Archive for January, 2011

Where To Find The Hottest Cars

January 29, 2011
Hottest Cars Anywhere

Rows and Rows of Every Kind of Car Imaginable

Imagine a museum with over 1750 of the most unusual cars you have ever seen.

The Best Place to Buy a Car

They Have Everything

Imagine a string of huge tents which would dwarf even the largest circus in the world holding rows upon rows of these cars.

Imagine aisle upon aisle of car memorabilia, accessories, clothing and much more.

That’s what the annual Mecum auto auction in Kissimmee is like. You’ll find muscle cars and museum pieces; cars built in the early 1900’s to futuristic autos used in recent sci fi movies. There are motorcycles and minivans, hot rods and love bugs. You name it and if it’s auto related chances are you’ll find it at Mecum.

Certainly you’ll find someone who knows about it and has a passion for it.

Talk a Walk Down Memory Lane

The auction has been in Kissimmee for six years. The first year, it was held in one small tent on a corner of the Osceola Heritage Park complex. Now, it has grown into the second largest Mecum auction featuring over 1750 cars, original auto memorabilia, clothing and other accessories.

The 2011 auction took place from January 26 to 30. Here’s a video that gives you just a small glimpse of the action at this year’s auction:

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One Million Bottles of (Butter) Beer on the Books…

January 26, 2011

Have a Swig and Don't Forget to Wipe Off the Mustache!

In less than six months, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has sold over one million Butterbeers!

This unique, non alcoholic drink is reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch. It has a creamy, sweet and frothy layer on top that gives it the appearance of an authentic medieval ale. It is served both chilled and frozen.

You can only find Butterbeer in the Harry Potter Land inside the Islands of Adventure theme park at the Universal Orlando Resort.

When I was served a Butterbeer earlier this month, the server told me that some guests consider the frothy topping the best part of the drink. He was right! I enjoyed having a Butterbeer for the experience. But it’s not nearly as good as the birch beer you can find in my native Pennsylvania Dutch land of southeastern Pennsylvania.

Just one of the many fun but totally useless facts made available to the lucky readers of my blog.

Here’s to your health…

Fantasyland in Disney World is Closing (Temporarily) Then Doubling in Size

January 21, 2011

Fantasyland at Disney World is Doubling in Size by 2013

On February 11, 2011 Mickey’s Toon Town Fair in Fantasyland will close as Disney begins the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history–designed to DOUBLE the size of Fantasyland.

The new Fantasyland is scheduled to open in phases beginning in late 2012. Here are some of the highlights:

–Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid will be a major new attraction on which guests will travel with Ariel and her friends through their exciting adventures above and below the wave–all against a musical backdrop of songs from the classic film.

–The castle of the Beast will stand majestically upon a hill just across an old stone bridge from Ariel’s new home. The Be Our Guest restaurant will feature a lavish dining experience in the elegant ballroom, gallery, and mysterious “West Wing” of the castle.  According to Disney, the 550 seat restaurant will offer “great food fast” by day and full table service in the evening. In nearby Belle’s Village, guests will find the rousing Gaston’s Tavern and Bonjour! Village Gifts.

–Just outside the village will be Belle’s cottage and Enchanted Tales with Belle. The adventure begins in Maurice’s workshop, where a magical mirror will become the doorway to a new kind of storytelling experience with Belle and Lumiere.

By 2013 Disney hopes to open most of the remaining enhancements

Ride with the 7 Dwarfs

–The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will be a rollicking, musical roller coaster featuring a ride system with a train of vehicles that swing back and forth, responding to every twist and turn of the track.

–The Princess Fairytale Hall will be a place where guests can greet guests in their new home, an elegant royal court on the site where Snow White’s Scary Adventures stands today.

Popular Dumbo Will be Twice as Big

–The Storybook Circus will have two circling carousels of airborne pachyderms on Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The queue for this attraction has an array of fun-filled family games and interactive wonders for kids of all ages inside the big top

–Next door will be Goofy as The Great Goofini, a reworking of the Goofy Barnstormer coaster currently in use at Toon Town Fair.

It sounds like Disney is expanding their magic. We’ll keep you updated as more details are unveiled.

some portions of this post ©Disney

Mardi Gras Concerts at Universal Studios

January 18, 2011

Fabulous Mardi Gras Floats

If you can’t be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras the next best place to be is at Universal Studios in Orlando on Saturday nights (and a few select Fridays) from February 12 to April 23.

Featuring top name national music talent, authentic Mardi Gras parades and cuisine straight from The Big Easy, this is one party you’re sure to enjoy. It all takes place inside Universal Studios theme park and it’s included with your admission to the park.

