Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Skull Island: Reign of Kong – All Set to Rule Universal Orlando this Summer

It has been quite a wait for the King Kong fans at Universal Orlando. Ever since the Resort had closed the Kongfrontation ride, expectations keep growing for a new and much bigger Kong attraction. But now with the construction walls down the message is loud and clear. Also given the latest developments, including sights of the giant ape staring at you, it seems the adventures that follow on-board the new ride are much more than just a bunch of terrifying experiences.

A look at the tall – towering door, or the sights of skulls and those dominating glimpses of Kong in his massive best (the huge rock formation) all seem to suggest only one thing – Kong Is back and yes the epic monster is hiding there somewhere in his strange home, namely the Skull Island.

King Kong attraction Universal Orlando

King Kong attraction Universal Orlando

If you are planning a visit to Florida this summer with Universal Studios Orlando in mind, then you must include the newest King Kong ride attraction as well. Located at the Islands of Adventure section of the Resort, the new attraction will have the legendary ape in its newest avatar welcoming guests for a ride experience like never before. Thanks to Universal Orlando in bringing back the Kong experience in such majestic style. Welcome to the Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

Though the walls are down and the entire structure is visible to visitors in complete, Universal is yet to release an official opening date for the most anticipated ride attraction. The only confirmation available is that it will open in summer 2016. For now a soft opening is expected soon. This is when the ride will be opened for a limited time for live-testing.

According to information available from external sources it’s believed that the newest ride adventure is almost six minutes long, taking riders to Skull Island, on-board a specially designed vehicle. Inside the Island guests encounters many surprises, including terrifying terrains, caves and strange creatures as enemies and not to forget the surprise encounters with the massive ape himself.

Among the many highlights of the new attraction, includes the massive and most impressive – first time ever Kong animatronics by Universal. Another most notable feature of the attraction is the queue. Often considered as a theme park hassle, the ride queues make life difficult for guests. But not for this time, as Universal has defied all conventions in taking forward the queue story to the next level. In fact the queue for the attraction is an important part of the Kong adventure itself. It plays a much bigger role and the use of technically impressive scareactors tells a lot in this regard.

Is the Universal Studios Park to Park Ticket Right for You?

Universal Studios Orlando, Florida

Universal Studios Park to Park Tickets

Many travelers are pretty much up to speed in the fact that Universal Studios in Orlando has two parks now. There is Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Both are owned by NBC and are giving Disney a run for it’s money. Even though Disney has four theme parks, Universal has been taking a big chunk of cheese away from Mickey for a good many years. Now that Universal has Harry Potter  lands in each of their parks, travelers have been blowing of the big tickets from Disney and spending a few more days at Universal’s two parks.

If you think about the two parks, Universal and Islands of Adventure, they are now connected by the all new Hogwarts Express Train. This is Universal’s version of Disney’s Monorail system that connects Magic Kingdom and Epcot. you can either travel between parks using the train or you can exit the park and walk to the other. Both parks are located on the same property and separated by only 200 yards. If you decide to take the train, you will need the Universal Park to Park ticket or as many call it a Universal Studios Hopper Pass.

Universal Studios Orlando Florida

Hogwart’s Express Train

If you are the type of traveler who likes to have unfettered access while on vacation, then the Park to Park ticket will be for you! Not only will it allow you to move freely between the two park but it will allow you to enjoy the Hogwart’s Express Train Ride which is an actual ride unlike Disney’s Monorail. This ride features some of your most favourite characters from the Harry Potter movies. It’s also a great way to cool off and travel like the student do on their way to wizard school.

Some people are just fine with not hopping and couldn’t care less about some stupid train ride for a movie they never saw. Well then the Universal Base ticket is the ticket for you. You can visit the park of your choice and spend the whole day there of you can leave and have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe for instance and re-enter back into the park you were in earlier. Whichever ticket you choose, you are sure to have a fantastic time while making memories that last a lifetime!

 

Early Arrival to the Orlando Theme Parks for No Lines

I get the same questions every day from my guests traveling out to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. The question is, “How can we avoid the line at the parks”? The answer is short and sweet, get there early. If you get to the theme parks early, you will have accomplished the biggest task of your day. Getting there early before everyone gets there not only ensures that you won’t have to wait in long lines for the most popular rides, but it will also save you time from the hot Florida sun that will zap your energy level quick!

