Posts Tagged ‘Universal’

What you need to know about security procedures at Orlando’s theme parks

by on August 17, 2016

Orlando’s theme parks have enjoyed a decades long reputation for providing a clean and safe environment for all guests. Over the years the theme parks’ security procedures have evolved, adding layers and new processes. In the past few months we’ve seen a significant change to all the major theme parks’ procedures. In hopes of helping you prepare for your visit, I’ve laid out some of the security measures you can expect to encounter.

Keep in mind, there are multiple layers of security at all the parks. There are efforts that go unseen and procedures we don’t know about. Additionally, out of respect for the theme parks, their staff members, and their security, I won’t go beyond what is already shared with the public and easily seen when visiting the parks.

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Walt Disney World – Four Main Theme Parks

The Most Magical Place on Earth can’t hold such a title without having some solid security procedures in place. At the beginning of the year it was standard that all of Orlando’s theme parks conduct a bag check on any guest who had any bag of any kind, including strollers. Then a few months ago all three of Orlando’s major theme park destinations installed metal detectors at the security checkpoint. The rollout process and ramp up period varied for each destination.

Walt Disney World has proceeded with using their metal detectors for random checks. Although every single guest will go through a more-thorough-than-ever bag screening process, not every guest is asked to go through a metal detector. After the bag screening guests are selected at random to go through the detectors.

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The metal detectors are off to the side and are manned by a group of Security Cast Members. I have been selected multiple times. Each time the Cast Members have been very courteous and it has only added a minute or two to my ability to get to the park entrance. You may also notice law enforcement personnel at a few posts throughout the front entrance area, as well.

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Disney’s official park rules can be found here. Some of the highlights include statements that all persons, bags, parcels, and clothing are subject to screening, as well as stating that they reserve the right to not allow any item they deem inappropriate into the premises.

Guest that do not have bags have a separate area they can go through to bypass the bag screening area, but they are still subject to random metal detector screenings.

Of all the theme parks, you will most likely find that Walt Disney World’s screen process takes the least amount of time. Still if you arrive to the parks right around their opening time, be prepared for an extensive line at the checkpoints. It’s one of the reasons that we recommend arriving 30-60 minutes before any park’s opening time.

Disney Water Parks and Disney Springs

Currently, there are no metal detectors at Disney’s two water parks nor Disney Springs. At the water parks there is a bag screening, though not very extensive. There is no screening at Disney Springs, though there is a strong security and law enforcement presence.

Universal Orlando

Here you will find the most extensive screening process–and perhaps the most talked about process. Every guest will go through metal detector and all bags go through an x-ray machine. When you first approach the security checkpoint it really does resemble being at the airport. This security checkpoint is for all guests regardless of if you are visiting the theme parks or just CityWalk.

I have a slight concern with the location of this checkpoint, though it is difficult to think of an alternative location. During peak time, especially first thing in the morning, this domed area is extremely crowded. It can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience and when that feels like a bad bottle neck situation.

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Universal Team Members who park in the main parking structure must also go through the same screening area, though they have a dedicated separate lane. A few friends of mine that go through this process on a daily basis have expressed concerns with some of the interactions they’ve encountered with Security personnel, as well as encounters they’ve observed with guests.  I have had mostly good experiences, though there have been some rare occasion to the contrary.

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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 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, June 6, 2016

by on June 7, 2016

Welcome back to another Universal Orlando Photo Update! We’re in the middle of a very exciting time here at the resort, with two attractions opening up in the coming weeks and a brand new resort hotel not too far behind. We’ll start this week’s update with a look at Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium before taking a trip around Universal Studios Florida and a look at some smaller updates, including Fast and Furious: Supercharged and the Hello Kitty Store. Over at Islands of Adventure we’ve got a short look at The Incredible Hulk as well as some new information about Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Then we’ll close our update out with some shots of the nearly completed Sapphire Falls as well as next year’s Volcano Bay. All that and much more, so let’s get started!

Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium

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Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is Universal’s latest restaurant concept, opening this fall. It replaces the former NBA City concept and is currently undergoing a complete makeover to turn the form basketball restaurant into a chocolate factory.

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The giant windows are leftover from NBA City and will again afford guests a great view of the CityWalk lagoon.

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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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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’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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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – November 29 to December 5, 2015

by on December 8, 2015

How did the Universal Crowd Calendar do last week?

How did the Universal Crowd Calendar do last week?

If you prefer visiting parks with little to no crowd it doesn’t get much better than Universal Orlando last week. The Universal Crowd Calendar predicted that the resort would be around a crowd level ‘2’ all week and that is pretty much what happened. Some days crept up to a level ‘3’ and Wednesday dipped down to a ‘1’ but every day was a great day for low crowds.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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SATURDAY SIX THANKSGIVING SPECIAL: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2015

by on November 26, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX  is our annual Thanksgiving Special and takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2015 was another great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, we ask that all Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…

# 6 – Selfie Stick Ban at Walt Disney World

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no_more_selfie_sticks_pamphlet_sethIf you noticed any #Millenials or narcissists wearing black armbands this summer, it was because after banning selfie sticks on Disney attractions earlier in the spring, Walt Disney World completely banned the use of selfie sticks at the parks. Seemingly out of nowhere, the edict came down right after another high profile news story of Disney California Adventure’s California Screamin’ roller coaster being stopped mid ride because of a guest using a selfie stick. On June 26th, WDW guests were given a pamphlet at the parking plaza explaining the selfie stick ban, signage was displayed on the walkways to the parks along with bag check explaining the new policy.

The selfie stick ban was definitely a controversial move to be sure. Universal had earlier become more strict on preventing selfie sticks on rides, but Disney outright stopped people from even entering the park with them. Now we joked earlier about only kids and narcissists using them, the truth is that selfie sticks have become increasingly popular across almost all demographics. While people using selfie sticks inside the parks can be a nuisance, they were starting to become a serious safety factor on attractions. You may have seen what is called an Envelope of Protection as Imagineers test out the attractions. This device makes sure that all the attractions are safe for every rider, basically simulating the possible reach of every guest in the ride vehicle. This is why while it may seem like your may lose your arms in Space Mountain if you hold them up during the ride, but in actuality you are nowhere close to hitting anything. What the Envelope of Protection doesn’t take into account though, is guests holding on to anything that extends their reach.

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SATURDAY SIX: Yes, Even MORE Extreme Eats at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on November 21, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Even MORE Extreme Eats at the Universal Orlando Resort. We’re fast approaching Thanksgiving, the official holiday of glorious overeating. As most of you know by now, we here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters are big fans of Extreme Eats at the theme parks. Long ago we passed the line of adventurous foodies and into the realm of  gluttony for the sake of gluttony. And guess what? We’re heading back for more! So sit back, be careful as this article is the literary equivalent of a case of 5 Hour Energy (unfortunately just all of the side effects and none of the benefits), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6  – Big Pink Donut (Springfield, USA)

Our first stop has to be in Universal’s Springfield USA, home of the Krusty Burger, the Clogger, and Lard Lad Donuts. The giant Lard Lad figure and his gigantic donut (a fun reference to the Big Boy restaurant mascot) stand out even in a land of outrageousness. But what stands out even more is the  Lard Lad Big Pink Donut. The size of a human head, the Big Pink Donut is incredible to see in person, and even better to eat!

As Homer Simpon once said, “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”

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Now THAT’S a donut!

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Encased in glass, like all fine works of art. (photo by @AmusementBuzz)

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