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Everything posted by PREMiERdrum

  1. A fairly substantial development... http://www.10tv.com/article/amusement-industry-group-eyes-corrosion-ohio-state-fair-accident
  2. As I mentioned in the New Fantasyland, my position in the media earned me and my wife the opportunity to travel to The Happiest Place on Earth to be a part of the media previews of New Fantasyland, Test Track, and Splitsville last week. I tried to do my best to document the events to peel back the curtain, so to speak, and let you peek in on these lavish parties Disney throws. On Wednesday morning, we arrived at MCO and were promptly whisked away by Disney's Magical Express to our home for the next several days: Disney's Art of Animation resort. This is the newest of Disney's resorts, and was built from the remnants of the scrapped Pop Century: The Classic Years project, which was abandoned following the 2001 terrorist attacks. I'll get to more on the resort later, but let's skip right to the good stuff, eh? We checked into our suite in The Lion King buildings and were then directed to the media check in suite in the Cars building. We checked in, and were given our itinerary along with a bag of Disney swag: A "New Fantasyland" emblazoned iPod touch, New Fantasyland pin set, a Test Track windshield cover, Splitsville merchandise, and various Disney small goods. NEW FANTASYLAND EVENT The itinerary showed our first commitment was a 7pm VIP party and dinner, so we decided to go exploring on our own for a while at the Magic Kingdom. After getting in rides on Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, it's a small world, and The People Mover, we grabbed a Dole Whip and headed back to the resort to get ready for the party. We were picked up at Art of Animation by private coach (not Disney buses) and quickly driven backstage at the Magic Kingdom. We were escorted in through Tomorrowland and into Storybook Circus, where my jaw hit the well-themed pavement. The area was swathed in richly-themed decorations and filled with sets of tables and chairs. You couldn't walk 10 feet without encountering a food table, dessert table, or (open) bar. The food was gourmet (prime rib, Ahi tuna, sides), the desserts were delicious, and the drinks were premium. Aside from the food and libations, the party offered wait-free time on Aerial's Undersea Adventure, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Pete's Silly Sideshow, and Dumbo: The Flying Elephant. One of the most impressive parts, believe it or not, was the much-hyped flying dragon: Disney photo After the event, we were ushered into an empty hub (remember the park closed at 7pm) for a private showing of Holiday Wishes and the revamped castle projection show. TEST TRACK EVENT Where the New Fantasyland event was classy, the Test Track event was an outright party. All of Futureworld East (Test Track, Mission Space, and Universe of Energy) had been closed at 3pm to set up for this one. We were again bused by private coach to the park around 6pm, and we were herded into the Innoventions East breezeway until shortly before 7. When we entered, we were again taken back at just how detailed the party was. Huge bars and food buffets glowed, literally, in cool blue and green LED lighting. Chevrolet cars were scattered throughout, each with dramatic lighting added to fit the theme. A DJ was spinning club-style music from a gigantic stage set up directly in front of the ride (we would soon see why). The bars were serving cocktails (either "blue" or "pink" - the ingredients remain a mystery) in LED-lit, color changing martini glasses). At about 8 we were directed towards the stage, where Meg Crofton, VP of Disney Parks US and Europe, and Alan Beatty, GM VP of US Sales and Service, both gave brief remarks, before summoning Mickey to the stage to "turn on" new Test Track using Chevrolet's MyLink voice command system. It was a cute, if cheesy, gimmick. Confetti cannons fired, and SIM cars began zipping by behind the stage. We were ushered into the ride, which you've probably heard all about by now. You build your own SIM car in the queue, now themed as Chevrolet Design Center at EPCOT, and test the car on the SIM track. Designing their SIM cars Jenn's SIM car Old vehicles, new graphics We got off the ride, which was great, and heard a different type of music than we had been hearing. One Republic was playing a private concert on the Test Track stage! We walked right up to the front of the stage and listened. What a talented group that really put on a good show. AROUND OUR WORLD BREAKFAST Friday morning, we were invited to a breakfast and corporate update at Downtown Disney's AMC theaters. We were treated to comments from Meg Crofton, WDI Chief Creative Executive Bruce Vaughn, and President of Disney Cruiseline and Adventures by Disney Karl Holz. Nothing new was disclosed, save for one photo of Imagineers working on Avatar concept art (which Vaughn admitted had already changed considerably), but it was nice to be in the front row (literally) and hear what these folks had to say. Meg Crofton gives remarks Bruce