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:
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.
We will keep this short and sweet because it’s Saturday and you really just want your Saturday 6 from Derek. We hope this will be our final Hurricane Matthew post.
Theme Parks – Open
Universal, Walt Disney World, SeaWorld – all back to normal or close to normal hours today. Animal Kingdom even started the day with Extra Magic Hours. If you are in the parks today, take some photos and tweet them to #HeyTouringPlans – we’d love to see them. The wait times in our app will self-adjust after the parks open. We have not adjusted the Crowd Calendars.
Walt Disney World
If your Halloween Party was cancelled, you can call 407-939-7818 beginning 9AM Eastern Monday morning for refunds or rescheduling (this is from Disney’s web site – so it does seem you will need to explicitly request a refund).
This post will be updated as we get new information.
Updated 2:51 PM with Disney Springs and Orange County curfew info.
Hurricane Matthew hit the Central Florida coast as expected in the early morning hours of Friday, October 7. The good news for those in the Orlando area is that the storm moved more north and east than was originally forecast. However, this a serious hurricane that did affect many in the Caribbean and along the east coast of Florida. Our thoughts are with everyone still going through Hurricane Matthew.
Update October 6, 5:30PM – Storm should hit Port Canaveral around 10PM. Matthew is very slow-moving which means it will linger in Florida longer than a hurricane normally would. Coastal FL is under an evacuation order.
The National Hurricane Center obviously is a far better source of information about the weather than a theme park blog. We recommend checking it often. We will continue to update you on theme park operations.
As you undoubtedly know, a very powerful hurricane is bearing down on the Florida coast, and is expected to begin making its presence known in Florida this evening. The eye may make landfall in Brevard County (the Atlantic coast directly east of Orlando) early Friday morning. We cannot stress enough that this is very serious and that you should unarguably listen to any theme park staff (or long-time locals) if you are in the area. Winds in excess of 70 mph are expected in the theme park area.
This post will be updated throughout the day with the latest theme park closures and information.
Updated October 6, 2016, 8:30 PM with Orange County curfew and reports from onsite guests. Universal Guest Contact and Social Media Centers updates
Under curfew from 10 PM to 7 AM Saturday morning – source
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
All service is expected to stop at 8:00 PM Thursday
Many airlines, including American Airlines and United, have cancelled flights for Thursday evening and Friday. If you are flying into anywhere in Florida today or tomorrow check with your airline, but expect it to be cancelled.
Walt Disney World
Resorts are selling food (with long, but efficient, lines) to guests until 10 PM. Guests will need to remain in their rooms tonight. No word on the morning.
All parks, water parks, Disney Springs, ESPN Wide World of Sports, and miniature golf courses are closing at 5:00 PM Thursday, October 6, and will be CLOSED all day on Friday, October 7. (Some Disney Springs venues may close prior to 5:00 PM on Thursday.)
All resort and restaurant cancellation fees are waived for Thursday and Friday.
Blizzard Beach is closed on Thursday. Typhoon Lagoon is closing (as previously scheduled) at 5:00 PM on Thursday.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is canceled on both Thursday and Friday, October 6 and 7. If you have tickets, call 407-566-4985, option 5, to inquire about your options. Phone lines are very busy right now. Disney is offering a refund or exchange to another night to guest with tickets for these dates. Thank you to Annette Johnson with Mouse Trip Travel for the update.
Fort Wilderness Resort is being evacuated and guests are being moved to other resorts. All restaurants (including Hoop-Dee-Doo and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ) are closed at Fort Wilderness.
Guests at the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs and the Bora Bora Bungalows at the Polynesian have been evacuated to other locations.
Spirit of Aloha at the Polynesian Village Resort is cancelled Thursday and Friday.
From noon on Thursday until Saturday evening, Resort spa locations are closed at Coronado Springs, the Grand Floridian, Saratoga Springs, and Yacht & Beach Club.
Characters in Flight at Disney Springs is closed through Sunday.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Queues at the Universal Orlando Resort. If there is one thing all theme park fans can agree with, it’s that we hate lines. Even people who aren’t theme park fans often return from an Orlando vacation with a similar thought: theme park lines are the worst. Thankfully our Disney and Universal overlords have spent the last decade completely transforming the queue experience. Disney, putting Billions into MyDisneyExperience and FastPass+, are attempting to get guests to spend less time in lines (in hopes that we have more time in places where we spend money.) Universal has gone in a slightly different direction, creating queues that guests actually want to spend more time in. The concept of “feeling rushed” in a theme park line may seem incomprehensible to anyone who has waited an hour in the Florida humidity for it’s a small world or suffered through the mind-numbing banality of the Soarin’ queue, but believe it or not, it’s true.
The queue for Men In Black: Alien Attack checks off several items we consider crucial to having a good queue, not the least of which is that you are in air conditioning for a long time. That may seem like a minor thing until you’ve almost experienced the sensation of melting while waiting outside for The Simpsons Ride or Rip, Ride, Rockit. It also recreates several areas that many guests will fondly remember from the first Men in Black film. But one of our favorite parts of this queue is that you can actually experience it hands on with a tour of the Immigration Room. Guests aren’t guaranteed this opportunity, but after riding you can ask a Team Member if you can take a tour. This will allow you some unbelievably great photo opportunities, along with a chance to see so many incredible details that Universal Creative has put into this room that the average guest will never see.
Immigration room at Men In Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Travis Terrell)
Men In Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Men in Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Brandon Glover)
This past year I’ve learned a lot about fear. Facing your fear doesn’t necessarily mean that your fear goes away. Instead, it means you acknowledge it, accept it, and do the thing that scares you despite the fear. Last year I went to Halloween Horror Nights for the first time. It is nearly impossible to believe that I would do so once, let alone a second time. And yet, I did. And it turned out to be one of my best evenings ever.
