Universal Orlando Resort

SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Can’t Wait to See in 2015

by on January 3, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Can’t Wait to See in 2015. It’s going to be impossible to forget the year that was 2014 (no matter how hard we try), but there are many things to look forward to in the coming twelve months. Today we are going to focus on the theme park resorts, but keep in mind that a lot is happening in general around Orlando, including the massive I-Drive 360 project finally opening. There’s never been a better time to plan your next Florida vacation, but let’s look at six reasons you should be double checking those airline ticket prices more closely, starting with…

# 6 – The Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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The Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. (photo by Daisy Lauren)

I’ve got to hand it to Disney, the work they have done expanding DVC into the monorail resorts has been exceptional. The Villas at the Grand Floridian and Bay Lake Tower at The Contemporary are great accommodations, but the upcoming waterside Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Resort Village could be the new jewel of the DVC crown. Granted, it’s going to take us forever to save up in order to afford just one night at these Bungalows, but this was a brilliant idea.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: January 1, 2015

by on January 1, 2015

1Hi, Everyone! Welcome to a whole new year of the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! Or maybe it isn’t fair to just say Walt Disney World, since I received passes to Universal Orlando Resort this Christmas! :D This week I’m excited to share my first trip there in ages, show off the new Polynesian Resort lobby, stop by Disney’s Hollywood Studios to check out the Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special, and lastly pop in Epcot for some last minute holiday fun. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get going!

I’ve mentioned before that I love Universal, but some of the rides are too intense for me. (Maybe that’s why Cat In The Hat was my first stop!) When picking an admission ticket we normally end up choosing Disney just because there’s more we can do together. However, when passes are a gift there is no decision to be made, and I was just dying to see Diagon Alley! Click “read more” below for more on my first visit!

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Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report – December 21 to 27, 2014

by on December 30, 2014

Universal Orlando Resort Crowd levels were lower than expected last week, continuing the trend over the last few months. December 24th crowds were particularly low compared to what we have seen in years past.

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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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 25: Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

by on December 25, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY TWENTY FIVE: Butterbeer (all versions) at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Orlando Resort)

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Frozen Butterbeer and regular Butterbeer with Hogwarts Castle standing majestically in the background.

 

The Game Changer.

When the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village opened in 2010, it was a brand new day at the Universal Orlando Resort. Guests were leaving with bags filled with Potter merchandise, a stark contrast for a resort that sold a ton of Thing 1 & Thing 2 shirts, but little else of note. Harry Potter and the Forbbiden Journey had a queue that guests wanted to spend more time in. Imagine that. In a world where theme parks are spending Millions (if not Billions) on getting guests through queues quicker, guests wanted to stay longer in the elaborate Forbidden Journey queue. As Vizzini would say, “Inconceivable!”

But what no one was prepared for was a little drink called Butterbeer. To say it was popular may be the understatement of the century, as Universal celebrated selling one million Butterbeers just six months after their debut. It is said that Universal made enough money of the sale of Butterbeer in those six months to completely cover the entire cost of the Wizarding World. Since the very first drinks were poured, guests have debated which was better: regular Butterbeer or frozen Butterbeer. The answer? Neither, the Hot Butterbeer is clearly the best. They are all so good they are going to collectively get the # 1 spot and, what the heck, we’re going to add in Butterbeer Ice Cream from Florean Fortescue’s as well!

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 23: Duff Beer at Duff Brewery

by on December 23, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY TWENTY THREE: Duff Beer at Duff Brewery (Universal Studios Florida)

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“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” – Homer Simpson (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

Just as Universal Studios Florida itself will celebrate its 25 year anniversary in 2015, The Simpsons television show celebrated its silver anniversary this year. Since 1989, Homer and the gang in Springfield, USA have been making us laugh with hilarious observations on American culture. One of the longest running  gags of the series is Duff Beer, Homer’s favorite drink of choice. Universal made Duff Beer a reality in 2013 when it expanded its own Springfield area of the park with Fast Food Blvd, Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, and Duff Brewery.

Duff Brewery has seating around the bar along with many tables nearby facing the Universal lagoon and the London Waterfront facade of Diagon Alley. In trademark Simpsons fashion, Duff Brewery has hilarious mock beer ads, along with nods to the iconic show itself, such as full size topiaries of the “Seven Duffs” (a takeoff on Disney’s Seven Dwarfs.) Duff Brewery offers Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff dry in bottles, along with Duff and Duff Lite on draught. For people of a certain age, Duff Beer is synonymous with growing up as Aunt Beru’s Blue Milk on Tatooine or Butterbeer in Hogsmeade village.

