Written by William Balcerski - Podcast Host
There has been a lot of talk lately about the COVID-19 other wise known as the "Coronavirus." More recently, as it relates to theme parks around the world and here in Central Florida. Everyone is on high alert as Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong’s theme parks have all closed as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the virus.
Now, here in Central Florida, our theme parks are being called into question, with a couple of Walt Disney World workers being sent home with the flu. On the surface, it's pretty scary stuff, if you think about it. Confined areas, tons of people, (In 2018, Magic Kingdom had over 20 million visitors alone), riding the same rides, and we all don't have the same hygiene standards. I get it. Moreover, It doesn't help that the media is “fear mongering” this down our throats everyday.
With anything, there is "Perception" and there is “Reality.” but, before you cancel your trip to Central Florida, let's do some math, shall we?. According to the World Census Bureau, there are roughly 7.7 billion people that inherit the earth. Currently, according to Worldometers.info, The current "Outbreak" is at 85,705 confirmed cases with 2,933 deaths (majority of them elderly or people with low immune systems) reported and 39,783 people that have recovered from the virus. If we crunch the numbers, that percentage is so small, that it cannot be quantifiable mathematically. (Note: That is confirmed cases. I acknowledge that there are many more unconfirmed cases out there).
But, let's bring it closer to home - America. According to the U.S. Census board, there are approximately 327.2 million people in the United States. Of those millions of people, there are 15 confirmed cases of this virus. If we do the math, that means there is 0.000000045 percent of the U.S. population that have confirmed cases of the virus. (not even in the zip code of 1 percent). Another perspective: According to the lotto.net website, the odds of winning the Florida Lotto is 1 in 22,957,480. (yes, that says 22 million) that calculates out to 0.0000000043 odds that you will get 6 out of 6 numbers and win the jackpot. By rate of comparison, (and rounding up) That means you only have a 0.0000000002 percent greater chance of catching this virus (in the U.S.) over winning the Florida lottery. Let this sink in. We are talking not even in the Stratosphere of 1 percent.
Now, welcome to Central Florida - where we have sunshine, Mickey, and Harry Potter. Oh, and no confirmed or reported cases at all. I understand that it's easy to watch the news and social media and fear the worst; But, as previously stated, there is perspective, and then there is reality. By all means, take precautions to protect yourself and your family. But do not buy into this media scare. because that is all it is. Come to Central Florida, Enjoy the theme parks. Make memories. Rest easy knowing that you are safe to do so. If it makes you feel any better, bring some hand sanitizer with you.
Stay woke people.
Written by David "Indy" Graham
Back in January changes started to happen at Universal's Citywalk with the closure of the Fresh Produce and Island Clothing CO stores. The Island Clothing Co. was a quick short cut for many going to Universal's Studio park as it connected with Quiet Flight Surf Shop. It's now being reported that P!Q (pronounced “pick”) and the Fossil shop have closed for good at Citywalk as well. So what does this possibly mean and why are they closing a lot of stores there? The simplest answer is they were all 3rd party companies and Universal over the years has slowly been putting in company owned locations. As a business, why only take a portion of the profits when you can get 100% of them. Chances are in time you will only see a few that are not owned by Universal there. The ones I don't see going any where are Blue Man Group (for now), Hard Rock Cafe and Hard Rock Live, Cinemark. The ones I do see eventually leaving are Margaritaville as the Margaritaville Resort Orlando opened this past year and would only make sense to be there. As for Bubba Gump, it opened in 2006 so I'm not sure when their lease is up but I wouldn't be surprised if it closes down in the near future (I'll explain a little later) and then everything going up to the little food court area where Burger King, Panda Express and Moe's are located.
Now, let's take a look at the possible rumors, however remember until Universal officially makes an announcement, things are subject to change.
If you look at the places that did close or are rumored to within the next few years you will notice they either are grouped together and could be made into a larger location or they connect and possible have shared kitchens. Starting with the recently closed stores, documents are already being filed to combine them to make a larger location. (I'm really surprised they didn't look to move Cinnabon to it's own free standing location or expand Auntie Anne's and combine them as they are both owned by the same company). Additionally, I'm really not sure how Quiet Flight Surf Shop wasn't closed down to give that additional space but I wouldn't be surprised to see it go in the near future. The largest rumor is for that space to become a mega Universal store and closing the other location. Other rumors have mentioned an escape room. Universal even filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on November 9th 2018, seven Universal City Studios LLC applications referencing “Universal’s Great Movie Escape.” The last current rumor is a Nintendo store, however if plans to make it interactive are true then I think The Groove would be a better location. Besides, I'm surprised that place is still there as it's one of the last original locations from when Citywalk opened in 1999. Opening a store in Citywalk can serve two purposes -as it will help create hype for the Nintendo land going into Epic Universe but also Universal can gauge based on what the store offers what everyone's interests are for marketing.
