Posts Tagged ‘Universal’

The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: Bait You Can Click On

by on October 17, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a very special one as we dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. What a week. If you’re like us you’ve been too busy watching the return of The Walking Dead on AMC, the Cubs and Mets winning their playoff series, and Donald Trump being Donald Trump. However we’ve been informed that a whole lot of stuff happened in the theme park world in the past week. So we took a page out of our old college playbook and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, feel confident you’re getting updated by someone who is kind of a big deal in the Eastern seaboard theme park blogging circles, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Mulch, Sweat, and Shears Plays Its Last Show at DHS.

Heaven needed a cover band.

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“So it goes.” – Kurt Vonnegut (photo by Matt Cleary)

This week, popular* live musicians Mulch, Sweat and Shears played their final show ever at DHS. Mulch joins Sounds Dangerous, the American Idol Experience, the Legend of Jack Sparrow, the Studio Backlot Tour, and the Magic of Disney Animation as attractions permanently removed from the park. This came just days after the popular** Duffy the Disney Bear meet and greet had its last day in Epcot. Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land can’t get here soon enough to stop the blood letting in DHS (and if I were Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular or One Man’s Dream I would lease, not buy). As for Duffy, maybe he can take Journey Into Imagination with Figment along with him in his journeys.

*At least in the Len Testa household

**At least in Japan

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Six Experiences We Need at CityWalk, Part II

by on October 9, 2015

Last time, we discussed what new restaurants we want at Universal CityWalk Orlando as it continues to evolve on its never-ending quest for Floridian dominance. This time, we’re going to tackle the shopping experiences, the side of the equation that has typically – and sadly – gotten the short shaft at the entertainment complex.

Universal CityWalk Orlando

Image © Universal

Unsurprisingly, there’s plenty of opportunity here to make CityWalk positively golden.

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Six Experiences We Need at CityWalk, Part I

by on October 4, 2015

CityWalk has seen a major transformation happen at the breakneck speed that only Universal can accomplish. Over the past three years, new entertainment options have been added (Hollywood Drive-In Golf), old venues have been given the sleek and modern touch (Universal Studios Store and Starbucks), and a whole bevy of new restaurants have been unfurled (ranging from The Hot Dog Hall of Fame and Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food to The Cowifsh Sushi Burger Bar and Cold Stone Creamery). And, most impressive yet, there’s still several more dining options on the way, including the almost-open NBC Sports Grill & Brew and a rumored dessert venue.

Universal CityWalk Orlando

Image © Universal

Still, despite this nearly-complete makeover, there’s always room for extra experiences to be snuck in; Universal still has quite a way to go before it is representing most of the important entertainment bases, let alone competing with the diversity of options that Disney is lining up for its imminent Disney Springs.

With this in mind, lets look at some ideas of what Universal should be keeping its eye on for the immediate future. Whether culinary or retail-oriented, there’s one common denominator linking all our suggestions: a special uniqueness which would help differentiate these offerings from everything already in Orlando. The below suggestions would also help draw a distinction between what is largely being called CityWalk 2.0 from Disney Springs.

You should know that the below are a wishlist of things that I think would add to the already great offerings at CityWalk. Similar to the post that Erin Foster wrote about Disney Springs, these are based on my opinion, not rumors.

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Universal Orlando Photo Update: September 22, 2015

by on September 22, 2015

Welcome back to another photo update around the Universal Orlando Resort. This week we’ll start things off with a look at the installation of the sign on the exterior of NBC Sports Grill Brew. Over at the Studios, the archway has been decorated for Halloween Horror Nights. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for HHN coverage this week since there’s plenty of new props and merchandise to look at. Over at Islands of Adventure, we’ll take a look a look at King Kong and a Toon Lagoon shop under refurbishment. All that and much more, so let’s get going.

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Welcome to Universal Orlando.

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The facade of NBC Sports Grill Brew is now finished.

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Universal Dining: The Wok Experience at Royal Pacific’s Islands Dining Room

by on September 15, 2015

We have covered some of the Royal Pacific Resort (RPR) dining options previously with Jake’s American Bar (along with Jake’s character breakfast) and the absolute must-do, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop (be sure to order Tchoup Chop’s signature Mai Tai). Today we are going to  look at the main dining area of the resort – or at least its largest – Islands Dining Room. While Islands has the best breakfast buffet on Universal property, we ventured into the restaurant for dinner, and not just any dinner: The Wok Experience. We have heard countless rave reviews of this dinner and decided to see if it lived up to the hype…

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Main entrance of Islands Dining Room on the ground floor of the Royal Pacific Resort. (all photos by Brandon Glover)

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Beef wok bowl.

