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Swim with sharks and feed the stingrays!

Sharks often bring fear to your mind. You are often warned to stay away from waters where sharks are at large. News of fatal shark attacks often come from beaches down under. But are all sharks so dreadful? How would react to an opportunity o swim with sharks? Have you ever envisioned yourself swimming amongst sharks? If not then you can, or you should try it once. Guests visiting tropical day resort Discovery Cove in Orlando can now do just that – if they wish.

In celebration of Shark Awareness Day guests at Discovery Cove can now take part in exclusive new animal experiences at the park. Discovery Cove has always been known for its memorable dolphin interactions, and now guests can enhance their visit with one of-a-kind, hands-on encounters with sharks and stingrays. The awe-inspiring Shark Swim program provides closer-than-ever encounters with legendary predators. While guests have always been able to view park’s sharks, the new program takes them on a daring next step – swimming freely among five species: Pacific blacktip, reef whitetip, nurse shark, zebra shark, and a spotted wobbegong.

The immersive session is divided into two unique interactions and begins as guests meet with the park’s shark team and head into the water. Through hands-on interaction, guests learn about shark anatomy and the threats the animals face in the wild. Guests can also join the sharks in the deeper part of their habitat and embark on an exhilarating snorkel experience.

Discovery Cove works to dispel myths about sharks and to inspire guests to learn more about these mysterious creatures. As top predators, sharks play an essential role in maintaining the balance of ocean ecosystems worldwide by monitoring fish populations. Sadly, shark finning and overfishing threaten many shark species and disrupt that natural balance. Guests who take part in the new Shark Swim program will walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for these fascinating ocean ambassadors.

The Shark Swim experience is available to Discovery Cove guests ages 10 and older. The cost is US$85 per person. For every shark swim package purchased, SeaWorld will donate 5% of the proceeds to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) in support of shark conservation and research.

In addition to the Shark Swim program, Discovery Cove has launched a new Ray Feeding experience. This exclusive opportunity gives guests the chance to feed the stingrays during a private tour of the Grand Reef. Guided by one of the park’s aquarists, guests ages 6 and older spend their session in the Grand Reef learning all about the species of rays as they hand-feed the incredible creatures. The Ray Feeding program is US$50 per person. The new interaction programs require a Dolphin Swim or Day Resort reservation at Discovery Cove to participate. Space for each program is limited and guests are encouraged to book in advance.

Discovery Cove® in Orlando is an all-inclusive day resort where guests can enjoy a one-of-a-kind opportunity to swim with dolphins, snorkel among thousands of tropical fish and rays, hand-feed exotic birds, and encounter playful otters and curious marmosets. At the park, guests can relax and explore rocky lagoons surrounded by lush landscaping, tropical reefs, winding rivers and white, sandy beaches. Freshly prepared meals, snacks and beverages throughout the day and swim gear are included, plus unlimited, 14-day admission to SeaWorld® Orlando and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark®. Guests will experience the most exciting animal encounters the world has to offer in a breathtaking tropical atmosphere.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 30,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

Want to see a video of tourists swimming with sharks? Watch it on my channel by clicking the thumbnail below-

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Get up-close and personal with killer whales!

These are close encounters of different kind. Visitors to SeaWorld Orlando in US now have the opportunity to experience the park’s majestic killer whales in a brand-new way. The Killer Whale Up-Close Tour gives guests the opportunity to meet the park’s killer whales in ways never before offered at the park. The 45-minute tour includes learning from the park’s killer whale trainers, meeting the whales and understanding their unique personalities and even taking part in an interaction with one of the whales.

During the tour, which takes place daily, SeaWorld’s trainers share stories and information about the killer whales, demonstrate how the whales take part in voluntary husbandry sessions and discuss their healthcare, feeding habits and more. The engaging and interactive tour also gives participants the chance to try their hand at a session with the whales alongside a trainer. Throughout the entire experience, guests can take photos to help forever preserve the memory of the one-of-a-kind experience.

