Universal Orlando Theme Parks: Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure

universal orlando disclosure

What’s better than getting to spend an entire day bouncing back and forth between the two best amusement parks in Orlando – Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure? Getting to bounce back and forth between the two best amusement parks in Orlando with a dozen of your best girlfriends!

girlfriends getaway orlando

Last month during my Girlfriends Getaway to Universal Orlando, we spent an entire day enjoying everything that both parks have to offer. I have shared with you before my love for all things Universal and this trip only confirmed what I already knew – there is no better place to vacation!

We began bright and early meeting up at the water taxi boat at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort and headed over to Universal Studios. Last time I was there the entrance was all decked out with some terrifying images from HHN24.  I must admit, I breathed a sigh of relief not seeing any zombies or aliens or baby dolls adorning the entrance to the park.

universal studios

We began our day with the perfect starter ride – Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. I love this ride because it is super cute and super fun… and to be honest, it gets your stomach ready for the rest of the rides. Minion Mayhem is a 3D adventure through Gru’s laboratory for Minion Training. You are seated in nice big box cars, but the cars DO move like a flight simulator as you fly through the laboratory.

minion mayhem

From Minion Mayhem we headed straight to one of my all time favorite roller coasters in the world – Rip Ride Rock It! I fell in love with this ride when we visited for Halloween Horror Nights, so I was super stoked to get to ride again. This ride perfectly blends two of my favorite things – roller coasters and rock music! And actually, you can choose any genre of music you like – but I had such a blast jamming to Evanescence last time that I did not think twice before cueing it up for this ride.

rip ride rockit

After that it was a whirlwind of Transformers, Spiderman, The Mummy and more! But rides are certainly not all that Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure have to offer. Simply walking through the streets of the park is an experience in itself. I can not say enough how impressed I always am at the amount of detail that goes in to each and every thing that Universal Orlando touches.

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Now, I have a confession… I said after my last trip that I was going to watch Harry Potter – and I haven’t yet. BUT I still love going to Diagon Alley! It is so cool to feel like you have literally stepped in to the streets of London! And I have to give huge props to everyone who was wearing a wizard cape that day – it was crazy hot and they were still wearing them like rockstars!

diagon alley

From Diagon Alley you can hop on the Hogwarts Express to head over to Hogsmead next to the Universal Islands of Adventure. Now, the Hogwarts Express isn’s really a “ride” in the sense of the other roller coasters – but it is an experience nevertheless.

hogwarts express

I could go on and on about all of the cool stuff you must check out when visiting Universal Orlando, but one thing I absolutely can not leave out is dining at Mythos. I admit, I squealed a little bit when I saw it on the itinerary. Mythos has by far the absolute best spanikopita I have ever tasted. Seriously I could probably eat three plates full and still want more. We dined outside this time and it was absolutely gorgeous. The weather was perfect and the view was incredible.

Spanikopita

If you are trying to decide where to plan your summer vacation this year, I can not think of anywhere else more fun than Universal Orlando. From their amazing resorts, amazing restaurants, nightlife, theme parks, shopping… seriously it is everything you need to make the perfect memories with you and your loved ones!

Check out the Universal Orlando Website to book your entire vacation in one easy step with their all inclusive vacation packages! It just does not get any easier than that! Thank you again to universal Orlando for making our Girlfriends Getaway an absolutely amazing experience and one none of us will ever forget.

Universal Orlando: Vacation Like You Mean It.