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Universal Orlando Resort Photo Update: September 10, 2015

by on September 10, 2015

Welcome back to another photo update around the Universal Orlando Resort. This week we’ll start things off with a look at the newest CityWalk venue, the NBC Sports Grille Brew. We’ll head into the Studios where Halloween Horror Nights construction is coming to a head. Two new musical acts have also debuted in the park, each with a unique theme. Over at Islands of Adventure, we’ll finish off this week’s update with another look at the progress on the upcoming Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

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Welcome to CityWalk.

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Head to head: Night of Joy vs. Rock the Universe

by on August 26, 2015

The weekend of September 11 and 12 is one of the holiest in Orlando, and it has nothing to do with a religious holiday. That’s when, for the past 17 years, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts conduct their dueling Christian music festivals, gathering some of the biggest names in the genre and having all sorts of youths flocking to their parks after hours in even bigger numbers than normal.

Night of Joy 2015

Image © Disney

Disney started its Night of Joy event in 1983, while Universal jumped on the bandwagon with its Rock the Universe much later, in 1998. Despite that discrepancy in age, the two actually share a lot in common, and more than the identical dates: both festivals are hard-ticketed events (meaning you’ll need to purchase separate admission in order to get in) and typically feature musical acts that hop back and forth between the two.

That can make choosing one over the other something of a headscratcher, but don’t fret – that’s why we’re here to help. Below, find a complete comparison between the two on every important indicator, helping you to decide which will be more amenable to your family and your tastes (and, of course, your wallet).

Then, once you’ve made up your mind, be sure to let us know which way you’re going in the comments below.

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Emeril’s Orlando: Very Nice, but Skip It

by on June 7, 2015

My culinary tour of Universal Orlando Resort has, thus far, hit all the highs: the best food, best dessert and breakfast, best theming, and, of course, the best restaurant, in both full-service and counter-service varieties. But now it’s time to hit a low – one of the biggest lows, in fact, that Universal has to offer.

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Before CityWalk’s recent renovations – which have, to date, unleashed eight brand-new venues on the area – Emeril’s Orlando was the flagship eatery at the dining/shopping/entertainment district. And, really, it’s easy to see why: slick, upscale décor, an expansive (and decadent) menu, and a staggering collection of wines (all impeccably stacked in a 12,000-bottle gallery) all make for an impressive dining destination. Eating here is undeniably an experience.

Unfortunately it’s still an experience that, for most people on most schedules and with most budgets, is an experience I recommend be skipped – particularly considering all the other gastronomic delights that Universal Orlando has on hand, from the exclusive themed offerings of The Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter and Springfield, USA to the more traditional (but still excellent) likes of Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food and The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar.

Here’s why you’re better off spending your hard-earned vacation dollars somewhere else:

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Universal’s Volcano Bay Could Change Tourism In Orlando

by on May 29, 2015

The Orlando theme park world has erupted with excitement! Universal Orlando announced yesterday that a water park unlike any other is rising from the ground. Volcano Bay will boom onto the scene in 2017, and Universal claims that this will not just be a water park, but is their “third theme park.” From the looks of it, and from the messaging Universal Orlando is putting out there, it appears that a lot of innovation will flow throughout Volcano Bay. Sure the concept art is pretty dazzling, but can another water park in Orlando really be a game changer? As they say, the best way to predict the future is by looking at the past. So let’s take a look at Orlando’s bustling tourism industry to get an idea of how we can expect Volcano Bay to shake up tourism in Orlando.

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Volcano Bay concept art (source: Universal Orlando)

 

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Lombard’s Seafood Grille: The Best Food at Universal Orlando

by on May 25, 2015

When discussing dining at Universal’s Islands of AdventureMythos typically steals the culinary spotlight. Even Finnegan’s tends to get lots of love within Universal Studios Florida itself, but it’s actually Lombard’s Seafood Grille where a great deal of Universal’s gastronomical delights are to be found. When its top-notch offerings and ideal location on the park’s waterfront are combined with its low profile, an unexpected bonus pops up: lower wait times (on average, at least) and a quieter, more relaxed ambiance. The result is that Lombard’s is not to be missed.

Lombard's Seafood Grille -- exterior.

Image © Chuck Plagmann

Is that a hyperbolic statement, given the totality of the resort’s high-class dining offerings? In a word, no. While it’s true that Mama Della’s is the best overall full-service restaurant at Universal Orlando, and The Three Broomsticks is the highest quality quick-service location – and let’s not forget Mythos itself, which has to easily take the crown for the best-themed eatery – Lombard’s has some of, if not the, best meals around, coupled with an atmosphere that is subtly themed but nevertheless sublime.

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