Disney World Planner Summer 2006: May-August

May-August a Happening Time: Summer '06 Brims with Events Galore at Walt Disney World Resort

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Marigolds in May, Jedis in June and a whole new mountain of thrills are just a few of the reasons for guests to make summer 2006 the season to visit Walt Disney World Resort as Disney's "Happiest Celebration on Earth" continues.

Stir in the fan-appealing Tampa Bay Bucs training camp and AAU basketball national championships bringing top high school talent from across the country, and it's a summer lineup hard to beat.

The "Happiest Celebration on Earth" continues -- honoring 50 years of Disney theme parks and commemorating the 1955 opening of Disneyland. The global gala began May 5, 2005, with the launch of the largest lineup of new shows and attractions and continues in 2006.

To celebrate, Walt Disney World Resort added new attractions including "Cinderellabration," a magical musical stage show at Magic Kingdom; "Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" taking Disney-MGM Studios guests behind the scenes of careening cars, high-flying motorcycles and the deepest secrets of moviemaking; and Soarin', a breathtaking flight above the wonders of California at Epcot. And now comes Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

All aboard for thrills as Expedition Everest launches

Aboard a dramatic, high-speed runaway train, guests have mountain thrills in store as Expedition Everest opens for its first summer.

Expedition Everest is an adventure that combines coaster thrills with the excitement of an encounter with the yeti, feared guardian of the mountain. Aboard out-of-control railcars racing forward and backward inside a mighty mountain, adventurers swoop into the unknown, braving twists, turns and drops leading to an unforgettable face-to-face confrontation with the yeti.

At the foot of the mountain, guests first pass through the village of Serka Zong, which was inspired by numerous treks Disney Imagineers made to the Himalayas in their research for the attraction. Amid prayer flags, intricately carved totems and respectful shrines to the feared yeti, guests board an old tea plantation train bound for Everest base camp.

What ensues will turn knuckles white as the train goes hopelessly out of control toward its inevitable encounter with the yeti in his blue-frosty world. "Seeing the yeti will really startle guests because it is so real, so convincing," said Joe Rohde, executive designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. "It is the most highly engineered Audio-Animatronics figure ever created by WDI."

Soaring nearly 200 feet, Expedition Everest anchors the Asia section of Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Romance blooms at Epcot April 21-June 11

Donald and Daisy topiaries cruise through a floral tunnel of love while topiaries of Cinderella and Prince Charming "waltz" amid blossoms and greenery. Disney "sweetheart" topiaries based on decades of happily-ever-after classic stories add romance and whimsy to the 13th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival April 21-June 11.

Known by gardening aficionados for its celebrity guest speakers, hands-on seminars and planting demonstrations, the seven-week festival takes place in the park's Future World and World Showcase. Thirty million blooms, intricately designed floral beds, artfully crafted bonsai trees, lush rose gardens and more Disney character topiaries grace the park's 300 acres. Nightly Flower Power concerts rock the landscape with live entertainment from top acts of the 1960s and '70s.

Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden, which debuted at the 12th annual festival, will return with hundreds of butterflies in a screened, walk-through enclosure and will include a live exhibit showing how caterpillars form a chrysalis and emerge as butterflies.

Themed festival events pump up the fun with the child-friendly I Dig Bugs weekend, Art in the Garden weekend and the time-honored Mother's Day weekend, among others. Other festival features include:

  • The Festival Center, where guests can find program guides and festival merchandise, as well as guest speakers and demonstrations.
  • The popular Great American Gardeners series.
  • A "see and sniff" Fragrance Garden at the France pavilion showcasing flowers in several perfumes.
  • Disney Gardening at Home presentations where Disney horticulturists share tips and secrets for at-home gardening.
  • Kids' activities, including the fun-filled Tinker Bell's Fairy Garden and Disney character meet-and-greets.
  • The festival is included in regular Epcot admission.

    Star Wars Weekends returns to Disney's galaxy in May and June

    Once again, the power of the Force and the magic of Disney combine for Star Wars Weekends, a family-friendly fan-fest scheduled for May and June 2006 at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park.

    With the park's famous Star Tours thrill ride serving as the centerpiece of the celebration, the annual Star Wars Weekends event fills Disney-MGM Studios with dozens of heroes, heroines, droids and villains from the famous Star Wars films.

    Meet-and-greets with famous villains and heroes from the six Star Wars films -- Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and the latest blockbuster, Revenge of the Sith -- bring guests face-to-face with their favorite characters. Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith was the highest-grossing film of 2005.

    During Star Wars Weekends, guests never know which Star Wars character they'll find around the corner, whether it's the heroic Jedi Luke Skywalker, the mysterious bounty hunter Boba Fett, the furry, loyal and lovable Chewbacca or the evil Siths Darth Vader and Darth Maul. Jedi Mickey Mouse has even been known to make an appearance during the festival.

    Star Wars celebrities often serve as special guests during each weekend and take part in meet-and-greet sessions, star conversations and Hollywood-style motorcades.

    Slam Dunk Fun: AAU basketball national championships begin in June

    As the summer heats up, so does amateur basketball around the country. And nowhere is the competition hotter than at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. The nation's top high school basketball players will compete in The Milk House at the country's No. 1 venue for amateur and professional sporting events for the right to call themselves national champions during the Amateur Athletic Union Boys' and Girls' Basketball National Championships, June 23-Aug. 13.

    The AAU, one of the largest non-profit, volunteer organizations in the country, annually showcases the top prep basketball talent from coast to coast at its national championship events. Among the NBA stars to compete at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex as AAU stars are Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire and New Jersey Nets forward Richard Jefferson. In all, more than 30 current NBA players have battled for championship titles at The Milk House during their AAU heydays.

    The AAU Basketball National Championships have also established themselves as the most popular basketball events for scouting top high school talent. Hundreds of NCAA Division I college basketball coaches crowd the baselines of each of the six Milk House courts, previewing future NCAA standouts.

    This summer's marquee boys events include the 17-under AAU Boys Super Showcase (July 22-26), 16U AAU Boys Super Showcase (July 19-22) and both the AAU Boys Junior and Senior National Championships (July 27-Aug. 1). The girls take the floor July 6-12 for the U17, U18 and U19 AAU Girls National Championships.

    In 1996, upon completion of the new sports complex, Walt Disney World Resort partnered with the AAU to host the organization's amateur events. Later that year, AAU headquarters were relocated to the Orlando area -- just a few miles from Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

    For more information on the AAU Basketball National Championships at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, call 407/934-7200 or visit disneyworldsports.com and aausports.org.

    Bucs stop here for NFL preseason training

    The defending NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to the Hess Sports Fields at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex this summer for the team's fifth year of training camp at the No. 1 venue for amateur and professional sporting events in the country. While practice dates and times for the 2006 training camp have not been released, previous camps have been in late July-early August.

    Fans will have a chance to get closer than ever to the Bucs' marquee players, including Pro Bowlers Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber, as well as rookie sensation Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, this season's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    Once again, training camp is free for the public. More than 23,000 fans cycled through the turnstiles at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in 2005 to watch summer workouts.

    The Buccaneers have trained at the 220-acre sports complex since 2002 -- the team's Super Bowl championship season -- and are the first NFL team to conduct training camp at Walt Disney World Resort.

    Practice sessions generally last two hours, although afternoon practices involving special teams tend to last an hour. For more information, please call 407/939-GAME (4263) and visit disneyworldsports.com or buccaneers.com.

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