Most travelers like to wake up kind of early, stroll down to the lobby of their hotel or resort, have a cup of coffee, then head back up to get the rest of the family for breakfast. This takes up at least two hours in the morning and this does not even take in consideration the time needed to travel to the parks. Combine all of this with the crowds rolling in late and security checkpoint lines and bam, you are now in the thick of late morning traffic that everyone hates.

Getting there one hour before the park opens for example at Disney’s Magic Kingdom will not only give you a smooth and stress free experience, but will also get you a very special early morning performance from of all of Disney’s characters before being allowed into their park for the day. After the performance, greeters welcome guests in to enjoy Mainstreet USA for a short period before their rope drop. Many early morning guests then travel back to the top rides with no wait at all. One could ride at least four rides before really encountering any kind of real lines.

When it comes to the saying, “The early bird gets the worm”, this is exactly right when it comes to getting the most while at the theme parks. This method really works best for travelers who can get to bed early the night before and really try to hydrate the evening and morning before arriving at the parks. Waking up early really works best for travelers from Europe due to the time difference. A traveler from England has the clock on their side as they are five hours ahead of us, so the can wake up at 6 am and feel like they slept in until noon! Unfortunately this is not the case for us in the USA.

Catching Up With Universal Orlando’s CityWalk

If you have ever been out to Universal Studios CityWalk, you will probably remember that it was a pretty cool place to eat, dance and just be merry! Lately though, it has been under a transformation and for the better. The theme of CityWalk seems to be that of the old Downtown Disney entertainment district. People can come here after the parks and grab a bite to eat before heading home or back to their resort, or make it a special night out while visiting their night time clubs, watching a movie or having dinner and drinks.

The most visual transformation has to be the all new NBC Sports Grill & Brew. This was the old NASCAR Cafe that was such an eyesore. But now it is a shiny new jewel among CityWalk’s bustling new skyline. Here one can choose from over 100 beers all while catching sports games from around the world. The other day we were there cheering on some soccer team while drinking beers with our brothers from across the pond. This place is such a great opportunity to meet people from all around the world sharing a pint all the while!

If you are on the fly and need a quick bite to eat, try stopping by the all new Hot Dog Hall of Fame. Here you can taste all of the most famous hot dogs from every stadium in the good o’le USA. Try anything from the famous Chicago hot dog with all of the toppings or a steamer from New York, it doesn’t matter because this place has it all. You will not find any other location like this in Orlando. You can eat authentic shoestring fries and taste authentic topping like actual pinto beans for the famous Arizona dog or sauerkraut for you New York dog! This place even has brats so the menu is absolutely mesmerizing.

Lastly would be my little favourite, The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. This little gem is for everyone who love sushi and burgers. Here you can dine on some of Orlando’s most delicious sushi and burgers of fuse them together and feast on their signature dish the “Burgushi®“. Trust me it is delicious especially when you wash it down with one of their 10oz exotic martinis. If martinis are not your thing try one of their signature hand spun milkshakes. If you can’t make up your mind, I recommend their Bento Box. This is a sampler of all of their most famous dishes but on a small sampler scale.

 

Universal Studios Springfield USA Serves Up Some Tasty Treats

Have you ever wanted to have a Krusty Burger and be able to wash it down with a beer from Moe’s Tavern? What if I told you that there was a real live place where you could do exactly that! The place I’m talking about is Universal Studios Orlando’s Springfield USA. Here you can rub elbows with Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa and Maggie and even your most favourite side characters like Moe, Mr. Burns and even Apu at the Quickie Mart. Probably the best of it all are all of the delicious foods and treats that we have all watched time and time again on the television.

Universal Studios spared no expense when they created Springfield and my most favourite little dive has to be Moe’s Tavern. Here you can sit at the very bar where Homer spends most of his spare time at. The famous beer of all here is Duff beer. Nothing like a good cold Duff beer to start your day or if beer is not your thing try the Flaming Moe instead! It is just orange soda with dry ice, but is on par in sale to Harry’s Butterbeer. Here you can have your picture taken with Moe’s patron saint Barney Gumble who has a statue at the end of the bar.

By now you should be feeling pretty hungry so peel yourself off of your bar stool and walk to the back where you will find 4 counter service dining options. On of my favourites has to be Cletus’ Chicken Shack. Here you will find big o’le chicken sandwich platters with fries. Cletus’ is sure to fill the biggest of appetites. Also you will find The Flying Dutchman that serves up fried foods, Luigi’s Pizza and Lisa’s Teahouse of Horrors. Lisa’s would be the place for any vegetarians in the group!

