Posts Tagged ‘Universal Orlando’

Universal’s Cabana Bay Transportation Guide

by on April 16, 2014

Cabana Bay transportation guide

When you get tired of relaxing by Cabana Bay’s pool, use this transportation guide to get to Universal’s theme parks (photos by Seth Kubersky).

Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the newest Loews-operated on-site hotel at Universal Orlando, only opened at the end of March, but if you’ve been following our coverage – from my mega-sized photo gallery from opening day to Derek Burgan’s Saturday Six devoted to the property – you may feel like you’ve already stayed there. One aspect of Universal’s first moderately priced hotel that many readers have asked for more information about is the transportation options available to guests of Cabana Bay. As you may have heard, Cabana Bay does NOT offer water taxi service like Universal’s original 3 luxury properties. So I spent a recent sunny afternoon testing various methods of getting from the hotel to the parks (and vice versa), in order to bring you this comprehensive Cabana Bay transportation guide.

Parking at Cabana Bay

Cabana Bay doesn’t offer valet parking, but that deficit is offset by a $10 daily self-parking rate for hotel guests, which is significantly cheaper than parking at the other Universal hotels. Parking lots ring the hotel, so you can park right alongside your room. Unfortunately, high parking rates for non-guests ($8 for 5 to 30 minutes, $20 for 30 minutes to 24 hours) make it expensive for locals to drop in and knock down some pins at the Galaxy bowling alley.

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Photo Gallery: First look at Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on April 1, 2014

Welcome to 1962! The first phase of Cabana Bay Beach Resort opened on March 31, and we are bringing you a photographic peek at Universal Orlando Resort’s first moderately priced hotel. As you can see, the new resort is inspired by the mid-century modern motor lodges from Wildwood, New Jersey, to Miami Beach, which once defined the American family vacation. We’ll be back in the near future with a fully detailed review of the resort, but for now enjoy this pictorial guide to the newly launched property.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort Exterior

 

Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort photos

Photos by Seth Kubersky

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Photo Gallery: Sneak Peek at new CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery and Starbucks Coffee

by on March 15, 2014

Universal Orlando CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery Starbucks

The new CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery is now open, and Starbucks is coming soon. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Universal Orlando’s overhaul of its eateries accelerates this week as the new CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery and Starbucks Coffee locations open to the public. Over the weekend, I was invited behind the barrier to check out the new new franchise locations.

CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery

First, I sampled Cold Stone Creamery, which features hard-packed ice cream customized with “mix ins” and blended on the namesake cold stone.

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Photo Update: Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge Construction

by on March 14, 2014

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge is under construction (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge is under construction (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Last month, I brought you pre-construction photos of the pedestrian path that guests of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort will use to walk from Universal Orlando‘s newest hotel to CityWalk and the theme parks. Since then, I’ve received exciting new details on designs for the Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Walk, which will eventually supercede the existing sidewalks in the area.

The walking path on the north (westbound) side of Hollywood Way will have to serve temporarily for guests unwilling to take the provided shuttles buses during the hotel’s initial opening phase. The walk, which I documented in a video, is entirely navigable at this time with the exception of a crosswalk and traffic signal at the final intersection, which could be easily added before Cabana Bay’s first guests arrive at the end of March.

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PotterWatch: New Hogwarts Express Details Released

by on March 14, 2014

Exciting new Hogwarts Express details revealed by Universal Orlando.

Exciting new Hogwarts Express details revealed by Universal Orlando.

As even the most unobservant Muggle probably already knows, Universal Orlando is opening a major expansion of their hit Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions this summer, and one of the most anticipated elements of the additions is the new Hogwarts Express train, which will link the existing Hogsmeade Village in Islands of Adventure with the new Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Today, Friday March 14, Universal is releasing new Hogwarts Express details, and thanks to Touring Plans’ friend Jim Hill we are happy to be among the first to bring you the news, including some details you won’t find in the official press release.

Here are some exciting new officially confirmed facts about the upcoming Hogwarts Express attraction:

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PotterWatch: Zonko’s Closed, London Waterfront Walls, & Hogwarts Express Details on Friday

by on March 13, 2014

Zonko's Closed and more Wizarding World news in this week's PotterWatch (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Zonko’s Closed and more Wizarding World news in this week’s PotterWatch (photos by Seth Kubersky)

In this week’s edition of PotterWatch, we head into the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando‘s Islands of Adventure on the day before Zonko’s closed, then check out the new construction walls along the London Waterfront in Universal Studios Florida. Finally, we’ll tell you when you can hear fresh details about the Hogwarts Express, and share new information on early entry for Universal Orlando resort hotel guests.

Zonko’s Closed

For the first time, a significant component of Hogsmeade Village has disappeared. Zonko’s Joke Shop, one of the original shops at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, permanently closed its doors this week. It will reopen in the coming months as an extension of the adjoining Honeydukes candy shop, which is usually overcrowded.

 

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Complete Guide to Universal Studios Mardi Gras 2014 UPDATED

by on March 12, 2014

Universal Studios Mardi Gras 2014 guide

Universal Studios Mardi Gras Grand Celebration starts on Feb 8, 2014.

