SubscribeStar Saturday: The High Life at Universal Studios

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Last weekend I embarked on my latest Universal Studios trip, and it was truly unlike any other park-going experience of the last year.  It was one of those brief moments where I glimpsed, however briefly, how the other half lives.

Thanks to the extreme generosity of my girlfriend’s mother (and the various discounts and perks she receives with her two-park Premier level Annual Pass to Universal Studios), we stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, a hotel that starts at $300 a night, and that offers water taxi service to Universal City Walk.

We didn’t spend much time at the room—which, given the nature of it, was a bit like ordering a hamburger at a seafood restaurant—but that’s because our room keys also doubled as Express Passes for rides.  Right now, during the peak operating season, Express Passes go for north of $300 per person, per day.  That means one night at the hotel essentially paid for Express Passes for our entire party of four for the duration of our stay—one of the most compelling perks of shelling big money for the hotel (not to mention riding a boat into the parks is super fun and convenient, and hotel guests get early park admission to Universal Studios).

To add to the decadence—which, admittedly, was a bit of overkill—we had access to both nights of the June Orlando Informer meetup, which grants after-hour admission to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks, as well as unlimited food in the parks.

From an optimization standpoint, as my younger brother pointed out, it was not ideal.  If it was one of us footing the bill, and assuming we wanted certain perks, we’d go for either the hotel, with its built-in Express Pass perk, or the Orlando Informer event, which eliminates the need for Express Pass as attendance at the park is limited to meetup attendees.

From a standpoint of going all out, though, it was truly amazing.  I doubt I’ll ever have such a decadent and wide-open Universal Studios experience again, but I am grateful for the opportunity.  So for this edition of SubscribeStar Saturday, I’d like to dive into the eighteen-hour day my girlfriend and I put into the parks, followed by a far more reasonable twelve-hour day last Saturday.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Delayed SubscribeStar Saturday; Universal Studios Update

Today’s SubscribeStar Saturday—like last weekend’s—will be delayed.  Subscribers, you’ll have two posts to look forward to next week:  one detailing the perils and opportunities of small-scale entrepreneurism, the other offering a detailed rundown of the TJC Spring Jam (what was intended to be today’s post).

One reason for the delay is that yesterday I spent eighteen hours in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  I walked around 30,000 steps, or 12.3 miles, according to my iPhone’s pedometer.  Because of the hotel where we’re staying, we have Express Passes, so we managed to ride pretty much everything we hope to ride—including the new Velocicoaster, which doesn’t officially open until 10 June.  We managed to get in after a two-hour wait and some technical delays.  The attraction is running in rehearsal mode at the moment, so some elements might not be present, but the coaster itself is definitely complete.

More details to come in a detailed post—probably next Saturday.

Thank you for your patience, subscribers.  I’ll get caught up soon!

Happy Saturday!

—TPP

Back to Universal Studios Again; Summer Vacation Updates

I’m back in Orlando, Florida, for another trip to Universal Studios.  Tomorrow’s SubscribeStar Saturday will likely be late again, but Lazy Sunday should be good to go.  I’ll post in a bit more detail about our adventures down here later on.

Next week I’ll be making up last week’s SubscribeStar Saturday and tomorrow’s in great detail.  Apologies to subscribers for the delays.  Even though it’s now summer vacation, those final teacher workdays were doozies, with a flurry of end-of-the-year items to complete, not least of all accurate report card grades and comments.

It looks like this summer’s run of History of Conservative Thought will be cancelled, unfortunately, due to low enrollment (one student signed up—d’oh!).  It actually works out, though, as I’m hitting a whopping ten students for private music lessons over the summer.  If everyone continues into the next academic year, I’ll have twelve students in total during the school year—the highest ever.

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TBT: Lazy Sunday LXXXII: Universal Studios

I’m on the road—yet again!—to Universal Studios, heading out this afternoon after a long day of mind-molding.  This trip will be my fifth in the last year, and my first of the calendar year.  I’ve certainly worn the magnetic strip down on this Season Pass.