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Universal Orlando Crowd Report – December 14 to 20, 2014

by on December 23, 2014

Last week, we predicted that the first part of the week would stay in the lower part of our scale then increase as the weekend approached. What we observed at Universal Orlando was pretty close to that, with the first half of the week hovering at a level ‘3’ followed by three days at a level ‘4’. Only two of our park level predictions missed by more than one index level.

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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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 20: Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew at the Hopping Pot

by on December 20, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY TWENTY: Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew at the Hopping Pot (Universal Studios Florida)

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Dragon Scale brew inside Universal’s Diagon Alley. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

We’re getting closer and closer to Christmas Day, so it is no surprise that some heavy hitters of the theme park drinking world are starting to come out. As we begin our final countdown to the big day we have our very first dual nomination, Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew at The Hopping Pot. Just as the Hog’s Head Brew is exclusive to Hogsmeade Village, Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew can only be found inside Diagon Alley. Dragon Scale is a malty lager, making it a great choice in the Florida heat, whereas Wizard’s Brew is a sweet stout, with flavors of chocolate and coffee. The beer tap for Dragon Scale has a dragon draped around it, similar to the iconic one standing atop Gringotts Bank, and is one of those fantastic details that sets the Wizarding World apart from lands in any theme park.

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 18: Buffalos and Bacon at The Cowfish

by on December 18, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY EIGHTEEN: Buffalos and Bacon at The Cowfish (Universal CityWalk)

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Buffalos and Bacon at The Cowfish. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

The Cowfish was the final piece of Universal CityWalk’s recent renovation, and it has immediately become the restaurant of choice for many theme park fans. The Cowfish has surprised pretty much everyone with its innovative menu, unique burgers, and their signature Burgushi concept (which includes sushi using burger components, and sandwiches using sushi components.) Come for the food, but stay for the drinks as The Cowfish offers an amazing amount of cocktails, imported beer, and spiked shakes. Our recommendation? Buffalos and Bacon.Why? Because what drink doesn’t get better with bacon? Ingredients: Buffalo Trace bourbon, cherry liqueur, angostura and orange bitters, honey, candied bacon

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One-Day/Two-Parks; A Universal Orlando Trip Report

by on December 17, 2014

The gate to the Studios.

The gate to the Studios.

…in which our intrepid couple travels outside the Disney bubble and lives to tell about it.

Step 1 – Transportation from Walt Disney World to Universal and Park Tickets

While planning for a particularly long vacation to Walt Disney World, my husband and I decided to squeeze in a day over at Universal Orlando Resort to try out a one-day / two-park touring plan of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Instantly we were faced with the question, “How do we get there?” We were planning on taking Disney’s Magical Express from the airport and would not have a car while on vacation. Would we dare to use the public transportation and hop a bus? We had seen a harrowing,(although hilarious) YouTube video of a British couple who took this route. It didn’t work out so well for them, and they splurged for a cab ride on the way back. Yes, busing was out of the question. We were on a time limit and didn’t have the three hours it took these poor folks just to get to the park. Well, with rental car and busing out of the question, that left us with a taxi.

We did our homework and priced up the fares using the Mears Transportation website. It didn’t seem too terrible, and this is really what we were leaning towards, until I read in the fine print that even if stuck in traffic, the meter is running. We wanted to be on the roadways during rush hour traffic. This probably was not a good plan either. Well, what to do? Do we just forget about Universal? No! Where there is a will, there is a way. And after more research we discovered that some of the travel agencies that sell tickets also sell transportation packages. Now we’re talking!

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 16: Fishy Green Ale at the Fountain of Fair Fortune

by on December 16, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY SIXTEEN: Fishy Green Ale at the Fountain of Fair Fortune

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Fishy Green Ale. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

One of the most unique and original drinks created for Diagon Alley earlier this summer was Fishy Green Ale. Like the original Butterbeer and then the Flaming Moe in Springfield, Universal has created a theme park signature drink that was like no other. The drink itself is green in color with a creamy mint taste along with some hints of cinnamon. At the bottom of the drink are plump blueberry “fish eggs.” The Fishy Green Ale comes with a bigger straw than the other drinks to be able to suck these “eggs” up and they almost explode in your mouth. The non-alcoholic Fishy Green Ale may not be  for everyone, but those who enjoy it are going to love it. 

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