Tag Archives: family

Inside the Magic – Tower of Terror

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

Another one of my favorites! This attraction opened its doors on July 22, 1994.

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The story

The plot of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror follows the tragic night of Oct. 31, 1939, when lightning struck the building. Five people were aboard an elevator as the building was struck, causing the elevator to free-fall. The hotel was closed after these tragic events and now guests are permitted to visit the obviously haunted hotel.

The History

The Tower of Terror is basically a drop ride with an incredible themed story around it. As for the drops, it drops 130, or 13 stories down. The first smaller drop in darkness is about 8 stories, then back to the top for the 13 story plunge doubled. The speed of the drop is about 39 MPH, and the drop itself only lasts for around 2 ½ seconds, although it seems longer!

Early on Mel Brooks was involved and it started out as “Castle Young Frankenstein” which would have featured a Bavarian village with winding streets to the castle with a drawbridge.  The idea later changed to “Mel Brooks’ Hollywood Horror Hotel”. Mel Brooks eventually left the project and Disney Imagineers had some ideas of their own and brought in the idea to have a moving elevator off its track and moving down hallways. Imagineers decided on Spanish-Renaissance/Riverside Mission Inn architecture because it would fit in on Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. Disney also felt the attraction needed a movie reference and settled on the Twilight Zone theme making it an eerie and thrilling attraction.  

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The attraction uses an Autonomous Guided Vehicle. A self controlling, self contained ride vehicle, that can move without track. Although the 5th Dimension floor has guideways for traction, the vehicle itself runs on its own wheels along the floor. The AGV guides itself into the ride shaft to ascend to the boiler room (load) level, it slots into a larger elevator the VVC, or Vertical Vehicle Conveyance. This is a normal elevator car complete with cables and wheels. It is this that lifts the AGV up through the corridor scene, and to the 5th Dimension level. As the AGV transfers horizontally, the VVC returns to the basement level to receive the next AGV. The AGV then will get into another VVC for the drop portion of the attraction. 

An informative video on how the Tower of Terror works.

Fun Facts

  • Our Walt Disney Imagineers viewed 156 episodes of “The Twilight Zone” for inspiration when creating The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
  • The ride vehicle is an elevator car.
  • The storyline of the attraction sets the date as Halloween night – October 31, 1939.
  • The architecture of the tower was inspired by multiple Southern California landmarks, such as the Biltmore Hotel and the Mission Inn.
  • The building has 27,000 roof tiles.
  • The grounds of the Hollywood Tower Hotel were inspired by the look of California’s Griffith Park and Elysian Park.
  • The lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel was outfitted with antiques and furniture purchased at Los Angeles-area auction houses.
  • The Library room features a hidden nod to Mickey Mouse in this sheet music, which is for the song “What! No Mickey Mouse?”
  • The clip of film in which Rod Serling introduces the attraction was taken from a “Twilight Zone” episode called “It’s a Good Life.”
  • The young girl who disappears in the elevator carries a Mickey Mouse doll.
  • The attraction’s “Fifth Dimension” scene was inspired in part by the “Little Girl Lost” episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
  • The drop is 13-stories.
  • The drop sequence for each elevator car is selected at random by the attraction’s computer system.
  • Measuring 199 feet tall, Tower of Terror is one of the tallest attractions at Walt Disney World Resort.

Step into the elevator

 

Inside the Magic – Expedition Everest

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.IMG_1761

Expedition Everest is one of my favorite atractions in all of Disney World! 

The adventure begins in Asia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom,  join the Expedition Everest team and embark on a trek through Anandapur. The trail leads visitors to the village of Serka Zong, which means “fortress of the chasm.” The Royal Anandapur Tea Company shipped its tea by train from Serka Zong through the Forbidden Mountain pass. The railroad was closed after several mysterious accidents, rumored to be from the hand of a Yeti. Today, the village of Serka Zong is thriving again thanks to the efforts of local entrepreneurs. The Himalayan Escapes, Tours and Expeditions company has partially refurbished the railway and now offers transportation for adventurers to the base camp at Mt. Everest.

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Imagineers traveled to Nepal and surrounding areas to research local culture, architecture, food, and the legend of the Yeti. This massive feat was accomplished by building the ride track and the mountain completely independent of the other. The track and mountain never touch and were both built with superstructures that do not dependent on each other. When the attraction opened, the Yeti was the biggest, most advanced audio-animatronics figure to ever be created. He stands a whopping 25 ft tall and has the potential to move his entire body an astounding 5 ft horizontally in a few seconds flat. The figure was constructed to sit atop a 46 ft tall independent concrete base meant to hold its weight while allowing the beast to swoop down on passing train vehicles, terrifying riders and confirming the legends’ truth. Of couse, he hasn’t worked as he was meant to since that firt year, 2006. No explanation has ever been given as to why and stobe lights and fans to make his fur move have been put in place as a Plan B. 