Assuming the Universal store does move then that will free up that location (along with closing Rising Star) for another rumor, SNL Lounge. In recent years Universal has been putting more of their own IPs into the parks and SNL has been rumored even before the Jimmy Fallon ride came to be. The themed 2 story SNL Lounge would be more restaurant focused for lunch but then transition into a bar in the evenings with possible live entertainment. With Rising Star already set up with a stage area it would be easy for Universal to use that more for the live entertainment and focus the restaurant/gift shop in the lower old Universal store location. However that's not the only location that was being looked at for the SNL Lounge. Anyone remember Endangered Species or Motown Cafe back when Citywalk opened? The Motown Cafe was also 2 stories that now is taken up by Bubba Gumps and Red Coconuts. Bubba Gumps has been rumored to be on the chopping block for a while even though the kitchen had just been upgraded not long ago. If the SNL Lounge does go here then I'm hoping between that and the reworking of the recently closed stores Universal will figure out a better flow for the pathway around by the food court and Hart and Huntington Tattoo Company.
And speaking of the food court area, there has always been the rumor of this area being reworked with either closing, moving or remodeling that area completely. One long running rumor has Universal opening an In & Out Burger as the closest location currently is Texas. Honestly, I'd love to see that entire area get reworked as I don't feel the currently layout really works anymore with current crowd levels and most people pass right by it. I honestly think during the years while I was working for Universal I might have been up in that area twice to eat. Converting that area into a large In & Out Burger or even adding more family entertainment options I believe would benefit Universal. The more they have to offer and compete with Disney Springs or International Drive the more they can keep guests onsite. The one area with all the current upgrades to Citywalk is family entertainment after the parks close. Things like a bowling alley, laser tag, ropes course, indoor skydiving are just a few that have made the rumor list over the years. By adding just one of those, maybe a dinner show or a live performance theater would do great things for them. With Blue Man Group always rumored to be leaving, adding a live theater where they could bring in broadway-style shows like Shrek the Musical or even Wicked would have crowds coming there just for Citywalk. I personally can't wait to see what Universal has planned over the next few years not only for the current Citywalk but when they open the hub/citywalk area for Epic Universe.
So what do you hope to see open? Did I miss a rumor you might have heard about going in there? Let us know in the comments below. And again, thank you for being a part of the Universal Disney Nutz family.
Written by David "Indy" Graham
Have you ever done one of the firework dining plans or wanted too? There is a wide range of options based on what you are looking for from ones offering drinks, food or just desserts but all included that special viewing area. They are truly unique ways to experience an end to the day at the park. However, what if I told you there was a way to experience one without even entering a park and you're able to see all of Central Florida's nighttime pyrotechnics from just one location as well as an amazing view of Orlando at it's actually at Universal Resort.
So let's talk about Bar 17 Bistro. If you are not familiar with it, this is actually the bar located on the roof of Universal’s Aventura Hotel. Universal bills it as a "drink with a view" but it's really so much more with it's offerings of urban international flavors and more, along with a full bar. Open daily from about 4pm to Midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and 4pm to 2am on Thursday through Saturday with a DJ on Friday and Saturday from 8pm to midnight. It really is an amazing place. The best part is, according to the drink menu, that they have Happy Hour 10 pm – Close: Draft Beer & House Wine - $6 which for a theme park is about a $3 discount on beer alone. But what about that food I mentioned earlier? They offer a wide range of options on the menu from appetizers to proteins (steaks/seafood) however their signature option there is the Bao Bun. These are steamed Chinese bread rolls filled with 4 different options to enjoy.
As for the view from up there? Like it was stated earlier this is on the 17th floor roof at Universal's Aventura Hotel so on a clear day or night you can see for miles. If you look to the south you will be able to see SeaWorld's nightly show and of course to the north side is both Islands of Adventure with Hogwarts Castle and right next door is Universal Studios that has the Cinematic Celebration on select nights. Yet if you look to the west you will not only see the fireworks form the Magic Kingdom but also Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. And not to be left out looking east you will see Downtown Orlando.
