Universal Orlando Resort

The Three Broomsticks: The Best Quick-Service Restaurant at Universal Orlando

by on March 30, 2015

On the one hand, it’s extraordinarily easy to pick The Three Broomsticks as the best quick-service restaurant at all of Universal Orlando Resort – it’s one of the best-themed experiences to be had in the entire industry, generally, let alone a culinary one, specifically. (Of course, the accomplishment is only abetted by Harry Potter’s whimsical mythology and engrossing details, which already does much to transform eating into a magical experience [no pun intended].)

The Three Broomsticks facade

Image © Dan Hatfield

On the other hand, however, it’s a rather controversial choice. First, there’s the little matter of Three Broomsticks’s competition at the resort, which is considerable; everything from the quick-service Fast Food Boulevard to CityWalk’s ever-expanding options to, of course, that other Potter establishment, The Leaky Cauldron, offer compelling reasons – especially of the gastronomical kind – to stay away from the first Wizarding World’s dive.

There’s also the little matter of the restaurant’s menu not being the most expansive, and that the quality of its food, while still substantial, isn’t of the same level as, say, Mythos, Islands of Adventure’s flagship eatery just down the path a ways (though the latter is a full-service stop, which might be comparing apples to oranges).

It’s actually a testament to The Three Broomsticks’s wonderfully addictive atmosphere that the restaurant more than manages to make up for its shortcomings, and that the overall experience truly is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – March 15 to 21, 2015

by on March 25, 2015

Aside from Saturday when crowds dipped lower than expected by two index points, the Crowd Calendar predictions did very well at Universal Orlando Resort last week. The parks remained crowded most of the week thanks to Spring Break-ers and their families.

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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Menu Monday: The Food of Universal Mardi Gras

by on March 23, 2015

New Orleans, the Big Easy, is known for many things. Jazz, art, voo doo, and of course tantalizing Cajun cuisine. Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is a popular annual event, but not necessarily because of the special food and beverages offered during this special time of the year. Yet, if you head to Universal Orlando to take part in Mardi Gras, your experience isn’t really complete if you don’t let your taste buds in on the fun.

Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is held each weekend from the beginning of February to mid-April (specific days and dates vary by weekend) and personally it is one of my favorite things about visiting Universal. The fun is definitely saved for the afternoon and evening. It’s touted as “Florida’s Biggest Party.” While this is one heck of a marketing claim, it isn’t too far off the bulls-eye, in the eyes of this Florida Native. I’ll confess, I am not a fan of most of the in-park counter service food offered here at Universal, but I will say some of the better quick style food can be found during Universal Mardi Gras.

Twisted Taters

What is this creation? Read on.

 

 

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Mardi Gras Celebration

by on March 21, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Mardi Gras Celebration. No one loves theme park events more than us. Mickey’s Not So Scary? Fantastic. Halloween Horror Nights? Even better. Grinchmas, Mickey’s Very Merry, and Food & Wine? Can’t wait for each of them.  Villain’s Unleashed? The exception that proves the rule.

But one of our favorite events of the year takes place at Universal Studios Florida and is included with regular park admission. We’re talking about Mardi Gras, and today we’re going to look at six reasons why this is the best party outside of New Orleans itself and we’ll start off with….

# 6 – The Walk Around Characters

Get your cameras ready because there are a ton of colorful characters throughout the party, and all of them would love to take their pictures with you. From steampunk inspired cowboys to court jesters and everything in-between (including jazz bands), there is something for everyone.

MardiGras_jokers_Glover

The King and Queen of Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration welcome you to one of the best theme park parties of the year. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Universal Studios Florida Photo Update: Mardi Gras, Furious 7, and Garden of Allah

by on March 19, 2015

Spring break is shifting into high gear at all theme parks right now, and Universal Orlando is no exception. If you don’t feel like struggling through the crowds, come take a virtual tour with me in today’s Universal Studios Florida photo update, featuring a look at construction on Garden of Allah Villas, the new Furious 7 car display, and last weekend’s Mardi Gras concert.

