Posts Tagged ‘Simpsons’

Universal Orlando Park Map Adds Springfield Attractions

by on December 30, 2013

Universal Orlando has been sliding a number of surprises into visitors’ stocking this holiday season. First, I told you about the stealthy price increase recently enacted on the Universal Dining Plan — Quick Service. Then, Derek Burgan pointed out six things you only see at Universal during peak season. Today we’re bringing you a first glimpse at the new landmarks and attractions of Springfield U.S.A. as they are finally visually represented on the newest Universal Orlando park map.

Here’s how the Universal Studios Florida park map appeared until December 25, 2013:

 

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Gift Shops at Universal Studios Florida

by on December 7, 2013

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Top Six Gift Shops at Universal Studios Florida. Until recently, gift shops were seen as a necessary evil at our favorite theme parks – annoyances that many people either dreaded being herded through or mocked the existence of outright. One of the best gags in The Simpsons Ride involves the alien Kodos saying, “Foolish Earthlings, don’t you know all rides must end near the gift shop?”

Thankfully, over the past several years gift shops at Universal have become better themed and well merchandised, and several have even started to incorporate interactive features for their guests. It’s almost unbelievable to say it, but just as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey became possibly the first attraction in the history of theme parks to have a queue guests wanted to spend more time in, gift stores themselves are becoming features of attractions that guests can look forward to experiencing. Here now, a look at 6 of the best gift shops at Universal Studios Florida.

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“Thank you, come again!”

# 6 - Kwik-E-Mart

Despite the great joke mentioned above, the Simpsons Ride is one of the few attractions at USF that doesn’t exit into a gift shop. The Kwik-E-Mart, the ride’s merchandise location, is right next to the attraction and is filled with the high level of self-deprecating humor that is found throughout Springfield USA. Signs above the merchandise include sales pitches like, “Today’s merchandise at tomorrow’s prices!,” “These items won’t buy themselves!,” and “C’mon! If you owned a store we’d buy your junk!” There’s even a sign at the registers that has a call back to an episode of the Simpsons television show as it warns the cashiers not to take checks from various people including Chief Wiggum, Homer J Simpson, and Homer J Fong.

The walls and outside windows of the Kwik-E-Mart are laden with ads for fake products including Farmer Billy’s Choco-Bacon-Bars (“It’s like chocolate and bacon had a baby in your mouth!”) while the variety of actual Simpsons related products inside includes t-shirts, hats, plush, comic books and more.

IMG_0175Outside the store there is a photo-op available with Milhouse sitting on a bench and one of USF’s most hidden gems, the Simpsons pay phone. On the side of the Kwik-E-Mart closest to the Simpsons ride, there is pay phone mounted on a wall with the character Nelson next to it with a word balloon saying, “Answer the phone dingus…it’s for you.” Walking by this phone will trigger it to ring, and picking up the receiver will treat you to a gag line by one of the various Simpsons characters including Chief Wiggum, Moe Szyslak, and Bart Simpson.

With a pressed penny machine, the Big Pink donut, and lithographs of the hilarious attraction posters such as Captain Dinosaur’s Pirate Rip-Off (a jab at Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride), the Kwik-E-Mart is a must-do for any Simpsons fan.

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort for November 27, 2013 (Christmas decorations, construction, Red Oven Pizza Bakery)

by on December 1, 2013

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts Express, the first ever attraction that travels between two separate theme parks

Time for a trip to the Universal Orlando Resort. Seth Kubersky covered the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley in his photo update earlier this week, so check out the first edition of his PotterWatch 2.0 for construction updates, rumors, and pictures.

Universal still has not released on any dates on when  the Potter area will open, but we may have been given a little bit of a hint earlier this week thanks to an interview with Loews hotels chairman Jonathan Tisch. While talking to CNBC (which you can watch here), Tisch said that the upcoming 1,800 room Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal would be:

“The largest hotel under construction in the world outside of China. Phase One will open April 1, 600 rooms. The rest of the hotel by June, when Harry Potter 2 opens.” – Jonathan Tisch, Loews Hotels Chairman

On the Universal website, Cabana Bay is having “preview pricing” that ends on June 14, 2014. That’s another red flag that they expect demand to go up in June. Here’s an example of what type of savings you can get for a Family Suite at Universal compared to Disney. I booked out a room from April 12-18 for 2 adults and 4 children at both Cabana Bay and Disney’s Art of Animation resort. The cheapest room at Cabana Bay was $232.00 a night, compared to the cheapest room at AoA at $498.76. After taxes, this particular week at Cabana Bay would cost a family $1572.06, while AoA would cost $2992.53.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on November 9, 2013

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Top Six Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort (UOR). This was a tough list to compile, and after several agonizing hours of internal debate, I had to cut a list of about a dozen eateries down to only the best of the best. It broke my heart to not include The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel, as The Kitchen Sink Challenge just may be my favorite thing I’ve ever done at the UOR. Another tough one to cut was Finnegan’s Bar and Grill in Universal Studios Florida. Finnegan’s has exceptional food offerings with reasonable pricing (the Guinness Beef Stew being a favorite) and great atmosphere. And of course anyone who has heard me on the Universal NOW! podcast knows my love for the NASCAR Sports Grille runs deep, with their pretzel breadsticks possibly being my all time favorite food.

So knowing how hard it was to get to these final six, let’s have a look at those restaurants which rose above the rest…

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The Three Broomsticks

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I use antlers in all of my decorating… wait, that’s a different restaurant.

