Sinkhole Swallows Resort Near Disney World

3 to See: Fla. Sinkhole, New iPhones, PGA Championship

Visitors staying at a resort near Disney World in Orlando, Florida said they heard loud “popping” and “cracking” just before a 60-foot-wide sinkhole opened up underneath them last night. A three-story building collapsed and another slowly sank into the 15-foot-deep hole. Luckily, all the guests staying at the affected buildings at Summer Bay Resort — an estimated 35 people — were safely evacuated just before the ground gave way.

Passersby are no doubt ogling at the buckled resort buildings this morning, as they have been doing in western Kansas, where tourists are flocking to a 200-foot-wide sinkhole. Despite warnings from the landowner and town law enforcements, visitors are coming from miles around for the rare chance of getting to watch the earth open up.

Danger At Disney: ‘Bomb’ Found In Trash Can, Loaded Gun Found On Ride

SteamFan, Wikimedia Commons

Disney faced two security scares this week, first when Disneyland’s Toontown was evacuated after dry ice caused an “explosion” in a trash can, and later when a grandmother on a ride in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom found a loaded gun on her seat.

On Tuesday at Anaheim, California’s Disneyland, it seems someone put a sealed plastic bottle containing dry ice in a trash can that ended up making a loud noise (described by one visitor as sounding “louder than a gunshot”) and releasing water vapor, the Associated Press reports. The area where the trash can was located was evacuated for approximately two hours, and USA Today writes an employee has since been arrested on suspicion of being the culprit.

In the second incident, which happened on Wednesday in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, a woman on the Dinosaur ride with her grandson found a loaded Cobra .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol on her seat and turned it over to a park attendant, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Moments later, the patron who brought the gun in realized it was missing and apologetically explained he “didn’t know Disney World patrons weren’t allowed to bring guns,” Associated Press reports.

Although the visitor in the last instance has a concealed weapons permit, Disney prohibits patrons from bringing weapons of any kind on its property. Park security does check bags, but patrons do not walk through metal detectors and are not subject to pat-downs – at least for now, that is. These two incidents will surely raise questions about what park security does to keep patrons safe in Disney’s parks.

‘The Simpsons’ Finds Home At New Universal Studios Theme Park

Universal Orlando Resort

There’s a recurring joke throughout “The Simpsons” about where, exactly, the fictional town of Springfield is located. The exact location is still a mystery, but it looks like the animated series will soon find a real-life home in Orlando, Florida. Universal Studios has plans to bring the cartoon to life at a new section of the theme park opening this summer.

According to a press release from Universal, Springfield will be anchored by The Simpsons Ride, an attraction that opened in 2008. Around the ride, guests will be able to walk the streets of Springfield, complete with a Simpsons-inspired Fast Food Boulevard, where guests can dine on sandwiches at Krusty Burger or throw back a Duff Beer at Moe’s Tavern. Besides the boulevard, a new attraction called Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl will take “foolish humans” on an intergalactic spin.

Although the exact geography of the Simpsons will likely remain a highly debated mystery amongst die-hard fans, this new theme park will likely become a new pilgrimage spot for fans of the animated series.

[via news.com.au]

Cheap Spring Break Ideas For Broke People

spring breakSpring break may be full of fun, sun and adventure for students and families who plan ahead, budget wisely or just have travel as a priority when it comes to spending. Some make wise, thoughtful decisions on where to go, while others head out on the open road with no plans at all. Spring break can be a time of renewing, head-clearing goodness that resets brainpower, allowing a return to school or work refreshed and ready to go forward.

Unless you’re broke.

Without some money, a lot of Spring break ideas never happen. Here then, at the last minute, are some cheap spring break ideas for broke people.

Obviously, A Road Trip Works
Other than walking or going nowhere, Spring break via automobile is about as cheap as it gets so road trip options are for sure on the table. But instead of planning a trip half-way across the country, burning up time to get to the beach, national park, fabulous city or some other “main event,” why not look right in your own back yard?

I was surprised at the number of attractions, mostly free, that I found within 50 miles of our home, and we live in Orlando, the attraction capital of the world. You won’t have to search Gadling very far to find a plethora of posts with a travel-like-a-local flavor. Most commonly we use that information to get the most out of destinations not visited before. Turn that app around and see what may be hiding just down the street. The results may surprise you.Smartcations
Best understood as bundling applied to vacations, smartcations have travel service providers collaborating to put air, hotel, rental cars and more together. The result: lower overall cost than by booking each element separately. Nothing really new there; airlines have been suggesting, “would you like a hotel with that?” at online check-out for years.

What is new and applicable for broke people is widening the search to include deal sites like Groupon or Living Social. For our purposes here, those with limited travel funds often find that going the smartcations route can enable otherwise abandoned travel plans to happen. Better yet, some allow us to play the pied-piper role, encouraging others (broke) like us to take advantage of the offer.