If you’re the type of person who likes to sit outside and people watch while you eat, try out the local food truck fair at Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck. Here you can grab a cold Duff’s beer and chow down on some tacos or nachos! If savory dishes are not your thing then I have just the treat for you. Lard Lad Donuts are famous in Springfield. Sit down and savor the taste of the Big Pink. This donut is about as big as a open man’s hand wide and about four inches thick of sweet decadent goodness! Tell Mayor Quimby I said hello!

 

Universal Orlando Registers the Biggest Increase in Attendance in 2015, Report

Well there is no doubt that the Walt Disney World Resort is easily the most visited theme park destination today. But when it comes to the biggest annual jump in attendance Universal Orlando tops the list, followed by the Disney World Parks and SeaWorld Orlando.

Universal Orlando attendance 2015

Universal Orlando attendance 2015 Report

I know that the much popular Mouse is comparatively larger and bigger in all aspects of theme park entertainment Industry, but the Wizard boy is smarter as well, pulling crowds for Universal like never before. Indeed credit goes to the incredibly popular Potter World (responsible in bringing a revolution in Universal Orlando’s attendance history), and more importantly the multi-park experience of late with the real Hogwarts Express ride and all the new Diagon Alley adventures and the Gringotts rides for sure.

According to the latest report released by the Themed Entertainment Association – TEA and the economics division of engineering firm AECOM Universal Studios Florida registers an all-time high, scoring almost 16 percent jump in its attendance with an estimation of 9.6 million visitors in 2015 as compared to the previous year. Sister Park Islands of Adventure scores an 8 percent increase with an estimated 8.8 million visits as compared to the previous year of 2014.

For the much larger Disney World Parks it’s quite a cheerful jump in the attendance score card as well. And like always, leading from the front is the world’s most visited Magic Kingdom Park, reported to have drawn the highest number of people – around 20.4 million visitors in 2015 with a very convincing 6 percent jump in attendance. While Epcot drew 11.8 million visitors with a 3 percent jump in attendance, Disney Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios is reported to have around 10.9 million and 10.8 million visits with each registering 5 percent jump in attendance respectively.

The SeaWorld Orlando on the other hand is good enough to pull in an estimated 4.8 million visitors to its Park with a jump of about 2 percent in attendance from 2014 to 2015. Orlando’s leading water parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon also enjoy their share of gains, ranking 2 and 3 in terms of attendance with a 5 percent jump. While all the Orlando Parks are marked with increasing business, the Sea World San Diego seems to be the only one that is left out with a 7 percent decline in its visits.

Universal Orlando’s New Design Concepts are Original Masterpieces

If you have ever visited Universal Studios Orlando you most certainly have walked through Citywalk. Here is where Universal Orlando borrowed the idea for the very successful Downtown Disney now known as Disney Springs. The people at Universal knew that they had to have a place for their guests to play and dine when not in their theme parks. This business model served Disney very well and Universal made CityWalk their very own. Bringing heavy hitters like Jimmy Buffett and the world famous Hard Rock Cafe, Universal was poised for great success!

There have been some hits and misses over the years and Universal watched this very carefully. Taking out what was not working and replacing them with current original works like the all new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, NBC Sports Grill & Brew, Vivo Italian Kitchen and Red Oven Pizza Bakery. I guess the NASCAR cafe restaurant and NBA City did not work out as planned but with these replacements, they are sure to be big winners! I remember eating in the NBA City restaurant and was not impressed at all. I am personally glad that they got rid of that one. Very happy that Margaritaville made the cut!

CityWalk has always been a great place to party and eat at! With all of the new additions, Universal resort guests will never need to leave the resort grounds and I think this is what Universal had in mind for good reason. Keeping their guests there instead of at SeaWorld or Disney keeps the Benjamins in Universal’s pockets. At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about. Keeping that money in house in order to build bigger and better things for their guests. I can remember when it was just Universal Studios with no CityWalk and I am sure glad that they had the foresight to make this type of expansion!

The one thing I look forward to is the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. They said that they took steampunk era designs and incorperated it into their ideas. Should be pretty amazing. I imagine it as a Willy Wonka heaven on earth but not all sweets! I hope I’m right.

Staying at Universal Studios Orlando Resort

Have you ever wanted to stay at a resort that is at one of your favourite theme parks? Universal Studios Orlando has five at this moment with a few more on the way. After a busy day at the theme parks, the last thing you want to do is get on a crowded tram and climb into your sweltering hot car and drive back to your hotel room that you booked on some online search engine. The newest big thing in accommodations is the onsite resorts, especially the one over at Universal Orlando.

