Celebrations

Universal’s Summer Concert Series

by on April 8, 2016

To celebrate warm summer evenings – and to help empty out the rest of Universal Studios Florida during the extremely busy month of June – Universal holds the annual Summer Concert Series. While it’s not as well-known as Halloween Horror Nights, it is still a fun and well-attended event – and considering that it’s absolutely free (well, included in regular Universal Studios park admission, that is), it’s more than worth checking out.

Universal Summer Concert Series banner

Image © Universal

We’re already anticipating this year’s Concert Series; in 2014 it was cancelled, thanks to a little something called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley opening up (can you imagine two massive crowds vying for space in the park?), and last year’s was temporarily renamed the 25th Anniversary Concert Series, due to Universal Studios Florida, well, turning 25-years-old last summer. That means 2016 should be a return to standard, old-fashioned form, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

There is a caveat we have to issue here, however: although the company doesn’t typically make its Summer Concert announcements until the end of its Mardi Gras annual event (yes, we think that’s cutting it a little too close, as well), there is the small possibility that Universal opts to skip out on 2016, just as it did two years ago; there is a trio of brand-new openings occurring this summer at Universal Orlando, starting with Skull Island: Reign of Kong and the overhauled Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure and ending with Sapphire Falls Resort, the fifth on-site hotel. If so, then consider this an extremely early bout of vacation planning, and be sure to return here for when the 2017 Summer Concert Series rolls around. (Although it should be noted that we think the concerts will go on as usual. The Diagon Alley opening was at the same park, where this year’s new openings are at Islands of Adventure.)

Where is it?

Like nearly every other Universal Orlando annual event, you’ll find the festivities located at Universal Studios Florida.

Universal Music Plaza Stage

The Universal Music Plaza Stage, where the concerts are held

When is it?

Typically late May to late June, running for select nights (just like with nearly all of the resort’s other annual events). Last year’s Summer Concert Series had six artists performing – you guessed it – on six nights, starting on Saturday, May 23 and ending on Saturday, June 20 (there was one Sunday in there, too, for all those playing along at home).

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Spring Dapper Day at Walt Disney World

by on March 15, 2016

Let me start by saying that I am a Tom-girl, a country girl, or a self identified frump.  I like wearing jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, and tennis shoes.  You won’t often find me in a dress or skirt; and if you do it is probably for a wedding or a funeral.  I don’t do make-up and my hair skills are very limited.  A quick run through with my fingers or a ponytail suits me just fine.  That being said, even this Tom-girl has day dreams of a softer side.  I dream of breaking the mold I have built for myself; wearing cute little skirts, having a perfectly curled up-do, and being able to create magic with eye shadow and mascara.  I dream of being dapper.

Being dapper is defined as having a neat and trim appearance or being very spruce and stylish.  Both men and women can be dapper.  It usually describes clothing that is attractive and of high quality.  It makes me think of years gone by when men and women were sharply dressed anytime they left their house.  I romanticize of a more innocent world where men were gentlemanly and women had that air of innocence and mystery.  I think of Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Greta Garbo, and Rudolph Valentino.  Even Walt Disney has appeared quite dapper in several old photos I have seen.

In the everyday world I live in there is not much room for being dapper.  Leaving the house usually entails work clothes of some sort, not fashion.  It simply is not normal in my neck of the woods.  So, I am a product of my surroundings, left to merely dream of the day I can be more.  And more I will be.  This coming April 16th at the Magic Kingdom, I will get my chance to be stylish and sophisticated.  I will fit right in at Dapper Day.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s A Celebration of Harry Potter

by on February 6, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s A Celebration of Harry Potter. Universal has several great events during the year, including Mardi Gras and Halloween Horror Nights, but one that doesn’t get as much attention celebrates a character who completely changed the fortunes of the Universal Orlando Resort: Harry Potter, the boy who lived. Jam packed into this annual three day event are Q&As with celebrities, wand dueling classes for kids, and a whole bunch of cool stuff inside the Harry Potter Expo. Today we are going to look at our favorite parts of the event, so sit back, take a shot of firewhisky, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – The Sorting Hat Experience

With the Harry Potter books, author JK Rowling created a world that feels as real as our own. It is rich with depth and includes many concepts that readers can instantly identify with. The first Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – finds Harry going to Hogwarts, a magical school for gifted wizards and witches. Each student at Hogwarts is then sorted into one of four houses. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. The way the students are chosen for the houses is through the Sorting Hat. The first Harry Potter film brought this hat to life in an unforgettable scene, and Universal does its best to recreate that moment at A Celebration of Harry Potter.

Guests are brought up to the Sorting Hat and asked several questions from the robed Team Member (including where they were from, what they did for a living, if there’s a house they feel they might fit well in, etc). The Sorting Hat then announces which house it has sorted them in. It sounds crazy, but it’s fun and it’s popular. In fact the Sorting Hat experience gets some of the longest lines of the entire celebration, and why shouldn’t it? Getting sorted is something many Potter fans dream of, and although filling out a questionnaire on Pottermore is one way to get sorted, getting sorted by the Sorting Hat feels real.