Top Notch Entertainment

“We bring all of what makes Mardi Gras great together with national level musical artists to create a family friendly celebration that fills the entire theme park,” brags Jim Timon, senior vice president of entertainment for Universal Orlando Resort.

In addition to musicians who have a combined 100+ songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart and more than 20 Grammy nominations, there’s a dozen elaborate, hand crafted floats designed and built by Blaine Kern Artists (with PLENTY of beads!) The parade has a fire, air, water and earth theme and features a nightly King and Queen of Mardi Gras.

All this and authentic New Orleans inspired food creations including jambalaya, Po Boy sandwiches and more.

Here’s the nightly schedule of musical entertainment. For more information: click here.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS’ MARDI GRAS CONCERT SERIES

2011 MARDI GRAS TALENT LINE-UP
Mardi Gras Event Dates  Headliners (performing in the Music Plaza)  New Orleans Bands (performing in the French Quarter) 
Saturday, February 12  Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons  Big Al & The Heavyweights 
Saturday, February 19  The B-52s  Lil Malcolm & the House Rockers 
Sunday, February 20  KC & The Sunshine Band  Lil Malcolm & the House Rockers 
Saturday, February 26  Pitbull  John Lisi & Delta Funk 
Saturday, March 5  Lynyrd Skynyrd  Grady Champion 
Saturday, March 12  Foreigner  Honey Island Swamp Band 
Friday, March 18  Neon Trees  J.J. Caillier & The Zydeco Knockouts 
Saturday, March 19  Thirty Seconds To Mars  J.J. Caillier & The Zydeco Knockouts 
Friday, March 25  OneRepublic  Soul Project 
Saturday, March 26  Blake Shelton  Soul Project 
Friday, April 1  Sean Kingston  Lil Brian & The Zydeco Travelers 
Saturday, April 2  Ne-Yo  Lil Brian & The Zydeco Travelers 
Saturday, April 9  Lifehouse  Rockin’ Jake 
Saturday, April 16  The Beach Boys  Beth McKee & the Sliders 
Saturday, April 23  To Be Announced  Daddy Mack Blues Band 

Universal is Awesome! (unless you look closely)

January 15, 2011

(Editor’s Note:  When our vacation rental home business was struggling, we turned to LizTheFair [aka Maureen Carruthers of Low Hanging Fruit] for help. She developed a marketing & social media plan and wrote some copy for our website which helped to save our business. She, and her friend JediBFA, started this blog for us. It was great to see her last week. She wrote today’s guest blog post–LanceAround)
Islands of Adventure at Night

Islands of Adventure at Night

Last weekend JediBFA and I escaped the great white north, also known as Ohio, to soak up some Florida sunshine, visit our good friends, the LanceAround family, and check out the new Harry Potter attraction at Islands of Adventure

Little did I know we would also get an object lesson in the impact of mediocre customer service. Notice I didn’t say bad customer service.  Nothing super terrible happened to us.  And yet, the impression I came away with was “Well, it’s certainly not Disney.*”

Here’s what I mean:

Parking
Following LanceAround’s advice from the previous post, we arrived at the park 30 minutes before it opened.  One might imagine that would mean we’d get some rockstar parking.  One would be wrong. Park employees filled in  the parking lot row by row which meant that even though there were tons of close spots, we were forced to park at the far end of the garage.  Not a huge deal in and of itself, but certainly an example of how Universal’s policies are more concerned with their own convenience than with the customer’s experience.

Rides
JediBFA and I ended up riding several rides on our own, not because LanceAround didn’t want to join us, but because the seats on many of Universal’s most popular rides have a very limited capacity.  While unlike LanceAround I was not bared from riding, the seats were tight enough that as a woman with generously sized hips I was pretty uncomfortable most of the time.  As LanceAround is fond of pointing out, it doesn’t have to be this way–Disney finds a way to make all of their rides accessible to people of all sizes.  It may seem like a small thing but feeling judged by inanimate objects does not lead to a fun-filled day at the park.

Food
This was the worst part of our experience.  In fact, if this piece had been better, I might not have consciously noticed the problems with the parking and the rides.  With the exception of the Butter Beer in the Harry Potter section of the park, the food and drink options were extremely average–for an omnivore.  For vegetarians and vegans it was worse.  As vegetarians and frequent visitors to the park, the LanceAround family knew the options for eating a full meal at the park were limited, so we headed off to Jurassic Park where veggie burgers were on the menu.  JediBFA ordered without incident.  After finding the single cheeseburger on the menu (it was cleverly hidden under the very prominent double cheeseburger option), I also placed my order.  I wanted onion rings but ordered fries since no affordable way to sub one for the other was offered.  We went to the table to eat our very underwhelming, dried out, lunch.