# 6 – The Three Broomsticks (Islands of Adventure)

In a word? Wow. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is filled with jaw droppers. The Hogwarts castle facade. The Forbidden Journey queue and ride. Butterbeer. The Ollivander’s wand experience. The shop windows in Hogsmeade village. The Three Broomsticks is as good as anything in WWOHP. From the great Sirius Black wanted poster outside, to the wonderful decorating and atmosphere inside, to the peaceful outdoor seating area, and of course the menu.

Whether it’s a “traditional English breakfast” in the morning featuring black pudding and English bacon to the lunch/dinner menu with roasted potatoes, corn on the cob, Shepherd’s Pie, and Fish & Chips, The Three Broomsticks has items that most counter service restaurants at the park don’t offer. It is also one of the only places in WWOHP that you can get a pumpkin fizz, so make sure you add a meal at The Three Broomsticks to your next visit to IOA.

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Observations from Universal Studios Florida: September 19, 2013

by on September 26, 2013

Weekday afternoons during mid-September are some of the most wonderfully crowd-free times to tour the Universal Orlando Resort. So last Thursday I stopped by Universal Studios Florida for a few hours to take one last look at the park before Halloween Horror Nights XXIII began on the following night.

(Fear not, we’ll be posting an updated HHN touring plan later this week in time for the next event night, based on wait-time data we collected during opening weekend. And we’ll continue refining the plan as the event progresses into October.)

Approaching the park you are now greeted by massive “tree roots” entwined around the iconic archways, framing banners representing the haunted mazes featured at HHN XXIII.

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Universal Merchandise Review – A Look At Universal’s Uni-Minis

by on September 22, 2013

MMM_LogoWelcome to The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! This month we’re going to look at Universal’s Uni-Minis.

Similar in size to Disney’s popular Vinylmation, Uni-Minis differ in a couple ways. While the vast majority of Vinylmations are repainted versions of the classic Mickey mold, almost all of the Uni-Minis are more in line with Disney’s Park Starz series, which eschews the traditional Mickey form and instead lets the artists create whatever they want. The Uni-Minis do have their version of the Mickey mold, and it is in the form of a generic looking bear. These figures are usually limited editions and produced for specific events like Grad Bash or Mardi Gras.

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Haunted Mansion Bride from Disney’s Park Starz next to Minion from Universal’s Uni-Minis

The heft of a Uni-Mini is also slightly less than a Vinylmation. At $12.95 per figure  (same as a standard Vinylmation), the Uni-Minis feel flimsier than their Disney counterpart, although the style of each figure is closer to the $18.95 Park Starz series. There is articulation in both the head and arms of almost all the Uni-Minis.

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THE SATURDAY SIX: Six More Outrageous Food Items at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on September 14, 2013

The Saturday Six is a weekly look at the most interesting, most fun, and sometimes even the most jaw dropping things within the theme park world that we all love so much. Whether it’s the top six “secrets” of the Marvel Superhero Island, the top six food options at Fast Food Blvd, or even the top six signature drinks inside the Universal parks, the Saturday Six will be your personal guide to experiencing the very best Orlando has to offer.

This week’s Saturday Six looks at six more outrageous food items found at the Universal Orlando Resort. Faithful readers the blog may remember our original look at the six most outrageous foods on property and now we’re back with six more! While other theme park companies may be trying to convince guests of the magic of healthy living, Universal is giving guests what they want: incredible food items that may at times be decadent… may occasionally be over the top… and sometimes should probably be sold with a defibrillator or insulin syringe, but they always taste great. You’re on vacation; there will be plenty of time to eat grapes back at home.

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Shipwrecked Loaded Nachos

# 6– Shipwrecked Loaded Nachos at the Bula Bar and Grille (Royal Pacific Resort)

I was very excited to finally try these extreme nachos on my recent trip up to Universal (click here to read my observations of the time spent on property) and they did not disappoint. We took a quick walk over to the Royal Pacific during the middle of the day to get away from the heat and sat down poolside at the Bula Bar & Grille.

A regular order of the Shipwrecked Loaded Nachos contains a gigantic plate of nachos with black beans, cheddar cheese sauce, sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, jalapeno, and scallions. Considering its size, this is almost a steal at $10. You can also add grilled chicken ($14) or grilled beef ($15) to the toppings. Definitely the best plate of nachos I have ever had, what really takes this experience over the top is half way through eating them, when all the toppings have started to become absorbed into the chips themselves. So good.

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort: HHN 23 props, Simpsons photo area, Despicable Me Minions and more

by on September 10, 2013

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Props from AMC’s The Walking Dead at USF

This past weekend I headed up to the Universal Orlando Resort to get some research done for the new Universal menu pages on TouringPlans.com, and while I was there I got to see some new things that have popped up around the parks.

Obviously the biggest change going on right now is the near daily arrivals of props related to Halloween Horror Nights 23 over in Universal Studios Florida. Fans of the hit television show The Walking Dead on AMC are going to recognize many of the elements showing up in the park. Right across from the main gift shop is a beat up truck that has Daryl Dixon’s famous crossbow laying on it while nearby is the “Sophia stay here we will come every day” car that was located in front of Disaster! for HHN 22 last year. Over by Cafe La Bamba there is a section that is mostly covered up except for a well placed bicycle. This could an area set aside for “Bicycle Girl,” one of the most well known zombie characters from both the Walking Dead show and comic book series.

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