Universal Orlando Resort

SATURDAY SIX: Six Snacks At Universal Orlando You Gotta Try

by on December 17, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Snacks at Universal Orlando That You Gotta Try! A couple weeks ago we flew across the country to check out some of the great Disneyland snacks, and today we’re back home in Florida to look at even more delectable delights. We’re going to head over to the Universal Orlando Resort, home of some of the most outrageous and most extreme food options we’ve ever seen in the theme park world. However, instead of looking at crazy desserts that should come with an insulin pump, we are going to set our sights on some of the most original, creative, or just plain fun treats  in either Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida. So sit back, prepare to channel your inner Homer Simpson, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – Lard Lad D’oh-nuts

The fine folks in Springfield USA are no strangers to delivering great donuts to us theme park fans. The area opened with the debut of the classic Lard Lad giant pink donut, which immediately became a huge hit. In 2016, Lard Lad introduced more donuts to the menu, but in true Simpsons fashion, they didn’t go with the same ol’ same ol. Instead we got the donuts we dreamed of. Donuts topped with crushed Oreos, Fruity Pebbles, bacon and more! This at least gives us in Orlando a small taste of the type of donut options available in Universal Studios Hollywood’s Lard Lad. Unlike Orlando, USH’s Lard Lad does not serve ice cream because their Springfield has Phineas Q. Butterfat’s Ice Cream Parlor, so instead they opened with a larger variety of donuts.

Lard Lard Oreo d’oh-nut. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Lard Lad Fruity Pebbles donuts. (photo by Brandon Glover)

A selection of some of the D’oh-nuts available, and take a look at that GIANT apple fritter in the back! Universal a clear supporter of #MAGA. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 5 – Character Themed Candy Bars

Several years ago, Disney started releasing some very fun candy boxes featuring many of their iconic characters from both movies and the theme parks. However, the actual candy had very little to do with the characters outside of silly puns. For example, there was the Haunted Mansion’s Madam Leota on the box of I See Chocolate In Your Future (dark chocolate hot fudge truffle.) Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat was on the box of I’m Just Mad About Chocolate (milk chocolate mint meltaways) while Monster Inc’s Mike Wazowski and Celia Mae had the Eye Know What Women Want! Chocolate! (milk chocolate peanut butter.)

Universal has many generic candy options themed to their brands as well (including my favorite, the Jaws themed gummy fish candy,) but there are also ten candy bars which are completely tied into the characters they feature. The candy bar with Despicable Me’s Minions uses banana in its recipe, while the one with Agnes is cotton candy flavored (in the film, the kids came home from Super Silly Land with Cotton Candy.) The E.T.  bar is a chocolate peanut butter bar with Reeses Pieces, while Spongebob Squarepants has a white chocolate pineapple bar with pineapple bits. The synergy between these bars and the characters they feature is a great touch, and something we can hopefully see more of from both Universal and Disney in the future.

Universal candy bars. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: In Memoriam – Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2016

by on December 10, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2016. As theme park fans, we’ve had a lot to be thankful for this year. However, as much as we are looking forward to the opening of Pandora and more Star Wars at Disney, or Volcano Bay and the upcoming Nintendo projects at Universal, it wasn’t all good news. This year we had to say goodbye to some old friends. Today we pay our respects to some of those that we lost in the past year, starting with….

# 6 – Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue (Universal Studios Florida)

While I was never the biggest fan of Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue, it did hold a special place in my heart because we got to see the Universal Classic Monsters – including Dracula, Wolfman, and Frankenstein – on stage. Outside of cameos in the underrated Horror Make-up Show and theming inside the Classic Monsters Cafe, these characters are not being used in the park. The live show, headlined by Beetlejuice, had been recently revamped with the addition of new characters (including the Phantom of the Opera’s daughter Phantasia) and a new set list of songs.

Originally, Universal stated that the show was going to close on December 2, 2015. However, the show got a short lived stay of execution and continued on until January 5th, 2016. Both Beetlejuice and its next door neighbor Disaster were closed to make way for the upcoming Fast & Furious – Supercharged attraction coming in 2018.

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A moment of silence for Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice….Beetlejuice. (photo by @Drubov)

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The great big Universal theme park in the sky. (photo by @Drubov)

# 5 – Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

DHS fans may want to get a box of Klennex ready, because you’re about to be in for a bumpy ride for the rest of the article. Speaking of bumpy rides (see what I did there) the Lights, Motors, Action! started its run in America as a “gift” from Disneyland Paris as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth. This is why you should ask for a gift receipt when given something, just in case you want to return it. The Action! part of the stunt show was awesome. Guests got to see cars and motorcycles in a series of elaborate sequences that involved crashes, jumps, and even explosions. Unfortunately the “action” only took up about 7 minutes of the near half-hour show. Like a real movie set, a lot of time has to be spent setting up the next stunt. In 2011, the show added in a segment featuring fan favorite Lightning McQueen from Cars.

