Dolly Parton’s ‘Pirates Voyage’ replaces ‘Dixie Stampede’ in Myrtle Beach

Pirates and mermaids have taken over Dolly Parton’s popular Western-themed Dixie Stampede theater show in Myrtle Beach, hoisting the Jolly Roger where cowboys had previously performed stunts for 19 years.

The Dixie Stampede dinner show, which is still running in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri, closed its doors in South Carolina last year. After an $11 million renovation that included installing a 15-foot, 750,000-gallon lagoon and three 30-foot pirate galleons, Pirates Voyage will begin tumbling, swimming, singing, dancing and sword fighting for the general public tomorrow. Tickets are $41.99 for adults, $21.99 for children age four to 11, and free for children under the age of four.

Parton says she began thinking of a pirate-themed show five years ago and maintains the idea had nothing to do with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise, but admits the “timing couldn’t be better” for the marauders to take over the show. Parton herself appears in an introductory video, can be seen swimming with the mermaids through the use of computer technology, and (of course) contributed to the soundtrack.

[Photo by Bruce Smith, AP]

Theme park news roundup: The word of the day is giga-coaster

The new Intimidator 305 roller coaster has opened at Kings Dominion theme park in Richmond, VA. The coaster, named in honor of the late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, has ride cars that look like Earnhardt’s famous black Chevy. Earnhardt’s daughter Taylor visited the park last week to open the ride.

The Intimidator 305 screams along at 92 miles per hour, thanks to a 300-foot drop at the start.

Kings Dominion says that makes it part of a new class of giga-coasters – “complete-circuit coasters with a height of 300 feet or taller.” You can now check “add a word to my vocabulary” off today’s to-do list. You’re welcome.

Universal requires 4-night stay for Harry Potter packages (Orlando, FL, USA)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens June 18, and if you want to book Universal Orlando Resort’s vacation package to go see the wizard, you will be staying in Orlando until at least June 22.

Universal tells the Orlando Sentinel that the package was designed as a 4-night experience when it was introduced in February, but the minimum stay requirement was just set this week.

The Orlando vacation packages include a hotel stay, Universal Orlando tickets, breakfast at the new Three Broomsticks restaurant and early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.Coney Island Cyclone opens for 83rd season (New York City, NY, USA)

The landmark Cyclone roller coaster has re-opened for its 83rd season on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.

It costs $8 to ride the combination wooden and steel structure that cost $175,000 to build in 1927. Although the thrill ride is on the National Register of Historic Places, it is still listed among coaster enthusiasts as one of the best current roller coasters in the country – both for its great views of the Manahattan skyline and its 60 mph hairpin turns.

Nearby, the new Luna Park is set to open its 19 rides on the Coney Island shore on May 29.

Great Wolf Lodge tries for water-slide world record (USA)

3,651 miles. That’s the distance that bathing-suit clad visitors slid at 11 Great Wolf Lodge indoor water parks last weekend, in an attempt to set a Guinness World Record.

The Great Wolf Lodges each kept one water slide open for 24 hours and asked sliders to donate to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. The charity event/publicity stunt resulted in 47,660 trips down the designated water slides.

Guinness is still verifying the information before making the world record – which will be in the category longest distance water sliding in 24 hours in multiple venues – official. Oddly enough, there’s no previous record-holder for this very specific, new category in the company’s record books.

SeaWorld’s Aquatic water park opens new water slide (Orlando, FL, USA)

Orlando water park Aquatica has opened its new slide, the Omaka Rocka. The tube slide deposits riders in funnels designed to mimic the sensation that skateboarders feel in the half-pipe.

This is the third year for Aquatica, SeaWorld’s venture into the water park scene. Omaka Rocka is the first addition to the park since it opened.

Future questioned at Freestyle Music Park (Myrtle Beach, SC, USA)

The troubled Freestyle Music Park is facing foreclosure. The Myrtle Beach, S.C., park – which opened as Hard Rock Park in 2008 then underwent a brand change for the 2009 season – missed a debt payment deadline last week.

The Sun News reports that the theme park’s owners have not been able to find new investors and are facing bankruptcy or foreclosure. Owners are saying it is “unlikely” that the park will open for the 2010 season.

Six Flags releases iPhone app (USA)

The Six Flags Fun Finder, a free app, is now available in the App Store. Beyond the usual park maps and event listings, that app integrates with Facebook to help you find the exact location of your friends within any Six Flags theme park. The app is free.

Second-tier airports still getting action

Smaller airports may have trouble supporting the needs of large airlines, but smaller carriers are filling in the gaps. Direct Air, for example, moved into Toledo to connect those Ohioans with Myrtle Beach, SC and Punta Gorda, FL – at dirt cheap prices. And, everyone knows that Toledo is a hotbed of trendsetters …

While these smaller airlines do provide service from local airports, saving a long drive and a lot of headache, you do have to make some sacrifices. You know the many flights from Detroit to New York every day? You miss one, there are plenty of others. Toledo, Worcester, MA and other smaller airports don’t offer that luxury. You may only get a few routes a week. This can add a bit of risk to the day of travel, not to mention constrain your plans from the start.

If the convenience of a local airport trumps all, remember to pay for your tickets with a credit card. Not only is it a hell of a lot easier than cash, you’ll be able to get your money back if the airline collapses. With the little guys, this happens from time to time.

The World’s Tallest Sandcastle and Other Sandsculpture Marvels

Earlier this month, a seven-person team of professional “sandcastlers” from Sarasota, Florida plugged away during Myrtle Beach’s 2007 Sun Fun Festival. As a result of the pluck of “Team Sandtastic,” Myrtle Beach can now boast that it created the World’s Tallest Sandcastle. Measured by an independent surveyor, the sandcastle towered 49.55 feet in the air — until Tropical Storm Barry did a little remodeling. If you’re interested, you can check out a before-and-after video of the sandcastle and the storm’s effect on it.

With a base of more than 90 feet and containing 4,800 cubic yards of sand (that’s 300 truck-loads!), Team Sandtastic required 10 days to finish their masterpiece.

In addition to World’s Tallest Sandcastle, Myrtle Beach also holds the World Record for World’s Longest Sand Sculpture. At 86,535 feet long, that’s more than 16 miles of sculpture!

Keep reading for some more images of Team Sandtastic’s work, as well as details on some other unusual sandcastles around the world.

It’s not like they just dumped the sand on a flat spot and called it a sandcastle. Sandtastic worked hard at giving the edifice plenty of texture, style, and beauty.

I think they did a great job creating something with pizzazz.

Here’s the PREVIOUS record holder for World’s Tallest Sand Castle. This castle stood 37 feet, 9 inches.

Here are some other remarkable sand sculptures from around the world. Sandcastlematt made this life-sized sandman out of driftwood and sand.

Pretty ingenious — and not a little creepy.

Sandcastlematt has also figured out how to violate the principles of gravity and building floating sand castles.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a sand sculpture car before. Here’s a sand Ferrari:

I wouldn’t have thought of a barrel as an interesting sand sculpture subject, but this one is lovingly created and beautifully executed.

I’m impressed that they managed to get lights in the windows of this sandcastle.

How do they make all these curves?

Not sure if bigoode created this sand sculpture, but he did photograph it.

Navid J captured this compelling — and completely disturbing — sand sculpture created during the 2006 US Open Sandcastle Competition.

Though this one is pretty creepy, too.

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