Also read: Seaworld returns two more Sea Turtles to the Ocean

The Killer Whale Up-Close Tour is the latest in the SeaWorld’s collection of memorable, educational and inspirational tours. Popular guest experiences, including the Dolphin Up-Close Tour and Penguin Up-Close Tour provide hands-on interactions with some of the park’s most popular animals while encouraging guests to care about all of the animals found in the oceans. The Behind-the-Scenes Tour, a guest favorite, provides an inside look at the park’s amazing animal rescue operation and ends with the opportunity to touch a shark and meet a Magellanic penguin. The Killer Whale Up-Close Tour begins at 10:00 a.m. and lasts approximately 45 minutes. Space is limited, and guests are encouraged to make reservations online in advance. Prices start at $79 per person.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 30,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

SeaWorld returns two more Sea turtles to the Ocean

Two loggerhead sea turtles are back home in the wild thanks to SeaWorld Orlando’s Rescue Team. In partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the turtles were returned to the ocean at Pineda Beach Park on Wednesday morning.

Rescued in December 2016, a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle was transported to SeaWorld Orlando from Massachusetts, where the animal received initial treatment from the New England Aquarium. Upon intake, the turtle had a dangerously low body temperature and a large wound under its right flipper. As a part of the turtle’s wound care, SeaWorld utilized radiographs, antibiotics, and laser therapy to heal the injury.

The second turtle released, a sub-adult loggerhead, came to SeaWorld in March after it was found upside down in the surf at Port Canaveral. The animal was covered in barnacles, emaciated, and lethargic. At SeaWorld, the veterinary team discovered blockage in the turtle’s digestive track caused from seashells. Through fluid therapy, the team helped the animal pass the impaction and gain 28 healthy pounds.

With two more sea turtles back in the ocean, SeaWorld has now returned 14 total turtles this year. In partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued nearly 2,000 sea turtles since 1980.

It is critical that beachgoers are mindful of the impact they leave on Florida coastlines as sea turtle nesting season is in full swing now through October. Debris and trash left on beaches can threaten the survival of sea turtles during this vulnerable time of year.

The successful rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles is another great example of SeaWorld’s commitment to protecting sea life. For more than 50 years, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has helped animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. More than 30,000 animals have been rescued by the expert animal rescue team that is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 30,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

Want to see the video of the release? Please click to link below on my YouTube channel-

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

Fall in Love in MIAMI for the first time or all over again

Miami_LoveIf you haven’t been to Miami lately, you haven’t been to Miami! The destination is fast evolving welcoming a growing numbers of visitors each year to enjoy favourite classic spots as well as many new museums, cultural attractions and even whole neighbourhoods. From hotel, restaurant and spa packages to paint nights, contests and a wedding showcase, The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) celebrates its sixth annual Miami Romance Month and invites locals and visitors to take advantage.

When it comes to planning a romantic milestone from engagements and bridal party celebrations to weddings and honeymoons, Miami and the Beaches is more popular than ever.  Pristine beaches combined with world class accommodations, restaurants, cultural attractions and emerging neighbourhoods make for a rare destination offering. Marrying romantic beach resorts with all the benefits of a sophisticated cosmopolitan is truly unique.

A sampling of Miami Romance Month experiences include:

Miami_BeachA Day of Rest, Renewal and Romance: Fontainebleau Miami Beach is offerings couples an all-new RELAX + INDULGE + SUN + SWIM day package.  Guests can recharge by spending a full day poolside and at the iconic 40,000-squre-foot Lapis Spa.

Couple Close-up: The Zoological Wildlife Foundation is giving couples a chance to get close with an outdoor photo session.  Featuring the natural and tropical surroundings found in South Florida, the offer is available for $500 with the code Miami Romance Month.

The Couple who Paints Together: Pair wine with art to create an inspiring date night at Bottle & Bottega throughout the month.  Future Van Gogh’s can enjoy an interactive evening with personal attention from an art instructor while sipping spirits. All supplies and ice/wine buckets to keep BYOB selections at the perfect temperature provided.  Enjoy a Buy One, Get One 50% off special using Romance as the code.