Vaughn, from WDI, briefly discusses Avatar land Imagineers work on Avatar design The event concluded with a great performance by Main Street USA's Dapper Dans. SPLITSVILLE The final event on our schedule was a media preview of Splitsville, Downtown Disney's new "premium" bowling alley. After a few short speeches from Splitsville and Downtown Disney heads, as well as the breaking of the bowling pin out front, we were allowed in and immediately fell in love with this place. Once inside, we were treated to mimosa and bloody mary, pizza, nachos, sliders, sushi, calamari, chicken tenders, desserts, and another open bar. The food was great, the drinks were strong, and the decor is great. My only concern is that there might not be enough allies: 10 downstairs and 20 upstairs. Splitsville opens to the public on December 16th. ART OF ANIMATION RESORT Buildings are themed, both inside and out, to Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King, or The Little Mermaid. The Mermaid buildings are more conventional hotel rooms, while the Nemo, Cars, and Lion King buildings feature family suites which sleep 6. The buildings are centered around Animation Hall, which features the main desk, concierge, the Ink & Paint shop (a large store), and Landscape of Flavors, a counterservice restaurant. The resort's largest pool, The Big Blue Pool, is Nemo themed and can be found directly outside Animation Hall. The Big Blue Pool area consists of the main pool, a sprayground, The Drop Off poolside bar, and a playground. There are also pools at The Little Mermaid and Cars buildings. The Main Desk inside Animation Hall Character Development Wall inside Animation Hall Light Fixture inside Animation Hall http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll119/rossmusick/Facebook/2012%20New%20Fantasyland%20trip/530377_10151187909100849_440764971_n.jpg Christmas Tree inside Animation Hall Inside Lion King suite Big Blue Pool Cheers! Thanks for reading!
  3. Beautiful Easter weekend weather here in Central Ohio beckoned us out to the incomparable Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for their annual Easter weekend "Eggs, Paws, and Claws" event. Like most other special events at the park (Boo! at the Zoo, Wildlights, Jack Hanna's Fall Fest), the festivities are all "free" with gate admission. Being members, we parked for free, made our way through the gate, and started our Saturday morning of fun. Much like the Halloween-time Boo! at the Zoo event, the park is set up with several dozen "treat stations", sponsored by local businesses (who surely pay a small fortune to get access to the zoo's captive audience), who give out generous handfuls of sweets and treats to the little ones along with pamphlets and business cards to mom and dad. There are also several special activities, including "Easter eggs" given to various animals (we got to see AsiaQuest's beautiful Monitor Lizard enjoying his...), as well as a scuba diving Easter Bunny featured a few times per day in the Shores region's Discovery Reef aquarium. A short parade, the "Character Carrot Caravan", made it's way around the central plaza 3 times per day, featuring zoo mascots along with Buggs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Frisch's Big Boy, all dancing to a springtime theme. As is quickly becoming the case anytime of year, the park was beautifully decorated for the spring season. Pastel tulle bows, big printed spring flowers, large inflatables, and impeccable landscaping all helped set the springtime mood. Chalk artists were showing their craft around the central Conservation Lake, drawing admiration from all. Unfortunately, the beautiful weather ensured big crowds: More than 20,000 guests came through the gate on Saturday. Fortunately, the park is large enough that we only really felt cramped at lunch time, choosing to dine indoors (right at noon, no less) at the park's popular Congo River Market footcourt, located at the entrance to the African Forest region. As always, the animals put on a great show, but the little extras involved in these special events make dealing with the crowds worthwhile. A treat station, set up inside of the AsiaQuest's themed buildings Sun Bear, through the glass Hanna, the reticulated python, and daughter of the well-known Fluffy (largest snake in captivity, until he died at the zoo last year) Monitor Lizard Flying Fox Silver Leaf Langurs In addition to the zoo's normal characters, spring chicks and bunnies were brought in to greet kids Phoebe, Connie, and baby Beco were still spending their morning inside the Pachyderm building At more than 15,000 lbs and 9'5" tall, Hank is the largest elephant in North America. Seen here in the 2 acre north elephant yard It really was a beautiful day Red Pandas Flamingos Inside the reptile house Discovery Reef Enjoying the sunshine She can't leave without a ride on the beautifully restored 1914 Mangles-Illions Grand Carousel Busy lunchtime inside the Congo River Market, which features Charley's Steakery, Rotoni's Pizza, Jr Chef, Congo Grill, Fresh Selections Deli, and Jalapeno Mexacana (the barbacoa tacos and sopopillas were delicious!)
