Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX: Six Great Souvenirs From the Universal Orlando Resort

by on August 29, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Great Souvenirs From the Universal Orlando Resort. After two straight years of covering The Disney Outlet Stores each and every month for this fine blog, you can assume that we are pretty big fans of theme park merchandise (that or we did something awfully bad in a previous life). While exiting into a gift shop has become a running gag for many theme park guests, browsing those stores is actually something we here at the SATURDAY SIX offices look forward to almost as much as the rides themselves. 

Today we are going to look at great souvenirs found at the Universal Orlando Resort. Until the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in 2010, it was actually rare to see guests walking around with merchandise bags, but today it is more rare NOT to see someone carrying around loads of souvenirs. But how to determine the best theme park souvenir? Sparing no expense, we used the Arnim Zola algorithm (along with such factors such as price point, usage in actual movies/TV, and theme park exclusivity) to break down the best of the best on property. So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Bort Keychain (Kwik E Mart, Universal Studios Florida)

No one has mercilessly attacked the world of theme parks with sharper wit than The Simpsons television show. One classic moment when they turned the screws on the parks we all love happened way back in 1994 with the episode “Itchy & Scratchy Land.” One of the more memorable gags from the show was Bart Simpson running into one of the most ubiquitous pieces of merchandise at any theme park, the gift with YOUR name of it. In this instance, Bart was looking at personalized mini-license plates and found the names Bert, and Bort. What happens after is even better but the capper comes later in the episode when it is revealed the park has sold out of Bort license plates. Universal’s own Springfield USA pays tribute to that classic moment with a Bort keychain found in the Kwik E Mart gift shop.

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Bort keychain at the Kwik E Mart.

# 5 – Chocolate Frog (Honeydukes, Wizarding World of Harry Potter)

Who can forget the, pardon the pun, magic of seeing the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time? Like Harry himself, we Muggles were slowly introduced to a whole new world of wizardry. One of the first bits of true wonder came during Harry’s trip aboard the Hogwarts Express as he was introduced to a Chocolate Frog. Universal took this memorable moment of the film and recreated it for the parks, but then went even farther. The Potter film explains that each Chocolate Frog comes with a Wizard Card, and so does each one at Universal. However, the Frog boxes at the parks come with cards randomly containing Dumbledore or one of the four founders of Hogwarts (Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff.) While the chocolate frog itself isn’t going to make Messrs. Hershery, Lindt or Cadbury lose sleep any time soon, the overall quality of the entire package is among the best on property and a perfect gift to buy for the Potter fan back at home.

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Chocolate Frog with Helga Hufflepuff card in front of Hogwarts Castle. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Of Our Emotions Coming Out Of the D23 Expo

by on August 22, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six of Our Emotions Coming Out Of the D23 Expo. Last week we gave our D23 Expo Preview and can proudly announce that we were the only blog on the entire planet to call Disney involving Stan Lee in their Parks and Resorts presentation. While some would call us The Nostradamus of Theme Parks, we’d like to remind you that we are just your humble servants striving to provide the best possible article in the history of mankind. 

With that out of the way, what a D23 Expo it was! Hopefully you caught some of the excellent   D23 coverage by TouringPlan’s own Guy Selga (who has lovingly been referred to as a poor man’s Tom Bricker, or a rich man’s Tim Grassey). There were so many things to come out of of the Expo, but we’re going to take a page from this summer’s blockbuster hit Tomorrowland Inside Out and express our emotions via the very characters in the film! So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – JOY: Star Wars Land is finally announced!

Our long national nightmare is over. STAR WARS LAND IS COMING! From the day Star Tours opened in the 1980s we’ve all wanted more Star Wars in the theme parks and now we’re actually getting it. The man in charge, WDI’s Scott Trowbridge, is also the very same man behind one of the all time greatest rides in theme park history, Universal’s Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. While details were scarce, what we do know is a jaw dropper. The land will be spread out over 14 acres, have an attraction that sees guests piloting the Millennium Falcon, and cast members will stay completely in character, similar to the witches and wizards inside Diagon Alley.

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Do you believe in miracles?! (photo by Andrew Marchese)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Worst Case Scenarios That Could Come Out of the D23 Expo

by on August 15, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Worst Case Scenarios That Could Come Out of the D23 Expo. Coming along once every two years, the D23 Expo is not just a Disney Convention, it is THE Disney Convention. In fact the D23 Expo is such a big deal that Hollywood powerhouse Marvel Studios is holding their annual presentation at the Expo instead of last month’s gigantic San Diego Comic Con. Already big news is coming out of the Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, including the public display of the incredible scale model of Pandora, giving us a glimpse of what will soon be coming to Animal Kingdom. Movie posters for The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3 made their debut along with the first ever footage shown for Captain America: Civil War. But what theme park fans are interested in is the presentation taking place on Saturday featuring the Parks and Resorts division. It is here where we will find out what is coming to the Disney parks across the world. 

