Posts Tagged ‘Universal Orlando’

Dani’s Best Week Ever March 3, 2016: Universal Orlando, Treehouse Villas, Morimoto Asia, and Best Friends Pet Care

by on March 3, 2016

Sometimes the best days, as in the best ever days, are when you cram in a ton of attractions area fun into one day. In this case, I crammed a quick visit to Universal Orlando, drove to Walt Disney World, checked my dog Dodger (#DodgertheDog) into Best Friend’s Pet Care, joined my family at the amazing Treehouse Villas, took a boat ride to Disney Springs, and had one of the best meals of my life at Morimoto Asia. And this all took place after I had gone to work that day. So come along with me for a whirlwind trip over the river and into the woods from Universal Orlando to the Treehouse Villas at Walt Disney World.

Cheers to one of the best days ever!

Cheers to one of the best days ever!

After work I headed to Universal Orlando to check out the brand new Hello Kitty store. Though I am not the biggest Hello Kitty fan, it’s always fun to see something when it first opens. There’s excitement in the air, management is hovering over their new pride and joy, it’s clean and unharmed. The store is bright, bubbly, and almost saccharine. All kinds of Hello Kitty and Sanrio character merchandise fill the walls from apparel to house wares.

Hello Kitty everything

Hello Kitty everything

Hello Kitty flippy floppies

Hello Kitty flippy floppies ($19.95 plus tax)

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Dani’s Best Week Ever February 18, 2016: Universal Mardi Gras

by on February 18, 2016

Ed – You already know Best Week Ever, but we have some new Best Week Ever authors. Why limit who can describe having the best week ever when you have two wonderful ladies who can do it? Welcome, Dani!

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Best Week Ever. I am excited to share the BWE spotlight and take you along on my adventures through all of Orlando’s theme parks. I’ve spent my entire life in Orlando and have always had a passion for travel and tourism. By day I work in the hotel industry, by nights and weekends I roam throughout Central Florida enjoying all there is to offer.

Enough with the introductions, laissez le bon temps rouler (let the good times roll!) it’s time for my first visit to Universal Mardi Gras for 2016, the first of many I can assure you. I visited on Sunday, Valentine’s Day, ready to meet up with some great folks and check out some Barenaked Ladies (the band of course!) However, the night before Miss Diana Ross graced the Universal Mardi Gras stage and drew quite the crowd. I read horror stories on Twitter about the parking garage during the mass exodus after the concert being backed up and disorganized, leaving guests stuck in traffic for an hour. A game plan was in order.

A taste of things to come, a popular and crowded Universal Mardi Gras

A taste of things to come, a popular and crowded Universal Mardi Gras

I decided I would rather spend a little bit of money to valet park at one of the on-site hotels and enjoy a nice drink and an appetizer at one of the hotel restaurants in order to reduce the cost of valet parking. To be certain of my options I called up the hotel (407-503-2000) and the friendly operator explained that valet parking is validated at The Palm Restaurant, Velvet Lounge, and The Kitchen. Valet parking is not free when you dine here, but reduced from $23 to $5. Since The Palm and Velvet Lounge don’t open until 5pm, I decided upon The Kitchen (open from 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM).

If you are a local or are driving in from an area hotel, prepare for traffic, especially from 2:00 PM onward. Mardi Gras takes places on the weekends, so that in itself makes it busier. Couple that with much of the festivities taking place in the afternoon and evening, plus some decent headlining concerts, and you’ve got a recipe for traffic congestion. That’s exactly what we found on our way, coming from the Northeast side of the Orlando area. We took a back way, Conroy Road to Vineland Road, which leads to Universal Blvd.

Pulling up to the hotel was a breeze. I told the bellman we were coming in for some food and drink at The Kitchen and confirmed that by doing so we could get the valet parking validated. The outside entrance of the Hard Rock Hotel is beautiful, the inside lobby however has never really impressed me. Still the resort has an irresistible energy.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever January 28, 2016: Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Update

by on January 28, 2016

Early park admission universal Orland

Indulge your sweet tooth in this Best Week Ever update of Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando (photos/video by Seth Kubersky)

 

I hope you set your alarm clocks this morning, because this Best Week Ever is up and at ’em before daybreak to enjoy one of my favorite theme park perks. Early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is usually restricted to Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests, but throughout January annual passholders were allowed to join to early morning crowds on weekdays. At the same time, Universal has made some tweaks to the way this popular option operates, so this past week I awoke ahead of the sun to bring you the Universal Orlando Early Park Admission update.

