Out and About: Previewing the New Crayola Experience at the Florida Mall in Orlando

Today (July 1), the new Crayola Experience opens at the Florida Mall in Orlando, to entertain families. Yesterday, my family and I had a chance to preview the Crayola Experience during a media event.

Crayola Experience opens at the Florida Mall - crayola crayons by Kirk Garreans

I was unsure what to expect as this is a new experience in Orlando. The original Crayola Experience, however, has been open for over 18 years in Easton, Pennsylvania, and this Orlando location marks their second location. So we went with an open mind, as well as a lot of excitement. Who doesn’t love Crayola, right?

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Out and About: Taking the Family to See Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Production of The Frog and the Princess

Last Sunday the family and I attended a Father’s Day matinee performance of The Frog and the Princess by the Orlando Shakespeare Theater company. Not just a play, it required audience participation, which made it all the more fun.

The Frog and the Princess by the Orlando Shakespeare Theater

You know the Brothers Grimm story: Prince likes Princess but is turned into a frog, frog must win Princesses heart and be kissed to become human again… blah, blah bah. But this production of the classic fable has a twist. Since I am not into giving away spoilers, you must go see this show to see what happens, but it updates the tale nicely.

The Frog and the Princess by the Orlando Shakespeare Theater
My husband Kirk as one of the princes at The Frog and the Princess by the Orlando Shakespeare Theater

The show is only about an hour long, so it’s easy to sit through, even for our seven-year-old. It’s in a smaller more intimate theatre, which adds to the fun.

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Out and About: Orlando Shakespeare Theater Makes The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley So Much Fun for the Family

Orlando Shakespeare Theater presents The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley

Introducing children to the beauty of theater can be a little difficult. Shows steered towards children tend to be boring for the parents and shows that are more for the adults are hardly able to entertain the little ones. To find a happy medium is usually difficult. The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley is one of those happy mediums.

My family and I were able to see the show on Saturday (10/25), and we enjoyed every moment of it. The show is based on the popular kid’s book series, Flat Stanley, written by Jeff Brown. It’s about a boy who becomes flat and makes the best of an odd situation. The musical does differ from the book series in how Stanley becomes flat and how he’s cured, but if you aren’t a stickler for continuity (or have never read the books like me) then it really isn’t a big deal.

The show starts with meeting the adorable Lambchop family. Instead of Stanley and his little brother, Arthur, going to bed, they stay up singing about doing great things when a shooting star flies over and Stanley makes a wish to be able to see the world while “doing things no one else has ever seen before.” The next morning, Stanley wakes up to a much flatter self. After talking to the mailman, Mrs. Cortero, Stanley decides to mail himself to visit his friend in California. Once there, he meets a Hollywood producer who sends him to France and Hawaii. After Stanley has his fill of adventures, he decides home in the best place to be.

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2013 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival to Run September 27 through November 11

epcotfoodwine2The 18th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is only a few months away, and it will feature flavors from six continents, with more than 25 marketplaces to sample from. It will run from September 27 through November 11, 2013.

New this year is the Scotland Marketplace, added due to the popularity of the Disney film, “Brave.” No word on the exact menu offerings, but Disney says it will feature “traditional flavors with a twist ” that will pair well with the beer, mead, and Scotch offerings.

The Brazil Marketplace will return after a one-year hiatus, but it will feature a new menu. Hopefully, they’ll bring back the frozen Caipirinha. Also returning will be the Hawaii Marketplace, with its yummy Kalua Pork Slider, and Terra, with delicious vegan offerings like Trick’n Chicken Curry.

In addition to the marketplace kiosks, renowned chefs like Warren Brown, Paula DaSilva, Gale Gand, Jamie Deen, Robert Irvine, Dean Max, Rock Harper, Jeff Henderson, Art Smith, Buddy Valastro, Allen Susser, “Cake Boy” Eric Lanlard, Duskie Estes and John Stewart, Donald Link, Bryan Voltaggio and Emily Ellyn will share their talents during culinary demos and premium events.

The nightly Eat to the Beat concerts will feature a wide variety of acts from the Go-Go’s to Sugar Ray to Manhattan Transfer to Boyz II Men. We posted the full Eat to the Beat line-up a few days ago. These concerts are free with park admission.

Authentic Taste seminars, Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog, special book signings, cultural adventures, Marketplace Discovery Passport and all attractions and park entertainment are also included with regular Epcot admission.

The food and beverage samples, some culinary demos and wine seminars, and special events like Party for the Senses, are an additional cost.

For more information on the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, visit epcotfoodfestival.com.

Chocolate Kingdom Attraction and Retail Store Opens in Kissimmee


If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll love the new attraction that has opened in Kissimmee.