Rumors have been flying for months leading up to the Expo of what will be talked about at the Parks and Resorts presentation, and more importantly, what won’t be talked about. Theme park fans in Florida have watched as Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been slowly shutting itself down, which is surely leading to an announcement for what’s coming, right? Frozen Ever After will be the first new attraction in Epcot’s World Showcase in over two decades, we’ll surely get information on that, right? Everyone is hoping for the best, but to borrow a phrase from our dearly departed friend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper: we’re here to chew bubblegum and pop pixie dust…and we’re all outta bubblegum. We here at the SATURDAY SIX are taking our rose colored glasses off and thinking aloud “what’s the worst that could happen?” So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Frozen Being Expanded in Epcot’s World Showcase

Last year Disney weathered the storm during the #SaveMaelstrom movement. In 2016  Epcot will debut the new Frozen Ever After attraction along with one of the most detailed meet and greets in the company’s history, and imagine the ground that covers. So if Frozen and the fictional country of Arendelle were shoehorned into Norway, why not just keep going? The Mexico Pavilion is right next door, so instead of a ride featuring characters from a Disney animated movie that no one under the age of 50 has even heard about let alone seen, how about we focus on the star of one of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of all time, the lovable snowman OLAF!

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The newest Tier 1 FP+ selection in Epcot! (photo by Matt Cleary)

But that’s not all! It’s widely known that – at best – The Morocco Pavilion’s Spice Road Table has underperformed since its debut, even after a radical change to its menu. So let’s give it a quick Frozen makeover: a Queen Elsa inspired name along with a menu featuring a mix of “Arendelle” food items from the Electric Umbrella and the BoardWalk Pizza Window, and Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo! The new Ice Road Table has a longer line than the Candlelight Processional.

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From taking walk ups to needing ADRs 180+10 in advance, just like that. (photo by Matt Cleary)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons This Walt Disney World Annual Passholder Can’t Wait To Get Back To Disneyland

by on August 8, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons This Walt Disney World Annual Passholder Can’t Wait To Get Back To Disneyland. Over the course of the SATURDAY SIX’s award winning run we have done many articles on how much we love the Walt Disney World attractions, restaurants, and resorts. However, over the years we have been told constantly how great the Disneyland Resort is, even despite TripAdvisor recently ranking Disney’s Hollywood Studios higher than Disneyland (which surprisingly was not an April Fool’s Day prank.) With all the apotheosizing about these parks we figured that we’d have to get to the bottom of this, so we bought crack staff photographer Brandon Glover a first class plane ticket to California. Because Brandon is from Titusville, Florida, this was literally like an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. What would this Walt Disney World Annual Passholder for well over a decade…a man who would lay down in front of a tank for EPCOT…think of the park That Walt Built? The answer may surprise you. So sit back, sip on a mint julep, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Dining Inside the Parks Is Better

When contemplating where to find the best food during a WDW vacation, the most likely conclusion will be to choose a restaurant in World Showcase or one of the many resort locations across the property. For the seasoned WDW veteran, quick service options are usually bypassed for something of better quality. Most quick service locations serve similar fare to their counterparts located around the parks, which many find to be less than stellar across the board. One thing I was looking forward to in Disneyland was trying the variety of quick service foods, of which I’ve heard nothing but stellar reviews. Right from the get go, this proved to be a wonderful truth. Not only was the food appetizing and delicious, but I was amazed at the variety of options available: Flo’s V8 Cafe features a Chicken Tamale breakfast and the biscuits and gravy from the River Belle Terrace provided a salivating reminder of home. Love New Orleans Style food? The French Market had a bit of Cajun flavor to spice up our night. 

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Monte Cristo sandwich at the Blue Bayou. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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There are themed snacks and then there are themed snacks. This is the latter. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best SHOWS at Walt Disney World

by on August 1, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best SHOWS at Walt Disney World. Here at the SATURDAY SIX we have done several articles looking at the best-of-the-best attractions, resorts, and restaurants at Walt Disney World, but we haven’t spent much time on one area they do better than any theme park in the world: shows. The live shows across the WDW parks range from the smaller scale and intimate experience of the Dapper Dans singing on Main Street USA, to the elaborately choreographed Trolley shows, all the way to the Broadway caliber Finding Nemo – The Musical at Animal Kingdom. So grab a seat – hopefully in air conditioning, and let’s begin the countdown of the absolute best shows starting with…

# 6 – Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

Sorry to disappoint any Shia LaBeouf fans, but one reason for Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectaculars‘ amazing 25+ year run at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is because it is based around the iconic Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc film. The show recreates several famous scenes from the movie while explaining how they were accomplished. It is a fascinating look at the movie making process (one of the only things of its kind at a “studios” park) and has a fair share of good natured humor along the way. It speaks volumes to the overall quality of the show that it has remained almost completely unchanged since its debut in 1989 and regularly packs its 2000 seat stadium.

