Universal Orlando Resort

Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever September 3, 2015: Universal Orlando Update

by on September 2, 2015

In case you hadn’t heard, a little project I’ve been working on for most of the past year was finally published recently. Ironically, I’ve been so busy writing about Universal Orlando, and giving interviews about the book, that I haven’t had time to actually enjoy the resort in weeks. So, on the eve of my extended absence from Florida, I took one last Best Week Ever look at some Universal Orlando updates, including a couple attractions that won’t be around by the time I get back.

Universal Orlando is currently offering Early Park Admission to all Annual Passholders on weekdays in September. So my day started bright and early, before Islands of Adventure’s 8 a.m. opening. There’s no time at the parks quite as peaceful as pre-opening on a beautiful morning!

 

 

Only IOA is currently opening early entry, so the iconic lighthouse was my first destination.

 

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – August 23 to 29, 2015

by on September 1, 2015

How Did the Universal Crowd Calendar Do Last Week?

How Did the Universal Crowd Calendar Do Last Week?

Last week, crowd levels were inline with what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted except for Monday when Universal Studios saw wait times average 10 minutes longer than usual. Interestingly, Universal Studios has a higher crowd level than Islands of Adventure every day last week.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Crowd Calendar Report:

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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.

UNIGIFTS_Bort

Bort keychain at the Kwik E Mart.

They even have more personalized items with Bort!

Bort_nametag_Darren

Bort, the Kwik E Mart’s employee of the month. (photo by Darren Schmidt of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast)

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Refillable Mugs at Universal Orlando – Worth it or Wasted?

by on August 28, 2015

One of the first things I noticed that was different at Universal Orlando and SeaWorld versus Walt Disney World is the refillable mugs inside the theme parks. What I didn’t realize until after my first few months of becoming a regular Universal Orlando visitor is the substantial variety of refillable mug programs available throughout Universal Orlando. There’s four options just in the theme parks themselves, then there’s two different programs at the Universal hotels, and finally two programs inside CityWalk, oh and none of the programs can be combined. So in hopes of helping you navigate through the busy waters of all the refillable mug options I’d like to share the details of each option. I’ll also give my stance on if I think each mug is worth it or wasted.
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In the theme parks

Character mugs – $15.99 /  $0.99 refills

Wasted: If you or your child is a big fan of a specific character then the character mugs might be a good value for you. Personally, I think their clunkier size make them impractical for repeated, every day use. However, they certainly are unique and add to the fun of being inside the theme parks.

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Regular refillable cup and Black Transformer mug – $8.99 / $0.99 refills

Worth it: If you are an Annual Passholder or will be visiting for an extended amount of days, the basic refillable cup is a good deal. The $0.99 refills are not limited to the day of purchase, so you can easily get your money’s worth considering one fountain soda is $3.19. If you use the refillable cup more than 3 times you’ll have spent your money wisely. There are also a good amount of food and beverage locations throughout the park to snag your free refills. The downside is the refills are your basic fountain drink variety, not the fancy smancy Coke Freestyle flavor selection.

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Head to head: Night of Joy vs. Rock the Universe

by on August 26, 2015

The weekend of September 11 and 12 is one of the holiest in Orlando, and it has nothing to do with a religious holiday. That’s when, for the past 17 years, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts conduct their dueling Christian music festivals, gathering some of the biggest names in the genre and having all sorts of youths flocking to their parks after hours in even bigger numbers than normal.

Night of Joy 2015

Image © Disney

Disney started its Night of Joy event in 1983, while Universal jumped on the bandwagon with its Rock the Universe much later, in 1998. Despite that discrepancy in age, the two actually share a lot in common, and more than the identical dates: both festivals are hard-ticketed events (meaning you’ll need to purchase separate admission in order to get in) and typically feature musical acts that hop back and forth between the two.

That can make choosing one over the other something of a headscratcher, but don’t fret – that’s why we’re here to help. Below, find a complete comparison between the two on every important indicator, helping you to decide which will be more amenable to your family and your tastes (and, of course, your wallet).

Then, once you’ve made up your mind, be sure to let us know which way you’re going in the comments below.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – August 16 to 22, 2015

by on August 25, 2015

How Did The Universal Crowd Calendar Do?

How Did The Universal Crowd Calendar Do?