The Cowfish Restaurant: Universal Orlando CityWalk

universal orlando disclosure

What do you get when you mix a top sushi restaurant with a great burger joint? You get The Cowfish of course – Universal Orlando CityWalk’s newest dining attraction!

the cowfish

I arrived at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort just in time to change out of my driving clothes and join all of my girlfriends to check out The Cowfish for dinner. Now, I say that I like sushi… but I am more of a COOKED sushi kind of girl. I figured I would just get a burger to be on the safe side and I would be good to go. We loaded up on the water taxi and headed over to CityWalk. A quick ride and a short walk and we were sitting down ready to roll – pun intended. It was then that I realized I was absolutely starving. I was so excited about this trip that I grabbed Chipotle in Tallahassee (my go to travel food), but that had long worn off.

the cowfish

The Cowfish® is a one-of-a-kind dining experience, thriving on its ability to fuse two niche products seamlessly on the same menu. Fresh, innovative and delicious, the sushi segment of the menu is far beyond what you’re accustomed to. All natural, creative and hearty, the burgers entice with fresh, never frozen, ingredients and bold flavors. Spiked hand-spun milkshakes, premium sakes, craft beers, wine and 10oz exotic martinis round out a huge bar menu that is sure to please. The Cowfish® aims to offer something for the entire family. Scrumptious appetizers for sharing, entree-sized salads, homemade desserts and a fun kid’s menu. If you can’t make up your mind, try a bento box to sample a mini-burger along with your choice of sushi roll and three tasty side items!

The inside of the place is so cool. There is a big pasta aquarium that I think someone said was featured on Tanked, and then a huge digital fish tank as well where you can “build your own fish” that you can then see “swimming” throughout the restaurant. How cool is that!? I was totally wishing my girls were there for that – I think they would have loved building their own little fish!

Because this was a Girlfriends Getaway, we began… with cocktails of course! After 7 hours on the road – this was just exactly what I needed.

cowfish cocktails

I perused the menu for a while – unsure of what to order. Like I said, I am normally a COOKED sushi kind of girl but I was feeling adventurous. I turned the page to find Burgushi – The Cowfish signature menu items with are a cutting-edge fusion of burger and sushi and include sushi rolls created using burger components, and pick-up style sandwiches created using sushi ingredients. I decided to go for Doug’s Filet Roll – after all that is my Daddy’s name, so that is safe right? I did decide to forego the masago after I googled it… just sayin.

the cowfish doug

It was delicious. Truth be told I could have drank whatever that stuff was in the little bowl – but it was all fantastic. The filet was cooked perfectly and the spicy mayo with that sauce in the bowl were fantastic. It had that sweet/spicy/savory thing going on all at one time. Joy ordered a Bento Box so she could try a little of everything… I admit I began taste testing off hers too after I gobbled down my own. The cucumber salad alone was enough to make me want to go back for more.

the cowfish bento

Then however came the desserts… and if I had not already fallen in love with this place, it may have happened right at this moment. I was so very thankful to not be in a round of whole30 when this arrived to the table.

the cowfish desserts

It is tough for me to say which one I loved most – the Yummy Roll or the East West – which is a keylime and mandarin orange cheesecake with an Oreo cookie crust. It just further proved that The Cowfish has figured out the perfect way to blend flavors together in absolute harmony.

The Cowfish is open seven days a week and is perfect for a date night or a dinner out with the family. Since it is right on CityWalk it is also the perfect way to end your night after a full day of park hopping! Check out more details along with their complete menu on their website.

Universal Orlando: Loews Royal Pacific Resort

universal orlando disclosure

You may remember a few months ago when I went to Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights. I stayed at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and felt like I had stepped back in time. This time it when I headed to Orlando for the Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Celebration I got to stay at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort and felt like I had stepped on a Polynesian island.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

We think every island paradise should have three things: sun, sand—and tons of palm trees. Good news: at  Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando® you’ll find all three, plus so much more. This is your chance to enjoy a South Seas vacation without sailing halfway around the globe. Feel the excitement of a time when adventurous travelers first island-hopped the South Pacific. A lagoon and sandy-white beach set the stage for your adventure. But the magic doesn’t stop there…

The Loews Royal Pacific Resort is absolutely gorgeous. The one thing I have always loved about anything at Universal Orlando is that no detail is too small to be overlooked. From fresh orchids in the lobby to flower leis upon checkin, you truly feel like you are in another place far, far away. Now, I have never been to any of the islands, but the grounds reminded me of photographs my mother has shown me from the time she lived in Hawaii. Being that I absolutely hate to fly over water, it was nice to get the experience of being there… without the long flight.

