Abby’s Orlando Adventure, Part 1. Universal

Hey Thrill Seekers!

I’M BACK!!

I’ve been back a few days now – just about getting over the jet lag but still wishing I was in Orlando.. 🙁 I had the most AMAZING week out in Orlando and had the opportunity to do things i’ve only ever been able to dream of doing until now. I’m going to let you all know what I got up to over a blog or three.  😉 Today’s blog is all about what I got up to at the Universal parks..

So on the 17th September I made my way to Gatwick and met everyone (all 50 of them) at the check in desk ready to do my first ever long haul flight. The flight was fine and seemed like we were there in no time! We then travelled straight from the airport to Universals Cabana Bay Beach Resort which is a really cool 1950’s retro themed hotel. After being shown to our rooms we met over at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort – another one of Universals properties to have a welcome buffet and drinks. At dinner our lovely Universal host Liz gave us the opportunity to go over to Universal Studios to experience Halloween Horror Nights 27. Of course I opted to do this (partly because if i didn’t I would be mocked here at OAT towers) We hopped on a water taxi from Loews over to Universal Studios to experience the best Horror Night event i’ve ever been too! As soon as you walk in to the park it starts, there’s a scare zone after scare zone and so many houses to choose from. I done a mix of Rides and Houses that night, started off on Hollywood Rip Ride Rock It (Kayne West – Stronger, obvious choice 😉 ) – Wicked ride to do in the dark! Also rode TRANSFORMERS-3D, The Simpsons and Men In Black. TRANSFORMERS 3D was my first experience of a simulator ride and it’s safe to say I absolutely LOVED it! Now on to the houses, the first house I went in to was American Horror Story.. one word, terrifying. There is a video / sound clip on our Facebook page that I took whilst walking through the house and you can tell from that how scared I was and also how funny it is to be scared. The attention to detail in the houses is second to none, if you have the chance to go make sure you keep your eyes open the whole time to really take in all of the props and details! The second house I went in was Scarecrow – The Reaping. This house was more jumpy and I did fall over at one point from being scared – not my finest moment ;). The Scare Zones were also amazing and clever, my favourite Scare Zone was the Purge one as you just couldn’t escape! This was closely followed by the Scare Zone Roaming Hordes – Clowns with Chainsaws.. enough said. We made our way back to the hotel at around 1am to get some sleep ready for the next day.

On our first full day we made our way over to Universal Studios where we met our very own VIP tour guides who were going to be taking us around for the morning. We started off by heading in to Diagon Alley – the ‘wow factor’ when you walk in is exactly, if not more, how everyone describes it. We had a quick taste of Butterbeer – I loved this, I love all things sweet and this is definitely sweet, yummy. We then went on to do the Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, I also had a lot of expectations for this ride and it lived up to every single one of them, it’s just so lifelike and cleverly done. After this we met up outside Kings Cross Station, had a few photos with the knight bus and then made our way inside to board the Hogwarts Express. Oh another thing, when you are standing outside Kings Cross you will reeeeeaaaalllllyyyy feel like you are back in London! (let me know below if you know what I mean by this 😉 ) After walking through platform 9 3/4 we hopped in to a carriage.The journey on the Hogwarts Express was soo immersive and be sure to look both left and right throughout the whole journey. In what felt like seconds we had arrived at Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure, another ‘wow’ moment as you catch a glimpse of Hogwarts Castle for the first time. We headed straight for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, probably my favourite of the 2 Harry Potter rides we did, I love the way the ride really puts you in the middle of the action. We then made our way back on to the Hogwarts Express to head back over to Universal Studios, it’s a completely different experience on the way back so make sure you pay close attention (and look out for a cool graphic to do with a tree out of the window side). As we entered Kings Cross earlier on in the morning one of our group had said ‘the only thing missing is a busker’ and as we walked out back in to Universal Studios after departing the Hogwarts Express there was a lady standing at the entrance playing the violin – Universal don’t miss anything do they!  We then got to do most of the iconic attractions in Universal Studios.. Minion Mayhem, Revenge of the Mummy (fantastic ride!!) and Jimmy Fallon were all great, every sense is tested in Jimmy Fallon and the whole experience beforehand is also brilliant. We also rode the Simpsons Ride, TRANSFORMERS 3D, Rip Ride Rock It (Fergie – Glamorous this time) and Men In Black again (well second time for me because i’d stayed out to do them the night before hehe) Men in Black is so much fun, especially when you beat everyone.. not gloating, promise. My favourite ride in Universal Studios, by a mile is TRANSFORMERS – 3D I just absolutely love it for so many reasons. After Universal Studios we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a hosted event at Cuba Libre by Visit Orlando – great fun. 🙂