The queue for the ride is pretty incredible itself, try to take in as much detail as you can. The statutes featured outside, the flags hanging, the clothing in the cases, even the currency in the photos is all spot on with the Indian culture that exists at the base of the real Everest.

Building a Thrill Ride

Intestesting documentary on the building of Expedition Everest.

Fun Facts

  • The Forbidden Mountain’s rocky peaks and distinctive face are based upon the actual northwest face of Mount Everest.
  • More than 2,000 handcrafted items of wood, stone, and metal supplied by artisans in Asia are featured in the attraction.
  • At 199 feet, Expedition Everest is the tallest mountain at any Disney park.
  • The steam rising from the train after it pulls into the loading area actually comes from steam vents underneath the train station! These create the effect of an actual steam powered engine but the steam isn’t water-based to prevent rusting.
  • Expedition Everest reaches a top speed of 50 mph!
  • Notice the many hairbands thrown on the mountain when you stop at the broken track! It’s a weird tradition to throw hairbands here.

 

Climb aboard, let’s go to the base of Mt. Everest!

Inside the Magic – Peter Pan’s Flight

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

The attraction is inspired by Walt Disney’s 1953 animated classic, Peter Pan, which in turn was based on J.M. Barrie’s play and book of the same name about a 12-year old boy who refuses to grow up.

images (1)Board your pirate galleon and follow Peter Pan as he beckons you to join him on the flight of a lifetime. Wave goodbye to Nana and join the Darling children on a gentle cruise over London, where Big Ben and Tower Bridge light up the night sky.

Descend into Never Land between glowing volcanoes and sparkling waterfalls. As you swoop into Pirate’s Cove, there’s danger ahead!

Can Peter Pan defeat the dastardly Captain Hook and return his young companions safely to London? Or will someone meet an untimely end… in the jaws of a ticking crocodile?

Set Sail Across the Sky

Peter Pan’s Flight was one of the original rides at Disneyland to open with the park in 1955. Magic Kingdom’s version opened two days after the park’s grand opening.

Imagineers Bill Justice and Bill Martin worked on the Magic Kingdom attraction. Peter Pan’s Flight opened with features that the Disneyland version didn’t have yet.  This included the newest Audio-Animatronics and even had the Indians, Lost Boys and Pirates, oh my! It was similar to Disneyland’s ride, but with some upgraded effects.

Peter Pan’s Flight Fun Facts

  • You are only 17 feet off the ground while flying through Peter Pan’s Flight. The tiny-sized models below give you the effect of flying high in the sky!
  • Magic Kingdom’s version of Peter Pan’s Flight now has an interactive queue and travels inside Wendy, John and Michael’s bedrooms.
  • Look for a hidden word in the nursery scene’s blocks. You might see “Disney” spelled out.
  • Disneyland’s pirate ships stop at the platform to load, but Magic Kingdom’s ships are on an Omnimover system so they move continuously.
  • They use tiny styrofoam balls and blow air on them to make the volcano in Never Land seem like its bubbling.
  • The lights that you see in the city below are simply fluorescent dots on the floor, with black lights shining on them.

Let’s fly! 

 

 

Inside the Magic – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was one of the first Disney rides to utilize computer-aided design. The attraction first opened at Disneyland in 1979, and the Magic Kingdom’s larger version opened in 1980.IMG_3222_original

The Story Behind the Mountain

Once a working mine during America’s Gold Rush, there was gold found deep within Big Thunder Mountain in Red Rock Canyon. Almost overnight, the town of Tumbleweed became a thriving mining town. Barnabas T. Bullion established the Big Thunder Mining Company to go after the gold. Barnabas was born into a powerful East Coast family, so naturally, he thought it was his very right to claim the gold inside the mountain.

Big Thunder Mountain was protective of its gold and would curse anyone who dared try to take it. Miners would hear ghostly sounds, strange events occurred, including cave-ins and equipment failure. On a stormy night, a flash flood completely wiped out the town, destroying the mining company. Rumors has it Professor Cumulus Isobar, a rainmaker, brought the flood to Tumbleweed. If you look carefully, you might spot a mysterious machine with Cumulus’ name on it during your ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad travels through an empty ghost mine and rushes riders through the canyons, caverns, abandoned mine shaft and the ghost town of Tumbleweed! Barnabas, however, is still trying to dig and find gold inside Big Thunder Mountain, despite the warnings and curses from the mountain. Spooky!

