Posts Tagged ‘Universal’

SATURDAY SIX: Six Theme Park Questions For the Magic 8 Ball

by on March 14, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Theme Park Questions For the Magic 8 Ball. Theme park fans have a lot of questions. In fact, the mailbag at the Saturday Six offices is stuffed with letters from fans asking about their favorite Orlando parks. Unfortunately, thanks to TV being our babysitter growing up, our reading comprehension isn’t that great. We hired some interns to handle the mail, but they are even worse because of YouTube, Vine and Twitter (enjoy life now because we’re all doomed when this generation takes control of things.) So we did the only thing that we could do given the circumstances….we made up our own questions.

# 6 – What will Avatarland do in the area of merchandise?

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A Na’vi makes the bond with 15.99% APR. (photo by Matt Cleary)

Disney has slowly been giving us information on the upcoming Avatar expansion at Animal Kingdom, including the groundbreaking ceremony in early 2014 in which Imagineers used 10 foot shovels. Several attractions have been vaguely teased, and the point is always stressed that this land is attempting to be one of the most amazing experiences in theme park history. It’s James Cameron and Walt Disney Imagineering, two of the best in the world at what they do.

However, one thing that hasn’t been mentioned at all is what kind of retail opportunities there will be in this land, if any. Avatar is the most successful movie in the history of cinema, but it does not lead itself to the traditional methods of merchandising that Universal has used for its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The third act of Avatar is hinged on the fact that the humans have nothing to offer the Na’vi, because the natives of Pandora have no use for materialistic things. What are those materialistic things? Shirts, action figures, magnets, and pretty much anything else you would find in a theme park gift shop.

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Mama Della’s: The Best Full-Service Restaurant at Universal Orlando

by on March 9, 2015

There are so many different classifications one can sort a theme park restaurant into – best themed, best ambiance, best location, best food, best price. But what of the best overall venue, the one that most successfully manages to not only balance all of these different considerations, but to also be more than just the sum of its parts? That would surely be a difficult feat to pull off, and the eatery would probably be jam-packed full of people day in and day out.

Mama Della's Ristorante

Image © Universal

With Universal Orlando Resort’s best all-around full-service restaurant, Mama Della’s Ristorante, this is most certainly not the case. Maybe it’s because it’s located at Portofino Bay Hotel, which is tucked away in the corner of the resort. Maybe it’s because it’s overshadowed by a (growing) number of other eateries at the theme parks, from Harry Potter’s wondrous digs to the tasty fast food offerings of Springfield, USA. Maybe it’s just because it’s not Mythos, which has long been considered the best theme park restaurant in the world.

Whatever the reason, Mama Della’s is typically devoid of the long lines and online buzz that is associated with much of the rest of Universal’s lineup, making it a superlative dining experience in nearly every sense – terrific food, atmospherics, and wait times.

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SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL EDITION: Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards (AKA “The Burgys”)

by on February 21, 2015

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The most coveted theme park award of all… The Golden Burgy.

This week’s SATURDAY SIX presents the Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards. This weekend, while the rest of the world is preparing for The Oscars and spending hours watching awards given to films they haven’t even heard of, let alone watched (not to mention the outright Best Picture snubs of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier), readers of this column will be able to see their favorite theme park attractions get the attention they deserve. The Golden Burgy, theme park media’s highest award, is being handed out to the rides, shows, restaurants, and experiences that truly stood out over the past year.

Just as the Academy Awards hand out their lesser prizes before the main show, we’d like to present two of our minor awards before we get to the big ones. First, a Golden Burgy goes to the Holy Land Experience in the category of Best Theme Park Food Pun for their Garden of Eaten Chicken Salad Sandwich. Interestingly enough, Holy Land had all the nominees in this category including JerusaLamb, Land of Milk (no honey,and My Cup Overflows Souvenir Refillable Cup. The category of Biggest Theme Park Free Fall experience was the tightest race of all the nominees. Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens was the favorite to win, but the coveted Golden Burgy instead went to SeaWorld’s stock price. Now that’s a drop.

