Category Archives: Attractions

Countdown to Hollywood’s Biggest New Year’s Party

Universal Studios Hollywood rings in 2018 with Hollywood’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration, EVE, on Sunday, December 31, 2017, with extended theme park hours to 1:00 a.m.

The New Year’s Eve event, the first ever for Universal Studios Hollywood, is included in the price of theme park admission and invites guests to spend the day and night enjoying its many popular rides and attractions with a special park-wide countdown party featuring multiple entertainment hubs with DJs and live music, starting at 9:00 p.m.

Universal Plaza, Simpsons Plaza located adjacent to “The Simpsons Ride” and an area near “Jurassic Park—The Ride” will transform into three uniquely-themed electrifying party hubs that will culminate simultaneously at midnight with a traditional New Year countdown and a spectacular fireworks display.


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Food and beverages, including specialty desserts, champagne, beer and wine, as well as 2018 memorabilia will be available for purchase.

With its festive environment, guests can toast the New Year with the spirit of the holidays already resonating throughout Universal Studios Hollywood. “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry PotterTM” introduces “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts TM Castle.” Several times each night, guests can enjoy amazing images inspires by the Harry Potter films as they come to life in breathtaking digital light projection on the backdrop of Hogwarts castle. And with extended hours on December 31, guests can celebrate the final day of “Grinchmas™” with The Grinch, his faithful dog Max and a roster of Who-ville Whos.

More information is available at www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com.


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Pixar Fest Opens at Disneyland Resort in April 2018

Pixar Fest, the biggest Pixar celebration ever to come to Disney Parks, brings guests together to celebrate friendship and beyond beginning April 13, 2018, at the Disneyland Resort.

During this limited time event, some of the beloved stories from Pixar Animation Studios will come to life in new ways at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Parks, with characters and experiences from films such as Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo” and “Up.” Guests will join the fun as they experience a new fireworks spectacular, the return of two favorite parades with fresh new Pixar surprises, new décor, atmosphere entertainment, creatively themed food and beverage and exclusive event merchandise.

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WinterFest At California’s Great America Opens November 24

The Bay Area’s newest and most immersive holiday tradition, WinterFest, opens at California’s Great America on Friday, November 24 and will entertain guests on select dates through December 30. During WinterFest, Great America will be magically transformed into a winter wonderland where guests can experience unique new features, as well as fan favorites such as skating in front of the iconic Carousel Columbia, admiring magnificent displays of lights and décor, viewing spectacular live holiday shows, experiencing 25 rides and attractions, seeing Santa’s workshop and Mrs. Claus’ kitchen, and enjoying scrumptious holiday fare at numerous dining locations.

This unmatched event will feature more than 7 million LED lights, creating such a vibrant experience that it will be visible from the International Space Station, more than 270 miles away. The winter scene will be dominated by one of the Bay Area’s tallest Christmas trees adorned with thousands of twinkling lights accompanied by giant toy soldiers greeting guests. The six-week WinterFest celebration will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with daily operations December 19-23 and 26-30 from 5pm-10pm (November 26 and December 17 from 6:30pm-10:30pm)

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California’s Great America To Host Fireworks July 1-4

California’s Great America will celebrate the July 4th holiday weekend with fireworks set to patriotic music each night from July 1-4. Additionally, current and past military men and women will be honored with free park admission (with valid ID) July 1-4 and can bring up to 6 guests for just $22.99 each.

“Great America is historically one of the Bay Area’s best locations for July 4th fireworks, and we’re excited to deliver them each night for the extended weekend,” said California’s Great America Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg. “We’re proud to again provide free admission for all U.S. military members who have served our county and hope they can enjoy a visit to the park during the July 4th weekend.”


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On July 4th, Coca-Cola will create an in-park destination near Food Festival with tasting samples of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero, a giant interactive inflatable, a photo booth and a prize wheel.

Great America’s summer season is underway with 10am-10pm operating hours, the new Patriot coaster experience, and family rides, Boomerang Bay water park and an exciting show lineup, including Vertical Impact, a high-flying acrobatics stunt show.


