A News page for the Orlando’s areas other Minor Attractions and Resort properties
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(11/22/2023) Kennedy Space Center - Holidays In Space (MORE...)
(11/12/2023) The Electric Daisy Carnival Hits Orlando
(10/15/2023) A Very "Tactical" New Attraction Set To Open in the Orlando Area (MORE...)
(10/7/2023) Would You Like A Pass To Visit MCO's Terminal C? (MORE...)
(9/22/2023) Brightline Service To Miami Has Now Begun!
Kennedy Space Center Review (2022)
You can find our review of the I-Drive 360 attractions (Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium here.
Central Florida News - (11/22/2023) Kennedy Space Center will host a “Holidays in Space” special event that will take place from Dec. 15 through Dec. 30th, 2023. This year’s Holiday in Space will feature the return of the Starflake’s Holiday Voyage projection show, as well as new holiday decor (giant Astronaut themed Nutcrackers!) and an plethora of yummy treats. Follow the link for all the official details!
(11/12/2023) The Electric Daisy Carnival music festival returned to Orlando on Friday and tonight will be the final day. The large-scale electronic music festival is more than just a concert, but also features various other performance art attraction as well as a number of carnival rides to enjoy. Our friends at Orlando Experience have posted a fun video showing off some of the various stages and attractions at this year’s 3-day event.
(10/15/2023) A very interesting new attraction will be opening in the Orlando area very soon called Decision Tactical. The site is a combination restaurant, bar and tactical training center designed to be used for law enforcement training, as well as for civilian use on the entertainment side of things.
Those who want to experience what Decision Tactical has to offer will be given a simulation piston and will get to participate in “4 immersive scenarios” when it opens, with more to come in the future. What exactly does this mean? The website describes a few of the tactical scenarios you can experience. This includes playing a law enforcement officer responding to a domestic dispute in a house where a neighborhood poker game has gone awry. Another experience will position you as someone shopping in a mall when suddenly shooting starts from an unknown threat. A third places you near to a terror-event that is unfolding, giving you the option to run, hide or fight back. The center will also feature a simulated shooting range, and a competition course where you are tasked to take down a variety of pop-up targets while on the move.
The idea is intriguing for sure, and for those video game fans who love playing the more tactical shooter style games like Rainbow Six Siege, this may be the perfect way to elevate the game experience off the screen by placing you within the actual themed environment. Look for Decision Tactical to open soon in Sanford near where the 417 connects to I-4 on the northern end of Orlando on the site of a former multiplex movie theater.
(10/7/2023) This may sound a little strange, but did you know you can apply for a pass to visit the inside of the Orlando airport’s (MCO) new Terminal C? According to a statement from the airport, they are calling it the Experience MCO Visitors Pass Program. You must give your personal details in the application (online only) up to seven days in advance, and the TSA will review your request and decide if they want to grant you access or not. Upon acceptance you will receive a digital pass you must show when going through Terminal C’s TSA check-point, and the same rules about what passengers can take in will apply to you. You are also only allowed to enter between 10am to and 4pm and must depart Terminal C by 8pm.
At first I thought this must be a joke of some kind, but it is a legit “trial” program. Unlike MCO’s main access building for Terminal A/B, where the majority of shops and restaurants are OUTSIDE of the TSA checkpoints, all of the restaurants and shops at Terminal C are inside the TSA Checkpoint. This includes the new 2-story Universal Orlando gift shop, Shake Shack, a Walt Disney World store, a SeaWorld store, yet another Starbucks and other typical assorted airport style stores and restaurants, with more available spots to add on as the terminal grows. Oh… and there are major plans to expand Terminal C over time, it was designed to grow much larger than it currently is.
