Florida Travel

Astronauts to be honored; Orlando Eye opening set

Dan Marino poses with his wax figure, which will be featured at Madame Tussauds Orlando.
Dan Marino poses with his wax figure, which will be featured at Madame Tussauds Orlando. Madame Tussauds

Four space shuttle astronauts will be inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame during a public ceremony at Kennedy Space Center on May 30: They are John Grunsfeld, a physicist and mission specialist who made five flights; Steven Lindsey, an engineer and pilot who flew five missions; Kent Rominger, also an engineer and pilot who flew five shuttle missions; and M. Rhea Seddon, a physician and mission specialist who flew on three missions.

Admission to the ceremony at the Visitor Complex is included in admission to the center. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you want to learn what it’s like to fly into space, you can find out from the astronauts themselves at the Visitor Complex. During the daily Astronaut Encounter, an astronaut describes his experiences and takes questions. This is included in admission to the center. Also offered, at additional cost, is Lunch with an Astronaut, where an astronaut gives a presentation during the buffet. Seating is limited, and reservations are required (register online or call 866-737-5235).

Astronauts who will be on hand in late February and March are Jerry Carr, commander of Skylab 4, Feb. 24-26; Bob Springer, a mission specialist on two shuttle flights, Feb. 28- March 1; Winston Scott, veteran of two space missions and three space walks, March 7 and 8; John Blaha, who went on five missions and spent four months on the Russian satellite MIR, March 9-15; Bob Cenker, payload specialist on a Columbia flight, March 16-20; Roger Crouch, payload specialist on two missions, March 21-25; and Ken Cameron, who went on three missions and also served as NASA’s director of operations at Star City, Moscow, March 26-31.

Information: www.kennedyspacecenter.com/events.aspx.

ORLANDO’S I-DRIVE

The 400-foot Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and Sea Life Aquarium will open in the heart of Orlando’s tourist district on May 4. Some people, including visitors who sign up for the attraction’s newsletter, will get the chance to ride the wheel before it opens to the public.

The complex on International Drive, called I-Drive 360, will open all three attractions simultaneously. Merlin Entertainments, which owns the attractions as well as Legoland, announced the official opening date last week.

The slow-moving Orlando Eye has 30 air-conditioned capsules that will provide panoramic views of central Florida. Madame Tussauds will include wax figures from the worlds of music, sports, cinema, politics and more. Sea Life Aquarium will have two clear underwater tunnels, a large touch tank and a number of aquariums.

Information: www.officialorlandoeye.com.

BIKE WEEK

Thousands of motorcycle riders and their fans are expected to descend on Daytona Beach during the 74th annual Bike Week, which features racing and other events March 6-15. Estimates range from 350,000 to 500,000 visitors for Bike Week.

“They come from all over the world,” said Lori Campbell Baker of the city’s convention bureau.

Bike Week culminates with the Daytona 200, one of the nation’s major motorcycle competitions, March 12-15. It’s preceded by other racing events, including the Supercross and Flat Track competitions.

Spectators at the Daytona Speedway may notice work that is part of a $400 million renovation that will give the track twice as many restrooms, three times as many concession stands, new suites and 101,000 seats when completed in 2016

Bike Week also includes a motorcycle marketplace, free demonstration rides, swap meets, stunt rides and live music at local watering holes, among them the Iron Horse Saloon, Dirty Harry’s Bar, Full Moon Saloon, Froggy’s Saloon and the Bank and Blues Club. Add to that all the attractions at Daytona Beach’s Boardwalk, which boasts a new roller coaster.

“It’s very much a festival atmosphere,” Baker said.

Bike Week information: www.daytonabikeweek.com. Daytona Beach information: www.daytonabeach.com.

Another new development in Daytona, just opened in February, is the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum, whose 2,600 paintings of Florida scenes are the most extensive such collection in the world. It’s on the grounds of the Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences.

WATER PARKS

A new water slide that will give riders a moment of weightlessness will open at Busch Gardens’ Adventure Island water park March 7. Called Colossal Curl, the new slide will soar 70 feet above the park with twists and turns, funnels and wave features.

Meanwhile, Universal Orlando has submitted plans to build a water park with a volcano feature near its Cabana Bay Beach Resort. A report filed with the South Florida Water Management District says the “water theme park” will include a volcano with slides, a lazy river and rapids ride, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

NBCUniversal also owns the Wet ’n Wild water park across Interstate 4.

RARE CARS ON VIEW

Vintage car buffs will gather at Amelia Island March 12-15 for the annual Amelia Concours Week, where nearly 300 exotic cars will be on display .

Seven automotive events are scheduled, culminating with the 20th annual Concours d’Elegance, when the fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island will be filled with the vintage automobiles. Among other events are auctions, seminars, receptions and dinners.

Among the more unusual cars at the Concours will be a rare 1911 EMF Model 30 Factory Racer, a rare 1932 Stutz DV-32 Bearcat, and a 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 Trasformable Phaeton formerly owned by Hollywood screen legend Marlene Dietrich. Racing great Sir Stirling Moss, who was the event’s first honoree in 1996, will be on hand to celebrate the Concours d’Elegance’s 20th anniversary. More than 20 of Moss’ racing cars will be on display.

Information: www.ameliaconcoursweek.com. Amelia Island information: www.ameliaisland.com.

COUNTY FAIRS

One of the best entertainment venues for Floridians is the state’s county fairs. Florida boasts 50 of them during the year, most in the cooler months. Twelve are scheduled in March. One of the biggest in the nation is the Miami-Dade Youth Fair here in Miami, but if you’re traveling upstate, others are scheduled in Gainesville, Fanning Springs, Bushnell, Okeechobee, Starke, Naples, Vero Beach, Sarasota, East Palatka, Live Oak and Inverness. For dates and details, go to http://goflorida.about.com/od/attractions/a/fairs.htm.

Staff writer Marjie Lambert contributed to this report.

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