Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Crowd Calendar Report – February 7 to 13, 2016

by on February 16, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Universal Orlando was more crowded than expected last week. Resort-wide we saw the two Universal parks hit crowd levels one to three points higher than the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted. Universal Studios had larger crowds than Islands of Adventure each day.

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 – January 31 to February 6, 2016

by on February 12, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week wait times were so close to what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted it is hard to discern the two lines on our graph. Only Sunday and Tuesday had resort-wide crowd levels that differed from what we predicted and they only missed the mark by one 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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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s A Celebration of Harry Potter

by on February 6, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s A Celebration of Harry Potter. Universal has several great events during the year, including Mardi Gras and Halloween Horror Nights, but one that doesn’t get as much attention celebrates a character who completely changed the fortunes of the Universal Orlando Resort: Harry Potter, the boy who lived. Jam packed into this annual three day event are Q&As with celebrities, wand dueling classes for kids, and a whole bunch of cool stuff inside the Harry Potter Expo. Today we are going to look at our favorite parts of the event, so sit back, take a shot of firewhisky, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – The Sorting Hat Experience

With the Harry Potter books, author JK Rowling created a world that feels as real as our own. It is rich with depth and includes many concepts that readers can instantly identify with. The first Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – finds Harry going to Hogwarts, a magical school for gifted wizards and witches. Each student at Hogwarts is then sorted into one of four houses. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. The way the students are chosen for the houses is through the Sorting Hat. The first Harry Potter film brought this hat to life in an unforgettable scene, and Universal does its best to recreate that moment at A Celebration of Harry Potter.

Guests are brought up to the Sorting Hat and asked several questions from the robed Team Member (including where they were from, what they did for a living, if there’s a house they feel they might fit well in, etc). The Sorting Hat then announces which house it has sorted them in. It sounds crazy, but it’s fun and it’s popular. In fact the Sorting Hat experience gets some of the longest lines of the entire celebration, and why shouldn’t it? Getting sorted is something many Potter fans dream of, and although filling out a questionnaire on Pottermore is one way to get sorted, getting sorted by the Sorting Hat feels real.

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SATURDAY SIX’s own Megan Stump moments before being sorted into Gryffindor. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)

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“Hmm, difficult. VERY difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh yes. And a thirst to prove yourself. But where to put you? ” – The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (photo by Hunter Underwood – @elvenage)

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – January 24 to 30

by on February 5, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week, crowds were within a point of what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted most days except for a rain-soaked two day stretch mid week. Crowds tended to be down all week, never hitting a resort-wide level higher than what we predicted.

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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Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

by on February 2, 2016

Yes, Disney has Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, while Universal boasts Halloween Horror Nights and Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular – but one of the best and most fun annual events to be found at either of the theme park resorts is actually a little something called Mardi Gras, which, until recently, it seems, was a little-known secret to Florida locals and annual passholders. And, best of all, it’s absolutely free – no need for pesky separate tickets or dessert party add-ons.

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

Image © Universal

Plan on checking out the family-friendly version of New Orleans’s most wonderful time of the year? We’ll tell you everything there is to know.

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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: Bait You Can Click On

by on January 30, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a truly special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. What a week. If you’re like us you’ve been deluged with #Blizzard2016 pictures, the Oscars dealing with a diversity problem, and Donald Trump being Donald Trump. However we’ve been informed that a whole lot of stuff happened in the theme park world recently. So we took a page out of our old college playbook and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Pizza Planet Under Major Refurbishment. Coming Back With a New Theme?

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Could Pizza Planet actually come back with a Muppets theme? (photo by Matt Cleary)

First, some backstory. For years Jim Hill, an icon of theme park media, has been telling the story of how the Muppets were originally going to be used in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. One of the things that never ended up coming to fruition was The Great Gonzo’s Pandemonium Pizza Parlor. Can you imagine a Muppet’s themed restaurant, with a kitchen run by the Swedish Chef, where Mama Melrose’s Restorante Italiano now sits?  Dare to dream.

Now it’s time to put on the detective hat. Recently Pizza Planet at DHS closed down for a long refurbishment. What should have been a wonderfully themed venue themed to the world of Toy Story was instead one of WDW’s most bland restaurants/arcade. Back at the D23 Expo, Disney unveiled details of the upcoming Toy Story Land expansion. This new land is going to built on the other side of the park, so it would be strange to have a Pixar related restaurant (no matter how poorly themed) so far away from everything else. After the construction walls went up around Pizza Planet, WDW uncharacteristically put up a lot of humorous signs on the walls. Gags that are much more in line with the type of jokes  you see in the building of say… Muppet*Vison 3D. In a recent edition of the Disney Dish podcast, Jim Hill said that instead of a Gonzo themed restaurant, we may actually see The Swedish Chef’s Cooking School.

