Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. - City Walk

Looking for a good dinner and  a cool dining experience?  You'll find it at Bubba Gump's Shrimp at City Walk in Orlando.  Fashioned after the iconic movie starring Tom Hanks, Bubba Gump's is a fun place to eat and see movie memorabilia.

Jambalaya - Great stuff!

                                                                                 Cajun Shrimp

The atmosphere is awesome and the service is warm and friendly.  The menu has everything from shrimp and craw fish to burgers with fries.  The place is clean, well-attended to, and has two full-service bars.  Reservations are recommended but not required.  You will enjoy it for it's ambiance and overall quality.  We go there frequently and always come away feeling satisfied.  I give it an "A".  If you have annual passes to Universal Studios they give you a 15% discount.  Everything about Bubba Gump's is positive. I can't say enough about what a wonderful dining experience it is!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hard Rock Hotel - Orlando

There are Hard Rock hotels, clubs, and casinos all over the world but when you visit Orlando you get to stay in the middle of so much fun you can park your car and forget it your whole trip. Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando is located on the grounds of Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure.  You will stay in one of Florida's premium hotels and walk or ferry to you daily destination.

We recently stayed in a suite for the night and got the treatment: quality accommodations in an 800 sq. ft. suite with a king bed, bath, shower with 2 sinks, and  separate kids room with 2 double beds and their own TV.  The mini bar is full and room service is impeccable.  Walk the halls listening to rock music of all genres and see all the rock and roll memorabilia that covers the place.

 Check in time is 4:00 pm but if you arrive early they will check you in provided your room is ready.  Valet parking is $28.00/night and self-parking is $18.00/night whichever you choose.  Bellhops will take car of you either way and check-in is a breeze.  Staff courtesy and professionalism is the best and they make you feel welcome, not in a stuffy way, but in a cool rocker way.
We made our reservation at  There they have rates for Florida residents, AAA, and a few other amenities.  Our night was $448.00 plus tax. A 2 double queen can be reserved for around $250.00 to $$350.00 but one has to check all the time because rates change regularly and different dates also dictate lower or higher rates. I also recommend checking with Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, and all the other reputable travel sites.  You can often get a better rate.

Take a trip to the pool that has everything from a sandy beach to a food bar, a drink bar, underwater music, and big screen TVs that you can sit and watch movies on. Sorry, I wasn't able to get a good photo because it was stormy the night we arrived and the pool was closed due to lightning warnings.  Welcome to the hurricane state in summer.  We did get to hit the jacuzzi for a little while though.

When you book at Hard Rock or any of the other on-site hotels you also get ExpressPass privilege that gets you past the general lines and onto the rides faster.  This is a valuable plus especially when in Florida in the summer with little kids.  You really avoid a lot of the stress of vacation and save  a great deal of your time.  Stay at the Hard Rock when you visit Orlando.  You will be glad you did.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Transformers The Ride 3-D Opens at Universal Studios Orlando

Transformers The Ride 3-D opened on Thursday to a lot of excitement and fanfare with a parade of villains, heroes, and Hummers touring down the street as crowds lined up to see the battle between Optimus Prime and the forces of evil.  Opening day was extravagant and the crowds stood in 90 degree heat to be the first inside one the red carpet rolled up. 

courtesy of Universal Studios
Famed director Steven Spielberg showed up for the Grand Opening of Transformers and the crowds turned out.  By noon the wait was 90 minutes and has wavered between 60-20 minutes for three days.  Transformers does have Express Pass if you have one.  You either add a charge to whatever pass you have or, if you stay at one of the on-site hotels (Hard Rock, Portofino Bay, or Royal Pacific) your room key gets you all day Express Pass. There is also a single riders line which can go much faster if you don't mind being separated from your party for the ride. On Friday the wait for the regular line was 120 minutes when we arrived.  We got in on Express Pass in 50 minutes. Not real "express" but better than standing 2 hours.

  The Transformer ride itself was really pretty awesome.  You sit in a car carrying 12 people and wind your way through streets in the middle of a war between Optimus Prime and the Bots.  The technology and effects are topnotch which you night expect from Universal.  This one will be a real hit with Transformers fans and everyone else as well.  It was really well done but I don't think it's opening will be as big as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was. I also don't think Universal expects it to.  It was, however, a superb ride in every way.  

