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Imagine stepping into a lush tropical jungle just minutes from the heart of Downtown Miami. It seems almost too good to be true until you walk through the front gates of Jungle Island. Paul Ruben visits one of Southern Florida’s premier


entertainment destinations


One of the park’ s famous ligers Miami ice


How do they celebrate Christmas in Miami? At Jungle Island, a new event was held throughout the recent holiday season, promising to bring “snow” to the bird park’s lush green landscape! Winter Wonder Island, held at the park on 38 nights from November 29 through until January 5, featured holiday- themed lighting and activities including a laser light show, a special screening of a Christmas movie and photo opportunities with Santa Claus! Guests were also invited to step off the sand and into Jungle Island's winter playground where they could play in the snow, build a snowman and slide down a snow slope on the beach! Up to 50 tons of authentic snow was created every day to bring a taste of the North Pole to Southern Florida. Miami is also home to “the world’s largest Christmas Theme Park”, Santa’s Forest, operating from October/ November through to early January.


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Jungle Island J


Miami's tropical escape


ungle Island combines the beauty of Miami’s tropical landscape with a jungle full of extraordinary animals from around the globe. The park began in 1936 as Parrot Jungle. A small roadside attraction in South Miami, it was known for its wide array of exotic birds including Pinky, the high wire bicycle-riding cockatoo and the world famous pink flamingos who were prominently featured in the opening credits of the original Miami Vice television series.


Over the next half-century the park evolved and expanded its offering. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, an ambitious plan was put in motion to rebuild on an unused lot on Watson Island. Construction began in 2000, Parrot Jungle Island debuted on 28 June 2003. With the evolution of the park came the evolution of its name. Four years after opening in its new location, the


park was rebranded Jungle Island, a move that better encompassed the wide variety of animals, plants and activities available. Last summer, Jungle Island owner Ben Levine appointed the Iconic Attractions Group to manage the park, with former San Diego Zoo director John Dunlap becoming its president.


Also competing for the local leisure dollar are such


family-friendly Downtown Miami attractions as the Miami Seaquarium, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Zoo Miami, Rapids Waterpark, Grapeland Waterpark, House of Horror amusement park, Santa’s Enchanted Forest theme park, Miami Children’s Museum, Coral Castle, Gator Park, multiple air boat rides and more. Dunlap envisions a new era for the park that will solidify its reputation as one of Miami’s “must see and must do” attractions. “Jungle Island is part of the fibre of the dynamic city that is Miami,” he says. “The park’s


FEBRUARY 2014


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