Universal Orlando Resort

Universal’s Summer Concert Series

by on April 8, 2016

To celebrate warm summer evenings – and to help empty out the rest of Universal Studios Florida during the extremely busy month of June – Universal holds the annual Summer Concert Series. While it’s not as well-known as Halloween Horror Nights, it is still a fun and well-attended event – and considering that it’s absolutely free (well, included in regular Universal Studios park admission, that is), it’s more than worth checking out.

Universal Summer Concert Series banner

Image © Universal

We’re already anticipating this year’s Concert Series; in 2014 it was cancelled, thanks to a little something called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley opening up (can you imagine two massive crowds vying for space in the park?), and last year’s was temporarily renamed the 25th Anniversary Concert Series, due to Universal Studios Florida, well, turning 25-years-old last summer. That means 2016 should be a return to standard, old-fashioned form, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

There is a caveat we have to issue here, however: although the company doesn’t typically make its Summer Concert announcements until the end of its Mardi Gras annual event (yes, we think that’s cutting it a little too close, as well), there is the small possibility that Universal opts to skip out on 2016, just as it did two years ago; there is a trio of brand-new openings occurring this summer at Universal Orlando, starting with Skull Island: Reign of Kong and the overhauled Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure and ending with Sapphire Falls Resort, the fifth on-site hotel. If so, then consider this an extremely early bout of vacation planning, and be sure to return here for when the 2017 Summer Concert Series rolls around. (Although it should be noted that we think the concerts will go on as usual. The Diagon Alley opening was at the same park, where this year’s new openings are at Islands of Adventure.)

Where is it?

Like nearly every other Universal Orlando annual event, you’ll find the festivities located at Universal Studios Florida.

Universal Music Plaza Stage

The Universal Music Plaza Stage, where the concerts are held

When is it?

Typically late May to late June, running for select nights (just like with nearly all of the resort’s other annual events). Last year’s Summer Concert Series had six artists performing – you guessed it – on six nights, starting on Saturday, May 23 and ending on Saturday, June 20 (there was one Sunday in there, too, for all those playing along at home).

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – March 27 to April 2, 2016

by on April 7, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week, the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted a flatter crowd level throughout the week than what we saw. Tuesday and Wednesday were some of the busiest days we have seen at Universal Orlando since the annual peak at Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The misses were due solely to larger than expected crowds at Islands of Adventure, the predictions for Universal Studios never missed by more than one index level all week. Then on Saturday the crowd levels plummeted to one of the lowest we have seen since January, especially at Islands of Adventure.

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 – March 20 to 26, 2016

by on April 5, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week, Universal Orlando Parks were slightly busier than expected in the first part of the week but stayed within close range of predicted levels for the second half. Wednesday through Saturday none of the Universal Crowd Calendar predictions missed by more than one index level and only once was a prediction off by more than two.

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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Dani’s Best Week Ever March 31, 2016: Universal Orlando CityWalk

by on March 31, 2016

Spring has sprung! Orlando has welcomed Spring Breakers and Easter holidayers with open arms. Word on the street is that this past Saturday marked the most amount of passengers through Orlando International Airport in a single day! After a quick, less-than-24 hour trip to visit my parents in North Florida, I headed to Universal Orlando for an extensive stroll around CityWalk and a movie. It was evident that the Spring Break / Easter crowd had descended upon Universal Orlando, but I easily had an enjoyable time. I noticed a few details I hadn’t before and although I had the ability to go into the parks, the desire to do so gave way to enjoying CityWalk instead.

I journeyed to Universal property via exit 75A (West bound just after Kirkman), this ramp provides a great vantage point of Volcano Bay water park and Sapphire Falls resort construction. This side of Universal property has been under construction for a few years now with the building of Cabana Bay and now its expansion and the addition of Sapphire Falls and Volcano Bay.