Chocolate Kingdom, the Factory Adventure Tour, located at 5720 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, near Old Town and Fun Spot, opened on December 31, 2012.

According to the company, the attraction is an interactive journey that uncovers how chocolate transforms from a bean into edible delights like candy bars and more.

There is also a chocolate museum, a river of chocolate, and the opportunity to create a custom chocolate bar.

Chocolate Kingdom is open daily from noon to 8pm, with tours leaving every hour from 1pm to 7pm. Admission is $15 for 13 and over; $12 for ages 4-12. The tour takes between 45 minutes and an hour.

For more information, call 407-705-3475 or visit the Chocolate Kingdom Facebook page.

SeaWorld Orlando to End Makahiki Luau Dinner Show at End of September

SeaWorld Orlando has announced it is ending its long-running Polynesian-themed luau dinner show.


The Makahiki Luau will say a final “aloha” to the park on September 30, 2012.

The dinner show takes place in the Seafire Inn near the waterfront, and admission includes live entertainment and the meal.

Menu items include salad, entree (Hawaiian chicken, Polynesian-Style BBQ pork, fish in a pina colada sauce, and a stir-fried vegetable medley), plus a dessert and non-alcoholic beverages.

There is also a children’s menu and a cash bar.

Cost for the luau is $46 per person ($29 for children), and park admission is not needed.

Reservations are required and can be made online at SeaWorldOrlando.com.

SeaWorld Orlando has not said what, if anything, will replace the Makahiki Luau.

[Image courtesy of SeaWorld Orlando]

See Space Shuttle Endeavour One Last Time at Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has put together some special viewing events for the space shuttle Endeavour before it heads for its future home in California.


On September 14 and 15, KSC will have a bus tour that includes a drive-by of Endeavour and the specially designed Boeing 747 that will carry it cross-country, as well as Launch Pad 39-A and the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Cost is $20 for those over 12 and $14 ages 3-11, in addition to regular admission.

Then, on September 17, visitors will be able to view the beginning of Endeavour’s trip to its new home. Guests can watch as it crosses above the KSC complex’s Rocket Garden. This is included with regular admission. However, for an additional $40, you can view the take-off from the limited seating area at the Shuttle Landing facility.

Until then, Endeavour is currently in the KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building, and guests that take the special tour of that building will be able to get up close to the shuttle.

Next year, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will open a specially built area that will house the space shuttle Atlantis, the only one to remain in Florida.

Regular admission to KSC is $50 over 12 and $40 ages 3-11. During the month of September, you can save $5 if you purchase in advance online.

For more info or to purchase tickets, go to kennedyspacecenter.com or call 877-313-2610.

[Photo courtesy of NASA]

River Otters Exhibit to Open at Central Florida Zoo September 1

The Central Florida Zoo is adding a new exhibit and it’s all about the river otter.


North American river otters are native to Central Florida and this natural environment exhibit will feature a waterfall and pond to watch the otters swim and play.

The zoo will hold the grand opening on Saturday, September 1, 2012, at 10am.

The Central Florida Zoo is located at 3755 NW Hwy 17-92 in Sanford. Admission is $12.95 for age 13 and up, $10.95 for seniors 60+, and $8.95 for kids age 3-12. Central Florida Zoo members are free.

[image courtesy Central Florida Zoo]

Great American Pie Festival Returns to Celebration This Weekend

If you like a good slice of pie, you’ll want to be in Celebration this weekend for the annural Great American Pie Festival.

It’s such a popular event that over 30,000 people are expected to showup. Oh, sure you can see the highlights later in some Food Network special, but why watch it on TV when you can bbe there in person, enjoying all this pie first hand.

This year will be the 11th edition of the fest and it will take place April 28 and 29 in downtown Celebration.

There will be a pie eating and baking contests, dmonstrations, vendor exhibits, and more, but let’s be honest. You go to a festival like this for the actual eating, which here includes a Never Ending Pie Buffet.

Admission to the buffet is $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. Hours are 11am to 7pm on Saturday and noon to 5pm on Sunday.

For more information, visit piecouncil.org.

Free Movie Night at Florida Mall on April 20, 2012

Wondering what to do with your family that won’t cost a lot of money this upcoming weekend?

Florida Mall has just the thing, with the next installment of their Movie Under the Stars program.

It takes place this Friday, April 20, as soon as it gets dark, over by the H&M. Just drive around until you see the big 35 foot jumbotron in the parking lot.

This month’s movie is We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon. In it he plays a father who moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.

So bring some chairs to sit on and enjoy a free night out with your family courtesy of the Florida Mall.