  4. The fact that he consistently interchanges "Cedar Fair" and "Cedar Point" is a great example of the attitude which caused his undoing: Cedar Point, and some other parks.
  5. I'm the guy in the 10TV coat, I work there. Here are 2 other PTR's I've done on the Columbus Zoo, Jungle Jack's Landing, and Zoombezi Bay: themeparkreview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=59649&hilit=columbus+zoo and themeparkreview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=59626&hilit=columbus+zoo
  6. 'Tis the season for pumpkins, cider, and begging strangers for candy. Sure, sending your kids door-to-door to ask for free treats can be a little discomforting, but it's a time honored tradition and loads of fun for the little one. We packed up our little one, Avery, and headed to the Columbus Zoo on Saturday for their first (of two) weekend of Boo! at the Zoo. Believe it or not, even as Columbus Zoo members, this was our first time at this particular event, and I couldn't have been more taken back with how well done it was. First, this isn't an upcharge: Pay your normal $12 (adult) admission for the zoo and the rest is included. You're handed an event-specific map which notates special candy stops (about 30 of them around the park!), seasonal concession offerings (s'mores, candy / carmel apples, cider, etc), and special entertainment offerings (several new stage shows, roaming characters, parade, etc). The map also lists the special "Boo at the Zoo" animal enrichment times and keeper talks. There were events around the zoo about every half hour, like pumpkins being given to the animals (which is hilarious to watch, including brown bears, polar bears, manatees, gorillas, arctic fox, etc). The roaming characters, from Otterbein University's theater department, brought a nice dose of period streetmosphere to the park. Several other live entertainment offerings were available, including a Marvel-licensed Superhero stage show, storytime with Princesses, and the zoo's awesome "Animals on Safari" stage show. While the event is billed as "merry, not scary", the zoo's train ride in the North America region is transformed after dark into a "Sleepy Hollow" themed experience, utilizing live actors, fog, and theatrical lighting. So, here's how it works: The 30 or so treat stations are spread out throughout the entire park, each sponsored by a different business and handing out free candy (generous handfulls, while we were there at least), as well as different things for their business (dentist giving parents gift cards for free whitening, etc). We didn't hit all the stations, and Avery still came away with tons of candy (we had to empty her bucket 2 or 3 times). Beyond the event-specific activities, there's still a world class (#1 in the country, they say) zoo to explore. The animals were all very active (a beautiful day, sunny and in the high 50's), and we didn't notice a single "no show." All the animals were out and having fun. Some animal highlights: one of the pods in the indoor gorilla exhibit had 3 apes in it sound asleep, while Coco (first gorilla born in captivity, now a great grandmother!) was in her pod enjoying a pumpkin. One of the lion cubs born a few years ago was being "weaned" away from his parents, being put in the second lion yard for 4 hours each day. There was a docent there to explain this, as the cat seemed very agitated and was pacing the yard's perimeter. We got to see Bodhi the male Asian Elephant one last time, he was the first elephant calf born at the zoo but is now going to Denver's Zoo to breed. Boo at the Zoo continues next weekend from 10AM to 9PM (unusually late hours for the zoo outside of the Christmastime Wildlight's event), with Jungle Jack's Landing and Animal Encounters Village open as well. All day ride wristbands are available for only $5, which is a steal considering the lineup of rides and non-existent lines. I seriously, completely recommend anyone with