Ordering took quite a bit longer for the rest of our party as the kitchen staff (at the only restaurant with vegetarian options on that side of the park) were not able to confirm if the veggie burgers were also vegan.  Not only did they not know–they were reluctant to find out. When pressed, their response was “I don’t know–I’m not a vegetarian.” When pressed harder, they did find an ingredient list (and subbed the original non-vegan bun, which had egg wash, for a different one without egg wash) so everyone got to eat–after returning one of the delivered chicken sandwiches for the veggie burger that was actually ordered. In the end, everyone ate so no actual harm was done–and yet, by making everything just a little harder than it needed to be, what should have been an amazing day in the park, ended up involving just a little more work than one wants to do on vacation.

Lessons Learned
Am I suggesting you skip Universal?  Not at all.  We had a pretty good time, and the Harry Potter section of the park was amazing.   In fact, if you have no dietary restrictions, weigh under 200 pounds and and have no experience with Disney theme parks, you may not even consciously notice the corner cutting. If, however you visit only one park while in Orlando–Disney is certainly a better bet. 

For those of you who own businesses or work in marketing, there is another lesson.  Thanks to the Internet and social media, truly amazing customer service is more important than ever before.  You don’t have to destroy property or have ridiculous refund policies to be called to task.  Dismissing customer concerns because your cashier “is not a vegetarian” or even being in an industry where someone else is doing it much better is enough to cost you business.

When she’s not deriving marketing lessons from theme park visits, Maureen Carruthers (known here as LizTheFair) uses her obsession with marketing to help nonprofit organizations be heard through social media.

*When I mentioned this out loud over lunch LanceAround commented that even Disney isn’t always up to Disney’s standards anymore, but that’s another post. . .

How Long Are the Lines at Harry Potter in Universal?

January 12, 2011

#1 Boyfriend Enjoys Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans From Honeydukes

The LanceAround Family was delighted to have a visit from LizTheFair and JediBFA this weekend. We took them to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park so we could check out the new Harry Potter attraction.

We had heard that it gets crowded at Harry Potter. So we awakened the three LanceAround children very early, picked up Number One Boyfriend and arrived at the gate for Islands of Adventure exactly one minute before the scheduled 9am opening. We discovered they actually let guests into the park 15 minutes before opening.

We immediately rushed to the Harry Potter land with nary a glance at the whimsically designed Seuss Landing nor the mythically inspired Lost Continent lands.

Entering Hogsmeade

Arriving at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we paused momentarily.  This was inspired. The crooked chimneys on the snow lined rooftops of Hogsmeade Village combined with the dusty atmosphere of ancient shoppes created the perfect Harry Potter moment. Mrs. LanceAround sighed with content. It felt like we walked right into a Harry Potter novel.

We made our way to the main attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I wish I could report on this ride. But, alas, like most of Universal’s big attractions, a person of my girth could not fit onto the ride. (Editorial Comment: I NEVER have an issue fitting onto ANY ride at Disney–Universal executives, please take note!)

The Hogwarts Express

As for the lines, despite the fact that we arrived at the park BEFORE the opening hour and IMMEDIATELY walked DIRECTLY to Harry Potter, there were still many people ahead of us in line. The queue moved quickly with a wait time of only 15 minutes or so. However, as we walked to the ride we noticed that the line outside Ollivanders Wand Shoppe was already significantly long. By the time we had exited the Harry Potter ride, Ollivanders’ line had doubled in size.

We wanted to go into The Owlery, but were stopped by an employee who told us the entrance was on the other side. We walked to the other side only to discover another line all the way down a long wall and around the corner! We skipped The Owlery.

Here are two videos which give a perfect indication of just how popular Harry Potter is. The first shows the crowd inside the Harry Potter land; the second shows how many people were at the Seuss Landing land just a few moments later:

After leaving Harry Potter, we went to Jurassic Park, Toon Landing, Seuss Landing then over to Universal Studios where we rode the Rip Ride Rocket, Twister, Revenge of the Mummy, Disaster, Jaws and Men in Black.  Except for Harry Potter, everywhere else was relatively sparse and the wait times were minimal as evidenced by the above videos.

If you are going to Harry Potter–and I highly recommend that you do–be sure to get to the park a minimum of one half hour before it opens and run right to Harry Potter with blinders on your eyes. Experience The Forbidden Journey, Ollivanders and The Owlery as much as possible, then stop for a butter beer or pumpkin juice at The Three Broomsticks. Relax for a moment, and then enjoy the rest of your day in Islands of Adventure.

One last tip: As you walk over the bridge from Harry Potter towards Jurassic Park there’s the perfect photo opportunity with Hogwarts Castle in the background!

#1 Boyfriend in Front of Hogwarts Castle