Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort According to Our All-Star Panel

by on January 24, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. We invited distinguished theme park experts from all over the world to come together and decide – once and for all – what the six best attractions are at the Universal Orlando Resort. Unfortunately, they were all busy. So instead we would like to introduce to you an all star, blue ribbon panel, made up of Universal experts. These include members of some of the greatest Universal websites (including Orlando United and Orlando Informer), the best Universal podcasts (including Parkscope and the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast), the most amazing Uni photogs (including Mike Sperduto and Brandon Glover), high ranking officials of the Theme Park Illuminati (such as Len Testa and Jim Hill), fan favorite park icons (including Scarlett Litton and Mark Diba), and the man who literally wrote the book on Universal, Seth Kubersky. We used a total of 25 individuals, in honor of Universal’s upcoming 25th Anniversary.

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SATURDAY SIX staff crunching numbers.

The Criteria: Each of the 25 experts voted on what they consider to be the six best attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. These attractions could be any ride or show currently in Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida. Special event shows – such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure or the Blues Brothers Christmas Show – were not eligible. Each attraction listed would be awarded ONE point, except for the attraction that the voter ranked in his #1 spot – that received TWO points. The votes were then sent to a top secret location in Florida and counted no less than 22 times (we’ve had some problems in the past. Sorry, Mr. Gore). The results are in, and we now proudly present….

The DEFINITIVE GUIDE to the SIX BEST ATTRACTIONS at the UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT.

# 6 – MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack (14 Points)

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MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Jim Hill, JimHillMedia.com – Steven Spielberg was supposedly the guy who came up with Universal Studios Florida’s original catch phrase (“Ride the Movies”). But MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack was the first theme park attraction that really did allow guests to ride a movie. To immerse theme park visitors in this hyper-detailed environment that then tried to replicate the specific look & feel of a particular motion picture. So much of what Universal Creative has since been celebrated for when it comes to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it first did with the April 2000 opening of this 70,000 square foot attraction. From the exterior to this enormous show building (which replicates the observation towers of the New York State Pavilion that played such an important part in the finale of the original Men in Black movie) to the insane level of detail found in this attraction’s queue (e.g., being able to listen in on the “worm guys” as they take their coffee break) to how interactive the actual “Alien Attack” ride is all by itself… The sheer ambition of MIB:AA is still kind of mind-blowing. And then when you factor in that upwards of 2200 Guests are able to experience this USF attraction every hour … Well, is it any wonder that the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) decided to give Universal Creative an Outstanding Achievement award in 2001 for all the great work that it did on this interactive, genuinely immersive attraction?

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter

by on January 17, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter. Regular readers of the Saturday Six know how much we enjoy staying onsite at the Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World, and while Disney is challenged to compete with some the amenities that Universal can offer its guests, where it does shine is the overall amount and unique hotels on property. Universal has a total of four onsite hotels (soon to be five with the opening of Sapphire Falls in 2016) while Disney has five value resorts alone, not to mention all the moderate, deluxe, and DVC resorts on property. Today we are going to look at our absolute favorite moderate: Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter.

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Port Orleans French Quarter.

 

Disney’s Port Orleans is broken up into two sections: French Quarter, and Riverside, the latter of which is the much larger of the two resorts. While Riverside certainly has its fans (in fact we’d probably consider it our extremely close second favorite moderate,) we prefer Port Orleans (POFQ) and here are six reason why, starting with…

# 6 - Sassagoula Float Works and Food Factory

French Quarter doesn’t have a table service restaurant (although Riverside’s Boatwright’s Dining Hall is a short walk away,) but it does have a fantastic counter service with the Sassagoula Float Works. Set up like a mall food court, there are several different stations offering Louisiana-inspired dishes such as Po’Boys, Jambalaya, Gumbo, and Beignets. For lunch you can not go wrong with one of the various Po’Boys (our favorites were the pork and beef versions) along with a side of bean salad or house-made chips. As we wrote about in our review of the Fantasy Fare food truck, Disney makes surprisingly good chips. For dinner you gotta go with the Jambalaya or Pot Roast, and any time of the day is good for an order of beignets. Made fresh-to-order and covered in powdered sugar, these beignets are one of the best treats at WDW.