On the second full day, after breakfast, we made the short walk over to Universals Volcano Bay. After collecting our Tapu Tapus we walked the short path (which is very cleverly located) and turned the corner to be face to face with the Volcano. It is so awesome when you first see it, I had a look around and everyone had just stopped dead to stare or take photos – great backdrop for any photos!! We then got to explore the park at our own leisure, I went on Krakatau Aqua Coaster, Ika Moana, Honu, Te Awa Fearless River, Puihi raft ride and the one i’m most proud of.. Ko’okiri Body Plunge. There wasn’t one slide that I didn’t enjoy here they all made me laugh out loud – that is all bar Ko’okiri which was the only attraction in Orlando I was scared to do before I went and admittedly, I was 10x more scared when I cane face to face with it. Not going to lie, it was the main thing I noticed when I first caught sight of the Volcano after walking in to the park. Ko’okiri features a 70-degree fall through a drop door and a 125 feet descent, to be honest it was sooo much fun I wanted to do it again but we didn’t have enough time! 🙁 Krakatau was also wicked, i’d worked myself up so much about Ko’okiri that i’d partly forgotten about Krakatau but it was so thrilling and the dips and drops are a lot bigger and much faster than I had anticipated. It’s definitely a must!! After Volcano Bay and a quick change of clothes we headed over to Universals Islands of Adventure and were told to not wear any denim or white tops.. if you don’t know then i’ll tell you, IOA is renowned for its water rides! We had planned to do the water rides last though (because we are smart like that) so headed straight over to the Hulk coaster – amazing and the launch is really something else, loved it! We also experienced The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and Skull Island: Reign of Kong which is a wicked ride with a really cool surprise at the end (I wont ruin it for you). It was then time for the water rides.. We rode Jurassic Park River Adventure which was pretty cool and I sat at the back so didn’t get very wet.  We then opted for Popeye and Blutos Bilge Rat Barges which was hands down the most i’ve laughed on a ride, ever. You can sit in groups of 12 and you get DRENCHED. Luckily (well, for me) we didn’t have time to get on to Dudley Do-rights Ripsaw Falls but got to catch a glimpse of a few others getting absolutely soaked on it.. hehe! Once we were done at Islands of Adventure we headed back to Cabana Bay to get ready for our ‘surprise evening with Universal.’

#volcanobay @universalorlando amazing morning, conquered Ko’Okiri too!! 🌋💚

A post shared by Karl (@orlandoattractiontickets) on

Our surprise evening with Universal was incredible.. we had the whole of Volcano Bay to ourselves, yep you heard it right, the whole park! The lovely Universal had put on a delicious buffet dinner and drinks for us in one of the restaurants and just as we were finishing up our food, the minions walked in to have their photos taken with us! After our photo shoot with the minions we headed down to one of the bars by the Waturi beach for more cocktails and a live band, had a little dance and then we headed down to the beach to watch a fire performer and Waturi dancers, had some more photos taken in front of the Volcano – which changes colour and looks even more awesome in the dark! It was such a fantastic evening and I felt very lucky to be a part of it. After a few more drinks we walked back to Cabana bay for a game of bowling and a night cap. The evening at Volcano Bay concluded our visits to the Universal parks and what a ending it was!!

Overall, my top 3 rides / attractions from the Universal parks were:

3. Ko’okiri Body Plunge

2. The Incredible Hulk Coaster

1. TRANSFORMERS-3D.

What are your favourite Universal attractions?

Stay tuned for my next blog all about what I got up to at Discovery Cove, SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens! You can also take a look at the video below of me and Gavin chatting about what I got up to on the first part of my FAM trip. 🙂

Smiles Included,

Abby

 

Is Fear Factor Live Closing To Be Replaced By The Ministry of Magic?

Hey Thrill Seekers,

Today Universal confirmed that Bill & Teds Excellent Halloween Adventure would not be returning after this year and that HHN27 would be their farewell tour.

This has lead to a lot of speculation regarding the future of Fear Factor Live, the location where Bill & Teds is performed. Fear Factor Live has been continually rumoured to be on the Universal chopping blog and from what we’re hearing it could well be time for the axe to fall.

