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Orlando theme parks welcome Christian music festivals

ORLANDO — Two nights, two parks, one unifying theme: Christian music. • Friday and Saturday, some of the top contemporary Christian artists will perform at Disney's Night of Joy and Universal's Rock the Universe. • Both theme parks will have multiple stages set up throughout, and guests can experience the attractions and the music for one price. It's a formula that draws tens of thousands each year — in fact, Disney has sold out the past three years. • Disney, which started the tradition in 1983, has hosted award-winning artists Switchfoot, Kirk Franklin and Steven Curtis Chapman among others. Universal got in on the action with Rock the Universe in 1998, taking an edgier approach to the concert offerings and trying to appeal to teen fans with popular youth speakers and harder music. • Which best suits you and your family? Here's an insider's view to this rockin' weekend.

Night of Joy

Location: Disney's Hollywood Studios (a change from the past venue, the Magic Kingdom).

Hours: 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Tickets: Advance one-night tickets are $47.88, including tax. Advance two-night tickets are $80.89, including tax. If tickets remain the day of the event, the price is $53.20 per night.

Groups of 10 or more receive one free chaperone ticket for each 10 tickets purchased. Groups also are allowed early admission at 4 p.m.

Typical crowd: Families and youth groups. Night of Joy has across-the-board appeal for parents, teens and kids.

Must-see attractions: Rock 'n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the new Toy Story Mania!

Bonuses: Guests receive a compilation CD of Night of Joy artists as they exit each night. . . . Night of Joy ends an hour later than in years past, at 1:30 a.m. . . . Some artists, not yet named, will participate in "talk-back" sessions for fans during the nights. . . . Group leaders get a gift bag, two special FastPasses and access to a leaders-only lounge inside the park during the concerts. There are also discounted group ticket prices for daytime admission to the Disney parks that weekend.

Contact: For individual tickets, call (407) 934-7639 or go to disneyworld.com/nightofjoy. For group sales, call toll-free 1-877-648-3569 or go to nightofjoy.com/2008.

Who you'll see: Night of Joy offers a variety of styles, from urban gospel to adult contemporary, plus a good dose of rock and hip-hop. Friday brings Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Rebecca St. James, BarlowGirl (pictured), Matthew West, Rush of Fools, Brandon Heath and Britt Nicole. Saturday's bill features Casting Crowns, TobyMac, Fred Hammond, Marcos Witt, Mandisa, Aaron Shust, RED and Pure NRG.

Rock the Universe

Location: Universal Studios.

Hours: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Tickets: One-night tickets are $49.99, including tax, in advance, and $55 at the gate. Two-night advance tickets are $80.79, including tax. "Rock Your Whole Weekend" tickets are $95.99 for admission to both Rock the Universe nights as well as to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure Friday through Sunday. For groups of 10 or more, one-night tickets are $45.78 each, including tax.

Typical crowd: Lots of teens and youth groups, plus families. Some music may be too intense for young children.

Must-see attractions: The Simpsons Ride, Shrek 4-D and Men in Black Alien Attack.

Bonuses: Sunday morning, all Rock the Universe ticket holders can return to the park for nondenominational worship services at 8:30, 9:45 or 10:45, with speaker Gary Morgan and Brian "Head" Welch. . . . Universal offers "meal deal" wristbands that allow guests to eat unlimited amounts at specific restaurants all day.

Contact: Call toll-free 1-866-788-4636 or go to www.rocktheuniverse.com.

If you go

A veteran's tips

for making the most

of the weekend.

Night of Joy

. Get a group together; the leader perks are awesome.

. Hit the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror at the beginning or end of the night for the shortest lines.

Rock the Universe

. Consider a "meal deal" pass if you'll be at the parks all day. You need to eat at least three times to break even, but it is super-convenient.

. "Rock Your Whole Weekend" is a deal: both parks, three days, all concerts, under $100.

Both parks

. Grab a concert schedule on your way in and make a plan. You don't want to miss your favorite band because you were on the wrong side of the park. Write your name on your tickets and make sure you have contact information in your wallet, backpack, camera case and anything else you'd like back if lost.

. BYOP — Bring your own poncho. It's Florida; it rains.

. Throw your pillow and blanket in the car if you're not staying over. You'll be comfy on the late-night ride home.

Orlando theme parks welcome Christian music festivals 09/03/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 3, 2008 4:31am]

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