Theme parks adding hotels, attractions

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ORLANDO -- Theme parks are almost as much a reason for traveling to Florida as the weather, and the parks continue to build and develop attractions and entertainment for their guests. Disney's "100 Years of Magic" might be the biggest event in Walt Disney World's history. The festivities, which celebrate the 100th birthday of Walt Disney, started in October and run through the end of 2002.

And, as one might expect, Disney is partying with everything plus the kitchen sink. Disney added 12 new attractions for the celebration, including shows, rides, shopping and lodging. Cinderella's Castle is the scene of "Cinderella's Surprise Celebration," a musical event that enables guests to mingle with Disney characters.

Disney-MGM Studios will host "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire -- Play It!", an attraction based on the popular ABC television show.

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride, based on the Disney movie, opened at Walt Disney World in May. One of the newest of Disney World's recent additions is the Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride, which opened in May. The 64-passenger ride, located in Adventureland, moves visitors around a giant genie bottle on a variety of "magic carpets."

In conjunction with 100 Years of Magic, the Walt Disney Travel Co. is offering discounted room-only rates through Dec. 25 and from Jan. 1 to Feb. 13. The company also offers a package priced at $329 per adult for accommodations at Disney's All-Star resorts.

Next year, Disney will add two lodging options: the Pop Century Resort, a 5,760-room hotel that celebrates American popular culture of the 20th century, and Disney's Beach Club Villas, a vacation-ownership operation with 205 units.

For more information about Disney's events and attractions, visit the company's travel agent site at www.disneytravelagents.com.

• Universal Orlando teamed up with Loews Hotels for the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando, a Loews Hotel, which will open at the park next year. The 1,000-room property is the third on-site hotel at Universal Orlando.

Like Universal's other on-site properties, the Portofino Bay Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel, the Royal Pacific Resort will be managed by Loews. The three properties total more than 2,400 rooms. Design at the Royal Pacific will incorporate Asian Pacific elements, and there will be several dining options and shops to choose from, plus business and fitness centers.

The hotel will also offer nearly 80,000 square feet of meeting space, with the highlight being a 41,000-square-foot ballroom that can hold more than 4,500 people. For reservations at on-site Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando, call (800) BE-A-STAR.

For the 2001 holidays, Universal Orlando also is hosting "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which runs through Dec. 31. The attraction is based on the Dr. Seuss story, with a 60-foot Mount Crumpit, Max the Dog, and, of course, the Grinch.

Universal Orlando also throws a party on New Year's Eve, with festivities spread among the park's areas. The park will hold its 7th Mardi Gras party from Feb. 8 through March 30. Beads, music, floats and food all play prominent parts in the celebration, which features a nightly parade. For more information, visit www.universalorlando.com.

• SeaWorld Orlando, part of Busch Adventure Parks, also offers a lineup of festivities for 2002. The park will kick off the new year with fireworks and a light show as part of its New Year's Eve Celebration.

SeaWorld hosts the Bud & BBQ Fest in February, which brings together barbecue, country music and race cars over two weekends. "Viva La Musica," a festival held during September (Hispanic Heritage Month), celebrates Hispanic culture with music, food, and dance.

"Shamu's Halloween Spooktacular" comes in October, and the park will hold its customary Christmas celebration at the end of the year, featuring Santa and the Budweiser Clydesdales. All events are included with park admission.

For more information, call (800) 327-2424 or visit www.seaworld.com.

• Busch Gardens in Tampa added an attraction in June, an off-road safari called Rhino Rally. The journey takes guests on a wildlife viewing tour across five animal habitats in the comfort of a Land Rover. Featured fauna include antelope, zebras, warthogs and wildebeests. For more information, call (888) 800-5447 or visit www.buschgardens.com.

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