What could be replacing it?

The strongest rumour and a rumour that has been doing the rounds for a very long time now is the Ministry of Magic. As some of  you may already know, if you head inside the red telephone box outside Diagon Alley and dial MAGIC (62442) you’ll be answered with a message stating ‘the ministry of magic is not open’ which has always led to speculation that Universal maybe considering it.

Ministry of Magic

There has been loads and loads of rumours surrounding “phase 3” and the Ministry of Magic – the largest rumour has always been that Fear Factor Live is going to be demolished to make way for London.. and the centre of the British magical community’s government.

To place it here would mean it would be an expansion of Diagon Alley and not a third Wizarding World attraction. Universal don’t do things by halves though and I would still expect new rides, shops and food places if this were to happen.

I’ve had a little think about what sort of attraction could appear along with the Ministry of Magic and I think it would be something along the lines of battles within the Ministry of Magic, fighting off dementors , watching a duel between Professor Dumbledore and Lord Voldermort or as Jamie mentioned in his previous blog – more interactive wand opportunities and maybe even classes for young Wizard and Witches.

All of the talk and hype about this potentially happening will hopefully give Universal a push to maybe confirming the rumours to be true?

Smiles included…

Jess

 

‘Wand’erful Wands

Hey Thrill Seekers,

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is rumoured to be one of the best parts of the Universal experience, if you’re into Harry Potter getting yourself a wand is also a HUGE deal and there is soooo much choice.

Both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are home to Ollivanders wand shop. The main store is situated in Diagon Alley and the extra ‘branch’ if you like is over in Hogsmeade. Ollivanders is the “maker of fine wands since 382 BC” the shop is filled with wand boxes that are stacked to the ceiling! You will also have the chance to take part in the magical interactive experience of how a wand chooses it’s user. You’ll have the choice to purchase your own unique wand or choose a replica one, used by everyone’s favourite Harry Potter Characters.

You can choose from either an interactive wand or one that isn’t interactive. There are many places to purchase your wands; Ollivanders, Wands by Gregorovitch, Orlando Gift Shops or even in CityWalk.

ollivanders

Here’s a fun fact about how J.K. Rowling chose the wood for some of the main character wands: She has written that her choice for Harry’s wand was based on it properties however she later came across a description of the ‘Celtic calendar’ and how they assign different trees to different parts of the year. It Turned out that she had actually assigned the ‘correct’ wood for Harry’s wand and his day of birth. She then decided to do the same for Ron and Hermione’s wands so that they had a little hidden connection between the 3 that only J.K. Rowling knew about. Universal have actually incorporated this into their wand shops, the assistants in Ollivanders will take in to consideration your date of birth to get the most suitable wood when helping you choose your wand!

If you’re wondering what I mean by ‘interactive’ wands then wonder no more. Located all over the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, spell locations are marked by medallions which are set into the pavement. These medallions indicate where all you wizards and witches with interactive wands should stand to cast a spell.

Each marker will explain all the necessary information such as the direction spell-casters need to be facing, the words that need to be spoken for the spell and of course – the pattern in which you need to swish your wand to cast the spell.  – Most spell locations will have their very own expert spell caster who will always be on hand to help with any tricky spells.

harrypotter

Every single wand comes equipped with a two sided map – one side for Diagon Alley and the other side for Hogsmeade for you to use to find the spell locations. My top tip for you is to look out for the HIDDEN spell locations! Some locations are not marked on the handy map so keep your eyes peeled and if you spot anything that remotely looks as though your wand can work its magic on then don’t be afraid to cast a spell!

You can either purchase your wands online beforehand or if you’re looking for the full experience and aren’t as impatient as I am you can grab a wand from one of Ollivanders shops inside the parks.

There are 39 replica wands for you to choose from such as Harry Potters, Professor Dumbledores, Death Eater wands and even Lord Voldermort. So are you a good or a bad wizard?? Replica wands are $39.95. There are also 27 interactive wands that you can pick from; there are wands for each of the different woods in the celtic calendar as well as all your favourite characters such as Harry, Hermione and Ron. Interactive wands are $47.95.

Soo not a lot of choice is there?! 😉 After thinking long and hard about it and annoying everyone else in the office discussing the pro’s and con’s for each wand I have come to the conclusion that I would definitely go for an interactive wand and it would have to be the Ron Weasley one!! Which wand would you go for any why?!

