Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

April 21, 2019

REVIEW: Dear Evan Hansen @ Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

All Photos Courtesy Matthew Murphy, 2018

Not gonna lie - we've been thoroughly enjoying the entire Fairwinds Broadway in Orlando series (as usual), but Dear Evan Hansen genuinely stands out as the most important show of the season. With a limited, seven day run in Orlando, this wasn't the most accessible show in this season's lineup. Unless you are a Dr. Phillips subscriber or a lucky lottery winner, you didn't get the chance to catch it while it was here (April 16-21), but it is one to chase down wherever the opportunity arises. Make it happen! Dear Evan Hansen is valid and relevant enough to practically be a necessity - for parents, for teens, for anyone who has ever felt awkward or alone, for anyone who's lost someone... or lost themselves... in a hyper-connected world that hosts a remarkably disconnected society.



Dear Evan Hansen is one of the first theatrical shows that my daughter latched on to, and the first she brought to my attention, insisting that I just had to delve into it. I get it now. I felt it during the performance. Dr. Phillips Center is not a small venue, and it was packed, but that room was so captivated. I've attended so many types of shows at this location, and never have I been so intrigued by the audience. The applause was louder, the smiles were broader, the interest was heavier, and the emotions were "raw-er". I couldn't help but notice that the lady seated next to me cried many times throughout the evening. She was there alone, and I couldn't help but wonder - how did this story speak to her? Was it personal? This is the kind of show that IS personal, and it probably resonates deeply and intimately with well more than half of every audience it meets.

In tiny little sprinklings of ways, Dear Evan Hansen has elements of a 1980s/1990s teen dramedy, along the lines of Better Off Dead, Can't Buy Me Love, or Pretty in Pink. Add in the aspect of coming-of-age in today's globally digitized society, and a whole lot of relatable, harsh reality - and you have a multi-generational story with significant, real impact. It's the kind of story that you'll feel the need to discuss and analyze - and you should!

Dear Evan Hansen is currently in the midst of a 50-city North American tour, with productions opening soon in Toronto and London. Winner of six 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, the show features an impressively passionate cast and an immeasurably powerful soundtrack. Although I tend to always be impressed with the smooth quick-change of live stage sets and scenes, I have to say that this one really dazzled me. The elaborate series of digital screens that cascaded around the stage was not only a very vital and smart feature but a tool that helped to allow for uniquely seamless and rapid scene transitions. Just a very interesting set, even though it seemed basic in many ways.

This is not the kind of musical with elaborate costumes and chorus lines. It's so much deeper than that and much more engaging. Dear Evan Hansen is musical theater that feels like it could be a movie - and it's the kind you'd let your kids stay up late for. At the risk of redundancy... it's important.

Follow along with Dear Evan Hansen on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr.

April 14, 2019

APRIL CONTESTS! WIN FUN FAMILY EXPERIENCES IN ORLANDO!


This month, we are thrilled to host TWO fabulous contests for our readers. Please see below for contest details and then feel free to enter one or both giveaways. No strings attached - and we will NOT be retaining email addresses for newsletter subscription or any additional marketing purposes. Thanks for being a CSO reader, and best of luck!

We are proud to partner with Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to offer a family four-pack of tickets to see Nickelodeon's Double Dare Live! hosted by Mr. Double Dare himself - Marc Summers. The event takes place May 10th at Orlando's Bob Carr Theater. To enter, simply share the link to our recent review of The Price is Right Live! http://ow.ly/Rzz730oqzfv to your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter account. Make sure that the post is PUBLIC and tag @ComeSeeOrlando (FB, Twitter) or @OrlandoDawn2015 (IG). You receive ONE entry for each post. Tag friends who may be interested in the contest as well! For each person tagged, you receive one additional entry. Entries accepted until 11:59PM April 29. Winner will be announced on our above-referenced social channels April 30 at 10AM. Winner must contact us to claim tickets, and to receive their arrival instructions.



We are proud to partner with Press PR and Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition to offer TWO free general admission passes to visit the Titanic exhibit on Orlando's International Drive. To enter, simply share the link to our recent blog post review of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit here to your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter account. In your original post, name one Titanic survivor. Make sure that the post is PUBLIC and tag @ComeSeeOrlando (FB, Twitter) or @OrlandoDawn2015 (IG). You receive ONE entry for each post. Tag friends who may be interested in the contest as well! For each person tagged, you receive one additional entry. Entries accepted until 11:59PM April 29. Winner will be announced on our above-referenced social channels April 30 at 10AM. Winner must contact us to claim tickets, and to receive their arrival instructions.


