Universal Orlando Resort

Video: New Beetlejuice Show Debuts at Universal Studios Florida

by on February 11, 2014

Universal Studios Florida's new Beetlejuice show video February 8.

Universal Studios Florida’s new Beetlejuice show opened February 8.

“It’s showtime!”…again at Universal Studios Florida, as a brand-new Beetlejuice show debuted on February 8, barely a month after the previous version of Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue closed in early 2014. The new production still teams up updated incarnations of Universal’s Classic Monsters with the “ghost with the most” (originally portrayed by Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s 1988 supernatural comedy) for a rock ‘n’ roll karaoke concert.

The newly revamped version brings back Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride, and the Wolfman, along with their eponymous host. Added to the mix are Cleo and Phantasia, feminine reinterpretations of the Mummy and the Phantom of the Opera, along with two pairs of backup dancers in ghoulish getups. Naturally, all the music has been changed up, and now focuses on 1980′s vintage pop, including the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” The Romantics’ “What I Like About You,” and The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

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Universal Dining: Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific Resort

by on February 11, 2014

TchoupChop_SignI’m a big fan of all three of Universal’s on-site hotels but the Royal Pacific Resort is definitely my favorite. Even though I have been going to the hotel for years, I have always eaten my meals at the parks or at CityWalk. After having a terrific breakfast buffet experience at the Islands Dining Room earlier last year, I realized I needed to start checking out all the eateries at the Royal Pacific. First I tried lunch and drinks at Jake’s American Bar, followed by the Royal Pacific’s Character Breakfast (also at Jake’s). In January of this year, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop made some major changes by bringing in a new chef de cuisine, Ryan Vargas, and completely updating their lunch and dinner menus. Seth Kubersky wrote an article on the TouringPlans blog recently that explored the new menu, and that sealed the deal for me. I needed to try Tchoup Chop ASAP.

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Universal Orlando CityWalk Antojitos Review

by on February 9, 2014

Universal Orlando CityWalk Antojitos review

Our Antojitos review is in, as Universal Orlando CityWalk’s newest restaurant opens its doors.

After months of construction and speculation, and a week of soft-opening service, Antojitos Authentic Mexican restaurant officially opened to the public on February 5, 2014, as the newest dining upgrade in Universal Orlando’s ongoing CityWalk overhaul. I was among the few journalists invited to taste-test the menu last month, and since the first public seating I’ve dined there three times, including the grand opening media party. While I haven’t yet eaten everything on the menu, I have sampled enough to provide this preliminary Antojitos review, which we’ll refine as the restaurant finds its rhythm.

Atmosphere

As you’ll instantly notice from the photographs, Universal’s replacement for the former Latin Quarter restaurant isn’t some sedate hacienda.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six “Secrets” of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hogsmeade Village

by on February 8, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six “Secrets” of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hogsmeade Village. When Islands of Adventure opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) in 2010, Universal established a new gold standard in theme park immersion. Walking into Hogsmeade Village is the closest anyone can come to stepping into the pages of J.K. Rowling’s book series. Filled with magic and surprises, Universal’s Wizarding World contains many secrets that not every guest knows about – even the ones who have been several times. Today we’re going to look at six of our favorites.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version.

OwlPostDuo# 6 – Muggles can get their mail postmarked from Hogsmeade

Next to Ollivanders is the Owl Post, and outside of that is a manned Owl Post station where you can mail letters and get them marked with an actual Hogsmeade stamp. We all have friends and family who can’t make it down to Orlando, and this is one of the cheapest souvenirs you can get for them. It can also be a unique Wizarding World item to have waiting for you once you return home from vacation, so consider mailing something to yourself.

There is stationary you can buy in Hogsmeade Village to write your letter, or you can just bring your own. You’re also responsible for your own postage. Once you are ready, take your mail to the witch or wizard manning the station, and he or she will stamp your envelope and hand it off to Errol, Pigwidgeon, or the next owl up for delivery.

OWLPost3

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort: February 3, 2014 (Royal Pacific, Tchoup Chop, New Merchandise and more)

by on February 7, 2014

A lot is going on at the Universal Orlando Resort this year. Seth Kubersky wrote a great Complete Guide to Mardi Gras 2014 and continues to update us all on the upcoming Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley with his PotterWatch series of articles. The new Mexican restaurant Antojitos had its grand opening on February 5, and major work continues on CityWalk to get the other new restaurants up and running by summer. This past week I spent some time on property, and here’s a quick snapshot of what I experienced.

As a reminder, click on any picture to see it in full size.

CityWalkUpstair

Signage in CityWalk is going through a lot of changes. All references to Katie’s Candy Company, TCBY and Cigarz is gone. There are Antojitos signs popping up here and there, but still plenty of empty spots that will be filled down the road.

The temporary construction walls that are set up by the old Studio Store and Galaxy Bar are also now completely filled with posters teasing the upcoming revamped Studios Store, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Vivo Italian Kitchen, and CowFish.

The temporary Studio Store set up in CityWalk is always a ghost town when I’m there and has never had more than one other person in it during the times I visited. There was an employee standing outside, presumably to encourage people to come into the store. It can’t help that there is no Potter merchandise in the store, as all of that has been moved to separate stand in the middle of CityWalk.

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley Peep Holes and Celebration Recap

by on February 3, 2014

Universal Harry Potter Diagon alley peep holes

Diagon Alley peep holes, Celebration videos, and Gringotts rumors in the latest PotterWatch report

It’s been just over a week since Universal Orlando‘s big Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley webcast reveal, but there are still plenty of surprises in store. For this edition of PotterWatch, we’ll take a look through the new Diagon Alley peep holes that Universal considerately cut in the London Waterfront’s construction wall, plus a look back at the recent Celebration of Harry Potter event via some exclusive video. Finally, we’ll finish up with a few hot new Gringotts rumors.

