Epcot’s new Regal Eagle Smokehouse restaurant will have an unexpected character tie-in: Sam Eagle of the Muppets. 

Concept art for Regal Eagle Smokehouse at Epcot (Disney)

A press release said this about the fast-casual dining location opening next to The American Adventure in World Showcase:

The restaurant takes its name from Sam Eagle; the beloved Muppet will host a centennial cook-off – a salute to all cook-offs… but mostly barbecue.

Regal Eagle’s menu will represent various styles of American barbecue, ranging from Texas to Kansas City to Memphis to the Carolinas. The restaurant remains under construction after originally being scheduled to open in December 2019. 

Free preschool cards at Legoland Florida, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Both Legoland Florida and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay are separately offering free preschool cards, allowing younger guests to get into the parks at no charge for 2020.

At both parks, parents will need to bring a copy of the child’s birth certificate or a passport to verify their age. The promotion is limited to children aged 3 or 4 at Legoland Florida, while the Busch Gardens card covers children 5 years and younger. 

In both cases, the card is free of blackout dates and covers the adjacent water parks at both locations: Adventure Island at Busch Gardens and Legoland Water Park at Legoland Florida. 

Busch Gardens is also offering a special buy-one-get-one-free deal on its Fun Card annual pass option. For $110, guests can buy a Busch Gardens Fun Card and also receive a Fun Card for Adventure Island. 

Rumor: Universal planning ‘Lord of the Rings’ land 

Diehard Universal Orlando fans may have a sense of déjà vu hearing rumors that the resort is planning a land themed after “The Lord of the Rings.” 

The rumor comes from Josh Young of Theme Park University, a source that has correctly reported coming attractions to Universal long before they were officially announced, such as The Bourne Stuntacular.  

Young writes that Universal may have quietly acquired the theme park rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s series several years ago. While repeatedly stressing that plans are only in the conceptual stage, Young says the land would take over Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls would be demolished while the Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges raft ride would be greatly modified with new technology.

This would all happen after the opening of Universal’s Epic Universe, Young said, meaning 2025 at the earliest. 

Previous reports that Middle Earth was coming to Universal never came to fruition, with various versions of it dating back to the opening of Islands of Adventure in 1999. WDW News Today reported in October 2013 that the property would be utilized in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in a rumored deal between Disney and Warner Bros. that failed to materialize.

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