Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Dining: Emeril’s New Cocktail Menu

by on June 29, 2015

A longtime favorite of TouringPlans readers, Emeril’s Orlando is the Florida outpost of Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans restaurant and has probably the best food and wine list within all of CityWalk, and considering the new competition including Vivo Italian Kitchen, Antojitos Authentic Mexican and The Cowfish, that is quite the accomplishment. The restaurant itself sits in prime real estate at Universal, overlooking the park’s lagoon as you make your way to Islands of Adventure. The food is Louisiana-style with Lagasse’s signature creative flair, with a menu that is routinely being updated with new dishes.

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Emeril’s in Universal CityWalk. (photo by Brandon Glover)

We were recently asked to try out Emeril’s new cocktail menu, and we felt we needed to bring along an expert in the field of theme park drinking to fully gauge the quality of this menu. A call was placed to the agents of Drunk@Disney, and after tough negotiations he agreed to join crack photographer Brandon Glover on this journey. The theme of the new menu  is simple: Classic New Orleans both pre-prohibition and modern. Emeril’s wanted to focus on providing an authentic new Orleans experience. Did they pull it off? Let’s check it out…

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Monk’s Revolt, The New G&T, Smoking Gun, and Passion Fruit Hurricane

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – June 14 to 20, 2015

by on June 23, 2015

Last week, Universal Orlando Resort continued its recent pattern of wait times much lower than expected. Crowds are down at Universal since the middle of May. While Disney World crowd levels fluctuated between ‘6’ and ‘9’ most days last week, Universal crowds never reached a level above ‘6’. This is good news for guests of Universal parks this summer as it appears to be a pattern that will likely continue.

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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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love JURASSIC PARK at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on June 20, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love JURASSIC PARK at the Universal Orlando Resort. With Jurassic World becoming a worldwide smash (the first film ever to take in a half a billion dollars in its opening weekend. To put that number in perspective, the last Jurassic Park film, Jurassic Park III, made $368M in it’s entire six month theatrical run) we figured it is high time to cover one of our favorite areas in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Jurassic Park. While the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man has been the critic’s darling since the day it opened in 1999 and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter completely changed Orlando tourism when it debuted in 2010, Jurassic Park has always been my favorite “island” in the park. Why? Several reasons, and today we’re going to count them down for you starting with….

# 6 – Jurassic Park River Adventure

Jurassic Park River Adventure hits a lot of great beats for me and it all starts with the attraction being a boat ride. From the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom to Living with the Land and Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros in Epcot, if it’s a boat ride, it’s probably one of my favorite attractions in the park. Our journey on JP River Adventure begins by passing through the iconic Jurassic Park gates and proceeds to give a Jungle Cruise-like leisurely ride while enjoying some larger-than-life dinosaurs. As theme park rides will do, “something goes terribly wrong” and we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a raptor attack and surprise, you’re NOT the alpha. In fact you just may be dinner. It is during the second half of the ride when the tension gets amped up, highlighted by the incredible T-Rex animatronic and a huge drop to cap off the ride.

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Splash down at the Jurassic Park River Adventure. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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“Open Paddock 9!” (photo by Jeff Kyle)

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8 Ways to Celebrate Universal Orlando’s 25th Anniversary

by on June 19, 2015

It’s the first theme park for which I have memories of all the excitement and fanfare of its opening days. Universal Studios Florida was the fifth major theme park to open in the Orlando area, 25 years ago on June 7, 1990. Although the anniversary day has come and gone, and the special concert series is coming to a close, there are still ways to celebrate Universal Orlando’s 25th anniversary.

25th Anniversary decorations

Admittedly the decorations are not as over-the-top as many of us would have hoped or imagined, but it’s still a nice touch to see the banners at the entrance of Universal Studios Florida as well as along Production Central and the Hollywood Backlot. These are essentially the same as what can be seen during Mardi Gras or the celebration during the holiday season. They are nice and the emblem is simple and classy.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever June 18, 2015: A Tale of Two Studios

by on June 18, 2015

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Take a Best Week Ever tour of Orlando’s two Studios theme parks. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Back to life, back to humidity…

Barely a week ago I was basking in the temperate glow of the Happiest Place on Earth, and now I’m once again enveloped in Orlando’s hot, moist embrace. What better way to celebrate my homecoming than with a visit to two of Orlando’s favorite theme parks with “Studios” in the name? (Okay, they’re also the only two.)

We’ll start with some random observations from around Universal Studios Florida, and then take a ride down I-4 to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the first day of Frozen Summer Fun.

Universal Studios Florida

The day I picked to visit Universal Studios Florida was predicted to be a 7 on our crowd calendar, but actually came in at only a 4 (part of a trend of lower actuals at Universal Orlando last week). Even so, there was a healthy flow of visitors entering the resort as I arrived in late morning.

I missed Universal Studios Florida’s actual 25th anniversary on June 7th because I was busy visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, but I still picked up a couple of these commemorative 2-Park Guide Maps for my collection. You can snag one for yourself at either Universal Orlando park through June 20th.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – June 7 to 13, 2015

by on June 17, 2015

History shows us that wait times at Universal Orlando Resort in mid-June should fall somewhere in the highest portion of the Universal Crowd Calendar’s ‘1’ to ’10’ scale. Last week, crowds at Universal fell short (in some cases, well short) of what the Universal Crowd Calendar expected. We expected lots of ‘8’s and ‘9’s but saw mostly ‘6’s and ‘7’s.

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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Video of New Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show at Islands of Adventure

by on June 16, 2015

The cast for IOA’s new Sindbad show greets young fans after their first show. (photos and videos by Seth Kubersky)

After over a month-long hiatus, the new Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show has debuted at Universal Orlando‘s Islands of Adventure, and we have exclusive video of the entire first performance of the refurbished production.

Sindbad fans out there (both of you) may be wondering what’s changed with what can charitably called Universal’s most problematic production. While the show’s spectacular set has received a sparkly paint job and some new props, nothing has been radically changed on the visual side.

Of course, the scenery was never Sindbad’s big problem. It’s the shallow, self-referential script that was always the source of our issues with the stunt show, and (for better or for worse) the dialogue has remained about 90% unchanged.

Before we get to the main event, one element definitely is all-new. Ten minutes before showtime, an “assistant stage manager” selects a few volunteers from the audience to act out the story. Here’s a complete video of the opening day preshow:

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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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