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Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY CLASSIX: Six “Secrets” of the Hard Rock Cafe Orlando

by on July 25, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY CLASSIC looks at Six “Secrets” of the Hard Rock Cafe Orlando. Located in CityWalk, directly between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando is the largest Hard Rock in the entire world. With a giant collection of memorabilia that is second to maybe only the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, this particular Hard Rock venue is a dream come true for music lovers. Let’s take a look at the top six “secrets,” shall we?  (Remember, clicking on any picture will open it up in full size)

# 6– A piece of the Berlin Wall sits outside

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A segment of the Berlin Wall

This is one item that many guests haven’t noticed even if they have been to the Hard Rock Cafe many times. On the side of the building, on the walk way which leads to the Blue Man Group, sits a piece of the actual Berlin Wall. An amazing piece of history, the Hard Rock has one the few pieces of the Berlin Wall that you can see in America. There is a strong relationship between rock n’ roll and the fall of communism in the 1980s, with this slab of the Wall being a reminder of that. In related trivia, the Hard Rock Cafe in Munich, Germany has a guitar on display that was actually carved from a piece of the Wall.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Best Restaurants at Universal’s CityWalk

by on July 25, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best Restaurants at Universal’s CityWalk. Over the last 18 months, CityWalk at the Universal Orlando Resort has undergone an amazing transformation by opening seven new dining locations. These new venues combined with the locations already onsite make for one of the best places in Orlando to experience a wide variety of unique dining. Today we are going to look at the Very Best restaurants in CityWalk and to do so we consulted a blue ribbon panel comprised of Universal podcasters and bloggers. Their votes have been tabulated, and let’s begin the countdown of good eatin’ starting with…

# 6 – Antojitos

Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food is a postmodern tribute to Mexican street culture featuring a large open kitchen framed by graffiti graphics and eye-catching neon. The downstairs area has a central bar with surrounding booths fashioned from reclaimed wood and metal. This area can get very noisy, so if you want a quieter meal, ask for one of the private rooms upstairs. Or, grab a seat on the patio or balcony to watch the CityWalk crowds go by. With the best selection of tequila this side of La Cava del Tequila, Antojitos is at it’s best while sipping on a strong margarita and enjoying house made guacamole. The restaurant has several features that are pretty much unforgettable; several tables which look like giant bird cages, a wall of tattooed plastic baby dolls, and a multi-colored mission-style facade. While I was apprehensive about that vibrant color scheme when seeing the original concept art, I find myself drawn to this area because of the eye catching colors and the huge weather vane sitting at the top. One of the most fun parts of the restaurant is the mariachi band that will alternate between traditional Mexican music and covering popular songs from today. It’s fantastic! Antojitos was the first restaurant in CityWalk to be a Universal creation and they nailed it.

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Antojitos Authentic Mexican. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Empanadas Tres Marias at Antojitos. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

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SATURDAY SIX SHARK SPECIAL: Six Reasons Universal Fans Are Gonna Love Sharknado 3

by on July 18, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons Universal Fans Are Gonna LOVE Sharknado 3. Unlike some other “Studios” in Orlando (wink wink), Universal Studios Florida continues to be a working production studio for film and television. What do The Godfather, Jaws, and E.T. have in common? None of them were filmed at USF, but you know what was? Bring It On: In It To Win It, Psycho IV: The Beginning, and Ace Ventura Jr: Pet Detective. That legacy of fine filmmaking continues this very week as on Wednesday, July 22nd at 9/8c the Syfy network will air Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! which had several scenes shot at the Universal Orlando Resort!

For this special edition of the SATURDAY SIX we had to look beyond our usual gang of theme park titans and instead pluck an expert who can not only cut his chops at Universal and Disney, but also wines and dines with the Hollywood Elite. Allow us to introduce BANKS LEE. You probably know Banks from his various duties including host of Attractions Magazine: The Show, treasured podcast guest, videographer, editor, and actor. That’s right, actor. And one of the things Banks used his thespian skills in was a little movie named Sharknado 3.

