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Governor: Florida Tourism Continues to Experience Record Growth in Q3 2022

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced continued record visitation to Florida in the third quarter of 2022. VISIT FLORIDA estimates that Florida welcomed 35.1 million visitors between July and September 2022, marking a 6.9 percent increase from Q3 2021, and the fifth consecutive quarter of overall visitation surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

According to VISIT FLORIDA, 32.6 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in Q3 2022, representing 18 months of domestic visitation growth from 2019. So far this year, Florida has welcomed 104.5 million travelers, an increase of 4.1 percent from the same period in 2019, and over 15.3 percent more than in 2021. To ensure visitors continue to experience Florida and are not dissuaded by the impacts of Hurricane Ian, VISIT FLORIDA has launched a $2.7 million campaign to convey to travelers that the “Sun is Shining in Florida.”

“Our freedom first policies continue to bring visitors to Florida from across the country and around the world,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “This increase in tourism will support our entire economy, especially small businesses that have been built from the ground up by hardworking Floridians.”
“We are thrilled to cap off more outstanding growth for Florida’s tourism industry in the third quarter of 2022,” said Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO. “Even as more destinations have become available, Florida has firmly maintained the top spot on every traveler’s list. Looking ahead, VISIT FLORIDA is wholly focused on continuing the momentum we have created, and further reinforcing that we are the No. 1 vacation destination in the world.”
Additional highlights from VISIT FLORIDA’s latest visitation estimates include:
  • Florida welcomed 1.9 million overseas travelers in Q3 2022, an increase of 85.5 percent from Q3 2021.
  • Canadian visitation to Florida during Q3 2022 accounted for 539,000 visitors, an increase of 442.2 percent from Q3 2021.
  • 34.3 percent of visitors traveled to Florida by plane in Q3 2022, marking a return to historical travel patterns.
  • Hotel rooms sold grew 9.2 percent compared to the same period last year, and the overall occupancy rate grew by 6.2 percent.

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Attractions

ICON Park to Host Veterans Day Celebration

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The Big Wheel at ICON Park will be lit in red, white and blue in honor of Veterans Day. Photo: ICON Park.
The Big Wheel at ICON Park will be lit in red, white and blue in honor of Veterans Day. Photo: ICON Park.

ORLANDO, Fla. – ICON Park and its tenants are celebrating the brave men and women who protect our country this Veterans Day with a variety of discounts and a special event with the U.S. Army.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., on Friday, Nov. 11, ICON Park’s partners at the U.S. Army will be onsite at the entertainment destination with several large military vehicles to take pictures and interact with guests in support of Veterans Day. When the sun sets, guests can see all of The Wheel’s 64,000 LED lights create the American flag.
To commemorate their great sacrifice, all retired military veterans and first responders can receive a free ticket to The Wheel and 50 percent off for one guest ticket. Active military can receive up to four complimentary tickets to The Wheel.
In addition to ICON Park’s year-round military discount, a variety of tenants are offering specials over Veterans Day weekend and throughout the year.
  • Museum of Illusions Orlando – Military members can receive $21.99 admission, a $5 discount
  • Madame Tussauds Orlando – Offers a 10 percent military discount all year long
  • SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium – Offers a 10 percent military discount all year long
  • Brother Jimmy’s – Offers 10 percent off for military members year round
  • Sloppy Joe’s – Veterans can receive 20 percent off their final bill Nov. 11 to 13
  • Buffalo Wild Wings – All veterans and active military members can redeem 10 free boneless wings and fries on Nov. 11 and a 10 percent military discount year round
  • Ole Red – Offers 10 percent off for veterans and active military throughout the year (excludes alcoholic purchases)
  • Tapa Toro – Military personnel receive 10 percent off food and beverage
  • Tin Roof – Offers a 15 percent military discount all year long
  • Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips – Offers 10 percent off for veterans and active military throughout the year (excludes alcoholic purchases)
  • iCafe De Paris – BOGO alcoholic beverages and 15 percent discount on menu items for military personnel Nov. 11 to 13
  • Shake Shack – Offers a 10 percent military discount
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop – Veterans and active military receive 10 percent off purchases
In order to receive any of the military discounts listed above, you must present a valid military ID at time of purchase.
ICON Park is at the center of the new Orlando Entertainment District. With free parking and conveniently located near I-4, Universal Boulevard and the Beachline, this premiere entertainment complex is easy to access for any Central Florida resident or Orlando tourist.
To learn more about ICON Park, visit https://iconparkorlando.com.

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FNN Good News & Reviews

FNN Good News & Reviews: Mandola’s Italian Kitchen Opens Third Florida Location in Oldsmar

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Mandola's Italian Kitchen opened its third Florida location in Oldsmar. Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News,
Mandola's Italian Kitchen opened its third location in Oldsmar, in the Tampa Bay area. Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News

Modeled after an Italian marketplace, Mandola’s Italian Kitchen brings its quick service concept to Oldsmar. Named after famed restaurateur Damian Mandola, who founded Carrabba’s with his nephew Johnny Carrabba, the restaurant’s third Florida location is also co-owned by Paul Avery, the former Chief Operating Officer of Outback Steakhouse.

