I participated in the Facing Fears Together press trip courtesy Two Traveling Moms and Universal Studios, Orlando. Everything said here is said in my own words using my own thoughts.
The good old days. June 1999. Universal Studios Orlando had just opened their newest CityWalk & Islands of Adventure expansion and my friend, Dee had a super fun job selling Balzac balloon balls inside the parks. Needing a job in order to save money (yeah right) before I left for Auburn in the fall, Dee landed me a job peddling balloon balls in what we lovingly referred to as “The Circle of Death”. It was a concrete circle with no fan in the middle of summer. This Alaskan girl was fried. And yet, it was one of the most memorable summers of my life. After work, Dee and I would head to Curious George Land (which is now Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone) and play in the 15000 gallons of water that was constantly flowing out of squirt guns or pouring out of a giant bucket above our heads. It was so refreshing after a super hot, sweaty day under the Florida sun.
I eventually left the balls for Auburn, but when I returned to Orlando, I got a job in retail at NBA City in CityWalk. While working there, I met many NBA players, Warren Sapp of Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s fame, Michael Jackson – YES, the King of Pop. Yes, he shook my hand. Yes, he asked me my name. No, I did not pass out. Yes, I came close.
Universal CityWalk is a MAGICAL place for me. It has changed so much since 1999, holy COW how can that be so long ago? but it is even cooler than it used to be. I was SO crazy excited to go to CityWalk for the first time in years a couple weeks ago. I felt like it was my first time being there. There are still some familiar faces from the good old days like Quiet Flight, NBA City *sigh*, Hard Rock Cafe, Nascar Cafe, Margaritaville, and The Groove. But there are some new things now that are worthy of becoming extremely excited about.
Most Exciting 2014 Yet-to-Come Addition?
Please pause a moment while I scream in excitement!
We just moved from Raleigh, NC to the panhandle of Florida. While I still have a 6 hour drive to get to Universal Studios, a 6 hour drive is far better than a 12 hour drive, just to get some of the deliciousness that is Cowfish. This restaurant serves the most delicious sushi I’ve ever had, some outstanding drinks, and they are the inventors of “Burgushi”.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “What the expletive is that?!” It’s sushi and beef. Together. It sounds odd – and it is – but it’s SO delicious the Kobe roll? Just stop right now. I’m drooling all over my computer.
Cowfish isn’t open YET, but it’s coming soon and it’s coming to CityWalk. I can’t wait. I seriously cannot wait. I wish I could be there for opening day!
The new don’t miss restaurant at CityWalk?
We were treated to Antojitos our first night there, and I was blown away at the delicious and authentic Mexican food served there. This isn’t your run of the mill Mexican, this is Mexican done fancy, Mexican done right, Mexican done your way. One of the things I love about all food venues at Universal Studios is that if you tell them you have a food allergy, they will do everything they can to accommodate you. This will come in handy for us with Grady’s Celiac Disease. They understand the significance of food allergies at Universal Studios, and Antojitos is no exception.
I have this unhealthy obsession with Chiles Rellenos. I order it every time I see it on the menu, in search of the perfect dish. I’ve had some greasy, soggy Chiles Rellenos. I’ve had some good Chiles Rellenos. None compare to the Chiles Rellenos that I’ve been chasing since childhood, until now.
Nobody has coerced me into saying this, Antojitos had NO idea I was even going to say this, but their Chiles Rellenos dish is THE BEST I’ve EVER had. EVER. It was crispy on the outside with SO much flavor coming out of the middle. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill Chiles Rellenos. This is masterfully done and artistic. It was phenomenal. I want to go back and try other dishes, but I don’t want to miss out on the Chiles Rellenos again. What’s a girl to do?
Ask your server for their favorite margarita while you’re there and order whatever it is they tell you. You really can’t go wrong. The masterminds behind Antojitos took multiple trips to Mexico to sample hundreds of different types of tequila (mmmhhhmmmmm! I would too). Their tequila list is extensive. Make sure you get a shot while you’re there. You don’t regret it.
Most fun Family Hangout?
Hollywood Drive-in Golf
Located at the mouth of CityWalk, this new 36-hole putt-putt golf course is beautiful at night, just like the rest of CityWalk, and any of your kids will get into the “Haunting of Ghostly Greens” and “Invaders from Planet Putt” themes. I didn’t get to play on this visit, but I heard shrieks of fun coming from the venue, and I definitely want to go check it out on my next trip down.
One of my favorite date nights involves putt-putt. I’ll venture to say Hollywood Drive-in Golf might very well be the best first-date location in all of Orlando.
Best Adult Entertainment?
TIE! CityWalk’s Rising Star and The Groove
I admit, still to this day, I have never sang on Rising Star’s stage, but I swear I will make it a priority next time I’m down. If you love to sing, or love to watch karaoke, you’ll LOVE Rising Star. People sing karaoke with a live band, all hoping some big-time record executive is coming out of the restroom as they nail their first high note. It’s a really fun time and I recommend you don’t miss it.
If you’re feeling groovy, hit up The Groove. Back in the day when I worked at CityWalk, you had to be 21 to even get in, and by the time I was old enough to get in, I went during techno night one night (does that even exist anymore or did I just date myself?) and was bored out of my skull. I need a bass line!
Because you know it’s all about that bass.
This time, my girls and I headed to The Groove to get our groove on, and the DJ was killin’ it. I was the first to spill my drink all over the floor – Crown & ginger, anyone? but the guy who helped me clean it up was awesome as he danced to the songs playing while mopping my drink up with his foot. *sob* I helped because I didn’t want to be “that girl” who spills her drink and then bolts. It was a great way to start the night because it got me in the groove. (are you groaning yet?)
My girls and I ended up dancing into the night and we had a great, great time. If you’re smart enough to be staying at the Cabana Bay Resort on Universal Orlando property, you can take the shuttle back to the hotel so you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving. If you’re into shaking your booty, don’t miss a trip to The Groove.
There are so many great things at CityWalk these days, and there really is something for everyone, all day long. It’s a destination in and of itself. Don’t miss it.
All images provided by Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights 24 Press Kit