Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report – October 5 to 11, 2014

by on October 19, 2014

Crowds at Islands of Adventure lagged behind Universal Studios most of the week with only one day where the two parks reached the same level on our scale. Halloween Horror Nights continue to draw large crowds of (mostly) locals to the Studios on certain evenings although wait times in the parks tend to be unaffected during the day.

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

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

This Ain’t Disney World! – Planning a First Visit to Universal Orlando

by on October 15, 2014

The scenery may be beautiful, but the line is VERY long.

The scenery may be beautiful, but the line is VERY long.

On our first visit to ‘the other Orlando park,’ my oldest daughter and I attended a viewing of Universal’s Horror Make-up Show. During the show, the volunteer, a nice woman ended up covered in red-dyed corn syrup. The hosts threw a towel out to the woman and called after, “That’ll be $14.50!” We all laughed, but knew it wasn’t exactly distant from the truth. Certainly, we knew most of the major differences between Disney World and Universal Studios. We weren’t, however, expecting to encounter such a myriad of differences between the two parks. Hopefully, some quick research, a planned touring plans itinerary, and this article can help you get a quick overview of what to expect at your first visit to Universal Orlando Resort.

The parks are over a small area. Really small. If you could walk through a few buildings, you could easily get back and forth between the parks. We could see Dr. Doom from our window at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. You can also take Hogwart’s Express between the two parks at any time, too. I’d avoid going during the surge of the middle of the day, but make certain to go both directions, so board at Hogsmeade Station, as well. Each ride is a bit different. The walk wasn’t quick, but it was awfully close.

Don’t, however, mistake close for convenient. I could see the park, but our walk to the entrance was about fifteen minutes each day along a winding path that seemed to close back over itself. We ended up walking to and from the parks every day, but getting through Universal can’t always be done quickly.

The queue and exit line for every ride can be pretty long, if they are needed or not. The line to get onto Dragon Challenge at Islands of Adventure is filled with beautiful pieces, the Triwizard Cup, banners for each champion, and VERY few people. Most of the occasions we were on the ride, it was essentially a walk-on. The theming was much better than I had expected, but the walk was LONG. The wait may have been longer for Flight of the Hippogriff than it was for Dragon Challenge. The queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was long, as well. It was filled with stations throughout Hogwarts, talking paintings, and myriads of setup. Perhaps the rides were purposefully trying to delay our boarding, but on multiple occasions, I wondered why I STILL had to walk through tons of labyrinthian mazes to get on the Seuss High in the Sky Trolley ride. The exit for Ripsaw Falls, I felt like I had mistakenly gotten back in line for another ride. Even the pathway between our hotel and Islands of Adventure I felt like it had carved out a purposefully winding path to throw off our pace. Each day, my pedometer on my iphone killed its battery. I never had an accurate step count, but I was well above 15,000 steps.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons Halloween Horror Nights is Better than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

by on October 11, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons Halloween Horror Nights is Better than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Now, before we start, this is not an article that’s trying to sell you on the idea that MNSSHP is not good, as we wrote several weeks ago that we love it, and it’s definitely the best Halloween event in town that you can bring the whole family to. That said, Halloween Horror Nights brings some elements to the table, which Disney could learn from in terms of over delivering to its guests. While HHN may not be for everyone, if you are a regular reader of the Saturday Six it’s probably for you and today we’ll look at the reasons why. Please remember that clicking on any picture will open it up in full size, and let’s count ‘em down…

# 6 –  A night at HHN is completely different than any other experience you’ve had at Universal Studios Florida

HHN_DieIn_Glover

Mel’s Drive-In becomes Mel’s DIE-In for HHN. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

For anyone who has gone to MNSSHP you know that the one of the bigger differences between a party night and any other night is how well Main Street, U.S.A. is decorated. Unfortunately, outside of The Haunted Mansion, that’s where the level of theming stops. All the lands of the park are the same (albeit with wonderful candy stations) and all of the attractions are the same, just with less people going on them. That’s where I find the value in a MNSSHP ticket. You can do all the E-Ticket rides like Space Mountain and Big Thunder without having to worry about FP+ or standby lines as almost everything is a walk-on. Halloween Horror Nights on the other hand completely changes the dynamic of Universal Studios Florida. There are scare zones and seemingly hundreds of scare actors thoughout the entire park along with 8 haunted houses, none of which are available to non-party going guests.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Friday Face Off – Aging Attractions

by on October 10, 2014

Running a theme park has to be a dicey experiment. The more a park works to stay current, the older the older attractions tend to look. While many attractions retain their charm throughout the years, many others tend to feel dated pretty quickly. Attendance drops, lines decline, and parks decide to refresh the attraction through refurbishment, rebuilding, or demolition. Today, let’s look at a few Disney and Universal attractions, and throw them down in a Friday Face Off – Aging Attractions. Universal’s Jurassic Park River Adventure vs. Disney World’s Dinosaur and the recently-deceased Maelstrom.

