Hotel Review: Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Why Go: Go back in time and find out what it was like living in the 60s at Universal Resort Orlando’s family-friendly Cabana Bay Beach Resort, where the retro cool style of Mad Men meets the fun, futuristic utopia of The Jetsons.

The latest onsite hotel addition to one of the most popular theme park resorts in the world is perfect for families with a penchant for bright colors and vintage design. And as Universal Orlando’s first value-to-moderate hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort treats guests, young and old, to pretty, candy-colored aesthetics, great kid-friendly pools, plush beddings and easy access to the theme parks at super affordable rates.

Cabana Bay Beach ResortCabana Bay Beach Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Getting There: Situated next to Interstate 4, Cabana Bay Beach Resort is easily accessible whether you’re driving from another city or taking the shuttle from the Orlando International Airport 20 minutes away. A complimentary shuttle is available to and from the theme parks.

Getting Oriented: The retro-themed hotel sits on the Southwestern corner of the Universal Orlando complex, with Universal’s Islands of Adventure directly to the North and Loews Royal Pacific Resort to the East.

Family suite at the Cabana Bay Beach ResortFamily suite at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Room Options: Families large and small will find the rooms at Cabana Bay pleasantly comfortable and roomy. A family of four will enjoy spacious accommodations in a standard room with two queen beds while a family of six will find a family suite with a kitchenette, an additional full-size sofa bed and extra large bathroom to their liking. Large and multi-generational families will love the connecting rooms and suites perfect for spreading out while still having easy access to one another.

For the Whole Family: Picnic tables, a lawn, a pool table, and a bean bag toss give families plenty of fun things to do together at the resort. However, water fun is never far away on days when you want a break from the theme parks and need to cool down and relax.

Pool at the Cabana CourtyardPool at the Cabana Courtyard (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Separated into two courtyards – Cabana Courtyard and Lazy River Courtyard, Cabana Bay’s huge recreation area boasts two big, zero-entry pools (open from 8 am to 11 pm) with plenty of umbrellas and lounge chairs, a lazy river, a waterslide, a hot tub, a small sand beach, and several cabanas to rent for privacy. The Cabana Courtyard features one pool, the waterslide, the cabanas and Atomic Tonic for refreshments. The Lazy River Courtyard, on the other hand, is home to the lazy river, the second pool, the sand beach and The Hideaway Bar & Grill.

Indoors, the resort’s 10-lane bowling alley and restaurant, Galaxy Bowl, give families the option to hit the lanes while having casual dinner. There are also several shopping and dining opportunities, including a Starbucks and a Universal Gift Shop.

Just for Kids: Little ones will love the kids’ splash pad located next to the waterslide at the Cabana Courtyard. Big kids, tweens and teens will enjoy the arcade games at Game-O-Rama, which features old school classics like skeeball.

Galaxy BowlGalaxy Bowl (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Where to Eat: The full-service hotel offers six gastronomic opportunities. Poolside eats and drinks available at The Hideaway Bar & Grill, which serves burgers, sandwiches, wraps, chicken wings, hot dogs, fries, salads and deserts. Bayliner Diner, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is great for quick, indoor dining with their burgers, pizza, pasta and grab-and-go items. Galaxy Bowl serves nachos, spring rolls and wings, salads, sandwiches, burgers and pizza for lunch and dinner.

Atomic Tonic is a great stop for refreshing drinks, while Swizzle Lounge has the perfect nightcap for parents after the kids have gone to bed.

Coffee-drinkers can start their day with a morning boost from the onsite Starbucks.

Insider Tips:

  • If you’re planning on shopping at the parks using your room keycard, make sure to stop at the front desk and have them increase your spending limit so you won’t have to call in every time you spend past the $150 default limit.
  • Don’t carry your shopping bags around the park. Arrange for them to be sent directly to the hotel.
  • The Tube Shack in the Lazy River Courtyard sells tubes at $20, but if you’re looking to save money, bring your own or go on the lazy river without them!
  • Keep an eye out for poolside contests and movies.
  • Remember that you have early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the park opens to the public, a perk that comes very handy as Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are two of the busiest and most popular areas of the parks.

