Hi there! Welcome to our weekly roundup of the most interesting theme park news around the Walt Disney World Resort, the Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and other theme parks.
Here are this week’s theme park highlights:
- Universal's parent company Comcast has confirmed it has purchased 475 acres of land near its existing Orlando theme parks. Executives said that there are no firm plans for the land yet but that it was a strategic move for long term. That size would allow for significant development, and could fit a theme park, hotel and more. In the meantime, Universal is moving quickly on two big development projects, the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort opening this spring and the Volcano Bay water theme park coming in 2017.
- Universal Orlando celebrated Harry Potter, and the recently passed Alan Rickman, who played Severus Snape, during its third annual event. Many of the film's actors were there, including Rupert Grint, Matthew Lewis and Bonnie Wright.
- Hunter Hayes is kicking off Universal's Mardi Gras celebration, which is held on select days through March 20. Other performers this season include Shawn Mendes, Jessie Jay and Fall Out Boy.
- Disney's Beach Club is introducing an afternoon tea on select dates this spring in the crescent solarium, already the perfect spot to curl up with a book on a rainy day or just get away from the hustle and bustle of the parks for a little while. The tea includes four courses with a selection of cheese, small bites and sweets.
- And speaking of sweets, you all know how much I love Disney's caramel apples. Just in time for Valentine's Day, Disney is offering a tutorial for making Mickey and Minnie bride and groom apples. While these apples aren't sold on the candy shelves in the park, you can request for them to be made while you wait.
- Over at SeaWorld Orlando, Bands, Brews & BBQ is set to return on Feb. 16. The popular event is offering special prices on new tasting samplers and a special tribute for men and women of the armed services.
- The Four Seasons Resort Orlando and Villas of Grand Cypress Orlando made U.S. News & World Report's annual list of best Florida hotels. Five Disney World hotels made the top 10 of Orlando hotels, including Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, and the Frog Family's favorite, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.
- And if you missed the news, we frogs are now selling discounted Disney World hotel rooms. Now through the end of March, you can save even more on select dates.
- No surprise here, but The Walt Disney Company has been ranked the world's most powerful brand, according to Brand Finance. Wanna guess no. 2? Hint: It's another theme park and toy brand built brick by brick.
- Starting Feb. 10, River Belle Terrace at Disneyland becomes a table-service location, serving up Southern favorites such as barbecue, chopped salads, spare ribs and more. Additionally, Rancho del Zocalo has started a quick-service breakfast that offers some of River Belle Terrace's breakfast menu items as well as Mexican-inspired bites.
- The sheep, goats and miniature donkeys from the Big Thunder Ranch Petting Zoo at Disneyland have a new home at a Murrieta, Ca., farm. The petting zoo closed to make way for the new Star Wars Land. They look so hoppy!
That’s it for the theme park news this week. Have a great weekend!
If you’re thinking about a trip to Disney World, make sure to check out the other news, tips and information we post to the blog throughout the week. If you’re ready to plan your trip, we recommend you start with our Orlando Planning Guide.