First, the big news about Universal Orlando Early Park Admission is that it is currently offered at Universal Studios Florida only. For most of 2015, Early Park Admission was offered only at Islands of Adventure during off-peak times, and at both parks during peak holiday periods. Early in 2016, Universal returned off-peak Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida only. While communications from Universal have been inconsistent about the future EPA calendar, we currently expect Early Park Admission to remain at Universal Studios Florida only until the Easter/Spring Break peak season.

Here are some other Universal Orlando Early Park Admission updates:

  • When Universal Studios Florida opens for Early Park Admission, only Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the attractions inside Diagon Alley (including Escape from Gringotts) are regularly open. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers may also open early if the crowds warrant, but they were not operating early during my recent visit.
  • When Islands of Adventure opens for Early Park Admission, the Hogwarts Express usually begins operating 30 minutes before Universal Studios Florida officially opens. However, when Universal Studios Florida open early, the first Hogwarts Express train depart only a few minutes before IOA’s opening hour.

 

Got all that? Great! Now, let’s take a morning stroll around the parks.

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The lesser known rides at Universal Orlando

by on January 27, 2016

It’s clear that Universal Orlando has cornered the market on thrilling, exhilarating rides. When you want exciting experiences, Universal Orlando is the clear choice. But there is more to Universal than thrill rides, and we often overlook the smaller, more minor attractions here. Especially with the closure of two of Universal Studio’s minor attractions: Disaster! and Twister Ride It Out! (both names ending in exclamation points I might add), it can be easy to forget the small collection of less thrilling rides.

Kang and Kodo’s Twirl ‘n’ Hurl

It seems that the spinner style ride is a must-have when building a theme park. It all started with the iconic Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Disneyland in 1955. Ever since that time it has become a staple of theme parks to have at least one of this type of ride in its line-up.

At Universal Orlando two spinner rides are offered, both with a little added touch. Twirl and Hurl came onto the scene when the World Expo area received a makeover courtesy of The Simpsons. After The Simpsons Ride took over for Back to the Future, the turf of the Simpsons was expanded to include multiple eateries, midway games, and this spinner ride.

Pay close attention to the signage throughout the ride’s queue and exit, as well as the audio messaging. I love the names of the ride vehicles, each flying saucer has a unique, pun laden name such as Mai Tai Fighter or Ronald Ray-gun. Additionally, the extra touch here are the targets around the circumference of the ride. As you spin through the air aim, your vehicle up or down to line up with the targets of varying heights. If you line it up just right you’ll cause the targets to spin accompanied by silly sound effects.

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Universal Orlando Releases 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter Schedule

by on January 24, 2016

2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule

Plan you Wizarding weekend with the 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule

If you’ve been anxiously awaiting an official 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule of events from Universal Orlando, you can relax because your owl has arrived! Universal has just announced the full rundown of public happenings during their annual Wizarding World weekend, which runs January 29-31, 2016.

Activities over the three day Celebration of Harry Potter include Q&A sessions with cast members from the hit movies, panels with artists who worked on the films and parks, and special demonstrations and exhibits relating to Potter lore. In 2016, the Music Plaza stage in Universal Studios Florida will be dedicated during the day to kids activities, in addition to hosting the headliner events in the evenings, while Toon Lagoon amphitheater in Islands of Adventure will reopen during the daytime for sessions aimed at adult fans.

All of the below listed activities are open to all park goers, including annual passholder, without needing an extra ticket. One thing you won’t see on the list is autograph sessions with the film stars. After the intense demand for limited autograph tickets last year, Universal has restricted the signings solely to those who purchased special hotel packages (which sold out long ago).