With those out of the way, allow us to present to you the Inaugural SATURDAY SIX Theme Park Awards, starting with…

# 6 – Best New Ride Experience – Diagon Alley’s Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts 

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The rotunda inside Gringotts bank includes an incredible view. And this is just the queue! (photo by Tom Bricker)

What else needs to be said about Universal’s newest E-Ticket attraction? The queue for Escape From Gringotts is one of the best in theme park history, loaded with magical details from the Harry Potter films. There are incredible goblin animatronics and million dollar chandeliers hanging above that make the Gringotts Bank lobby almost an attraction by itself.

Unlike IOA’s Forbidden Journey’s “best of” trip through the first four Potter films, Escape From Gringotts places guests directly into events from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Ingeniously showing a movie scene from another perspective, Escape From Gringotts takes Universal’s motto of Ride The Movies to the next level.

Worst New Ride Experience – Being attacked by bees on Rip Ride Rocket 

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“Oh the humanity!” Swarms of bees attack riders on Universal Studios Florida’s Rip Ride Rockit. (photo by Mike Sperduto and Matt Cleary.)

While just a minor blip on the radar in 2014, the story of Rip Ride Rockit having a minor problem with bees was enough for us to envision the plot of a new horror film.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: February 19, 2015

by on February 19, 2015

201Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’re enjoying meals not just at Kona Cafe, but also Finnegan’s Bar & Grill over at Universal. Of course, we’re also visiting the Universal Orlando Parks, Downtown Disney, and stopping by the Magic Kingdom too. I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all into just one blog! Let’s figure it out together. :)

For Valentine’s Day lunch we couldn’t think of a better place than Kona Cafe. The food is wonderful and the setting is comfy and casual. Traffic was worse than we’d anticipated so we made it to the podium exactly on time for our 12:30pm reservation. Of course, that meant we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. They seemed quite short staffed with several empty tables despite gobs of people waiting outside. It was nice to have the tables next to us open, though. Our appetizer of potstickers ($8.49) were super yummy and came out so quickly they beat our drinks!

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Want to see what we ordered? Be sure to click to read more!

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Don’t Bust Your Budget: Don’t Buy These at Theme Parks!

by on February 17, 2015

Budgeting for a trip, be it to Walt Disney World or Universal Studios Orlando, is hard whether you live down the street, or you’re flying down for a week with the whole family. Between gas, hotels, meals, transportation, not to mention the tickets themselves (and don’t even pretend you ain’t all about a pair of those mouse ears), a trip of any length is already expensive. So why make it harder on your budget by buying the things in the theme parks that will gouge you the worst? Today we’re going to talk about some of the things you should never buy in a theme park or an on-property hotel if you value your wallet, and no, we’re not talking about souveniers or turkey legs… we’re talking about the necessities you might not think of, or might be thinking you can just pick up inside the park itself. And just because they don’t get enough love, let’s bring Lilo and Stitch along for the ride.

Lilo and Stitch belong to Disney

Remember, a creepy smile costs nothing. Photo © Disney

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I want you to imagine this item strung from the ceiling above you with streamers, confetti, and a couple big neon Las Vegas arrows pointing at it for good measure. If you’re not from Florida, you might be underestimating just how abysmally evil that great big daystar is no matter what the season, and when you or your family starts turning pink, it’s usually far too late. (One poor British woman stopped me outside the lady’s room to ask me if her back was “as bad as it felt”. I think my face melted off like in Raiders of the Lost Ark when I saw it. It’s okay… I got better.) While most stores in the parks will carry some sort of sunscreen, not only are the types and SPF factor going to be extremely limited, but you’re going to pay upwards of $12.00 USD or more for a tiny bottle! You definitely shouldn’t mess around with sun protection, but you should definitely bring your own!

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Menu Monday: Cowfish at Universal CityWalk Orlando Review

by on February 16, 2015

Cowfish Logo

Cowfish Logo

 

Disclosure: Please note that while we were not compensated for our meal, we were seated at Cowfish by management after my husband spoke to someone at corporate office.