inside the loews royal pacific resort

The Loews Royal Pacific Resort is located on the Universal Orlando property – making it super simple to either walk the gorgeous walking trail or hop on the water taxi to get to the parks and CityWalk. If you drove – like I did – you can easily park or valet your car… and never have to see it again until you check out. The water taxi runs every few minutes, so we all went back and forth several times – in the morning to go to the parks, and then in the afternoon to enjoy CityWalk. It was so nice to just jump on the boat and not have to worry about driving or getting lost or parking.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort plane

The rooms were nice and spacious – and the beds were crazy comfortable. Even the vanity area had plenty of room for both Joy and I to get ready without bumping in to one another. The room as plenty of power outlets too – something I have always said hotel rooms should have more of. They even had an iHome Alarm Clock Radio, so we could plug our iPhones in and jam out to the Maroon5 album 😉

loews royal pacific rooms

Like all Universal Orlando Properties, you can spend an entire day at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort without even having to go to a park and still have an amazing time.. which is exactly what we did our last day there. There is a great pool staff that will help you get set up with your chairs, chair covers, as many towels as you need – they even have staff to bring you drinks and food all day long! We only moved from our lounge chairs to get into the pool to cool off. It was absolutely blissful.

loews royal pacific resort pool

If you are planning a trip to Universal Orlando, I would highly suggest staying at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. All guests receive exclusive theme-park benefits that will make your time at Universal Orlando even more thrilling. It starts with Universal Expresssm Unlimited Ride Access* to skip the regular lines in both theme parks all day—a FREE benefit worth up to $89 per person, per day. (Valid theme park admission required.) Plus, there’s Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, one hour before the theme park opens.

Check out the Loews Royal Pacific Website to read more about what the property has to offer and to book your room!

Universal Orlando: Mardi Gras Celebration

universal orlando disclosure

I have always thought I was a pro at celebrating Mardi Gras. I have run a krewe, been a member of a krewe, gone to several Mardi Gras Balls, and even spent this last Fat Tuesday hanging out in New Orleans. But this past weekend I had a Mardi Gras experience that I will never forget – the Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Celebration.

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando is known for sparing no details on anything they do. You may remember I was down there a few months ago for Halloween Horror Nights and was blown away at the attention to detail in every aspect of the event. This celebration was no different. Select nights now through April 18th you can feel like you have stepped onto the streets of New Orleans with authentic food, music – even fortune tellers and street artists. And of course… an enormous parade.

universal orlando mardi gras

Before we jumped in to the festivities of the evening, our Girlfriends Getaway group got to get a sneak peek behind the scenes of the parade and meet Jason Horne – creative director in charge of the Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Celebration. Jason and his team have been working since last Mardi Gras to put together this show with a “classics” theme, bringing back fan favorites from years past Mardi Gras. There are 13 floats in this years parade – with some of the favorites being the Chinese New Year float, the Day of the Dead float, and of course the King Gator float.

jason horne

After talking to Jason we headed to dinner – an authentic New Orleans faire. Now, I was skeptical of this I admit – I grew up on this kind of food, so I was ready to be the ultimate critic – but it was actually delicious. Like… I went back for seconds. In fact I ate two bowls of the seafood jambalaya and two beignets. Frankly I was proud of myself for stopping at two… I easily could have kept going.

mardi gras food

We left dinner and headed to explore the “French Quarter” in Universal Orlando. There were street performers, live bands, tons of food – it was like being in New Orleans! Our guide took us around a corner where stood talking – just think we were waiting a few minutes until we went to our next stop… completely oblivious to what was about to happen. None of us had really noticed that we were standing right outside of the theater at Universal Orlando, and while we knew we were going to a concert later… we had no idea we were about to meet them right then. Meet my friends Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller – you know them as MKTO.

