Tag Archives: iaapa

SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium begins installation on ocean tunnel

By: @jenvargas

If you followed us all last week, you saw and heard A LOT about parks and attractions from the hallowed floors of Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) as we visited the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). Today we bring you cool news from our own Sea Life Orlando Aquarium at I-Drive 360!

SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium_360 Degree Underwater Tunnel Installation

Photo courtesy of SEA LIFE Orlando


Installation began today on SEA LIFE Orlando’s 360 degree underwater ocean tunnel! This enormous tunnel weighs in at nearly 18,000 pounds (roughly five cars) and will eventually feature a 360 degree view of SEA LIFE’s 5,000 creatures. We heard it through the SEA LIFE Grapevine suspect Orlando’s might look like the one in this photo at SEA LIFE Aquarium in Grapevine, Texas. Cool, right? (Sleepover, anyone?)

Prior to its opening date, SEA LIFE partnered locally with The Turtle Hospital out of Marathon, Florida and The Coral Restoration Foundation out of Key Largo, in effort to educating visitors and local families on the importance of conservation and celebrating all creatures of the sea, big and small. Through their independent charity, The SEA LIFE Marine Conservation Trust, guests help the cause simply by visiting. Their Breed, Rescue, Protect initiatives help rescue the sick or injured, protect against pollution and breed thirteen species of endangered rays (and more!) around the world.

(PSST! We’ll link even more info and a nifty interview soon courtesy of our pals at Wearables4good.org!)

LEGOLAND Florida Resort updates and more at IAAPA 2014

by: @jenvargas

© 2014 Chip Litherland Photography Inc.

© 2014 Chip Litherland Photography Inc.

Wednesday is going to be a BIG day at IAAPA (the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) expo, especially for our friends at Merlin Entertainments Group! The world’s second largest attractions operator, has expanded here in Central Florida quite a bit over the past few years. We look forward to hearing updates about SEA LIFE Orlando, Madame Tussauds Orlando and 400 ft tall The Orlando Eye (With 4D Cinema Experience) opening in the Spring of 2015.

But wait… there’s MORE! Merlin also plans on sharing new construction updates and photos of the five-story, 152 room LEGOLAND Hotel (opening Summer 2015)… and they’ve had some help!

© 2014 Chip Litherland Photography Inc.

© 2014 Chip Litherland Photography Inc.



Who’s that handsome devil up there? Only true BrickFans know for sure. There’s a little something extra included in Wednesday’s plans! Master Builder Emmet (from The Lego Movie) and Team LEGOLAND have been working very hard lately, and not just on the new Resort.  Merlin also will reveal a new nine foot across, eight foot tall LEGO model designed for LEGOLAND Florida Resort which features all three coming attractions!! I’ve hugged Buddy. My new goal is to hug Emmet! Will I see him in person? I hope so!

Make sure to follow @CentralFLTop5 on Twitter and LIKE our Facebook page for exclusive news live from the IAAPA Trade Show Floor!

FLASHBACK: Remember when we walked all NINE MILES of IAAPA’s aisles back in 2012?

International Drive’s Orlando Eye to be completed by end of 2014

by: @jenvargas

We’ve had our ‘eye’ on International Drive, have you? A little over three weeks ago, The Orlando Eye looked like this…


  On October 26th, it looked like this!

Now, her inner circle is all closed in and her outer circle will be filled in the coming weeks! (More about this below…)

Back in January, we told you about our Top 5 Development Projects of 2014. In April, we were one of the first to reveal the name of the new I-Drive 360 complex. Since then we have watched this area evolve into a more realized home of entertainment in the heart of the International Drive corridor. If you’re eyeing a major project in your area, as well, might as well get in touch with used forklift dealers and other sellers for quality used heavy equipment.

So, what are your thoughts, Top Fivers? What are you most looking forward to experiencing when I-Drive 360 opens next Spring?


The Orlando Eye

The Orlando Eye Completes Inner Wheel

Work now begins on the outer wheel, bringing structure to height of 400 ft

Orlando, Fla. – Oct. 31, 2014 – The Orlando Eye celebrates a major construction milestone with the completion of the spoke installation of the inner wheel, clearing the way for work to begin on the outer wheel, eventually bringing the massive structure to a height and width of 400 feet, making it the tallest observation wheel on the East Coast of the United States.

As it stands, the Eye can be seen from miles around, and many believe the structure is nearly complete. However, the outer wheel still needs to be constructed, then workers can begin the installation process of the glass capsules, and finally, work can begin on the electrical and A/V components of the Eye.

“This is a really exciting moment for The Orlando Eye. From this point forward, construction will soon showcase the true height of the Eye at 400 feet,” said James Paulding, head of new openings for North America for Merlin Entertainments. “Work is progressing quickly, and we are on track for our grand opening next spring.”

The outer wheel of the Eye is expected to be complete by the end of the year. To follow along with news and updates, visit www.officialorlandoeye.com.

The Orlando Eye is scheduled to open in spring 2015.


The Orlando Eye

Located in the heart of International Drive, the 400-foot Orlando Eye is the tallest observation wheel on the U.S. eastern coast, offering a new way to experience the breathtaking views of Central Florida.

Poised to become a top visitor attraction for the tourism capital of the U.S., the Orlando Eye, part of the I-Drive 360 entertainment and dining complex, will showcase 360-degree views of Central Florida, including nearby theme parks and attractions, downtown Orlando and Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast, all within the comfort of 30 air-conditioned glass capsules. Each capsule has room for up to 12 guests to enjoy a serene 20-minute journey above the scenic landscape.

Included in the Orlando Eye journey is access to the pre-flight 4D cinema experience, taking guests on a full 3D aerial journey of Florida, with the added dimension of sensory experiences, including lighting, wind, spray and scent effects.