REVIEW - Live the History of Titanic on International Drive

Click any image to see full-size

It's one thing to read about history - it's a whole other thing to live it! I have never really considered myself a history buff, but a few tales from the annals of time have managed to pique my interest and linger on my mind. One of those is the fateful story of the Titanic's maiden voyage. April 10th marked the 107th anniversary of the day the massive ship set sail from England, bound for New York, and we were fortunate enough to be invited to observe the occasion with the cast and crew of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition on International Drive. 



Although the venue is home to more than 300 artifacts, historical pieces, and film memorabilia, it is not adequately described as a "museum". Recovered treasures and carefully preserved documents are presented in multiple galleries situated in a layout designed to represent the rooms and decks of the Titanic. Guests are issued replica boarding passes that individually assign them the identity and class of an actual passenger of the ship, and they are led through the galleries by guides in period attire assuming the roles of other Titanic notables like Captain Smith, Thomas Andrews, and "The Unsinkable" Molly Brown. All of these elements combine to create an absence of the sterility that you may expect at a museum. 

Photo: Press PR

I've always felt that the biggest single aspect that sets the venue apart is the incorporation of the guided tour. The roles are not portrayed by "attractions attendants", but rather by seasoned local actors and actresses - many of whom hold various other performance roles in town - and they are put through a fairly rigorous audition process that includes mastery of dialects and factual historic presentation. At the risk of sounding lazy, there is something much more appealing to not having to read the whole story as you peruse the galleries. It's not an aversion to reading that makes this a nice touch... it's the depth, sincerity, and genuine emotion that this type of approach brings that makes it so greatly appreciated. The tales of the diverse passengers and crew and the events that led to their united place in history is brilliantly, honestly, and respectfully presented - and it hits home.




Among the highlights of the Titanic exhibition are "Little Big Piece" (a 3-ton section of Titanic's hull and the second largest piece of Titanic ever recovered), a replica iceberg, and full room re-creations from recognizable scenes like the Grand Staircase. Additionally, Titanic's Dinner Gala takes place every Friday and Saturday night. Enjoy the Captain's cocktail party welcome reception, a guided tour of the exhibition galleries, four-course meal, and re-enactments of the night of April 14, 1912.





For more information on Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, or the Titanic Dinner Gala, click here, or follow Titanic on Instagram. Catch a sneak peek of the Titanic experience in our preview video below!

April 10, 2019

EDITORIAL - Disney's Discriminatory Smoking Ban

By: Gino Sabato

So Walt Disney World has announced that starting May 1st all smoking sections within its parks will be removed. Smokers will be directed outside the park beyond the security checkpoint in order to indulge. This probably doesn't come as a shock to anyone that smokes and likes to visit Walt Disney World. The number of designated smoking areas has been decreasing for years and it was becoming more and more obvious that this day would come sooner rather than later. 


Walt Disney Smoking A Cigarette
There was of course a time that smoking was permitted pretty much in any outdoor area of the parks. Even restaurants offered a smoking section. Cigarettes were openly sold in the parks with some establishments totally dedicated to the sale and use of tobacco products. Of course things change and social norms become almost unrecognizable over time. Most smokers will even agree that reducing the area where people can smoke is a positive action, but removing all smoking areas is really a step too far.

Main Street Tobacconist (Disneyland)
I'm sure there are many that will disagree, but ultimately banning outdoor smoking (even in designated areas) is nothing short of discrimination. This is not a question of the health effects of tobacco or a question of morality this is a question of personal rights. There are plenty of unhealthy and potentially dangerous activities taking place inside Disney parks every day. In fact just about everything inside a Disney park is unhealthy and many activities could be potentially dangerous. From drinking alcohol to overeating, the entire nature of the business is overindulgence. Some of these activities are only harmful to the person performing the activity and some, like drinking too much, is dangerous to everyone around that individual. The effects of cigarette smoking in designated smoking areas, most of which are so far off the beaten path you require a map to find them, has little if any effect on any other guest in the park. Tobacco users are being singled out and systematically discriminated against. Tobacco is a legal product and those that choose to use tobacco should be treated like any other person. 

