Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is a fun place to eat and drink or take the family out.  Based on the Academy Award winning film, "Forrest Gump", the restaurant is named after the shrimping business named by his buddy, Bubba, when they returned from the war.

Bubba Gump's dining room is full of pictures and memorabilia from the movie. When you are seated by a cordial staff your server will ask you if you've seen the movie and then ask some trivia questions to test your knowledge.  I know not everyone wants to play quiz games but the premise is you're on vacation and are in the mood for something unique.

The menu is packed with seafood options both as dinner or baskets.  I've had the fish and chips and shrimp dinners.  They also have sandwich or burger options for the lighter appetite.  A full service bar is manned by friendly bartenders.

I always give Bubba Gump's an overall "A" for service, pricing, and atmosphere.  Located at Universal Studios City Walk, the prices are higher than away from the park but that's always to be expected.  It is, however, always a positive experience for our family, and we think, if you're in the mood for seafood or the Forrest Gump theme, you'll enjoy it as much as we do.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Amway Center - Orlando

The Amway Center, after only a few years and several hundred million dollars later, is a major venue for all kind of events.  Home to the Orlando Magic, the Solar Bears hockey team, and the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League, the Amway Center is a spectacular sports complex in any body's book.
I took my daughter to her first Justin Bieber concert last night and I was impressed with the whole organization.  Parking was no problem and access to the Amway Center was easy.  There was more than ample security and law enforcement presence and the event was very orderly for 10,000+ fans to arrive in the same place at the same time.  The Amway was sparkling clean and every level was spacious with lots of facilities and concessions.  The Amway Center is host to major concerts, monster truck rallies, and rodeos.  I always thought it must be cramped for some of these activities until I walked inside and saw for myself the vastness of the interior.  Quite impressive and can't wait to go there for some future event.

Tickets for future concerts and events can be purchased at www.amwaycenter.com or ticketmaster.com.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lombard's Landing - Universal Studios

For a great seafood lunch or dinner on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf make your reservations at Lombard's Landing inside Universal Studios.  We visited there last night and enjoyed the dinner immensely.  The atmosphere and service were of excellent quality and dinner was great.

I was a little surprised to see so few people there but I think the location has something to do with it.  Located on the water way back in the park, Lombard's isn't too far from the Men  in Black attraction.  I've been to Universal Studios many times and walked past it every time for years.  So, for me, it's a bit of a new discovery but I was glad I did.

You can dine in Lombard's main room with an awesome view or outside on the deck and watch the after hours water and firework show.  The menu prices are surprisingly reasonable but I noticed that dinner prices aren't much more than lunch. The most expensive thing on the menu was the sirloin steak at $21.99.  My daughter had the lobster mac and cheese and I had the fisherman's basket.

Lombard's Landing also has a deal going on for $44.95/each you can dine and stay for the after hours show watching it from the deck.  That's a little steep for me but for  group of adults who don't have to get up for work the next morning it would be a nice experience.

Check out the menu to the left.  Reservations are required.  You can make them at www.UniversalOrlando.com or at the guest services kiosk located just inside the entrance to City Walk.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Universal City Walk -Orlando

At Universal Studios City Walk, if you can't find a way to have fun then you're in trouble. City Walk is a street full of bars, restaurants, shopping, mini golf, and more.  In fact, it has everything for a good time without the cars.

A great place for a date or a special occasion, City Walk has first class dining like Emeril's or casual but fun like Margaritaville or Bubba Gump's.  Visit shops like Quiet Flight Surf Shop, Cigarz, or The Island Clothing Store.

City Walk has Quick Serve burgers, Starbucks, and TCBY.  There is too much to mention but it's all great.

For dining reservations call 407-224-FOOD or visit the City Walk dinner reservation cart when at Universal Studios. There are certain discounts for annual passes and AAA members so be sure to ask when making your reservations.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What's Happening at Universal Studios

Theme parks are in fierce competition with each other mainly due to the billions of dollars in tourist revenue at the number one vacation spot in the world. Universal Studios added the Wizarding World of Harry Potter back in 2011 which rocketed them past Disney and Sea World but they're not stopping there.

On the site of the old Jaws ride is this huge structure.  It's going to be an interactive Transformers Ride.  I can't see this topping Harry Potter but at least they're not resting on their laurels. Below is the site of the new stage at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Harry Potter - The Musical?  Whatever, if the folks at Universal Studios do it then it will be a smash.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hard Rock Cafe - Orlando

I don't think I've ever had a bad time at Hard Rock Orlando.  Every time we go there to eat we enjoy it immensely.  It's not just the food and the atmosphere but the staff that makes it a great time  Walk in and take in the party rock feeling as you walk through a virtual museum of rock memorabilia and photos.  The staff are way cool and look the part.  They dress and act more like roadies than waiters but they're professional and courteous approach is second to none.  Thanks to the manager, Rusty, and our lovely server, Becca, everything was perfect!
Start with an appetizer.  Our family favorite is the nachos but they have much more.  We also tend to get burgers (the 10 oz. classic is my best) and sandwiches.  If you are really ready for a heavy meal they serve great steaks, seafood, or sophisticated salad choices.  So, if you're a vegan, don't feel left out.
I have always give the Hard Rock Cafe an "A+". They rank right up there for me as places to have a super dinner but feel like you're rockin' cool at the same time.  Their prices are good for theme parks and the staff is on top of everything.  Good job everybody.  It was worth every dime!!  Love it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Emeril's Orlando - City Walk

If you want a high class dining experience when visiting Orlando's parks make a reservation and enjoy lunch or dinner at Emeril's Orlando.  Created by the award-winning master chef, Emeril Legasse, this place is head and shoulders above any other restaurant at the parks.  Emeril's anywhere else would be a jacket & tie dining venue but since it's in a vacation area the dress is nice casual but the service and quality is excellent.

