New for all September, 70 of Orlando’s top restaurants will serve up three-course, prix-fixe dinners for $30 during Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month. The newly updated OrlandoMagicalDining.com features menus, message boards, reservations and a mobile version launching in late August. In addition, the month-long event will benefit the Edgewood Children’s Ranch, with $1 from each meal donated to the organization. Now in its seventh year, Magical Dining Month continues to grow with the addition of new restaurants to Orlando’s growing dining scene, including Fogo de Chao, Prickly Pear and Nick’s Italian Kitchen. This year’s restaurant list has a variety of atmospheres and cuisines spread across six dining districts.
Space shuttle… going, going, gone!
For the last time in history, a Space Shuttle will take flight when the Endeavour Space Shuttle flies out from Kennedy Space Center Sept. 17 atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on its way to the California Science Center, where it will be permanently displayed. Spectators can watch the historic event from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. And for the first time in more than 30 years, visitors can go inside Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center (LCC). The second unveiling in Kennedy Space Center’s 50th anniversary series of rare-access tours, The Launch Control Center Tour takes visitors inside Firing Room 4, one of the LCC’s four firing rooms and the one from which all 21 Space Shuttle launches since 2006 were controlled. The LCC Tour runs through the end of 2012 with a limited number of daily tours. Price is $25 for adults and $19 for children ages three to 11 plus tax, in addition to admission.
Schooner recognized in Key West
The Schooner Western Union, the last tall ship built in Key West and the island city’s longtime flagship, has become the official flagship of the state of Florida. Launched in Key West in 1939, the Western Union is a traditional American coasting schooner that served the Western Union Telegraph Co. for 35 years as a cable laying and maintenance ship. Maritime historians believe the vessel, home-ported in the island city, is the world’s only surviving sailing cable ship. In recent years, the Western Union operated as a tour vessel in Key West waters, but maintenance and renovation costs forced previous owners, Historic Tours of America, to cease the ship’s operations. Fearful the ship would be sold and taken elsewhere, a group of locals formed a society and Historic Tours of America agreed to donate the Western Union to the group as long as the vessel remained in Key West. The Western Union was relaunched in April 2011 following a three-year, $1.25 million restoration. Now listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, the Western Union carries passengers on sunset sails, stargazer cruises and charters.
Warship makes new dive site
This summer, the 165-foot World War II Mohawk warship was sunk to its final resting place 90 feet under water, about 28 nautical miles off of Sanibel Island, creating the first veterans memorial reef dedicated to all US veterans. The official name of the reef is the USS Mohawk CGC Veterans Memorial Reef, and it is expected to draw divers to explore its rigged hull and the authentic pirate artifacts planted on the ship for visitors to plunder.
Sarasota has the cure for summertime blues
The Sarasota Blues and Music Festival is implementing several new and improved features for this year’s event. The event will feature a new Family Fun Zone and improved VIP package. The festival is slated for Sept. 29 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. The Family Fun Zone will feature the likes of the Dixie Ferris Wheel, “Buzz Lightyear spaceships” and Bungee Trampoline, along with games, slides and “walking on water inside a giant bubble.” The artist lineup includes two-time Grammy Award winner Delbert McClinton. Tickets are on sale now. The festival started in 1991 as the Sarasota Blues Fest.
Where there’s water there’s a way
Water Taxi Miami is billing itself as the newest transportation mode in the Miami area. The company has a fixed daily schedule that enables passengers to hop on and hop off. There is regular service to and from Miami to Miami Beach/South Beach downtown Miami and the company is operating to the Marlins stadium as well. Passengers can buy single or round-trip tickets or all-day passes. As well, Water Taxi Miami offers charters for the likes of events, parties and weddings. “We are flexible in our service. Please share your next idea, plans and event with us [so] we can accommodate you any way possible,” the company says.
Jacksonville fall events
Following are just some of the activities on tap in Jacksonville this fall:
Pet Walk, Sept. 5: This free event is part of Art Walk, organized by Downtown Vision Inc.; it is a family friendly evening in the heart of downtown Jacksonville filled with art, music and food vendors. For the month of Sept. the theme is Pets, with participants invited to bring their four-legged friends to Downtown Jacksonville for a “pet-rrific” time.
5K Boselli Mud Run & Kids Mud Run, Sept. 15: This fun and challenging event benefits the Boselli foundation and Jacksonville’s underprivileged children.
Jaguars vs. Texas: NFL season opener, Sept. 16: The Jacksonville Jaguars play the first home game of the 2012/13 season at EverBank Field.
Jax Senior Games, Oct. 1-7: Over 50 and fabulous! This event organized by the city of Jacksonville promotes a healthy and active lifestyle for the senior population. From a 5K, to cycling, to softball to even line dancing, it is a week of challenging games for the over 50 population.
45th U.S. Surfing Championship, Oct. 1-9: Surf’s up in Jacksonville Beach! Organizers are expecting the largest crowd ever for the contest this year, which will be nine days of nothing but surfing.
Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open, Oct. 15-21: In 2011, the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open raised $1.8 Million for local charities, this year they want to donate even more. Some of golf’s emerging stars will be in town for the four rounds of golf at TPC Sawgrass. Admission is free for kids.
Jacksonville Sea & Sky Spectacular, Oct. 20-21: The famed Blue Angels are back in town for two days of exciting stunts in the skies over Jacksonville Beach. Along with the Blue Angels, some of the world’s best military and civilian flight teams will also take to the skies to entertain the big crowds, and the fun is not only in the sky, down on the ground there will be live music, food vendors, aircrafts on display and a chance to meet and greet the pilots. This free event is organized by the City of Jacksonville, The City of Jacksonville Beach and Naval Station Mayport.
Georgia vs. Florida Football Classic, Oct. 27: The game is the highlight but the party kicks off on Oct. 24 in downtown Jacksonville, then three days of tailgating in this historic rivalry.
About VISIT FLORIDA
As the state’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming 85.9 million visitors in 2011 that spent more than $67.3 billion, generating 23 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue and employing more than 1 million Floridians. For every $1 spent on tourism marketing, VISIT FLORIDA – the state’s official tourism marketing corporation – generates more than $177 in tourism spending and $11 in new sales tax collections, paid by visitors, not residents. As a public/private partnership, VISIT FLORIDA serves more than 10,500 tourism industry businesses, including 2,800 invested Partners, 7,700 web affiliates and major strategic alliance partnerships with Disney Destinations, Dollar Rent A Car, The Hertz Corporation, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and Universal Orlando. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, go to www.VISITFLORIDA.org or follow our corporate blog at www.SunshineMatters.org