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I arrived around 2:00 PM and of course there was a large amount of cars waiting at the parking plaza, and not all lanes were open; thankfully things moved relatively quickly. One tip I can offer for parking is to make sure you have your form of payment ready to go and know ahead of time whether or not you want to shell out the extra money for preferred parking. If, like me, you’re an annual passholder then have your pass and photo ID in hand ready to go.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – March 13 to 19, 2016

by on March 30, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week, Universal Orlando parks were much more crowded than we have seen during the same period in years past. Strangely, crowds during the week were busier than what we saw on Sunday and Saturday, almost a mirror image of what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted. Twister, Disaster! and The Incredible Hulk were all down this year which may help explain some of the increased wait times.

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 ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT

by on March 26, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort. Currently the Universal Orlando Resort has four on-site hotels, with a fifth (Sapphire Falls) opening later this summer. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and Deluxe (Contemporary). Universal also has three levels: Premier (including Portofino Bay), Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), and Preferred, which is where the Royal Pacific Resort resides.

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Loews Royal Pacific Resort. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

While Disney runs its on-site resorts, Universal partners with a luxury hospitality company in Loews Hotels. One of the benefits of being run by a third party, is that Lowes has a loyalty program with YouFirst. Many of us have been on Disney vacations dozens (if not hundreds) of times, and unfortunately it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time at Art of Animation or your 50th, what you get is what you get. At Universal you start accruing benefits upon your 2nd stay and can earn privileges such as free room upgrades, late checkout, and even a $100 credit.

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Royal Pacific’s courtyard. (photo by Brandon Glover)

While I understand the arguments of staying off-site, for my family, staying on-site is one of our favorite parts of a theme park vacation, especially at Universal. Today we’re going to look at what I believe is the best on-site hotel in Orlando. So sit back, grab an ice cold Jake’s Red Lager, and let’s begin counting down the top six reasons we love Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort starting with…

# 6 – Pool and Beach Areas

The pool at the Royal Pacific Resort is massive. While it is the only resort at Universal without a slide, it does feature the gigantic Royal Bali Sea interactive water play area connected to the pool. This play area is themed to a ship, features water cannons, and seemingly dumps about a million gallons of water on the people playing around it. When I was a kid all the pools were the same shape: a rectangle. If pools and play areas existed like this, I’m not even sure my parents would have been able to drag me away to go to the theme parks.

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One of the small islands found inside the Royal Pacific Resort.

For adults, there is plenty of seating, a white sand beach, zero entry, cabanas, two hot tubs, an ice-cream place, and the Bula Bar & Grille. The pool area offers towels, magazines and newspapers to read while laying out in the sun, and games such as ping pong. While there is plenty of covered seating at the Bula Bar, servers will come out to the pool area to deliver drinks and food. Our recommendation: Shipwrecked Loaded Nachos (but you can’t go wrong with the burgers either.)

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Royal Bali Sea water feature.

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Shipwrecked Loaded Nachos, pound for pound the best food offered pool side in Orlando. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Universal Orlando Crowd Calendar Report – March 6 to 12, 2016

by on March 20, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Other than last Saturday, crowds at Universal Orlando were lower than expected and lower than what we have seen in years past during the same period. The Universal Crowd Calendar predicted a level ‘6’ between Sunday and Friday but the resort-wide crowd level never hit a level above ‘4’. Islands of Adventure pulled the resort-wide crowd level lower each day with wait times a couple points lower than expected.

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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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: A Look at Recent Stories From Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld

by on March 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is undoubtedly a special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. It has been a whirlwind of theme park related news lately. Our long national nightmare is over as purple MagicBands are available for your WDW resort stay, Disney started a new subscription service themed to the Haunted Mansion for the low low price of just $200 (oh, and it has already sold out), the Orlando Eye did its first baby reveal, and a worker at Art of Animation was caught on video using a dirty mop to clean a table. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

So – as usual – we took a page out of our old college playbook, chugged down a case of 5 Hour Energy, and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our tiny 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 – That sound you hear? KONG IS COMING.

