select nights during the spring, enjoy live concerts, parades, street performers, and authentic Cajun cuisine.

February 6: Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival & Birdapalooza
Get close to nature during this second annual event, held 9am-4pm. Birdapalooza celebrates the rich variety of birds and wildlife found in the natural habitat of Lake Apopka, Florida.

February 6-7: Mount Dora Arts Festival
Listen to local and regional musical talent while browsing endless rows of fine art. It’s a true day in the park during the Mount Dora Arts Festival, held from 10am-5pm. The juried arts show is located in Downtown Mount Dora, a quant New England-esque town bordering Lake Dora.

February 12-14: WINEFEST XXV
Lakeridge Winery hosts free festivities, wine tours and tastings. Plus, a Winter Wine Festival is held each Saturday night in January and WINEFEST XXV takes place February 12-14, 2015.

February 13 – March 6: Bands, Brew & BBQ
Salute America’s military while enjoying live concerts and delicious favorite foods at SeaWorld theme park. Hosted in partnership with the USO.

February 13: Indie-Folkfest at the Mennello Museum
Indie-Folkfest is a reimagined version of the Orlando Folkfest. The event is a Valentine’s Day-themed family picnic featuring local music, original art vendors plus foodie-friendly goodies and craft beverages for sale. Bring your picnic blankets, make valentine cards, and enjoy an afternoon of music. Held from noon-5pm. Free admission.

February 18-21:  Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend
The half marathon weekend features fun and athletic competitions for the whole family. Events include Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, Disney Royal Family 5K, runDisney Royal Family Kids’ Races, Disney’s Fit for a Princess Expo, and Pasta in the Park Party.

Disney World Orlando may be known as the happiest place on Earth, but it’s also home to some top-notch Disney World thrill rides. From the Magic Kingdom to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the attractions at theme park pack an adrenaline punch.  If you’re the type, like me, who wants to mix the wonder of Disney characters and whimsy with exciting, heart-pumping rides this list is for you. Add adrenaline to your Orlando itinerary with this list of the top five Disney World thrill rides. 

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Top 5 Disney World Thrill Rides

1) Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
There is simply no better thrill within Disney World than the epic drop ride that is Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Disney has created a magnificently themed attraction, based on legend of The Hollywood Tower Hotel. Your elevator has been struck by lightning, sending passengers into the Twilight Zone. Is the elevator possessed or simply malfunctioning? Either way, you’re sure to walk away with a rush at this Disney Hollywood Studios pick.

Family Aerosmith Disney Hollywood Studios Copyright_RSZ2) Aerosmith Rock ‘n Roller Coaster
Climb aboard for a fast-paced, indoor coaster experience starring Aerosmith. This coaster is located right next door to Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios, making it easy to ride both without traversing the park. This is a top thrill ride for me because of its dark aspect, making each twist and turn a total surprise. The fun factor is also amped as you’re hanging out with Aerosmith. I mean, those guys are legends!

3) Test Track
This newly revamped Epcot attraction packs a punch with its high speeds. Part coaster, part interactive experience, Test Track allows guests to create their own car then test its performance. Once designed, you climb into an actual car on a track then zoom forward to see how your car measures up. The visual stylings definitely standout, and have science-fiction, far-out quality. Excitement really builds as you hit the open track, hitting speeds and up to 65mph.

expedition everest4) Expedition: Everest
You can’t miss Expedition: Everest while visiting Animal Kingdom. The gargantuan mountain housing the ride is 200 feet tall after all. It ranks as one of the best thrill rides for its intense theming and unique elements like riding backwards. The theming of the ride is a true highlight; every element from the queue to the inside of the mountain and Yeti you race against are elaborately done.

5) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
This might be a surprise pick, but it’s a favorite thrill ride families can enjoy together. Some of the others might be too much for younger visitors. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, while not a kiddie ride by any stretch, is tame enough at speeds of only 28mph. That said, the quick pace kept while traveling through the caves of the railroad, and up and down rocky cliffs, it can seem much faster. This is a great option for an appealing family thrill inside the Magic Kingdom at Disney World.

Purchase discount Disney tickets to tackle all of these adrenaline-inducing thrill rides!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.