Honeymoon Magic in Coral Gables:

For those saying “I do” at the Westin Colonnade in majestic Coral Gables this month, a complimentary honeymoon is being offered.  Newlyweds also receive one Starwood Rewards Point for each dollar they spend.

Connect at Emena Spa

Couples relax side-by-side during massages followed by individual facials created to make any couple glow.  Each couple will receive a complimentary Organic Apricot Body/Massage Oil.

Wedding showcase

The annual Wedding Showcase brings future brides and grooms access to more than 60 wedding exhibitors to help with planning nuptials in Miami and The Beaches. With new additions including a bridal accessory shop, make-over salon and interactive panel discussions, saying “I do” in the destination is easier than ever. The Wedding Showcase will run from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24th at the Coral Gables Country Club.  Guests can expect exclusive giveaways throughout the evening from local retailers, hotels and more!

Ultimate #MiamiRomance Staycation

The GMCVB and the Palms Hotel & Spa have teamed up to give one deserving duo a chance to win the ultimate staycation in Greater Miami and The Beaches. One lucky couple will receive 4 day, 3 night accommodations in an Oceanfront room at The Palms Hotel & Spa, a bottle of Prosecco as a welcome amenity, and daily full American breakfast buffet for two.

Miami_Beach_CafeMiami Romance Month is part of the GMCVB’s increasingly popular Miami Temptations Program, which takes a thematic focus on the best that Miami has to offer throughout the year at attractive prices. Other programs include Miami Cruise Month (January), Shop Miami Month (March), Miami Sports Month (April), Miami Museum Month (May), Miami Film Month (June), Miami Spa Month (July-August), Miami Spice Restaurant Month (August-September), Miami Attractions Month (October), Miami Live Month (November) and Miami Heritage Month (December).

Celebrate the Holiday Season in the Sunshine State

This season, the state of Florida will shine extra bright with holiday spirit as millions of Christmas lights delicately cover the land and water, and the smell of delicious delicacies fill the air. As angels illuminate the bow of magnificently decorated boats and tiny lights decorate palm trees, locals and visitors alike will enjoy Florida’s unique and magical holiday season.

StAugustine-nights-of-lightsHistoric Holidays – While it may not snow in St. Augustine, the Nation’s oldest city turns into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. As the Annual Nights of Lights celebration takes over the city from November 21 to January 31, 2016, the historic district will be lit with more than 3 million white lights from the ground up to the rooftops. Tracing its origins to the Spanish tradition of displaying a white candle in the window during the Christmas holidays, the spectacular lighting display reflects the city’s 450-year history and illuminates the beautiful ancient city. Holiday music and the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree add to the splendour of one of the world’s greatest holiday light displays.

There are many ways to enjoy Nights of Lights, including on foot, by bicycle or pedicab, on the Old Town Holly Jolly Trolly, aboard Ripley’s Red Train or by horse and carriage. Local attractions also offer special Nights of Lights tours, in which visitors can appreciate the remarkable display from the water aboard the Schooner Freedom, the Osprey or with Ripple Effects Eco Tours, or by air with St. Augustine Bi-Plane Tours.

Historic Fernandina Beach-Centre Street, Books Plus Bookstore and Palace Saloon
Historic Fernandina Beach-Centre Street, Books Plus Bookstore and Palace Saloon

Santa & Sweets – Further north of St. Augustine, not quite to the North Pole, is another historic district belonging to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island where visitors will go back in time to old Victorian Christmas traditions. With Chestnuts roasting, carolers strolling and Saint Nick arriving, an enchanted Victorian experience awaits visitors on Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach. Satisfy holiday cravings and catch the spirit of the season at the Annual Amelia Island Bed and Breakfast Holiday Cookie Tour on Saturday, December 12, 2015. During this delicious tour, guests will sample a signature cookie from each Inn, take home a beautifully printed recipe card and gather inspiring decorating ideas just in time for the Holidays. With so much to do and see, visitors can extend their Amelia Island Holiday experience with these great Holiday Stay Packages.