kids try to make this event next weekend. The themeing, the atmosphere, and the animals create quite a unique offering and you won't regret it. It amazes me, as a native Ohioan, to see the same level of quality, value, themeing, and escapism I used to find at Kings Island at the Columbus Zoo. Onto the pics: Getting ready to head in! (We had just put her costume on in the parking lot, coming straight from her gymnastics class) The lineup of Treat Stations in Jungle Jack's Landing Sonic's Wheel-O-Goodies (we won a burger and some drinks) The scale of this pirate ship was impressive, especially considering it's just a decoration! This is NOT one of the Leopards rescued from the farm in Zanesville, those animals are in the zoo's animal hospital Naptime in the gorilla building! Proud of her loot! Even the manatees got treated with some pumpkins in their tank
  7. Hi, cat. Welcome to "out of the bag." Wonder how long the site stays up?
  8. I didn't want to come right out and say it, since I didn't think most were thinking B&M. The fabrication plant that produces stateside B&M components is in Batavia I believe, and I-71 north would be the natural route up to CW. It was the color that caught my attention first, and my first thought was something to do with Wicked Twister. Seeing those photos, though, I can say with absolute certainty that I saw those pieces on a truck Friday.
  9. A pic was posted to another site, I can vouch that these pieces were on a flatbed heading north on I-71 from the Cincinnati area on Friday evening. My wife and I passed them on our way back to Columbus.
  10. The car in the photo is sitting inside the yellow circle here... Edit: or perhaps to the right of the center building, but in that general vicinity.
  11. That's most definitely one of the buildings in the Coyote Creek area of the park, where Double Loop was located. Nothing to see here... Edit: It appears to be the "Saddle Sore Saloon" building, which was immediately in front of DL's station.
  12. That seems much better! But, with the stories I've heard about CF's management, your first spelling seemed at least somewhat believable...
  13. OK, I know.. I just did a Columbus Zoo / Zoombezi Bay PTR last weekend, but we barely spent an hour in the zoo itself that day, and I really didn't think we captured the full experience. So, since we're members and today was a beautiful day, Avery and I hopped in the car this morning and headed up to the park for the morning and early afternoon. Enjoy! AsiaQuest Hanna, daughter of Fluffy, who died at the Zoo last year. Fluffy was famous for being the longest snake in captivity. Monitor Lizard: Amur Tiger: Markohr (including 3 recently born babies): Flying Fox: Pallas Cat: Langurs: Sun Bear: Red Panda: Asian Elephants: African Forest Western Lowland Gorillas: Cobolos Monkeys: Leopard: Okapi: Mandrills: The Islands of Southeast Asia Journey to the Islands Boat Ride: Komodo Dragon: Asian Small Clawed Otters: Orangutan: Gibbons: Australia The Roadhouse (nocturnal house): Tree Kangaroo Prevost Squirrel Fishing Cat Phesant Aviary Koalas: Kangaroo Walkabout (freerange 'roo habitat): The Shores Flamingos: Penguins: Alligators: Tortises: North America Bald Eagle; American River Otter: Polar Frontier (Polar Bears, Alaskian Brown Bears, Arctic Fox): Grizzly Bear: Black Bear: Puma: African Lion exhibit (currently not within a designated Biome, awaiting completion of the African Savannah biome): 1914 Mangles Illions carousel Animal Encounters Village
  14. I've got to tell you how impressed we've been with the quality of food this year compared to last. The pricing is reasonable, the quality is above average, and the staff thus far has been wonderful. Each visit this season we've stuck with the eatery closest to Katoomba Lagoon, but it seems like things have improved park-wide. Crowds at the waterpark Saturday were totally manageable, but the hoards of people at the zoo was, well, a zoo!
