Just in time for summer vacation, one of the fiercest underwater legends has come to life in an entirely new way. SeaWorld Orlando’s original roller coaster offers an adventure for thrill-seeking guests unlike any other when Kraken Unleashed opens to the public June 16.
Kraken Unleashed is a first-of-its-kind virtual reality roller coaster in the United States, with fully integrated headsets. The completely immersive experience takes riders on an exploratory journey under the sea. As they sail along the powerful coaster track, complete with deep dives, steep turns and seven complete inversions, a fully integrated story unfolds. The result is a fantastical voyage past gigantic sea monsters, and an unexpected, unforgettable encounter with the legendary Kraken sea monster.
Family Vacation Critic, TripAdvisor’s family travel site, has just named the Best Amusement Parks for Families in 2017 – naming the best parks in the U.S., and sharing the year’s newest attractions and highlights for every age group.
“Amusement parks are one of the most quintessential summertime activities for families,” explains Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. “But for those traveling with family members of various ages – including kids-at-heart – finding a park that caters to thrill-seekers and the younger set isn’t always so easy. This list includes parks that successfully cater to both, and those that also have exciting new features for the 2017 season.”
The list of the best amusement parks for families in 2017 include:
- Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH)
What’s New: Cedar Point Shores, an 18-acre waterpark located along Lake Erie with 17 water attractions for all ages, VIP cabanas, restaurants, shopping and live entertainment.
- Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN)
What’s New: Drop Line, a 230-foot tall drop tower, with a spinning gondola that offers riders a breathtaking view of the Great Smoky Mountains. Also joining the park in 2017 is Whistle Punk Chaser, a junior coaster positioned as a great first-coaster for younger park visitors.
- Hersheypark (Hershey, PA)
What’s New: Hershey Triple Tower offers three drop towers for park guests to choose from – Hershey’s Tower, the tallest at 189-feet high; Reese’s Tower, is the second tallest at 131-feet high; and Hershey’s Kisses Tower standing at 80-feet tall.
- Kings Island (Mason, OH)
What’s New: Mystic Timbers, a 3,265-foot long wooden coaster with a 48″ height requirement – making it an ideal coaster for riders of various ages.
- Silver Dollar City (Branson, MO)
What’s New: New Silver Dollar Food Days run from July 31 – August 20, highlighting favorite festival food like funnel cakes, kettle corn and milkshakes, and taking them to new levels.
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure (Orlando, FL)
What’s New: For guests visiting the park, plan a trip to Universal Orlando Resort’s newest water theme park, Volcano Bay – a 25-acre park featuring 18 unique attractions including a wave pool, winding river, raft rides, body slides and more.
- Universal Studios (Hollywood, CA and Orlando, FL)
What’s New: Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon brings guests a simulated race through New York City – a history of The Tonight Show, Hashtag the Panda and the Ragtime Gals barbershop quartet also join in the fun.
- Six Flags (Nationwide)
What’s New: Six Flags is unveiling new rides at each of its parks across North America, including Warner Brothers and DC Comics-branded rides and attractions.
About Family Vacation Critic
Family Vacation Critic® is a comprehensive online travel resource for families that offers reviews of family hotels, resort and destinations. The site features vacation ideas, family travel tips and an online forum for family travelers. Family Vacation Critic is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc.
From the wonder of nature and blood-pumping excitement of thrill rides to the anticipation of new craft brews and joy of 50-year-old music and memories, there is no better place than Ohio to connect with the people who mean the most to you in 2017.
For more travel ideas and inspiration, visit Ohio.org. Download the free “Official Ohio Travel Guide by TourismOhio” app for easy access to everything you need to explore Ohio…
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Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom opens May 27 at the Walt Disney World Resort. The all-new land will immerse guests in a mystical world of massive floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and breathtaking new experiences.
The largest addition in the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Pandora carries on the park’s tradition of celebrating the intrinsic value of nature, transformation through adventure and a personal call to action.
Based on Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron’s record-breaking box-office hit, AVATAR, the new land welcomes guests to the lush world of Pandora long after the human conflict with the native Na’vi inhabitants has ended. The dramatic daytime beauty of the land transforms to glow by night when bioluminescent flora and intricate nighttime experiences add a dreamlike quality to Pandora.
Pandora – The World of Avatar is a creative collaboration of Walt Disney Imagineering, Cameron and Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment.
“We are taking our guests on a journey to this world in an experience that’s as realistic and immersive as possible,” says Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. “In the movie, the world of Pandora is a setting for the action and characters whose story we follow. Here, guests are the primary characters immersed in an extremely vivid, authentic experience.”