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Big Thunder Fun Facts:

  • As you whiz past the Gold Dust Saloon in the town of Tumbleweed, you can spot the “Wildest Party in the West” happening on the second floor.
  • The setting of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was inspired by Monument Valley in Arizona.
  • A miner in his pajamas can be seen relaxing in a bathtub.
  • The attraction’s top speed is 36 miles per hour and has a 40-inch height requirement.
  • There are 3 lifts (two indoor and one outdoor) on the roller coaster.
  • The trains from Disneyland’s version were used in the mine chase sequence in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!”

Climb aboard the Wildest Ride in the West…

Your rip-roaring adventure proves that some legends are true. You’re sure to have a real blast!

Inside the Magic – Pirates of the Caribbean

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

Today let’s take on another classic, Pirates of the Caribbean.

A Pirate’s Life for You

Board a weathered barge for a treacherous voyage to the 17th century, when rowdy rogues and ruthless rapscallions ransacked Caribbean seaport towns. Sing along as pirates serenade you with their anthem, “Yo Ho, Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).”

Sail past haunted Dead Man’s Cove. Navigate cannon fire between a Caribbean fort and a striking 12-gun galleon. Behold boisterous buccaneers drunk on the spoils of plunderin’ as flames engulf a seaside town.

Be sure to keep a spry eye out for Captain Jack Sparrow, from The Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

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Magic Kingdom’s Pirate’s of the Caribbean attraction in Adventureland opened on December 15, 1973. This classic Disney ride first opened at Disneyland on March 18, 1967. It’s a boat ride, but when the idea first came about (sometime in the 1950s), the attraction was going to be a walkthrough wax museum!

Pirates of the Caribbean was the last ride Walt Disney himself actually oversaw and worked on before his death in December of 1966. Unfortunately, Walt passed away three months before the boat ride was finished, so he never saw the final product.

The ride inspired the popular film series and has even been revamped to include many of the films’ characters, including Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa.

Pirates Fun Facts:

  • During the ride’s battle scene between the pirate ship and town’s fortress, you’ll hear cannon balls whizzing over your head and dropping in the water. The illusion is created by moving cannons, flashes of light, and blast from beneath the waves!
  • Another memorable scene from the ride is the town in flames! This effect is actually just created by a bunch of different cloths, fans and lights.
  • There are over 120 Audio-Animatronics on the ride. This is a mixture of both human and animal animatronics.
  • The film characters added to the ride are all voiced by their original actors. Some of the ride’s original Audio-Animatronics are voiced by Paul Frees; you might recognize him as being the “Ghost Host” from the Haunted Mansion!
  • In 2012, mermaids were added to the grotto scene in Magic Kingdom. You can see the mermaid skeleton onshore, but it’s harder to catch the one swimming port side in the water!

Let’s take a ride…

Ye beware, mateys: Dead men tell no tales!

Inside the Magic – Haunted Mansion

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

Climb aboard a gloomy Doom Buggy for a grave journey through a labyrinth of haunted chambers. This is always my family’s MUST DO first ride at Magic Kingdom.

The Haunted Mansion at Disney World opened at Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971, with the park. The Haunted Mansion is the perfect balance of spooky and silly, making it a favorite attraction.

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Before you climb into your Doom Buggy, you have to brave the Stretching Room, which uses distraction to make you think you are in an elevator. At Magic Kingdom, it actually does not move. In some of the other parks around the world it does go up or down a level.

The Story Behind the Mansion

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Master George Gracey of Winsocket, Rhode Island, was the owner of the mansion. He received the deed under the grimmest of circumstances when his mother murdered his father. In an attempt to connect with his father, even in death, Gracey turned to the spirit world. Master Gracey met Madame Leota, the seer, in New Orleans and persuaded her to return to his mansion, where she performed séances. Master Gracey grew demoralized and, well… “There’s always my way!” That gentleman hanging from the rafters is Master Gracey. And he’s also Imagineer Yale Gracey. This brilliant human being invented many of the tricks on display at the Haunted Mansion, most famously Madame Leota’s floating head-in-a-jar. As a way to pay tribute to him, they named the character after him.

Leota Toombs isn’t just a character. She was a very real Disney Imagineer who worked on the attraction. She received the honor of voicing her character, whose physical appearance resembles the face in the ball.

Hidden Mickey

The ballroom scene of the Haunted Mansion is full of amazing detail including the waltzing duos, dueling ghosts high above, and a birthday celebration. This is my absolute favorite scene of the ride, I always hope for a breakdown so I can take it all in. If you look down at the dining table, you can spot a trio of plates that have been arranged to form a hidden Mickey!

