Most of the rides tell a story that involves the visitors (Spiderman, Shrek, Transformers, the Mummy, Men in Black, E.T., the Simpsons, Terminator 2) helping the hero rescue the city, a
|Dancers in Beetlejuice Graveyard Review|
|Minion and Street Dancers|
- If you use one of the Universal Studio Resort hotels, you’ll get all of your transportation included, some nice coupons for food, and the freedom to come and go to the parks as many times during the day as you’d like.
- Wear shoes that stay on your feet unless you don’t intend to get on any of the more energetic rides.
- Eat at the restaurants in the parks rather than at the food stands or the hotels; breakfast and lunch are less expensive in the park restaurants.
- See the Harry Potter portions of the parks as early in the day as possible. The smaller areas increase the apparent crowd size and these are the most popular amusements.
- Souvenir shops at the area they represent have a better selection than at the places that represent all of the areas in the park. None of these souvenirs are inexpensive!
- You can see both parks in one day if you get an express pass and it’s not a weekend during high season.
- Make plans to visit the parks during the school year and on Tuesdays through Thursdays. In high season, all bets are off but weekends will be more crowded than weekdays.
- Take a small, cloth backpack with hand sanitizer, water, a poncho (for water rides and perhaps for inclement weather), sun screen, snacks, and so forth. For some rides you will be required to put all of your loose objects in a locker. These are free for the length of the ride (if the ride happens to breakdown, there is an attendant who can let you into your locker and you won’t be charged for the extra time).
- Plan what you’re going to do and in what order, but be flexible. Make sure that you take some time just to sit and watch people; you’ll need these little breaks to re-energize yourself.
- If you don’t have an express pass for the rides, look for the ‘single rider’ lines. This may get you onto the ride sooner, but you probably won’t be sitting with people from your group.
- ‘Child Swap’ doesn’t really mean you can trade your kids in on ones that appear to be better behaved.
|The Lost Continent Waterfall|
We stayed at a hotel on the resort property and ate at restaurants in the hotel and at the parks. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.
Where we stayed:
The Cabana Bay Beach Resort (6550 Adventure Way, Orlando, Florida, 32819, 407-503-
4000) is a
nice place to stay. Our room, on the 7th floor, was large, even with
two queen-size beds. There were two trash cans (one of my requirements for a
good hotel), and a small table with two chairs. The only nod to the current
century was the flat screen TV, remote control, and a coffee maker. There were
plenty of towels; the bed linens were very nice. While the mattresses were
quite comfortable, the pillows were marginal. We could get the pillows lumped
up enough for support, but that’s not the most comfortable way to sleep. There
is plenty of light around the bed, so reading anywhere in the room is
comfortable. The sink is separate from the rest of the bathroom, which makes it
easier to share a room. The bath area is quite nice. The negatives for this
room were that there is no air return in the bathroom, the shower is a drizzle,
the fan on the air conditioner won’t stay on if the room is above a certain
temperature, and the toiletries are limited to shampoo, conditioner, and soap.
There is a free shuttle from the hotel to the parks; it is always on time with
a pleasant group of drivers. From the people at reception to the maids, the
service at this hotel was great. There was not a time we didn’t get a smile
from the people providing service.
|Top L to R: Bedroom, Bathroom|
Bottom L to R: Toiletries, Pool Area
What we did:
Universal Orlando Resort (6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida, 32819, 407-363-8000) is a combination of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, and
City Walk – Orlando. There is plenty to do here
if you like rides, shows, parades, places to eat, shopping, and inventive
architecture. There are plenty of places to relax and simply watch people.
While we didn’t experience the crowds on this visit, they can be a real trial
during high season. Other negatives are noise levels – you are made to hear
rather than asked to listen; on a couple of the rides I thought I had lost my
hearing. For children this is a major concern, especially since the
sound level isn’t tied to explosions, gun fire, and the like, but to the sheer
volume of the music and dialog. It would actually be easier to understand what
was being said if the volume was less or the sound effect were on a different
(quieter) track from the dialog. Beyond the entrance fee, reasonable if you
intend to participate in even half of the amusements available, the prices for
souvenirs and for some of the food are quite high.
|Top L to R: Universal Globe, Snowman Wizard|
Bottom L to R: Juggler, Trident
What we ate:
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (City Walk – Orlando, 6000 Universal Boulevard #735,
Orlando, Florida 32819, 407-903-0044) is a chain, and we don’t usually
evaluate that sort of restaurant. However, the service was extraordinarily good
so should be mentioned in a review. After getting our drinks, we presented our
coupon for a free appetizer and asked what that covered. The server ran down
the list, but everything contained foods to which I am allergic. She called
over the manager who went through the menu with me and together we selected my
dinner. He also took the coupon and credited it to an appetizer that wasn’t on
the list. Our server and the manager checked back several times to make sure
that we were satisfied with our food. Dave had fish and chips made with
Pollock; the fish was tender, the coating crispy, and the tarter tasted fresh.
