Two of Walt Disney World's most popular rides — read: brutal lines, Fast Passes gone instantly, your kids are sobbing, you need an adult beverage — will get considerable expansions in 2016 to accommodate crowds: Toy Story Midway Mania at Hollywood Studios, and Soarin' at EPCOT.
Completed sometime in 2016, the expansions will involve a third theater for Soarin' (a ride that combines an IMAX screen with up-and-away ride technology plus funky smells) and another track at Midway Mania (a ride that combines 3D shooting gallery and Woody-centric hijinks)....
Power to the pachyderms and the people who love them. • Citing pervasive public outcry against the use of elephants in its shows, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus promised on Thursday that it will stop making its biggest stars — literally and figuratively — tour and perform for the masses. • Dumbo is leaving the Big Top. • "This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers," said Kenneth Feld, president of the Polk City-based Feld Entertainment, parent company of Ringling Bros. • Thirteen out of the company's 43 elephants will continue to tour with the 145-year-old "Greatest Show on Earth" until 2018, when those animals, along with most of their performing brethren, will retire to the company's Center for Elephant Conservation, located in Central Florida. • Animal rights activists were mostly elated. They have protested for decades that elephants are emotion-rich roamers not suited for touring and performing. "Wild animals have never signed a contract to perform stupid human tricks in circuses," said the Florida Voices for Animals in a statement. "What can the public learn about elephants that wear a tutu and pivot around a stool on a front leg?"...
When Adventure Island opens for the soaking season Saturday, the perfectly fine water park will finally have its first perfectly star-making attraction: Colossal Curl, a 622-foot-long thrill slide with a "weightless wave wall" as its looming gut check finale.
I conquered Colossal Curl twice during media day, but I could have splashed down that beast 10 more times and still wouldn't have been ready for the drop-then-rise of that finish. ...
Sex toilets aside, Episode 5 of Better Call Saul went to a very dark place at the end of its hour on Monday -- and that place is called Mike's House. Ooooh, Breaking Bad chills! Herewith, our resident weekly Saulers (Sean Daly, Michelle Stark, Chris Tisch) gush, debate and predict how the AMC hit show will unfurl as it creeps into the (hopefully twisted) second-half of its debut season...
SEAN: You guys are gonna eye-roll at me again (or maybe you never stopped), but I realized my affections for Better Call Saul were approaching Breaking Bad-ish intensity last night when I kept peeking at my clock to see how much time was left. I wanted more, to cram two hours into one. But I also felt that giddy-nervous stir when it blinked to 10:50 p.m. That's Vince Gilligan's magic window, always has been. All inventive, never-saw-it-coming hell would break loose on BB in the closing ticks; it does with Saul & Co. too. And Ep 5 finally, thankfully took us into a dark storm cloud, with fixer Mike (who loves his granddaughter -- and considers killing everyone else) finally seeing his story arc creak open. We might be happy about it -- but he sure isn't. Actor Jonathan Banks is the master of the deadpan deathstare; so much going on in that smooth-pated terrifying dome. The ex-cop is casing someone (hey Michelle, is that his daughter?) and the cops don't like it. Presumably, Mike is gonna call on Saul, and that's how America's Bittersweethearts will start doing business together....
Do the words "locally sourced produce" make your pulse quicken? Is your Instagram page chockful of sexy snaps of you shopping for dry-aged beef in the hippest, selfie-coolest new market? Did you fake a sick day at work to celebrate the joyous arrival of a Trader Joe's to your city?
If you're from the Tampa Bay region, there's a good chance you excitably answered yes, yes and #heckyes to all of the above....
Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands, parent of Outback Steakhouse and more, has sold off its interest in the seafood-based Roy's chain for $10 million. The sale, between Bloomin' and United Ohana, involves 20 restaurants and was agreed upon months ago, although the final tally wasn't revealed until Wednesday.
The $10 million — or only about $500,000 per restaurant — raised some eyebrows among industry analysts, although it was clear last fall that Bloomin' CEO Liz Smith had grown weary of celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi's namesake restaurants. "Roy's is a terrific founder-inspired brand that is constantly pushing the envelop with innovative Pacific Rim cuisine," Smith told analysts. "The brand, however, is a small part of our portfolio and not a priority for investment, given competing opportunities. Roy's deserves to be in a situation where it can get the time, attention and resources it needs to grow. We are confident that they will thrive under new ownership."...