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Let’s climb aboard a Doom Buggy…

Happy haunting!

Inside the Magic – Jungle Cruise

Since we cannot be at Disney World right now, let’s take a look at some of the things that make it so special.

First up, the iconic Jungle Cruise!

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The Jungle Cruise was an opening day attraction at Disneyland inspired by Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures films and “The African Queen.” The original attraction was more serious than today. Walt wanted it to be the Kilimanjaro Safaris of the 1950s. He even wanted live animals to be used in the attraction before learning that wasn’t exactly the best idea.

Since the day Disneyland park opened, the Jungle Cruise has been one of its most popular attractions. As you cruise the rivers of the world, you’re surrounded by fascinating animal life and a lush jungle of exotic trees, plants and flowers.

When building the Jungle Cruise, Walt Disney turned to Imagineer and horticulturist Bill Evans to create the landscape. Bill created a “Hollywood Jungle,” a mixture of exotic plants and trees that would give the feeling of traveling through exciting and uncharted territories. To create his Hollywood Jungle,  Bill developed some intrepid techniques, like smuggling plant seeds inside the cuffs of his socks and planting orange trees upside down to resemble mangroves.

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Through the years, the tall trees engulfing the Jungle Cruise have created a lush canopy that regulates the temperature inside this Hollywood Jungle, allowing plants that you won’t find anywhere else in Southern California to thrive right here in Disneyland park.

The Queue

The Jungle Cruise queue is an open-air outpost accepting bookings for cruises. Winding through the queue, guests can see the boats pulling up to the docks, as well as cargo, artifacts, and maps.

The Jungle Cruise Experience

The premise of the Jungle Cruise is that guests have signed up for a lengthy tour down the rivers of the world guided by a skipper from the Jungle Navigation Co. The ride lasts about 8 minutes, guests journey down the Amazon, the Congo, the Nile, and finally the Mekong.

Each section has audio-animatronics specific to that region, such as a giant python, a camp raided by gorillas, headhunters, waterfalls, or a pride of lions. While some of the scenes are humorous, more so the main draw of the attraction is the rapid-fire puns and cheesy jokes from the skippers.

Several jokes and gags from the skipper’s spiel have become iconic over the years, and often get a big reaction from guests who have cruised before. Be expecting the famous “backside of water” cheer when your skipper takes the boat behind a waterfall. 

Let’s take a ride on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland…

The Jungle Cruise is a gentle, slow-moving boat cruise with plenty to see. It’s the perfect family attraction as it truly offers something for every age and member.

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen

As a lover of all things CHOCOLATE, I had to try out Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen for myself. I mean look at the milkshakes!!!

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Toothsome is an impressive sight from across the water at Citywalk. It sits just outside the entrance to Islands of Adventure and appears to be a Willy Wonka’esque contraption rising from the water.

Inside, the theme is steampunk head to toe and it’s a fully immersive experience. The story of Penelope and how she created the Emporium to find her family is entertaining. Penelope and her chocolate creating friend Jacques wander from table to table chatting with guests. The building houses the restaurant, the foundry (milkshake shop), a pastry shop and a gift shop. And upstairs a small bar.

The restaurant offers more than just chocolate though. The menu has some eclectic choices and comfort food with a twist. The menu is expansive with everything from burgers, flatbreads, steaks, pasta and of course an amazing dessert menu.

We started with a chocolate drink of course!

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On this particular trip, my companion and I shared a few appetizers.

The Totchos,  fried tater tots, spicy green chili, crispy pork belly, andouille sausage cheddar cheese sauce.

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Forest Mushroom Flatbread, Mushrooms, goat cheese, caramelized onions, arugula, white truffle oil

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Both were excellent, the totchos were nice and crispy and the flatbread was simply divine.

After ducking into the parks for a bit to close them down, we returned to Toothsome for the icing on the cake, or whip cream on the milkshake, or something like that.

They taste as great as they look!

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I chose the Chocolate X5 and it was delicious! Not gonna lie, they are a bit difficult to eat, but worth every messy napkin involved.

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Finding a spot to sit can be difficult, but there is plenty of seating along the wall outside.

This is definitely on my return visit list. So many more things to try on the incredible menu and just a fun vibe. Have you tried a meal or a milkshake at Toothsome? I’d love to hear about it!

Universal SuperStar Shuttle

Heading to Universal and wondering:

How are we going to get there? Rent a car and pay for parking? Uber or Lyft?

Universal Orlando Resort offers a great transportation option from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) for a very low rate.

