Roll your eyes, or rub your hands with glee, because we’re virtually visiting Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, again!
In November we spent a few well-deserved days of relaxation and fun at UOR, arriving on Tuesday and leaving Friday the week before the holidays hoopla kicked off with Thanksgiving. We stayed again at the beautiful Portofino Bay hotel. You can see the Christmas tree just left of center, pre-decorations, in the plaza. The weather was mostly nice, a bit-to-quite-a-bit chilly at night, but it didn’t really affect us much except once (see below).
We flew JetBlue both ways, which means using the still new Terminal C at MCO. It is HUGE. And still mostly empty and many things not opened. Plus, be ready for a LOT of walking if you take JetBlue to MCO. I don’t know if they have any plans to change things, but there is seriously a lot of walking with no moving walkways or anything. People that need assistance can get a lift in a small electric ATV sort of thing driving down the corridors. Super weird. On the plus side, if you’re flying during the holidays this year the wait at security is basically nil since there’s not much going on in Terminal C, yet. Food options are still pretty limited, but you won’t starve. Anyway, we got checked in before dinner time after a Lyft ride from the airport.
(I chose not to maniacally take photos of food because I was intentionally focused on enjoying the trip, sorry about that.)
We started by grabbing dinner at one of our favorites, Antojitos. My wife enjoyed the La Tostada and I kept it pretty simple with a steak quesadilla. It was fine. With a couple of hours of park time left we wandered around Universal Studios a bit. Including a trip on ET.
‘Not busy’ is an understatement. Didn’t bother with Express and walked through the forest. We ended up last in line for the group and ended up on by ourselves, so it was up to us to help ET save the Green Planet, fortunately it worked out, so we’re sort of a big deal on the Green Planet, now.
We also walked through the Holiday Tribute Store, but didn’t find anything to buy, or at least nothing we couldn’t get elsewhere later (in particular the Earl the Squirrel throw blanket I’ve been drooling over since last year). It was really quite empty. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of empty Hollywood.
So, I didn’t keep great track of how things went on Wednesday or Thursday, but we rode a few things and tried to hit up a lot of shows, including those we haven’t seen before. I had done the Bourne Stuntacular last time, but we checked it out because my wife hadn’t seen it yet. I still find it so-so and a bit disorienting, she thought it was good. Same with the holiday show by Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees in Diagon Alley. We did the Animal Actors On Location show for the first time, which was a lot more fun than we expected and recommended, especially if you have kids. We made it to the Marilyn Monroe and the Diamond Bellas show in front of the holiday-decked-out Macy’s. Honestly it was pretty lame. Sorry, Marilyn. The decor was great, though.
What wasn’t lame was the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular. I managed to get us near the time to line up for the show in Seuss Landing at about the right time so we didn’t have to wait long. It was a great show that we both enjoyed. We were a little afraid it might be painful, but it was a lot of fun.
Breakfast was at the Today Cafe, the first time we’ve been there. Unfortunately I can’t really remember what we got. I want to say there was a muffin and a breakfast sandwich of some sort. It was OK.
Lunches on Wednesday were Holiday crepes from Central Park Crepes. It was the same as when I had it two years ago – turkey, stuffing, craisins, gravy, croutons – it was delicious. We grabbed a spot near the Tribute Store and Christmas Tree to watch the Holiday Parade that was a lot more involved and lengthy than anticipated. Lots of fun floats and great balloons. Of course the Minions were our favorite part. We had a good view of Santa lighting the Christmas Tree. It’s definitely worth your time to watch, especially if you have little kids, the performers will interact with them.
Dinner was at the NBC Sports Grill and Brew. My wife just got a Caesar salad with fries and I decided to give the brisket platter a try after our server’s recommendation (terrible picture below….of the brisket platter, not our server). We also got the giant pretzel appetizer, which is….HUGE. It’s one of those ridiculously oversized pretzels some places serve that come hanging on a giant rack. It came with mustard and cheese sauce. It was pretty great, although we barely ate about 1/3 of it. We did get the rest to go.
If it’s not clear, that is a TON of meat and fries. Plus tasty barbecue sauce. I would have been happy with about half of this meal and taking the rest for another meal, but of course that wasn’t in the cards. I decided to overdo it and ate very nearly all of this tasty, tasty brisket. I skipped most of the fries to leave room for moar meat, but they were really good.