So who is this for? I’m not entirely sure, unless you have a flight from Terminal A/B that is severely delayed and want a way to kill time, assuming on how quickly you can get approved for a pass. My other thought is that the new Brightline rail terminal is also attached to Terminal C and perhaps this is the way to provide those passengers with easy access to food and shopping while they wait for their own departure times, but they also have access to a free tram in the rail station complex that will take them over to Terminal A/B as well where no pass is required.
2023 - Brightline Service To Orlando International Airport / 2030 Expansion to Convention Center and Beyond -
(9/22/2023) Good news, the Brightline high speed rail serve from Orlando’s MCO airport to Miami finally went into service today! Follow this link to see a video story from MCO shows off the launch of the first train and the journey from Orlando to Miami on the new trains. The trains look great and with Orlando now connected by high speed rail to all of southern Florida, with stops close to all the other major airports along the way (PBI, FLL, and of course MIA) I can’t help but think that this will be a gamechanger for easy travel throughout the region.
(5/25/2023) For those wondering, Brightline is now selling tickets to ride the new high speed train service from Miami to the Orlando airport station starting on Sept. 1, 2023. Smart tickets are priced at $79 per passenger, and Premium seats for $149 each way. As I said, tickets are being sold for dates starting in September, but there is always a chance some earlier dates may become available as they get closer to starting-up their service schedule if the process between now and then goes smoothly. The full trip between the two end stations will only take about 3.5 hours.
(4/23/2023) According to the local news reports, Brightline confirmed during the unveiling of the Orlando rail station that tickets to travel from the Miami area to Orlando on the new high speed rail line would begin next month in May. No exact date for the service to begin has been confirmed at this point (they only say Summer), but obviously it will be determined by next month when ticket sales begin.
The travel time between Miami and Orlando is said to be 2 hrs and 59 minutes, with a day-of-purchase one-way ticket expected to cost between $75 to $100, depending on which Miami area station you are traveling from. Discounts for advanced purchases made online are also expected, but exact pricing has yet to be set, and will likely be in flux based on customer demand.
(3/29/23) The time for Brightline to begin service from southern Florida to the Orlando airport station is coming up quickly.
A new video from Brightline gives us a look at the inside of Brightline’s $100 62-acre “Basecamp” facility. Built just south of the airport, it will feature a building about the length of two football fields that will service, wash and maintain their fleet of trains.
In other reports, it has been mentioned that testing on the high-speed rails began earlier this month, with the trains hitting a top speed of 130 mph.
Watch it fly in the second video below.
(1/8/2023) In a follow up to Universal’s plans to join the rail expansion plans that will lead from the Brightline connection to the Orlando Airport to a new station at the Orange County Convention Center (that will also be able to service Universal’s Epic Universe expansion), we’ve got a couple of new images to share, as provided by Universal Orlando.
This includes a piece of artwork showing off what the proposed Convention Center station area could look like, which is expected to be ready by 2030. Of more interest is a map showing the route the rail would take, connecting to the new Brightline station that will soon open at the new Terminal C at MCO. I had been sort of thinking that it would simply go back up and follow along 528 to the West down to the convention center (as the Brightline heads to the East along 528) but instead the route shows the expansion moving south of MCO’s runways and then connecting up with an existing railroad right-of-way that exists down there, connecting around where the existing line crosses over Boggy Creek. It will follow the existing rail-path as it turns north just west of S. Orange Ave until it meets a new Sunrail Transfer Station. From there riders will move west along a new path that runs along W. Taft Vineland Rd until it intersects with 528 at the John Young exit area for a brief run before turning off at the Universal Blvd exit for the final run into the Convention Center Station.
Future expansion plans show that the line’s long term future plans will then move to I-4 and follow along the freeway down to a future South I-Drive station that sure looks like it could be placed somewhere very close to where the former Crossroads retail area was, right on Disney’s doorstep.
(1/7/2023) Universal Orlando is now involved with the plan to build a SunRail route from the Orlando Airport to the Orange County Convention Center. Universal has pledged to contribute 13 acres of land to be used to connect the route and build the Convention Center Station, as well as said they would support the operation and maintenance of this station. Of course this only makes sense, as the same station will also be able to service Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park now under construction right across the way from the convention center.