Seeing as it’s TBT, I figured why not look back at the Lazy Sunday dedicated to my first two Universal Studios excursions of last year (you can read about the fourth trip, too)?  When I go out of town for a long weekend, I try to file posts in advance, and a catch-all Universal Studios TBT seems like a good way to go.

Here’s hoping I make it to Orlando alive—or, at the very least, awake.  Here’s “Lazy Sunday LXXXII: Universal Studios“:

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Universal Studios Trip No. 4

Against all odds, I recently took an unprecedented fourth trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida this past weekend.  The occasion was visiting my girlfriend’s family, and to take advantage of an Orlando Informer meetup.

Apparently, Orlando Informer is a blog dedicated to the major theme parks in Orlando—Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.—and various deals and special events in the parks.  In scrolling through their website on our trip, I found, for example, a post about a one-day-only Beetlejuice haunted house that Universal slapped together for Halloween (I was able to get to the other two, longer-running houses on my last trip).  For theme park enthusiasts, it seems like a great website.

The publication also organizes vacation packages, as well as twice annual “meetups,” special after-hour events that give guests extended park time and—and this one is huge—unlimited concessions.  We had passes for the 12 December 2020 meetup, which meant we could stay in the park until 1:30 AM.  Access with the passes began at 3 PM, so we used our Seasonal Passes to enjoy the park beforehand.

It truly made for an unforgettable—and long—park experience.  We hit Islands of Adventure around 9 AM Saturday morning, and did a long stretch there until we went to get our meetup passes (we did manage a late lunch at Mythos, a must-visit on any trip to Islands of Adventure).  As we were essentially in Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios for fifteen hours—essentially two park days—we managed to hit up almost everything we wanted to ride and see on Saturday (other than the ever-elusive Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which is virtually impossible to get into via the Virtual Line feature).

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Lazy Sunday LXXXII: Universal Studios

As I noted yesterday and this morning, I am at Universal Studios once again this year.  This trip marks my third in 2020, which I find inconceivable.  Oddly enough, The Age of The Virus probably made it possible, as Universal eliminated most of their blackout dates for season pass holders.

This trip has been a good one, and because we’ve already been a couple of times this year, there wasn’t the same push to cram everything in during our three-day stay this time.  Indeed, the park was so packed today that we left around lunchtime to lounge in the hotel a bit, and we’ll hopefully head back this evening when crowds thin out a bit.

More on that when I get around to writing this weekend’s SubscribeStar Saturday post.  Here are some past posts related to Universal Studios:

  • Universal Studios Trip” (on my SubscribeStar page) – This post was a rundown of my first trip to Universal Studios earlier this year, right before The Virus really struck big in the United States.  That seems like an entirely different world.  It was very cool in late February for Florida, which really made the trip more enjoyable.  Also, we didn’t have to wear masks, which is a luxury today.
  • Phone it in Friday VII: Universal Studios” (and “TBT: Phone it in Friday VII: Universal Studios“) – This hasty post, written during my first visit to Universal this year, detailed some of the highlights of the trip, particularly the old E.T. ride.  That ride is probably my favorite in all of Universal, and I fully take advantage of the child swap loophole to ride it multiple times.
  • Universal Studios Trip No. 2” (on my SubscribeStar page) – This post detailed the second trip to Universal back in July.  That was in the full heat of the Florida summer, and during the apex of the summertime Virus surge.  Universal employees were very particular about mask-wearing at the time.  They still are, but I’ve noticed they’re way more lax this time (they aren’t shouting at you for having it off when you’re off by yourself just trying to breathe free for a few minutes).

Anyway, that’s all for now.  My niece and nephews are starting to run wild in the hotel room, so I’d better get back to uncling before they dump any more snacks on the floor.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Catching Up

I’ve returned from Universal Studios, and will be writing the SubscribeStar-exclusive post promised on Saturday sometime this evening.  It was a very fun trip, and was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with family.

