Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Merchandise: The Film Vault in Universal Studios Florida (Kong, Ghostbusters, BTTF)

by on August 31, 2014

Earlier this month Universal Studios Florida opened a new store called The Film Vault which offers products featuring a wide assortment of fan favorite Universal properties including Ghostbusters, King Kong, The Godfather, Back to the Future and more. The store is located across from Transformers: The Ride 3-D and replaces the Delancey Street Preview Center, where guests were used as test audiences for upcoming television shows. The preview center has been moved closer to the front of the park near Schwab’s Pharmacy.

FilmVault1

The Film Vault (photo by Seth Kubersky)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Changes Starting September 2 [UPDATED 8/30/14]

by on August 30, 2014

Early Park Admission Sign

Big changes are coming in September to Universal Orlando’s Early Park Admission perk (Photo by Seth Kubersky)

As the summer season comes to a close, we’ve gotten word of some upcoming changes to Universal Orlando Early Park Admission policies that are scheduled to go into effect early next month.

While no details have been officially announced, we’ve confirmed this information with guest service leads at both parks, and we believe the following modifications will be made to Universal Orlando’s early park admission perk (otherwise known as “early entry” or “early admission”) offered to guests at the resort’s four on-site hotels.

We will be on hand to report on the new procedures, and we will update the information on our Early Park Admission page as policy changes develop.

[Note: Universal Orlando has recently confirmed an update to the off-season early entry, see below for bolded changes]

Early Park Admission General Information

Universal Orlando offers admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas at Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade) and/or Universal Studios Florida (Diagon Alley) one hour before regular park opening. This perk is given for free to all guests staying at a Universal Resort Hotel. Guests with certain types of “vacation packages” (most commonly sold by Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations and involving both accommodations at a Universal partner hotel and theme park admission) are also allowed in early.

The turnstiles to the park(s) participating in early entry should open approximately 90 minutes before the official opening time. Both hotel and day guests will be admitted to the park, and each eligible guest will need to show his or her own room key to pass beyond the park’s entry plaza during the early admission hour. Guests not eligible for early admission will be held in an alternative area to await the official opening time.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream: A Primer

by on August 29, 2014

Ed. – if it’s August, it must be Halloween in Central Florida. Today we’re running articles on Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, along with this one on Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights and Busch Gardens Tampa’s Howl-O-Scream.

Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream 2014

Hello, tender lumplings everywhere! If you believe that life’s no fun without a good scare, chances are you’re a big fan of Halloween. Luckily for you, Florida is one of the best places to enjoy the Halloween season, and I’m not just saying that because literally anything is better than back home in Canada, where all the kids have to wear parkas over their costumes. (If you look at my childhood photo album, you might assume every year I was a skier. I was a fairy princess, curse you!) In fact, two of the biggest Halloween events happen less than an hour away from each other… Busch Gardens Tampa’s Howl-o-Scream, and Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Crowd Calendar 4 Launched for Universal Orlando and Disneyland Resort

by on August 23, 2014

New Crowd Calendar methodology arrives at Universal Orlando Resort

New Crowd Calendar methodology arrives at Universal Orlando Resort

 

The methodology used for the TouringPlans.com Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar since November 2013 takes over the Universal Orlando and Disneyland Resort crowd calendars starting today. Crowd Calendar 4 has worked well for Disney World so we are confident it will perform equally well for Universal and Disneyland. See below for a synopsis of how the calendar has performed since November 2013. When we predict the crowd level (between ’1′ and ’10′) we see that about 95% of the time the actual crowd will be within two index points, and about three-quarters (3/4) of the time within one.

 

Disney World Crowd Calendar Error Results since November 2013

Disney World Crowd Calendar Error Results since November 2013

 

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Kongstruction: Skull Island Announced, Jurassic Park Arch Removed

by on August 23, 2014

Kongstruction project 340 Jurassic Park arch

Kongstruction has consumed an iconic Jurassic Park arch at Islands of Adventure (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Well, it looks like the monkey is out of the bag. For months, we’ve been mentioning the movement on Project 340, or as we like to call it, Kongstruction. Universal’s officially unannounced construction in the expansion pad behind Jurassic Park‘s Thunder Falls Terrace at Islands of Adventure recently required the removal of an iconic Jurassic Park archway.

 

The rumors we’ve reported regarding King Kong returning to Universal Orlando in a new attraction located in that plot have prompted some readers to question why the resort would revive a character with no major pop culture presence since Peter Jackson’s 2005 film. As if in response, Legendary Pictures announced at Comic-Con that Skull Island, an original prequel to the Kong mythos, would be released by Universal Pictures on November 4, 2016.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Counter Service Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on August 23, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Counter Service Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort. Last year we looked at the overall top six restaurants on property, and because both the Three Broomsticks and Fast Food Boulevard made that list, they were ineligible for this one. Speaking of which, later this year when The Cowfish opens in CityWalk we may have to revisit our original list because there have been some pretty impressive venues (including Antojitos and Vivo) who have made quite an impression since their debut. However, today we are looking resort wide for the counter service restaurants that we love the most, starting with….