The plan will make it very easy for both residents and tourists alike to travel between the two areas, as well as being able to remove some unnecessary vehicle traffic from the congested highway between the airport and tourist corridor. For now they have named this new expansion as the “Sunshine Corridor”.
(9/24/22) Good news for the future of transit from the Orlando Airport to the main tourist corridor via rail. The OBJ has confirmed that SunRail has signed off on a plan to share the train corridor with Brightline that will take riders from the airport down to a stop near Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park (opening in 2025) and the Convention Center. In a huge win for this new rail transportation plans, the SunRail commission voted unanimously in favor to support the “Sunshine Corridor” project that will continue past the I-Drive area stops mentioned above and then on to another stop just outside the Walt Disney World resort. From here, long term plans are also in place from Brightline to eventually extend the line all the way to Tampa eventually that would complete the rail line’s run all the way from Miami. It was also mentioned that the united effort of support for the Sunshine Corridor, not just from the rail groups, but also all the local tourist attractions would only benefit the program’s efforts to secure Federal Funding for the expansion. So far the only group to turn their nose up at the plan was the Walt Disney Company who refused to allow a station to be built on their property if the line made stops anywhere other than the airports. On the other side of the coin, Universal Orlando has agreed to donate land for the proposed station that will be located near their Epic Universe theme park project.
(7/3/22) Walt Disney World repeats history playing the “train game” with Florida once again. How so? Earlier this week a Disney spokesperson came out to say that Walt Disney World is no longer supporting the proposed Brightline train project, and the once proposed station for the line at Disney Springs has been canceled. At the time that Disney agreed to work with Brightline on the project, the layout of the expansion line that would run from the Orlando Airport to Tampa was looking to run down the SR-417 tollway from the airport directly to Disney property before heading off towards Tampa.
So what changed? Well Brightline was always looking into various property options to move the line through Orlando to Tampa, and of course as Brightline will travel from the coast down SR-528 to get to the airport, it only makes sense to continue that alignment to try and continue the run down SR-528 to Orlando, which would also allow for an additional stop by the Orange County Convention Center in the heart of the tourist district.
On June 1st it was reported that a new Federal Grant was being given to Brightlight for exactly this purpose to help secure the funding needed to proceed with this alternate route the line would take before turning towards Disney. Not only would the new alignment allow for easier flow to and from the airport for more visitors to Orlando, but provide easy access from the Convention Center area, which is also just down the street from SeaWorld Orlando and virtually right next door to where Universal is building their newest theme park, Universal’s Epic Universe. And there-in lies the problem… because Disney is once again taking their ball and going home because they can’t play nice.
This new alignment not only better serves the needs of the area, but serves the community because the plan was also to have Sun Rail expand their service to make runs down this same track from the Convention Center to the Airport every 15 minutes, removing the need for thousands of vehicles per day to travel down SR-518 to the airport. With stops at the Convention Center and Disney Springs and then moving on to Tampa (which would remove more cars from I-4 coming from the Tampa area) the project seems like it should be a win-win for everyone.
As I’ve alluded to, Disney has done all this before. Lets jump back about 20 years and local residents will recall a little something called the Florida High Speed Rail project. In November of 2000 the resident of Florida voted to approve an amendment to the states constitution that asked for the government to proceed with the design and installation of a High Speed Rail system, with the initial leg designed to connect the Tampa and Orlando airports, running mostly down the I-4 corridor. To help ensure there were enough passengers along the line, the state asked Disney to get involved and allow a station to be built on Disney Property which would deliver countless tourists right from the airports onto Disney’s doorstep. Around 2002 everything fell apart because Disney refused to allow a station at Walt Disney World if the line stopped anywhere else between Disney and the Orlando Airport. Even then the government knew they needed to have an additional stop at the Convention Center, and Disney refused to play ball if that requirement stayed. As this essentially meant that the taxpayers of Florida (especially in the Orlando area) would be building a transportation system that would only benefit Disney and not the people, that was never going to stick, so in 2004 the Florida voters then removed the High Speed Rail amendment from the state constitution. The project was essentially dead.
