CityWalk

Universal Orlando Resort Preview – Week of July 22

by on July 20, 2017

The Universal Orlando Preview is brought to you by Storybook DestinationsStorybook Destinations specializes in Disney and Universal travel, is consistently highly rated by our readers, and is owned by our own blogger extraordinaire, Tammy Whiting. Storybook also offers free subscriptions to TouringPlans to clients with qualified bookings.

Hi again! I’m back with your weekly Universal Orlando update. It’s the dog days of summer, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting out and having fun at the parks.

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Universal Orlando Resort Preview – Week of July 15th

by on July 13, 2017

The Universal Orlando Preview is brought to you by Storybook Destinations. Storybook Destinations specializes in Disney and Universal travel, is consistently highly rated by our readers, and is owned by our own blogger extraordinaire, Tammy Whiting. Storybook also offers free subscriptions to TouringPlans to clients with qualified bookings.

So you want to go to Universal Orlando, you say?

This week, you say?

Well you’re in the right place!! Each week, I’ll have the most important things you need to know, all in one place, to help you make the most of your time and have the most epic day ever!

Weekly Crowd Level

Overall, crowds will be pretty consistently summer-dense throughout the week. Do I hear a Sunday Funday calling??

Weekly Weather Report

It’s summertime in central Florida! You know the routine….scattered thunderstorms, they come and they go! *Disclaimer: though my name rhymes with weather, I am not in fact a meteorologist. So arm your smartphone with your favorite weather app (Dark Sky is my personal favorite) and check the forecast before you go!

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TBT: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2015

by on November 23, 2016

Greetings! TouringPlans.com Blog Manager Brian here to welcome you to the continuation of TBT: Throwback Thanksgiving week here on the blog. All this week we will be revisiting a few wonderful Thanksgiving-related posts from the past. This wonderful entry from 2015 highlighting the six things that Derek Burgan gave thanks for during that year.

Make sure you come back Thursday at 9:00am for this years items to give thanks for!

 

This week’s SATURDAY SIX  is our annual Thanksgiving Special and takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2015 was another great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, we ask that all Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…

# 6 – Selfie Stick Ban at Walt Disney World

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no_more_selfie_sticks_pamphlet_sethIf you noticed any #Millenials or narcissists wearing black armbands this summer, it was because after banning selfie sticks on Disney attractions earlier in the spring, Walt Disney World completely banned the use of selfie sticks at the parks. Seemingly out of nowhere, the edict came down right after another high profile news story of Disney California Adventure’s California Screamin’ roller coaster being stopped mid ride because of a guest using a selfie stick. On June 26th, WDW guests were given a pamphlet at the parking plaza explaining the selfie stick ban, signage was displayed on the walkways to the parks along with bag check explaining the new policy.

The selfie stick ban was definitely a controversial move to be sure. Universal had earlier become more strict on preventing selfie sticks on rides, but Disney outright stopped people from even entering the park with them. Now we joked earlier about only kids and narcissists using them, the truth is that selfie sticks have become increasingly popular across almost all demographics. While people using selfie sticks inside the parks can be a nuisance, they were starting to become a serious safety factor on attractions. You may have seen what is called an Envelope of Protection as Imagineers test out the attractions. This device makes sure that all the attractions are safe for every rider, basically simulating the possible reach of every guest in the ride vehicle. This is why while it may seem like your may lose your arms in Space Mountain if you hold them up during the ride, but in actuality you are nowhere close to hitting anything. What the Envelope of Protection doesn’t take into account though, is guests holding on to anything that extends their reach.

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SATURDAY SIX: Movies and TV Shows That Were Filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on June 4, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Movies, Television Shows, and Music Videos shot at the Universal Orlando Resort. Loyal readers have gone with us down the rabbit hole to see all the Walt Disney locations used in the Hulk Hogan TV show Thunder in Paradise. Then we checked out the times our favorite sitcoms like Boy Meets World and Full House that went to Disney World. Today we are taking I4 West across Orlando and checking out which movies, television shows, and music videos were filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort. Now, Universal Studios Florida is still a working production studio with several sound stages, and has been the home to such shows as Family Feud, TNA Impact, and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. However today we are going to look at productions which  – for the most part – filmed outside of the sound stages, allowing us to see our favorite Universal rides, hotels, and characters. So sit back, follow along with us on your Comcast cable box, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt “Kimmy Finds Her Mom!”

Season 2, episode 13

We’re going to start off our list with the newest of the bunch, as this particular episode aired in April of 2016. I have to personally begin with a mea culpa. I have never seen an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s one of those shows (along with Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and Veep) that we’re all supposed to watch. But there is just too much good TV on right now to keep up with everything. I will say this after watching just one episode of Kimmy Schmidt, I’m immediately going back to watch the entire first and second seasons. It reminded me of two of my all time favorite comedies: 30 Rock and Parks and Rec.