If you are a fan of Emeril and have seen him on TV, then you know he is a world-class chef and a great guy. He personally overseas and plans the menus at Emeril's.  Since he's such a famous brand, perfection is his only standard.

You won't get any deals here but, if you're willing to spend more for the experience you'll love it.  Lunch can be burgers, pizza, or steak and can range over $20 each. They also have a 3-course lunch with starters, entrees, and dessert.  Dinner goes from $32 to $50 for the 8 oz. fillet Mignon.  I recommend the sea scallops or the gulf shrimp pasta but only because I lean toward the seafood.  The last time we dined there my wife had a 2.5 lb Maine lobster that I should have on my wall.  

Service is A+, so is the food quality.  I won't rate the prices because at a place like Emeril's, it's not a consideration.  Bottom line, it's an occasion restaurant but for most of us, it's an experience of a lifetime. 

Enjoy, or as Emeril would say, "BAM"!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wizarding World of Harry Potter -Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure is steaming along as popular as eve.  located on the back side of the park, one can see Hogwarts Castle looming ominously against the sky.  In the photo above you can also see Jurassic Park on the left and Mythos restaurant on the right as you look across the lagoon.
Enter Harry Potter's world (left) and join the magical world of wizard's and magic. Visit the shops along the 19th century lane.  Enjoy HoneyDuke's confections and Zonko's novelty shop.  You could walk up and down the street all day and never get on a ride.  Every spot is a photo shoot a the Universal wizards did a masterful job of immersing you in J.K. Rowling's fantasy.

 The younger visitors will enjoy the Ride of the HippoGriff and all will thrill to the Harry potter and the Forbidden Journey.  This one is inside the castle and will truly rattle your cage!  You'll have all the modern effects of Harry Potter right in your face and participate in a virtual Quidditch game.

Something is brewing to the left here. Apparently a stage is being built for shows.  Anybody know?

We'll be visiting this Saturday again so stay tuned and I'll see if I can learn more.  Don't forget to have some Pumpkin Juice or ButterBeer.  Dine at Three Broomsticks, a casual 19th century pub-style eatery that is surprisingly not too expensive.  Enjoy Harry Potter.  Buy a wand at Ollivander's Magic Shop and be a kid again!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Disney World Hotels

One of the special parts of a vacation to the happiest place on earth is the accommodations.  The Walt Disney World complex hosts a variety of hotels but I've always been partial to the original three.  Settled on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon are the Contemporary Hotel, The Polynesian, and added many years later, the Grand Floridian. 

Ranging from $299 - around $1400 a night, the prices are a little steep for many, but there are benefits.  Many families come to town wishing to eliminate driving around an unfamiliar place, Vacations are supposed to be fun and once on Disney property everything you need for your vacation is available along with world-class service. There is transportation, scenery, and the ambiance of staying in the "Mouse House" for the entire vacation.  After a day at any of the parks or water parks, weary travelers can't imagine having to drive off property to secure some sleep.  All the hotels have comforts such as movies, swimming areas, jet skis, sailing, luaus, (at the Polynesian), etc.  The monorail actually runs right through the center of the Contemporary Hotel.  There are numerous activities for the kids like you might find on cruise ships, character dining, and much more.

 Vacation packages can be booked on-line.  I recommend these since the prices are considerably higher than off site, but  shop around.  Also consider military and AAA Club discounts.

Check with your employers as many corporations have deals with the theme parks for family discounts.

The only down side of staying on property is the premium price tag that goes with the convenience.  Rooms are luxurious but basic.  Last time I stayed in the Polynesian there wasn't even a coffee maker in the room. The whole design, while plush, is set to make you go out of your room and not sleep in.  (Unless you're the fortunate one who can afford the luxury suites).

Sound like I'm trying to discourage you?  Not at all.  The Disney folks run shuttles from Orlando International Airport so you can save hundreds on rental cars and fuel.  Mom and Dad can be chauffeured everywhere and not touch a gas pedal.  Not to mention you can bee at any of the parks within minutes of waking up!  So, I would see what offers you can get from Disney.go.com, Travelocity, or the other sites.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Murray Brothers Caddyshack

Murray Brothers Caddyshack on I-95 at St Augustine is a fun place to visit for a drink or a great meal.  Located at the World Golf Village, Caddyshack is a first class bar and grill. Inspired by the iconic 1981 film starring Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, you can see all kinds of golf memoribilia and memoirs from not only the film but of many pro golfers.

The place boasts a full bar and classy dining room.  The menu consists of burgers, sandwiches, seafood and steak. Pictured above is my favorite - the seafood platter - flounder, shrimp, clam strips, and crab cake served with fries, cole slaw, or any other side you wish for $16.95.   My son loves the burgers and my daughter's favorite is the scallops over rice.

When you visit enjoy a round of golf on world-class fairways or a movie at the Imax theater recently added to the complex.  The food is great, pricing is a little above what a normal dining bill is for a family of four but worth it from time to time.  The only down side to dining there is an unfriendly wait staff.  While they are efficient, any time we dine there they are cold and unwelcoming.  I don't know why but we've never been served by a cheerful server.

Food and atmosphere I definitely give an "A" but for customer service I give it a "C".  Nonetheless, we always like stopping there when we trek through Florida.  If you visit you will like it anyway so you be the judge.