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Pork Po’Boy with bean salad from Sassagoula Float Works and Food Factory.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Ways To Get Your Disney Fix Outside of the Theme Parks

by on January 10, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways To Get Your Disney Fix Outside of the Theme Parks. No one loves the Disney theme parks more than us, but sometimes you just can’t get to them no matter how much you want to be there. So today we are going to look at various ways you can get a taste of WDW, without paying the $90-$95 ticket cost to enter the turnstiles. Be forewarned, the more you quench your Disney thirst, the more you are going to want to book your next trip into the parks.

We are going to start off taking the 30,000 foot view (© Jim Hill) and look at things that anyone can enjoy anywhere in the world, while eventually making our way down to things available closer to the actual theme parks in Florida. With that out of the way, let’s being our countdown, starting with…

# 6 – Disney Related Books

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Selection of theme park books. (photo by Tim Grassey)

If you haven’t started already, now is the time to build your Disney library. Reading about Walt Disney World (as well as Disneyland and the Disney Cruise Line) is a great way to stay connected with the theme parks, no matter where you are. Anyone reading the SATURDAY SIX should be well versed on travel planning books, such as the Unofficial Guide to WDW 2015, but that theme park bible is just the tip of the iceberg. There are books on finding Hidden Mickeys, books on Disney Imagineers, and books on Disney attractions. I personally love the Imagineering Field Guides (such as the ones for Animal Kingdom and Epcot) because of their small size, allowing me to take them with me on the go without a hassle.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Can’t Wait to See in 2015

by on January 3, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Can’t Wait to See in 2015. It’s going to be impossible to forget the year that was 2014 (no matter how hard we try), but there are many things to look forward to in the coming twelve months. Today we are going to focus on the theme park resorts, but keep in mind that a lot is happening in general around Orlando, including the massive I-Drive 360 project finally opening. There’s never been a better time to plan your next Florida vacation, but let’s look at six reasons you should be double checking those airline ticket prices more closely, starting with…

# 6 – The Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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The Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. (photo by Daisy Lauren)

I’ve got to hand it to Disney, the work they have done expanding DVC into the monorail resorts has been exceptional. The Villas at the Grand Floridian and Bay Lake Tower at The Contemporary are great accommodations, but the upcoming waterside Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Resort Village could be the new jewel of the DVC crown. Granted, it’s going to take us forever to save up in order to afford just one night at these Bungalows, but this was a brilliant idea.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2014 (No Matter How Hard We Try)

by on December 27, 2014

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2014 (No Matter How Hard We Try). With this being the last edition of the SATURDAY SIX for 2014 we thought that we would spend a little time looking back at some of the most memorable moments of the year. Now we already covered some of the great things that happened during the year, and some of the worst as well, so today let’s look at six theme park stories that fall into a different area. Events that are almost hard to believe actually happened, but we promise they did, and we’re here with the proof. So let’s kick it off with…

# 6 – The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rap video

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There is no truth the rumor that the dwarfs are wearing sunglasses because of the glare coming off the Mine Train’s final show scene. (photo via Disney Parks

 

There are music videos, and there are music videos. This is the latter. Coming off one of the strangest commercials of all time for FastPass+, Walt Disney World outdid themselves with a commercial for the soon-to-open Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction. We admit to watching this commercial on a non-stop loop after we first saw it, laughing harder each time. I mean, let’s be honest, when you think of the Seven Dwarfs, who doesn’t think of rap music?!

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Bring Back to the North Pole (AKA The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores in 2014)

by on December 20, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Bring Back to the North Pole (A/K/A The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores in 2014). Some readers of this weekly column may not know that we also have The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! where every single month we brave the insanity of the Orlando Premium Outlet parking lots to cover the two Disney outlet stores (more info on them – including addresses – at the end of the article.) While some Christmas dreams do come true, such as Ralphie Parker getting his official Red Ryder BB gun and Your Humble Author getting a Han Solo blaster back in the day, others deserve to go straight to the Island of Misfit Toys. Today we will take a look at some of those very items, starting with…

 

# 6 – Luigi’s Flying Tires: The Toy

My eyes lit up like a Christmas tree seeing this toy hit the Outlet shelves. In theory, Luigi’s Flying Tires should have been one of the coolest rides at any Disney park. It used popular characters from the Cars franchise in what amounts to a hovercraft ride mixed with bumper cars. How great is that? Turns out, not that great. For many guests, the degree of difficulty in learning how to control the tires was too much within the short ride span, and that combined with the long wait time (due to the limited capacity) resulted in some very unfavorable reviews. The one part of the attraction that did receive positive reaction – the humongous beach balls on the course which provided a striking visual and the ability to knock them into other guests – was taken away mere weeks after Luigi’s debut. It is rumored that once Flying Tires goes down for refurbishment in early 2015, it will never come back as the ride it currently is and instead will be changed into something different. But, at least we’ll have our Luigi’s Flying Tires toy to remember it by (batteries, and joy, not included.)