  15. As some of you know, my wife and I are big fans (and members) of the outstanding Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. When we renewed our membership last month, we upgraded from the standard Family Zoo Membership into Individual Gold Memberships. This membership is a full-year pass to the Zoo, along with a full season pass to Zoombezi bay, and includes free rides on all the rides in the Zoo and Jungle Jacks Landing. Since our daughter, Avery, is only 15 months old, she doesn't require a pass (yet!). The cost for 2 Gold Memberships, including free parking, was a modest $200. This past Saturday, we packed up my sister, niece, nephew, and my mom to head up to the parks for the day. The zoo opens daily at 9:00am, Jungle Jacks Landing at 10:00am, and Zoombezi Bay at 10:30am. We decided to get to the zoo as close to opening as possible, to enjoy some peaceful time with the animals before the onslaught of crowds began. We arrived early, flashed our membership to park for free (parking is usually a meager $5), hopped on the parking lot trolleys (it amazes me that Columbus Zoo can do this, but KI and CP parked theirs years ago), and were dropped off right at the impressive new gate structure (pictured above, photo courtesy Columbus Zoo and Aquarium). We used our passes to buy discounted tickets to Zoombezi Bay to the rest of the family. Zoombezi Bay tickets are gate priced at $32.99 for adults ($24.99 for kids under 10), which also gets you admission into the Zoo and Jungle Jacks Landing (which operates on a ride wristband system). We headed into the Zoo and enjoyed some time in the North America Region, which is where you'll find the brand-spankin'-new Polar Frontier, a jawdropping Polar Bear, Kodiak Bear, and Arctic Fox habitat which opened new for 2011. Polar Frontier: Avery, looking up at the polar bears swimming above her with the awesome underwater viewing: Habitat Hollow Petting Zoo: Other North American region photos: After completing the loop around the Zoo's North America region, we stopped by a few of the kids favorite animals before we headed out of the Zoo and over too Zoombezi Bay. Penguins and Flamingos in the zoo's "Shores" region Amur Tigers in their beautiful "AsiaQuest" habitat Koalas and the Kangaroo Walkabout (along with a fantastic lorikeet aviary) can be found in the Australia region At this point, we left the Zoo and headed over towards Zoombezi Bay, which is a short walk thru Jungle Jack's Landing from the zoo. On this path, the first thing you'll come across is the Animal Encounters Village. This is where the zoo's promotions staff keeps their menagerie of animals (typically, animals aren't taken off exhibit to appear in shows or on television), including a troupe of Chilean Penguins, several reptiles, a handful of baby flamingos (they have 2 flamingo enclosures on property), and the famous zoo "frenemies': A young cheetah and dog which have been raised together since birth. Columbus Zoo photo While we were at Animal Encounters Village, there were several presenters with different animals around the camp, including one at the flamingo yard encouraging visitors to meet and pet the birds, a few people out in the grass with a snake at least 8' or 10' long, one handling a large lizard of some sort for kids to pet, and 2 people on stage with the penguins, trying to teach them to hop up steps and thru a window for the Zoo's upcoming bird show. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole property, and I'd recommend it to anyone. To get to the Zoombezi Bay gate, you pass thru Jungle Jacks Landing, a decent little rides park the Zoo built over the last few years. Here you'll find the classic Sea Dragon wooden roller coaster, a Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl, Safari (Himilaya), Flying Scooters, Bumper Cars, Wave Swinger, as well as 'Jungle Jacks Junior Land', a collection of kid-friendly rides. Zoombezi Bay has added 2 new slides this year: Big Boa Falls and Python Plunge. Both slides share a tower (and I'm not even sure which is which), but one is a short MasterBlaster water coaster, and the other is a halfpipe type slide. The new slides are fun, and a great addition to the already solid lineup. The park is also home to a ProSlide Tornado, a family raft ride, mat racers, several body slides, several tube slides, a ProSlide Bowl, Action River (great for transportation around the park, with 4 entrances), huge water fortress / play area, a small lagoon play area for the younger children, and a unique adults only lazy river which encircles a bar. With a 15 month old, we naturally spent most of the day in Katoomba Lagoon, the smallest kids area. We did take a few pics of Avery adventuring around the park, which can give you a taste of the architecture and look of the park. Here's Avery (along with myself and her Gigi) walking into the park for the first time (we were here 2 weeks ago, but she's started walking since then!) Katoomba Lagoon: This is where we parked for the day "Dad, what's behind these rocks?" For those of you who have never been, take a look at the park's map. This place is monstrous! Full-sized PDF available at: http://columbuszoo.org/assets/zoo/user_files/file/2010_gate_map.pdf Thanks for reading!