SeaWorld-Polar ExpressSplash, Skate, Celebrate – Spend the Holidays with your favorite sea creatures during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. Gather with the family to hear the classic Christmas story, as told through the eyes of animals, followed by a wondrous journey to the North Pole aboard The Polar Express to visit Santa Claus. Guests can sit back and relax as they watch Winter Wonderland on Ice, a show-stopping ice-skating extravaganza of skaters gliding across a stage of ice, jewels and light.

Guests can also take a leisurely stroll through The Christmas Village where artisans, festive entertainment and delicious culinary delights create a bustling market that lines Bayside Pathway. Guests can discover one-of-a-kind gifts, enjoy scrumptious holiday treats, encounter playful elves and holiday characters, sing-a-long with musicians, and marvel at a charming model train village.

Circus Nutcracker-SarasotaTraditions with a Twist – The Nutcracker ballet is already a worldwide Christmas tradition on its own; however, the Sarasota Ballet is adding a new twist to the famous performance in their Circus Nutcracker. Bringing the spirit of the holidays to Sarasota, Matthew Hart’s John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker will enchant audiences at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score by the Sarasota Orchestra, John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker entwines the history of John and Mable Ringling and Sarasota’s connection to the circus with Hoffman’s classical Nutcracker.

Boat parades-Palm beachWinter Waterland – What would a Florida holiday be without water and boat parades? This season, Florida’s waterways will be festively aglow with the holiday spirit as boats twinkle with dazzling Christmas lights and displays. Boat parades can be enjoyed across the entire state, from Naples to the Palm Beaches. Along Florida’s Paradise Coast, guests can enjoy a series of boat parades throughout December on Marco Island, Naples Bay and theVillage on Venetian Bay. Moving up the Gulf Coast and across the state, there will be boat parades in Venice, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Stuart and the Palm Beaches, among many other destinations.  With free admission, guests can view the parades from their favourite spots, whether it be a waterfront restaurant or hotel, a park, a bay walk or a cozy chair on the water’s edge.

Canal Cruise-FloridaPrefer to be on the water? Visitors in Punta Gorda can enjoy nightly Christmas Light Canal Cruises from December 4 – 31, 2015. A tradition for more than 30 years, these popular, family-oriented cruises tour the residential canals to view Christmas lights, displays and decorations on homes, boats, seawalls and docks. Guests can even experience the joy of a private Catamaran Christmas Canal Cruise aboard the 47’Smoke and Roses.

From historic districts and theme parks to boat parades and ballets, Florida’s festivities provide unforgettable Holiday experiences for every type of visitor.

(All images courtesy respective owners)

Out & About in Miami

Planning to go to Miami very soon! Well here are few things, you can look out for in Florida in coming days:

IMG_0334WET, WACKY 7 WILD AT JUNGLE ISLAND – South Florida’s favorite landmark attraction just opened its much-anticipated beach oasis and Rainforest Riptide, an unfathomable fun floating obstacle course and water park at Parrot Cove. After a salt-water plunge, guests can have fun with the energetic and wacky hosts of three marvelous animal shows including the popular Winged Wonders, Wild Encounters, and Wild Adventures. Then explore the park and its numerous wildlife from twin orangutans, Australian red kangaroos, Aldabra turtles to big cats, reptiles, colorful parrots, and much more. The totally Wet, Wacky and Wild adventure is available every Saturday and Sunday priced at $34.95 per adult; $26.95 per child. Nominal fee for the Rainforest Riptide. Park hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rainforest Riptide opens at 11 a.m.