He did say that the chips (French fries) were average. My coconut shrimp were
also very good. The shrimp were tender, with a thick coating of coconut and a
tangy mango-orange dipping sauce. I agreed with Dave on the quality of the
French fries. My order of slaw was very good. The calamari, our appetizer, also had spicy red pepper and
pepperoncini breaded and deep fried. There were two sauces, the usual red sauce
and one made with ancho. The calamari was correctly prepared so that the meat
was not rubbery. Dave had a cold beer and I had a prosecco that came in a small
bottle, making it about half the cost as one glass of wine. The price of the shrimp
was rather high, but the rest of the food was reasonable. We were pleased with
our meal and especially with the service.
|Top L to R: Calamari, Coconut Shrimp|
Bottom L to R: Bubba Gump, Drinks, Fish and Chips
Croissant Moon Bakery (Universal’s Islands of Adventure, 6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida, 32819) is a great place for breakfast and probably a good place for lunch
within the park. We had basically the same
breakfast we did at the hotel for about half the price. We shared a bacon, egg
and cheese croissant, and a cranberry muffin; we both had huge cups of coffee.
The croissant was fresh and hot; the muffin was chilled, but very tasty. The
ladies at the counter were pleasant and efficient. There are some small tables
inside the bakery, and several larger ones outside. For us this was a great
option for breakfast!
|Top L to R: Croissant Moon Bakery, Green Building|
Bottom L to R: Dome, Croissant and Muffin
Lombard’s Seafood Grill (Universal Studios Florida, 6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando,
Florida, 32819, 407-224-6401) is a very nice restaurant
within the park. For lunch, this venue is actually less expensive than some of
the food stands along the walkways. Dave and I shared the Mahi Mahi fish
sandwich, but Dave had the clam chowder, also.
He really enjoyed the chowder, especially with the fresh sour dough
bread served hot and with real butter; I liked the bread, too. The fish
sandwich was on a warm, sweet bun with a creamy spread and some sundried
tomatoes. The fries were crispy and hot. Our waiter was funny, efficient, and
attentive. The setting is lovely and in the evening you’ll need reservations to
get a seat in a timely manner.
|Top L to R: Menu, Sourdough Bread|
Bottom L to R: Clam Chowder, Mahi Mahi Sandwich
|Three and One-half Carrots|
Emeril’s Orlando (City-Walk, 6000 Universal Boulevard #702, Orlando, Florida 32819, 407-224-2424) was a bit of a disappointment for me. Although we were early and the restaurant
wasn’t particularly busy, we were
seated on the ‘cat walk’. It was nice to be away from the noise of the
restaurant, but it was so dark that we couldn’t appreciate the food presentation.
Our waiter was excellent; the two wine stewards who came to check the wine
cabinets next to us were very friendly, but couldn’t be talked into slipping us
a key. I ordered scallops; the sides had to be changed because of my food
allergies. The chef over-salted two of the scallops so much that I had to mix
them with the mashed potatoes to make them edible. The other two scallops were
fine, if rather tasteless. All four were cooked correctly so that they were
tender and flaky. The mashed potatoes were good, if rather uninspired. The
grilled asparagus were wonderful. Dave had a pork chop that was cooked
perfectly, tender, and juicy. It came with two very tasty sauces: a barbecue
and a mustard sauce. His sweet potatoes were well prepared and flavorful. I had
a very nice moscato wine and Dave had a good pinot grigio. We shared a piece of
rather tasteless key lime pie; the raspberry coulis was the best part. While
the prices were about average for lunch, they were overpriced for the dinner
|Top L to R: Emeril's, Bread, Key Lime Pie|
Bottom L to R: Pork Chop, Asparagus, Scallops
Galaxy Bowl Restaurant (6550 Adventure Way, Orlando, Florida, 32819, 407-503-4000) at
the Cabana Bay Beach Resort is right out of the 1950s. This is
a full service restaurant in the hotel bowling alley. We had the best time
watching children just older than toddlers roll bowling balls down the alleys
and cheer when one or two pins fell. Dave had a regular hamburger with fries
that was average. My stadium style nachos were tasty, but nothing special. Dave
had a nice cold beer. Our waiter was pleasant and efficient.
|Top L to R: Galaxy Bowl, Nachos|
Bottom L to R: Hamburger, Bowling Alley
Breakfast was in the hotel at the Bayliner Diner (6550 Adventure Way, Orlando, Florida, 32819, 407-503-4000). This is basically a food court where you can get pre-packaged food,
pre-prepared food, and made on request (limited
to omelets, burgers, pizza, and the like). The restaurant is set up for huge
groups of people, so getting through this setting is relatively quick. At this
time of the year, finding a place to sit and eat was not a problem. Dave and I
shared a bacon, egg and cheese croissant and a whole grain croissant; we both
had coffee. Everything tasted fine. Prices were average, but not great. This is
also the place to get soft drinks, bottled water and snacks. Prices for these
commodities were high.
|Left: Menu, Croissants|
Right T to B: Restaurant Wall, Seating Area
Swizzle Lounge (6550 Adventure Way, Orlando, Florida, 32819, 407-503-4000) is a very
nice place to
watch what goes on in the Cabana Bay Beach Resort lobby. While we were enjoying
an adult beverage, we got to see a Minion and Lucy Ricardo posing for pictures
with guests. Happy hour was going on and our drinks were very good. However,
even at happy hour, these were quite expensive even though they were well
|Left: Menu, Drink|
Right T to B:Lobby, Minion
|Christmas Elf Balloon|
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