Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Crowd Calendar Report – May 31 to June 6, 2015

by on June 9, 2015

Last week, wait times at Universal Orlando Resort were well below what history would suggest for this time of year. Guests who visited Universal last week were treated to attractions with wait times 10 to 15 minutes lower than average for June. There were a few days where weather may have been a factor although we didn’t see weather affect other central Florida theme parks.

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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Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure Is Reborn

by on June 8, 2015

I’ll never forget that feeling of fear and excitement as I sat in the movie theater and watched the massive T-Rex break free and step down onto the soggy earth in Jurassic Park so many years ago. When Islands of Adventure opened 16 years ago, this exciting and frightening world was made real. Over the years, as Islands of Adventure has evolved, the Jurassic Park island has changed, and perhaps lost a little of it intriguing nature. After all, the boy wizard’s original domain now neighbors this mysterious jungle. It’s hard to stand out when you’re next door to the destination that changed theme parks forever.

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Now that Jurassic World is about to escape into the theaters, many have hoped and wondered if Island’s of Adventure’s Jurassic Park will receive some upgrades to coincide with this next generation movie. Already there have been a few updates that have breathed a bit of new life into this land, though there is certainly potential for more to be done. Let’s explore the wilds of the jungle and see how Jurassic Park is being reborn.

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Emeril’s Orlando: Very Nice, but Skip It

by on June 7, 2015

My culinary tour of Universal Orlando Resort has, thus far, hit all the highs: the best food, best dessert and breakfast, best theming, and, of course, the best restaurant, in both full-service and counter-service varieties. But now it’s time to hit a low – one of the biggest lows, in fact, that Universal has to offer.

Emeril's Orlando

Before CityWalk’s recent renovations – which have, to date, unleashed eight brand-new venues on the area – Emeril’s Orlando was the flagship eatery at the dining/shopping/entertainment district. And, really, it’s easy to see why: slick, upscale décor, an expansive (and decadent) menu, and a staggering collection of wines (all impeccably stacked in a 12,000-bottle gallery) all make for an impressive dining destination. Eating here is undeniably an experience.

Unfortunately it’s still an experience that, for most people on most schedules and with most budgets, is an experience I recommend be skipped – particularly considering all the other gastronomic delights that Universal Orlando has on hand, from the exclusive themed offerings of The Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter and Springfield, USA to the more traditional (but still excellent) likes of Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food and The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar.

Here’s why you’re better off spending your hard-earned vacation dollars somewhere else:

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – May 24 to 30, 2015

by on June 2, 2015

Last week while Disney World crowds were significantly higher than history would suggest, Universal Orlando crowds trended downwards, with crowd levels one to two levels lower than expected every day except Sunday.

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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NBC Sports Grill & Brew Opening Fall 2015 at Universal Orlando CityWalk

by on June 1, 2015

NBC Sports Grill & Brew Citywalk

Concept art for CityWalk’s new NBC Sports Grill & Brew (image via Universal Orlando)

We’ve been watching the construction and following the permit filings for months, but now it is finally official: NBC Sports Grill & Brew is coming to Universal Orlando CityWalk, on the site of the former NASCAR Sports Grille.

The new venue was announced at an industry convention last night, and publicly revealed today via the following Youtube video:

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Universal’s Volcano Bay Could Change Tourism In Orlando

by on May 29, 2015

The Orlando theme park world has erupted with excitement! Universal Orlando announced yesterday that a water park unlike any other is rising from the ground. Volcano Bay will boom onto the scene in 2017, and Universal claims that this will not just be a water park, but is their “third theme park.” From the looks of it, and from the messaging Universal Orlando is putting out there, it appears that a lot of innovation will flow throughout Volcano Bay. Sure the concept art is pretty dazzling, but can another water park in Orlando really be a game changer? As they say, the best way to predict the future is by looking at the past. So let’s take a look at Orlando’s bustling tourism industry to get an idea of how we can expect Volcano Bay to shake up tourism in Orlando.

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Volcano Bay concept art (source: Universal Orlando)

 

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New Raptor Encounter Now Open at Islands of Adventure’s Jurassic Park

by on May 27, 2015

New Raptor Encounter Islands of Adventure Jurassic Park

Take a dino selfie at the new Raptor Encounter in Islands of Adventure’s Jurassic Park (photos and video by Seth Kubersky)

While Disney was loudly kicking off their Coolest Summer Ever promotion with bicoastal 24 Hour parties, Universal Orlando quietly opened a new attraction over Memorial Day weekend with little fanfare, as the new Raptor Encounter debuted in the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure. Conventional wisdom says that, while Universal makes excellent thrill rides, Disney dominates the meet and greet experience. But much like the Transformers meet and greet in Universal Studios Florida, this innovative dinosaur photo op flips that expectation upside down.

The new Raptor Encounter is located outside of the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, in an unused area that was formerly the entrance to Triceratops Trail, a long-defunct walkthrough attraction. Guests approach a fenced-in holding pen that has been built to contain a live velociraptor, who has been trained just well enough to pose briefly for photographs between snaps and screeches.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – May 17 to 23, 2015

by on May 27, 2015

At the beginning and end of last week wait times at Universal Parks were lower than the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted but between Wednesday and Friday the predictions did quite well. We saw crowd levels stay at a level ‘6’ or lower all 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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Lombard’s Seafood Grille: The Best Food at Universal Orlando

by on May 25, 2015

When discussing dining at Universal’s Islands of AdventureMythos typically steals the culinary spotlight. Even Finnegan’s tends to get lots of love within Universal Studios Florida itself, but it’s actually Lombard’s Seafood Grille where a great deal of Universal’s gastronomical delights are to be found. When its top-notch offerings and ideal location on the park’s waterfront are combined with its low profile, an unexpected bonus pops up: lower wait times (on average, at least) and a quieter, more relaxed ambiance. The result is that Lombard’s is not to be missed.

Lombard's Seafood Grille -- exterior.

Image © Chuck Plagmann

Is that a hyperbolic statement, given the totality of the resort’s high-class dining offerings? In a word, no. While it’s true that Mama Della’s is the best overall full-service restaurant at Universal Orlando, and The Three Broomsticks is the highest quality quick-service location – and let’s not forget Mythos itself, which has to easily take the crown for the best-themed eatery – Lombard’s has some of, if not the, best meals around, coupled with an atmosphere that is subtly themed but nevertheless sublime.

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Daisy Lauren’s Last Best Week Ever

by on May 21, 2015

1Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. And sadly, yes, the title is true. This will be my last Best Week Ever article! :( Remember that day job that keeps me from posting photos of myself? Well, I’ve been given an incredible promotion that will involve much more travel. While I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity, it will make it impossible to keep up with my weekly updates.

I’m so thankful to all of you that have read over the last year. I’ll still be helping out on the Touring Plans instagram account, so if you miss me you can find me there. (I know I’ll miss you!) And they’ve told me I can still stop by and post when I have time. So it isn’t really goodbye. :) But that’s enough sad stuff, let’s get going with all the theme park goodness from last week!

As you can tell from the photo above, I started this week at Universal Orlando. We don’t make it out that way nearly enough, but we love the parks. Arriving just after opening meant there were no crowds! It was great! I think we enjoyed the quiet morning walk as much as the park itself.

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So where did we head to next? Why don’t you click to find out? :)

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