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The Best Amusement Parks for Families in 2017

Family Vacation Critic, TripAdvisor’s family travel site, has just named the Best Amusement Parks for Families in 2017 – naming the best parks in the U.S., and sharing the year’s newest attractions and highlights for every age group.

“Amusement parks are one of the most quintessential summertime activities for families,” explains Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. “But for those traveling with family members of various ages – including kids-at-heart – finding a park that caters to thrill-seekers and the younger set isn’t always so easy. This list includes parks that successfully cater to both, and those that also have exciting new features for the 2017 season.”

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Big Sur Village Welcomes Visitors

As you cruise down Highway One from California’s Monterey Peninsula, you can’t help but feel the excitement building up inside you. Those photos you have seen of the magnificent beauty of Big Sur are suddenly coming to life, appearing even better in person. The dramatic Santa Lucia Mountains to the left are sprinkled with yellow, white and magenta wildflowers. To the right, powerful waves crash onto the rocky coastline as cows graze with their calves in the lush green pasture. It truly is what poet Robinson Jeffers has described as the “greatest meeting of land and water in the world.”

“From hiking along the breathtaking coast and wildflowers at Garrapata State Park to driving across the iconic Bixby Bridge to staying in a cabin amongst the giant redwood trees, Big Sur is such a special place where visitors can unplug, relax and enjoy nature’s magnificent handiwork,” says Tammy Blount, President and CEO of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCCVB).

Despite a challenging winter that has temporarily taken a Highway One bridge out of service, the Big Sur experience is still available and as incredible as ever. Visitors are able to access Big Sur and the coastline all the way down Highway One to Big Sur Ranger Station. Iconic attractions, hotels, restaurants and shops north of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge closure including Big Sur Village are open.

“The community is delighted to welcome people back and share the place we love and call home,” says Rick Aldinger, General Manager of the Big Sur River Inn & Restaurant. “Our doors are open, and we invite visitors to travel down the 26 miles of beautiful coastline from the Monterey Peninsula and experience Big Sur.”


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Visitors are invited to come and walk amongst the giant calla lilies at Garrapata, dip their toes in the Big Sur River while enjoying a cold beverage and sleep under the stars in an adventure tent. To help travelers plan their Big Sur escape, the MCCVB offers ideas on places to visit and stay in beautiful Big Sur:

  • Bixby Bridge: Bixby Bridge is one of the most iconic spots on Highway One. The bridge has made appearances on television shows such as the most recent HBO series “Big Little Lies” as well as on the big screen. Visitors can park in the pullout area and snap photos of the world famous Bixby Bridge and awe-inspiring landscape.
  • Garrapata State Park: From spring through early summer, the picturesque coastline of Garrapata State Park comes alive with colorful blooms of wildflowers. Explore the western coastal trail that can be accessed at gates 18 or 19 off of Highway One to Doud Creek where you will find yourself immersed in a canyon of calla lilies.
  • Point Sur Lightstation: The Point Sur Lightstation is a California State Historic Park on the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse sits on a volcanic rock 361 feet above the Pacific Ocean, and the light has stayed in continuous operation since it opened 1889. Walking tours are available on Wednesdays and weekends.
  • Glen Oaks Big Sur: Rustic and elegant, Glen Oaks Big Sur offers guests a cozy and comfortable retreat in the redwoods and along the Big Sur River. Visitors can stay in a Fireside Lodge, the Oak Tree Cottage or a cabin in the Redwood Grove. The dreamy Big Sur Cabin has two fire pits plus a pair of outdoor clawfoot soaking tubs.
  • Big Sur River Inn & Restaurant: The historic Big Sur River Inn & Restaurant has been a staple in the heart of Big Sur Village since 1932. Surrounded by the towering redwoods and along the Big Sur River, the inn provides the perfect escape and opportunity to unwind along the river while listening to the peaceful sounds of nature.
  • Big Sur Lodge: Nestled deep in the redwood forest of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Big Sur Lodge has long been a haven for writers, artists, seekers of beauty and travelers in search of the peace and majesty that the ancient redwoods bestow on the body and soul. Guests can enjoy a cozy stay here in one of the 62 cottage-style rooms.
  • Fernwood Resort: From the forest and meadow view cabins to camping near the Big Sur River, Fernwood Resort is a privately owned facility and campground located in Big Sur Village. For those who want to be close to nature while still sleeping in a warm bed, the property also offers glamping in the Adventure Tents.
  • Ripplewood Resort: One of Big Sur’s oldest resorts and a favorite among families, Ripplewood Resort features 17 rustic cabins, a general store and café. Some of the cabins have private decks that are perched over the Big Sur River, so you can be lulled to sleep by the tranquil sounds of the flowing water.
  • The Village Shops: For many artists, Big Sur is not only a haven, but also a source of inspiration. Next door to the Big Sur River Inn is The Village Shops where visitors can purchase locally made art and gifts at Local Color, visit Dale Diesel’s Darn Glad to be Here Gallery and grab a drink and bite at the Maiden Publick House. There is also Studio One, which serves as a painting studio, gallery and workshop center.