There is still a “Brightline” to this story… because the new alignment now being established as the “Sunshine Corridor” still plans to move ahead. The plan will expand the run from the Orlando Airport to the Convention Center and then on to a second station “near Disney Springs, although not on Disney property.” for the next phase before proceeds on towards Tampa. The location of this new station near Disney has not been revealed, but I’ve got a hunch it may involve a new large piece of property that the state took control of right next to Disney that is currently being cleared out. I’m talking about the Crossroads retail property right at the end of Disney’s Hotel Plaza Blvd entrance. The site is being cleared out to allow for better off-ramp access from the I-4 freeway directly into this very road, and will leave a lot of empty undeveloped property in the aftermath that could easily accommodate a new rail station right just outside Disney’s doorstep. (Again, just speculation on my part, as I have no insight as to the actual alignment of how they plan to provide rail service down I-4 from the Convention Center to Tampa, but the purchase of this property by the State was not something that had been done the last time rail service through here was being considered.
(6/3/22) For a few years now everyone has watched Florida’s Brightline rail service proceed with their planned expansion from the Ft. Lauderdale / West Palm Beach area to link up with the Orlando International Airport (MCO). According to the latest word, the project is 80% complete and is expected to open at MCO in early 2023. Just a couple weeks ago Brightline celebrated the arrival of their first test-train into the MCO station.
Once this phase is complete, work is expected to begin on expansions to both ends of the line, moving it towards Port Miami to the south, and on the Orlando side the line is expected to stop at Walt Disney World and then move on eventually to Tampa. But the journey through Orlando was just aided by a new federal grant that will also see Brightline service follow SR-528 and create another stop to service the Orlando Convention Center (and Universal Orlando’s new planned Epic Universe theme park) before moving on to another station by Disney Springs.
Previously Brightline was planing on taking a more direct southern route to Disney from the airport along SR-417, but the federal grant has given them the needed funds to take the more northern route that will actually connect travelers from the airport directly to popular destinations, which should also give some relief to traffic along the current roads once finished.
(1/20/20) According to the latest update an official from Virgin Trains stated that talks with Disney to put a station on or near the Walt Disney World property have reached a “rather advanced state now”. With the rail line pathway seemingly already set to run down the 417 from the Airport on a direct run towards Disney, it would only make sense that a station get build on the mouse’s doorstep at some point in the future. Of course Virgin Trains has to finish the expansion of their line from West Palm Beach to the Orlando Airport first.
(12/31/19) Discussions between Virgin Trains USA and the state of Florida have been extended for another 90 days to attempt to finalize the land-lease location of a high-speed rail route that would travel about 80 miles from the Orlando airport, down SR-417 to connect to I-4 where it would lead to a new station in the Tampa area.
As previously reported, Virgin is also in talks with Disney about locating a station on or near Disney property as they pass through the area, but a route along the SR-417 from the airport would remove any possibility of putting a station near the Orange County Convention Center, which became a major obstacle in getting Disney on-board with plans a decade ago for a similar project.
(12/18/19) While the Orlando airport is preparing for the arrival of the Virgin Trains USA line (formerly Brightline) to bring in riders from the southern Florida area starting in 2022, they are also apparently in talks about an expansion of the line from the Orlando airport that could eventually reach Tampa, that could include a stop at Walt Disney World.