 

(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Insider’s Guide: Universal Orlando Resort

Orlando, Florida, theme park capital of the world, has over 10 amusement parks catering to theme park lovers and Florida vacationers in its huge metropolitan limits. But none of these are more centered on the magic and adventure of the motion pictures than Universal Orlando Resort and its two theme parks.

Less than 10 miles from Downtown Orlando, the family-friendly theme park resort, currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, gives visitors unique opportunities to relive their favorite movies and TV shows, and has rightly earned a top spot as a vacation destination for families and movie lovers everywhere, attracting millions from all over the globe each year.

From Jurassic Park island and the Revenge of the Mummy adventure to the two Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter and the Minion Mayhem ride, the resort certainly lives up to its catchphrase, “Ride the Movies.”

 

Sleep

Whether you are on the budget, planning to splurge or traveling with a large group, Universal Orlando is more than ready to accommodate your family with its four onsite hotels, three of which are deluxe. These kid-friendly hotels provide fantastic, themed accommodations for its guests, not to mention convenient access to the parks and other exclusive perks like Unlimited Express Passes (deluxe hotels only), complimentary shuttle to/from the parks, and complimentary early access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal’s Cabana Bay ResortUniversal’s Cabana Bay Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort. As the resort’s value/moderate hotel and most recent addition, Cabana Bay is a bright and vibrant hotel that will appeal to guests’ retro sensibilities with its gorgeous design that combines Mad Men’s coolness with The Jetsons’s groovy fun factor. The hotel features two kid-friendly pools, a lazy river, a waterslide, and a bowling alley for unlimited fun, as well as connecting rooms, family suites with kitchenettes, restaurants, and a Starbucks.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort. If tropical paradise is more your family’s taste, then the Royal Pacific Resort should be the base for your Universal Orlando vacation. This award-winning deluxe resort delivers an island getaway in the middle of Central Florida with its exotic, tropical island theme complete with three pools, a stunning lagoon with a seaplane, and fantastic island cuisine. The guest rooms and suites offer family-friendly amenities such as high definition cable TVs, refreshment pantry, WiFi, and evening turndown service upon request.

Hard Rock Hotel. While Royal Pacific takes guests to a tropical island getaway, family-friendly Hard Rock Hotel transports guests to sunny California for a fancy celebrity treatment, with its Spanish Mission architecture and rock star lifestyle. Its popular rock ‘n roll memorabilia and its free all-encompassing music amenity program, The Sound of Your Stay, attract music fans, while its four pools give kids plenty of space to splash around in. Music-inspired rooms and suites feature the same amenities as Royal Pacific, but with an A-lister twist.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. The most luxurious of Universal Orlando’s hotels, Portofino Bay features a charming Mediterranean theme and design reminiscent of the seaside Italian resort village it is named after, from its waterfront pastel facades down to its piazza. Its two pools, waterslide, character dining and Despicable Me suites are most appealing to the kids, while its Harbor Nights, spa, nightly serenades are appeal to the older guests. Along with its standard rooms and suites that come with luxurious cotton bathrobes are Club rooms that feature a personal concierge service, complimentary breakfast, and afternoon hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

Loews Sapphire Falls. Coming in the summer of 2016 is the latest full-service Universal Orlando hotel, which will feature 1,000 rooms and suites, a tropical lagoon, a waterfall, and a pool with a waterslide, sand beach and fire pit.

 

Get Your Bearings

Located southwest of Orlando, around 16 miles north of Kissimmee and 13 miles west of the Orlando International Airport, Universal Orlando Resort is separated into 3 main areas – Universal CityWalk, Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Florida.

 

Transportation

The resort has an extensive transportation network for its guests that include water taxis, shuttle buses, a Super Star Shuttle to/from the airport and partner hotels, and the Hogwarts Express ride that provides an easy and entertaining access between the two parks.