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Strap yourselves in folks, as we are handing the SATURDAY SIX reigns over to Banks as he tells us exactly why Universal fans are going to LOVE Sharknado 3, starting with…

# 6 – Bruce the Shark gets a cameo

Honestly, how could you have a Sharknado film take place at Universal without having the symbol of the iconic Jaws ride and beloved Amity area make a cameo? Though there was a chance of it not happening. According to the director Anthony Ferrante, in order to film a scene at the Bruce photo-op, they had to get permission from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. Thankfully Amblin gave the production crew clearance to film the world’s most famous shark, and the scene will also feature another cameo in the form of Jerry Springer playing a manic tourist.

SHARKNADO 3: OH HELL NO! -- Pictured: Jerry Springer as Manic Tourist -- (Photo by: Raymond Liu/Syfy)

SHARKNADO 3: OH HELL NO! — Pictured: Jerry Springer as Manic Tourist and Bruce the shark as “Bruce the shark.” — (Photo by: Raymond Liu/Syfy)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s OLD KEY WEST Resort

by on July 18, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Old Key West Resort. One of Walt Disney World’s biggest strengths against all of its competitors is the wide variety of unique resorts it has on property to offer guests. We’ve covered several here on the SATURDAY SIX including Value Resorts such as Art of Animation and Pop Century, Moderate Resorts with Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside, and Deluxe Resorts including the Contemporary. While our reviews on both Animal Kingdom Lodge and BoardWalk Inn & Villas included a Disney Vacation Club component, today we are going to take a look at our first DVC exclusive resort with Old Key West.

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In fact, Old Key West was the very first Disney Vacation Club resort built at WDW. Originally named Disney’s Vacation Club Resort in 1991, it wasn’t until 1996 when the name was changed to Old Key West. With its pastel colored buildings and lush vegetation throughout, the resort definitely stands out from the other hotels on property. When Walt Disney said “Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland…the blessing of size” he may have been foreshadowing Old Key West, as the resort itself is massive.

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Welcome to Conch Flats, the mythical town of Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

 

With the sprawling size comes some downsides, including many rooms being quite far away from the check-in area and several of the resort’s amenities. There is an internal bus system, and the grounds are gorgeous to walk across, but it may be a shock to guests who have not stayed at such a large resort. Thankfully the TouringPlans Hotel Room Request will help make getting a room closer to front easier, but it is still something to consider. That said, the size of Old Key West is also a positive, as it is one of the best places at WDW to spend time at outside of the parks because there is so much to do. So sit back, grab a plate of conch fritters and an ice cold margarita and let’s begin counting down our top six reasons we love OKW starting with…

# 6 – The Sandcastle Pool Area

Anyone who travels with their family on vacation knows how important pools are when it comes to selecting a resort. For our family, pools with slides now rank above any E-Ticket attraction or dining experience at WDW. Old Key West has a total of 4 pools spread out across property, but the Sandcastle Pool located by the front of the resort is where you want to be. In this area you’ll find the main pool along with its incredible 125 foot waterslide and a plethora of  nearby activities. There are several play areas for the younger set, a whirlpool spa, a sandy beach, and even a themed sauna!

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The Sandcastle Pool at Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

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Theming around the Sandcastle Pool.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Drinks, Snacks and Food options at DIAGON ALLEY

by on July 11, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best Drinks, Snacks, and Food Options at DIAGON ALLEY. We are still celebrating the one year anniversary of Universal’s Diagon Alley, and today we are going to look at the unsung hero of this incredible land. No, not our favorite ride the Hogwart’s Express. No, not the love of our lives Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. Not even the glorious dragon sitting high atop Gringotts Bank breathing fire. Forget all that stuff, our unsung hero is the new themed food and beverage items Diagon Alley brought into our lives… things we had no idea we were missing but now can’t live without! As theme park foodies it’s going to be pretty much impossible to narrow our list down to just the top six, but we’re going to try anyway starting with…

# 6 – Butterbeer Ice Cream

The biggest debate in theme parks right now is not who’s better between Universal and Disney, or the Raptor Experience and Val the Velociraptor, but instead it is the hotly contested debate of which style of Butterbeer is the best? Many will stand by the traditional Butterbeer, while others swear by the Frozen version. Your humble author’s opinion is that hot Butterbeer trumps them all, but there is something to be said about Butterbeer Ice Cream that made it’s debut with Diagon Alley. Available at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor (but the pros know to skip that line and head over to Fountain of Fair Fortune instead) Butterbeer ice cream is mostly vanilla soft-serve with swirls of Butterbeer flavoring. Like the Butterbeer drinks, the ice cream is very sweet, but it certainly feels right eating inside the Wizarding World. Now when exactly will Universal start selling a Butterbeer float?!

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Butterbeer Ice Cream. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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