WhirlyBall Comes to International Drive in Orlando this Spring; Hiring Event to be Held April 2

There seems to be a lot of businesses flocking to International Drive lately, and one of the latest is WhirlyDome, which will take over the old Sports Dominator building.

Inside will be two courts for playing WhirlyBall, a team-based hybrid of bumper cars, jai alai and basketball. There will be one on each floor. Also inside will be laser tag, arcade games, pool tables and a Formula One racing simulator by Evotek Engineering.

Those that work up an appetite on playing can slake their hunger and thirst at the Bloodhound Brew Pub & Eatery.

There are already venues operating in Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta, but the company says this will be their first in such a tourist-heavy location. Sounds like fun for the whole family.

The WhirlyDome is located at 6464 International Drive, near Wet & Wild, and will be opening sometime this spring.

The venue will be holding a hiring event on April 2, 2012, from 11am to 6pm at the Ramada Plaza at 6500 International Drive. Positions available are bartenders, servers, hosts and hostesses, bussers, line cooks and dishwashers. For applications and more info, visit whirlydome.com.

Fun Spot to Expand International Drive Location in 2012

Their tagline is “it’s huge!” and local amusement park The Fun Spot is about to live up to that with plans to expand their original location at the north end of International Drive.

Among the additions planned are adding on to the already popular go-kart section, as well as installing several rollercoasters. The park says they will also be installing a SkyCoaster ride, which has proven to be very popular at the company’s second location in Kissimmee, next to Old Town.

An all-day pass currently costs around $35. Once the expansion is finished, reps for the Fun Spot say that price will go up, but It will still be cheaper than spending a day at one of the big three theme parks. The SkyCoaster will probably be priced as a separate ticket, just as it is at the Kissimmee location.

Have you ever spent the day at one of The Fun Spots? Do you feel it’s a good value for the price paid? Let us know in the comments.

Fossil Fest Returns to Orlando Science Center in March 2012

If your family has any budding paleontologists, you’ll want to mark your calendar for March 17, 2012. This is when Fossil Fest returns to the Orlando Science Center for its sixth year.

There will be presentations from fossil experts, bones on display and more. Peter L. Larson, founder and president of Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, Inc. located in South Dakota, will appear via Skype as he conducts a seminar on extinction theories for the K-T extinction – the one that killed the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago.

The event takes place from 11am to 4pm, and is included with general admission to the Orlando Science Center. Admission is priced at $17 for adults and $12 for kids (ages 3-11). For more information, please call 407.514.2000 or visit www.osc.org.

[Photo courtesy Orlando Science Center]

In Review: CoCo Key Water Resort Water Park in Orlando

It was a nice late fall day out, so my family and I went to CoCo Key Water Resort today, to check out their water park.

A while back, we had spotted them on Groupon. The offer was for day passes to their outdoor water park, so I bought 2 for us at “buy 1 get 1 free” for a day pass. We have been driving by it every Sunday on our way to church since it opened and the kids have been dying to go.

It’s nice that a hotel has realized that locals can provide revenue, too. It’s a small park, but that is not necessarily a bad thing with small kids. They have a good variety of slides for all ages. Our 6 yr old could ride all but 2 slides, and our 40″ 3 yr old could ride all but 3 slides. There are lots of slides and play things for very small kids too. And at 85 degrees, the pools were nice to just be in.

The fall/winter single day ticket price is $14.95 per ticket which makes it more affordable than other water parks. Florida resident discounts bring that price down to $9.95 per pass. But with the winter hours, I would recommend getting there as it opens.

We will go back, there is no doubt about that. But I may wait for another Groupon or other special with the winter hours (Thurs-Sat 11am-7pm; Sun 11am-5pm; closed Mon-Wed). And I did not get any pictures as I was too busy playing, too.

Day passes to CoCo Key Water Resort are available based on water park capacity with certain restrictions and blackout dates. Admission to the water park is only guaranteed to guests of the resort.

[Image courtesy of CoCo Key Water Resort]

Central Florida 2011 Halloween Events – Old Town Halloween in Kissimmee

Zombies, ghosts, Florida Ghost Busters and pirates will inhabit the streets of Old Town in Kissimmee throughout October as they break out their best family-friendly scares for Halloween.

An “Old Town Halloween” takes place Friday and Saturday nights through Halloween, starting each night at 6pm and running until midnight.

There will be zombie walks, four haunt zones, and appearances by the Florida Ghost Buster Fan Club, and it’s all free. There will also be costume contests on Saturday nights.

From October 29-31st, bring the kids trick-or-treating from 6-9pm each evening at the Old Town stores.

The regular rides and attractions will also be available, with the purchase of a wristband. This includes the permanent attraction, The Haunted Grimm House.

Old Town is located at 5770 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (Hwy. 192) in Kissimmee.

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