There are additional tent and RV camping sites as well as cottage and cabin options along the river at Big Sur Campground & Cabins and Riverside Campground & Cabins. The winter rains have also affected a temporary closing of some state parks in Big Sur, but they are currently being repaired and are expected to open in the coming weeks. This spring, the MCCVB invites travelers to experience firsthand what Jeffers and other literary figures and artists have captured – the magic and beauty of Big Sur. For more information, please visit SeeMonterey.com.


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New Patriot Floorless Coaster To Open at California’s Great America Saturday, April 1

California’s Great America opens its 2017 season on March 25 and will introduce an array of new attractions, entertainment and dining experiences. Patriot, the first floorless coaster in the park’s history, will make its official park debut on Saturday, April 1.

Patriot will take riders to a nine-story height before plummeting them into a 360-degree loop and a series of hairpin turns. The floorless ride will include state-of-the-art blue and white floorless trains positioning guests with their feet dangling inches above the track.

To celebrate Patriot, all current and past military service members will be provided free admission from March 25-May 29 (with valid ID), along with special $30 tickets for up to 6 guests (available at the Front Gate).

“Patriot will be an outstanding addition to our family of roller coasters,” said California’s Great America Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg. “We’re honored to provide active and past military service members free admission through Memorial Day weekend. They do so much for our country, and we’re happy to provide them fun family entertainment.”

One of the most notable changes for 2017 comes at the iconic Maggie Brown’s restaurant. Renamed Maggie’s Smokehouse & Fried Chicken, in addition to the legendary fried chicken, the restaurant will also delight guests with smoked tri tip, pulled pork and rotisserie chicken. Seasonally, Maggie’s will also serve beef and pork ribs in the completely refurbished interior.

Food Festival will also feature new dining options, including crab sandwiches and lobster rolls for seafood lovers, burritos and tacos, clam chowder bread bowls and highly popular Boba tea drinks.

Season Passholders can take advantage of the All Season Dining Plan that, for as low as $84, provides two meals per visit (4 hour interval between meals) and pays for itself in just three visits. This year the on property Panda Express and Subway are included in the plan.

The brand new Red, White & Brews festival will debut Memorial Day weekend and run five total days (May 27-29, June 3-4). Red, White & Brews will be located in Hometown Square, adjacent to Patriot, and features locally crafted beers, great barbeque and live music, all wrapped in a fun family atmosphere. The Taste of Orleans festival with Cajun cuisine, bayou music, themed fireworks and Mardi Gras atmosphere returns for two weekends (July 22-23, 29-30).

Other seasonal entertainment events include Opening Day (March 25), Fiesta Hispana (Aug. 13), The Great Pumpkin Fest (weekends Sept. 30-Oct. 29), Halloween Haunt (Friday-Sunday, Sept. 22-Oct. 29) and WinterFest (select nights Nov. 24-Dec. 29). Halloween Haunt will celebrate its 10th anniversary, and the highly decorated WinterFest will be back for a second season of holiday fun beginning November 24.

New live entertainment in 2017 features Vertical Impact in Great America Theater, a high-flying acrobatic display with trampoline artists and amazing choreography, along with The Great American Game Show in Theatre Royale.

