Park Places: Your Ticket to Ride
(The new Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, SC, boasts a slew of innovative and exciting attractions including Maximum RPM! shown above.*)
By Georgina Cruz
The South is rockin’ with the addition of the new 55-acre Hard Rock Park (843-236-ROCK or www.hardrockpark.com) in Myrtle Beach, SC. Opened earlier this year, Hard Rock Park boasts more than 50 attractions -- from heart pounding to family friendly.
Unveiled in June is the high-speed, mega-attraction Maximum RPM! (shown above*). Located in the British Invasion section of the park, this attraction boasts English-style, convertible sports car ride vehicles that invite the intrepid to take a test spin while racing to British New Wave hits.
Even while you wait to ride there’s excitement in the air in what’s being billed as the world’s first Karaoke Queue Line. Visitors can test their skills as a British rock star while in line in a brick-and-steel manufacturing plant-style building.
The focal point of the attraction is a Ferris-Wheel structure that lifts riders up into place high above the plant.
Once at the top (see photo at right*), cars are released onto a high-speed test track.
You may feel as though you are dropping right out of the sky. Once on the track, the cars hurtle through steeply banked turns as the stereo cranks up. And, oh, look out for the carwash at the end!
Hard Rock Park is a theme park for rockers of all ages. It features shows, interactive attractions and a live music amphitheater, children’s play areas, restaurants and shops.
Thrilling coasters include Led Zeppelin – The Ride and Eagles Life In The Fast Lane.
Prefer a walk on the wild side to rock 'n roll? Then head for Busch Gardens Africa (888-800-5447 or www.buschgardens.com) in Tampa Bay where a new wildlife area, Jungala, opened this spring.
The Tampa park always excels when it comes to wildlife observation areas and Jungala is no exception. (See photos at right and below*)
Jungala allows visitors multiple ways to see such animals as orangutans and white tigers in an exotic jungle setting.
Located in the park’s Congo area, Jungala has waterways, a waterfall, village and jungle environments.
Jungala also includes a family fun section with rides and exploration areas; some of these areas are three stories high and overlook wildlife habitats.
In addition to close-up viewing of wildlife, Jungala offers opportunities for interaction with animals and features street entertainment.
Special Park Happenings
This fall is for foodies in Florida. The Walt Disney World Resort (www.disneyworld.com) in the Orlando area presents its 13th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (www.disneyworld.com/food) from Sept. 26 to Nov. 9. (At right, one couple enjoys the tasty festival fare.*)
Arguably the nation’s biggest food and wine fest, it pays homage this year to great “foodie” cities of the world including Cork, Ireland; Shanghai, China; Bologna, Italy; Lyon, France and Cape Town, South Africa.
More than 25 international marketplaces serve tapas-sized portions of regional specialties at $2 to $5 each.
Recommended wines and beers offer perfect pairings at each kiosk.
Daily free wine and beer tastings (see photo at left*) are also on the delectable agenda as well as culinary demonstrations by 250 Disney and guest chefs and nightly concerts.
The event is included in Epcot admission ($71 adults; $60 children).
Anyone want to buy a vowel? If you always dreamed of being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, you can try your luck at Sea World Orlando (www.seaworld.com/orlando) on Sept. 27-28.
A search for contestants for the popular television show begins with a visit of the Wheelmobile to the park.
The “traveling hosts” (alas, not Pat Sajak and Vanna White) will select contestants at random from applications of Wheel of Fortune hopefuls.
Those selected will be brought on the show’s traveling stage in groups of five for brief interviews and to play a version of Wheel of Fortune’s speed-up round.
Those considered to be most promising will go on to final auditions to be held a few weeks later.
The show also will tape four weeks’ worth of 2009 programs on Dec. 11-12 and 14-15 at Sea World’s Bayside Stadium.
Park News & Notes
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is the place to see Mouse Ears! Now those lovable head adornments have even more personalized character.
Guests may customize everyone’s favorite souvenir –made famous in the 1950s with the Mickey Mouse Club—at The Chapeau on Main Street U.S.A. (Photos of some of the many variations of Disney "ears" are shown at right and below.*)
There, at the Build Your Own Ears hat boutique, you can fashion a set of ears that represents your individual personality.
- Visitors can choose one of 19 bases in various colors and materials (including purple satin, pink fur, blue velvet and even green glow-in-the-dark!).
- Then they select from an assortment of snap-on mouse ears.
- And finally, they adorn their hat using peel-and-stick patches with Disney characters and more.
Literally thousands of combinations are possible so visitors can walk away with a truly one-of-a-kind set of ears. Prices vary and depend on how all-out you go.
A base, two ears and chin strap goes for $7.50; optional patches are $2.95 each, letters $5.95 for a pack and embroidery is $3.
From one fad you can wear to one fad you can ride. New this year at Carowinds (800-888-4386 or www.carowinds.com) in Charlotte, NC is Yo Yo, a whirling attraction that you don’t swing like a yo-yo, but it swings you. (Carowinds logo is shown above.*)
Inaugurated earlier this year in the County Fair section of the park, the two-minute ride has 32 one-person swings and an hourly capacity of 336 riders.
At Dolly Parton’s Dollywood (800-DOLLYWOOD or www.dollywood.com)in Pigeon Forge, TN , you expect great entertainment and you get it. And often it touches your heart.
The park’s 2008 entertainment lineup includes two international "Heartbeat Award" stage shows: Dreamland Drive-In (a segment is shown at left*) and The Great American Country Show.
Bestowed by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the Heartbeat Award recognizes a show that demonstrates superior overall ability in reaching the hearts of its audience.
Judging rationale includes production quality, content, and effectiveness in creating a special connection with the audience.
Dreamland Drive-In showcases the music of the ‘50s and ‘60s. The show's setting is a drive-in diner where the local radio station holds live broadcasts every Saturday afternoon.
The production’s storyline takes audiences on a nostalgic trip down memory lane as a 15-year romance unfolds between the show’s two central characters—“Danny the DJ” and “the girl in the green dress.”
The show features a 12-member cast (some are shown in the photo at right*) and an orchestrated musical score highlighting the eras’ most memorable hit songs including “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” “Yesterday,” “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” “California Dreamin’,” and more.
The Great American Country Show features a six-member cast and a six-piece band who perform 45 minutes of contemporary and classic country hits.
Those include “All-American Girl,” “If You’re Reading This,” “When I Get Where I’m Going,” “Picture To Burn” and “Small Town Southern Man.”
A special segment honoring Dolly Parton (shown at left.*) includes a video performance of Parton singing her chart-topping hit “I Will Always Love You.”
Each performance of The Great American Country Show is highlighted by a 10-minute guest appearance by a country artist.
Among upcoming performers are Tammy Cochran (Sept. 19-24), and T. Graham Brown (Oct. 17-22 & 24-25).
*Photos above are owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of the individual theme parks mentioned. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.