Beyond the discriminatory nature of the smoking ban, there is the question of where are all these smokers going to go when they want to light up? Somewhere between 15-20% of guests that visit Disney World are smokers. The average number of visitors to just the Magic Kingdom each day is right around 53,000 assuming that half of those visitors are adults of legal smoking age that would leave us with a base number of 26,500 if just 15% are smokers that would mean on any given day there would close to 4000 smokers in just one of Disney World's parks. Keep in mind this is an extremely conservative estimate and that number could easily be upwards of 10,000 smokers on any given day. Going to a Disney park while fun and entertaining is also a somewhat stressful day with the crowds, lines, keeping up with your children, paying $9 for a hot dog, etc... Smokers are going to want to smoke and they are going to have to exit the park and squeeze into one very small area spending upwards of half an hour or more in order to take what would normally be a 5-minute break. Keep in mind with current designated smoking areas that 5-minute break would be far away from the crowd. This is going to cause huge problems with crowd control and traffic as well as overwhelm an already disorganized security staff due to what is sure to be a large increase in re-entries to the park. This is a lose-lose for Disney. So unless their goal was to reduce the amount of time each visitor spends in the park buying merchandise and eating food there is no upside for Disney. 

To add icing to the cake Disney has also in their infinite wisdom decided to ban the use of vaping products as well as combustible tobacco. While vaping is not the first choice of most smokers many would gladly switch to vape for a day in order to avoid the problems with exiting the park just to have a smoke. This is literally just a slap in the face and further proof that this is a discriminatory action. The use of Vape products has absolutely zero effect on anyone but the user. The vapor from these products is essentially steam and dissipates almost immediately. There are some users of these products that use specialized vaping products that produce large amounts of vapor and it would be well within Disney's purview to ban such products. 

Most importantly there are smokers that are going to smoke in the parks regardless of the rules. While I would prefer to just not visit the parks than break the rules outright I do understand the mindset of the person that would sneak a smoke in an abandoned corner. Just the idea that people are not going to smoke or especially sneak a puff off a vape pen is ridiculous at its core. We live in a society where everyone has some kind of a special entitlement and rules are broken every single day. Disney can't even manage to keep people from skipping ahead in ride queues. Good luck keeping a mom or dad that just spent 5 hours standing in line after paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for the privilege of standing in that line from having a cigarette. 

I for one will not be visiting a Disney park any time soon. While the smoking ban is not the reason for that decision it is certainly one of a hundred other reasons that make me chose to spend my money elsewhere. My family has been visiting Disney parks for almost 40 years and the direction the company has been headed for the last 20 years is the complete antithesis of what a Disney vacation was supposed to be. 

April 5, 2019

REVIEW: The Price is Right Live at Bob Carr Theater


One of the longest running daytime game shows in television history, The Price is Right first aired on CBS in 1972. With that being said, I do realize that I am not at all unique when I say that I grew up with this show. It was a weekday tradition, and wow, did my grandma have a crush on Bob Barker! Cousins, aunts, neighbors - whoever happened to be around for that magical hour of daytime excitement played along, and it gave us all an excuse to pay a little more attention to what we were spending in the grocery store! Let's face it - The Price is Right is THE all-American game show. In September of 2003, The Price is Right Live premiered at Harrah's Reno, eventually spawning a touring version of the production that toured the nation. We were fortunate enough to attend the event during its most recent run through Orlando at Bob Carr Theater.

March 17, 2019

REVIEW: Diamond Resorts Hosts an Evening With Lauren Alaina - Diamond Live Concert Series


Diamond Resorts is a leader in hospitality and vacation ownership. With a portfolio including hundreds of destinations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, Diamond has secured a place in the travel industry that commands respect, stemming from an undeniable brand standard that has held firm for more than 25 years.


The Diamond Live Concert Series is a string of intimate, private performances offered exclusively to Diamond Resorts members and guests. Prior to the show, members have the opportunity to experience meet and greets with the performers, and enjoy complimentary food and beverages.

March 7, 2019

REVIEW: Cirque du Soleil LUZIA at The Florida Mall



Based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy LalibertĂ©, and Gilles Ste-Croix. Since then, the demand for original Cirque du Soleil performances has grown to include a simultaneous mixture of residencies and traveling acts. LUZIA is one of well over a dozen Cirque shows currently in rotation, and each is entirely unique in story, characterization, scene, sound, and talent.

LUZIA is a Cirque du Soleil show inspired by the vibrant culture of Mexico. The name 'luzia' combines 'luz' (light in Spanish) and 'lluvia' (rain). These two elements play heavily into the theming of the story, and all of the sights, sounds, and emotions that bring it to life.




