Universal Orlando Resort

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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Mama Della’s: The Best Full-Service Restaurant at Universal Orlando

by on March 9, 2015

There are so many different classifications one can sort a theme park restaurant into – best themed, best ambiance, best location, best food, best price. But what of the best overall venue, the one that most successfully manages to not only balance all of these different considerations, but to also be more than just the sum of its parts? That would surely be a difficult feat to pull off, and the eatery would probably be jam-packed full of people day in and day out.

Mama Della's Ristorante

Image © Universal

With Universal Orlando Resort’s best all-around full-service restaurant, Mama Della’s Ristorante, this is most certainly not the case. Maybe it’s because it’s located at Portofino Bay Hotel, which is tucked away in the corner of the resort. Maybe it’s because it’s overshadowed by a (growing) number of other eateries at the theme parks, from Harry Potter’s wondrous digs to the tasty fast food offerings of Springfield, USA. Maybe it’s just because it’s not Mythos, which has long been considered the best theme park restaurant in the world.

Whatever the reason, Mama Della’s is typically devoid of the long lines and online buzz that is associated with much of the rest of Universal’s lineup, making it a superlative dining experience in nearly every sense – terrific food, atmospherics, and wait times.

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Universal Orlando Crowd Calendar Report – February 22 to 28, 2015

by on March 3, 2015

Last week the only crowd level that surprised us was Islands of Adventure on Saturday. Other than that, the Crowd Calendar predictions were within one index level every day. The parks were manageable every day with no crowd level reaching higher than a level ‘4’ on our scale – good news for guests of Universal Orlando Resort.

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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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – February 15 to 21, 2015

by on February 24, 2015

Last week, a rainy Tuesday kept Universal Orlando crowd levels at bay until Wednesday and Thursday when wait times spiked a couple levels higher than expected. This happens often when guests lose a vacation day to bad weather. The Crowd Calendar did correctly predict the flow of crowds throughout the week however, including the near-maximum crowds levels on Sunday and Monday as guests took advantage of the Presidents Day and Mardi Gras holidays.

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 SPECIAL EDITION: Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards (AKA “The Burgys”)

by on February 21, 2015

BurgyStatue

The most coveted theme park award of all… The Golden Burgy.

This week’s SATURDAY SIX presents the Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards. This weekend, while the rest of the world is preparing for The Oscars and spending hours watching awards given to films they haven’t even heard of, let alone watched (not to mention the outright Best Picture snubs of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier), readers of this column will be able to see their favorite theme park attractions get the attention they deserve. The Golden Burgy, theme park media’s highest award, is being handed out to the rides, shows, restaurants, and experiences that truly stood out over the past year.

Just as the Academy Awards hand out their lesser prizes before the main show, we’d like to present two of our minor awards before we get to the big ones. First, a Golden Burgy goes to the Holy Land Experience in the category of Best Theme Park Food Pun for their Garden of Eaten Chicken Salad Sandwich. Interestingly enough, Holy Land had all the nominees in this category including JerusaLamb, Land of Milk (no honey,and My Cup Overflows Souvenir Refillable Cup. The category of Biggest Theme Park Free Fall experience was the tightest race of all the nominees. Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens was the favorite to win, but the coveted Golden Burgy instead went to SeaWorld’s stock price. Now that’s a drop.

With those out of the way, allow us to present to you the Inaugural SATURDAY SIX Theme Park Awards, starting with…

# 6 – Best New Ride Experience – Diagon Alley’s Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts 

Gringotts1_Bricker

The rotunda inside Gringotts bank includes an incredible view. And this is just the queue! (photo by Tom Bricker)

What else needs to be said about Universal’s newest E-Ticket attraction? The queue for Escape From Gringotts is one of the best in theme park history, loaded with magical details from the Harry Potter films. There are incredible goblin animatronics and million dollar chandeliers hanging above that make the Gringotts Bank lobby almost an attraction by itself.

Unlike IOA’s Forbidden Journey’s “best of” trip through the first four Potter films, Escape From Gringotts places guests directly into events from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Ingeniously showing a movie scene from another perspective, Escape From Gringotts takes Universal’s motto of Ride The Movies to the next level.

Worst New Ride Experience – Being attacked by bees on Rip Ride Rocket 

RipRideRockitBees_Cleary

“Oh the humanity!” Swarms of bees attack riders on Universal Studios Florida’s Rip Ride Rockit. (photo by Mike Sperduto and Matt Cleary.)

While just a minor blip on the radar in 2014, the story of Rip Ride Rockit having a minor problem with bees was enough for us to envision the plot of a new horror film.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: February 19, 2015

by on February 19, 2015

201Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’re enjoying meals not just at Kona Cafe, but also Finnegan’s Bar & Grill over at Universal. Of course, we’re also visiting the Universal Orlando Parks, Downtown Disney, and stopping by the Magic Kingdom too. I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all into just one blog! Let’s figure it out together. :)

For Valentine’s Day lunch we couldn’t think of a better place than Kona Cafe. The food is wonderful and the setting is comfy and casual. Traffic was worse than we’d anticipated so we made it to the podium exactly on time for our 12:30pm reservation. Of course, that meant we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. They seemed quite short staffed with several empty tables despite gobs of people waiting outside. It was nice to have the tables next to us open, though. Our appetizer of potstickers ($8.49) were super yummy and came out so quickly they beat our drinks!

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Want to see what we ordered? Be sure to click to read more!

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – February 8 to 14, 2015

by on February 17, 2015

Each day last week, crowds at Universal Orlando Resort came in at or below levels predicted by our Universal Crowd Calendar. The beginning of the week was particularly slower than expected but then crowds picked up by midweek and continued through the weekend.

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: Cowfish at Universal CityWalk Orlando Review

by on February 16, 2015

Cowfish Logo

Cowfish Logo

 

Disclosure: Please note that while we were not compensated for our meal, we were seated at Cowfish by management after my husband spoke to someone at corporate office.

Despite the fact that we’ve been driving down the road to party it up at Universal Studios Orlando for nearly eight years now, it’s hard to pry my husband and me away from our beloved outdoor bars and into restaurants. Hey, we like to people-watch… how else would I be able to snobbishly judge passersby on the nerd culture displayed on their clothing? So we were a little disappointed to hear that one of CityWalk’s newest establishments, the sushi-burger fusion place Cowfish, had nixed its outdoor bar food service literally the day before we arrived. Typically, that’s how you get lazy, food-obsessed locals to swear vengeance on your establishment… hey, my name isn’t Inigo Montoya, I take my vendettas where I can. Cowfish’s menu had come so highly recommended, however, and from so many different people, that we had to give it a try. Turns out, it’s a good thing we did, since Cowfish is really, really worth the trip. Enough that we went twice just to tell you about different things!

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – February 1 to 7, 2015

by on February 10, 2015

Although our Universal Crowd Calendar missed by one level some days last week it perfectly matched the shape of how crowds flowed day-to-day. Our wait time predictions tended to be a little high last week but not by much.

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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