Also new in 2017 is FunPix, the ultimate way to capture and share unlimited Great America digital photos on social media. FunPix is available for as low as $19.99 for a day-long pass or $39.99 for a season-long package. With FunPix, guests can digitally capture their favorite memories, whether it’s the classic family shot in front of the carousel, thrilling on-ride moments aboard Great America’s roller coasters or fun character shots with Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

Great America will open daily beginning May 25, and Boomerang Bay water park will open daily beginning May 27.

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Aquarium of the Pacific Major Expansion Groundbreaking

The Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, California, one of the nation’s largest and most-visited aquariums, celebrated its future Pacific Visions wing with a groundbreaking ceremony recently. The 29,000-square-foot, two-story sustainable structure is designed by the San Francisco-based architecture and design firm EHDD. The first major expansion project ever undertaken by the nonprofit aquarium, Pacific Visions, slated to open in late 2018/early 2019, will be the new focal point of the institution and will engage the public with epic ocean stories and inspire them to create a better future for our planet. The main Aquarium building will remain operational throughout the construction phase.

Pacific Visions is designed as a biomorphic structure. Complementing the Aquarium’s existing building, Pacific Visions will have a façade made up of more than 800 non-reflective glass panels covering an area of 18,000 square feet. The Pacific Visions project includes the Honda Pacific Visions Theater, new Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Entrance and front pavilion, changing exhibit gallery with live animals, art gallery, and orientation gallery. The two-story, 300-seat Honda Pacific Visions Theater will include a 32-foot-tall, 130-foot long, 180-degree arc digital projection wall and a 30-foot-diameter floor projection disc to immerse visitors in a virtual ocean environment. The theater will bring to life epic ocean stories, allowing audiences to discover new species, witness the processes and phenomena of Earth’s ecosystems, and grapple with the many challenges facing the natural world. Seats will be wired for interactivity, providing visitors opportunities to explore a range of possible alternative pathways to the future and to discover how our activities will determine the future. All stories will be developed by the Aquarium in partnership with leading scientists, filmmakers, and digital artists.

Pacific Visions will incorporate a range of technologies and media design developed by EMMY award-winning Cortina Productions. Media technology will create rich, dynamic, relevant multi-sensory, multi-dimensional experiences. Interactive technology will create a space where science, art, and nature can blend in a fluid, intuitive way for innovative learning. Digital exhibits using real-time data will enable the Aquarium to address breaking scientific discoveries and current and emerging environmental topics. When visitors leave the Aquarium, they will be able to remain connected and share the experience with friends and family through the Pacific Visions app.


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Seattle’s Museum Month is a Bargain for I-5 Culture Seekers

The Emerald City has long been praised as an artsy and laid-back destination with abundant natural beauty. Some I-5 travelers may be kept at bay during winter – a side effect of the typical Pacific Northwest weather – but the off-season may actually be the hottest time of year to explore Seattle. In 2015, Visit Seattle and Seattle’s hotels and museums decided it was high time to embrace Seattle’s winter weather, so to speak, so Museum Month was born.

With February quickly approaching, it’s time to check seattlemuseummonth.com for a list of participating hotels and book a visit. With downtown Seattle accommodations lined up, pick some museums and attractions that everyone in your party can enjoy. If you don’t know where to start, here are just a few ways to stay and play.

For the epicurean:
Seattle is a foodie town. Get a taste of Seattle’s favorite foods and culinary history at Edible City: A Delicious Journey at the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI). This immersive exhibit explores Seattle’s place in the culinary industry, featuring the harvest of local natural ingredients, preparation techniques made popular by the region’s celebrity chefs, and the art of pulling ingredients together for the final plated presentation.

For the artist:
Chihuly Garden and Glass celebrates its fifth year at Seattle Center and this year will feature more glass art education programming. Watch live glass-blowing demonstrations at the Community Hot Shop in the Glass Garden to see how these unique, colorful pieces come to life.

For a longer day trip, drive east to the Bellevue Art Museum, south to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, or take a ferry over to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.

For the outdoorsy:
If you dream in landscape scenes, drop by the Seattle Art Museum for Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, on display beginning Feb. 16. The collection features 39 historically significant American and European landscape paintings from the past 400 years. The Seattle Art Museum also presents John Grade’s Middle Fork, a new installment of a reclaimed cedar sculpture to span the museum’s main entrance.

