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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

12 new things in 2012: Theme park upgrades, concerts and more



minions.jpgToday is Jan. 12, 2012, so our friends on the Things to Do team have given us 12 things to get excited about this year in the bay area and Orlando:

1 Animal Center at Busch Gardens
The Tampa theme park plans to open a new 16,000-square-foot Animal Care and Nutrition Center in the next couple of weeks, with an up-close look behind glass and a walk-through experience showing everything from making meals to surgery.  Included in park admission. (Jan. 23)

2 Les Misérables
It’s the 25th anniversary production of everybody’s favorite musical, with new staging and scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo — as if you needed an excuse to see it again. David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. (813) 229-7827. (Jan. 31-Feb. 12)

3 Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon
This is not just 13.1 miles of pain, it’s a party, with live bands along the route and a festival at the finish with rapper/hitmaker Flo Rida giving a free show in North Shore Park. With a reputation as one of the hottest marathon events in the country, this is its first year in St. Petersburg. You can still register online. $105. (Feb. 12.)

4 Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom
It’s tough to nail Disney down on dates, but if you read the pixie dust, the first phase of an expansion of Fantasyland — with the popular Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride — should open early this year, the Orlando Sentinel says. The second half of the year will bring some of the bigger attractions, including a Little Mermaid indoor ride and a Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant. The rest of the revamp — including an indoor roller coaster based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — will come in 2013.

5 Itzhak Perlman
The winner of 15 Grammy awards is a superstar virtuoso violinist who has played for queens and presidents, and he’ll play for you at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. $50-$125. (727) 791-7400. (March 4)

6 Bill Clinton
The charismatic former president swings through the Straz Center  in Tampa to talk about globalization and other challenges in “Embracing Our Common Humanity.” How can you resist in an election year? (813) 229-7827. (March 21)

7 Glen Campbell
Radiohead (Feb. 29), Neil Diamond (June 3) and Coldplay (June 28) are all biggies coming to town, but we’re quietly most excited about a show at Clearwater’s intimate Capitol Theatre. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, country legend Glen Campbell, 75, decided to embark on a goodbye tour, which brings him  here for two shows.  By the way, 1975’s Rhinestone Cowboy is the  first song Times pop music critic Sean Daly remembers hearing as a tyke, so you know he’ll be there — and you know he’ll be a mess. (March 21-22)

8 American Stage in the Park: The Rocky Horror Show
My, how far we’ve come from the old Shakespeare in the Park. This year it’ll be a fun, frothy, naughty party in the park when the cult musical warps into Demens Landing in St. Petersburg. Order your fishnet stockings now. (727) 823-7529. (April 11-May 13)

van-halen-tour.jpg9 Van Halen
Okay, okay, so we’re excited about one more band: Van Halen. Some 30 years ago, Van Halen was one of the greatest rock bands ever: the magic of Eddie Van Halen on guitar, the charm of David Lee Roth on vocals. Together again at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Wouldn’t miss it. (April 12)

10 Magic Mike
It’s no Dolphin Tale, but Magic Mike will once again put bay area scenery on the big screen. Oscar winning director Steve Soderbergh spent a couple of weeks here shooting scenes for the film, a strip club comedy starring Matthew McConaughey and former Tampa resident Channing Tatum. (June 29)

11 Legoland water park
Florida’s newest theme park is reviving another former attraction in Polk County: The old Splash Island Water Park will be renovated and opened by the summer with a Lego theme, park managers say.   (Summer)

12 Universal Studios
The theme park will add Despicable Me as a new 3-D ride — replacing Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast — and update its popular Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction with a technical face lift and HD technology. Universal is tight-lipped about when these attractions will be open, so stay tuned.

--By Kelly Smith, Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Sean Daly

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[Last modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 10:25am]


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