# 6 – Thunder Falls Terrace (Islands of Adventure)

Thunder1

Thunder Falls Terrace

 

Located in Jurassic Park, Thunder Falls Terrace has several things going for it. The first is its menu. Unlike your typical theme park counter service, this location eschews traditional fare like hot dogs and chicken fingers and instead has items such as charbroiled ribs and rotisserie chicken. It is also one of the only counter service locations where you can get a mixed green salad made in front of your eyes.  There are several large seating areas inside (along with  tables outside as well) with one area has a fantastic view of where the Jurassic Park River Adventure boats splash down. This is even more fun to watch when guests walk by this area not realizing they are about to be in the Splash Zone and get soaked.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Review of Loews Loves Pets at Universal Orlando Resort

by on August 15, 2014

Loews loves pets goody bag

The goods. Photo – Laurel Stewart

Fact: I travel. A lot.

Fact: I like my pets more than I like most people.

Fact: Until my pets get opposable thumbs and learn to Face Time me while I travel, I will miss them terribly when I’m on the road.

With this mind, I decided on my last trip to Orlando that it was time to bring the dog along. Lucky for me, Loews Hotels, the company that runs the four onsite resorts at Universal, is pet friendly – a program called Loews Loves Pets. And, as this trip was especially to visit Universal and Diagon Alley, it seemed a natural fit to take advantage of this policy.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Universal Orlando Offers Celebration of Harry Potter in 2015

by on August 14, 2014

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts Express ©Universal

Universal Orlando announced a three day Harry Potter themed event today, the Celebration of Harry Potter, for January 30 to February 1, 2015. The fan event will offer appearances from actors of the Harry Potter films and an expo in addition to exclusive access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley for ticket holders.

Guests may choose from a package that includes:

  • Three nights in a Universal or Universal partner hotel
  • Three day park-to-park admission to Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure
  • An evening dessert party in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley
  • Reserved seating for actor appearances and discussions
  • Early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (one hour)
  • Breakfast at Three Broomsticks
  • A welcome pack and commemorative merchandise

Annual Passholders may opt for a package that does not include park admission (but does include the hotel stay). The minimum stay for either package is three nights.

Guests who don’t wish to book the full packages may choose admission only, which will include actor appearances and the expo.

The event package for two adults starts at $555 for the partner hotel ($357 AP), $657 for Cabana Bay ($465 AP), and $855 for Royal Pacific Resort ($657 AP). Packages must be booked by phone at 1-888-343-8991 starting Thursday, August 21 at noon Eastern time.

The Universal Crowd Calendar has not yet been updated for this event. This year’s celebration of Harry Potter in late January had low overall park crowd levels, but many fans in the Wizarding World areas.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

SATURDAY SIX: Top Six New Food Options in Diagon Alley’s Leaky Cauldron

by on August 2, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Top Six New Food Options in Universal’s Diagon Alley. We began our mouthwatering journey into Diagon Alley two weeks ago when we went through the best new drinks and continued last week by looking at the best new snacks. Today we finish up our glutonous trilogy by hopping into the Leaky Cauldron and checking out the newest food options inside the Wizarding World. Offering traditional British pub fare, the Leaky Cauldron serves a menu that differs wildly from the standard hamburgers, chicken fingers and pizza that we’ve become used to inside the theme parks. Our All-Star blue ribbon panel of experts sat down and tried everything, and today we’re counting down the best of the best….

# 6 –  Bangers & Mash

Leaky_BangersAndMash

Bangers & Mash (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

Bangers & Mash delivers in a big way. Two large pieces of sausage sitting on top of mashed potatoes with onion gravy and servings of vegetables to top off the plate. Seeing real vegetables instead of french fries at a quick service restaurant still takes some getting used to, but it is definitely something long needed in the theme park world. One day we are going to have to have an official Bangers & Mash Taste Test between Walt Disney World and Universal. Settling once and for all which venue has the best version of this dish with entries from Rose & Crown (Epcot,) Raglan Road (Downtown Disney,) Finnegan’s (Universal Studios Florida,) and the Leaky Cauldron. ($11.99)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

New Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plans

by on July 31, 2014

Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans

2½ hours is considered a moderate wait at Gringotts! Be prepared with our new Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

If you are planning to devote a day of your vacation to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ll quickly discover that there is more to do at Universal Orlando’s park than can be covered in dozen hours. We’ve had a great response to our recently published Diagon Alley touring plan and one day/two park touring plans, which I encourage you to read if you haven’t already. But an even better way to experience everything Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure has to offer is with these new Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans.

The good news for guests just now getting to Gringotts is that the ride is running much more reliably and with greater capacity than only a couple weeks ago; as a result, standby wait times are peaking in the morning at half their former 450-minute high-water, and dropping to 120 or less by late afternoon. There is still a rush to Diagon Alley every morning, resulting in a queue to enter London for early arrivers. But the return time tickets are rarely needed any more, and crowd control barricades around the area have been vanishing by lunchtime.

Note that these new two-day/two-park touring plans have been optimized to account for the recent reduction in operating hours, and should scale well with diminishing crowds as hours are reduced further this fall. As always, we’ll continue refining our plans using the latest data, and subscribers can edit and evaluate them for themselves by personalizing a copy of our premium plans. (Be sure to look for a link to Part 2 at the top of the plan, and make a copy of each part.)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print