There are so many moving parts (figuratively and literally) to a Cirque performance, and LUZIA may be one of the most impressively intricate shows the company has ever conceived. Throughout the approximately 90-minute performance (excluding 25-minute intermission), a countless parade of skilled artists graced the stage - anywhere from one to dozens at a time. Their fancy footwork had to account not only for co-stars (including lifesized, puppeted animals), but any combination of water, flight, and moving platforms. Of course, these feats are impressive to most anyone, but I have to admit... those of us who can barely ascend stairs without falling up them are REALLY astounded by such demonstrations! Every added element of challenge just enhances the shock of the incredible collective abilities these artists possess. And... it's all under an old-fashioned Big Top which really is the icing on the cake!


Much like a well-crafted opera, a Cirque du Soleil show delivers a story without a blatant narration. LUZIA explores love, life, victory, battle, family, and heart with every bit the dazzle and whimsy you would expect from Cirque, set to a lively soundtrack. It's a feast for the eyes, a journey for the ears, and a fire for the soul.


Buy tickets for LUZIA - performances under the Big Top at The Florida Mall through April 21st. Next stop - New York City! Follow LUZIA on Facebook, and Cirque du Soleil on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for more information, updates, and behind-the-scenes fun. Check out our LUZIA videos: preview compilation, big top raising, and backstage interview.

March 3, 2019

REVIEW: Light Haven Motel at Hollywood Beach - The Perfect Dose of SoFla Nostalgia and Tradition

I spent my formative years in South Florida. While I never grew to be a huge fan of the area, I can't deny that I have some wonderful memories from the time I spent there, and I also acknowledge certain aspects of the area that continue to charm me to this day. I appreciate South Florida more now when I return as a tourist, but even when I lived there - I loved any excuse to stay in a little efficiency apartment near the beach... and I always had a fondness for Hollywood Beach specifically. On a recent visit, we discovered a fantastic, quaint little place that checked off all the boxes for a fabulous (and affordable) beach weekend - Light Haven Motel.


We've stayed in vacation homes, mountain cabins, standard hotels, Disney hotels of all levels, and other elaborate resorts. We truly are the type of people who appreciate the variety of accommodation styles that exist in modern-day tourism - but nothing is quite like a cozy little studio when vacationing in a beach town. Light Haven Motel is a small cluster of efficiency apartments and studios. Consider it the pre-Airbnb version of a home-away-from-home, beach bum style! The site is lovingly maintained by local owners and a couple staff members. They went out of their way to be personally welcoming when we arrived, and we noticed immediately that our fellow guests all seemed very fond of the whole crew. Any lodging staff can be attentive, but the staff at Light Haven went beyond that, showing a very thoughtful and friendly side to their hospitality. A crazy close encounter with a member of South Florida's infamous iguana population led to a lively conversation about just how much the ecology of South Florida has changed since we were residents ourselves. 

February 24, 2019

REVIEW: Bokampers Plantation Did WHAT To Hamburgers??

Photo: Bokampers
I spent my adolescence in South Florida, and it's one of the places I call home. A lot has changed there over the years, like most places. Many of my favorite restaurants that were not expansive chains are now gone, but the upside to that is the chance to discover something new when I visit. Bokampers Sports Bar & Grill launched in Plantation in 2008. It has grown to six locations in the south and southwest Florida areas, including Miramar, Estero, Naples, and two Fort Lauderdale outlets, with Bo's Beach now open at Fort Lauderdale Beach. If the name Bokamper sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that. The restaurant was founded by former Miami Dolphins linebacker, Kim Bokamper - a member of the team's famed "Killer B's" defense that led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl in 1982.

January 26, 2019

REVIEW: Hamilton at Dr. Phillips Center Orlando


Can I make a confession? I didn't want to like Hamilton. I avoided the entire subject for a long time for a couple of reasons. For starters - I felt that it had taken on too much partisan significance. I knew many Democrats who simply had to go see it for no other reason than the fact that they felt it was the thing for Democrats to do. I also knew Republicans who never wanted to hear mention of it for much the same reason. I didn't want to claim a stake in it as a political statement on any side. Frankly, I'm trying to decrease my exposure to divisive climates, and I was afraid this could be one. 

My other point of hesitation... I have had a lifelong aversion to anything bandwagon-ish. It took me three years to finally cave in and watch The Walking Dead for this very reason, and today it's one of my greatest pop culture obsessions. Well.... that's kind of what happened with Hamilton, too. My daughter was playing, and playing... and playing... (you get the idea) the Hamilton soundtrack, because the bug had already bitten her. I heard "Helpless" one day, and... well... my heart went BOOM! One thing led to another and I listened to practically nothing but the soundtrack over and over... and over... for a few weeks myself. Then I read up on the Hamilton/Burr story again (it's been a while, after all), and I fell deeper down the historical rabbit hole - and then my daughter and I started discussing the stories. Wow! Crazy how that bug grew into a consuming virus, eh? 