Will Pizza Planet return from it’s refurbishment as a Muppets themed restaurant? Time will tell, but it is almost assuredly not coming back as Pizza Planet and for that we can all be thankful. To stay up to date on this story follow the boys over at WDWThemeParks.com.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever January 28, 2016: Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Update

by on January 28, 2016

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Indulge your sweet tooth in this Best Week Ever update of Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando (photos/video by Seth Kubersky)

 

I hope you set your alarm clocks this morning, because this Best Week Ever is up and at ’em before daybreak to enjoy one of my favorite theme park perks. Early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is usually restricted to Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests, but throughout January annual passholders were allowed to join to early morning crowds on weekdays. At the same time, Universal has made some tweaks to the way this popular option operates, so this past week I awoke ahead of the sun to bring you the Universal Orlando Early Park Admission update.

First, the big news about Universal Orlando Early Park Admission is that it is currently offered at Universal Studios Florida only. For most of 2015, Early Park Admission was offered only at Islands of Adventure during off-peak times, and at both parks during peak holiday periods. Early in 2016, Universal returned off-peak Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida only. While communications from Universal have been inconsistent about the future EPA calendar, we currently expect Early Park Admission to remain at Universal Studios Florida only until the Easter/Spring Break peak season.

Here are some other Universal Orlando Early Park Admission updates:

  • When Universal Studios Florida opens for Early Park Admission, only Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the attractions inside Diagon Alley (including Escape from Gringotts) are regularly open. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers may also open early if the crowds warrant, but they were not operating early during my recent visit.
  • When Islands of Adventure opens for Early Park Admission, the Hogwarts Express usually begins operating 30 minutes before Universal Studios Florida officially opens. However, when Universal Studios Florida open early, the first Hogwarts Express train depart only a few minutes before IOA’s opening hour.

 

Got all that? Great! Now, let’s take a morning stroll around the parks.

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The lesser known rides at Universal Orlando

by on January 27, 2016

It’s clear that Universal Orlando has cornered the market on thrilling, exhilarating rides. When you want exciting experiences, Universal Orlando is the clear choice. But there is more to Universal than thrill rides, and we often overlook the smaller, more minor attractions here. Especially with the closure of two of Universal Studio’s minor attractions: Disaster! and Twister Ride It Out! (both names ending in exclamation points I might add), it can be easy to forget the small collection of less thrilling rides.

Kang and Kodo’s Twirl ‘n’ Hurl

It seems that the spinner style ride is a must-have when building a theme park. It all started with the iconic Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Disneyland in 1955. Ever since that time it has become a staple of theme parks to have at least one of this type of ride in its line-up.

At Universal Orlando two spinner rides are offered, both with a little added touch. Twirl and Hurl came onto the scene when the World Expo area received a makeover courtesy of The Simpsons. After The Simpsons Ride took over for Back to the Future, the turf of the Simpsons was expanded to include multiple eateries, midway games, and this spinner ride.

Pay close attention to the signage throughout the ride’s queue and exit, as well as the audio messaging. I love the names of the ride vehicles, each flying saucer has a unique, pun laden name such as Mai Tai Fighter or Ronald Ray-gun. Additionally, the extra touch here are the targets around the circumference of the ride. As you spin through the air aim, your vehicle up or down to line up with the targets of varying heights. If you line it up just right you’ll cause the targets to spin accompanied by silly sound effects.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – January 17 to 23, 2016

by on January 26, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Cool weather on Thursday and Friday kept the Universal Orlando parks at near-empty levels. Otherwise, the Universal Crowd Calendar did a great job predicting the flow of crowds last week from day to day. If anything, crowds were slightly higher than expected in the early part of the week and slightly less crowded than normal for the second part. Late January is off-season for Universal Orlando so we can expect crowds to be in the lower half of the crowd scale for most days as we saw last week.

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 Orlando Releases 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter Schedule

by on January 24, 2016

2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule

Plan you Wizarding weekend with the 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule

If you’ve been anxiously awaiting an official 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule of events from Universal Orlando, you can relax because your owl has arrived! Universal has just announced the full rundown of public happenings during their annual Wizarding World weekend, which runs January 29-31, 2016.

Activities over the three day Celebration of Harry Potter include Q&A sessions with cast members from the hit movies, panels with artists who worked on the films and parks, and special demonstrations and exhibits relating to Potter lore. In 2016, the Music Plaza stage in Universal Studios Florida will be dedicated during the day to kids activities, in addition to hosting the headliner events in the evenings, while Toon Lagoon amphitheater in Islands of Adventure will reopen during the daytime for sessions aimed at adult fans.

All of the below listed activities are open to all park goers, including annual passholder, without needing an extra ticket. One thing you won’t see on the list is autograph sessions with the film stars. After the intense demand for limited autograph tickets last year, Universal has restricted the signings solely to those who purchased special hotel packages (which sold out long ago).

Here is the full schedule of 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter activities:

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