Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Genuine Ending of Cypress Gardens

The tale of Cypress Gardens is quite depressing, yet somewhat fascinating. In case you didn't know, Cypress Gardens was in a way Florida's first theme park. It had its ups and downs: it opened in 1936 and soon rose to be a place of water ski shows, lush gardens, Southern Belle models, and other live demonstrations. It was sold in the 1980s following the opening of a certain mega resort but lived in the shadows of the other major theme parks like Universal Studios Orlando, surviving primarily as a niche.

Unfortunately, after the September 11th attacks, the economy spiraled downhill, taking out the tourism and retail businesses that were treading water. Cypress Gardens was one of these, and it closed in April 2003.

And that was the end of Cypress Gardens. Just like that, it closed, leading the historic gardens to decay and possibly razed for yet another condominium complex.

Cut forward to summer 2004. I was going to Panama City Beach FL for the first time and in a Florida tourism booklet I picked up at the welcome center mentioned Cypress Gardens. Assuming it was out of date, I read it anyway. It explained that Cypress Gardens had been bought and would open as "Cypress Gardens Adventure Park" featuring not only the traditional gardens, shows, and Southern Belles, but a water park, new theme rides, and 150 live animals.

From this description of ( which I guarantee won't last long:

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park reopened in December 2004 after a 19-month closure. This family-oriented amusement park located in Winter Haven, still features the spectacular historic gardens and water ski shows it’s been known for since its’ debut in 1936, but it also has more than three dozen thrill rides, concerts and daily shows, including comedy, song and dance and other attractions. Cypress Gardens is half the size and half the price of Walt Disney World, so it makes a great all-day family getaway. One of the must-see attractions at the park is still the 45-minute ski show that made Cypress Gardens famous as the “water-ski capital of the world,” during its’ heyday in the 50s and 60s. The beautiful gardens are another highlight in the park. Cypress Gardens Adventure Park is less than 30 minutes from U.S. Highway 192, one of Orlando’s main tourist corridors. The admission price is $38.95 for ages 10-54 ($31.95 for seniors) and $31.95 for children ages 3-9 (free admission for children age 2 and under.) This price provides access to all activities in the park including rides, shows and concerts, and entrance to Splash Island Water Park is also included in the general admission fee to Cypress Gardens. The ticket price also allows you a second day free if used within six days of the first park visit.

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park Address and Phone Number
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
6000 Cypress Gardens Boulevard
Winter Haven, FL 33884

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park Rides and Attractions
The Gardens
Native plants and exotic flowers combine in this spectacular display. A giant Banyan tree, planted in 1939 from a seedling, stands proudly in the historic gardens. The Topiary Trail features a collection of colorful topiaries in the shapes of animals such as a rabbit, swan and serpent. A sparkling waterfall is the centerpiece of this trail, surrounded by brilliant blooms. In the Plantation Garden at Snively Mansion, you will find the aromatic herb garden, rose garden and butterfly garden at the Wings of Wonder butterfly arboretum.

The Shows
Choose from eight shows at Cypress Gardens. The daily water ski shows at Mango Bay proves that the “water ski capital of the world” lives on. Watch skiers take to the water and sky as they perform their gravity defying feats of wonder. They perform jumps, ballet-like movements and comedy routines – all on water skis! This show leaves visitors laughing and gasping at the skill of these wonderful performers. Enjoy a parody of life on the high seas at the “Pirates of Cypress Cove,” and thrill to the grace and beauty of the ice skaters at “Cypress Gardens on Ice.” Live music is part of “Farmyard Frolics” and “Jubilee Junction Gazebo.” At the “Wild West Shenani-Guns,” a Wild West town comes to life in a humorous skit of mischief and mayhem. “The Living Garden” is extraordinary. Performed daily in the Topiary Garden, watch as a beautiful “statue” comes to life and is transformed into a living fountain of beauty. Speaking of beauty, the “Southern Belles” of Cypress Gardens have long been a symbol of the park as they stroll the lawns and gardens, welcoming guests to the Adventure Park. The Southern Belles have been a tradition of Cypress Gardens since 1940.

