Pick Six: Universal Orlando CityWalk Announcements

While I am still putting together a lot of my final ideas for a larger post on icFlorida about yesterday’s Universal Orlando CityWalk Announcements (You can find the Press Release here), I wanted to take a moment to look at my initial reactions to what we were shown.

Universal Orlando CityWalk

1. Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley

Universal Orlando CityWalk

I had a lot of A-ha moments during The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley presentation! Originally I looked at how close the construction of Diagon Alley was to Universal Studios Florida, and I always wondered why it had to be so close to the existing park. And yesterday, when they spoke about how Diagon Alley was wedged into London everything clicked for me! And while I am positively giddy about riding on the Hogwarts Express, given the detail that is going into the streets of Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron (especially the ceiling) I want to camp out now! The current Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of my most favorite places in any theme park, and I am beyond hopeful about Diagon Alley!

2. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Universal Orlando CityWalk

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is going to be everything that you wish a Walt Disney World ‘Value’ Resort would be! The resort will have 900 Rooms and 900 Family Suites at opening with a fun 60’s retro feel. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort will also boast several large pools for each section of the resort, dining options, high-energy bowling alleys, and more at a manageable walking distance to the parks. I love fun resorts, and with the proximity to the park this ‘Value’ resort really has value.

3. The Cowfish / The Hot Dog Hall of Fame

The Cowfish and The Hot Dog Hall of Fame that will be coming to Universal CityWalk are fun and quirky! The Cowfish is a mix of sushi and burgers in a fun environment (there will be tablets in the Sushi Bar for people to surf as they sit under Pop Art), and the result is ‘Burgushi’ which include sushi rolls created using burger components and sandwiches created using sushi elements. The Hot Dog Hall of Fame boasts signature Hot Dogs from around the country and a Mustard Bar with custom mustards created from a partnership from the National Mustard Museum. If you love Hot Dogs, how can you not be excited about this restaurant coming to Universal Orlando CityWalk? Amid Bars and themed restaurants, I am looking forward to the fun options and atmosphere that these two locations will bring to the mix of CityWalk!

4. Starbucks / Menchies / Cold Stone Creamery

Universal Orlando CityWalk

While I would have loved to see all original offerings at the Universal Orlando CityWalk announcement, I have to say that choosing to expand the Starbucks presence and adding Menchies and Cold Stone Creamery to CityWalk make more sense and go with the ‘best in class’ mind-set that is going into the renovation of Universal Orlando’s CityWalk. Starbucks moving downstairs and into a larger space that will be filled with seating (Yay!) and innovative touches is a win for everyone, because it is more accessible and adds another location to grab a quick breakfast at the parks which has always been an issue with my family. Menchies and Cold Stone Creamery are solid yogurt and ice cream places that are family favorites, which is important when you have a little (or big) kid who needs a treat after a long day in the theme parks!!!

5. Antojitos / The Red Oven / Bread Box / Pranzo

Universal Orlando CityWalk
Work is well under way at Antojitos at Universal Orlando CityWalk!

And now we come to the unique restaurants that are coming to Universal Orlando CityWalk! Antojitos is a going to be more of a culinary journey than passive restaurant experience. The themed facade of Anotjitos is where you start your trip to cantinas, street carts, and markets of Mexico for tapas-style dining with authentic Mexican food.The Red Oven is open now, and amid an modern Italian atmosphere you can find a huge variety of brick oven pizzas and salads. The Bread Box will feature hand made breads and sandwiches with fresh ingredients to capture the feel of the Deli of your childhood or movies! Pranzo will feature modern Italian foods and hand made pastas. The common thread between the variety of restaurants is that there will be a focus on using only fresh ingredients, that are hand-made, and sometimes even created as you watch. While I am a HUGE Mythos fan (aren’t we all though…Universal butter, bread that you can’t stop eating, and delicious dishes), I always find myself wanting more of a fresh feel to my meal. So beyond beautiful decor, I am excited to find these kinds of foods offered in a Theme Park Area.

Universal Orlando CityWalk

6. Shopping!

I will admit that the shop-a-holic in me really wished there was more on this front, I am excited to see what the new Universal Studios Store will offer! The design will also boast more interactivity and fresh design elements. It is a great place to catch those souvenirs that you said you would go back to pick up that you might have forgotten.

With all these locations opening as the first phase of a Universal Orlando CityWalk revitalization by June of 2014, it makes me really excited to see what phase 2 is going to bring besides me spending more time there!

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Sea World for Beginners

I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Sea World since I was young,  so I decided it was time to take a stroll down memory lane and visit one of my favorite childhood parks. It was definitely a good decision! Sea World  is a beautiful park that is more of a destination than a place to see a “whale show”!

I’ll be posting more about the shows, experiences, and rides that Sea World has to offer in the upcoming week. But right now I want to talk about a few things that you should take into consideration when planning your trip to Sea World, from someone who didn’t plan anything! 🙂

When you arrive at Sea World, the first shocker for me was the photographers jumping in front of you trying to take your photo. I know it is their job, but seriously! If I don’t look interested in stopping, please don’t even try!

But I did find one photo op that I couldn’t pass up…

 

The Shamu character photo op as you enter the park.

 

 

Zoe and Shamu!

 

Now for the awesome news….They have a Starbucks in the Park! Now lines in here can be just as long as some of the attractions, but the rides don’t taste this good!

The most important thing to consider while you are at Sea World is their “loose items” policy. Now while you can bring your backpack or purse onto most rides at Walt Disney World, this is DEFINITELY not the case here. They will not allow you on any ride with a “loose item”, but they do provide lockers throughout the park for you leave your items in. For us it was an issue, since we don’t typically use a stroller in smaller parks and I am so used to carrying snacks and drinks in for Zoe.

 

When they mean loose articles, they mean NO LOOSE ARTICLES!

 

The shows are amazing, and you really need to show up about 30 minutes in advance to avoid the “Splash Zones”! Now while there have been a lot of tragedies lately, you can definitely tell that the trainers at Sea World have a true love for what they do and the animals that they work with.

 

Zoe and one of the trainers from "Believe"

 

Sea World had definitely earned a spot in our theme park rotation! They offer great & unique animal experiences, have some great coasters, and have show that capture the magic and love that we all have for nature and its inhabitants.

If you haven’t considered a visit…you might want to!

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