Smartcation options are available for destinations around the world, including tropical islands.

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Vacation Home Rentals
What was once the lifestyle of the nearly-rich and famous travel option, renting someone else’s fabulous vacation home while they are away at one of their other fabulous homes has come down considerably in price, across the board. Thank you Mr. Recent Recession.

In Florida, for example, bank-owned foreclosure homes are often rented for not much more that they cost in taxes. Banks figure something is better than nothing, which has opened up a whole new market of budget accommodations.

Especially attractive to larger groups of close friends in a “lets set up our own hostel” sort of way, vacation home properties number in the tens of thousands. Most come completely furnished and ready to use and may include the security of a gated community, preset services like cable TV and/or a pool. Homeaway is a good source to start with but renting vacation homes has become such a popular option that their Tripadvisor category numbers over 275,000 properties.

Vacation homes are available all over the United States, Canada and even safe places to visit in Mexico.

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A Short Cruise With A Lot Of People
Three- or four-day cruise vacations (AKA Party Cruises), bought at the last minute (convenient for you since this is the last minute) can be a good option for those with limited travel funds. Sailing from Florida to the Bahamas, the domain of three-day cruises, prices might run about $200 per person, based on double occupancy (two people per stateroom), tax included.

But third and/or fourth people sharing the same room come in at a discounted rate. Add it all up and divide the total price by the number of people and that $200 per person charge could drop to nearly half that.

Mom, Dad and the kids? Beware of short cruises, especially the three-day booze cruises that run over a weekend. This might not be the wholesome family entertainment you had in mind. On the other hand, there’s no time like the present for teaching valuable life skills like how to avoid obnoxious drunks, even at an early age.

But which cruise to choose? Again looking for the best value, consider a tour operator that specializes in just this sort of travel, but includes more in the price. StudentCity is a huge student tour operator, specializing in Spring Break trips for high school and college students.

“Come party with us in the best tropical destinations and at the hottest nightclubs on the map, with world-class DJs and talent,” says StudentCity of this video:




[Photo credit – Flickr user Tostie14]

Budget Guide 2013: Orlando

The notion that “Orlando” and “Budget” don’t go well together has its basis in fact; theme parks are not a cheap day’s outing. Admission alone can cost $100 per person without spending a dime on parking, food or souvenirs. Still, without trying all that hard, a good time can be had on a budget in and around Orlando – a time that captures every bit of the magic and wonder.

In the past, budget travelers and Orlando had a hard time connecting. 2013 looks to see average room rates hovering around $100 per night with popular International Drive and luxury hotels running several times that amount. Stay on property at a major resort like Disney World and expect to pay over $250 each night with the sky being the limit. Orlando’s hotel business has been hit hard by the economy in recent years. Now a recovering work in progress, there are plenty of budget hotels in the market.

Theme park admission, hotel rates and dining aside, there are a variety of activities to do and places to see in Orlando that are free. The Downtown Disney area of Orlando is a good example and has free admission and entertainment. Every chain restaurant in the world, it seems, has a version of what they do here from TGI Fridays to The Capital Grille and everything in-between. You’ll also find friendly locals eager to help with directions, though odds are they’ll be dining at a local place as simple as a grocery store meat counter.

Hotels

Orlando hotel developers have returned to building hotels after suffering during the economic depression. In what seems to be a new sense of purpose, hoteliers in Orlando are now paying better attention to the details of their work. It’s kind of like a ride, watching them handle things so efficiently. It’s refreshing.

New this year, big resorts have individual special offers worth up to 50% off the price, reduced rates for children and other promotions. Expensive luxury hotels aside, here are some reliable, nicely priced places to stay.

Best Western Plus Orlando Gateway is a full-service hotel with an outdoor pool, two restaurants and a fitness facility. Located within easy access to Wet ‘n Wild and Universal Studios Orlando, and not far from Disney World and other attractions, this hotel has free Wi-Fi, free parking and a free shuttle to area parks.
From $70. 7299 Universal Blvd – bworlando.com

Travelodge Maingate Suites is in Kissimmee, not far from parks and other attractions, and has a free shuttle to theme parks. Unique to this hotel are cooking facilities in each room including a microwave oven and refrigerator. Free Wi-Fi, parking and a continental breakfast along with a picnic area make this one a good choice for budget-minded families. The average year-round price of $30 is a bargain at twice the price.
From $30. 4649 W Irlo Bronson Freeway – travelodge.com/hotels/florida/kissimmee

Days Inn Orlando Midtown is also not far from the theme park action as well as downtown places of interest like Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, the revitalized downtown area and more. Days Inn Orlando Midtown, like other Orlando hotels, is more expensive on the weekends. From $48.
3300 S Orange Blossom Trail – daysinn.com/hotels/florida/orlando/

Eat and Drink

Like hotels, a good way to eat and drink at a reasonable cost in Orlando is to steer clear of International Drive, the hub of all things Orlando, and the attractions … although, the world’s largest McDonalds is probably a must-see for fast food lovers and it sits not far from Disney World.