The Rides
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park features 39 rides, including four roller coasters and a great selection of children’s favorites. There are two “adventure zones;” Paradise Pier and Adventure Grove. Paradise Pier has a boardwalk that is reminiscent of an old-fashioned amusement park. This is where you’ll find Hurricane, the park’s signature coaster, the Swamp Thing, a suspension roller coaster with more than 1,000 feet of track. Other rides include the family coaster called Okeechobee Rampage and Thunderbolt, a 120-foot drop tower. Storm Surge is a six-person water ride that plunges six stories down a twisting, churning river. Other traditional rides at Cypress Gardens include the Tilt-a-Whirl, Boardwalk Carousel and Sky Wheel. Splash Island is the park’s brand new waterpark, which features 6 water attractions. Rides are available for everyone at Splash Island, from the gentle “Tikki Garden” for small children to The Polynesian Adventure, a large, wet-play structure that holds up to 500 people at a time. Kowabunga Bay is a 20,000 square foot wave pool, and Paradise River includes more than 1,000 feet of bends and curves for a wild ride around the “Island.” The more adventurous will love Tonga Tubes, a 40-foot tall twin tube slide and Voodoo Plunge, a triple slide complex with two 60-foot slides and a twisting, turning body slide.

The Concerts
More than fifty all-star concerts and special events are held yearly at the Star Haven Amphitheater at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. Performers include legends like Kenny Rogers and Loretta Lynn. General seating is included in the price of admission and guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. A limited number of reserved seats are available for concert series.

The Animals
An all-new animal area is home to more than 150 animals, including a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. One of the most famous animal residents of the park is Tarzan, a 75-year old alligator that once starred alongside Johnny Weissmueller in the well-known “Tarzan” movies. Guests can feed the specially trained birds. The animal park also includes a petting zoo for children.

Jubilee Junction
This is Cypress Garden’s “village,” of 15 shops and restaurants. Food includes everything from upscale fine dining at Snively Mansion to the Jubilee Marketplace food court. Artisans can also be found at the Jubilee Junction, crafting their wares. Specialty shops include a year-round Christmas Shop, an ice cream shop, souvenirs and more.

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park History
Cypress Gardens originally opened in January 1936 as one of Florida’s first major tourist attractions. It was a showplace for 8,000 varieties of flowers from all over the world. The first water-ski show was held at Cypress Gardens in 1943, and the park quickly became known as “the water-ski capital of the world,” and drew more than 1.2 million visitors a year. After years of declining attendance, Cypress Gardens went out of business in April 2003. It was scheduled to become a housing development when a grass roots effort to save the park got underway. Proponents were successful in getting the state to agree to pitch in $11 million to help save it. Polk County added another couple of million, and soon Kent Buescher, the founder and owner of Wild Adventures in Valdosta, agreed to buy the park for $7 million. Cypress Gardens was on its’ way to recovery.

And then...

Unfortunately, in 2004, Hurricane Charley ripped through the area as workers were preparing for the park’s reopening, causing approximately $3.5 to $4 million in damage. Numerous trees and much of the lush tropical landscaping was destroyed, but luckily, a banyan tree planted by the park founders Dick and Julie Pope in 1939, escaped with minor damage. The hurricane damage delayed the reopening for several weeks, but in December 2004, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park opened with a new look, new restaurants and attractions and a whole new beginning.

The triple Florida hurricanes damaged the new Cypress Gardens, which essentially doomed the last incarnation of the park. The owners at the time, "Adventure Parks Group" had spent too much money in repairing the park and sold it again in 2007 to Land South Adventures, reverting back to Cypress Gardens. There, it continued to exist for the 2008 season. It was a money loser and reopened again in 2009 with the animals gone and the rides gone, with the waterpark as a separate attraction.

This time, Cypress Gardens really was doomed. On September 23, 2009, Land South closed the park, unable to keep the park in its traditional form no matter what.

The park will reopen as Legoland Florida: sad considering that the demographics will shift again and its just another Legoland. However, it's not a total loss: Legoland Florida will maintain the things that made Cypress Gardens special, like the gardens, the water ski shows, and one of the last roller coasters it had. Plus, its a renovation of an existing theme park rather than a new theme park altogether, saving money, time, and costs. So it looks like Cypress Gardens Legoland Florida will be a success again...but as a whole, the story is bittersweet.