Here is the full schedule of 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter activities:

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Universal Orlando’s CityWalk is Reborn

by on January 15, 2016

Universal Orlando’s CityWalk hasn’t always been much of a draw for many visitors. It was often viewed as the place that you have to walk through in order to get to the parks. By contrast, it is actually the catalyst for me becoming a Universal Orlando Annual Passholder. I spent so much time enjoying the restaurants (I’m looking at you Margaritaville), bars (oh the stories we could tell about Cigarz) and nightclubs (yes, I do love to shake my groove thing).  Whenever I said I was going to “Universal” I’d be referring to CityWalk. But it is no secret that a revamp was needed.

Other than replacing the no-one-is-going-to-miss-it NBA City, the new and improved CityWalk has arrived. Let’s talk about some of the highlights of the reborn CityWalk.

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The original restaurants are keeping it fresh

CityWalk has welcomed a wave of new restaurants over the past two years, but there are three restaurants from the early days that are still going strong. What’s more is these restaurants have updated their menus within the past year or so. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cafe compares to no other when it comes to transporting patrons to the tropics. Margaritas and boat drinks, burgers, seafood, and sweets are waiting to be enjoyed. Radio Margaritaville DJ, JD Spradlin broastcasts live Wednesdays – Sundays 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, live musicians strum their guitars on the Porch of Indecision in the early evening, and a live band rocks the house on the main stage inside after 9:00 PM, so there’s always something to entertain you.

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Video: Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue Closing Day

by on January 8, 2016

Beetlejuice graveyard revue closing day

Say bye bye to BJ with our Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue closing day video. (Photos/video by Seth Kubersky)

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights may have been the most beloved attraction to close so far in 2016, but it wan’t the only Orlando fan favorite to fold this week. Over at Universal Studios Florida, audiences applauded the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue closing day cast as the boorish bio-exorcist and his monstrous bandmates went back into their tombs for the last time.

 

The closing day for Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue — also known in its latest incarnation as Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-Up — came on January 5, 2016, which was extended several weeks from the orginally announced ending date by “popular demand.”

 

For the final day, a special evening performance was added exclusively for annual passholders. Some super-fans lined up before dawn to secure wristbands for the final show, but there were still hundreds available from USF’s Studio Audience Center in mid-afternoon.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever December 24, 2015: Universal Orlando Star Wars Staycation at Cabana Bay

by on December 24, 2015

Universal Orlando Star Wars Staycation

Take a vicarious Universal Orlando Star Wars Staycation at Cabana Bay with Best Week Ever (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

After my recent visit to New York City, I didn’t want my holiday vacation to end…and here at Best Week Ever, it doesn’t have to! Thanks to an amazing annual passholder discount, I was able to enjoy a single night Universal Orlando Star Wars staycation at Cabana Bay Beach Resort and celebrate the opening of The Force Awakens in CityWalk IMAX style. Don’t be jealous, because I’m bringing you all with me in today’s photo-filled recap.

 

I checked into Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort on Thursday, December 17, amid the festive retro decorations in the value-priced hotel’s Mad Men-esque lobby.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever December 3, 2015: Black Friday at Universal Orlando

by on December 3, 2015

black friday universal orlando best week ever

The day after Thanksgiving has become one of America’s most important secular holidays, as young and old celebrate capitalism by camping out for dirt-cheap televisions. I was also out there shopping on the big day, but in true Best Week Ever fashion I spent my Black Friday at Universal Orlando among the vacationing throngs.

I started my Black Friday shopping with a major purchase by renewing my Universal Orlando annual pass. After disconts, my Premier pass costs just under $1 per day. That’s a lot more than it was when I first became a passholder 15 years ago, but still a great value considering how quickly the parks has been adding new attractions.

 

Once inside Islands of Adventure, I was greeted by the still-jarring sight of the Incredible Hulk Coaster…or rather the lack thereof.

 

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New Terminator 2 3D Preshow Debuts at Universal Studios Florida (with Video)

by on December 2, 2015

Terminator 2 3D is one of the oldest attractions remaining at Universal Studios Florida (right behind opening-day survivors E.T. and Horror Makeup Show) and rumors have swirled for years that the aging show would soon see its demise. But over Thanksgiving Week, Universal quietly debuted a new Terminator 2 3D preshow film, implying that T2/3D may be around for a few more years to come.

 


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