On April 2, the Lights, Motors, Action! show performed its last stunt. In its place will be the new Star Wars Land.

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Lights, Motors, Action! (photo by Brian Carey)

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Dani’s Best Week Ever December 8, 2016: First Universal Orlando Visit in 20 Years

by on December 8, 2016

Experiencing a theme park for the first time is an eye opening experience. If there is any downside at all to being a frequent theme park visitor it is that the excitement and thrill of the first time quickly gives way to the comfort of the familiar. But really, that’s not actually a problem is it? This weekend I had the privilege of taking my mother to Universal Orlando for her first visit in 20 years. This day in the parks together is one of the best days I ever had in a theme park in my entire life, especially now that Universal Holidays have begun!

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Good morning, Universal Studios Florida

It is a rare occasion in which I find myself in a theme park in the morning, but since this would be my mom’s one and only visit to Universal Orlando I wanted to make sure we got as much done as possible. When we arrived to CityWalk something told me to check at the Concierge booth across from Cinnabon to see if they could print my mother’s will call ticket.

I’ve found that the services provided at this Concierge booth depend on the specific skill set and willingness of the team member working at this location. On this occasion the team member kindly obliged and printed off my mom’s ticket, and explained that the ticket system was down at the parks so the lines at the ticket windows and Guest Services were quite long. Sure enough when we made it to the entrance we saw such sights.

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Loews Sapphire Falls Resort: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by on November 29, 2016

Sapphire FallsVisiting Universal Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights provided the perfect opportunity to stay in the new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Back in July, Dani included a visit to Sapphire Falls in her Best Week Ever series, and I was curious to see if the resort completed most of the last minute touches since then. Here are my first impressions and experiences of Sapphire Falls. To give you a taste of what it’s like to stay at the new resort, we’ll start with ‘great’ and work through ‘good’, ‘average’, and ‘bad’ before finally reaching ‘ugly’.

Great

Staff: When your main competition is Walt Disney World, a company known for its friendly Cast Members, slacking off in the customer service department would be unwise. The Team Members at Sapphire Falls did not disappoint. Every single Team Member, from the luggage service staff to the managers, went out of their way to be friendly, helpful, welcoming, and engaging. Out of all the hotels I’ve visited, including many of the Disney Deluxe resorts, the staff at Sapphire Falls was by far the best I’ve experienced. They genuinely seemed happy to be there.

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SATURDAY SIX: Third Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year

by on November 26, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is one of our favorites as we present the Third Annual “Turkeys” of the Year. For Thanksgiving this week we took a look back at things both Disney and Universal fans should be thankful for, but today we are going to go the other way. Gather ’round as we continue the fine tradition of awarding six Theme Park “Turkeys” to the craziest, most outrageous, or just downright weird stories of the year, concluding with the coveted Golden Turkey award. Let’s kick off the ceremony with a food situation that blew us away….

# 6 – That Time Disney Charged $12.99 For a “Hurricane Box”

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Art by Juliette Elton (@JulietteElton)

In early October, the state of Florida had its biggest weather scare in almost a decade with the oncoming Hurricane Matthew. Most of the models used by meteorologists had Matthew slamming into the East Coast, and then continuing straight up through the center of the state hitting Orlando. Seemingly playing a weird game of chicken, Disney and Universal both waited until just about the last possible moment to announce their hard ticket events of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Halloween Horror Nights would be cancelled for Thursday, October 6th,  and all the Orlando theme parks would be closed on Friday, October 7th.

With the storm bearing down on Florida, food everywhere was being cleared off the shelves at Walt Disney World. Lines appeared at the hotel food courts that seemed impossible to believe were true (but they absolutely were.) The food court at Port Orleans French Quarter was in the process of being refurbished, and there WDW was offering a $12.99 boxed meal that included a sandwich, an apple, a bag of chips, and a cookie. Pictures of the paltry boxed lunch hit social media and news outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel, with most of the reaction being very unfavorable to Disney.

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TBT: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2015

by on November 23, 2016

Greetings! TouringPlans.com Blog Manager Brian here to welcome you to the continuation of TBT: Throwback Thanksgiving week here on the blog. All this week we will be revisiting a few wonderful Thanksgiving-related posts from the past. This wonderful entry from 2015 highlighting the six things that Derek Burgan gave thanks for during that year.