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Next year we want to see Stitch’s Great Escape: The Board Game.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six MORE Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on December 13, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six MORE Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We’re taking a quick break from our end-of-year celebration articles, and returning back to Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort. You may remember we were at the hotel earlier this year during its grand opening and were blown away as it changed the definition of “value” resort within the theme park universe. Since that time the other half of the resort opened up, including the Americana and Continental wings with a combined 900 standard rooms. So today we are going to revisit Cabana Bay and look at six more surprises the resort offers to guests, starting with…

# 6 -The Fire Pits

There are a total of four fire pits throughout Cabana Bay, all within walking distance of the two pool bars (Atomic Tonic and The Hideaway Bar & Grill.) These pits can make for a great place to relax at night, especially after a late swim. As an added bonus, there are S’mores kits available in the Bayliner Diner (complete with sticks to use for roasting the marshmallows) allowing you to have a very unique experience on property.

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One of the fire pits at Cabana Bay Beach Resort. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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SATURDAY SIX: In Memoriam – Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2014

by on December 6, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2014. As theme park fans, we’ve had a lot to be thankful for this year. Unfortunately for us, the theme park business itself seems to be turning into a zero-sum game, where we only get new things if we lose something else. So while it’s fantastic that we’re getting a Frozen attraction, James Cameron’s World of Avatar, and restaurants such as Cowfish, it comes with a sense of sadness as it also means we’re probably saying goodbye to something in the parks and resorts that we have been enjoying. Today we pay our respects to some of those that we lost in the past year, starting with….

 

# 6 – Camp Minnie-Mickey/ Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade (Animal Kingdom)

Regular readers of the SATURDAY SIX know how much we love Animal Kingdom, so it was tough to see two things leave this year: Camp Minnie-Mickey, and Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade. While Camp Minnie-Mickey had no major attractions outside of a stage show and character meet-and-greets, the entire area was wonderfully designed and was delightful to take in while appreciating all the whimsical details. The area of Camp Minnie-Mickey is scheduled to be part of the upcoming Pandora expansion to the park.

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Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Daisy Duck taking a Jr. Woodchuck stroll through Camp Minnie Mickey. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 1: Shark Attack at Chez Alcatraz

by on December 1, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY ONE: Shark Attack at Chez Alcatraz (Universal Studios Florida)

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Shark Attack at Chez Alcatraz in Universal Studios Florida. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

Available at Chez Alcatraz in the San Francisco area of Universal Studios Florida, the Shark Attack is visually one of the coolest drinks on property. Located mere steps away from the photo-op with the world’s most famous great white shark, this drink perfectly gets across the creepiness of seeing blood mixing with water that scared us all in Jaws. Ingredients: Malibu Coconut Rum, Blue Curacao, pineapple juice, dash of Grenadine.

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SATURDAY SIX: Inaugural Walt Disney World “Turkeys” of the Year

by on November 29, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special one as we have the Inaugural Walt Disey World “Turkeys” of the Year. For Thanksgiving this week we took a look back at things both Disney and Universal fans should be thankful for, but today we are going to go the other way. Gather round, as we are starting a new tradition and award six WDW “Turkeys” to the craziest, most outrageous, or just downright weird stories of the year, concluding with the coveted Golden Turkey award. Let’s kick off the ceremony with a relatively recent one….

# 6 – FastPass + Testing at Toy Story Midway Mania

Kim Kardashian may have broke the Internet in November, but WDW itself set the precedent in October when it broke Hollywood Studios doing a controversial test using the park’s most popular attraction, Toy Story Midway Mania. For reasons still unknown, the attraction became FastPass+ ONLY for four days, giving guests no opportunity to wait in a standby line. The normally long standby line for TSMM was essentially switched over to Guest Services, where many guests queued up to voice their opinions on this test. The end result of the test? Scores of unhappy guests. One of the only family friendly rides in the park running at less than 100% capacity. And perhaps further evidence of a large percentage of WDW guests that just plain don’t want to participate in MyDisneyExperience or MyMagic+, something which could present a challenge for WDW in the coming years.

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Sorry folks, ride’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

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