Archive for the ‘Universal’ Category

One Million Bottles of (Butter) Beer on the Books…

January 26, 2011

Have a Swig and Don't Forget to Wipe Off the Mustache!

In less than six months, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has sold over one million Butterbeers!

This unique, non alcoholic drink is reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch. It has a creamy, sweet and frothy layer on top that gives it the appearance of an authentic medieval ale. It is served both chilled and frozen.

You can only find Butterbeer in the Harry Potter Land inside the Islands of Adventure theme park at the Universal Orlando Resort.

When I was served a Butterbeer earlier this month, the server told me that some guests consider the frothy topping the best part of the drink. He was right! I enjoyed having a Butterbeer for the experience. But it’s not nearly as good as the birch beer you can find in my native Pennsylvania Dutch land of southeastern Pennsylvania.

Just one of the many fun but totally useless facts made available to the lucky readers of my blog.

Here’s to your health…

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Mardi Gras Concerts at Universal Studios

January 18, 2011

Fabulous Mardi Gras Floats

If you can’t be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras the next best place to be is at Universal Studios in Orlando on Saturday nights (and a few select Fridays) from February 12 to April 23.

Featuring top name national music talent, authentic Mardi Gras parades and cuisine straight from The Big Easy, this is one party you’re sure to enjoy. It all takes place inside Universal Studios theme park and it’s included with your admission to the park.

Top Notch Entertainment

“We bring all of what makes Mardi Gras great together with national level musical artists to create a family friendly celebration that fills the entire theme park,” brags Jim Timon, senior vice president of entertainment for Universal Orlando Resort.

In addition to musicians who have a combined 100+ songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart and more than 20 Grammy nominations, there’s a dozen elaborate, hand crafted floats designed and built by Blaine Kern Artists (with PLENTY of beads!) The parade has a fire, air, water and earth theme and features a nightly King and Queen of Mardi Gras.

All this and authentic New Orleans inspired food creations including jambalaya, Po Boy sandwiches and more.

Here’s the nightly schedule of musical entertainment. For more information: click here.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS’ MARDI GRAS CONCERT SERIES

2011 MARDI GRAS TALENT LINE-UP
Mardi Gras Event Dates  Headliners (performing in the Music Plaza)  New Orleans Bands (performing in the French Quarter) 
Saturday, February 12  Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons  Big Al & The Heavyweights 
Saturday, February 19  The B-52s  Lil Malcolm & the House Rockers 
Sunday, February 20  KC & The Sunshine Band  Lil Malcolm & the House Rockers 
Saturday, February 26  Pitbull  John Lisi & Delta Funk 
Saturday, March 5  Lynyrd Skynyrd  Grady Champion 
Saturday, March 12  Foreigner  Honey Island Swamp Band 
Friday, March 18  Neon Trees  J.J. Caillier & The Zydeco Knockouts 
Saturday, March 19  Thirty Seconds To Mars  J.J. Caillier & The Zydeco Knockouts 
Friday, March 25  OneRepublic  Soul Project 
Saturday, March 26  Blake Shelton  Soul Project 
Friday, April 1  Sean Kingston  Lil Brian & The Zydeco Travelers 
Saturday, April 2  Ne-Yo  Lil Brian & The Zydeco Travelers 
Saturday, April 9  Lifehouse  Rockin’ Jake 
Saturday, April 16  The Beach Boys  Beth McKee & the Sliders 
Saturday, April 23  To Be Announced  Daddy Mack Blues Band 

Universal is Awesome! (unless you look closely)

January 15, 2011

(Editor’s Note:  When our vacation rental home business was struggling, we turned to LizTheFair [aka Maureen Carruthers of Low Hanging Fruit] for help. She developed a marketing & social media plan and wrote some copy for our website which helped to save our business. She, and her friend JediBFA, started this blog for us. It was great to see her last week. She wrote today’s guest blog post–LanceAround)
Islands of Adventure at Night

Islands of Adventure at Night

Last weekend JediBFA and I escaped the great white north, also known as Ohio, to soak up some Florida sunshine, visit our good friends, the LanceAround family, and check out the new Harry Potter attraction at Islands of Adventure

