Universal Orlando Resort

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.

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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.

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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.

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Universal Orlando Crowd Report – September 21 to 27, 2014

by on October 2, 2014

Last week, no park reached wait times higher than a level ’4′ on our scale and most days stayed around a ’2′ or ’3′. That means posted wait times averaged 10 to 30 minutes at most attractions. September is low season at Universal Orlando so even the new Harry Potter attractions weren’t enough to push wait times to average levels for the year. Escape to Gringotts saw average waits in the range of 15 to 20 minutes some days, their lowest level since the attraction opened. Larger crowds are likely on their way however as we progress deeper into the fall season and approach Thanksgiving in November.

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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Halloween Horror Nights 24 Touring Plans Survival Guide

by on September 22, 2014

Halloween Horror Nights 24 touring plan

Let our Halloween Horror Nights 24 touring plans be your umbrella when braving the elements at Universal Studios Florida. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights has been resurrected for its 23rd annual outing, opening on September 19, 2014 under stormy skies. HHN, as it’s know to its legions of bloodthirsty fans, is recognized as the nation’s most popular and industry-awarded haunted theme park event. Before the opening weekend bloodstains have fully dried, we’re introducing this year’s Halloween Horror Nights 24 Touring Plans Survival Guide to help our brave readers make it through terror (relatively) unscathed.

Originally a locals-friendly filler during a normally slow season, Universal Studios Florida’s Halloween celebration started in 1991 as a single weekend of “Fright Nights” has grown so famous that the 28 event nights between 9/19 and 11/1 will provide a substantial percentage of USF’s annual attendance statistics. Much like visiting any of Orlando’s theme parks during a peak holiday season, an evening at HHN can be tremendous fun if you go in with a solid plan and sane expectations. Without those things…well, you might be better off eaten by zombies!

I’ve been attending HHN every year since 1996, and visited last year’s event on over a dozen evenings; I’ve combined that experience with intelligence gathered on 2014′s opening night to compile this Halloween Horror Nights 24 Touring Plans Survival Guide. Tweaks will continue to be made throughout the event, so the crowd patterns observed during this year’s initial operating nights aren’t guaranteed to persist, so we will continue to update our advice as operations evolve.

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Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report – September 14 to 22, 2014

by on September 22, 2014

Universal Orlando Resort saw low waits all week last week with only a few exceptions. Most days came in at a level ’2′ as predicted with only Friday and Saturday departing from the week-long trend.

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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Speed Planning A First Trip To Universal Orlando

by on September 21, 2014

Outside Universal

Outside Universal

By nature, we’re crazy planners. We like to look over the scenery, plan our day, and then return to the plan to tweak it. Last year, we planned a Walt Disney World trip in a month – and thought we’d never do anything crazier.

This year, we planned a first trip to Universal Orlando in ten days. Let’s take a ride.

Live blogging our trip to Universal

July 21, 2014

We’ve got this weird set of credits on Southwest that have to be used by May of next year, and, being teachers, we can’t really see an opportunity to use them. So my wife, Christy, keeps looking at flights and attempting to see what will work. We’ve looked at other locations, quick trips in the near future, and essentially come to the conclusion to just hold on to them. We actually look at Universal, but reservations aren’t available for our dates, August 2 to August 6. So, we put it on hold.

July 22, 2014

We resolved to wait, but I checked the website. And inputted the dates. And something strange happened. I asked my wife again which hotel it was. Frankly, I still have no idea which hotels are which. Except Cabana Bay. That sticks out in my brain. “Loews Royal Pacific,” she retorts. Which shows up on the list. For our departure in ten days. After a quick look back and forth, we go to work.

iPad in her hands and computer in mine, we are assembling. I’ve inputted the dates into the Universal site, and quickly updated that to show the Harry Potter package and reservations for breakfasts on two days. Christy has the Southwest site. And it’s giving major headaches. It turns out that each reservation can only use four methods of payment per reservation, and we have five people in our party. After contacting Southwest, I decide to plan our trip in three chunks – including one adult and one young child in each reservation. I’m starting to stress that once I book one reservation, and the other spots will become unavailable or more expensive. It means sacrificing the smallest credits, but we should all be able to book. I’ve got two browsers open on the computer, and the iPad working, and I’m able to reserve all of the spots! I turn to the computer and prepare to pay. For the reservation that no longer exists. I’ve been logged out.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six “Secrets” of the Universal Orlando Resort (MEN IN BLACK, Doc Brown’s Plans, USF’s 2nd Entrance)

by on September 20, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six “Secrets” of the Universal Orlando Resort. Here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters we look at the “secrets” of the theme park universe we all love; such as Island of Adventure’s Port of Entry and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. Today we are going to look at the Universal Orlando Resort itself and examine six things you may not have known you could do there, even if you have gone 100 times. Remember that clicking on any picture will bring up the full size version, and let’s get to counting down the secrets contained within Universal, starting with…

 

# 6 - Tour the “Immigration Room” of the MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack Queue

UORSecrets_MIB1

MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

One of the areas at which Universal excels is attraction queues and one of our favorites is at MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack. One of the areas guests walk by overhead is the immigration room, which seems straight off the set of the first MIB film. What you may not know is that you can actually get a tour of this area. Talk to the Team Member outside of the attraction and ask if them if you can get a tour of the immigration room. If it is a slow time and they have someone available, another Team Member will come out and escort you into this incredible room.

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Universal Orlando Crowd Report – September 7 to 13, 2014

by on September 17, 2014

Universal Orlando Resort saw typically low September crowds last week despite some hot weather. Neither park reached a crowd level above a level ’2′ until Friday and attraction wait times stayed well below annual averages 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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Does Diagon Alley Feel Like Home (London)?

by on September 16, 2014

The actual Diagon Alley Set from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

The actual Diagon Alley Set from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Ed. – We’re happy to bring back our International Youth Correspondent for another kid’s eye article. We’re also grateful to the Duncan family for being so accommodating when we rang them up and asked to borrow their children for a day.

When I heard that Universal Studios Florida was to welcome Diagon Alley as a new land, and that it was to be connected to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter already existing as Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, by the Hogwarts Express train, I was thrilled. I am a colossal Harry Potter fan and had already visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London, where the eight Harry Potter movies were filmed, for an audio guided tour of the sets. I couldn’t wait to see how Universal was going to duplicate the original Diagon Alley set, replicate my home of London in general, and build the Knight Bus, Platform 9¾, and, of course, Gringotts Bank.

So when we visited Orlando this summer, my brother and I decided to adopt some American parents for the day, Len Testa and Laurel Stewart – the TouringPlans legends – to take us around the new area and attractions. Len had even concocted a back story in case someone asked how my brother and I got our English accents; we were to reply: “From our nanny, Mary Poppins.” And to do so with a perfectly straight face! I would have totally failed and was so glad we didn’t have to use this in the end.

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