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.
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.
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.
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.
Welcome to Universal Orlando.
The facade of NBC Sports Grill Brew is now finished.
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…
Main entrance of Islands Dining Room on the ground floor of the Royal Pacific Resort. (all photos by Brandon Glover)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Volcano Bay concept art (source: Universal Orlando)
When discussing dining at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Mythos 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.
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.
Yes, The Three Broomsticks may be the best quick-service restaurant at Universal Orlando Resort, and, yes, a lot of Broomsticks’s impressiveness is due to its immaculate theming, which is arguably in a league of its own.
But Mythos differentiates itself in a number of key ways, from the small (it’s a table-service eatery rather than a counter-service one) to the large (instead of being based on a pre-existent intellectual property, it has the double duty of creating another world for guests to inhabit from scratch while simultaneously transporting them there). When added together, it becomes quickly apparent that Islands of Adventure’s premiere venue is also its most immersive one, and that, indeed, Mythos takes top thematic billing at the entire resort.
What, exactly, is in a theme, and how does it impact your culinary experience? Let’s find out.