While Kimmy Schmidt the show didn’t have as much making fun of the theme park world we know and love (unlike Roseanne, which skewered the parks) it was top to bottom the funniest show I have ever seen involving a theme park (this also includes the more recent episodes of The Middle and Modern Family which went to WDW and Disneyland.) The A-plot of the show involved Kimmy Schimdt finally tracking down her mother, played by the incredible Lisa Kudrow (Friends and the must-see The Comeback.) The B-plots, which involved one character finding herself in the middle of the Washington Redskins owners, and another over at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, were just as good as the main storyline.

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Kimmy arrives at Universal Studios Florida.

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The Minions, Olive Oyl, and stilt walkers from The Mummy in the Hollywood section of USF. This led to a wonderful scene where Kimmy was mistaken for a meet and greet character and families kept lining up to take their picture with her just because others were.

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Kimmy and her mom buying Universal Express to ride Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I just could not believe my eyes at this point. This would be similar to a sitcom at Walt Disney World  having a character make ADRs 180+10 days out.

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Universal Orlando Photo Update May 9th, 2016

by on May 10, 2016

Welcome back to the long overdue return of our Universal Orlando photo updates.  Since so much has happened at the resort since our last update, this week’s update will primarily focus on the upcoming 2016 Sapphire Falls Resort, Skull Island Reign of Kong, and re-opening of The Incredible Hulk roller coaster.  We’ll also take a quick look at 2017’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park, as well as the Tonight Show and Fast & Furious attractions.  Let’s get going!

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Vertical construction has really taken off at the Volcano Bay site, now that we’re just one year away from the new theme park’s opening date.

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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: A Look at Recent Stories From Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld

by on March 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is undoubtedly a special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. It has been a whirlwind of theme park related news lately. Our long national nightmare is over as purple MagicBands are available for your WDW resort stay, Disney started a new subscription service themed to the Haunted Mansion for the low low price of just $200 (oh, and it has already sold out), the Orlando Eye did its first baby reveal, and a worker at Art of Animation was caught on video using a dirty mop to clean a table. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

So – as usual – we took a page out of our old college playbook, chugged down a case of 5 Hour Energy, and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our tiny brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – That sound you hear? KONG IS COMING.

As Donald Trump would say, it was a yuge week of King Kong news over at the Universal Orlando Resort. As theme park merchandise fanatics, we loved that a whole bunch of new merch arrived for the upcoming Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction. Then, Universal dropped a bombshell with their reveal of the incredible ride vehicles along with a couple other tasty tidbits: This would be Universal’s first trackless ride system, and the vehicles would be “driven” by one of five characters. While Universal hasn’t released an official opening of the attraction yet, we have a sneaking suspicion we may hear something around the time the Syfy show Face Off features an entire episode (the season finale no less) dedicated to creating characters for the attraction. Stay tuned Wednesday, March 30th at 9PM EST on Syfy.

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Universal’s Kong is almost here, but Disney has Avatar and Star Wars in the near future…. (photo by Matt Cleary)

# 5 – SeaWorld Admits to Ordering Employees to Spy on Animal Rights Groups

Readers of the SATURDAY SIX may remember one of  last year’s annual Turkeys of the Year awards went to a SeaWorld employee who was caught spying on the animal rights group PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). At the time, SeaWorld management was shocked, SHOCKED at this behavior and put out the story that the employee had gone rogue. Fast forward to this month and during another disastrous investor’s conference, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby admitted that employees did go undercover in animal rights groups and, more importantly, did so per order of the company.

Believe it or not this was the most “wow” SeaWorld story of the week until the atomic bomb the company dropped Thursday morning announcing they were ending the breeding of Killer Whales and will also be ending all the theatrical shows featuring orcas (to be replaced by exhibits).

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Disguised as famous YouTube personality Tim Tracker, Shamu himself was able to go completely unnoticed within the PeTA ranks. (photo by Michael Sheehy)

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The Basics: Planning A Trip to Universal Orlando for Disney Veterans

by on March 18, 2016

gringotts dragonThis is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

Even the most ardent Disney fans have become aware that there exists ANOTHER theme park complex in Central Florida that people visit from time to time, and some of you have probably even considered popping over there for a bit to see what it’s all about. Gatorland aside, however, let me tell you about Universal Orlando, which is yet another top notch theme park experience that you should consider. This article will hopefully provide you with some guidance as a first timer to help you get the most out of the experience.

Let me get this out there at the outset: I realize that there exists this whole “Disney vs. Universal” rivalry that exists in the fan community. I’m not really trying to steer anyone towards one park or the other, I’m just trying to provide enough objective information to help Disney fans that are considering going to Universal make an informed decision and plan for the best trip possible. Because I am writing this for those that are familiar with Disney, however, some comparison of the two is a useful way to go about it, as it provides some context. I’m sure some of the more passionate folks on either end of the issue will take some of these thoughts as a shot across the bow. Just know that I’m a fan of both places, I have annual passes at both places, and I’m honestly doing my best to be as fair as possible. Please keep that in mind before you fire off your scathing email or comment! So, without further ado, let’s jump in!