As Donald Trump would say, it was a yuge week of King Kong news over at the Universal Orlando Resort. As theme park merchandise fanatics, we loved that a whole bunch of new merch arrived for the upcoming Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction. Then, Universal dropped a bombshell with their reveal of the incredible ride vehicles along with a couple other tasty tidbits: This would be Universal’s first trackless ride system, and the vehicles would be “driven” by one of five characters. While Universal hasn’t released an official opening of the attraction yet, we have a sneaking suspicion we may hear something around the time the Syfy show Face Off features an entire episode (the season finale no less) dedicated to creating characters for the attraction. Stay tuned Wednesday, March 30th at 9PM EST on Syfy.

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Universal’s Kong is almost here, but Disney has Avatar and Star Wars in the near future…. (photo by Matt Cleary)

# 5 – SeaWorld Admits to Ordering Employees to Spy on Animal Rights Groups

Readers of the SATURDAY SIX may remember one of  last year’s annual Turkeys of the Year awards went to a SeaWorld employee who was caught spying on the animal rights group PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). At the time, SeaWorld management was shocked, SHOCKED at this behavior and put out the story that the employee had gone rogue. Fast forward to this month and during another disastrous investor’s conference, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby admitted that employees did go undercover in animal rights groups and, more importantly, did so per order of the company.

Believe it or not this was the most “wow” SeaWorld story of the week until the atomic bomb the company dropped Thursday morning announcing they were ending the breeding of Killer Whales and will also be ending all the theatrical shows featuring orcas (to be replaced by exhibits).

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Disguised as famous YouTube personality Tim Tracker, Shamu himself was able to go completely unnoticed within the PeTA ranks. (photo by Michael Sheehy)

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The Basics: Planning A Trip to Universal Orlando for Disney Veterans

by on March 18, 2016

gringotts dragonThis is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

Even the most ardent Disney fans have become aware that there exists ANOTHER theme park complex in Central Florida that people visit from time to time, and some of you have probably even considered popping over there for a bit to see what it’s all about. Gatorland aside, however, let me tell you about Universal Orlando, which is yet another top notch theme park experience that you should consider. This article will hopefully provide you with some guidance as a first timer to help you get the most out of the experience.

Let me get this out there at the outset: I realize that there exists this whole “Disney vs. Universal” rivalry that exists in the fan community. I’m not really trying to steer anyone towards one park or the other, I’m just trying to provide enough objective information to help Disney fans that are considering going to Universal make an informed decision and plan for the best trip possible. Because I am writing this for those that are familiar with Disney, however, some comparison of the two is a useful way to go about it, as it provides some context. I’m sure some of the more passionate folks on either end of the issue will take some of these thoughts as a shot across the bow. Just know that I’m a fan of both places, I have annual passes at both places, and I’m honestly doing my best to be as fair as possible. Please keep that in mind before you fire off your scathing email or comment! So, without further ado, let’s jump in!

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The Future of Universal Orlando (2016-2017 edition)

by on March 13, 2016

One of the most exciting aspects of a Universal Orlando vacation – besides all the thrill rides and the ever-more-expanding selection of butterbeer products, that is – is the constantly changing nature of the resort; with $500 million being poured into all three domestic Universal parks each and every year by parent company Comcast, there’s bound to be a few new additions practically every time you turn around.

The Universal globe

While terribly exciting, this can also make planning your next sojourn terribly frustrating. When is the optimal time to visit? What will give you the best bang for your vacationing buck? Will there ever be a time when construction walls won’t dot the landscape as far as the eye can see? (That one’s for your picky Aunt Millie.)

While we can’t definitively answer questions that are so inherently subjective to both your and your family’s desires, we can sketch out the next several developments that will be popping up over the course of the next two summers.

Enjoy, and please let us know when you think you’ll next be slipping past all those bulldozers and cranes.

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