Image Credit: DWTickets

P.S.: Also from, a map for your convenience:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Manor East Mall

Picture Credit from "Bryanite" of The HAIF

One of my favorite local dead malls was profiled last year on Mall Hall of Fame with the help of the HAIF and my old Internet handle, Jonah Norason (it really wasn't my name...which is why I became Pseudo3D!)

But MHoF is hard to navigate (and even harder with a new Blogger setting) so I copied it here. It's kind of notable because it had the first mall-connected Wal-Mart.

From this point on, it's the words of Mall Hall of Fame (it's at the bottom of the page here as well).


The original two stores -Montgomery Ward and Kroger- that were later worked into MANOR EAST MALL.

Photo from

The first phase of what would eventually become MANOR EAST MALL. In 1966, a freestanding Montgomery Ward and Kroger supermarket open at the intersection of East Villa Maria Road and South Texas Avenue, in the southeastern environs of Bryan. A drive-in theater had been on the site previously.

1972 and the shopping options in smalltown Bryan grow exponentially. The previously-existing Ward's and Kroger are joined by 159,900 square feet of air-conditioned mall. Counting Kroger, the complex encompasses 235,400 leasable square feet.

In 1981, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart abandoned the "Discount City" moniker that it had used since its inception in 1962. The new "Brown-era" logo, seen above, was the design aesthetic used for "Wally World's" first shopping mall-connected store, at Bryan's Texas' MANOR EAST MALL.

1981, and the first shopping mall-connected Wal-Mart opens, as a third anchor at MANOR EAST MALL. The 83,900 square foot store was in operation for thirteen years. In 1994, it was replaced by a new SuperCenter, built 1.3 miles away.

Two views of today's TEJAS CENTER, a redress of MANOR EAST MALL. A demalling carried out between 2003 and 2006 demolished nearly half of the mid-century center and replaced it with a power-format complex.

Photos from / Arkitex Design Studio

A contemporary site plan of TEJAS CENTER. Structures highlighted in blue are sections of the 1972 and 1981 mall that were substantially remodeled and reoriented with exterior entries.

Drawing from (Stalworth Real Estate Services)


East Villa Maria Road and South Texas Avenue
Bryan, Texas

Finding an answer to the question "where was the first shopping mall Wal-Mart?" proved quite elusive. An email querie sent to the corporate website resulted in a less-than-helpful, standard form, "check our website" (which had no such information) response. Readers of the MALL HALL OF FAME submitted several likely candidates. The most plausible, it seems, was a "Brown era" store, which was added to Bryan, Texas's MANOR EAST MALL. The shopping complex started out with two freestanding stores; a 1-level (57,500 square foot) Montgomery Ward and 1-level (18,000 square foot) Kroger supermarket. These were situated on a 34 acre plot, 1.9 miles southeast of downtown Bryan. Developed by Bryan, Texas' John Culpepper, they opened in 1966. In 1971-1972, a single-level, fully-enclosed shopping mall was added northeast of the existing Ward's. It was anchored by a 1-level (59,200 square foot) J.C. Penney and included Karmelkorn, The Fair, Orange Julius, Beall's, Britt's and an Eckerd Drug. Including Ward's and Penney's, MANOR EAST MALL encompassed 217,400 leasable square feet. With its completion, Bryan became the smallest city in the Lonestar State with its own fully-enclosed shopping center. The complex was expanded with a third anchor store in 1980-1981. Wal-Mart built a 1-level (83,900 square foot) location onto the southeast side of the existing mall, with the Manor East 3 triplex sandwiched between. MANOR EAST MALL now housed 308,100 leasable square feet and fifty-eight stores and services. Retail rivalry came along in February 1982. POST OAK MALL, located 2.8 miles southeast, in the adjoining community of College Station, encompassed 800,000 leasable square feet and eighty retailers. An expansion of POST OAK MALL -completed in 1985- snatched J.C. Penney from MANOR EAST. The vacant store in the older mall was retenanted by Food 4 Less and then a 50 Percent Off store before being sectioned into Bealls, Jo-Ann Fabrics and a Life Church. Wal-Mart relocated to a SuperCenter-format store (located 1.3 miles northeast) in the fall of 1994. Its abandoned space sat vacant for several years. Meanwhile, MANOR EAST declined into a less-than-prestigious property. Adding insult to injury, Montgomery Ward was shuttered in 1997. Jack Culpepper, son of the mall's original builder, began to envisage a redevelopment of his retail center in 1999. The three phase project got underway in April 2003 and included demolition of 150,000 square feet...comprising the vacant Ward's and two south store blocks of the old interior mall. The remaining structures were demalled, with stores reoriented with exterior entrances. Modern, creme-colored facades were added. A newly-built (93,000 square foot) H-E-B opened, as a primary anchor, December 12, 2004. Encompassing 360,000 leasable square feet and thirty-five stores and services, the complex, renamed TEJAS CENTER, was completed in August 2006. Tenants included JoAnn Fabrics, Bealls, Family Dollar, The Theatre Company (a live-perfomance venue in the old triplex space), Hastings and Gold's Gym.