Guests to Disney’s Animal Kingdom cross the park’s Discovery River into Pandora – The World of Avatar and continue along a winding rainforest path for their first glimpse of the land’s iconic floating mountains.
“When guests come across the bridge, they are transferred light-years away, to the Alpha-Centauri solar system and Pandora,” says Jon Landau, AVATAR producer, Lightstorm Entertainment. “It’s an otherworldly, fully-themed experience.”
As guests explore the verdant terrain sprawling beneath mountains that appear to float in the sky, they see waterfalls cascading down the mountainside into meandering streams and pools, and they discover two thrilling new expeditions: Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.
Avatar Flight of Passage launches each guest on an exhilarating, wind-in-your-face experience on a winged mountain banshee over the awe-inspiring world of Pandora. Guests will actually feel the banshee breathe beneath them as they soar through the forest and past floating mountains. What was a rite of passage for Na’vi in Cameron’s film becomes a multisensory experience for guests seeking the ultimate adventure – a faceoff with the most feared predator of Pandora, the Great Leonopteryx.
On the family-friendly Na’vi River Journey, guests travel down a sacred river deep into a bioluminescent rainforest. The eight-seat reed boats float past exotic glowing plants and Pandoran creatures into the midst of a musical Na’vi ceremony. The mystical journey culminates in an encounter with a breathtakingly realistic Na’vi Shaman of Songs who is deeply connected with Pandora’s life force and sends positive energy through her music into the forest.
“The Pandora landscape will be alive with creatures,” Rohde says. “We’re bringing to life everything from the largest creature you might encounter to the most microscopic. Animals will appear out of the underbrush – big Pandoran animals will appear at the edge of the forest and you’ll hear the very complicated calls they issue back and forth.”
The thriving Pandoran landscape conveys intrinsic park messages of the value of nature, transformation through adventure and conservation and stewardship.
The artful storytelling in Pandora continues as guests stop for sustenance at the land’s Satu’li Canteen (pronounced “Sa-too-lee”), a Quonset-hut-style building. The fast-casual restaurant is inspired the healthful bounty of Pandora – wholesome grains, fresh vegetables, and hearty proteins. Guests can grab a drink at nearby Pongu Pongu.
Windtraders is a shopper’s delight where guests can choose from Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more.
Authenticity and realism were drivers in the creation of Pandora, and the result is a world beyond belief.
“The attractions have very deliberate emotional moments crafted into them, the way a good story does, the way a good film does.” Rohde says. “It’s not as simple as just coming to a place that looks realistic. It’s a place that’s been deliberately imbued with the emotions of awe, of wonder, of respect, of harmony.”
Miami Beach has long been touted as a top destination for its miles of world-class beaches and famed nightlife. This year, travelers seeking a getaway with a side of cultural enrichment can dive-in, head first, with a variety of unique shows and experiences that showcase Miami Beach’s artistic side. With a diverse March calendar packed with cabaret dinner shows and symphonic masterpieces, guests visiting Miami Beach this month will have no shortage of events to enjoy.
“In addition to a vibrant beach and night life scene, Miami Beach also offers a collection of cultural events that span music, theater and performing arts,” says Peggy Benua, Chair of the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority (MBVCA). “From the New World Symphony’s complimentary WALLCAST Concert to this month’s Miami Beach Youth Music Festival, visitors and locals have the opportunity to experience our special local talent, firsthand.”
An array of performing arts and theater venues call Miami Beach home, including The Colony Theatre and the New World Center, offering stunning sensory-awakening performances. The New World Symphony’s free WALLCAST concert series is premiering a show of the “Symphonic Giants” on March 25th. The WALLCAST concerts are free and open to the public and projected on the soaring 7,000-square-foot wall of the New World Center at SoundScape Park.
In the Faena District, the cabaret-styled “C’est Rouge!” dinner show, the illusion performance “Magique: Experience the Illusion”, and the “Return to Tomorrow” art exhibit are all being showcased this month. Though a newcomer to the Miami Beach arts scene, The Faena District has quickly become a cultural cornerstone, featuring attractions such as the Old Hollywood-inspired Faena Theater and the Faena Forum, which hosts several seasonal modern art exhibits.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to support local talent at the inaugural Miami Beach Youth Music Festival at the North Beach Bandshell on March 18th. The event, hosted by the City of Miami Beach and The Rhythm Foundation, offers young Miami Beach musicians the chance to perform live in front of a large audience.
“Miami Beach has evolved into a true cultural hot spot”, says Grisette Roque, Executive Director of the MBVCA. “The destination offers such diverse entertainment options, night and day; Miami Beach is truly like no other place in the world.”
For more information about cultural happenings and ticket information, download the Miami Beach Information App at www.MiamiBeachAPI.com.