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This is a great option if you won’t be needing a car. Superstar Shuttle does need to be booked in advance and can be added to any Universal package booking.

How much does Universal’s SuperStar Shuttle Cost? 

  • Adult: $39, tax inclusive, Roundtrip
  • Child (3-9): $29, tax inclusive, Roundtrip
  • Children 2 & Under: Free

What if I have a child that requires a car seat? Car seats can be brought and used but they will not be provided.

You will receive confirmation in your E-Travel Document with instructions on where to go. The Universal SuperStar Shuttle check-in desk is located across from the Hertz rental car counter on Ground Level 1, head towards Disney’s Magical Express, but it’s well before that. It’s to your left as you pass the Hertz counter and if you pass Starbucks you just went by it.

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At the check-in desk, if you are within normal hours (7:30am-8:30am), they will have your packet with your tickets, coupons, everything you need. If it’s after hours, the packet will be available at the Vacation Planning Desk at your resort the following morning.

The shuttle takes about 30 minutes to get to Universal and may make multiple stops based on where everyone on the shuttle is staying. On a recent trip, we waited less than 10 minutes for the shuttle and were the first stop.

K%atOOt6RjqiENa2kHGXsQYou will be given your return time at check-in as well, which you can have them adjust if you would like. The shuttle picks you up in front of the hotel lobby where you were dropped off.

Superstar Shuttle is an easy peasy way of getting to and from Universal Orlando!

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando

Loews Sapphire Falls is a Caribbean themed resort located on the water path at Universal Orlando Resort. It boasts the largest pool on property and a laid back casual Carribean vibe. 

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This resort is beautiful! 

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Cascading waterfalls and views of the water, the lagoon on one side and the spectacular pool on the other really lend to the relaxed vibe at this hotel. The vast lobby houses The New Dutch Trading Co, which is a partial Starbucks and more quick-service type fare. Next to the showcase staircase, a feature of all Loews hotels is Strong Water Tavern. This place is a gem. With over 75 kinds of rum in addition to a regular full bar selection and incredibly tasty tapas and small plates. Service is impeccable!

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A Universal Store with a great selection as well as a Fuel Rod kiosk and of course the Vacation Planning Desk with kiosks where you would print your package tickets.

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Avis is the Universal car rental partner and there is a desk at every hotel. Complimentary WIFI is available throughout the hotel. Valet and self-parking, both for a fee. Room service operates 24 hours a day. A fitness center and game room/arcade is available on the second floor.

Amatista Cookhouse™, a full-service restaurant that offers scenic water views and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Spectacular Pool!

The largest pool at Universal at 16,000 square feet with 2 sand beaches, zero-entry area, a fabulous water slide, and water play area for the littles. Also by the pool are cabanas available for rent for a very special day by the pool. There is also a fire pit, movies by the pool in the evenings and complimentary life jackets.

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The Drhum Club Kantine, a pool bar and grill offers a fresh seafood inspired menu and taste-tempting drinks.

Access to the parks

Easy access to Citywalk and the theme parks via the water taxi. At Universal, you will go through a security checkpoint on the boat dock which means no waiting in a long bag check line at the theme park entrances.

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Exclusive Benefits of Sapphire Falls

  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and select attractions at Volcano Bay™ water theme park, one hour before the theme parks open (valid theme park admission required)
  • Complimentary water taxis or shuttle buses that take you directly to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay and CityWalk™
  • Resort-wide charging privileges with your room key card
  • Complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort to your hotel
  • Complimentary access* to select live entertainment venues at Universal CityWalk™ for the length of stay.
  • Start your day with a wake-up call from one of your favorite Universal Orlando characters
  • Golf Universal Orlando™ program offers an exclusive program for golfers that enables guests to take to the links during their stay. You can reserve a perfect tee time, arrange for complimentary transportation* to and from select courses and more. For more information please contact the Universal Orlando Ticket Center in the hotel lobby.

This resort has 1000 rooms including the most suites of any other Universal resort. A mix of hospitality, Sapphire and Kids suites. Rooms have all the amenities including a refrigerator, Keurig and a magic mirror!

The door that closes off the shower/toilet space is a sliding door and it does lack total privacy as there is a sliver of space left, it doesn’t quite close all the way.

 

We also go an exclusive look at a Kids Suite: A king bedded room with an attached 2 twin bedded room only accessible from inside the suite.

 

Loews Sapphire Falls offers incredible value for the amenities offered at the resort. With water taxi to the theme parks and the ability to walk to Volcano Bay via Cabana Bay across the street, the location cannot be beaten.

Contact me to start planning your Universal Orlando EPIC vacation!