Well there you have it an unofficial fireworks dining package without stepping foot into any theme park. I know for some they want to be up close and personal for these shows but for others looking for a night out and a way to completely skip those crowds leaving the park at the end of the night then this might be the perfect option for you. And if you're looking to make a weekend get away, the rates at Universal's Aventura are moderately priced. I would suggest looking for one of the skyline rooms and maybe asking for a room looking to the West (you can watch the Disney fireworks from your room) or north and view Universal at night. Our staff at Universal Disney Nutz can help you find the perfect room. Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and our certified travel advisors with Castle Vacations can assist you!
Let us know what you think and again thank you for being a part of Universal Disney Nutz.
Written by David Indy Graham
For most people the main focus of a trip to Universal or even Disney is the parks, but have you ever taken the time to see what they have to offer that doesn't require you spending a lot of money for the day? We'll take just a quick look at a few different options at Universal Orlando that you might not have realized they have to offer outside the park gates.
Let's start with Citywalk since anyone who has been to Universal knows that to get into the two dry parks you have to go through it. Did you know there are 21 places to eat there? You can get anything from a quick service meal from the Burger King Whopper Bar and Moe's, all the way to full table service meals at places like Vivo's Italiana Kitchen and Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. Be advised when going to eat at any of the full service restaurants, don't wait till the parks are closing or you will find yourself waiting about an hour MINIMUM for a table even if it's only for one of those over-the-top milkshakes at Toothsome.
If you're not really hungry, then Citywalk offers 9 different entertainment options that might interest you. Besides the club offerings or even looking in the various shops, you can take in a movie at the recently updated Cinemark theaters, or how about a round of mini golf to end the night? And we can't talk about Citywalk entertainment without talking about the upbeat Blue Man Group show there. If you haven't seen this show then I highly recommend checking it out. It's the perfect date night or just a night out with the family.
So now that we've looked at Citywalk let's focus on the resorts there. We are going to skip over the Endless Summer Resorts for this but they are well themed as I've seen Surfide in person and mockups for Dockside when I worked there. Universal has done an amazing job theming each of the hotels, giving each one their own personality; but did you know that besides some amazing food at the restaurants that they offer special entertainment throughout the year? The Hard Rock Hotel (besides home to the world famous Palm Restaurant) offers live performances from legendary artists and bands for 10 months out of the year-Velvet Sessions- on the last Thursday of the month.
Looking for something a little different? How about checking out Harbor Nights at Loew's Portofino Bay Hotel. This is truly perfect for that special date night that only happens about 4 times a year. This dazzling event is held in the Harbor Piazza under twinkling lights offering select wines and unlimited gourmet food samples from the hotel's restaurants.
Looking for something for the family instead, then you can look into Character meals at the hotels or maybe a visit to the Loew's Royal Pacific Resort for the weekly Wantilan Luau with an all-you-can-eat tropical buffet. Those are just a few options but I can't go without talking about my favorite (and I will be doing a blog solely about it later) Bar 17 Bistro at Universal's Aventura Hotel. Located on the roof of this hotel, enjoy amazing views as well as the urban international flavors of the food offerings and custom cocktails.
So these are just a few options to enjoy and I barely covered what the resorts have to offer. Even as someone who worked at Universal for the past 5 years (until December 2019) I've yet to still do everything there is to offer. I suggest checking out www.universalorlando.com and under Things-To-Do and Events just look at what the hotels have to offer-especially around holidays as additional offerings can be added. Let us know in the comments: did we cover something that you can't wait to try or did I not list something you feel is a can't miss. Till next time thank you for being a part of Universal Disney Nutz!
Written by David "Indy" Graham
Now before you start to think Universal is getting ready to increase it's pyrotechnics at night, I'm sorry to say that's not the case. It's not because they can't afford it, or they lack the creativity to come up with ideas for a great show either. Now I know some of you might be thinking- what's he talking about I've seen fireworks at Universal? in fact you might be thinking they do them for the Cinematic Celebration; however those are only classified as pyrotechnics due to the height Universal fires them into the air.