Make sure you come back Thursday at 9:00am for this years items to give thanks for!

 

This week’s SATURDAY SIX  is our annual Thanksgiving Special and takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2015 was another great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, we ask that all Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…

# 6 – Selfie Stick Ban at Walt Disney World

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no_more_selfie_sticks_pamphlet_sethIf you noticed any #Millenials or narcissists wearing black armbands this summer, it was because after banning selfie sticks on Disney attractions earlier in the spring, Walt Disney World completely banned the use of selfie sticks at the parks. Seemingly out of nowhere, the edict came down right after another high profile news story of Disney California Adventure’s California Screamin’ roller coaster being stopped mid ride because of a guest using a selfie stick. On June 26th, WDW guests were given a pamphlet at the parking plaza explaining the selfie stick ban, signage was displayed on the walkways to the parks along with bag check explaining the new policy.

The selfie stick ban was definitely a controversial move to be sure. Universal had earlier become more strict on preventing selfie sticks on rides, but Disney outright stopped people from even entering the park with them. Now we joked earlier about only kids and narcissists using them, the truth is that selfie sticks have become increasingly popular across almost all demographics. While people using selfie sticks inside the parks can be a nuisance, they were starting to become a serious safety factor on attractions. You may have seen what is called an Envelope of Protection as Imagineers test out the attractions. This device makes sure that all the attractions are safe for every rider, basically simulating the possible reach of every guest in the ride vehicle. This is why while it may seem like your may lose your arms in Space Mountain if you hold them up during the ride, but in actuality you are nowhere close to hitting anything. What the Envelope of Protection doesn’t take into account though, is guests holding on to anything that extends their reach.

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TBT: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2014

by on November 21, 2016

Greetings! TouringPlans.com Blog Manager Brian here to welcome you to TBT: Throwback Thanksgiving week here on the blog. All this week we will be revisiting a few wonderful Thanksgiving-related posts from the past. Starting us off is this gem from 2014 highlighting the six things that Derek Burgan gave thanks for during that year.

Make sure you come back Thursday at 9:00am for this years items to give thanks for!

 

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2014 was a great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning, to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, I ask that Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…

# 6 – Disney and Universal Merchandise is Better than Ever

It wasn’t long ago, that the only merchandise people were buying at Universal were Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts. Over at Disney, almost every single store, whether in the parks, hotels, or Downtown Disney, was selling the same generic”Disney Parks”stuff. A seismic shift started to occur in 2010, when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, and blew the doors off everyone’s projections in the area of merchandise and Butterbeer. Guests were now walking out of Universal with house robes, wands and chocolate frogs in hand. This success was then repeated throughout both of their theme parks, with unique and exclusive items found everywhere you looked, from the EVAC action figure at Transformers gift shop, to the faux girl scout cookies in Despicable Me’s Super Silly Store, to my personal favorite – The Film Vault –  a whole new store focusing on retro merchandise.

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Jungle Cruise merchandise found at the Marketplace Co-op in Downtown Disney. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Universal Crowd Calendar Update

by on November 15, 2016

After a three month examination of crowds at Universal Orlando Resort an update to the Universal Crowd Calendar has been posted. Over the past twelve months wait times at Universal Studios have skewed slightly higher than history would suggest and wait times at Islands of Adventure have skewed lower. These new calendar figures adjust for this ongoing trend.

If the crowd levels have changed for your travel dates, don’t panic. A touring plan is still, by far, your best defence against a crowded Universal park. Follow it and you won’t notice a difference between a crowd level ‘5’ and a crowd level ‘8’. If you want to be notified when a crowd level has changed, check out the Crowd Tracker. For a description of how we come up with the numbers, see our Crowd Levels page.

Here is a quick look at how this new update affects the crowd level predictions over the past twelve months.

November 2016

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – October 30 to November 5, 2016

by on November 12, 2016

Universal Crowd Calendar Report for October 30 - November 5, 2016

Universal Crowd Calendar Report for October 30 through November 5, 2016

Last week, Universal Orlando crowds were down, in the lowest third of our crowd scale most days. Universal Studios park saw crowd levels much closer to what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted than at Islands of Adventure where crowds stayed one to two points lower.

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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TouringPlans News Video — November 4, 2016

by on November 4, 2016

For a few weeks now I’ve been putting together a short video news program for our YouTube channel. If you like iffy production value and kind-of-lame jokes it might just be the show you’re looking for. Check it out now and make sure you share and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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