Merlin Entertainments

MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS plc is the leading name in location-based, family entertainment. Europe’s Number 1 and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin now operates 105 attractions, 11 hotels/3 holiday villages in 23 countries and across 4 continents. The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its almost 60 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and c25,000 employees.

Merlin has twenty three attractions and one hotel in North America  – including two stunning LEGOLAND Resorts – LEGOLAND Florida with its theme park, water park, and LEGOLAND California theme park with water park, SEA LIFE aquarium and themed hotel; Madame Tussauds celebrity wax attractions in New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas; Hollywood; and San Francisco LEGOLAND Discovery Centers in Chicago; Dallas/Fort Worth; Kansas City Missouri; Atlanta, Georgia; Boston; Westchester, New York; Toronto, Canada; a Dungeon in San Francisco; and SEA LIFE aquariums in Phoenix, Arizona; Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas/Fort Worth; the Mall of America in Minneapolis and Charlotte – Concord – underlining the company’s position as the world’s biggest global aquarium operator.  Visit www.merlinentertainments.biz for more information.

Gangnam Style Ocean Park Halloween Bash

Today we attended an amazing IAAPA Event….

Lunch & Learn with Tom Mehrmann, CEO, Ocean Park Hong Kong


“Halloween has become a real force in Hong Kong and Asia,” Mehrmann said. “Events really are where it’s at—they keep the park fresh and constantly renewed, and if doing them on the right financial basis you’re always going to be making money off of them.”

10 Attributes Mehrmann Looks for in an Employee

1.      Curiosity

2.      Sense of responsibility

3.      Sense of humor

4.      Passion

5.      Courage of conviction

6.      Initiative

7.      Creativity/innovation

8.      Sense of urgency

9.      Persistence

10.    Confidence


and watch this !!!!


Ocean Park’s Chief Executive Tom Mehrmann said, “With the staunch support of Hong Kong residents and overseas visitors, we will achieve a record-breaking attendance of over 700,000 guests during this Halloween month.  We will continue to work hard and stay innovative to bring our guests Asia’s largest and hottest Halloween party every year.”


IAAPA Attractions Expo 2012 Giving Back in Central Florida!


Management System Showcased at IAAPA: LEGOLAND Florida Case Study






Coca Cola Freestyle: Soda Machine of the FUTURE!

[Guest Post by Jen Vargas]

I love Coca Cola. I also love its tasty incarnations, Cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke. All of these flavors, swishing around together make for a Cocapalooza in my mouth – this make me VERY happy! Enter, Coca Cola Freestyle. We have history…

My first discovery of this smile dispensing soda machine happened during the IAAPA Expo at the Orange County Convention Center here in Orlando. My curiosity began in 2010. [I wanted to go back in 2011 but our Relay For Life in Hunter’s Creek was happening the same weekend and I couldn’t make it.] But I never forgot about ‘the Freestyle Machine.’ I walked into the exhibit hall, saw a HUGE line and wondered, “What’s that all about?”

I came back two hours later and the line had gotten LONGER! “Ok, I HAVE to find out what the fuss is all about here,” I thought. So I waited… and waited… and waited in the line. After an hour or more of looking at the backs of other people’s heads, I saw it. This standalone, shiny, red touchscreen of awesomeness. A gentleman demoing the machine handed me a small, paper Coca Cola cup and asked me what I wanted to try. Baffled by all the choices (and flashy lights!), I asked for recommendations based on what I knew already. He recommended two flavors; Raspberry Coca Cola and Orange Vanilla Coca Cola. The thought of both sounded gross, to be honest, but I tried them anyway. I figured the guy knew what he was talking about, him being a seasoned mixologist and all. 106 (at the time) flavors to choose from… I needed more time to taste!

To my surprise, the Raspberry Coke was pretty good! The Orange Vanilla Coke however… WOW! That was my favorite! I wanted to try some more flavors, I was so stoked!! Then I looked behind me. It’s like the line never moved! The Coke booth was the place to be at IAAPA 2010! At the time, I still had a few hours left to roam the floor and chat with vendors, so I did. About 30 minutes before the event closed, I took a chance and hopped back in the Freestyle line to sample more flavors. The line was shorter but not by much. Others in line behind me didn’t want to wait and left. The people running the booth were cleaning up while the end of event announcements played over the PA system. As they continued to close, they kept the line moving, allowing people to try samples. I was literally the LAST person that year to Freestyle! I had to try another Orange Vanilla Coke! This time I was recommended to try Grape, Vanilla and Strawberry Sprite. Strawberry Sprite was tasty. I wasn’t a fan of the Sprite Grape or Vanilla flavors but they were worth a shot. After closing, I grabbed a Vanilla Coke for the road, I left IAAPA wondering when I’d see one again (outside of Disney or the other theme parks).

In 2011 and 2012, Coca Cola Freestyle machines started showing up in Burger King, Firehouse Subs, Moe’s Southwest Grills, Hess Gas Stations, even my local Pei Wei Asian Diner! Convenience, thy name be Freestyle!!! Now, I can’t walk a mile or so without seeing one, or even two, in my favorite local restaurants. My next hope is that Sweet Tomatoes (Souplantation for you Left Coasters) gets a Freestyle machine. Perfection on top of perfection… all would be right with the world. More nerdiness? I also love the Push + Play app for my iPhone! You can find a Freestyle machine near you AND play Coke’s snazzy version of Simon!! (Just don’t PUSH!+Play and drive, please.)




If you get a chance, you should check out the Coca Cola Freestyle webpage and Facebook page. They are very active on Twitter too, if you are so inclined (and I know you are)! Maybe I’ll see you at a local watering hole soon?
OMG! #CCFreestyleTweetup! Can we Brian, can we!?