Today we tackle one of my favorite theme park topics: the annual Universal Studios Mardi Gras Grand Celebration. Universal Studios Mardi Gras holds a special place in my heart because, back in the late 1990s when I worked in Universal Studios Florida’s entertainment department, I was a talent supervisor for the parade, and got to walk with it nightly. (I’ll never get “Iko Iko” or “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” out of my skull.) So I’m thrilled to share Touring Plans’ complete guide to Universal’s bead laden bacchanalia, bringing you all the info you need to laissez les bons temps rouler!

[UPDATED 3/12/14: Scroll down for late-breaking news on the Mardi Gras extension and rescheduled Robin Thicke concert!]

Background

Mardi Gras originated in the religious observation of “Fat Tuesday” (the literal translation of the name), which is the day before “Ash Wednesday” on the Catholic calendar, and the start of Lent’s 40 days of dietary restrictions. People would bid “farewell to flesh” with a “carnivale” where they would indulge in the meat and drink they were about to forswear. Mardi Gras is the New Orleans, Louisiana, variation on this tradition — which is echoed in other cities from Venice, Italy to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Over the centuries, the religious significance has been stripped away, and most Mardi Gras revelers attend for strictly secular reasons — namely, epic quantities of booze, beads, and bare breasts. About 20 years ago, Universal took a look at the festivities and said, “This will make a fine family friendly event,” and amazingly it is — minus the bare breasts, of course. But that doesn’t mean it’s inauthentic; much as Universal partnered with Macy’s for its holiday parade, Universal engages Blaine Kern Studios, the same company that’s been building floats for the real deal since 1947, to create the park’s parade platforms. And musicians and recipes imported from the Big Easy add to the French Quarter feel. Of course, the real Bourbon Street doesn’t have concerts from big-name recording artists after each parade, much less a high-speed roller coaster cruising by in the background.

 

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PotterWatch: Hogsmeade Station Construction, Zonko’s Still Open, Leaky Cauldron Food

by on March 5, 2014

Welcome back to the latest irregular installment of PotterWatch, our mostly-weekly series of photo updates observing Universal Orlando‘s progress on their Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansions. I’ve been off for the pass couple weeks exploring some attractions on the opposite side of the country, but I’m happy to be back in Florida with a few exciting advancements in the Potter universe. This first PotterWatch of March 2014 features Hogsmeade Station construction, the continued existence of Zonko’s, and yet another look at Diagon Alley’s London facade, plus some tasty new Leaky Cauldron food photo leaks.

Hogsmeade Station Construction

In the last edition of PotterWatch, I shared the first photographs of Island of Adventure’s Lost Continent carnival games buildings after the games had been removed. Shortly after that posting, the buildings themselves were removed, and the entire area immediately outside Hogsmeade Village was more or less demolished.

Hogsmeade Station construction PotterWatch leaky cauldron food

Hogsmeade Station construction continues near where the Lost Continent games were demolished. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Now, the entire entryway to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from Lost Continent has been walled off, turning Sindbad stadium into a cul-de-sac. Guests wishing to enter Hogsmeade must traverse through Jurassic Park, just as they did during 2010 when the area was first under construction.

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Universal Orlando Construction Update: CityWalk Starbucks and Cold Stone Unveiled

by on March 2, 2014

It’s amazing what a difference a few hours makes at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk complex these days. Just a few short weeks ago we were reporting on the opening of Antojitos Authentic Mexican restaurant, which has already seen some menu tweaks along with long waits for tables on weekend nights. Now, we’re happy to bring you the first photos of the facades for the new CityWalk Starbucks Coffee and Cold Stone ice cream shop, which were hidden behind construction walls until the first of March.

This is what the area under the CityWalk escalators, which originally held the Endangered Species store, looked like on the last day of February as guests exited Universal Orlando’s parks:


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Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2014 Parade Video and French Quarter Food Photo Gallery

by on February 19, 2014

Opening night at Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2014 parade food (photos & video by Seth Kubersky)

Opening night at Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2014 (photos & video by Seth Kubersky)

Fat Tuesday may not arrive until March 4, according the the Catholic calendar, but Mardi Gras is already in full effect at Universal Studios Florida. Opening night on February 8 of Universal’s Mardi Gras 2014 celebration included a concert by American Idol star Daughtry, and the premiere of new Jules Verne-themed floats in the 2014 Mardi Gras Parade. Even intermittent rain didn’t diminish the considerable crowds who came out for Mardi Gras 2014‘s damp debut, though slick streets did ground the stiltwalkers.

Derek Burgan will be back in the coming weeks with a couple Mardi Gras-themed “Saturday Six” columns, but until then I wanted to bring you a virtual taste of the festivities.

First, a quick correction to our earlier Complete Guide to Mardi Gras. The original parade route map published on Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras Parade page was incorrect (it has since been fixed). The parade actually makes a loop, entering and exiting at Esoteric Gate near the Horror Make-Up Show. Here is the corrected map (click to enlarge; the Mardi Gras Parade route is the red dotted line):

Mardi Gras Parade Map

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