Posts Tagged ‘USF’

Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever January 28, 2016: Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Update

by on January 28, 2016

Early park admission universal Orland

Indulge your sweet tooth in this Best Week Ever update of Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando (photos/video by Seth Kubersky)


I hope you set your alarm clocks this morning, because this Best Week Ever is up and at ’em before daybreak to enjoy one of my favorite theme park perks. Early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is usually restricted to Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests, but throughout January annual passholders were allowed to join to early morning crowds on weekdays. At the same time, Universal has made some tweaks to the way this popular option operates, so this past week I awoke ahead of the sun to bring you the Universal Orlando Early Park Admission update.

First, the big news about Universal Orlando Early Park Admission is that it is currently offered at Universal Studios Florida only. For most of 2015, Early Park Admission was offered only at Islands of Adventure during off-peak times, and at both parks during peak holiday periods. Early in 2016, Universal returned off-peak Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida only. While communications from Universal have been inconsistent about the future EPA calendar, we currently expect Early Park Admission to remain at Universal Studios Florida only until the Easter/Spring Break peak season.

Here are some other Universal Orlando Early Park Admission updates:

  • When Universal Studios Florida opens for Early Park Admission, only Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the attractions inside Diagon Alley (including Escape from Gringotts) are regularly open. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers may also open early if the crowds warrant, but they were not operating early during my recent visit.
  • When Islands of Adventure opens for Early Park Admission, the Hogwarts Express usually begins operating 30 minutes before Universal Studios Florida officially opens. However, when Universal Studios Florida open early, the first Hogwarts Express train depart only a few minutes before IOA’s opening hour.


Got all that? Great! Now, let’s take a morning stroll around the parks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever December 3, 2015: Black Friday at Universal Orlando

by on December 3, 2015

black friday universal orlando best week ever

The day after Thanksgiving has become one of America’s most important secular holidays, as young and old celebrate capitalism by camping out for dirt-cheap televisions. I was also out there shopping on the big day, but in true Best Week Ever fashion I spent my Black Friday at Universal Orlando among the vacationing throngs.

I started my Black Friday shopping with a major purchase by renewing my Universal Orlando annual pass. After disconts, my Premier pass costs just under $1 per day. That’s a lot more than it was when I first became a passholder 15 years ago, but still a great value considering how quickly the parks has been adding new attractions.


Once inside Islands of Adventure, I was greeted by the still-jarring sight of the Incredible Hulk Coaster…or rather the lack thereof.


Read the rest of this entry »

Video: 4 New Universal Studios Florida Street Shows

by on November 11, 2015

new Universal Studios Florida street shows

See videos of Straight Outta Food Truck and 3 other new Universal Studios Florida street shows. (Videos by Seth Kubersky)

Between the end of Halloween Horror Nights 25, and the recent permanent closures of Disaster and Twister, Universal Orlando has said farewell to a long list of attractions in the past few weeks. But when one door closes, another opens — or in this case, four new Universal Studios Florida street shows have opened.

To be accurate, some of these shows aren’t exactly brand new; one has played seasonally at USF for years, and others have been in previews for a month or more. But Universal finally added them as official attractions on the most recent park maps, so we are bringing you a look at these entertainment additions with full videos of each new production. None are worth making a special trip to the park for, and their combined attendance won’t approach the capacity of the major rides recently closed, but all four shows are worthy of 15 minutes out of your day if you are in the area when one begins.

Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Farewell Tribute to Twister at Universal Studios Florida

by on November 2, 2015

Twister has been blown out of Universal Orlando, but you can relive Paxton memories with our tribute. (Videos by Seth Kubersky)

Put your hand on your hip and hold on, because this bit of news may just blow you away: as of November 2nd, Universal Studios Florida’s Twister…Ride It Out attraction is gone with the wind.

Just weeks after Universal shuttered Disaster! to make way for Fast & Furious, the long-expected closure of Twister was executed within days of Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon’s unveiling of his “Race Through New York” simulator, which will be the next occupant of the New York soundstage originally built for the Ghostbusters Spooktacular show.

As a closing cast crew-member of Ghostbusters (it was my first gig at USF back in 1996) I never entirely warmed up to the show that replaced it, as the effectiveness of Twister’s effects varied widely throughout the attraction’s 17 year lifespan. But if you’re a fan of “so bad it’s good” entertainment, the aggressive ennui emanating from stars Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt was absolutely priceless, making Twister a strong candidate for Orlando’s best worst attraction.

Read the rest of this entry »

Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever September 3, 2015: Universal Orlando Update

by on September 2, 2015

In case you hadn’t heard, a little project I’ve been working on for most of the past year was finally published recently. Ironically, I’ve been so busy writing about Universal Orlando, and giving interviews about the book, that I haven’t had time to actually enjoy the resort in weeks. So, on the eve of my extended absence from Florida, I took one last Best Week Ever look at some Universal Orlando updates, including a couple attractions that won’t be around by the time I get back.

Universal Orlando is currently offering Early Park Admission to all Annual Passholders on weekdays in September. So my day started bright and early, before Islands of Adventure’s 8 a.m. opening. There’s no time at the parks quite as peaceful as pre-opening on a beautiful morning!



Only IOA is currently opening early entry, so the iconic lighthouse was my first destination.


