Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort – May 26, 2014 (Margaritaville, Red Oven, Cabana Bay, and more)

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Seth Kubersky recently published the latest addition to PotterWatch, and it takes a look at the newly installed dragon on top of Gringotts Bank, new benches and massive lion heads in front of the London Waterfront, the growing of the Hogsmeade forest, and updates on the latest information concerning the possible opening of Diagon Alley. For this trip to the Universal Orlando Resort, Brandon Glover and I took a look at other new things that have popped up at the parks, CityWalk, and hotel area.

Our first stop was lunch at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. We had tried some of their new items on our last trip to UOR (including the Volcano Burger and insanely large Volcano Nachos) but saw others on the menu that we had to go back for, including this Margarita Flight.

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Margarita Flight (includes Who’s to Blame, BlueBerry Pomegranate, Fins to the Left, and Last Mango in Paris) $16.95

We both agreed the mango margarita was the highlight. As a fan of souvenir mugs, I did not realize that Margaritaville had one of the more interesting ones around. The Booze in a Blender is a cup that looks like a blender and can be used for any mixed drink. You can also buy the blender separately in the gift shop.

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Booze in the Blender (with strawberry margarita). Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville souvenir blender can be used for any mixed drink. Add $8 to the drink or can be bought separately for $9.95.

First appetizer was the Pretzel Sticks, and these were pretty good. They can’t touch the pretzels served at NASCAR Grille in CityWalk but compare very favorably with the ones served at Jake’s American Bar at the Royal Pacific Resort. Hopefully after the cupcake craze slows down in the food industry we can see a focus on more pretzel related foods.

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Pretzel Sticks. Served with mustard sauce and homemade queso. $9.49

Margaritaville offers chicken wings in both boneless and traditional styles. We got the Jamaica Mistaica flavor, which is a jerk-style sauce. Tasty, and very similar to what you would get at a Buffalo Wild Wings or Duffy’s sports bar down in Orlando.

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Traditional Wings in Jamaica Mistaica sauce (jerk glaze). $11.99

The White Cheddar Cheese Curds are worth going out of your way to try, especially with the great Landshark Lager BBQ sauce that is served with them. One of the better appetizers I have had at any restaurant.

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White Cheddar Cheese Curds.Served with Landshark Lager BBQ and marinara sauce. $10.99

May was National Burger Month, and Margaritaville had several burgers that will only be on the menu for this month including the Baja Burger, Bayou Burger and Chimichurri Burger, but we went with Jimmy Buffet’s signature Cheeseburger in Paradise. The serving size is huge, and each bite combines each flavor perfectly. I know, I hate sounding like an ad, too, but we waited a long time to try this burger and it lived up to its billing.

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The one, the only, Cheeseburger in Paradise. $12.99

We finished our meal with a dessert that is so good you need to stop reading this immediately and head to CityWalk. These new dessert shooters rank up there with the best UOR has to offer.  Our favorites were the Red Velvet, Triple Chocolate, and the Peanut Butter ones. Served with chilled spoons, these shooters combined with the new Chocolate Hurricane make Margaritaville place the go-to place on property for  unique, fun, and great tasting desserts.

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Dessert shooters

On the other end of good tasting snacks comes this entry from the Margaritaville gift shop. As a person always on the lookout for Outrageous Food Items at the theme parks, this one definitely goes on the list.

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Actual worm inside each one. Don’t tell PETA.

One of the moving walkways from the parking garages to CityWalk was down for repair.

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The Universal Cineplex 20 in CityWalk is about to start airing all 8 of the Harry Potter films on the big screen. RELIVE THE MAGIC OF HARRY POTTER runs May 30 through July 24, and each showing costs $6.50 per ticket.

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This section of CityWalk as the Hart & Huntington tattoo shop on the right and the soon-opening Menchies on the left with BreadBox right behind it. It will be interesting to see if Universal can figure out a way to drive more guests to this area once open.

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Closer view of Menchies

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Closer view of Breadbox

Over at Red Oven Pizza Bakery two new pizzas arrived on the menu: Vegetariano and Pear & Fig.

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We tried the Pear & Fig. A great addition to the menu, and it’s always good to see more vegetarian items show up at either WDW or UOR.

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Over at Universal Studios Florida, this cabbie character has started to show up a lot more frequently. While there we got to see the Blues Brothers drive by in their car and had a wonderful interaction with the cabbie as they had fun with each other.

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They have had this unbelievably priced ($250) Giant minion for a while now, but wanted to show a size of scale with another minion next to it. The quality on the smaller minion is actually great for a $24.95 plush.

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The new Transformers movie, Age of Extinction, opens on June 27, and new Dinobot toys have started to show up at The Supply Vault (Transformers The Ride: 3D’s gift shop.) The 8 year old in me – whose parents were too cheap and bought him GO BOTS by the way – almost cried seeing these. They are fantastic, but pricy. They all range from $18.95 to $24.95. You can find them cheaper at Toys R Us or stores like Target but there’s something to be said about getting a Dinobot after riding Transformers.

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Over at ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE The Cat in the Hat attraction has been added to the height requirement board. Until this week it has had no height requirement but did require guests under 48″ to be riding with a supervising adult. It has been rumored that this change was put into place because some of the smaller guests were able to squeeze themselves around the ride restraints. Many were hoping the height change was added because the ride was going to spin more (and faster), but so far that is not the case.

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Photo courtesy of @AmusementBuzz

Several new Potter-related items have started to show up for sale within Islands of Adventure, gearing up for the new stores that will open with Diagon Alley. The original Wizarding World of Harry Potter completely changed the game in three areas. The first one we all know, the complete immersion in a land. Everything feels real completely unlike a theme park. The second is the unique food and beverage options (without the success of Butterbeer and chocolate frogs, would Universal ever had made a risk on Fast Food Boulevard? And the third is the huge leap in brand specific merchandise.

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A new element in Hogsmeade Village, a cauldron that can swing back and forth, shows the attention to detail that is paid to everything within this magical land.

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Every trip to IOA, I stop into the only working comic shop in any theme park. This time I bought at issue of Daredevil and found out you can get a bag and board for 25 cents. This store only sells Marvel comic books (and action figures, shirts, trade paperbacks), but over in Universal Studios Florida the Terminator 2: 3D gift store offers a wide selection of DC and Image comic books, including The Walking Dead.

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Some of the comics available at IOA

We concluded our day by making a quick trip to the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The bus loading area at CityWalk has been slightly moved to around the corner and is now shaded. There was a bus waiting for us at CityWalk to take us to Cabana Bay and then a bus at Cabana Bay waiting to take us back to CityWalk. No waiting. Not sure how long that will last, but if Disney’s bus service was anywhere close to this good, I wouldn’t recommend people always rent a car even if staying on WDW property.

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While we are waiting for Menchies to open in CityWalk, The Bayliner Diner at Cabana Bay has a frozen yogurt machine where you can make your own sundae and add whatever toppings you want. Flavors of yogurt include vanilla, birthday cake, strawberry and mango sorbet.

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Fresh fruit toppings bar

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More toppings, some not Mom Approved

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I want one of these in my house

GARDEN WALKWAY

The garden walkway and bridge that will connect Cabana Bay to the walkway in front of the Royal Pacific is still coming along. It looks more massive than anyone expected. This looks like it will be quite the sight to see once it is fully done.

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The changes at the Universal Orlando Resort seem to be moving faster than anyone can keep up with. I’m really looking forward to my next trip and seeing what it looks like next.

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Posted on May 29, 2014
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