Garden of Allah Villas Construction

The Garden of Allah Villas complex between Hollywood and KidZone is still behind construction walls, behind which is what permit filings describe as a “NBCUniversal Media Lab.” Leave your thoughts in the comments as to what exactly that means.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – March 8 to 14, 2015

by on March 17, 2015

Last week, like the week before, Universal Orlando crowds came in lower than expected but not significantly so. Each day the wait times across the resort were 8 to 12 minutes lower than predicted, on average. Five out of seven days last week our crowd calendar correctly predicted the park crowd levels within 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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Updated Universal Orlando Content Now Online to Celebrate Upcoming Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando

by on March 16, 2015

I’ve written tens of thousands of sentences in the nearly 5 years I’ve been working for The Unofficial Guide and Touring Plans, but this one is the most exciting: The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, our first stand-alone guidebook dedicated to the home of Harry Potter, is on its way!

Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando

The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando is on its way! (Not to scale; book not shown actual size).

The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando is available now for pre-order, and is listed on Amazon.com with an August 11 release date. If you know The Unofficial Guides and Touring Plans from our Disney coverage, you may be wondering, “Why create a guide for Universal Orlando?” Well, as the author (along with co-authors Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa) of the new book, I’m glad you asked!

The short answer is that we listen to our readers, and we watch where people are spending their vacation time and dollars. Ever since the opening of the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010, and especially since the debut of Diagon Alley in 2014, interest in and attendance at Universal Orlando has exploded. Every day, more and more Central Florida visitors are choosing Universal as their primary destination, or at making it a significant sideline.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Theme Park Questions For the Magic 8 Ball

by on March 14, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Theme Park Questions For the Magic 8 Ball. Theme park fans have a lot of questions. In fact, the mailbag at the Saturday Six offices is stuffed with letters from fans asking about their favorite Orlando parks. Unfortunately, thanks to TV being our babysitter growing up, our reading comprehension isn’t that great. We hired some interns to handle the mail, but they are even worse because of YouTube, Vine and Twitter (enjoy life now because we’re all doomed when this generation takes control of things.) So we did the only thing that we could do given the circumstances….we made up our own questions.

# 6 – What will Avatarland do in the area of merchandise?

Avatar_Visa_Bon

A Na’vi makes the bond with 15.99% APR. (photo by Matt Cleary)

Disney has slowly been giving us information on the upcoming Avatar expansion at Animal Kingdom, including the groundbreaking ceremony in early 2014 in which Imagineers used 10 foot shovels. Several attractions have been vaguely teased, and the point is always stressed that this land is attempting to be one of the most amazing experiences in theme park history. It’s James Cameron and Walt Disney Imagineering, two of the best in the world at what they do.

However, one thing that hasn’t been mentioned at all is what kind of retail opportunities there will be in this land, if any. Avatar is the most successful movie in the history of cinema, but it does not lead itself to the traditional methods of merchandising that Universal has used for its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The third act of Avatar is hinged on the fact that the humans have nothing to offer the Na’vi, because the natives of Pandora have no use for materialistic things. What are those materialistic things? Shirts, action figures, magnets, and pretty much anything else you would find in a theme park gift shop.

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March 2015 Photo Update of IOA’s King Kong Ride

by on March 12, 2015

King Kong

Construction roars ahead on Islands of Adventure’s Project 340, now officially revealed as King Kong’s return. (photos by Seth Kubersky)

What a difference a quarter makes! Just 90-odd days ago, when we last posted a Kongstruction update, we were looking at the framework of an anonymous building known only as Islands of Adventure‘s Mysterious “Project 340″ under construction in a corner of Jurassic Park. Three months dater, thanks to an executive’s slip of the tongue during Comcast’s recent earnings call, we can officially confirm that King Kong is well on his way back to Universal Orlando, and the big ape’s new home is already looking spectacular.

Without further delay, here’s a selection of my latest shots of the every-accellerating construction on IOA’s new King Kong attraction, as seen from guest areas around Toon Lagoon, Thunder Falls Terrace, and Camp Jurassic.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – March 1 to 7, 2015

by on March 10, 2015

Last week, Universal Orlando Resort saw wait times much lower than history would suggest for the first week of March. Guests who visited the parks were lucky to experience crowds that may end up being some of the lowest we see all spring.

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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