Little did I know we would also get an object lesson in the impact of mediocre customer service. Notice I didn’t say bad customer service.  Nothing super terrible happened to us.  And yet, the impression I came away with was “Well, it’s certainly not Disney.*”

Here’s what I mean:

Parking
Following LanceAround’s advice from the previous post, we arrived at the park 30 minutes before it opened.  One might imagine that would mean we’d get some rockstar parking.  One would be wrong. Park employees filled in  the parking lot row by row which meant that even though there were tons of close spots, we were forced to park at the far end of the garage.  Not a huge deal in and of itself, but certainly an example of how Universal’s policies are more concerned with their own convenience than with the customer’s experience.

Rides
JediBFA and I ended up riding several rides on our own, not because LanceAround didn’t want to join us, but because the seats on many of Universal’s most popular rides have a very limited capacity.  While unlike LanceAround I was not bared from riding, the seats were tight enough that as a woman with generously sized hips I was pretty uncomfortable most of the time.  As LanceAround is fond of pointing out, it doesn’t have to be this way–Disney finds a way to make all of their rides accessible to people of all sizes.  It may seem like a small thing but feeling judged by inanimate objects does not lead to a fun-filled day at the park.

Food
This was the worst part of our experience.  In fact, if this piece had been better, I might not have consciously noticed the problems with the parking and the rides.  With the exception of the Butter Beer in the Harry Potter section of the park, the food and drink options were extremely average–for an omnivore.  For vegetarians and vegans it was worse.  As vegetarians and frequent visitors to the park, the LanceAround family knew the options for eating a full meal at the park were limited, so we headed off to Jurassic Park where veggie burgers were on the menu.  JediBFA ordered without incident.  After finding the single cheeseburger on the menu (it was cleverly hidden under the very prominent double cheeseburger option), I also placed my order.  I wanted onion rings but ordered fries since no affordable way to sub one for the other was offered.  We went to the table to eat our very underwhelming, dried out, lunch.

Ordering took quite a bit longer for the rest of our party as the kitchen staff (at the only restaurant with vegetarian options on that side of the park) were not able to confirm if the veggie burgers were also vegan.  Not only did they not know–they were reluctant to find out. When pressed, their response was “I don’t know–I’m not a vegetarian.” When pressed harder, they did find an ingredient list (and subbed the original non-vegan bun, which had egg wash, for a different one without egg wash) so everyone got to eat–after returning one of the delivered chicken sandwiches for the veggie burger that was actually ordered. In the end, everyone ate so no actual harm was done–and yet, by making everything just a little harder than it needed to be, what should have been an amazing day in the park, ended up involving just a little more work than one wants to do on vacation.

Lessons Learned
Am I suggesting you skip Universal?  Not at all.  We had a pretty good time, and the Harry Potter section of the park was amazing.   In fact, if you have no dietary restrictions, weigh under 200 pounds and and have no experience with Disney theme parks, you may not even consciously notice the corner cutting. If, however you visit only one park while in Orlando–Disney is certainly a better bet. 

For those of you who own businesses or work in marketing, there is another lesson.  Thanks to the Internet and social media, truly amazing customer service is more important than ever before.  You don’t have to destroy property or have ridiculous refund policies to be called to task.  Dismissing customer concerns because your cashier “is not a vegetarian” or even being in an industry where someone else is doing it much better is enough to cost you business.

When she’s not deriving marketing lessons from theme park visits, Maureen Carruthers (known here as LizTheFair) uses her obsession with marketing to help nonprofit organizations be heard through social media.

*When I mentioned this out loud over lunch LanceAround commented that even Disney isn’t always up to Disney’s standards anymore, but that’s another post. . .

How Long Are the Lines at Harry Potter in Universal?

January 12, 2011

#1 Boyfriend Enjoys Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans From Honeydukes

The LanceAround Family was delighted to have a visit from LizTheFair and JediBFA this weekend. We took them to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park so we could check out the new Harry Potter attraction.