michys_restaurantMICHY’S RESTAURANT IS REBORN  – After closing almost ten months and undergoing a complete renovation, Michy’s, the landmark restaurant from James Beard Award-winning Chef Michelle Bernstein and husband/partner David Martinez, reopened as CENA by Michy in early-May 2015 with a completely new look, new menu concept and new spirit.  The acclaimed husband-and-wife culinary power couple closed the restaurant in July 2014, just short of its ten year anniversary.  The address is the same but fans will find a new restaurant in CENA by Michy. The menu at CENA (loosely translated from Spanish as “the main meal of the day”) will be approachable yet adventurous, boasting just the right amount of soul-pleasing favorites as well as an array of dishes inspired by Bernstein’s current culinary obsessions. The new menu reflects that neighborhood vibe, but in keeping with Bernstein’s reputation and creativity, often travels into unexpected and exciting directions.  Gone are the eclectic, cottage chic décor, and bright colors Michy’s was known for. The restaurant’s design, like the food, is stripped down, rustic yet sophisticated.  The restaurant will seat 62 both indoors as well as on the intimate back patio.  Joining Bernstein in the kitchen will be chef de cuisine Mikey Mayta, a Michy’s alumnus and Johnson & Wales graduate.

PAAMPAMM GROWS COLLECTION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTISTS – Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) has announced the acquisition of three new works by African American artists Terry Adkins, Ed Clark, and Leslie Hewitt at the second annual reception for the PAMM Fund for African American Art. The PAMM Fund was initiated with a $1 million grant funded equally by Jorge M. Perez and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support the growth of the collection of Miami’s flagship museum with works by African American and African Diaspora artists.

Miami_Beach_CafeTHE CAFÉ AT BOOKS & BOOKS GAINING POPULARITY– Housed at the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami in the historic Carnival Tower, The Café at Books & Books is booming with patrons and with flavor. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily the café has quickly become a neighborhood fixture, satiating patrons’ hunger for great food, perfectly-crafted cocktails, good reads and an incomparable cultural experience. The café is the brainchild of Mitchell Kaplan and his culinary partner, James Beard Award-winning Chef Allen Susser. Now with four South Florida locations, the café has become more than just a book store. The menu offers fresh, flavorful, and locally-sourced cuisine. Plates include everything from Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes to Artisanal Tartines, Grilled Cauliflower Steak, or Mahi-Mahi Ceviche to name a few.

ThompsonMiamiBeachNEW EXPERIENCES AT THOMPSON MIAMI BEACH – Thompson Miami Beach is now offering an eclectic collection of stellar dining and imbibing experiences. Among its offerings is the 1930s House, an inviting cocktail hideaway that has been quietly wowing locals and visitors alike since opening. Ready to position itself as a premiere destination for creative hand-crafted cocktails and celebrated cuisine, the historic Spanish-inspired lounge has officially launched its full culinary, beverage and entertainment line-up. Thompson Miami Beach has partnered with James Beard Award winning chef Michelle Bernstein to introduce a pop-up of her beloved Spanish tapas restaurant, Sra. Martinez, inside 1930s House. The venue will also offer weekly entertainment featuring guest DJs and live Cuban music.   At the pop-up, aficionados can enjoy a delectable menu of small plates inspired by Sra.’s successful run that made the restaurant onto Esquire magazine’s list of “Best Restaurants in America” in 2008. A selection of crudoscarpaccios and ceviches as well as flavor-packed Spinach & Feta Croquetas and Lardo-Wrapped Figs stuffed with goat cheese will be available.

soho-bayMODERN JAPANESE-INSPIRED RESTAURANT DEBUTS – More than fifteen years of sushi and sashimi making traditions were imported to Miami’s sandy shores when internationally-renowned SOHO Bay recently opened its doors. The long-awaited concept hailing from Brazil features waterfront dining for 200, located on West Avenue in Miami Beach. Executive Chef Ricky Sauri, who brings more than 20 years of experience to the SOHO Bay team, executes the modern Japanese menu. Sauri has worked in a number of the country’s most esteemed restaurants including a decade at the renowned Nobu empires’ locations in Miami Beach, West Hollywood, and the Bahamas, followed by stints at some of Miami’s hot spots including Touch, Bloom, and Khong River House. At SOHO Bay, Sauri’s menu reflects a sophisticated creative take on traditional Japanese cuisine served up in a hip yet unpretentious setting. Designed to be shared, the menu features Small Hot Plates, Soho Specialties, and Soho Rolls. Designed by architects José Gomes and Marlon Gama, the 12,000 square-foot indoor-outdoor waterfront restaurant features sleek modern décor, with stunning design elements throughout.  Guests can sip libations at the striking 12-seat back-lit cocktail bar or enjoy an interactive dining experience, complete with omakase and à la carte offerings, at the adjacent sushi bar, both made entirely of white onyx. No matter where guests are seated, one thing is guaranteed – an unobstructed view of the bay and Miami skyline through floor-to-ceiling windows that define the space. For those traveling by sea, a private boating dock is available at SOHO Bay, one of few restaurants in the city to have one. SOHO Bay also hosts DJs spinning sultry beats to welcome the weekend.

