Posts Tagged ‘Universal Orlando’

Dani’s Best Week Ever October 27, 2016: Bidding farewell to Halloween in Orlando

by on October 27, 2016

Halloween season is almost over here in Orlando, and if you listen close enough you can hear sleigh bells ring in the distance. It’s hard to believe, but here in the land of eternal entertainment our Halloween and Christmas / Winter holiday season starts in September and runs continuously to January, more than a quarter of the year. Thankfully, I am a sucker for this season, yet I still find it comical that we get two full months each of Halloween and Christmas.

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Over the course of this past week I enjoyed my favorite Halloween celebration in Orlando’s theme parks, conquered a thrill ride at the last minute, and started to see signs of the Christmas season celebrations. Let’s begin to say our farewells to Halloween and slowly turn our attention to the most festive time of year.

Orlando’s most valuable Halloween celebration – SeaWorld Spooktacular

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is the best value for Halloween in Orlando’s theme parks. It is included in regular park admission, no extra charge. It takes place during regular park hours on weekends in October. This allows guests to enjoy all the regular park offers plus the added bonus of a fantastic trick or treat trail, whimsical characters, festive decorations, and great photo opportunity. Plus you don’t have to keep the kids up late for an after hours event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Now, the ‘wow’ factor is not as strong as Mickey’s event at Magic Kingdom, but it is charming, fun, super affordable, and very kid friendly. Costumes are allowed, policies can be found here.

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Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

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Dani’s Best Week Ever September 22, 2016: Surviving Halloween Horror Nights

by on September 22, 2016

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.

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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!

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Dani’s Best Week Ever September 1, 2016: Halloween Horror Nights Prep and Toothsome

by on September 1, 2016

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.

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The weather

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.

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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.

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Dani’s Best Week Ever August 4, 2016: Reign of Kong, Off Kilter, Emeril’s Happy Hour and SeaWorld

by on August 4, 2016

The pendulum is always swinging. Just two weeks ago I truly had one of my best weeks ever! This one was decidedly less so. But I am an optimist and try to make the best of each situation. It also helps that I live in Orlando and have annual passes to all three major theme park destinations, plus I have a great collection of friends in my life. So when the air conditioning went out for four days in my house, I did what needed to be done and enjoyed Orlando life while waiting for my house to become livable again.

Thankfully this week marked new and exciting adventures at Islands of Adventure, and new fun offerings at SeaWorld as well. Come with me as I face the Reign of Kong, contemplate facing my ultimate fears with the Incredible Hulk, enjoy live music from the beloved Off Kilter, and take a quick stroll around SeaWorld enjoying the most affordable snacks and drinks in any Orlando theme park!

Beautiful signage - photo by Brandon Glover

Beautiful signage – photo by Brandon Glover

Off Kilter and Dancing at CityWalk

Saturday early morning I awoke to a hot and humid house. Goodbye air conditioning, hello discomfort and an expensive repair. I couldn’t get it taken care of over the weekend so I did what any reasonable adult would do, make plans with friends and head for Universal Orlando!

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Dani’s Best Week Ever June 23, 2016: Five Theme Parks in 24 hours

by on June 23, 2016

After one of the most emotional and trying weeks Orlando has ever encountered it is time to slowly get back into the habits that make us happy. Everyone grieves and heals in a different way. Personally, I wanted to get back into the swing of things and enjoy the life that I love. This is of course doesn’t mean that I’ve completely moved on or forgotten about the tragedy. But to me one of the ways to honor those that are no longer with us is to go enjoy life while we can, making each day the best we can make it. With that in mind, and with a bunch of new things to see at Walt Disney World and SeaWorld, I had a jam packed 24 hours spread across five Orlando theme parks.

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I took a half day off from work so I could get out to Walt Disney World and cover some of the new experiences that debuted on June 17, 2016. Originally my plan was to get to Magic Kingdom and then head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, Anna and Elsa’s new meet and greet location inside Epcot, the Royal Sommerhus, opened a little unexpectedly. I couldn’t just let it go, and besides that weather had gone from rainy in the morning to pretty stunning in the afternoon, might as well make the most of it. The more themes parks, the merrier.

