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A Time of Change for Orlando Theme Parks

A Time of Change for Orlando Theme Parks

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With just hours to spare ‘til 2009 gives way to 2010, I thought that it might be interesting to review the year from the Orlando Fun Tickets point-of-view.

2009 got off to a pretty fast start with tens of thousands of runners pouring into the area January 8 – 11th to take part in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

Runners are excited to run through Walt Disney World in the WDW marathon
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Then, as February 7th rolled around, tourists traded their running shoes for dancing shoes as Universal Orlando’s annual Mardi Gras celebration got underway. Nelly, Montgomery Gentry, Ne-Yo and Kelly Clarkson were among the performers who helped break in the new permanent stage at Universal Studios Florida.

Speaking of Ms. Clarkson, Kelly was among the dozens of “American Idol” winners and performers who were on hand February 12th at Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ star-studded gala for the opening of the American Idol Experience attraction.

American Idol winners all together to commemorate the opening of the new Disney Hollywood Studios attraction
The largest-ever gathering of "American Idol" winners came together earlier this
year to commemorate the opening of this new DHS attraction. Photo by Kent
Phillips. Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

March saw SeaWorld Orlando adding to its menagerie of animals with the arrival of four Asian small-clawed otters. Walt Disney World added yet another athletic event to its roster with the inaugural run of its Princess Half Marathon on March 8th. Meanwhile, over at Epcot, spring arrived early with the March 18th opening of the 16th annual International Flower and Garden Festival.

April saw record crowds pour into the Orlando area to celebrate Spring Break as well as Easter Sunday. In May, thousands of would-be Jedis descended on Disney’s Hollywood Studios to take in Star War Weekends. Coaster enthusiasts from around the country headed over to SeaWorld Orlando to check out Manta, the theme park’s brand-new flying coaster.

Park guests enjoy Seaworld's newest coaster, Manta
Photo by Jason Collier. Copyright 2009 SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.
All Rights Reserved

In June, WDW began offering Magic Kingdom visitors the chance to sample some sweets while fireworks exploded overhead with their “Wishes” Dessert Party. And speaking of fireworks, July 4th saw the re-opening of the theme park’s newly refurbished “Hall of Presidents” which featured a brand-new movie as well as an Audio-Animatronic Barack Obama.

As July gave way to August, one of 2009’s most anticipated attractions finally opened to the public. The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit sent coaster fans right over the edge with its mix of on-board audio and never-before-attempted maneuvers like the Double Take (i.e. the world’s largest non-inverted loop).

Universal Stuidos Orlando's Rip Ride Rocket sent coaster fans over the edge
Copyright 2009 Universal Orlando Resort. All Rights Reserved

September was the start of spooky season here in Orlando, with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party getting underway at the Magic Kingdom on September 4th, while Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights kicked off on September 25th. SeaWorld Orlando waited until October 3rd before it began offering its Halloween Spooktacular.

As November rolled around, those who were interested in stretching out their stomachs in preparation for Thanksgiving could walk around Epcot’s World Showcase and sample all of the foods that were available during the final week of the 14th annual International Food and Wine Festival. Meanwhile, over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, technicians raced to put the finishing touches on the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, which began entertaining WDW visitors on November 10th. Then on the 22nd, thrill ride fans got an early Christmas present when the newly refurbished Space Mountain re-opened.

Disneyworld's Space Mountain got a refurbishment in November of 2009
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration got underway on November 13th while Universal Orlando waited until December 5th before it began celebrating Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure as well as sending Macy’s Holiday Parade marching through Universal Studios Florida.

Now, here we are on December 31st , looking back on theme park shows from 2009 that didn’t quite work (i.e. Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration) or left far too soon (“Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee.” Which presents its final performance on January 3rd). As for 2010 … The opening of Phase One of Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter is going to have a huge impact on Central Florida tourism. The Magic Kingdom is also set to begin construction on its Fantasyland expansion project, which will be the largest expansion of the Magic Kingdom in its 38 year history.

A Disney artists concept drawing of the Magic Kingdom's expansion project
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

All in all, it’s a really interesting time to be working at a place like Orlando Fun Tickets, where our goal is to help make your Orlando vacation experience as easy and enjoyable as possible. So, if you’re looking to visit this area in the coming year, why not give us a call? OFT customer service representatives can then walk you through how to get the most out of your visit to Central Florida.

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  • No mention of Aquatica opening at Sea World? That did happen in 2009 correct?

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