Lastly we stopped at the sweets counter in Island Market and Export Candy Shoppe. I was drawn to the cookie sandwich like it was destiny. Soft gingerbread cookies holding a decent amount of sweet frosting filling with festive sprinkles. It was like a soft, creamy, sweet festive version of an oatmeal creme pie. It was so good I got another one the next day to bring home. I also got a Christmas Tree cupcake that was basically a chocolate cupcake with a ginormous mound of decorated green frosting shaped like a Christmas Tree complete with some decorations. It got a little squished in the cupcake plastic carrier, so not worth a picture. It was OK, maybe because it waited a few days to get eaten. the best part by a mile were the decorations, which were super tasty fruit flavored candies. My wife tried a gourmet smore that was fine.
Highlights of Friday included my first ride on the VelociCoaster at the end of the day. First time, in the dark, FRONT ROW. It was beyond amazing. So fast, so smooth, so much UPSIDE DOWN. Wow. We grabbed a simple breakfast at Croissant Moon Bakery – wife got the fruit/danish/juice continental breakfast and I got the same with a chocolate chip muffin instead of danish. It was fine, the muffin was so huge I had to share it.
For lunch we went to the holiday pop up stand in Battery Park (near Mel’s). We were really looking forward to this after reading the menu before our trip, but it was sort of disappointing. Above are halves of the two sandwiches we split. What you can’t really tell is that they were pretty small. The crepes were much more filling. We shared a Peanut Butter Fluff ‘n’ Stuff (Creamy peanut butter, raspberry jelly, and marshmallow cream) and a Turkey Dinner (Pressed artisan cranberry bread filled with turkey and brie cheese, served with a side of turkey gravy). The PBFnS was tasty, I mean of course it was. The Turkey Dinner was adequate, but no more. It paled in comparison to the crepe. Together, the two halves were like a somewhat hearty snack, not a meal.
We got some donuts from Voodoo that were pretty good. I didn’t think the Universal Orangesicle was as good as the last one I got, though. For dinner we just went back to NBC. We had to wait a few minutes and then as we’re being seated the hostess said something about not minding being outside. Outside?? It was in like the 50s and we hadn’t been asked about sitting outside. They had some heaters out there, but they weren’t cutting it, not even close, especially as we weren’t dressed for those temperatures. There was just one other group out there and they were all wearing jackets and having drinks. When our server showed up we were basically like we’re not sitting out here. So he brought us back to the hostess stand and we got a table a few minutes later, inside…at the same table we had the previous night. My wife had the chicken pot pie that was pretty good and I just got the Wisconsin Burger, which was fine. This time I got to enjoy the great fries.
Before taking a Lyft back to Terminal C on Friday morning for a fairly long wait for our plane (it was already going to be a couple of hours and then got delayed) we had the breakfast buffet at Portofino in the Trattoria del Porto. It was as good as the last time we went, not quite as expansive as the one at The Kitchen, but there was plenty to eat. We did end up finding some lunch at the airport.
That’s about it. We never pushed ourselves, just did what we wanted, didn’t bother trying to get there early or stand in lines. Almost. I did wait about an hour for VelociCoaster, but it was the last night and I REALLY wanted to ride it. We got to ride the refurbished Mummy, still in technical rehearsals, so still no Express entrance, but there was almost no wait. I’m hearing differing opinions and apparently they’re still tweaking some settings. Some people say it’s smoother, some as rough. I’ve heard people say they experienced the rib cracking hard stop, but when we did it they did a fairly hard stop then a full stop right after, which made it much smoother. We didn’t bother trying to wait for Hagrid’s, but I did both of the other Potter thrill rides, including sitting next to a completely overwhelmed older lady on Escape from Gringott’s – she and her husband, both barely mobile, clearly had no idea what they were getting into. I dragged my wife through Poseidon’s Fury, refurbished and reopened. I like it. The effects were clearer for sure.
Let’s wrap up with some photos. My favorite building in Port of Entry all decked out for the holidays:
This is where you keep your Grinch scalp trophies:
They’re so fluffAAAAAAAHHHHHH!
Spared no expense!
And that’s all. Oh, wait! I did grab one of the new dark chocolate frogs! Very tasty. Goodnight, lighthouse!