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When I arrived at Epcot I felt a sense of joy that I hadn’t felt in nearly a week. As I set my eyes on Spaceship Earth I smiled for the first time in days. I couldn’t linger though, royalty waits for no one. I quickly made my way to World Showcase and straight to the Norway pavilion. As I approached I noticed a whole clan of Norwegian Cast Members gathered throughout the pavilion, more than I’ve ever seen.

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The Royal Sommerhus is one of the first areas you’ll encounter if you are strolling World Showcase starting in Mexico. This new building is a welcoming, cozy wood building meant to represent Anna and Elsa’s summer home, a place they used to visit when they were very young children. Upon arrival the posted wait time was 25 minutes, so after admiring the new buildings and the colorful flowers and landscaping I entered the queue. Past the 25-30 minute mark an overflow queue is utilized and it is entirely outside. Something to keep in mind if you visit on a busy day.

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Dani’s Best Week Ever June 9, 2016: Live Entertainment at Universal Studios Florida

by on June 9, 2016

Many fans of Universal Orlando have been focusing on rides lately, with good reason. Skull Island: Reign of Kong has done Team Member previews and it appears soft openings could happen any day now. The Incredible Hulk roller coaster has been testing for a few weeks and should reopen very soon. And two more rides are under construction: Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon and Fast and Furious Supercharged. However, Universal Orlando has debuted new entertainment at both its parks, especially at Universal Studios, throughout the past year.

These shows take place out along the streets and aren’t meant to be main attractions. However they add atmosphere and entertainment in easily accessible ways. I enjoy these additions because they don’t require much advance planning, you can easily walk up at show time and have a great vantage point.

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I ventured out to Universal Studios Florida to enjoy as many live performances as possible. Turns out you can pack a whole lot of fun into just a few hours when your focus is on live entertainment. For someone like me who is apprehensive toward thrill rides, this is a refreshing reminder that there is still lots to enjoy at Universal Orlando even if you’re not that into rides.

As seems to be typical for my weekend theme park visits, I arrived later than I hoped. I decided to take my doggy (#DodgertheDog) to try out Universal Orlando’s Kennel Services. Getting to the parking for the kennel is very easy. It is in the lower back corner of the parking structure, part of the Jaws section.

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Checking in took about ten minutes, as is standard for any kennel service I needed to provide proof that Dodger’s vaccinations were up to date. The form is themed to Hollywood, the pets are called actors and the pet owners are agents. The cost is $15.00 for the day (no discounts available) and the great thing is the kennel is open two hours after park closing, giving agents plenty of time to enjoy the parks.

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Universal Orlando Photo Update May 9th, 2016

by on May 10, 2016

Welcome back to the long overdue return of our Universal Orlando photo updates.  Since so much has happened at the resort since our last update, this week’s update will primarily focus on the upcoming 2016 Sapphire Falls Resort, Skull Island Reign of Kong, and re-opening of The Incredible Hulk roller coaster.  We’ll also take a quick look at 2017’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park, as well as the Tonight Show and Fast & Furious attractions.  Let’s get going!

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Vertical construction has really taken off at the Volcano Bay site, now that we’re just one year away from the new theme park’s opening date.

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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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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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Disney Haiku Challenge

by on March 11, 2016

"Disney Haiku"

“Disney Haiku” (yes, that’s really what it says)

I’m not sure why exactly, but I’ve always found haiku to be a fun little creative outlet. My law school roommate and I would often sit in the back of our Estates & Trusts lectures and compose absurd haiku as a way to pass the time. This might explain why neither of us do estates and trusts as a part of our practice, by the way, but that’s a discussion for another day.  

Anyway, as a reminder for those of you that have not encountered it since elementary school, haiku is a form of short Japanese poetry that follows a particular format: a traditional haiku is 17 syllables in three phrases that follow a 5-7-5 pattern.*  In other words, the first phrase is 5 syllables, the second is 7, and the final phrase is 5 syllables.  To the extent that it requires you to wedge your thoughts into a small number of words and still convey something worth reading, you can almost think of it as an ancient version of Twitter (minus the abbreviations, emoticons and vitriol).  Alas, I digress.

Haiku have traditionally been used to convey very Zen-like observations regarding the serenity of the natural world.  Accordingly, the juxtaposition of this simple, beautiful form of poetry and its traditional use, and different subject matter — like the decidedly un-serene and not-particularly-natural Disney Parks — can lead to some wonderfully absurd results.  Soooo, here’s a challenge for all of you — come up with some Disney park haiku and share them in the comments below.

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