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.)
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.
My first stop had to be Diagon Alley for a ride on Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts. The posted standby time was only 30 minutes! The attraction seemed to be running very smoothly, and all effects were in operation including the fog and Kuka-powered door in the finale dome.
The queue in the spectacular bank lobby has been rearranged yet again, returning to a switchback configuration similar to the old railings that were installed and then ripped out…
I took the single rider line at was on my vault cart in about 12 minutes. But I advised first-time riders in the singles line alongside me to exit and ride standby; you truly miss half the experience when you skip Gringotts’ preshow, and 30 minutes (actually closer to 25) is a small price to pay for the preshow.
I exited Gringotts just in time to see the dragon breathe fire, a spectacle that usually occurs every 10 minutes (weather permitting). No matter how many times I see it, I still have to stop and watch in awe.
Lunch time at the Leaky Cauldron. There was a short line out the door, but I ordered and was seated within 15 minutes.
Today I decided to try the Specialty Chicken sandwich, the only item on Leaky’s menu that I hadn’t eaten. It turned out to be a great choice! The chicken was marinated in herbs and not overly dry, the bacon was thick and smoky, and the seasoned mayonnaise added a tasty but not overpowering tang.
Of course, everything goes better with a Strongbow cider, especially if it has a shot of Fire Whiskey…
As I exited Diagon Alley, I peeked into the London Waterfront telephone booth.
The good news is that the phone dial, which has been repeatedly broken and eventually removed, has been replaced. The bad news is that you can no longer turn the dial, which means no more ringing 62442 (“MAGIC”) to hear a message from the Ministry of Magic. Others have reported that the recording now plays automatically, but all I heard was a dial tone.
A performance of Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue was just starting as I was passing by, so I decided to take a seat. I’m still not a huge fan of this version of the show, but it’s starting to grow on me thanks to the hard-working cast.
I noticed a few employees wearing these anniversary accessories around their name tags, a nice touch.
My last attraction for the day would be the Horror Make-Up Show, long my favorite live comedy production in an Orlando park. The hosts keep this 25-year-old show feeling fresh, and this pair (Josh and Russell) are two of my favorites.
Speaking of makeup, the display windows outside the theater have been spruced up:
Leaving the Horror Make-Up Show, I crossed paths with the Minion mini-parade. In some ways, these mid-day character parties in Hollywood are more fun than the actual afternoon Superstar Parade.
Attention Lucille Ball fans: USF’s Lucy tribute museum is rumored to close in the near future, for conversion into a Hello Kitty store. I was sure to stop in and take what may be my last look at this opening day attraction, and will share an in-depth photo gallery of the exhibit once official word of its closure is confirmed.
My last stop at USF as the Studio Store, which is selling an exclusive annual passholder trading pin to celebrate the 25th anniversary. They cost $7.95 each, and you can buy as many as you like; you even get your usual merchandise discount.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Here’s one big difference between Orlando’s two Studios parks: at Universal I always use valet (it’s a free perk with the Premier Pass) so I know where my car is. At Disney I have to photograph my row number, otherwise I’ll never get home. Sometimes I get odd looks for photographing strangers’ feet, but I’m used to that…
I visited DHS on the first day of this year’s Frozen Summer Fun activities, which I’ll share photos and videos of in an upcoming post. In between experiencing the Royal Welcome, For The First Time in Forever, Olaf’s Summer Cool-Down, and Frozen Fever, there wasn’t much time for other attractions.
But I did manage to squeeze in a quick flight to Kashyyyk and Naboo, only to find the Star Tours gift shop stuffed to the gills with guests who apparently didn’t get enough galactic “moychindice” at Star Tours Weekend. While waiting to worm my way back into the park, I snapped this shot of a holographic R2 action figure that I wouldn’t mind adding to my collection (if my curio cabinet wasn’t already overloaded).
Speaking of moychindice, this was my first time passing by Youse Guys since Avengers: Age of Ultron opened in theaters, and Marvel has pretty much taken over this tiny shop.
As Julia Moscardo discovered earlier this week, Mr. Gold has set up shop on DHS’s New York street.
I’ve never watched Once Upon a Time so I didn’t recognize any except the most obvious references, but anything that updates the theming of this area’s storefronts is okay by me.
The Studio Catering Co. isn’t known as one of Disney’s best eateries, but they recently changed up their menu so I decided to try their new deli sandwich ($9.49), with Italian cold cuts and an olive relish.
I liked the balsamic glaze on top, but there was way too little meat for the amount of bread, making for a dry meal. The “house made” potato chips were probably my favorite part.
The “Cherry Blossom” seasonal drink is fine if you like the taste of Shirley Temples. Just don’t expect to get a buzz off of the undersized serving unless you weigh 80 pounds soaking wet.
The weak drink was no match for the murderous temperatures…
So I took an air-conditioned break inside One Man’s Dream, one of the most underrated attraction at DHS (especially on days when the heat index hits 100+).
The most recent model in the exhibit is of Buena Vista Street from Disney California Adventure. It’s nice enough, but wouldn’t it be great if they showed off a model of Pandora?
Thanks again for following along on another Best Week Ever photo tour! Do you have suggestions for what you’d like to see in this space? Leave your ideas in the comments below!