We had heard that it gets crowded at Harry Potter. So we awakened the three LanceAround children very early, picked up Number One Boyfriend and arrived at the gate for Islands of Adventure exactly one minute before the scheduled 9am opening. We discovered they actually let guests into the park 15 minutes before opening.

We immediately rushed to the Harry Potter land with nary a glance at the whimsically designed Seuss Landing nor the mythically inspired Lost Continent lands.

Entering Hogsmeade

Arriving at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we paused momentarily.  This was inspired. The crooked chimneys on the snow lined rooftops of Hogsmeade Village combined with the dusty atmosphere of ancient shoppes created the perfect Harry Potter moment. Mrs. LanceAround sighed with content. It felt like we walked right into a Harry Potter novel.

We made our way to the main attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I wish I could report on this ride. But, alas, like most of Universal’s big attractions, a person of my girth could not fit onto the ride. (Editorial Comment: I NEVER have an issue fitting onto ANY ride at Disney–Universal executives, please take note!)

The Hogwarts Express

As for the lines, despite the fact that we arrived at the park BEFORE the opening hour and IMMEDIATELY walked DIRECTLY to Harry Potter, there were still many people ahead of us in line. The queue moved quickly with a wait time of only 15 minutes or so. However, as we walked to the ride we noticed that the line outside Ollivanders Wand Shoppe was already significantly long. By the time we had exited the Harry Potter ride, Ollivanders’ line had doubled in size.

We wanted to go into The Owlery, but were stopped by an employee who told us the entrance was on the other side. We walked to the other side only to discover another line all the way down a long wall and around the corner! We skipped The Owlery.

Here are two videos which give a perfect indication of just how popular Harry Potter is. The first shows the crowd inside the Harry Potter land; the second shows how many people were at the Seuss Landing land just a few moments later:

After leaving Harry Potter, we went to Jurassic Park, Toon Landing, Seuss Landing then over to Universal Studios where we rode the Rip Ride Rocket, Twister, Revenge of the Mummy, Disaster, Jaws and Men in Black.  Except for Harry Potter, everywhere else was relatively sparse and the wait times were minimal as evidenced by the above videos.

If you are going to Harry Potter–and I highly recommend that you do–be sure to get to the park a minimum of one half hour before it opens and run right to Harry Potter with blinders on your eyes. Experience The Forbidden Journey, Ollivanders and The Owlery as much as possible, then stop for a butter beer or pumpkin juice at The Three Broomsticks. Relax for a moment, and then enjoy the rest of your day in Islands of Adventure.

One last tip: As you walk over the bridge from Harry Potter towards Jurassic Park there’s the perfect photo opportunity with Hogwarts Castle in the background!

#1 Boyfriend in Front of Hogwarts Castle

Harry Potter Ride Now Open at Universal Studios

June 27, 2010

Orlando has been a-buzz this week with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter–a new “land” inside Universal’s Islands of Adventures theme park.

The main attraction inside this land is the technologically advanced thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  For a non-spoiler peek at this ride, InsideTheMagic.net gave LanceAround permission to show this video of the ride’s queue line:

A surprise hit inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is Ollivander’s, Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC. The spoiler video below gives a glimpse into this delightful shop:

In addition you can buy Pumpkin Juice, Butterbeer, Chocolate Frogs and loads of other treats at Honeydukes, Zonko’s, The Three Broomsticks or Hog’s Head Pub.  You can also send a letter from the Owlery–the only place in the world that provides an authentic Hogsmeade postmark.

During the opening week of Harry Potter, Universal struggled with lines that stretched all throughout the themepark and past the entrance!  Some guests waited over eight hours, only to be told the ride was closing and they would not get to go on it.  Talk about a PR nightmare.

But those who have gotten inside Harry Potter universally give it a big thumbs up.  I recommend waiting a few months until the season is slower and Universal has worked out all the kinks.  Then make your plans to enjoy the newest addition to our world class array of theme parks and entertainment.

Harry Potter at Universal Opening June 18th

March 25, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Opens June 18

Universal Orlando just announced that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open on June 18th–providing only a two day cushion for fulfilling their promise to open in “Spring 2010.”