Don’t forget to purchase your Universal tickets before you travel to ensure to get to experience the greatness of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!

Spells Included..

Jess
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3 Famous Drinks You Just Gotta Sup at Universal Orlando

Hi Thrill Seekers,

If you’re like me (a Simpsons & Potter nerd) then you’ll be more than interested in getting your chops around these little beauties. Here are the top 3 most famous beverages available at Universal Orlando.

Duff Beer

duff-beer

If you’ve seen the Simpsons you’ll be well aware that Homer’s favorite pastime is to sup a nice cool glass of Duff beer while complaining about the wife and kids. Now you can do the same…except i’d leave out the complaining about the wife and kids bit since they will probably be with you at the time 🙂

Duff Beer is now available from Moe’s Tavern in Springfield USA at Universal Studios. I have read a few reports on this beer and by all accounts it actually a really decent beverage. Brewed by the Florida Beer Company located in Melbourne FL this beer is set to become a winner.

Prices are as follows;

Duff Beer on tap – 20oz in a disposable cup is $7.25
Duff Beer on tap – 23oz souvenir cup $9.25, refills cost just $6.50.

Available in Duff and Duff Lite this beer is nothing short of an icon!

The Flaming Moe

flaming-moe

The Flaming Moe is a non alcoholic cocktail served at Moe’s Tavern located at Universal Studios Orlando. Apparently its a fruit based cocktail which tastes a lot like orange soda. The drink itself comes in a glass which has a secret compartment at the base which houses dry ice – this makes the drink look like its bubbling when served – very clever indeed!

FACT Alert: Ah, but do you know the legend of the Flaming Moe? In 1991, episode 45 of the Simpsons, Homer tells Moe Szyslak of a secret alcoholic cocktail called a ‘Flaming Homer’ which includes cough medicine and fire – Moe steals the recipe and starts selling it in his Tavern but calls it a ‘Flaming Moe’

Prices are as follows;

Flaming Moe $7.99 – Signature Specialty Drink of Springfield

Butterbeer

butter-beer

Butter Beer available at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Islands of Adventure.

For all you Harry Potter fans out there Butterbeer is obviously a given when it comes to famous Orlando brews. Probably the most sought after beverage at Universal, Potter fans make a beeline to grab a sup. Its not surprising that this beverage is so successful given the amount of effort put into producing it. Did you know that it took the Universal team almost 3 years to perfect the taste? which incidentally had to be cleared by J.K. Rowling herself.

Actually we have a very simple Butter Beer recipe that you might want to try at home if you’re not going to be in Orlando anytime soon. Click here

Prices are as follows;

A Butterbeer will cost around $5.00. You can also buy a souvenir mug for $10.00

So there you have it Thrill Seekers 3 awesome beverages for you to add to your itinerary the next time you are lucky enough to find yourself  in Universal Resort Orlando. Speaking of fining yourself there, you’ll probably need a ticket to get in – here is the ticket information you’ll need.

Universal parks are available with the following tickets from OrlandoAttractionTickets.couk;

If any of you have already tried these fine beverages please leave a comment and let us know what you thought 🙂

Thanks for reading,

#SmilesIncluded

Karl

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Visitors spend, spend, spend at Universal theme parks

This is not really going to surprise anyone but it seems that the popularity of Universals theme parks isn’t going to die down anytime soon. Over the last couple of years all the buzz and hype surrounding Orlando has largely been focused on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But its not just potter mania that is getting the crowds through the turn styles. Universal have also seen year on year growth in California thanks largely to the King Kong attraction which opened midway through 2010.

Philadelphia-based Comcast acquired a majority stake in NBCUniversal from General Electric a little more than a year ago said Wednesday that sales at NBUniversal theme parks rose 4 percent during the final three months of 2011, propelled by higher per-guest spending at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Combined revenue at NBCUniversal’s theme-parks business, which includes licensing fees from overseas parks inJapanandSingapore, totaled $498 million for the quarter, up from $478 million during the same period a year ago. That capped a year in which theme-park revenue surged 24 percent to $2 billion.

“This segment had a terrific year,” Comcast Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Michael Angelakis said during a conference call with analysts.

NBCUniversal earlier this year announced plans to build a second Harry Potter attraction in California and expand The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Orlando Resort, though details remain vague.

For more information on the latest Universal tickets available in Orlando visit Orlando Attraction Tickets.