Sources: Posts by Jonah Norason
Houston Architecture Information Forum / Posts by "RJC0618", "Iron Tiger" and "Scotch"
Bryan, Texas property tax assessor website


I was also IronTiger and initiated a discussion on the Mall on the HAIF. With that said, here's some more details:

• Eckerd stayed around for years, and finally closed up shop around 1998 when it moved to a free-standing location on
• There was a Family Dollar in the Mall in its final days, though I'm not sure if it was actually connected to the interior.
• In my first and last visit in summer 2000, we had just bought a cat and we were looking for pet supplies. Inside was a gloomy place with blue walls and I think some periphery (celestory?) windows. It reminded me a lot of the pool houses in the local pool. You had to turn right and go down a hallway to get to the last store, Animal World.
• In reality, this "forced right" was very likely caused by the fact that the east (to Wal-Mart) and the west (to the other stores) were sealed off.
• The senior John Culpepper lived to see the rise and fall of his creation: he passed away in December 2008.
• The mall was said to be the first "tilt-up construction" mall made. Apparently that's when they pour the concrete and hoist the wall up.
• Gold's Gym was actually in the strip mall portion of the mall (Hastings and others came in-line in the early 1990s)
• I think the description of the JCPenney divide is wrong. I think it was at first Food 4 Less THEN 50 Off Store and Jo-Ann Fabrics, THEN the current three-way split.
• The live theater complex came in-line in September 1997. Wards closed a few months later.
• The Wal-Mart left a nice labelscar for many years afterwards, even up to 2002.
• A five-and-dime called Kress (no, not Kresge) was also in the mall.
• A snow cone stand called Shivers later moved into the parking lot. It moved out around 2003 and spent about five years as a semi-successful store in College Station before biting the dust.
• The predecessor of the H-E-B was an H-E-B Pantry that was located elsewhere on Texas Avenue.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Metropolis Project

Before we begin, if you saw this post before with a different picture, you're not going crazy. There was a post like this, but we took it down, changed the picture, edited it, and put it back up.

Here at Two Way Roads, we celebrate (occasionally) open-source projects.

SimCity, as a franchise, has been exploited by EA repeatedly with recent hack jobs on the PC (SimCity Societies), Wii (SimCity Creator), and the iPhone (SimCity).

Unfortunately, SimCity 4 is the last "real" SimCity everyone uses. Despite mediocre reviews and the fact that sales weren't taking off from the initial release in 2003, fan-made add-ons have kept the series alive. Now you can make a fairly convincing looking city with brand-name restaurants and city landmarks. There's even curved roads and single-track railroads! And despite some amazing work, the game suffers from painful limitations (the biggest including the chunky tile-system, the fairly limited transit systems) which are hard-coded in the EXE.

A promising competitor surfaced in 2007 (shortly after SimCity Societies was shown) called Cities Unlimited, from Monte Cristo. Fans poured their heart into the forums, only to get Cities XL, a chunky knock-off of SimCity that relied on a faux MMO gimmick. This backfired dramatically, and now the fans, burned by EA's hack job and Cities XL, are fed up.

Enter The Metropolis Project. One of a few new open-source SimCity-esque projects, including the older OpenCity and the SC4D-sponsored CityMania. One of the first attempts by people to make a community-driven, open-source game, "Urbs Urbis" was killed circa 2008.

Why is the Metropolis Project different?

It's because The Metropolis Project is dedicated to saving posts from the Cities Unlimited boards, in which fans poured out their hearts into real suggestions. Unlike Monte Cristo, The Metropolis Project will genuinely look into all the suggestions.