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Unique Burgers at the Orlando Parks and Resorts

by on March 12, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Unique Burgers at the Orlando Parks and Resorts. When it comes to Disney and Universal, hamburgers as ubiquitous to a guest’s experience as gift shops and lines. They are everywhere, and most of them aren’t that good. However, in the last several years some restaurants have upped their burger game. Today we are going to look at some of the most unique, unusual, and great tasting* burgers on property. So sit back, put that ketchup bottle down, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Volcano Burger (Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville)

If we learned anything over the last year it’s that Fritos can make just about anything better. Taco Bell’s Beefy Fritos Burritos are surprisingly good, and Frito Pie is reason enough to check SeaWorld’s Bands, Brew, and BBQ event. Over in Universal CityWalk, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville uses a liberal amount of Fritos in their tasty Volcano Burger. It has more than a little kick, but the combination of chili and Fritos works great, if not messy.

Topped with our volcano chili, lava cheese sauce, pickled jalapeños, guacamole, and Fritos corn chips. $14.99

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Volcano Burger at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Of course when you’re talking about Margaritaville and burgers we do have the mention the iconic Cheeseburger in Paradise. It is a “normal” burger compared to the rest on this list, but it is also an iconic one. Eating a Cheeseburger in Paradise out on Margaritaville’s Porch of Indecision on a gorgeous Florida day, as the song it is named after plays on the speakers above, is one of those things in life that makes a good day great.

Our signature burger topped with American cheese, lettuce, sliced tomato, pickles, and paradise island sauce. $13.99

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Cheeseburger in Paradise. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 5 – Old World Bavarian Burger (ESPN Club)

Over the years Your Humble Author has been quite critical of the ESPN Club at Disney’s BoardWalk, but something surprising has happened slowly over time… the restaurant has greatly improved. Now it just so happens to be a spot within walking distance of some truly exceptional venues on Disney property, but there’s certainly no shame in stopping in to try ESPN’s menu, especially if there’s a game on you’re looking to catch. Our recommendation in the burger arena is the Old World Bavarian Burger. Who needs Biergarten with this German meal in a bun? The potato latke would be a good appetizer by itself, and the mustard “emulsion” (whatever that means) was truly fantastic.  The ESPN Club is now worth going out of your way to check out, whoda thunk it?

Grilled sausage, potato latke, smoked bacon kapusta, and lager-infused mustard emulsion on a toasted butter bun $18.00

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Old World Bavarian Burger at ESPN Club. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Old World Bavarian Burger. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

by on February 2, 2016

Yes, Disney has Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, while Universal boasts Halloween Horror Nights and Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular – but one of the best and most fun annual events to be found at either of the theme park resorts is actually a little something called Mardi Gras, which, until recently, it seems, was a little-known secret to Florida locals and annual passholders. And, best of all, it’s absolutely free – no need for pesky separate tickets or dessert party add-ons.

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

Image © Universal

Plan on checking out the family-friendly version of New Orleans’s most wonderful time of the year? We’ll tell you everything there is to know.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Pressed Pennies at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on January 23, 2016

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best Pressed Pennies at the Universal Orlando Resort. Regular readers of this fine blog know that we have extolled the virtue of pressed pennies in our article on The Best Souvenirs at Walt Disney World and anyone who follows Your Humble Author on social media knows I am pretty much obsessed with them. Today we are going to head over to the Universal Orlando Resort and check out the best pressed coin designs they have to offer. So sit back, drive yourself crazy looking through all your change to find two quarters and a penny, and let’s start off with…

# 6 – Jurassic Park

The Jurassic Park logo is just as awesome today as it was when it made its debut over twenty years ago, and in the gift shop of the Jurassic Park River Adventure (way in the back) you can find a pressed penny design with this very image.

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Iconic Jurassic Park logo.

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# 5 – The Simpsons

There are a good amount of Simpsons pressed penny designs found throughout the entire Universal resort (not just in Springfield USA), and in fact our favorite design is located over at Islands of Adventure in front of the Islands Trading Post. One of the biggest strength of the Simpsons TV show is its huge cast of characters, however almost all of the pressed penny designs at Universal feature the actual Simpson family of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. One design features Homer, Moe, and Barney Gumble at Moe’s Tavern. Until we can get a pressed penny featuring Comic Book Guy (Worst. Penny. Ever.), Cletus the slack jawed yokel, Duffman, or even Poochie, the Moe’s Tavern penny is going to be  #1 in our book.

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Moe’s Tavern.

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