Here to save the World?

Here to save the World?

First, I’ll beat the dead horse that was Maelstrom. Relax, people. Relax. Don’t get me wrong: I’m disappointed that Maelstrom will be re-created into a Frozen attraction, but I don’t think it’s any great loss. Those crying over its demise will no doubt rue the day that Captain EO eventually is mercifully put out of its misery.

On a side note, I truly believe that Disney Cast Members are punitively placed to work there. I mean, how COULD this be such an epic failure? Spielberg? Coppola? Space? Michael Jackson? Dancing? Puppets? I can remember being there in 1986 – sporting the mullet, most certainly, and seeing the preview posters for the upcoming Captain EO film, and being disappointed that Captain EO didn’t premiere until that fall. We were out of the Disney World environment until 2009, when we saw Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. Then we returned in 2013 for our visit to the Return of Captain EO. Let me tell you how that trip went.

When we entered the queue area, we encountered the most seriously working – and for the most part completely clueless – Cast Member employed at the Disney World property.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report – September 28 to October 4, 2014

by on October 8, 2014

{You won’t see much of a blue line on our “What we predicted” vs. “What we saw” chart because we predicted every day correctly except Saturday. The blue line is hidden behind the red.}

Low wait times across both Universal Parks last week including a full week of level ’2′ or lower at Islands of Adventure. Halloween Horror Nights kept The Studios busy in the evenings but during the day we never saw wait times higher than 20 or 30 minutes for most attractions. On our scale neither park reached a level above ’3′.

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

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Observations from Halloween Horror Nights and Updated HHN24 Touring Plans

by on October 8, 2014

Hhn24 touring plans

Plan your Nights of Horror with our updated HHN24 touring plans (photos by Seth Kubersky).

Halloween in still three weeks away, but Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 24 is well underway, and as always the event — and therefore our HHN24 touring plan — is ever evolving. After experiencing the rain-soaked chaos of opening night, I returned on a precipitation-free Thursday without the benefit of an RIP guided tour or Express Passes.

The good news is that I was able to experience all 8 haunted houses, and both shows, before the evening ended even without those extra-cost line-cutting perks, but it wan’t easy. To update my previously published Halloween Horror Nights Survival Guide, here’s a summary of my recent observations, followed by an improved edition of my HHN24 touring plans to plot your escape from the evil of overstuffed queues.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

SATURDAY SIX: The Disney Hipsters Examine Six of Their Assumptions After Visiting the Universal Orlando Resort

by on October 4, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a very special one. A little over a year ago I was introduced to the Disney Hipsters podcast via the TouringPlans Podcast Network and I became an immediate fan. They are refreshingly different from the seemingly hundreds of Disney podcasts out there that just recite Disney press releases and while they have a true passion for Walt Disney World they never shy away from pointing out the bad along with the good. When they announced their first ever trip to the Universal Orlando Resort earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to get their unique perspective on the theme parks and staying onsite after years of being “Disney Only” fans. Today Disney Hipster Adam Ferretti is here to examine six of the assumptions they had about Universal before going on the trip and whether or not they held up after the vacation. As always, clicking on any picture will open up its full size version, so with that out of the way I will see you, Dear Reader, at the end of the article and hand the reigns over to Adam…

DisneyHipsters_Krusty

The Disney Hipsters, Andrew and Adam, with Krusty the Clown.

As Disney nerds going into Universal, we had tons of preconceived notions on what to expect. We thought we would discuss six of those assumptions.

ASSUMPTION # 6 – Universal Team Members Would be Inferior to Disney Cast Members

This assumption was very wrong. As a rule, the team members were super friendly, helpful and amazing. We expected the customer service aspect and general employee/guest interactions at Universal to be less than great. We ended up being really surprised by the enthusiasm of the team members at both the parks and our resort (Royal Pacific.) This was especially true of performers inside both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

Universal pays their team members a bit better (we have heard) and gives them more freedom when doing their jobs. This results in guest interactions that come off as way more genuine along with performances that were truly engaging (check out the hosts of Disaster or the Horror Make Up show for great examples.) Disney is more controlling on Cast Member behavior, including what they can and cannot say. Sometimes this makes Cast Members seem like they’re faking it, resulting in their performances being generally stale and boring (see The Great Movie Ride).