The people at Universal are very smart people and currently the trend is offer a great room plus admission tickets and dining and people will come stay at the resorts. Well this winning formula seems to be working as rooms are filling up for this summer fast. The coolest of all of the resorts there would have to be that all new Cabana Bay. Here one will find the comforts of the 1950 Florida beach scene. The goal here was to transport their visitors back in time to a place that was the tourist destination of North America. The other hotel that would be my second would have to be the Hard Rock. Located right next to Universal Studios, this iconic stay is just the place for younger families who loved growing up in the 1970’s and up.

Being the closest to the park comes in handy as you can just walk out back and jump on one of their water taxi’s and bam, you are at the front of the gates. Or even better walk out back and down a beautiful walkway along side the water and within 5 minutes, you are in the parks. Portofino Bay is also attached by water taxi and would be my third favourite resort. It is very beautiful and reminiscent of a European beach side resort. Beautiful, but not my favourite. I would have to take the Royal Pacific over the Portofino as I am a pacific rim kind of guy! Plus the Royal Pacific has some sweet eat stops like Emeril’s Chop Shop. This place is also connected by water taxi which make life so much easier at the end of the day. So next time you look online for that best deal, try calling up one of these places and ask what kind if discount packages they are offering.

Universal Orlando’s Incredible Hulk Gets A New Life

You may have seen over the winter at Universal Studios in Orlando, The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster at Islands of Adventure was missing! Littey the whole super structure was dismantled and removed. The reason why was just revealed and it is going to be awesome. The new ride was an awesome ride to begin with but with all of the new Marvel movies being a huge success, it would have been a big mistake not to do a little redesigning and script rewriting! Probably the biggest update will be the que line itself. The riders will walk through a massive military base laboratory where the rider become the new lab rat of sorts in General Thaddeus Ross’s experiment. Here he will be doing tests that were pioneered by Dr. Bruce Banner. The hope here is that you will emerge from the test as a Super Soldier or something else entirely!

During you wait in the que line you will be able to see that actual gamma rays being sent into tubes that engulf the ride cars. Speaking of ride cars, there will be new ride cars! These new sleek state of the art cars are loaded with new lights, speakers and are designed after the latest military fighter technology. I have seen them and they are something right out of the movies! They still have the green paint but look a whole lot sleeker. When you get into your ride car, you will be put into a Gamma Core Tube in which you will be ejected out of and on your way to transformation!

The ride itself is the same but now you will be jamming out to some Fall Boy while riding the loops. The main goal was to give the rider the new experience but keep the ride that everyone enjoyed for years and years. Probably one of the coolest things is at the very beginning of the que line. They have a big statue of the Hulk holding a piece of the old track. This will be a big photo op for all of the riders getting ready to ride the ride. Can’t wait to ride it.

Many New Changes to Universal Orlando this Summer

As many of you know already, Universal Studios Orlando has purchased Wet n Wild and is closing it at the end of this year. No one knows as of yet what they will do with the water park but one thing is for sure, something bigger and better is in the works, The new water park to take its place will be Volcano Bay and it will be on Universal’s own property next to their resorts. Many feel it was time for something new as Wet n Wild has been around forever.

New is good in the theme park business. It is what make travelers come back year after year. The other newest addition to open at Universal is Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure. This is modeled after Peter Jackson’s movie and not the old Kong that was inside Universal Studios. Things like this make people want to come back. Ever since the addition of the two Harry Potter areas in their parks, travelers from around the world have been booking their vacations in order to immerse themselves into this world wide love of J.K. Rowling’s books. The theme parks have learned to give guests what they want and million dollar playgrounds are it.

Gone are the single ride rides and now it seems that full blown emersion is the new trend. Even getting to areas of the theme parks have become a ride into themselves. The new Hogswort Express in Universal’s Monorail. Guests get on at either park’s Harry Potter area and are transported to the next via train ride. It is not exactly a train ride but a attraction where you will see all of your favourite Potter friends and characters. Staying at the parks is now even more fun as their resorts have grown and carry some of the coolest places to stay in Orlando. The newest is Cabana Bay Resort. It is circa 1950 Florida beach style with all of the bells and whistles. You are greeted in the drive up guest check-in area by vintage 1950 cars and a lobby that goes straight back to the time of my parents. All this and more awaits you at Universal Orlando Resort.