Read the rest of this entry »

Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever June 18, 2015: A Tale of Two Studios

by on June 18, 2015

Universal Studios Florida

Take a Best Week Ever tour of Orlando’s two Studios theme parks. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Back to life, back to humidity…

Barely a week ago I was basking in the temperate glow of the Happiest Place on Earth, and now I’m once again enveloped in Orlando’s hot, moist embrace. What better way to celebrate my homecoming than with a visit to two of Orlando’s favorite theme parks with “Studios” in the name? (Okay, they’re also the only two.)

We’ll start with some random observations from around Universal Studios Florida, and then take a ride down I-4 to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the first day of Frozen Summer Fun.

Universal Studios Florida

The day I picked to visit Universal Studios Florida was predicted to be a 7 on our crowd calendar, but actually came in at only a 4 (part of a trend of lower actuals at Universal Orlando last week). Even so, there was a healthy flow of visitors entering the resort as I arrived in late morning.

I missed Universal Studios Florida’s actual 25th anniversary on June 7th because I was busy visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, but I still picked up a couple of these commemorative 2-Park Guide Maps for my collection. You can snag one for yourself at either Universal Orlando park through June 20th.

Read the rest of this entry »

Universal Orlando Tests Mardi Gras Guide App

by on April 19, 2015

Universal Orlando test of a Mardi Gras Guide app could hint at the future of theme park events, for good or ill… (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Easter has been over two weeks, but Universal Orlando‘s annual Mardi Gras celebration only came to an end on Saturday night. Universal Studios Florida’s final parade and concert played on April 18th to a packed park under overcast skies, unlike the previous week’s rain-soaked washout. But in addition to flying beads and Trey Songz’s bass beats, Universal tossed out another surprise to its fans, testing a new Mardi Gras Guide app for smartphones on the party’s last night.

I began by downloading The Official Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Guide App to my iPhone 6 Plus. The app became available on April 15, and can still be downloaded for free (though it doesn’t do much now that the event has ended).

When the iOS Mard Gras Guide app opens for the first time, you’ll be asked to approve access to various services. Interestingly, there is no request to access the camera, which will become an issue later…

Read the rest of this entry »

Universal Studios Florida Photo Update: Mardi Gras, Furious 7, and Garden of Allah

by on March 19, 2015

Spring break is shifting into high gear at all theme parks right now, and Universal Orlando is no exception. If you don’t feel like struggling through the crowds, come take a virtual tour with me in today’s Universal Studios Florida photo update, featuring a look at construction on Garden of Allah Villas, the new Furious 7 car display, and last weekend’s Mardi Gras concert.

Garden of Allah Villas Construction

The Garden of Allah Villas complex between Hollywood and KidZone is still behind construction walls, behind which is what permit filings describe as a “NBCUniversal Media Lab.” Leave your thoughts in the comments as to what exactly that means.

Read the rest of this entry »

Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Now at Islands of Adventure Only

by on January 23, 2015

Universal Orlando Early Park Admission IOA

Universal Orlando Early Park Admission policies have changed once again. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

Welcome back to the never-ending saga of Universal Orlando Early Park Admission procedures. As of January 20, 2015, Universal has yet again adjusted the popular perk offered to their on-site hotel guests. Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which allows eligible guests into the resort’s most popular area one hour before the general public, is now restricted to only Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure.

A quick recap: IOA offered early entry hours from the time the first Harry Potter land opened in 2010 until last year. Once Diagon Alley opened last summer, both parks opened for early park admission until the summer season ended, at which point only Universal Studios Florida was opened. This made sense, as most guests are primarily interested in the new Diagon Alley, and early park admission was the best time by far to experience Escape from Gringotts without a lengthy wait.

Read the rest of this entry »

Halloween Horror Nights 24 Touring Plans Survival Guide

by on September 22, 2014

Halloween Horror Nights 24 touring plan

Let our Halloween Horror Nights 24 touring plans be your umbrella when braving the elements at Universal Studios Florida. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights has been resurrected for its 23rd annual outing, opening on September 19, 2014 under stormy skies. HHN, as it’s know to its legions of bloodthirsty fans, is recognized as the nation’s most popular and industry-awarded haunted theme park event. Before the opening weekend bloodstains have fully dried, we’re introducing this year’s Halloween Horror Nights 24 Touring Plans Survival Guide to help our brave readers make it through terror (relatively) unscathed.

Originally a locals-friendly filler during a normally slow season, Universal Studios Florida’s Halloween celebration started in 1991 as a single weekend of “Fright Nights” has grown so famous that the 28 event nights between 9/19 and 11/1 will provide a substantial percentage of USF’s annual attendance statistics. Much like visiting any of Orlando’s theme parks during a peak holiday season, an evening at HHN can be tremendous fun if you go in with a solid plan and sane expectations. Without those things…well, you might be better off eaten by zombies!

I’ve been attending HHN every year since 1996, and visited last year’s event on over a dozen evenings; I’ve combined that experience with intelligence gathered on 2014’s opening night to compile this Halloween Horror Nights 24 Touring Plans Survival Guide. Tweaks will continue to be made throughout the event, so the crowd patterns observed during this year’s initial operating nights aren’t guaranteed to persist, so we will continue to update our advice as operations evolve.

Read the rest of this entry »