“While in New York or in the North End of Boston or Providence, Rhode Island, I would go to the Italian areas,” Mandola said. “You have the bakery or you have the gelateria or the cafe, or the deli with all the food products and the cheeses and olive oil and things like that.”

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

Mandola, who admits his passion lies in the cooking process and fresh ingredients, while Avery is the business mastermind, felt the need to put all of those Italian staples under one roof, so he and his wife opened their first Mandola’s in Austin, TX in 2006. The concept grew rapidly and quickly moved into Florida with its first location in Riverview in 2001 and Carrollwood shortly thereafter.

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

Guests enter Mandola’s and walk right up to the counter to order where they are greeted by friendly staff who are ready to take them on a culinary journey their taste buds won’t forget. Food is cooked fresh in an open kitchen using the best ingredients and pasta al dente just like Mama Mandola would have prepared it.

The vibrant dining room adorned with red and green chairs, flags from the ceiling, and walls adorned with family photos is a welcome calling. Moments after we were seated, fresh focaccia bread with olive oil and spices for dipping arrived at the table.

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

Our table ordered the fried mozzarella for the antipasti course. Golden brown triangles with oodles of gooey mozzarella and the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had.

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

For dinner, we feasted on traditional favorites: eggplant parmigiana with spaghetti and marinara sauce and chicken parmesan served with fettuccine Alfredo. Equally delicious and the portion size left us with barely any room for dessert!

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

“A lot of these are Mama Mandola’s recipes,” he said. “Chicken parmesan is our favorite and our biggest seller. For me, my favorite is my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. It reminds me of Sundays at my mom’s and we had all the family together.”

No matter what you are in the mood for, the menu features a plethora of salads (with homemade dressing) antipasti, pizza, pasta, and chicken dishes like chicken marsala with a wine reduction from the Lombardi Family in Sicily, as well as daily specials like linguine with clam sauce, and brasato, beef short rib, slow-braised with red wine, aromatic vegetables, and fresh herbs.

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

Thirsty? No worries. In addition to traditional Italian sodas, sparkling waters, and soft drinks, Mandola’s also offers beer, wine on tap, and specialty drinks such as sangria, bellinis, frose, mimosas, and spritz from the bar.

If we could offer one very valuable piece of advice, it is to save room for dessert! The bakery is a can’t-miss at Mandola’s, with fresh pastries made daily including Italian cookies like lemon ricotta, famous cannolis, specialty cakes, tiramisu, and who could forget sorbetto and gelato?

My guest and I couldn’t decide on one flavor each, so we went with a combo of lemon and raspberry, and almond with cookies and cream. Let’s just say we both agreed it was as good as the ones we enjoyed in Italy.

Mandola’s Italian Kitchen is located at 3138 Tampa Rd, Oldsmar, FL, and is open for lunch and dinner and plans to open future locations in nearby Odessa, Orlando, and Jacksonville as well.

The restaurant is perfect for a family dinner, or date night, or if you want to stop in and grab a coffee and dessert that’s an excellent idea as well!

 

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FNN Good News & Reviews

FNN Good News & Reviews: Brother Jimmy’s BBQ Brings the South to Your Mouth at ICON Park

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Brother Jimmy's BBQ opened its new location at ICON Park on International Drive in early August. Photo: J. Willie David III / Florida National News.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – “Put some south in yo’ mouth.”– Brother Jimmy’s BBQ certainly delivers on its motto at ICON Park on International Drive.

The barbecue chain, launched in North Carolina in 1989, opened its new location at ICON Park in early August and opened its doors to the media Wednesday, providing a sample of rich ribs (both sauced and dry rub), pulled pork, mac and cheese, baked beans, cornbread, and tea (sweet and unsweetened).

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

 

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ cuisine is made fresh in-house, with the butcher chopping, seasoning, smoking and slicing fresh meat before your very eyes. Utensils await diners in tall receptacles on each table, next to a small container showcasing three barbecue sauces: Original, North Carolina, and Chipotle; and in true southern charm, diners can enjoy their drinks in mason jars.

 

 

The 7,200-plus square foot restaurant offers an open, inviting dining experience that lulls you to stay a while. The furniture there was taken directly from the restaurant’s New York location and shows some “personality” in the slight wear of the wood and unique giant metal pig figurines peppering several tables. The restaurant offers its own photo both (and a board close to the main entrance to post the pics for others to see), tons of TV screens to watch whichever game you wish to see, and the whole back half of the establishment is a mini-arcade with pinball, mini basketball, and yes, beer pong. Also, kids eat free at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ with the purchase of one entree.

Looking for some good barbecue in a great atmosphere? Learn more and check out the menu on the Brother Jimmy’s BBQ website.

________________________________________

Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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