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SATURDAY SIX’s own Megan Stump moments before being sorted into Gryffindor. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)

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“Hmm, difficult. VERY difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh yes. And a thirst to prove yourself. But where to put you? ” – The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (photo by Hunter Underwood – @elvenage)

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Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

by on February 2, 2016

Yes, Disney has Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, while Universal boasts Halloween Horror Nights and Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular – but one of the best and most fun annual events to be found at either of the theme park resorts is actually a little something called Mardi Gras, which, until recently, it seems, was a little-known secret to Florida locals and annual passholders. And, best of all, it’s absolutely free – no need for pesky separate tickets or dessert party add-ons.

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

Image © Universal

Plan on checking out the family-friendly version of New Orleans’s most wonderful time of the year? We’ll tell you everything there is to know.

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Trivia Tuesday: Candlelight Processional 2015 + Video

by on November 24, 2015

283 (2)Today’s Trivia Tuesday will give you the 411 on the Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World.

 

Click here for a list of celebrities that will be narrating the event this year.

Have an idea for Trivia Tuesday? Leave me a comment and feel free to follow us on Facebook and YouTube for more TouringPlans posts!

 

 

Trivia Tuesday: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party + Video

by on November 17, 2015

©Disney

©Disney

Happy Holidays and welcome to Trivia Tuesday!

Today is all about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World.

Let’s jump right in!

 

Have a Trivia Tuesday idea? Let me know in the comments!

5 Must-Do Activities During the Holidays at Walt Disney World

by on November 5, 2015

The holiday season is upon us here in Orlando! Walt Disney World is always the first of the major theme parks to kick off their festivities. The green light to start getting into the holiday spirit is shining bright, so let’s talk about the holiday festivities at Walt Disney World that need to be on your must-do list this year.

5. Monorail Resorts Tour

Photo by Brian McNichols

Photo by Brian McNichols

Three of Disney’s deluxe resorts await along the monorail loop, as part of the Magic Kingdom’s dominion. These resorts are highly sought after, commanding some of the highest room rates in the area. There are many desirable features here and during the holidays each resort offers their own unique way to celebrate the season.

Each year Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers a large gingerbread display in the Grand Canyon Concourse. This resort has the most kinetic energy and I find it to lack a bit of peace and instead at certain points feel as hectic as the shopping malls are this time of year. Still, the hustle and bustle is a traditional feeling of the season for many.

Hopping on the monorail (assuming it is actually operational) you’ll make a quick pit stop at the TTC before proceeding to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Get ready to say Male Kalikimaka, which is Hawaii’s holiday greeting. The holiday festivities and décor are not as extravagant as you will find in our next stop, the Grand Floridian, but the tropical charm and exotic feel is something you’ll rarely find anywhere else.

The grand finale is the Grand Floridian. This resort sparkles and shines during the holidays. The elegance and grace of the season are reflected in the Victorian Christmas decorations, evoking holiday traditions of a more refined era. Accents of gold, scarlet, and pale peach shine against the deep emerald green garlands. Nearly every Deluxe resort has a multi-story Christmas tree for all to admire. Here the tree is 40 feet high with golden lights and ornaments of doves, harps, bird cages, and other graceful elements.  ­­

The main attraction here is the life-size gingerbread house. The detail on this childhood dream come true never fails to impress each year. I’m getting giddy just typing about it. You can view the house from all angles, peer in the windows, and even shell out some dough (pun intended) at the sweet shop inside the house. The treats are pretty pricey, I would recommend picking out one treat to share.

Bonus round: secure a spot at any of the three resorts to catch a performance of Holiday Wishes, my absolute favorite fireworks ever to grace the Magic Kingdom.

4. Epcot Area Resorts Tour

Typically the monorail resorts get all kinds of love and recognition during this time of year, but I think there is a collection of resorts that offer a better experience during the holidays. The Epcot Area / Crescent Lake Area Resorts are much easier to access and tour through. You can walk to each resort or for a seafaring twist hop aboard the Friendships (though not the most effective use of your time).

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Universal Orlando Resort Photo Update, September 2

by on September 6, 2015

Welcome back to another photo update around the Universal Orlando Resort. This week’s update will start with a look at Universal’s next onsite resort, Sapphire Falls, as well as Volcano Bay water theme park, expected in 2017. Inside CityWalk, we’ll take a look at the next location to open: NBC Sports Grille Brew. Over at Universal Studios, Halloween Horror Nights construction is in full swing. Last but certainly not least, we will be taking a look at Islands of Adventure, Skull Island: Reign of Kong as it continues to climb to the sky. Without further ado, lets get going!

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Work continues on Universal’s newest resort, Sapphire Falls.

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The new parking garage for Sapphire Falls guests continues to have finishing touches added.

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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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History of Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle

by on August 24, 2015

Photo - Rikki NiblettWhile washing after dinner dishes, I allow my brain time to wander.

Re-reading that first sentence, it makes me sound exactly like Cinderella. Do I have a future of being a Disney Princess after all?! Ahem, anyway….

Often, my mind will start planning future vacations. Where does it go approximately 99% of the time?

Walt Disney World.

My imagination starts at the entrance of Magic Kingdom. I hear the whistle of the steam train and the smell of popcorn. As I walk past Main Street, U.S.A. (stopping to grab Starbucks because parenting), my eyes dart straight ahead to a beautiful structure. A magnificent place I can only ever dream to live inside of: Cinderella Castle.

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