Maybe I didn't want to like Hamilton - but I do, and it really doesn't matter which side of the political divide I'm on or how trendy I don't want to be. In fact, after seeing it live, I completely understand the accolades, and I absolutely appreciate the frenzy. Multiple casts are currently touring with the show, and Orlando was treated to the "Philip Cast". I always feel great admiration for stage performers, but this particular show holds extreme expectations, and I was stunned to see just how well they nailed it... every step and every note. The talent on that stage was simply immeasurable, and every bit suitably evolved from the original cast. This is not a show - it's an experience - and one that far exceeds expectation. A Hamilton performance has it all: history, romance, humor, and a soundtrack that makes it far too difficult to sit still. The first show I ever attended at Dr. Phillips Center was I Love Lucy - Live On Stage, and it was also my favorite of all the performances I've attended there - until Hamilton, which legitimately may in fact be the best theatrical show of all time. 

January 19, 2019

REVIEW: Rock Dinner Show at The Orlando Forum - NEW FOR 2019!


Every year seems to bring so many new amusements and original experiences to the Orlando area, and 2019 is shaping up to be no different. Aside from all the theme park updates, we continue to stress that you cannot allow yourself to overlook the expanding options beyond the big three parks. International Drive is continuing its progressive growth with new shops, entertainment, lodging, and dining options - and one that launched like a racehorse straight out of the gate is the Rock Dinner Show at The Orlando Forum. Receiving rave reviews all around, this is a venue that has absolutely earned every ounce of praise it's received.

The background on this one is really quite interesting. It's a surprising location and one that I know well from my days at the now-defunct CSI: The Experience. The Orlando Forum has taken up residence in a building across the street from the CSI building, in what used to be a Ponderosa Steakhouse. I know what you're thinking because I mentally went there, too - a revamped buffet "steakhouse" as a performance venue?? Maybe not such a logical fit at first consideration, but it really works. There wasn't a complete and total level-and-rebuild of the building, and it transformed quite quickly overall. It's opened up to be seamlessly functional in its new purpose, and intimate enough to give the theme of the location a much greater appeal. The vibe is classy - almost like the atmosphere of a wedding reception, and moreso than the traditional dinner show. I wouldn't show up here in my tourist garb after a full day at Magic Kingdom, in other words.

Another notable difference between Rock Dinner Show and area competitors... I often remark about the intrusion factor of a typical dinner show - the servers and guests constantly coming to and fro, consistently in your view, or interrupting the show to peddle up-sell photos, additional drinks, etc. It is probably a combination of the venue's layout, the flawless skills of the staff, and the coordination of the specific show model, but Rock Dinner Show does not present these standard dinner show nuisances - and I love it! The meal service and clean-up were practically ninja-level in nature and wrapped up before the show kicked into gear. There was none of the chintzy money grab photo pitching going on, either - and that was so refreshing. The only "extra" we were advised of was an alcohol add-on. Although you can select from a menu of wine, beer, and liquor selections (prices on par with I-Drive expectations), you can opt for a bracelet that offers unlimited beverages from a slightly narrowed list for less than $30. If you plan to have more than two drinks, this would be a worthwhile option, so keep it in mind!

I've always been of the opinion that you shouldn't go into a dinner show experience expecting the finest standard of food. Behind-the-scenes, as a former dinner show employee, I realize that it is mass-produced, to be blunt (hence the limited menu options), and you have to go into the event feeling that you are there for the show primarily. Of all the Orlando dinner shows (we've been to each venue), Rock Dinner Show absolutely has the BEST quality of food. There is absolutely nothing generic about the menu items, and in no way did we find the food to be lacking in freshness or flavor. Frankly, it tasted every bit as tantalizing as it sounded in its description! In fact, let's take a look at what's on the menu ...


FIRST COURSE: FORUM’S WEDGE SALAD
Crispy lettuce wedge topped with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta and house brined olives, served with blue cheese buttermilk dressing.

ENTREE SELECTION: SCALLOPINI OF CHICKEN
Parmesan crusted chicken breast with fire roasted tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese, served with creamy Pecorino Romano risotto and Chef’s selection of market fresh vegetables.

ENTREE SELECTION: BRAISED SHORT RIB
Fork tender slow braised short rib of beef seasoned with sea salt and fragrant rosemary, accompanied with truffle mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables and a natural beef broth.