Last week, wait times were up at Universal Orlando. We saw crowds exceed historical averages every day except Thursday. Last week was the final week for many students to grab one more ride at Rip Ride Rockit and The Incredible Hulk Coaster before heading back to school so it is likely that crowd levels may settle down this week.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – August 9 to 15, 2015

by on August 18, 2015

How Did The Universal Crowd Calendar Do?

How Did The Universal Crowd Calendar Do?

Last week, crowds we observed at Universal Orlando Resort matched well with what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted except on Friday and Saturday when wait times were higher than predicted, matching the levels we had seen in the early part of week. Usually in Summer we see wait times taper off slightly as we head into the weekend.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Crowd Calendar Report:

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – August 2 to 8, 2015

by on August 12, 2015

How Did The Universal Crowd Calendar Do?

How Did The Universal Crowd Calendar Do?

Last week, the Universal Crowd Calendar did a great job predicting the crowd levels at both Universal parks. Each day the predicted resort-wide crowd level was within one of what we observed. Each park-wide level was with one of what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted last week as well (except for Monday at Islands of Adventure).

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

 

Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, August 2, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
8
8

Both Universal parks reached a level ‘8’ on Sunday, typical for a weekend day in summer. That means wait time averages like 28 minutes at Men in Black and 43 minutes at Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.

Islands of Adventure
7
8

Monday, August 3, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
9
9

Islands of Adventure saw a dip in crowd level on Monday, the only time all week that the Universal Crowd Calendar missed a predicted crowd by more than one index level.

Islands of Adventure
9
6

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
10
10

Tuesday’s crowds were the busiest of the week as predicted. A ’10’ at Universal Studios means average waits like 26 minutes at Disaster!, 65 at Rip Ride Rockit and 99 and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.

Islands of Adventure
9
9

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
9
9

More busy parks on Wednesday although wait times at Universal Studios were slightly lower than what we saw on Tuesday. For example, Disaster! averaged 19 minutes at Rip Ride Rockit averaged 58.

Islands of Adventure
9
8

Thursday, August 6, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
8
9

More of the same on Thursday at both Universal parks. Islands of Adventure saw steady wait times from Tuesday onward, like 56 minutes at The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and 44 minutes at The Incredible Hulk Coaster.

Islands of Adventure
8
8

Friday, August 7, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
8
8

Friday’s crowd levels were slightly down from the previous few days but still above average for the year. Spider-Man averaged 50 minutes and Hulk Coaster averaged 40.

Islands of Adventure
8
7

Saturday, August 8, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Universal Studios
7
8

Saturday brought more busy parks but like Friday, wait times were a few minutes lower than what we saw during the week.

Islands of Adventure
7
7
What to Expect This Week
August 9 to 15, 2015
How Crowded is Universal Orlando Resort?

How Crowded is Universal Orlando Resort?

Summer crowds will continue for at least a few more weeks but once they begin to fade we enter the single slowest season of the year, by far. Guests waiting until late August, early September will experience near-empty parks.

To see Universal Orlando Resort Crowd predictions for the days of your vacation, check the Crowd Calendar.

To get details about our predictions of future crowds or details about crowds in the past check out the Crowd Calendar and select “Jump to Date” on the left margin.

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“Preferred Show Time” Added to Optimized Touring Plans

by on August 11, 2015

Starting today you can tell our touring plan Optimizer which performance of a show you’d prefer to see. Use this new feature if you’ve signed up for a specific Jedi Training Academy show, want to see the late version of Fantasmic!, or prefer an early morning Flights of Wonder show to avoid the heat.

To select a preferred show time, simply tap or click the performance time you prefer on your touring plan:

Touring Plan Show Time Selection Feature

Tap the “clear preferred time” link to un-select a performance time. Or click on a different time if your preference changes.

The Preferred Show Time feature works on touring plans for Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal Studios Florida, and on our mobile Lines app (Android link), desktop, and tablets.

It’s a preference, not a guarantee. The touring plan Optimizer will try to get you to all of your preferred show times. Sometimes that’s just not possible. A good example is at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where Disney often schedules show performances so close together that you can’t get from a first show to a second before the second starts.

If the Optimizer can’t get you to your preferred show time, it tries to get you to the time closest to your preference.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – July 26 to August 1, 2015

by on August 4, 2015

How did the Universal Crowd Calendar do last week?

How did the Universal Crowd Calendar do last week?

Last week, the Universal Crowd Calendar correctly predicted the crowd levels at each Universal park every day within one index level except for Thursday at Islands of Adventure when that park hit a level ’10’ on our scale. Crowds were busiest Monday through Friday as predicted.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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