MAY IS NATIONAL BURGER MONTH – May marks National Burger Month in the culinary world and many of Miami’s hottest restaurants are offering a unique lineup of expertly crafted specialty burgers to tempt your taste buds. Several of the restaurants offering delicious options include Devon Seafood + Steak at Town & Country, BLT Prime at the iconic Trump National Doral, Meat Market on Lincoln Road and many more. A few options you might find on these menus include a bison patty loaded with roasted hatch Anaheim chilies, a grilled salmon burger with avocado, apple and pickled red onions or a classic Black Angus burger with melted sharp cheddar cheese. And to share more burger love, the Magic City Casino hosted a Burger Brawl on May 15th with 20 competitors providing juicy burger samples as well as desserts and drinks.

ORLANDO becomes first destination to surpass 60 million visitors

More than 62 million people visited Orlando in 2014. It marks a new all-time record for the U.S. travel industry, solidifying Orlando’s position as the most visited destination in the US. Visitation grew five percent from 2013 as visitors from around the world came to experiencOrlando Eyee all that is new across the ever-expanding destination. A record 32 million room nights were sold in Orlando in 2014, resulting in bed tax collections topping $200 million for the first time in Orange County, Fla., home to the Central Florida tourism district.

“This historic milestone is the latest testament to Orlando’s leadership in tourism,” said Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel. “It’s a tribute to the steadfast commitment and continued investment by our tourism community, the special brand of service that greets our visitors and the global marketing and sales efforts of our Visit Orlando team and member companies.”

“The impact of tourism is remarkable, and in fact, the travel and tourism industry is the largest generator of jobs and economic impact for the region,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “In addition to delighting visitors and families from aroBob's Balloon Flights, in Orlandound the world, travel and hospitality industry helps to support a great quality of life for Orlando’s residents, including amazing new performing arts center and outstanding sports venues.”  To meet the needs of a growing number of visitors, Orange County has made investments in infrastructure, including investing in an important expansion and renovation of the nationally recognized Orange County Convention Center.

“Passing the 60 million annual visitors mark is a significant achievement for Orlando and the U.S. travel industry that generates $2.1 trillion for the U.S. economy each year,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Thanks to the close partnership among members of Orlando’s tourism community and strong leadership by public officials and Visit Orlando, this popular destination known around the world is well positioned to continue setting records in tourism.”

Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, FloridaIn 2014, Walt Disney World Resort completed New Fantasyland, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Resort opened. Visitors to Orlando in 2015 will experience the first full year of these exciting expansions that opened in 2014 and be the first to see several new attractions, including I-Drive 360, featuring a trio of new attractions from Merlin Entertainments, as well as a multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs.

SeaWorlds CelebrationIn recent years, the Orlando experience has also become more diverse, attracting an increasingly wide range of visitors. Foodies find a surprisingly sophisticated culinary destination, recognized with more “Best of the South” chef nominations by the prestigious James Beard Foundation than any city in Florida for three straight years. Luxury travelers are drawn to the five-star service at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando that opened six months ago, as well as the Ritz-Carlton Orlando and Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Visitors are also discovering exciting new venues in which to enjoy the arts and professional sports, like the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts and the Major League Soccer stadium coming to Downtown Orlando in 2016.