Now stop me if you think you’ve heard this story before… because if you are local to central Florida, or a longtime reader, you are probably having a bit of deja-vu from 2009. Ten years ago the state of Florida began making plans to build a bullet train that would run from the Orlando to Tampa airports with a few stops along the way. This included a wanted stop at Orlando’s Orange County Convention center on I-Drive as well as one at Walt Disney World before running off towards Tampa. Unfortunately, while Disney was willing and wanted to have a grand-sized station on property, they also set an ultimatum demanding that the train would not stop anywhere in Orlando after leaving the airport before it arrived at Walt Disney World property. Since this would turn the state funded project into a direct funnel that would only benefit Walt Disney World, the rail project proposal soon died a quick death.
While at first one might think that this posturing was another mis-step from the Eisner era at Disney, this is not so as Michael Eisner was replaced by Bob Iger in 2005, so all this happened under Iger’s watch and it makes me wonder if it could play out the same way once again.
(8/9/19) Awhile ago you may remember reading a report here about how the Brightline high-speed train service that runs from Miami through Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach was planning to expand the service all the way to Orlando International Airport. That plan is still said to be on and now Virgin has come on board as a partner as well, that will see the service rebranded as Virgin Trains USA. The construction of the extension to Orlando is expected to take 3 years and be completed sometime in 2022.
There is more to come however, as Universal Orlando has now teamed up with Orange County to push as hard as they can to get the line extended a little bit more to create another stop that would be able to service the Orange County Convention Center as well as Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park resort property.
Meanwhile Virgin Trains says they are already plans to expand the system even more, with a stop at Walt Disney World and then a run down to Tampa… but obviously this expansion would cut out the rest of the Orlando market completely, which is why they are lobbying for the important extra stop at the Convention Center, which could service the entire Orlando tourist corridor along I-Drive and not just Walt Disney World.
This all sounds extremely familiar to me, and if you are local to Orlando, it might sound familiar to you as well, as a similar situation played out years ago over another proposed high-speed rail project that would have run from the Orlando airport to the Tampa airport, with a single stop at Walt Disney World. Disney at the time set the demand that they would only allow it to stop on their property as long as it did not stop anywhere else along the way and the project was soon abandoned as being entirely self serving to Walt Disney World, who wasn't paying for it, and not at all to anyone else.
2024?? - Sports Illustrated Resort - (2/19/2023) Are you ready for a new themed resort experience designed for sports fans? Sports Illustrated Resorts is coming. According to their website the first brand-new US location is on-deck for Orlando, set to open sometime in 2024 if all goes well. It is interesting, as the concept art almost ignores showing off what the resort hotel tower might look like in favor of the sports themed play area that will accompany it, full of mini attractions.
NASCAR themed Go-Karts, a Ropes Course, a ZipCoaster, Lazy River, water playgrounds with poolslide climbing walls and a swim-up bar, a Grand Slam baseball themed sling-shot ride, a mini baseball diamond with a Jumbotron, S.I. City sports bar/restaurant, and more. For sports fans visiting Orlando for a bit of fun, this sure looks like it could be the resort for you.
According to this article the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Trible Coucil approved $324 million for Kituwah LLC to ‘control a “worldwide” brand and invest in multiple resorts”, which has now been revealed to be this new Sports Illustrated Resorts concept. Kituwah says they’ve been working with the SIResorts team with the idea of creating about 9 or 10 of these new resort concepts across North America, starting in Orlando.
The locations will feature a number of attractions and entertainment options along with some live action sports and dining experiences as well as wellness and relaxation features. They also seem to be targeting not only resort locations, but are looking to place properties near select “university locations, upscale golf destinations, chic beach clubs, eco-adventure lodges and large format resorts.”
In addition to the new resorts, existing resorts can seek to join up by paying for and rebranding themselves into new SIResorts, much like a franchise opportunity. The first such re-branded resort is actually expected to be the first to open, transforming the Ancora Cap Cana resort in the Dominican Republic, which is slated to reopen this April, with other possible sites across Europe and Asia being looked at for conversion. You can find pictures of the Cap Cana resort also posted on the official website.