DESSERT: “SWEET EMOTIONS”
Double chocolate mousse filed cupcake topped with a creamy and rich chocolate frosting and chocolate pearls.

Vegan pasta options also available, as well as entree upgrades.

But what about the show? If I'm too be entirely honest, it was a challenge to go into this with no advance potential comparisons in mind. I really had little idea what to expect, but I knew that there was a celebrity impersonator theme to the show. A couple experiences I've had with this type of performance stand out a bit. One of those is a place called Memories Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and the other is Mango's - also on I-Drive. Those are both entirely different in scope, and Rock Dinner Show added yet another new layer to my celebrity impersonator experiences. Rock Dinner Show differs from Mango's in many ways. I wouldn't really say one is better or worse than the other - but it depends on what type of experience you seek. As I said before, Rock Dinner Show is more intimate. Rock Dinner Show also does not stray from its focus, whereas Mango's presents a performance event with only bits of impersonator inclusions. It follows the dinner show "model" more than Mango's does, but you still can just visit The Orlando Forum for drinks at their indoor-outdoor bar/patio. Unlike Mango's you won't get the full, direct stage view from that perspective, but it has a more inclusive and inviting feel than other dinner shows... sort of like an in-between venue that takes all the best aspects of everything similar!

Memories in Tennessee did not include a dinner element. It was performance only, set in a theater. One thing that Memories had that I did somewhat expect at Rock Dinner Show was diversity of performers. Unfortunately, this is the one area I was somewhat disappointed in at Rock Dinner Show. When I originally heard of it, it sounded like it would be a journey through the evolution of rock. It was not. It is worth mentioning that performers rotate, so the lineup varies, but thus far the website roster for Rock Dinner Show doesn't show the diversity or span I'd personally appreciate. While the performers were much better than I expected, and every bit fit to their roles, I didn't really find the "rock" in the lineup, or much of an expanse in the timeline represented. My disappointment was in the expectation more than the event, however - and I am hopeful that the show's cast will begin to show more of an array of artists. Certainly, Orlando has a great pool of creative workers to choose from! During out visit, we caught: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Adele, and Prince. Again... all very skilled in their portrayals, but this was a pop show, with each performer offering up three of their most recognizable chart-toppers from a pretty narrow time frame.

But don't just take our word for it - check out Rock Dinner Show at The Orlando Forum for yourself! We've included a brief mashup with segments from the performances (see top of page). As you probably know by now, we do not attend these events with high-profile intrusive equipment, opting to visit and review these experiences as any other guest. While the video is not pro-level, it is a fair representation of the show. Rock Dinner Show takes place seven nights per week, with doors opening at 6:30 PM. Adult admission is $64.95, children 3-12 are $39.95. For more information, or to reserve your spot, visit http://orlando-forum.com/. Don't forget to stick around after the show for selfies and meet-and-greets with the cast!

November 18, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover Paradise Coast

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy our previous features on Amelia IslandBradenton/Gulf IslandsHistoricCoastTreasure Coast, and Tampa Bay. Please note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference. 




-OVERVIEW-

Florida’s Paradise Coast – Naples, Marco Island and the Gulf Coast portion of the Everglades – provides travelers an array of holiday and business travel options year-round. Naples is a charming resort city on the coast, offering the ultimate in luxury, fresh local cuisine, great shopping, a thriving arts and culture scene, and much more. Slightly more relaxed than Naples, Marco Island is the largest of Southwest Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, and is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and pristine mangrove estuaries on the other. Visitors to Marco Island can enjoy beautiful, white-sand beaches, fresh seafood and a variety of water activities including backcountry and offshore fishing, boating, and paddling. Located just south of Naples and Marco Island, Everglades National Park is the only subtropical preserve in North America and is part of the largest wetlands ecosystem in the United States, and it is one of 21 World Heritage Sites in the USA. More than 80 percent of Florida’s Paradise Coast, within Collier County, Fla., is dedicated to parks and nature preserves, with much of this area covered by the Everglades ecosystem and its many inhabitants, including hundreds of species of colorful birds, fresh and saltwater fish, alligators, bobcats, Florida black bear and the rare, endangered Florida panther. 

November 2, 2018

REVIEW: Jersey Boys at Dr. Phillips Center


In 1960, a little-known band called The Four Lovers evolved into The Four Seasons - rocketing four men from New Jersey into a stardom so solid that it would cross generations. During a time that produced more than a few endearing quartets, there was something remarkable that distinguished this foursome from the Beach Boys and Beatles of the day - and, for many years, the majority of their fans didn't even realize that it was more than their musical skills that broke the mold... it was their story.