Attending Halloween Horror Nights last year for the first time was eyeopening. Here are my tips on enjoying the event even when you’re scared of pretty much everything. This time around I attended the event almost from beginning to end, and experienced a lot more than my first visit. Here’s how I not only faced my fear, but quite possibly became a fan of this frightfully fun event.
Go early and take advantage of daylight
I attended Halloween Horror Nights with two complete opposite ends of the spectrum: a friend who has been to HHN more times than I can count and a friend who had never been before and feared it more than me. Wait wait wait… I can’t believe this, I, the person who never believed she’d ever go to Halloween Horror Nights is now showing a first timer the ropes!
Not too long ago we saw Walt Disney World drastically change their annual pass structure adding new features and a wide variety of blackout dates. Universal Orlando has followed suit. They also recently announced new annual pass features like early park admission. Universal has also rolled out a new seasonal annual pass which is the most budget friendly but also has the most blackout dates, and the least amount of perks.
Universal Orlando loves their AP Holders – photo from Universal Orlando
It’s not all bad news, however, Besides adding features to the annual passes themselves, all of the major theme parks offer various perks and benefits throughout the year. It seems as though this year there are more perks than ever before–perhaps this is because the prices are higher than they’ve ever been. Some guests who are on vacation are purchasing an annual pass rather than a multi-day ticket, even if they’re only going to visit once in a given year. For locals like me it is often seen as a mandatory purchase in order to do Orlando living right.
Let’s take a look at some of the really fun benefits and perks that are being offered to annual pass holders at each of the major theme parks. It is important to note that for the purposes of this blog post I will not be discussing the features that are already included in your annual pass such as free parking, but rather I will focus on different, added-on perks that are offered throughout the year.
Walt Disney World
Perhaps the Walt Disney World Resort faces the greatest of expectations. Because of their four theme parks vs. two at Universal Orlando and one theme park plus water park at SeaWorld Orlando, the Walt Disney World annual passes are the most expensive. This typically raises the expectations of consumers, creating stronger desires for more bang for their buck.
Fall is finding its way, slowly sneaking out Summer. Yes, we do have a Fall season here in Florida. It is different than the rest of the country, but it is there. Scallop season gives way to snow crab season. Acorns begin to create a blanket on the ground. A short cool snap can be anticipated only to have the heat come back after a few days of relief. But above all this, Halloween begins in mid-September around these parts.
Preparations are underway for Halloween Horror Nights 2016 at Universal Orlando. And now we can prepare our sweet tooth for the treats of Halloween and the Holidays by visiting Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Kitchen. I enjoyed one of my best evenings ever at Universal with a visit to Toothsome and a stroll, with an unexpected thrill, through Universal Studios Florida.
Summer’s oppressive heat is still upon us despite the signs of Halloween popping up around town. Summer thunderstorms will soon give way to longer, mistier rains, and stronger chances for hurricanes. But alas on this visit, a traditional summer thunderstorm poured itself upon me as I made my way to Universal Orlando.
Walking into CityWalk there seemed to be a changing of the guards of sorts. Hoards of guests streamed towards the exit. Meanwhile, just as many guests headed into the parks equipped with ponchos and umbrellas.
With grey skies it was difficult to see the smoke stack effect rising above Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Kitchen. With its black, white, and copper color scheme coupled with whimsical details, landscaping, and mechanical details, Toothsome’s facade stands out in CityWalk’s impressive line up.
Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Kitchen
At first the concept of a chocolate / dessert-centric restaurant at Universal Orlando did not really grab my attention. Although, I really never enjoyed its predecessor NBA City, so anything was an improvement in my opinion. As I arrived to the still-in-preview restaurant, I noticed a large influx of guests. Thankfully, my friends had arrived before me and had secured a spot at the bar.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the ToothsomeChocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. The newest entrant into Universal CityWalk’s murderer’s row of restaurants has just gone into previews, with a grand opening not far behind. Located in the former home of NBA City, the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium sits directly next to the entrance to Islands of Adventure and its visually stunning facade fits in with other worlds that never existed (but you wish did) like Port of Entry or Seuss Landing.
When Toothsome was originally announced, it teased that it would debut with larger than life milkshakes. The idea of a milkshake with a full cupcake or chocolate covered banana on top seemed too good to be true. However, to quote Han Solo, “It’s true. All of it.” It turns out that the E-Ticket milkshakes were just the tip of the iceberg, as Toothsome is filled with both wonder and – believe it or not – an amazing menu. Today we’re going to look at some of our favorite features of this magical restaurant. So sit back, play the NXT song “Glorious” as appropriate background music, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – Walk Around Characters!
Talk about bucking the trend. In a theme park world where getting rid of the human element seems to be a priority, Universal has walk around characters in the Skull Island: Reign of Kong queue and inside Toothsome. The restaurant has a lengthy backstory (which can be found inside the menu), and it revolves around Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome. In Penelope’s exotic trips around the world, she discovered ways to infuse chocolate into extraordinary recipes. When Penelope returned home from her travels, she discovered that her parents had set out to join her (“Surely the world isn’t so big that we can’t find you.”) Penelope decided she would use her chocolate knowledge to create an emporium, and would share her dishes with the world until reunited with her family.
Penelope can be seen walking about Toothsome, occasionally with her robot companion Jacques. Just as with the best Disney meet and greets at the Magic Kingdom, Penelope stays completely in character, is filled with charm and as they would describe her in the 19th Century: is a bricky gal.
Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The Professor and her robot companion Jacques. (photo courtesy of Attractions Magazine. Attractions also has a great video of Toothsome which you WATCH HERE.)
Penelope’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Literally. (photo by Brandon Glover)