Thursday, August 25, 2016

Halloween Horror Nights 26 at Universal Orlando, 2016

For the review posted after attending last year's party, click HERE

Halloween Horror Nights 26

If you've never attended Universal Orlando's HHN party, you can't grasp what it really is.  You probably imagine some cool haunted houses, some neat characters, riding some rides at night and a general party atmosphere.  You would be wrong.  HHN is so expertly crafted that everywhere you turn, you will feel as if you are in a horror movie.  The characters might as well be real, they are so absolutely perfectly made up.  There are nine haunted houses, each one more terrifying as the last.  This is not an event for children, or anyone squeamish or faint of heart.  Anyone with a heart condition should not even go in my opinion, because even if you avoid the haunted houses, there are the five street scare zones to contend with.  

For those that enjoy the fear, nothing will top this event.  Words do not do it justice.

They let guests in for the party at 6:30. If you closed the park that day, there are holding areas where you can stay.  If you are an onsite hotel guest, there is a special line until 8 PM just for you.  The party goes on until 2 AM.

Be prepared for a lot of drunks, but they are good drunks usually, in good spirits.  They sell good drinks, as well as shots in blood bags which are a perenial favorite.  Lots of local teens hit these parties, as they do offer a Frequent Fear pass for those that attend often.

Lets go through some logistics.  Ticket prices will make you scream, at $104.99.  If you already have a ticket for Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure, you can do an add on ticket, $72.99. Florida residents will pay between $55.99-82.99, also depending on which party.


You can use your ticket before and after the party to gain free entrance to some of the clubs at Citywalk (which you also can do if you are an onsite guest).  Just show your ticket!

The Express pass you enjoy and adore for staying at one off the three Deluxe Universal resorts is useless at this party, you must buy it if you want it, and it is good for entrance once for each haunted house and ride.  I debated whether or not to spend the extra cash, which is between $69.99 to $119.99. I can't recommend the Express pass enough. Here is what a normal line for a Haunted House looks like there (and yes, that is just ONE of the houses)

They offer RIP Tours, which are behind the scenes tours that come with Express pass and access to the VIP lounge, along with a couple of other perks.  The prices are $159.99 and up (guess which one ours would have been).  They also have a Behind the Screams Tour during the day, which begins at $74.99.  The tours and the Express passes are limited, so if you want one, buy it now.

Last year's map, 2015

Here's a quick synopsis of what they put together for 2016:

  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • The Exorcist
  • The Walking Dead
  • Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
  • Krampus
  • Three original houses and scare zones: Lunatics Playground 3D, Ghost Town, and Tomb of the Ancients
  • The Repository: an immersive virtual reality experience
  • American Horror Story: Murder House, Freak Show, Hotel
The strategy for haunted houses, especially if you don't have an express pass, is to get there semi early and head for the houses in the back of the park.  The ones at the front will fill up quickly, and you'll experience more if you hit the back houses first.

There are two shows, these were last years:

  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure.  Okay, what is with Universal and Bill & Ted?  Seriously over it.  Find something more current, Universal.
  • The Carnage Returns.  Jack the Clown carries on murderous mayhem with his followers.  This one might be fun.
There are only a few rides open during the party:

  • Transformers The Ride - 3D
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Men In Black Alien Attack
  • The Simpsons Ride (want to puke? Go on this ride)

  • No masks or costumes allowed.  They'll even give you trouble for hats, I've personally witnessed it.
  • No food, drinks, bottles, recording, flash photography,flashlights or lasers in the haunted houses.
  • Try to stay onsite.  The parking lot and entrance can get extremely clogged.
  • If you are terrified but stuck there, stick to the sidewalks.  Or if just want a break, that is a good plan, because the characters tend to leave the sidewalks alone.
  • Eat before you go.  Do you really want to spend over $100 on an event and waste 2 hours of it with a sit down restaurant?
  • The characters can't touch you.  Sort of.  For the most part they won't, sometimes they'll make you touch something icky.  
  • Interact with the characters in the scare zones.  Some of them will just have zombies and such that won't talk to you (they might just go after you with an ax) but there are some speaking characters that love to interact with guests.  One creepy one asked my daughter, who introduced her twin brother, if she wanted to have her own birthday.  Yikes!  Yes, I was a terrible mother and brought them at age 10.  Picture them at Rocky Horror and you are about right...Mother of the Year.