So then why doesn't Universal have fireworks like Disney parks? Well, at it's current location (as we are hopeful that Epic Universe might have them) the quickest answer is to look at Universal Orlando on Google maps and the surrounding area. If you look closely you will see there is a high school (Dr. Phillips) directly behind Islands of Adventure, as well as houses and apartments within walking distance to the resort. Because of this, Universal is restricted on a lot of things they can do because of Orlando's residential zoning laws. Universal actually tracks the noise levels around the park, especially during Halloween Horror Nights, as they can be fined by Orange County/Orlando for violations- which can add up to a few thousands quickly. Universal has even had a noise pollution phone number for the residents to call; Universal will send someone to the closest park location to that complaint to measure the volume and then report and adjust it as needed.
Just to give even more insight into how much of a concern noise from the park is- even before Universal Orlando opened on June 7, 1990 there were already concerns from the neighboring residents regarding noise levels. To help (even then) with the concerns, Universal hired a noise consultant company as well as requested to have the maximum noise level increased from the 60 decibels for short periods of time each day. The current level at that time was 60 decibels, which is comparable to the level that most people watch their TV at. Universal's request was to be allowed to go above maximum noise levels for only 2 1/2 minutes every half hour or 5 minutes per hour.
Just think- that was before the park even opened in 1990; the concerns were there and changes were being requested. Looking at the current Noise Related Ordinances for commercial areas in Orlando from 7AM-10PM it's 70 dBA/75 dBC and from 10PM-7AM it's 65 dBA/70 dBC. So what does that mean really to most people? The A-weighted level (dBA) is the most common single number measure of loudness. The C-weighting network is used mainly as a measure of the broadband sound pressure level as well as for recording. Occasionally an (L C - L A) level is used to describe the relative contribution of low-frequency noise to a spectrum.
So what do you think? Are you happy with the current pyro that they have or do you wish they could have larger fireworks like Disney? I also included the article link from back in 1988 below that talked more about the noise concerns when building just the original park.
Written by Victoria Johnson
Written by David Indy Graham
,Get your wallets ready, it’s about time for the annual theme parks to increase the price.
Just as anyone in Central Florida knows that around 5pm in the summer you can count on an afternoon thunderstorm to hit the same is true in February you can count on the local theme parks here raise their ticket prices. And much like many of you, I cringe to think just how much more it’s going to cost me to go to our favor parks; however a very interesting article was written by Brady MacDonald in the Orange County Register out in California asking the question is Disneyland under-priced?
I know the article was written with Disneyland in mind however this same break down can be applied to the parks here in Orlando just as easy. When I use to take escalated calls as a supervisor at one of the local theme parks regarding the pricing increases each year, the same breakdown Brady used was very common to be heard over the phone with guest often. Yes, I understand for an average family of 4, even if it’s only an increase of about $10 per person on a multi-day ticket that’s still $40 which takes away from food or merchandise or other travel costs. However, based on actual value for what you are getting, then is it the price increase really that is just too much or is it still under-priced as the article stated?
I decided to apply that to the the Central Florida parks to get an idea locally on what it broke down to per hour like Brady did for Disneyland. For this I only stuck with the valued 1 day 1 park tickets for this example. Just to give people an idea of how much ticket pricing has changed over the years for Disney World I found this great link from Allears.
I started with Universal Orlando with a 1 park $119 value day with the park opened on average about 11 hours which breaks down to about $10.82 per hour. For Sea World Orlando the average pricing was a little different as they had an online discount for a 1 day ticket as well as their weekday and weekend hours varied. So if you were to buy a ticket at the gate it would run $105.99 for the day. If you went on a weekday which seems to be open about 8 hours it came to $13.25, or for the weekend about $10.60 per hour. If you opted to purchase the promo online ticket in advance that same ticket would run you $85.99 which comes to $10.75 for a weekday or $8.60 on the weekend as they are open about 10 hours.
Surprisingly the value ticket for the house the mouse built for a value day ran about $109.00 for a 1 day ticket across the board with each park open for about 12 hours, so that was about $9.08 per hour. Just for fun I decided to look to see what the ticket prices were for the Superbowl this today. The Superbowl on average is just under 4 hours but I went ahead and based it on 6 hours cause after all it's the Superbowl and no one is just going to walk in at kick off and leave right after. After many searches the lowest priced ticket I could find in the upper bowl (Sec 320, Row 28) was going for $5,411.00 + Fees. That broke down to about $901.83 per hour for this event. I'll pause as you do the math to figure out how many theme park per hours it would take to even come to that.
So what do you think based on a per hour breakdown? Are theme parks still over-priced or under-priced based on the value you get for the day? Let us know in the comments below what you think and why.