  16. I'll check the SD cards when I get home, but I don't think we got anything usable. The lighting in the venue made it really tough. I'll double check and post if I have anything. The Neverland Pirates section was very cute, the puppets were very well done.
  17. After months of planning, we packed up the family truckster for a week in sunny Florida; Our first big vacation since our daughter was born last April. We drove overnight, leaving late Friday night and headed straight to Daytona Beach. We couldn't check in to our resort until 4pm but we wanted to drive overnight so Avery would sleep. After a long night of driving we pulled right onto the beach and had some fun! We checked into our resort Saturday afternoon and spent Sunday around the pool. For this trip, we stayed at Vacation Village at Parkway, an RCI affiliated resort that we were able to trade into from our home timeshare at Massanutten in Virginia. Monday was our first park day, starting out with a brief stop at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The only reason we hit the studios was mainly to catch the newly freshened Disney Junior: Live on Stage! Avery is obsessed with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so we knew she had to see the show. She loved it, barely moving the entire time. After wrapping up at the studios, we headed to the Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day. We arrived and Aves was able to meet Daisy Duck as soon as we got there, which she loved. After that, we did the new Town Square Theater Meet and Greet with Mickey and Minnie. I can't say enough good things about this experience! The room groupings were small, and the CM's were more than happy to let us linger as long as we liked for her to spend some time with them. After meeting Mickey, we headed to the Harmony Barber Shop for something very special: Avery's very first haircut! This was awesome, the barber did a great job holding her attention and making her feel special the whole time. She capped off the cut with some pixie dust and a special ears cap, embroidered with "first haircut" on the back. I was completely impressed with the amount of attractions she did that day: Pirates, Dumbo, Aladdin's Magic Carpets, it's a small world, The Laugh Floor, TTA Peoplemover, Jungle Cruise, and the Mad Hatters Tea Party. We ended that day with the Main Street Electrical Parade. Avery loved all the lights, but man does this one look old and tired. Time for something new here. We spent Wednesday at SeaWorld, which was much different with a 13 month old! We made a few loops around the park, feeding the Stingrays, Dolphins, and Sea Lions, but not seeing any shows. This park is still beautiful, but I've been disappointed with the food quality since the ownership change. Thursday began with Animal Kingdom, and the weather was perfect for it. We started by getting FP's for Kilimanjaro Safari and then hopping on the train out to the Conservation Station. Avery enjoyed the "affection section" petting zoo, but this who area has a very non-Disney feel to it. We did the safari next, and then a few odds and ends before leaving the park. From Animal Kingdom we departed for our favorite park: EPCOT. Here, were were able to do the Character Spot meet and greet first, as Avery can't get enough of these characters. This was followed by a long nap (for her, not us) in her stroller as we staked out a shady bench in FutureWorld. We followed the nap with rides on SSE, The Seas, Living With The Land, and Journey Into Imagination, all of which she absolutely loved! We had dinner at the Rose and Crown before making the World Showcase loop. She really loved all the sights, sounds, and smells of the different countries, and she rode Norway's Maelstrom without even batting an eye! We did a few rerides on SSE and JII before heading home for the night. The rest of the trip was spent lounging by the pool and spending the evenings at Downtown Disney. It was very, very different than any other vacation we've ever taken, but it was so much better in so many ways! It's exciting to think about how her reactions to these things will change over the years. Now, onto the pics! Travel / Resort Randoms Disney's Hollywood Studios Magic Kingdom First Haircut! Mainstreet Evening Randoms, MSEP SeaWorld Breakfast! Seeing the Stingrays: Feeding the Dolphins: Riding the Carousel of the Sea and Swishy Fishy Park randoms: Animal Kingdom Rafiki's Planet Watch / Affection Section Kilimanjaro Safari EPCOT