Jersey Boys officially premiered in 2005 at August Wilson Theatre in New York, and on October 30, the Tony and Grammy Award-winning "Best Musical" kicked-off the 2018/2019 Orlando Broadway Series at Dr. Phillips Center.

October 28, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover Tampa Bay

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy our previous features on Amelia IslandBradenton/Gulf Islands, HistoricCoast, and Treasure Coast. Please note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference. 


- HIGHLIGHTS FROM ORLANDO'S NEIGHBOR TO THE WEST -


Tampa Bay is experiencing a hotel boom. Two luxury properties -- the five-star, 173-room Tampa EDITION (opening in 2021) and 4-star, 519-room JW Marriott Hotel & Resort (opening in 2020) – are on track for downtown. In 2019, a co-branded Home2Suites and Hampton Inn will grace the Channel District, a few minutes from Port Tampa Bay’s cruise terminals. In trendy West Shore, the Current, a new Marriott Autograph hotel, adds to the area’s waterfront luxury. New in 2018, AC Hotel by Marriott opened in the heart of the West Shore District, and the Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas offers waterfront boutique features minutes from the airport.   

New in 2018, food halls bring a dynamic vibe to historic Tampa Heights. Sample mouth-watering fare at Hall on Franklin or at Heights Public Market located inside the fully restored Armature Works, both iconic buildings reborn as stylish, modern venues.  In Seminole Heights, Chef Farrell Alvarez brings his exciting culinary vision to new in 2018 Nebraska Mini-Mart, a funky hangout with great food and shuffleboard. Waterfront dining grows with new in 2018 seafood-focused Blue Harbour. Our favorite eateries imbue their menus with local flavor are La Segunda Central Bakery, Oxford Exchange, and the Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant.  

October 21, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover the Treasure Coast

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. You can also check out the previously published features on Amelia IslandBradenton Gulf Islands, and Florida's Historic CoastPlease note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference.


-OVERVIEW-

Situated along Florida’s Treasure Coast on the Atlantic Ocean, the communities of Vero Beach, Sebastian and Fellsmere are the geographical starting point for the Florida tropics, with winter temperatures rarely dipping below 70° (21°C). The county is centrally located 70 miles south of the Kennedy Space Center and 135 miles north of Miami. The destination resides at the intersection of green and glamorous, with 100,000 conservation acres, 26 miles of pristine beaches and a treasure trove of cultural attractions. Hotels and resorts with rooftops no higher than swaying palm trees support the destination’s motto “Sunrises, not High Rises.” 

October 14, 2018

REVIEW: Terror at the Inn - Holiday Inn Orlando Suites & Waterpark



We have some of the coolest hotels here in Orlando, don't we? In October of 2010, we gathered the whole clan for a weekend-long birthday event at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort. It was one of the most memorable family celebrations we've had, and we were all quite impressed with the expansive, useful space, as well as the associated amenities. Eight years later, that same birthday boy returned to this location to enjoy another event with me - Terror at the Inn! A lot has changed, including the ownership of the resort, but we still found a brilliant use of space tucked away in a central area of the theme park corridor.. even more so, in fact - with the creation of this all-original, family-friendly attraction spookily suitable for the Halloween season! Best of all, Terror at the Inn is open to the public, so you can visit the attraction even if you are not a registered hotel guest.

Terror at the Inn consists of a haunted house, 4D movie experience, and more. The haunted house is themed around the curse of an Egyptian crypt. It is devoid of gore and disturbing scenes, making it suitable for younger guests who likely find events like Halloween Horror Nights to be too intense. There are well-conceived scenes routed cleverly in a winding pathway lined with a smart mix of both animatronic and live-actor encounters - providing genuine jump scares without the terrors that may be a bit much for more squeamish guests. I am an easy target in haunted houses, but my son is not. Once I made him go ahead of me in the house for a span, I was amused to see him startled a time or two, so the efforts were effective by non-chicken standards, too! The overall quality of the house was frankly surprising, and the length was more than fair. Definitely one to recommend, and now I will admit that I was not going into this expecting to be impressed! Halloween attractions are very easy to go cheesy... but this one had substance and effort - undoubtedly.


Your Terror at the Inn ticket also includes a visit to the in-house theater for the Panic House 4D experience. This immersive cinematic experience provides a haunted house tour from another, sensory perspective... with a few surprises that you wouldn't expect to encounter from the safe comfort of a movie theater seat. You may have escaped one haunted house during this visit - now you've tempted fate with a second harrowing exploration!