For some fresh air between museums, bundle up and take a walk through Volunteer Park and Olympic Sculpture Park. Bring along your camera and capture striking photos of Seattle’s scenery, featuring unobstructed views of The Olympic Mountains and Elliott Bay.

For the culture seeker:
Formerly known as the EMP, the renamed and rebranded Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) at the Seattle Center is a goldmine for music paraphernalia – from classic rock to contemporary – as well as a hub for science fiction and pop culture enthusiasts. Through Museum Month, Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds will be on display at MoPOP commemorating the famous sci-fi series’ 50th anniversary.

Dive into the Emerald City’s cultural diversity with a visit to the Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi exhibit at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Day in the Life of Bruce Lee: Do You Know Bruce: Part 3 at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, or Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts at the Northwest African American Museum. Cultural and historical exhibits can also be viewed at the Nordic Heritage Museum, Suquamish Tribal Museum, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum and the Burke Museum.

For families:
Appreciate the circle of life by visiting the animals at Woodland Park Zoo. One adorable highlight this season is Yola, the baby gorilla. See Yola and a family of western lowland gorillas: mom Nadiri, silverback Leo and playmate Akenji. If the weather is damp, don’t miss the Zoomazium Indoor Nature Play Space, where kids can stretch out and play like their favorite zoo animals.

While many museums have a “do not touch” reputation, the Seattle Aquarium encourages hands-on interaction with sea life at the tide pools exhibit. Gently touch sea cucumbers, sea urchin, seastars and more. During Octopus Week – starring the giant Pacific octopus Feb. 18-26 – each day will feature hands-on activities, octopus feedings and talks.

For more hands-on action, drop by the Kids Discovery Museum for Messy Mondays. Docents help visitors explore visual arts through guided discovery every week.

For science and technology enthusiasts:
As one of the nation’s innovation hubs, many of Seattle’s exhibits reflect the history and progress of science and technology. Over 175 aircraft and spacecraft structures, as well as thousands of photographs and artifacts are displayed at the Museum of Flight, the largest independent, non-profit air and space museum in the world.

Explore the elements of aviation at the Flying Heritage Collection – one of Museum Month’s new participants – or geek out over cars at the LeMay – America’s Car Museum and other curiosities at Living Computers: Museums + Labs.

Patrons must stay in one of the participating hotels to access Seattle Museum Month offers. For qualifying visitors, the discount will apply to all days participating museums are open in February, subject only to capacity. Some separate, specially ticketed exhibitions, programs and events at various participating museums are not included in Seattle Museum Month.

Guests must present an official Seattle Museum Month guest pass at participating museums to redeem the discounts; these discounts will be valid for all guests staying in the hotel room (not to exceed four people) during hotel stay dates.


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I-5 RoadTrip – Seattle Space Needle Lights Up The Sky New Years Eve

The Space Needle will celebrate the arrival of 2017 with its 32nd annual fireworks spectacular – T-Mobile New Year’s at the Needle. This year’s pyrotechnics display has been extended to ten minutes making it the largest show the Space Needle has ever produced. For the fourth year in a row, hometown partner T-Mobile, America’s Un-carrier, is the exclusive sponsor of the West Coast’s premier New Year’s Eve celebration.

The Space Needle will be illuminated in T-Mobile’s distinctive magenta brand color on Dec. 30-Dec. 31 as a precursor to the New Year’s Eve festivities.

Pyro Spectaculars, global fireworks experts for over 100 years, will design and coordinate the ten minute display. Pyrotechnics will illuminate the entire Space Needle from top to bottom. Gala New Year’s Eve parties are being held on the Observation Deck and at the SkyCity restaurant and have already sold out.

More than 20,000 people are expected to gather on the Seattle Center campus to watch the T-Mobile New Year’s at the Needle show. The entire Seattle Center campus will be one big party with thousands of free giveaways from T-Mobile as all the revelers watch the amazing pyrotechnic effects being fired from 87 different locations on the iconic landmark. An estimated 400,000 will view the show from surrounding neighborhoods, along with another half-million tuning-in from home.


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