MKTO Universal Orlando

mkto orlando

After hanging out for a while and singing a few songs and goofing around we had to say goodbye so the guys could get ready for their concert, and we could go get on the float. Yep, our Girlfriends Getaway “krewe” got to ride on the King and Queen float in the parade and throw thousands of beads out to the fans. Exciting right?

mardi gras parade krewe

Now, I have done daytime parades before here in Pensacola, but I have never done a nighttime parade. Seeing these floats in the daytime was incredible – they are simply gorgeous – but seeing them at night was breathtaking. We threw beads until our arms felt weak to thousands of awesome parade goers. It was an absolute blast.

mardi gras at universal orlando

We wrapped up the evening by heading back over to the huge outdoor theater and watched MKTO live in concert. At Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras you can catch some of the biggest names from the worlds of pop, rock, country, R&B and more live in concert on the Music Plaza stage now through April 18th.  Upcoming shows include artists like Trey Songz, the B-52s, The Band Perry and more! Check out the entire line up here.

mkto concert

It was an incredible afternoon and one I will not soon forget. Even though Mobile and Pensacola both tout a “family friendly” Mardi Gras environment – they do not hold a candle to the cleanliness and classiness of the Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Celebration. Everyone there was so nice, having a great time, and just enjoying being in the moment right where we were. Thank you so much to Universal Orlando for the best Mardi Gras experience I have ever had. You can check out all of the detail of the Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Celebration on their website and save money by buying your ticket online! Trust me when I say you have never done Mardi Gras like this before!

Clearwater Beach Uncorked 2015

This weekend I was super thrilled to be able to send my one and only cousin Amy and her best friend to the Fourth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked Food & Wine Adventure. My friend Kelly attended last year for me and had an amazing time, and this year was no different. I hope next year it lands on a weekend with no hockey games so I can attend! It looks like it just keeps getting more and more amazing every year!

CBU22

We were lucky to be invited to attend the Clearwater Beach Uncorked Food and Wine Adventure located at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa. As we arrived we were greeted by so many delicious smells of a wide variety of cuisines as well as wine and craft beer vendors as far as the eye could see! We spent three hours visiting each and every vendor sampling wine, mimosas, cheese, craft beers, seafood, watching cooking demonstrations and collecting tons of amazing swag!

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The event was sold out but was not too crowded. The day was perfect so I was not surprised to see so many people there. Seemed like everyone was so happy and so nice. But then, who wouldnt be with amazing treats like this at your fingertips.

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Being a lover of sweet white wines, my favorite variety was served by Myx Fusions Moscato. I tasted both the Moscato & Passion fruit and the Moscato & coconut. Both were delicious, but the coconut was my personal favorite! Another goodie was Chateau Ste Michelle’s Riesling and the Blueberry Moscato by the Island Grove Wine Company.

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For food, the best thing we had hands down was the mahi mahi tacos from Crabby Bills. They contained blackened mahi mahi, shredded cabbage, mango salsa, and a spectacular creamy cilantro sauce. These tacos were so good that I ate two! Second best food item was the Shrimp Bruschetta with balsamic glaze from Oystercatchers restaurant.

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We were given bags and quickly began filling them with loot! Some of our goodies we got to bring home include Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle (which if you have not tried you need to ASAP!), Nutella samples which made me ecstatic, Party-tizers Veggie Dippin’ Chips, Rondele Peppercorn Parmesan Cheese spread, Planters salted caramel peanuts, Mama Francesca Premium Cheeses (I scored the parmesan, basil, and oregano blend!), Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners (which I am already a HUGE fan of!), and an awesome cookbook from Fresh from Florida, signed by the one and only Justin Timineri.

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This event was so much fun! There’s nothing better than a day with PERFECT weather, spending time with a great friend, and sampling all the food and wine you can imagine! I am counting down the days until next year’s event!

Be sure to check out Clearwater Beach Uncorked on Facebook and Twitter so you will know when next years event will be! You will want to get your tickets early so you do not miss it!

~Amy