Be ready for fun, fright, drinks, and a general party atmosphere.  But trust me when I tell you that you will actually feel like you are inside a movie, running in terror for your life, several times during the evening.  Good times!

Thanks to HHN website for the photographs.  For ours updated for 2015, click HERE

By Lucy

Let us make your vacation even easier!  We'll help you plan from the start and can advise you and handle your arrangements, including dining, fast passes, room requests, discount application, and celebrations.  We are the same price or less than if you book on your own, and you get us for FREE!  Have an expert on your side at zero cost to you and contact one of our agents today!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Gone Mad Tea Party at the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World

We’re All Mad Here

Anyone who knows me knows that Alice is my favorite Disney character so when I read a small article about Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort having an Alice in Wonderland themed party during Wishes I knew it was something I had to see for myself.

My husband, who generally thinks I am a little on the obsessed side when it comes to Disney, only slightly rolled his eyes when I went out Tuesday to get my nails done and had them painted Alice style in preparation for an event I really knew very little about.
Wednesday came and I got dressed in my Alice best, grabbed my Alice Harvey bag and dragged my husband and children out the door a good 3 hours before the event so we could get there early.  (Who are you calling obsessed?)

I am going to start by saying that the Gone Mad Party is probably one of the best kept secrets in Disney because when we got to the Grand Floridian we had to ask 3 different Cast Members before one knew what I was talking about and then it required a phone call to see if the event was still happening.

The party is a test for what could possibly happen at a few other resorts and while it was only originally supposed to run in June it was extended through July and then as popularity slowly grew they decided to run it through Labor Day.  As of now that is the word but definitely be on the lookout for it, or something similar, to continue as the CM that I spoke to said that in the last 2 weeks the attendance has really picked up.
It is located in a great spot right in front of Gasparilla’s and the arcade right on the water where the boats are and facing Cinderella’s Castle.  The spot was smaller than I was expecting but there was a nice breeze and a great view and a few people milling around so we settled into some chairs and got some drinks from the pool bar while we waited.

There were about 16 chairs and a bunch of footstools/mini benches in red, purple and white.  These chairs are special because they were sent over to Walt Disney World directly from the Mad T Party in California Adventure.  I am glad we got there early as the few seats available did fill up quickly and people then filled in the other tables just above the area and stood around.  While I was sitting in one I was wondering how I could get one of those beauties for my lanai at my house.  (Who are you calling obsessed?)

The party runs from 8:30-10:30 but around 7 the Cast Members started setting up laser lights and speakers.  They set up a table of “Gone Mad Photo Op Props” which was filled with all different hats and ears to try on and take photos with.  My son and I had some fun trying them on and taking selfies.

The desserts came out as well as the drinks and once they were set up people immediately got in line so it started a bit before 8:30.  The menu is short but sweet with some gorgeous and delicious sounding and looking desserts and really fun themed adult beverages (Who goes to Disney and doesn’t drink?!?!) along with a child’s punch option.

Since I wanted to do some “research” I got in line and bought a Butterflies in the Forest, a Red Velvet Trifle, the Tiramisu in a Chocolate Tea Cup and a Cheshire Cat Cupcake. (Just as a reminder, I did have my husband and 2 kids with me to share with!) I also got both the Green Potion Punch and The Purple Grin. We got 4 spoons and dug in, trying them all, and everything was top notch Disney quality and deliciously decadent.  The adult beverages were really fun and both included glowing cubes and were very strong.  Alcohol at Disney is not cheap but they do give you your money’s worth for sure when they mix their drinks!

The Cast Members turned on some Radio Disney type music and got a fun dance party  happening a few times and had people up and moving to dances like the Cupid Shuffle (which she Disneyfied and it was super cute!), YMCA, the Electric Slide and the Cha Cha Slide.

The party was definitely worth checking out and even the bit of rain that came didn’t put a damper on everyone’s good time.  It rained for a few minutes and then stopped just in time for the 10PM Magic Kingdom’s Wishes Spectacular.  They piped it in directly to the speakers in front of us so it was just as if you were over in the Magic Kingdom, but instead you were sitting in a comfy chair with a delicious snack and an amazing mixed drink, which you cannot buy in the “dry” park.

The Gone Mad Party is happening at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort Wednesday nights from 8:30-10:30 in front of Gasparilla’s now through Labor Day.  If you can squeeze it in to your schedule on your upcoming Magical Vacation I highly recommend it.  You do not need to be a Grand Floridian Resort guest to attend.