Mama B’s Giant Subs is located downtown and is open for lunch only. A local favorite, there is a choice of 30 different sandwiches, all customizable and all huge. They have a $6 lunch special that includes any half sub with chips and small drink. For a big group, a 3-foot feeds 10-15 people ($36.96), 4-foot ($49.38), 5-foot ($61.00), 6-foot ($72.68) Note that they only take cash – no credit or debit cards accepted.
692 N Orange Ave - Mama B’s Giant Subs

Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ is a favorite of local residents looking for a whole lot of good food for little money. This is where local barbecue fans that know what they’re talking about eat. Absolutely nothing fancy to it, this place has Floridians driving from as far away as Jacksonville. Unique menu items here include Fried Pickles ($2.99), Fried Okra ($3.49) and Sweet Potato Tots ($3.99). Beef, pork, chicken and seafood are prepared fresh daily as sandwiches ($5.99) or dinners ($11.99).
12100 Challenger Parkway – bubbalous.com

Fish and Chips is actually the name of a restaurant in the Orlando suburban city of Apopka that started as a hole-in-the-wall place in a strip mall in 2006. Fish and Chips has such a big local following that it was expanded and moved to a larger location at the end of 2012 and looks poised to be even better in 2013. Based on a simple premise of providing hearty portions of quality seafood at reasonable prices ($5-$7), the fish served at lunch today “was swimming last night,” the owners are fond of saying.
1146 West S R 436 – fishchipsorlando.com

Budget Activities

Splitsville Luxury Lanes and Dinner Lounge is a 30-lane bowling alley ($15 per person per hour, all-you-can-bowl) in Downtown Disney that’s a hip, retro venue and also features pool tables (free) and a balcony bar that overlooks Downtown Disney. Budget watchers will like that at Splitsville they don’t need to bowl to enjoy the bars and food offerings. In addition, Splitsville has live music (free) on some nights, with a variety of theme nights on others.
1494 East Buena Vista Drive – splitsvillelanes.com

Pleasure Island, is a free entertainment area in Downtown Disney that can be a cheap, if not free night out. Parking is free and so is non-stop entertainment at various venues. Try a candy apple from the Candy Cauldron, watch singers and musicians for a few hours or ride the free water taxi around to see the area. On the marketplace side, visitors can always get a free chocolate sample at the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop.
1590 Buena Vista Drive – wdwinfo.com/downtown/pi/

Universal City Walk is similar to Downtown Disney and a fun area of restaurants, shops and entertainment that requires no admission. You’ll pay for parking here ($20) but buy something in a store and they will credit your purchase towards the fee. Travelers who enjoy a Caribbean cruise for a trip to Margaritaville can stop by Jimmy Buffet’s place for a Cheeseburger In Paradise fix and a LandShark beer.
6000 Universal Blvd – universalorlando.com

Get Around

By Bus: Orlando’s citywide bus system is called the LYNX public transportation system. The extensive system that runs until midnight is worth learning over other transportation methods. A one-way fare in a single direction anywhere on the system is $4, and transit directions can be pulled from Google Maps on your smartphone. To or from Orlando International Airport (MCO) and the suburbs via cab or private car will run around $100 each way.

By Car: Rental cars in Orlando are usually very competitive because of the high volume of tourists. Cars are almost always available and everyday prices for compacts start at just $25 per day with unlimited mileage. Start your search at kayak.com for a good aggregate of fares.

By Train: While a train is not a good way to get around once in Orlando, using one to get there is another matter altogether. The Orlando area has three Amtrak passenger train stations. The Orlando station is close to the attractions but the Kissimmee station is the closest to Walt Disney World. The Winter Park station delivers passengers to a quaint suburb with frequent street markets and old-fashioned charm.

Budget Tips

Watch Disney World Fireworks For Free by going to Disney’s Polynesian Resort (no admission fee required) for a cheap dinner at Captain Cook’s quick-service restaurant, then go sit on the beach attached to the resort for the show.
1600 7 Seas Drive – disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/polynesian-resort/

Driving? Bring a roll of quarters, as many roads frequently traveled by visitors are toll roads. Better yet, if you’re going to be in town for the good part of a week, buy a SunPass transponder to save on what a car rental company might charge. Save time driving too by paying attention to road congestion via your favorite up-to-date GPS-based app; major highway projects in 2013 and beyond will make driving an activity all of its own.

Pick a suburban hotel if visiting during peak times when hotel availability may be tight. Pick something close to I-4 if visiting attractions. It will be about a 30 minute drive to Disney World, Universal Studios and others but well-worth the savings. It is almost always less costly paying for the rental car and expenses vs. staying at a pricey hotel or resort on-site.