HipstersHorrorMakeUp2_Trygve

Universal’s Horror Make-Up Show. (photo by Trygve Nelson)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Disney Parks Potential: Why The Incredibles Needs A Bigger Presence In Walt Disney World

by on October 3, 2014

Ever feel like some of your favorite Disney characters are underrepresented at Walt Disney World or Disneyland? Me, too! That’s why I’m starting a new series of articles here at TouringPlans Blog called “Disney Parks Potential,” where I’ll take a look at one Disney character or franchise that I feel isn’t being used to its Disney Parks potential (That’s where the name comes from!). From there, I’ll share my ideas on how I think Disney can best integrate these characters into one or more of the parks, which will then probably secure me a sweet job as a Walt Disney Imagineer if all goes according to plan. But enough about my unlikely career goals. Let’s get into my first Disney Parks Potential selection, which is The Incredibles.

IncrediblesOutside of merchandise, character meet and greets and a dance party in Tomorrowland, The Incredibles really don’t have much of a presence in Walt Disney World. For a Pixar film that many would argue is the best of the bunch, this seems like a huge missed opportunity. The need for more of The Incredibles in Disney World is even greater considering that Disney isn’t allowed to utilize Marvel superheroes within the park due to the previous licensing agreement with Universal before Disney acquired Marvel in 2009. Hopefully we’ll get new attractions sooner rather than later now that a much requested sequel to the original film has been announced, but for now my ideas will have to suffice.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Friday Face Off – Universal Orlando Water Rides

by on October 3, 2014

Splash Mountain Exhilaration

Splash Mountain Exhilaration

When touring through any amusement park, but especially on a hot day, jumping into the line of a water ride can be a refreshing way to exhilarate the senses, cool down, and experience a different ride, too. For the seasoned Disney World guest, it’s easy to take a ride on Splash Mountain, Kali River Rapids, or just let the kids run and splash through the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station. Making the transition to Universal Orlando‘s water rides brings a great variety, too. But before hopping onto one of the rides, make certain you know exactly what the ride will bring to your family. As we experienced, the Universal Orlando water rides bring quite a few surprises.

Universal Orlando created itself, I think, as either a great complement to a visit to Disney World, or a unique alternative to Disney World. This certainly extends to Universal Orlando water rides. While natural comparisons can be drawn between the two resorts and their water rides, Universal offers a completely different experience. I’ll assume that if you’re reading this article, you have some familiarity with Disney’s rides but less experience at Universal.

The most natural comparison between the two parks is probably Splash Mountain to Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. Both are very good rides, in their own right. Both capture a relatively obscure cartoon and turn them into enjoyable water rides. They both tell a story that probably doesn’t make too much sense to many riders. Even after a few re-rides, I’d guess that most riders would have difficulty really telling the entirety of the story. Both are beautiful expansions of the traditional ‘log flume’ ride. Nearly any other amusement park would swoon to have a ride with even half the capability of either of these rides.

Splash Mountain, however, is an immersive wonderland. From start to finish, and throughout the ride queue, as well, guests transport themselves into the film – that most of us have probably never seen. The animatronic characters, immersive set-up, beautiful scenery, and music that plays throughout all transport riders into the scene. Outside of one or two moments, it infallibly works. The negative moments? When Brer Rabbit hops behind the fence and is re-set, he appears visible behind the fence. The climb up the last hill seems scantily populated. A few Brer Bear animatronic characters appear a bit bent at the fabric. And Brer Frog is not in the movie (not that anyone has seen it): he’s just a creation for the ride. But outside of my criticisms, the ride is nearly perfect, with two dips into water and one long dive at the end. Although the water explodes over the drop, most riders get wet but stay fairly dry, too.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Universal Orlando Photo Connect Presale Prices Changing October 6

by on October 2, 2014

Photo Connect presale prices

Presale prices for Universal Orlando’s Photo Connect service change on 10/5.

If you’ve got a trip planned to Universal Orlando, and are planning to purchase their Photo Connect image capture services, the time to buy is now, as Photo Connect presale prices will change starting Monday, October 6, 2014.

Amazing Pictures, the vendor that provides Photo Connect, didn’t say what the new prices will be when they made the announcement via its Facebook page, but it is safe to assume they will be going up. If you want to save some money, you can get a discount off the in-park package price by ordering Photo Connect online here.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print