It’s the Season to be Jolly and other Winter Tales

The end of the year always brings about a flurry of activities, starting with what has become my annual Yuletide trip to the Orlando theme parks.

Christmas Season

From park to park I go in search of the Christmas spirit. This year I found it inside Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure where the icky-green Grinch tried to steel Christmas from the Whos. I love this show and meeting the Grinch in person afterwards was the highlight of my visit to Universal Orlando.

To be fair, over at Universal Studios the Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s is certainly not to be dismissed.

The big wow factor here however was the new holiday show that Universal Studios projected nightly on the walls of Hogwarts castle. The show was part of the Christmas in The Wizarding World, which also included an adapted show of Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees who put the song “My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas” into my head for days!

Usually Epcot is my favorite theme park during the holiday season, but this year I really felt that Disney’s Hollywood Studios conveyed the holiday spirit best. You will never look at the Tower of Terror the same way and I loved to see that even umbrellas were all decked out for the season!

Back in Birmingham I enjoyed the holiday party that the homeowner association organized at my new home. It was a nice way to meet my new neighbors, who like me, enjoyed the very musical Santa that stopped by for the occasion.

Early in the month the city came to a standstill as an unusual heavy snowfall brought about a snow day. Having experienced real Northeastern living in New York I still smile when two inches of snow shut down an entire city. I do realize however that it is such rare an occasion that the city acquiring snowplows would be a waste of my tax dollars.

Soon it will be time for my annual trip to New York City. Time to get ready!

 

Stop and Smell the Roses

We all know the meaning of the sentence, but how often do we really apply the wisdom and stop to smell the roses?

March traditionally brings me to the Florida theme parks, and this year was no different.

At Universal Studios I had the opportunity to join the Krewe of the Jester float and celebrate Mardi Gras. It was a fun experience that I would not mind repeating next year. Universal Studios uses 4 million beads, 12,000 doubloons, and 2,050 pounds of confetti throughout the 50 days of the festival. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

One of my favorite experiences was seeing Rivers of Light, the new sound-and-light show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The animal scenes projected onto mist screens, giant floating lotus flowers spouting water, and the wonderful soundtrack really impressed me. I wish I could have seen the show several times, take it all in, and enjoy the sounds and sights without the pressure of reporting about it.

There were no roses but plenty of other flowers to enjoy at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival. I love the larger-than-life topiaries, the scent of the flower beds, and the inventive gardens on display. The best moment, however, was meeting with friends for a few hours, enjoying the sights and culinary delights of the outdoor kitchens together.

On Sunday, March 12th, under gray skies, I was first in line to review Disney’s newest water park attraction, Miss Adventure Falls, at Typhoon Lagoon. Together with a good friend I braved the 68 F weather to report back about this new family-friendly ride.

So 12 nights and three hotels later, what’s not to like? I do love my job, and I am grateful for all the wonderful opportunities it offers, but I think that, at times, I forget to smell the roses. Gratefulness and appreciation are two different things. To stop and smell the roses is a wonderful philosophical approach to life but a difficult one to practice for a type A person such as me.

I am working on it!

Sapphire Falls—Caribbean Island Vibe at Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando offers island adventures for everybody’s taste, and with spring just around the corner, what could be better than spending some time on an island, not so far away?

Skull Island: The Reign of Kong, the longest ride at Islands of Adventure, takes you into a 1930s expedition inside an island where Kong is king. If you want to experience prehistoric beasts, a larger-than-life Kong himself, and a queue that will scare the willies out of you, go for it, as this island is just right for you!

I loved the ride, but I must admit that my idea of island time is more the kind you can find at Sapphire Falls Resort, the latest addition to the Universal Orlando portfolio. The beautifully appointed rooms, as well as the overall Caribbean island vibe of the resort, are welcoming and calming after a long day in the parks. Relaxing at the 16,000-square-foot, zero-entry main pool (with a drink from the Drhum Club Kantine in hand) made me quickly forget about the live actors that lurked inside the queuing area of Skull Island.

My favorite drink was a “Top of the Palm” margarita. Signature drinks are served in a 15-oz. souvenir glass for $15, with refills available for $10. Hotel guests can actually enjoy all pools at any of the Universal Orlando resort properties. How about floating in the lazy river at Cabana Bay Beach Resort? The pool at the Hard Rock Hotel is equipped with an underwater sound system, so you can rock on while enjoying the water and the sunshine. The lush tropical vegetation at the Royal Pacific Resort invites guests to set their watch once more to island time. Best of all you can bring your souvenir glass along and get refills at all the pools for $10. Can life get any better?

Sapphire Falls

On May 25th Universal Orlando will open Volcano Bay, the Polynesian-island-inspired waterpark. For a water puppy like me, Volcano Bay is a dream come true. Between the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, the Kopiko Wai Winding River, and Waturi Beach, I’m sure I will be on island time all the time.

I am most excited to find out if TapuTapu really lives up to its promise. The waterproof, complimentary, wearable device is set to eliminate queuing at Volcano Bay. Guests can tap their wristbands on the totem at the entrance of each attraction, and they will be given a return time. So look for me on Waturi Beach while I wait for my return time to Krakatau Aqua Coaster!

Volcano Bay is adjacent to the Cabana Bay Resort. I’ll be returning to Sapphire Falls and will report back on Volcano Bay in early June. In the meantime, check out my reviews of Skull Island: The Reign of Kong and Sapphire Falls.