What I did notice is that even though the crowds were long there was plenty of rope set up as though expecting a bigger crowd.  The only flaw , if there was one, is that the ride is almost an exact copy of  Spiderman at Islands of Adventure.  It was like they took a template and copied it by just changing the characters and background.  Even the cars in the ride were almost identical. It didn't however, take away from the fun and excitement.  If you have never been on Spiderman I do believe you'll enjoy it more.  Judge for yourself but it was a great ride anyway.

courtesy of Universal Studios

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Texas de Brazil Churrascaria -International Drive

Photo courtesy of Texas de Brazil

When visiting Orlando and you're looking for a fine dining experience, Texas de Brazil Churrascaria (steakhouse) is definitely one you don't want to miss. Located at the east end of International Drive and right across Interstate 4 from Universal Studios, Texas de Brazil will make you go away and look for a place to lie down!

When you enter you are greeted by a first rate wait staff who greet you and escort you to your seat. You can start with a drink from the full service bar or order table drinks.  I like to get a few bottles of sparkling water and iced tea.
You'll enjoy the refrigerated salad bar with over 60 items such as salmon, bacon, home made hard bread along with gourmet soups, vegetables, cheese, and more.  Dinner will be a long event as you work your way through the salad bar.  You'll want to take a few minutes break before moving on to the entree specials.  You'll flip your table card and the carvers will come to your table slicing gourmet meats such as beef, lamb, pork, and Brazilian sausage

Also included with your dinner are traditional side items like mashed or Au gratin potatoes, rice, and and house-baked Brazilian cheese bread.  They have every type of wine you can imagine and if you still have room you can choose from assorted desserts.  Or you can have a cup of espresso and a fine cigar. Any way you do it you might want to skip lunch before trying to conquer this menu.

Your manager will visit you and the service is second to none.  Prices are a little more than a family of four usually spends.  Children under 2 are free, children 2-5 are $5.00, 6-12, half-price, and adults are $46.99.  They give 10% discount for folks over 65 and 15% for military and veterans.
If you join their E club you'll receive discounts for birthdays and anniversaries.  I rate the dining experience at Texas de Brazil an "A".  Service, atmosphere, and food quality make this an awesome dining experience. Prices are a little high but we only go there with coupons or rare special occasions.  It's always "spot on" for enjoyment and I know you'll have a great time.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Rain Forest Cafe Downtown Disney

The Rain Forest Cafe in Downtown Disney is always a good place to go and have lunch or dinner while enjoying some of the best dining atmosphere you can imagine.

 Located at the far east end of Downtown Disney in Orlando, Rain Forest appears in the form of a volcano that towers over the rest of the complex.  As you enter you are met with gorillas, giraffes, elephants, and monkeys, all animatronic, who come to life every 12 minutes as a rain storm moves through the restaurant and gives the kids a thrill.  Seating is on a waiting list but you can make reservations online as long as you do it 24-48 hours in advance.

The menu is varied with a great selection of burgers and sandwiches, seafood, steak, or combo plates, along with delicious pasta dishes.  My favorite is the jambalaya, which is well-prepared and perfect every time.  My kids enjoy the pasta and burgers.  I've only had the seafood there once and I cant remember what it was but I do remember it was good.  There is a full service bar you can sit and enjoy, and you are welcome to walk around taking pictures while you wait.

Pricing is a little on the high side.  If you stick to lunch items you can eat for about $65-$75 for a family of four. Dinner for four costs us between $95 and $100 without appetizer or dessert so it's a little more than the average family usually spends but if you only come to Orlando occasionally it is worth the experience. They do have a kids menu which has a good variety of choices.

Service is always fantastic and the wait staff is hospitable and efficient.  It's always a positive experience for us and I think you'll enjoy it.  I give the place an "A" for service, cleanliness, atmosphere, and food quality.  The only detractor is the high prices.  They do honor the Disney Dining Plan and every now and then they have specials but not often.  You are, however, guaranteed a fun dining experience so give it a try when you come down and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.