  18. Thanks! I knew I wasn't the only one on here. I've been at WBNS for 3 years, and spent 2 years at WSYX. Jack is a great guy, and just as outgoing in person as he is on TV. One of my first days at WSYX happened to be on my 21st birthday. Jack was on the morning show that day, and brought several animals, including a African Serval, a Dingo, and an Armadillo. I was working early morning desk at that time and we had an impromptu party down on the set after the show wrapped. I joked for years that Jack Hanna was at my 21st birthday, and brought animals!
  19. Several EOC's closed down recently here around Columbus... most shut down overnight without warning to customers or employees. The one close to me shut down 2 or 3 years ago. It was dinosaur themed, kind of looked like a cheezy put put course inside. It was odd.
  20. This weekend, my wife, my, daughter and I took a trip to one of our favorite winter destinations, Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. For those of you that don't know, the zoo complex is actually made up of three separate parts: Zoombezi Bay waterpark, Jungle Jack's Landing / Animal Encounters Village, and the Zoo itself. For the holiday, more than 3 million LED lights cover the entire zoo. The Animal Encounters Village is also transformed into Holiday Encounters Village, where guests can visit Reindeer, get up close and personal with some of the zoo's animals, visit Mrs. Claus' house, and meet Santa. If this awesome PTR proves too enticing and you decide to make a trip, here are some tips: -Get there early. The zoo opens at 10am every day, and by 5pm there will be miles of traffic trying to get in. Fridays and Saturdays during Wildlights are typically the busiest days of the year, with several 25,000+ attendance records being set. The park complex is so huge that the crowds aren't such an issue once you're through the gate, but getting into the parking lot can be a hassle. We arrived at 4:15 and were just ahead of the rush. -Head into the zoo first. Once you're through the main entrance, the zoo is straight ahead and Holiday Encounters Village (and the dry and waterpark) are to your left. Most guests head to the Village first and the lines to meet Santa and see the animals get pretty long. Head to the Gorillas first (in the African Forest section) when you get there. That exhibit closes at 5pm, as not to mess with the gorillas schedule. The gorilla and Bonobo exhibits are incredible and shouldn't be missed. -Feel free to bring your own food and drink. The zoo allows outside food and drink, so long as nothing is in glass, and no alcohol is allowed. Their prices are reasonable, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring your own thermos of coffee or hot chocolate. -Check out the Animals on Safari show at the Education Pavilion. It plates twice a night on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and shouldn't be missed. One last thing before my narrative; I apologize for the photo quality. We were having major issues with both cameras. That DSLR can't come soon enough (Christmas). I'll borrow just this one photo from the Zoo's Facebook page to show you what the zoo's central lake looks like. This area is home to the Rhythms Around the Watering Hole show that plays every :30 minutes. We arrived shortly after 4:00, got a decent parking spot, and headed into the zoo. We went straight to the north side of the zoo, and entered the African Forest region. This biome is home to African Parrots, Leopards, Red River Hogs, Colobus Monkeys, Duikers, Mandrills, Bonobos, and Western Lowland Gorillas. Most of the animals can be seen in their indoor areas. We wanted to make sure Avery (our 9 month old daughter) got to see the Gorillas. We went this Fall and she ended up having a great face-to-face encounter