After all these tests of courage, you deserve a reward - and lucky for you, your admission includes 20% off the Lakeside CafĂ©, Hideaway Lounge, Club Candy, and Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop! These are located in the Marketplace area, just beyond the haunted house and 4D theater. Grab a snack and a drink before testing your skills at the carnivalesque midway area for prizes (and bragging rights). Don't miss all the great photo ops along the way, and keep your eyes peeled for roaming characters, too! Now through October 31, Terror at the Inn is open select weekdays from 6pm-10pm, and 6pm-11pm on Friday and Saturday. Admission is just $19.95, with $5 discount available to military personnel, first responders, and Florida/Georgia residents. Parking is complimentary. For more information, visit terrorattheinn.com


REVIEW: UNDead in the Water - Tampa Bay


Thanks to the resurgence in mainstream popularity of zombie culture, the apocalypse is a topic we're able to ponder from a sort of "fantasy" slant. After all, the rise of the undead for a human harvest couldn't really become a realistic event... right?

But, what if...

Work with me here. Even if you haven't considered your survival plan in the case of a zombie apocalypse, haven't we all had a moment to wonder where we would go and what we would do if an apocalyptic event were to unfold? Let's face it - we Floridians have emergency plans embedded in our brains thanks to hurricanes anyway, so maybe it's not a huge leap to throw the potential for flesh-eating monsters into the mix - just in case. (Right about now, you are raising an eyebrow at me, but let me profess - I actually took a course through UC Irvine: 'Survival Lessons From The Walking Dead'... it's a thing, people! But I digress...)

It just so happens - in the case of a zombie apocalypse, those lucky folks near Tampa's Channelside District have a pretty nifty escape option... the American Victory Ship!

October 8, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover The Historic Coast

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy our previous features on Amelia Island and Bradenton/Gulf Islands. Please note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference. 


-OVERVIEW-

Promising “Culture Around Every Corner”, Florida’s Historic Coast is represented by St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and 42 miles of Atlantic Beaches in St. Johns County - nestled midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. Among the area's many claims to fame, it is the first continuously occupied European settlement, a military outpost, the first port, a key Civil Rights location, a beach resort area, and generally a hub of "arts, culture and heritage". For more than 450 years, Florida's Historic Coast has been widely acknowledged as a valuable and worthy destination appealing to an array of interests and vacation styles. Some of the region's recent acknowledgements include: USA Today 10 Best - Top 10 Attractions in Florida (January 2018), US News & World Report - Top 50 Most Romantic Places in the World  (December 2017), AARP - Nights of Lights #1, 10 Top Holiday Light Displays in the US  (December 2017), Jetsetter Magazine - 9 Cutest Small Towns in America (May 2017), Money Magazine – number 1 Best in Travel for destinations that deliver the most value for your dollar (March 2017),  and TripAdvisor - St. Augustine Beach a Top 10 U.S. Beach three years in a row (2015-2017).

September 29, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover Bradenton Gulf Islands

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy this second feature segment - on Bradenton Gulf Islands or refer to the first feature - spotlighting Amelia IslandPlease note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference.


-OVERVIEW-

The Bradenton/Anna Maria Island/Longboat Key area is located on Florida’s west coast between St. Petersburg and Sarasota. It is bordered on the north by Tampa Bay, and to the west by the Gulf of Mexico. Recent rewards and accolades include: Top 10 Island Beaches for Perfect Sand, Conde Nast Traveler: Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island; Ten Best Little Beach Town in Florida, Coastal Living:   Anna Maria Island; Best Beach for Families, Family Vacation Critic /Trip Advisor: Manatee County Beach; Top 30 Island in the World, Conde Nast Traveler: Anna Maria Island; Top 25 Happiest Cities in the US, National Geographic: Bradenton.

September 23, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover Amelia Island

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy our very first feature on Amelia Island. Please note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference. 


-OVERVIEW-

Amelia is 13 miles long and two miles wide, with preserved park lands at its northern and southern tipsmaking up nearly 10% of the entire island... Amelia Island is edged with natural Appalachian quartz beaches and framed by sand dunes as high as 40 feet. Amelia Island is consistently ranked among the best of the best, including: one of the Top Beaches in Florida (USA Today, 2017), the No. 4 Happiest Seaside Town (Coastal Living, 2017), one of the South’s Best Small Towns (Southern Living, 2016), and seven consecutive years among the Top 10 U.S. Islands (Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards). 

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