Diagon Alley Peep Holes

With major construction complete on Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront facade, and the scaffolding recently removed, I had feared there wouldn’t be much left to see in terms of exterior progress on the project.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About

by on February 1, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About. It’s hard to believe that in a land full of fantastical theme parks, luxurious hotels, and wonderful memories filled with pixie dust that people could have anything to complain about. But they do. In fact, after a thorough investigation the Saturday Six staff has compiled a list of 548,321 complaints, and that’s just in the Florida parks. Today we’re going to look at the six of most prevalent complaints and say “STAHP!”

StarbucksMickey

If you thought Talking Mickey was a hit, wait till Barista Mickey makes his debut….

# 6 – “They are building too many Starbucks”

Out of nowhere, Starbucks has seemed to have taken over the theme park world in Florida. The first step in theme park world domination for the coffee brand? The beloved Main Street Bakery at the Magic Kingdom. Starbucks then moved over to Epcot and replaced the Fountain View Cafe, complete with a hidden Communicore logo to appease the hardcore fans. Two more Starbucks are coming to Downtown Disney, and it is rumored that locations will be opening up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, as well. Not to be outdone, the Starbucks location over at Universal’s CityWalk is moving from its second floor No-Man’s-Land location down onto the ground level, and Island of Adventure’s Arctic Express has been converted into a Starbucks, as well.

What’s going here? The answer is simple. People love Starbucks. Period. The Starbucks brand is strong enough that it can charge a premium price for a drink you can get almost anywhere else cheaper, and have people lining up for it. While the Main Street Bakery certainly wasn’t hurting for business before, it’s easy to see how successful the ones at Downtown Disney and Universal will be compared to what they are replacing. The new Starbucks locations are in prime real estate and will be all but printing money.

If these Starbucks locations were McDonald’s, you could make a case that there are better restaurants all over either property. If the locations were Dunkin’ Donuts you could make a case that there are better bakeries around. But no one at Disney or Universal is doing a better job than Starbucks at making good coffee and, as far as we know, the world didn’t end when the first Grande Latte went out.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We’re Excited About in Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley

by on January 25, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Things We’re Excited About in Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. This week was a big week for Harry Potter fans as Universal had its long awaited webcast featuring details of the upcoming Diagon Alley expansion in Universal Studios Florida, and the resort is having a weekend long Celebration of Harry Potter. We’ve been following Seth Kubersky’s PotterWatch series of articles for a while now, and we’re about to explode with excitement. So today we’re counting down six things that just can’t get here fast enough….

# 6 – Knockturn Alley 

It’s very rare to have sections of theme parks dedicated to “the bad guys,” but we at the Saturday Six can’t get enough of them. We love meeting Gaston and enjoying a LeFou’s Brew in New Fantasyland, while over at Universal’s Islands of Adventure we like walking through Villain’s Alley at Marvel Superhero Island to see all the little details (and to ride Dr. Doom’s Fearfall). While very few details have been given out about Knockturn Alley (which we saw in the films Chamber of Secrets and Half Blood Prince), we’re looking forward to an experience at Borgin and Burkes, a store specializing in items related to the Dark Arts. We’re also hoping that various items related to Dark Magic will be for sale, including Death Eater masks, cursed necklaces, horcruxes, and skulls of creatures from the Potter universe. This is Universal Creative’s chance to take creepiness to an “11,” and we hope they go all the way with it.

SS_BorginandBurkes

Borgin and Burkes store of Dark Magic, as envisioned by J.K. Rowling’s Pottermoret

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PotterWatch: Universal’s Diagon Alley Webcast Reveals New Harry Potter Details

by on January 23, 2014

New concept art of Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion from today's Diagon Alley webcast

New concept art of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion from today’s Diagon Alley webcast.

If you’ve been following our PotterWatch series so far, you probably already watched this morning’s Diagon Alley webcast, in which Universal Orlando revealed new details about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion opening this June at Universal Studios Florida. The 30 minute presentation, broadcast from inside a “Gringotts vault,” was hosted by Universal Creative’s Mark Woodbury, and featured appearances from Potter film actors Mathew Lewis, James Phelps, and Evanna Lynch. But just in case you were unable to sign up for a link to the live video, or were stuck at work while it was playing, here’s a quick recap of what was revealed and confirmed about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley (as the new area is known):

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First Look: New Menu at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop featuring Robata Grill

by on January 23, 2014

Emeril's Tchoup Chop new menu Robata grill

An updated sushi bar is just one of chef Ryan Vargas’ new changes at Emeril’s Tchop Chop

Since it opened with Loews Royal Pacific Resort hotel in 2001, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop has established itself as one of the best upscale eateries at Universal Orlando Resort. To kick off 2014, my favorite happy hour hangout has shaken things up in a serious way, with a new chef, new front-of-house management, new flavors, and a new high-tech tool in the kitchen. We’ll be returning in the future for a fully detailed review of Tchoup Chop’s new menu choices, but for now here’s a small taste to whet your appetite.

New chef de cuisine Ryan Vargas (a veteran of Four Seasons and Ritz Carltons in Hawaii and Palm Beach) came on board in October, but only recently introduced his completely revamped menu. The emphasis is still on “Asian-inspired island cuisine”, but there are a variety of new appetizers and entrees, an expanded sushi selection, and a brand-new specialty cocktail list.

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