 

Theme Parks and Water Parks

Universal Studios Florida. Universal Studios Florida, like the original Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, revolves around the big and small screens, with its attractions based on some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters and TV shows like The Mummy, Transformers, Twister, The Simpsons and Harry Potter. It is home to the resort’s most recent attraction addition, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. Find out what it’s like when a tornado strikes on Twister, become a Minion on Minion Mayhem, and explore the vast underground of Gringotts on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

Universal’s Islands of AdventureUniversal’s Islands of Adventure (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The smaller of the two parks and home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, Islands of Adventure takes guests on an adventurous journey through thrilling superhero feats, a prehistoric land, a village in the magical world, and many more. Cool down on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, get a rush of adrenaline on the Incredible Hulk and Doctor Doom’s Freefall, and go on a magical ride on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Wet ‘n Wild Orlando. Located off-site is the popular waterpark acquired by the resort in the early 2000s, featuring water-based attractions that include a lazy river, exciting tube slides, body slides, a surf lagoon, and a water play area for the younger crowd.

Universal’s Volcano Bay. Coming in 2017 is the resort’s first on-site waterpark set to feature a tropical island theme.

 

Tickets

Universal Studios Orlando tickets vary, depending on the length of visit and park access. One-day, single park admissions are at $102 for adults and $97 for kids, while one-day park-to-park admissions are at $147 for adults and $142 for kids, offering a whopping $57 discount. Note that the Hogwarts Express is only accessible to guests with park-to-park tickets.

During peak season, lines are exceedingly long especially for the most popular attractions. If you only have a day or two to spend at the resort, the Universal Express Pass comes in very handy! It gives guests front-of-the-line access to many of the rides, cutting waiting times down to more than half, which will give guests more time to explore other areas of the parks. Express Passes start at $84.99 (in addition to your Universal Studios Orlando tickets), but come complimentary for guests staying at one of the onsite deluxe hotels.

Take a break from the parks and enjoy show night fun with the kids. The very cool, wildly hilarious and super interactive Blue Man Group, a stirring show that combines art, technology and music, inspires creativity in its captive audience. Blue Man Group tickets start at $60 per adult and $30 per child.

 

Beyond the Parks

Universal CityWalkUniversal CityWalk (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

A plethora of shopping, fun and entertainment opportunities are available at the Universal CityWalk, from the Universal Studios Store and a number of retail kiosks that sell park merchandise to its IMAX theater and mini golf.

Perhaps the best thing about Universal CityWalk, however, is the terrific dining experience it offers visitors. While this free area of the resort has the usual chains like Bubba Gump and Hard Rock Café, it’s also home to wonderful unique restaurants like the new Vivo Italian Kitchen and The Cowfish.

 

Peak and Off-Peak Seasons

As a popular vacation destination, Universal Orlando Florida is never not busy, but it’s especially crowded during spring break, from late May to Labor Day, and during the winter holidays.

Off-peak times include the week after Labor Day until just before Thanksgiving, before spring break, and the weeks following Thanksgiving until before the Christmas holidays.

 

Dining

Vivo Italian KitchenVivo Italian Kitchen (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Vivo Italian Kitchen. Authentic Italian isn’t easy to find, especially at a theme park. That’s what makes Vivo – and its delectable dishes – an unexpected and delightful surprise. A new addition to CityWalk, the modern Italian restaurant prides itself on its flavorful creations, a diverse menu and the friendly, welcoming staff, making it the perfect dining choice for families with kids. Their addictive Risotto with mushrooms and tender short ribs are perfect for a hearty meal after a long, active day at the parks, while their perfectly cooked salmon is great for those looking for a lighter meal. Kids will love the pizza and pasta selections. Start your meal off with the Warm Caprese and its delicious balsamic-tomato jam, and cap it off with a nice cup of Lavazza coffee with hints of chocolate.

The Cowfish. A fusion of burgers and sushi might sound slightly weird, but this new CityWalk restaurant makes it work. The burger bar offers delicious specialty rolls with awesome names like Dion’s OMG! and Firecraker as well as burgers like the Black Truffle Cheese Burger and the Boursin Bacon Burger. Want the best of both worlds? Order a bento box. The kids will love their selection of milkshakes.

Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron. Whether or not you and your family are big Harry Potter fans, dining at these two restaurants legendary in JK Rowling’s world is a must. Enjoy a traditional English breakfast at Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade before the rest of the park opens, and re-nourish at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley for lunch. Don’t forget to get everyone his or her own “pint” of frozen Butterbeer, a must to complete the Harry Potter experience.

 

Child Swap

Child Swap is a fantastic amenity that will give parents a chance to fully enjoy the Universal Orlando parks without sacrificing their kids’ safety and well-being.

When your kids aren’t tall enough or brave enough one of the more exhilarating rides, be sure to take full advantage of the Child Swap option at Universal Orlando so you and your spouse/partner can go on the rides without waiting in line twice for the same ride. When it’s your turn in line, your spouse/partner waits with your little one in an air-conditioned room furnished with seats and a television while you get on the ride. Once you’re finished, you just switch places with him or her at the Child Swap area so he or she can bypass the lines and simply take his or her turn on the ride.

This feature is available at several thrill rides, including (but not limited to) Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park River Adventure, and the Incredible Hulk.

 

Insider Tips

  • Get the kids their own interactive wands at Ollivanders and let your little witches and wizards perform underage magic at more than 20 spots around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
  • Planning to get wet? Make sure to bring extra clothes for you and the kids. Or pay $5 to dry off inside one of the gigantic People Dryers near Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.
  • A future archeologist in the family? Visit the Jurassic Park Discovery Center for an educational and interactive experience.
  • Universal offers different dining plans (including character breakfasts) that start at $12.99 for your family’s nutrition needs.

 

(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Fun Facts About The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley

We are heading to Universal Orlando this June for a quick visit. As a huge Harry Potter fan who obsessed about the books in her youth, there’s nothing I’m more excited about than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I simply can’t wait to get my very first wand at Ollivanders, drink Butterbeer, and get fitted for a school robe – yes, I am still a child inside.

In anticipation for our trip, I thought I’d share some of the fun facts about the newly opened Diagon Alley. 

It was the biggest and most elaborate theme park addition of 2014. And since then, Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley has, not surpringly, attracted millions of Harry Potter fans (and non-fans) from all over the world itching to step into J.K. Rowling’s magical world they’ve only read, watched and dreamed about… and maybe have a pint or two of that famous Butterbeer on the side and get fitted for school robes.

Diagon Alley Entrance (Courtesy Universal Orlando)
Diagon Alley Entrance (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

With its one-year anniversary approaching (time sure does fly, especially on a broomstick), here are some fun facts to help us celebrate this fantastical place!

  1. Remember that brick wall behind The Leaky Cauldron that first welcomed Harry into a world he never even imagined existed? The Universal Orlando reproduction weighs more than 37,000 pounds and is made up of 7,456 bricks total. That’s a lot of bricks!
  2. The Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon perched atop Gringotts to guard it from malcontents has breathed fire more than 15,000 times since Diagon Alley officially opened in July 2014.
  3. And no, that fire is not a special effect. That’s 3,560 degrees Fahrenheit of real combustion, 16 times hotter than boiling water. No wonder thieves think twice before robbing this bank.
  4. With their fire-breathing dragon guarding the place, it’s no wonder the goblins that run the place feel pretty confident to hang four elegant (and probably not cheap) crystal chandeliers, made up of nearly 62,000 crystals total, on display in the lobby.
  5. The Magical Menagerie is home to 13 different types of magical creatures, including Kneazles, Demiguises and Graphorns. Stop by if you have animal lovers in the family.
  6. Last, but definitely not the least, is the grand Hogwarts Express. It’s one of the biggest attractions in the Harry Potter world, transporting both kids and adults from King’s Cross Station in London (like it did Harry) to the village of Hogsmeade and back. To date, more than 5 million people have traveled aboard this awesome train.
Hogwarts Express (Courtesy Universal Orlando)
Hogwarts Express (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

(Source: Universal Orlando Resort Blog. Originally published on MiniTime.com.)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.