Of course, as with any trip, now I’m playing catch up after enjoying nearly a week of good food, good family, and good times.  I’m teaching a new Pre-AP Music Appreciation course this academic year, and begin online training with four Zoom sessions starting tomorrow.  That means today I’ve got to work through some online modules to be prepared for the first session.

I’m also clearing out a backlog of e-mails.  It’s remarkable how quickly it all piles up after just a few days.  My junk account is bursting with solicitations, most of them truly garbage.  But I’m also catching up on some work and personal correspondence, so if you’ve written to me over the past week, don’t fret—I will respond as soon as possible.

Returning from this trip marks the beginning of the end of summer vacation.  I still have a couple of weeks of summery freedom remaining, but the tempo of work-related activities will only increase from here on out.  I will, of course, continue posting to the blog daily, but posts will likely be a bit shorter as the school year resumes.

I’ll have some updates and information soon about how school is resuming in The Age of The Virus.  That was the topic of some discussion on photog’s blog, Orion’s Cold Fire, back on his 11 July 2020 update post.  It will be quite interesting to see how different States and school districts handle the return.  My little private school is planning on resuming as normal, just with way more sanitation and some social distancing and such.  Again, more details to come.

That’s about it for today.  I’ll be getting into some meatier substance soon, but some gossamer fluff is surely allowable from time to time.

God Bless,

TPP

Lazy Sunday LXXI: Road Trips

Well, we’re headed back from Universal Studios after a fun-filled visit (I’m assuming as such; I’m actually writing this post before the trip, so it may very well have been a disaster, but I prefer to be optimistic).  It seemed like a good time to review some of my road trip posts.

Back in Fall 2019—in The Before Times, in The Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus—I was on a festival kick.  Every small town has some obscure but beloved festival (here in Lamar it’s the Egg Scramble), usually dedicated to some local foodstuff or cultural group.  Most of my recent road-tripping has been on those kinds of excursions.

As such, this edition of Lazy Sunday will have a good bit of overlap with “Lazy Sunday XXXII: Festivals“—I mean, it is Lazy Sunday, after all.

  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Aiken Amblings” – This post is about the annual Aiken’s Makin’ crafts festival, which my hometown hosts every September.  It’s a huge draw, bringing tons of vendors and visitors to downtown Aiken’s parkways.  I have many fond childhood memories of running around at the festival, though it’s shifted its location (to its detriment, I think) and its spot in the calendar (because it’s earlier in September, it’s hotter).  It’s still a great deal of fun, and I always manage to find some fun gifts for my train-loving nephew.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Yemassee Shrimp Festival 2019” – Since I was a young boy, I’ve been riding through Yemassee and past Old Sheldon Church on my way to Fripp Island, which is out past Beaufort, South Carolina.  Yemassee is an old railroad town that straddles the line between Hampton and Beaufort Counties.  The Shrimp Festival is fun, sweltering festival with—you guessed it—lots of friend shrimp (and fried everything, for that matter).  I highly recommend making a day of it for reasons stated in the full post.
  • Road Trip!” – This post is about heading down to Orlando (a nice bookend to today’s post, while I’m heading back) and some of my meager backroad explorations around rural South Carolina.  There are a lot of hidden gems if you’re willing to get off the Interstates and look around.

That’s it!  I should probably stop typing while driving (just kidding, just kidding).  This return marks the beginning of the end of summer vacation—the tempo of back-to-school preparation will just pick up from here.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Delayed SubscribeStar Saturday: Universal Studios Trip No. 2

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

I’m currently on a trip to Universal Studios—shockingly, my second this year.  I’m going to write all about it, just as I did back in February, but it’s likely going to be delayed until my return.

Thank you for your patience.  Enjoy your weekend!

—TPP

This post will be completed upon my return from Universal Studios.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.