If Kituwah LLC sounds familiar, you may have seen the name attached to the new destination project under construction just outside Pigeon Forge, Tennessee called “The 407: Gateway to Adventure” that will feature the world’s largest Buc-ee’s location at the entrance later this year, followed by a Courtyard by Marriott and a new walk-through attraction built by Poy du Fou that will tell the story of Cherokee’s serving during World War I.
???? - AREA 15 - (3/11/22) If you’re a reader of our Las Vegas news page, then the name “Area 15” is already familiar to you. If not, then prepare yourself to let things get a little “weird” and out there, as Area 15 has unexpectedly and quite literally planted their flag in Orlando, right off I-4 just north of Disney property. According to a FB post by Area 15, the unique attraction made famous in Las Vegas over the past 18 months brought in a giant robot planting a flag and left it next to the freeway at the future site for the second Area 15 attraction, just north of the Orlando Premium Outlets mall and south of the Cheesecake Factory.
According to the post the Area 15 Orlando site will feature about 300,000 square-feet of space on a 17-acre site, with over half of that space available for lease. Area 15 is really a crazy collection of unique experiences and attractions, but the most well known of them all is the Meow Wolf “Omega Mart” immersive art installation.
So the million dollar question for Area 15 right now is all about if another Meow Wolf location is planned for the Orlando location or not. Of course there are other similar concepts that could also fit right in if Meow Wolf wasn’t ready to expand again, such as Other Worlds (Ohio) or Arcadia Earth (New York & Las Vegas).
Kennedy Space Center Review (2022) -
(10/23/22) Back in June I was able to take a special visit to the Kennedy Space Center to take a preview peek inside their newest addition: Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex. I meant to post some information on this a little sooner, but then tried to time it out with the launch of the new Artemis rocket. If you’ve followed the progress of Artemis, you know it has suffered more than a few delays, but with a new launch window on the horizon, the timing is more than right to take a serious look inside the Kennedy Space Center once again in my latest article posted over at Blooloop, so please follow the link for that.
In additional to all the official media and release information the the Gateway attraction posted in the Blooloop piece, I’ve added a big assortment of personal photos I’ve taken myself showing off what I saw inside Gateway as well as a good look at other major attractions at the Kennedy Space Center. In all honestly, visiting the KSC was a fantastic experience, as I think my last visit there was about 30 years ago in the early ‘90s, and things have changed so much since then.
The old experience was highlighted by a bus tour out past the massive VAB building and if you were lucky, you might be allowed to get close to one of the launch pads and crawlers if they were not in use at the time. There wasn’t much to the main complex back in the day other than an assorted display of old rockets, but the experience now is more akin to the feeling you might have enjoyed when visiting Epcoit’s Future World back in the 90s. You know, back when the message was about a bright future ahead through technology advancements, and when everyone’s favorite ride there was Horizons.
The Kennedy Space Center of today now has that look at feel, with an assortment of large attraction buildings that combine displays of the actual hardware that went into space with interactive areas, theatrical re-creations of historical moments, an IMAX theater and even a couple of motion simulator rides. Plus you can see the acutal Space Shuttle Atlantis now on display… and I have to admit, it made me tear up a bit when I saw it.
Coming off a cruise, my family and I stopped in and really enjoyed the our experience there, from the larger than life attractions to the lunch we ate in the afternoon where even the food was quite tasty. (We also noted that it wasn’t as crazy overpriced as the food is at the nearby Orlando theme parks as well, which was nice.)
My family has a small bit of a connection here as well, as my wife’s grandfather was in the Air Force and was assigned the duty of flying the Apollo 13 astronauts to various locations around the world on a press tour upon their return to Earth. Meanwhile my oldest son is in college studying aerospace engineering and my other son just started college to become a professional pilot. So we left the Kennedy Space Center more than a little inspired, and definitely will make plan to return again on a future trip to try out the four different flight rides inside the new Gateway attraction.