With an attractive look, it cites other successful open source projects including Firefox and Ubuntu.

Unfortunately, despite the cool look and suggestions, everything breaks when it comes to reality. The FAQ breaks these things down.

They need pledges and donations to fund it, and if you don't like the final product and ask for a refund: too bad, the money is spent.

I like the idea of a "Firefox of SimCity games", but reality hits hard.

First off, it wasn't mentioned that both Firefox and Ubuntu were both financed by very wealthy foundations. The Ubuntu Foundation STARTED with $10 million and Mozilla Foundation started with $2 million. Two million seems a much lower number than Ubuntu, but two million is still way richer than the average TWR reader.

Furthermore, everyone has very different ideas of what a next-generation SimCity would be, and I'd hate to donate money to something that might not turn out good...or at all. But if everyone's a pessimist (or a fanatical optimist), it will come down to nothing but talk. It's kind of rude to say "if you don't like it, modify it yourself!" simply because everyone is not a programmer. We can't really teach ourselves programming in 21 days, so why try?

Thirdly, there's no base engine. It would save everyone time if a base engine was built to run simulation games (an open-source RollerCoaster Tycoon was stalled back in '08) and not waste everyone's time trying to actually design one.

If the game DID exist and would be open-source, it would become easy to make real expansion packs, not crazy hack mods that merely take advantage of bits of open code. It would also be easy to port. I predict that one of four things will happen.

1. One open-source project will take reign, and everything else uses their incomplete open-source projects to feed the master program. Bonus points will be awarded if one was backed by a millionaire.

2. Open source projects will die, but master hackers break into the SimCity 4 source code and rename it something else. Unfortunately, it's illegal.

3. Nothing will happen.

4. Cities XL would rise again, possibly as open-source. This may not happen for years, however.

I'd like to join The Metropolis Project's forums's promising, and I can finally pour out and develop my thoughts on what would make the greatest city simulator anywhere.

Photo Credit: ISA EXPO

Monday, April 19, 2010

York Peppermint Patty Pieces

TWR's creator, Pseudo3D, always has his eyes open for tasty food. It was a surprise to him that the local Walmart had opened up part of the space that would be the Food Center department of the Supercenter. Pseudo3D passed through and walked into a room with very high, warehouse style ceilings with a small selection of food. Garbage bag-like tarps blocked off the rest of the store-to-be, and Pseudo3D looked back at the main store. A yellow wall was where the ceiling dropped to its normal general merchandise Wal-Mart height. Had he been in the same place only a year ago, he would've been in a parking lot, staring at a cinderblock blue wall.

But back to the present. He wandered through the food department until he came to a selection of candy. There, on the wall, were Reese's Pieces, York Peppermint Pattie Pieces, Hershey's Special Dark Pieces, and Almond Joy Pieces. He had seen commercials for them, and bought one to find out.

Specifically, it was the York Peppermint Patty Pieces. And how were they? Pseudo3D blogged about them a day after he bought them. And here it is.

You've probably seen the commercials of people grabbing for candy only to have it disintegrate into M&M-like candies, with the designation of "(Candy) Pieces". This, of course, is an extension of the Reese's Pieces line which dates back to the late 1970s/early 1980s and rose to fame with a certain certain movie. Since the E.T. trend died down, it's back in the shadows of M&Ms but are still widely available.

So, when I bought the York Peppermint Pattie Pieces, it was $2.50 for a 10.5 ounce bag. Factor in a 6.25% sales tax, and it came to around $2.71, which is a bit expensive for candy but worth a try. And how was it?

Well, it was pretty good, make no mistake on that but if you strip out the creamy mint center of a York Peppermint Pattie and the perfect dark chocolate, it's not really a York Peppermint Pattie anymore. So what you get is essentially a dark chocolate-mint M&M. Not even to freshen your breath. I was hoping that it would have creamy stuff inside (after all, that's what Reese's Pieces have) but alas, no. Factor in the slightly-chemical, ever-so-slightly-salty M&M-style shell, and that's actually a loss.

Anyway, here's some relevant links. According to CandyAddict, the Almond Joy Pieces actually contain coconut pieces and are bigger than norm. I've tried Coconut M&Ms before and those are good...

ANYWAY, I do have some upcoming blog post plans. Not terribly big ones, though...

IMAGE CREDIT: (see link)