Universal also released details of the signature attraction, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.”  According to their official website:

The Story
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey draws you into the excitement and chaos of Harry’s life.  As you venture through Hogwarts castle, you meet Harry, Ron and Hermione who convince you to skip a planned lecture and follow them. Upon taking their advice, you travel by Floo powder, and begin the adventure as you soar over Hogwarts, narrowly escape a dragon attack, have a close encounter with the Whomping Willow, get pulled into a Quidditch match and more.

“Guests will experience firsthand a completely new adventure featuring the iconic characters, amazing creatures and recognizable locations they’ve only read in the books or seen in the films,” said Thierry Coup, creative director for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The website goes on to proclaim that this new attraction is unlike any other theme park experience.  It is described as a “revolutionary, 360-degree theme park experience and first-ever combination of live-action, advanced robotic technology and innovative filmmaking.”

The entire experience, including the queue, will take about an hour.  It has 12 scenes and the creation of the score was overseen by John Williams.

“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” is an additional “land” inside the Islands of Adventure Theme Park and will sit alongside the other lands, including Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Marvel Super Hero Island and Port of Entry.

The announcement has caused a bit of a stir among guests who have already purchased tickets and travel plans to arrive during the Spring of 2010 but before the opening date of June 18.  Rumors have been flying on internet travel sites making all kinds of claims from “you’re just out of luck” to “they will allow you into the Harry Potter land with a soft opening.” I will keep you posted as I discover more.

Here’s a brief preview:

http://media.universalorlando.com/harrypotter/videos.php

Harry Potter Opening Announcement

March 24, 2010

NewsFlash…

LanceAroundOrlando has just discovered that at noon tomorrow (Thursday, 25 March 2010) Universal Orlando will announce the opening date for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

As soon as the announcement is made, we will post it here on our blog.  Stay tuned…

Harry Potter is Coming to Orlando

March 9, 2010

Explore Hogwarts at Universal Orlando

Hogwarts castle is almost finished…

The Hogwarts Express is ready to run…

Hagrid has a Hippogriff poised to take on riders…

Harry, Ron and Hermione have been spotted, some say…

Be careful, there’s a rumour that Malfoy and his cronies are lurking around the corner…

In the meantime, stop by Zonko’s joke shop for some extendable ears.  Pop into The Three Broomsticks for some authentic Butterbeer.  Enjoy some candy from Honeydukes.  See if a wand chooses you at Ollivanders.  Send a Hogsmeade postmarked letter at the real Owl Post post office.

Then take a ride on the best, most technologically advanced attraction ride in Orlando.

At least, that’s what they claim…And it’s coming this spring to Universal Orlando.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be a new section in Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Of course, the lucky readers of my blog will find out all about it first, right here.  In the meantime, you can whet your whistle at this website:

wwww.UniversalOrlando.com/HarryPotter/

(Our Universal Rep was quick to remind everyone that “spring” officially ends on June 20th and was then quick to assure us Harry Potter would open “this spring”)

Until then, here’s a sneak preview for you…

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster Now Open at Universal Studios Theme Park

August 30, 2009

After an extensive delay, the much anticipated Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster is now open at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando Florida.

Scheduled to open in the Spring of 2009, the coaster has created a lot of buzz with these unique features:

  • A customizable sound track that allows you to hear the song of your choosing during the ride
  • A video of your ride, available for purchase, that includes the soundtrack you selected
  • A 167 ft. straight vertical climb
  • Stadium seating that gives every rider an unobstructed view
  • A twisting inversion where you begin the loop on the inside but are on the outside when you reach the top
  • 3,800 feet of track
  • Up to 65mph of speed
  • Unique design allows four coasters to be on the track at once, each one carrying only 12 passengers
  • Can handle over 1800 riders per hour

Universal is hailing this as “the world’s most technologically-advanced roller coaster.”  Their ads state it’s “adrenaline pumping and music thumping,” “gasping with excitement,” and “pulse-pounding flight.”  Does the ride live up to the hype?  Inquiring minds want to know!

We haven’t had a chance to try out this new ride, but if you have please leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Stay tuned–as soon as the LanceAround team has the opportunity to experience the Rockit, we’ll let you know!