Chris: So I've been more down on Better Call Saul than most for the first three episodes, but I feel like the show hit a bit of a stride with its fourth installment - "Hero." What's grabbing me the most is the relationship - both present and past - between Jimmy and his lawyer friend Kim, played by Rhea Seehorn. I loved how she smirked at Saul's efforts to undermine Hamlin; she is the most compelling supporting player in the show so far.
Oh, and what about her invitation to go see - of all things - John Carpenter's 1982 remake The Thing? Some "Kurt Russell action," she said. How about some Wilford Brimley as a bad guy action? What's next week's feature, The Firm? (Really, Tisch? Michelle and Sean invite you to join them on this and you give them Wilford Brimley jokes?)...
After a radical Islamist group released a video on Saturday threatening to terrorize various shopping centers around the globe — including those owned by the Westfield Corp., which operates several malls in the Tampa Bay area — local retail hubs promised security would be of the utmost importance.
"There is no evidence of an imminent threat to our shopping centres," the Westfield Corp. said in a statement. Westfield operates malls in Countryside, Brandon, Citrus Park plus two in Sarasota. Westfield malls in London were specifically threatened in the video. "Our heads of security in the U.S. and U.K. continue to coordinate their activities with police and government agencies."...
Angelo Escano is one of about 12,000 Walmart employees in the Tampa Bay area — and like a lot of them, he's feeling pretty darn vindicated today. "This is what we've been fighting for," said the 32-year-old meat department worker at the Tampa location on Dale Mabry Highway just off of Interstate 275.
Clocking in at Walmart for the past four years, Escano has actively protested his employer's wage structure — and now all that fighting might finally show up on his paycheck ....
The Feed vets Michelle Stark (new Food Editor) and Sean Daly (biz whiz) couldn't stay away from TV forever. For the former Mad Men debaters, the allure of another AMC show proved too strong. And this time, they're bringing Business Editor Chris Tisch, a Breaking Bad fanboy who once paid homage to Walter White's love of tighty-whities at a Halloween party, along for the ride. After drooling over the first two episodes of could-have-been-terrible Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, the trio take it to the Feed to discuss this week's third installment, "Nacho."...
TAMPA — Busch Gardens will open a new ride in the Egypt-themed part of the park in 2016, according to officials.
Spokesman Travis Claytor confirmed the news, but quickly killed the buzz of theme-park nerds everywhere by adding: "We have not finalized the details on what the attraction will be."
An environmental resource permit was filed with the Tampa Bay regional water authority known as Swiftmud, touching off buzz that this could be a water-themed ride. ...
UPDATE: Disney World announced Saturday that the price for a one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom will reach $105 plus tax. The change takes effect Sunday.
You knew this would happen sooner or later, Mouseketeers: A one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom could very soon top the $100 mark — $105, if the buzz is true — with the other three major parks in Lake Buena Vista coming close at $99, according to theme park industry insiders....
Don't call it a Ferris wheel. At 400 feet high, the Orlando Eye towering over the tourism mecca of International Drive is an "observation wheel," its British owner insists. When the estimated $90 million attraction opens this spring, visitors will be able to observe Cape Canaveral, 55 miles away, on a clear day.
The Eye will be hard to ignore — much like its owner, London-based Merlin Entertainments, which is quickly morphing into a serious player in Central Florida's cutthroat theme park business. At the new I-Drive 360 entertainment complex, the Eye will be flanked by a Madame Tussauds wax museum and a Sea Life aquarium, all three family-friendly properties owned by Merlin, the $4 billion-plus company that also operates Legoland Florida Resort in Winter Haven....
WMNF-FM 88.5, Tampa Bay's community radio station, has hired WUSF-FM 89.7 anchor Craig Kopp as its new general manager.
A 30-year news veteran, Kopp was a Cincinnati radio stalwart for years. He has worked at WUSF, teaming with the Tampa Bay Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact crew on weekly reports. The Citrus Park resident has also been involved with the Poynter Institute, the St. Petersburg journalism school which owns the Times. ...
One has a "secret menu" and a beef-and-marinara monster sandwich called "the Godfather." Another makes pretty pizzas with spicy twists. And another is a breakfast joint that serves an omelet called "the Bacquezo" (bacon, chorizo, cream cheese).
Several restaurant chains are about to attempt a Tampa Bay takeover, including Deep South staples McAlister's Deli and Newk's Eatery, both considered "fast casual," (an unsnobby way to say quick, inexpensive but nicer than McDonald's) and Another Broken Egg Cafe (somewhere between a Denny's and a First Watch)....