Cheers

Frank

 

Guide To Islands Of Adventure Universal Orlando

Marvel Super Hero Island

Rides & Attractions:

Incredible Hulk Coaster – This is a steel roller coaster located in Islands of Adventure inOrlando. It is named for the popular comic book super hero character, the Hulk. Voter #1 roller coaster by Discovery channel viewers in 1999.

Riders must be a minimum of 4ft 6in (137cm).

The Amazing Adventures of Spider man – Located in Islands of Adventure. The attraction is a hybrid ride combining special roving motion vehicle’s with 3-D projection, elaborate physical sets, and both practical and tactile effects.

Riders must be a minimum of 3ft 4in (102 cm)

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall – is a pair of S&S Power Space Shot attractions themed after the Fantastic Four.

Riders must be 52 inches (130 cm)

Storm Force Acceleration  – Based on the X-Men comic book stories, Storm Force Acceleration was added toMarvelSuperHeroIslandin 2000. Help on of the X-Men, Storm, defeat the evil Magento as you whirl and twirl in a “spinning power generator”!

There is no height restrictions for this.

 

Meet Spider-Man and the Marvel Super Heroes – is a meet and greet attraction where guests can meet super heroes. No height restriction.

Toon Lagoon

Rides and Attractions:

Dudley Do-rights Ripsaw Falls– a traditional log flume combined with Roller coaster track based on the old cartoon and movie Dudley Do-Right.

Rider must be a minimum of 3ft 8 in (112cm)

Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges – a river rafting water ride themed after the 1960’s television serious Popeye the Sailor.

Rider must be a minimum 42 inches (110cm)

Me ship, the Olive – a kids playground built around and in Popeye’s ship. The three levels of the ship all contain a variety of interactive elements including cannons and hoses which can further soak riders on Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat barges.

No height restriction.

Mat Hoffmans Aggro Circus – a live seasonal BMX stunt show at the Toon Lagoon Theatre that generally operates during peak seasons, such as spring breaks and summer time.

No height restriction.

Jurassic Park

Rides and Attractions:

Jurassic Park River Adventure – is a water-based amusement ride that is based on Steven Spielburg’s hit film Jurassic Park.

Riders must be 3ft 10in (117cm)

Pteranodon Flyers – is a steel suspended roller coaster. Features three, two seater cars suspended on a track.

Due to low capacity of the ride, only those who are between 36-56 inches (91 and 140cm) or those with a child of that height may ride.

Camp Jurassic– is a children’s play area centered around an imported 50-foot (15m) tall Banyan tree. It features a variety of play elements including slides, nets, water cannons and fountains.

The Jurassic Park Discovery Center– is a large interactive, dinosaur – themed museum based upon the Visitor Center from the film. The museum features large, full sized dinosaur skeletons on display, as well as various games and activities for children.

No height restriction.

Triceratops Discovery Trail – is a walk through attraction where guests can get close up and interact with a full-scale animated replica of a Triceratops.

The Lost Continent 

Rides and Attractions: 

The Eight Voyage of Sinbad – a live-action stunt show located in the Ancient Arabia section.

No height restriction.

Poseidon’s Fury – an indoor special-effects show located in the mythological Greek section.

The Mystic Fountain – a fountain (located in the front of The Eight Voyage Of Sinbad show) that entertains and interacts with guests.

Seuss Landing

Rides and Attractions:

Caro-Seuss-el – is a themed carousel.

The Cat In the Hat – this is a dark ride which takes guest through the Dr. Seuss story of the same name.

No height restriction.

If I ran the zoo – interactive play zone for kids.

One fish Two fish red fish blue fish – a spinning ride with a musical riddle that will help riders escape water-spitting fish.

The high in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride – is a twin-tracked tour above and around Seuss Landing.

Oh, The Stories You’ll hear – a stage show based on the Dr. Seuss books and characters.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Rides and Attractions:

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – this is a scenic dark ride which utilizes KUKA robocoaster technology, which allows the seats to pivot while being held above the track by a robotic arm.

Height restriction 4ft (122cm)

Dragon Challenge – is a pair of intertwined inverted roller coasters. The ride is themed into two dragons, one side being Chinese Fireball and other Hungarian Horntail.

Height restriction 4ft 6in (137cm)

Flight of the Hippogriff – is a roller coaster and was one of the first attractions to open at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Height restriction 3ft (91cm)

Ollivanders – an interactive experience based on the Harry Potter location Ollivanders.