Despite the fact that we’ve been driving down the road to party it up at Universal Studios Orlando for nearly eight years now, it’s hard to pry my husband and me away from our beloved outdoor bars and into restaurants. Hey, we like to people-watch… how else would I be able to snobbishly judge passersby on the nerd culture displayed on their clothing? So we were a little disappointed to hear that one of CityWalk’s newest establishments, the sushi-burger fusion place Cowfish, had nixed its outdoor bar food service literally the day before we arrived. Typically, that’s how you get lazy, food-obsessed locals to swear vengeance on your establishment… hey, my name isn’t Inigo Montoya, I take my vendettas where I can. Cowfish’s menu had come so highly recommended, however, and from so many different people, that we had to give it a try. Turns out, it’s a good thing we did, since Cowfish is really, really worth the trip. Enough that we went twice just to tell you about different things!

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Universal Dining: The Cowfish in Universal CityWalk

by on January 5, 2015

The Cowfish was the final piece of Universal CityWalk‘s year long renovation that brought eight new dining venues to the resort. Cowfish joins Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Antojitos, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Bread Box, Vivo Italian Kitchen, Cold Stone Creamery, and Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt as the new kids on the block, joining longtime CityWalk restaurants such as Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and the Hard Rock Cafe. Cowfish is located in the former home of Starbucks, who moved downstairs to the main strip of CityWalk, next to Cold Stone Creamery.

While Cowfish arrived last, it was possibly the most anticipated of CityWalk’s new locations from the minute they were all announced back in 2013. A one-of-kind dining concept that melds pan-Asian cuisine with the good ol’ American burger, Cowfish was bringing something completely unique to the table. While many were expecting a mouth watering and innovative menu, what no one saw coming was the amount of humor and interactivity that debuted with Cowfish, including its photo-op outside the restaurant that allows guests to saddle up and ride a cowfish.

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The Cowfish. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Can’t Wait to See in 2015

by on January 3, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Can’t Wait to See in 2015. It’s going to be impossible to forget the year that was 2014 (no matter how hard we try), but there are many things to look forward to in the coming twelve months. Today we are going to focus on the theme park resorts, but keep in mind that a lot is happening in general around Orlando, including the massive I-Drive 360 project finally opening. There’s never been a better time to plan your next Florida vacation, but let’s look at six reasons you should be double checking those airline ticket prices more closely, starting with…

# 6 – The Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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The Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. (photo by Daisy Lauren)

I’ve got to hand it to Disney, the work they have done expanding DVC into the monorail resorts has been exceptional. The Villas at the Grand Floridian and Bay Lake Tower at The Contemporary are great accommodations, but the upcoming waterside Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Resort Village could be the new jewel of the DVC crown. Granted, it’s going to take us forever to save up in order to afford just one night at these Bungalows, but this was a brilliant idea.

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New Lines App Feature Adds Attractions to Park Touring Plans

by on November 29, 2014

Now you can add an attraction to your Disney and Universal touring plans while reading the ride’s description in our Lines mobile app.

We’ve updated the attraction pages to show whether the attraction is already included in a touring plan. A new button on the page allows you to add the attraction to a touring plan:
Add Disney or Universal attractions to your touring plan

 

On the next screen, you’ll choose whether to add the attraction to an existing touring plan or new plan. If the attraction is already a part of a plan, you’ll have the option to add or subtract multiple rides:

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Menu Monday: My Dinner at VIVO

by on November 3, 2014

entrancevivoWhen I made it over to Universal Orlando Resort for the first time a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised at the close proximity of the parks and the CityWalk area. I knew that I should sample some food from the CityWalk area, and through some research I thought I should go to VIVO.

openkitchenVIVO Italian Kitchen just opened up in June as part of CityWalk’s new renovations and additions. (Other restaurants recently added are Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, and The Cowfish.) VIVO promotes itself as “modern Italian cuisine,” and the decor of the restaurant really promotes that. It feels very contemporary inside, with an open layout and lots of light.

I really enjoyed the modern decorations here, and it was a great setting with which to relax after a long day of touring around Universal. It was classy, but I didn’t feel under-dressed, either.

barI was seated near the bar, and the two bartenders working waited on me. I have worked in the food industry before, and know that sometimes servers would prefer to wait on tables of two or more guests instead of a solo diner, but the bartenders were very nice and didn’t try to get me out the door as soon as possible. One of them had a nice conversation with me about Halloween Horror Nights, which he had just attended the night before.

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