Let us make your vacation even easier!  We'll help you plan from the start and can advise you and handle your arrangements, including dining, fast passes, room requests, discount application, and celebrations.  We are the same price or less than if you book on your own, and you get us for FREE!  Have an expert on your side at zero cost to you and contact one of our agents today!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Review of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington Summer 2016

This is a fun little review and maybe some navigation tips of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington.  It is a tourist magnet, but even locals love this place. It has charm, history, entertainment, food, drinks, trinkets, art, photo opportunities, and can be fun for families and well as romantic for couples that are looking to spend some quality time together!

HERE is the information about directions and parking, although currently there is a huge shopping complex being built behind the market on the waterfront, and the parking situation is quite challenging.  Although I recommend following what your GPS tells you and entering the market off First Street for your first visit, drive slowly (pedestrians will be everywhere and won't care a whit that your car is in their way) down the market way to experience the feel of the market.  Roll down your windows!  Then park further down.  There is a park on the left at the end of the market, go to the next street down and make a left, there is a covered parking area (kind of tricky to get into) straight ahead.  If that is full, I wish you'll find a spot eventually:)  Most parking on the street is a max of two hour parking during the day.  There are pay parking meters in various requires you to pay ahead, write your license plate on the receipt and display the receipt.  The other parking garages will allow you to stay longer for the most part, but most will require payment in advance as well.

There are two "entrances" that make for great photo opportunities.

Here's the one by the Fish Market.

Here is the one most seen on TV!

One of the most well known bits of fun located at Pike Place Market is Pike Place Fish Market, home of the flying fish!

Lots of people!

Photo Opp! Take a selfie with a monkfish!

There are several levels.  There are outdoor stands, and inside the market there are little nooks and crannies everywhere.

This is a view towards the market, which is on the right.  There are many outdoor stands with merchandise lining the sidewalk.

Exploring is a huge part of the fun here.  There are lower levels that are reminiscent of being on a cruise ship.


Shops of all kinds are here are in the lower, jewelry, used bookstores, Asian products, collectibles and even a magic shop!

Stands in the main market area ad across the street in another winding area of shops sell jellies, homemade dry pasta, fruit stands that offer tastes of the yummiest and largest peaches I've ever seen, homemade cider, specialty seasoned nuts, authentic Mexican and Fillipino cuisine and items, and seafood stands with huge lobsters and king crab.


I love buying some of the giant shrimp as is displayed can buy different sizes of shrimp cocktail, as well as crab cockail.

There is street entertainment all over.  One group was a quartet of old fashioned instruments. Another gentleman was whaling on a piano with skilled gusto.  Musicians and entertainers stake out areas all over, so keep your ears peeled and enjoy some unique entertainment!  Make sure you throw them a few bucks after you enjoy their talent.

You'll see people in huge lines in a few places...chowder in the little alley across the street from the market is one.

And there was a huge crowd here for fish and chips!

Another popular spot is the is compulsory to visit a Starbucks while in Seattle, obviously.

We found a cool little grocery towards the end of the strip of shops across from the market, near the park.  There is a bakery nearby with another huge line and mouthwatering smells, but we elected to choose from the cool beverage choices at the grocery to accompany our shrimp cocktail.

Even the water is fun!

To enjoy water views and some characters of Seattle (notice I said characters, not character!) head to the park nearby.  There are benches, tables, or you can spread out on the grass.  You'll find all walks of life here...families, tourists from cruise ships, and local residents, some that call the park "home".  Although I did witness some drug use, it doesn't feel dangerous, it just feels like part of the scene.  You do want to make sure that you secure your belongings on you, because the crowd in general is very tightly packed during nice weather.  Keep an eye on the kids especially, I suggest forming a chain with your hands!  It is easy to get separated here.

crowded market

By the water

We got to see a military vessel being escorted to port which was pretty fun to see, the sailors were out on the deck.

Each visit brings new and fun things to experience and view and taste.  No visit is the same!  If you are visiting Seattle, make Pike Place Market a priority!

Let us make your vacation even easier!  We'll help you plan from the start and can advise you and handle your arrangements, including dining, fast passes, room requests, discount application, and celebrations.  We are the same price or less than if you book on your own, and you get us for FREE!  Have an expert on your side at zero cost to you and contact one of our agents today!