with one of the older (30-ish) female gorillas. The ape was just as interested in Avery as Avery was in the ape. We didn't get any photos this trip, but here are some photos from their first meeting back in late September. After checking out the Bonobos (Columbus is one of just a few zoos to house them), we made a B-line to the south end of the zoo to the new Polar Frontier exhibit, an addition new this year to the zoo's already wonderful North America region. The area is home to Polar Bears, Kodiak (Brown) Bears, and Arctic Fox. We couldn't get the camera to boot at this point (and hadn't yet resorted to the backup), so I'll show a photo or two from our last trip. The area is incredibly designed and well themed. The animal habitats are also world class. The Polar Bear's pool has a unique section of underwater viewing, where the bears can swim next to and over you. Here's a picture we snapped while doing a Jack Hanna spot on the CBS Early Show (I work for WBNS TV, the CBS affiliate in Columbus). We watched the bears until dark, then continued around North America to make our way back to the central lake. For Wildlights, the entire North America biome is dressed in blue and white LEDs. It's quite breathtaking. This cougar was very active, rolling around in the leaves. After we left the North America area, we headed towards the zoo's AsiaQuest region. This area starts in a building themed to an abandoned south Asian train station, which leads to indoor viewing of Sun Bears, Flying Fox, Reticulated Python, Water Monitor and Silver Lutung. The outdoor section of AsiaQuest also displays Red Pandas, Tufted Deer, and Amur Tigers. This area is lit in Red, Orange, and Purple LEDs. It's quite stunning. The AsiaQuest biome is also home to the Pachyderm building, which is the largest in the world. This building houses Asian Elephants and Rhinos. For the time being, the African Lion exhibit is also in this area (though out of place), the lions will move into the new, 70 acre African Savannah area in 2012 or 1213. Reticulated Python; This is the yet-to-be-named daughter of the Columbus Zoo's recently deceased Fluffy, who was the largest snake in captivity. More on Fluffy, RIP Amur tigers can be viewed through both large plate glass windows from an indoor, heated viewing area and across a wide moat, showing the gigantic enclosure. Avery thought this tiger was pretty interesting (or maybe she was terrified), she wouldn't take her eyes off of him! After AsiaQuest, we headed to the zoo's Shores biome, home to the reptile house, flamingos, penguins, alligators, manatees, and the Discovery Reef, one of the largest coral reef aquariums in the world at 88,000 gallons. West Indian Manatees in Manatee Coast. Ray, living in the Manatee tank The Discovery Reef was particularly interesting to Avery, every trip she has just stared into the tank and watched the fish. After the Shores we headed to Voyage to the Islands of Southeast Asia and Australia regions. By nightfall, most of The Islands is closed, but it is usually is home to Gibbons, Orangutans, Komodo Dragons, and Siamangs. In the Austrailia region, you can take a "night hike" though the Roadhouse, an awesome nocturnal house which is home to Brown Kiwi, Palm Civets, Fishing Cats, Fruit Bats, Tree Kangaroos, Tiger Quolls, and Crested Porcupines. In warmer months, you can do the Kangaroo Walkabout, and open Kangaroo exhibit where you walk right along with the animals, no barriers between you. The last exhibit in Australia is the Koala exhibit. They have very nice indoor and outdoor areas. We finished our night with a spin on the classic 1918 Mangels-Illions Grand Carousel, which was completely restored and moved to the zoo in 2000. The carousel was first built for the Scioto Ranch park, which later became Zoo Amusements and later still Wyandot Lake. This was Avery's first carousel, but she knew just what to do! She loved it. All in all, it was a great night, and you could easily spend 4, 5, or 6 hours here without seeing it all. I'll leave you with some random shots from around the park. Thanks for reading!
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