Posted in Out and About in Orlando

Let’s Taco About It

Last Saturday, RJ bought me tickets to one of those awesome foodie events downtown I have always longed for, but never had the time to partake in it. Work has been crazy busy, my health issues have been hit or miss, and money is just not in the cards for me to go spending away. To be treated to something like this meant a lot. Plus, who wouldn’t want to pass up unlimited tacos and booze?

 

Tacos & Tequila Orlando was a one day event held by Orlando Weekly and a variety of local eateries and sponsors. This short but sweet festival showcased a variety of different tacos paired with any sort of tequila you could imagine, hosted in Cheyenne’s Saloon off Church St in the heart of Orlando. Three floors of tasty goodbess, not to mention live music and entertainment.

Oh, I forgot to mention the awesome extra perk of complementary Pacifico Beer, in my opinion the swankier cousin of Corona, and a new favorite. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but this had me coming back for more.

As people entered the sold out event, each guest was given a token you could use to vote for your favorite taco. Whoever won the contest takes away bragging rights as the best taco in Orlando, not to mention a cash prize.

I dropped my coin into Fish on Fire’s bucket, their fish taco was a tasty treat and a crowd favorite, they ran out before I could get seconds. But I drank my sorrows away in Blue Nector for a bit and I was good to go. Sadly, I didn’t document the awesomeness that was Fish on Fire’s Taco, although my drunk self took a pretty picture of the Blue Nector booth. #PrioritiesMuch?  If you ever find yourself in Orlando, pay the Fish on Fire a visit. I know I will…and next time, I promise I’ll showcase it in all it’s Tacoey glory (Is Tacoey even a word?)

There were several other tacos that caught my eye. Those rainbow colored ones are from Tamale Co. Mexican Street Food, a taco truck I have come across on many events, but never had the chance to try. Both eye catching and delicious, Tamale Co. could of easily snagged my vote if I haven’t stumbled across Fish on Fire. Highly recommended next time you see their truck at a local event near you. Why highly recommended? It’s because they were the winner of the best taco at the event. An award well deserved for a very Insta Worthy piece of street food.

After about a dozen tequila shots, my plan to review each taco like a real foodie failed, all I have are the photos of these gorgeous tasty tortillas as a memory. Not to mention some very foggy selfies reminiscent of my college days.

Have you seen these tacos? Leave a comment below if you remember where they came from. I took photos of them so they must be good. A lot of these places deserve the credit where credit is due.

 All in all, Orlando Weekly has pulled off yet another amazing event for the books. For the $50 RJ paid for us to get in as general admission, it more than paid for itself in not only the food and beverages, but the fun atmosphere in the heart of downtown Orlando. I’m hoping in due time, I could review more of these awesome events and share them with you. Do you have an event you would like me to cover? Drop me some info in the comments below.

Posted in Nerdy and Nifty, Out and About in Orlando

Spooky Retro, Horrifying Fun 

This past weekend, I have participated in what has become a bi-annual tradition for me. Volunteering for Spooky Empire.

Spooky Empire shirt paying tribute to the Pulse victims, along with the paper hearts that share the same purpose, given to me by a guest

Spooky Empire is a twice-a-year convention held in Orlando Florida that showcases anything in the horror and sci-fi genres, with a little rock and roll mixed in. From vendors who carry one of a kind props and collectibles, celebrities from horror movies and shows, crazy cosplays, and everything in between, you’re bound to find something fun.

Volunteer Orientation Night, or should we say Cemetery Print Appreciation Night? Cemetery Prints is a very popular vender found at the convention each year.

Among the many things that happened at this year’s Retro convention was the opportunity to meet various celebrities, from Dee Snider, Joan Cusack, Ernie Hudson, and Malcolm McDowell, along with some of the cast of Stranger Things and Halloween, there was somebody for everyone to meet and get autographs with, along with some panels and Q and A’s.

Of course, it’s never a Spooky Empire without Lloyd Kaufman, who not only did a Q&A at the event, but was available at the Troma booth most of the weekend for his adoring fans.

Lloyd Kaufman and Toxie

Wandering around the vendor room is like falling into a wormhole of awesomeness. Whether you’re looking for retro toys and collectibles or something as crazy as a skull lamp or a hand stitched Freddy Krueger doll, Spooky has anything your little dark heart desires. A majority of what is offered at Spooky is handcrafted by a variety of artisans. You can seriously get lost in there for hours. There’s also a tattoo festival on site, but many artists didn’t allow photos.

One the things I love most about Spooky is that independent filmmakers are invited to showcase some of their work, usually during film festivals at the October event. But sometimes they like to set up booths as a way to get the word out of their film, such as the case for movies like Bubba the Redneck Werewolf (who often shares a booth with Coffee Shop of Horrors) and what has to be a new favorite of mine, Pool Party Massacre. It’s awesome getting to learn about the creative process firsthand from those who have been through it. Plus, it’s not everyday you find a severed head in a pool floatie. 

Prop from Pool Party Massacre

And of course, what convention wouldn’t be complete without some cosplayers?

Each year, Spooky Empire takes it one step further and adds a new element to the show. Last year, the October show was so big, that they moved it to the Orange County Convention Center (which was then pushed back to December due to Hurricane Matthew.) This year, Spooky Empire has decided to take over the Magic Kingdom with it’s first ever “Spooky Day in the Park” this September IN ADDITION to the annual October event. “Spooky Day” will be the first time in the con’s history that they take over a local amusement park. So rest assured, there’s plenty of Spooky to go around. 

“Spooky Day” runs September 22-23, while Spooky Empire’s fall show runs from October 27 to 29, just in time for Halloween. You can follow Spooky Empire and purchase tickets for any of the events at www.SpookyEmpire.com

Be there or be scared.

Posted in Nerdy and Nifty, Out and About in Orlando

EpicMcD, I’m Lovin’ It

Wandering around I-Drive has always been an adventure, stumbling across various oddities and attractions many would never imagine finding.

But would you ever stop to think that something as basic as a McDonald’s would be one of them?

Yes, a McDonald’s. We all have been to one at some point of our lives. Many of us have grabbed the burger or a cup of coffee from there. It’s an American staple and almost every town has one. 

But what makes this McDonald’s different is that it’s epic. Even the sign on their window says so.

Why is it epic?

Well for starters, how many McDonald’s in the world have a fancy set up like this?

And most importantly, how many of them have a fancy pizza oven on site., much less sell pasta and whatever that amazing sandwhich in the back is?

Epic McDonald’s has been a staple in many a Florida vacation for the last couple decades. I remember coming here as a kid and being amazed about everything it has to offer. Just recently, Epic McDonald’s has seen an extensive renovation, but it has kept it’s charm as one of the largest entertainment McDonald’s in the country, quite possibly the world. 

This two-story McDonald’s houses not only the pizza and pasta bar, but an epic dessert bar that offers a variety of cakes and baked goods, in addition to the ice cream creations you have known to love from any other McDonald’s you have been to.

Unlike its previous design, which looked very tacky and neon to today’s standards, Epic McDonald’s new look brings a more Modern Cafe vibe, from the seating to the artwork, it doesn’t feel like your typical McDonald’s, even though it hints at it.

On the second floor, Epic McDonald’s houses it’s infamous PlayPlace and arcade. PlayPlaces have become a dying fixture in many McDonald’s due to costs of upkeep and lack of interest, as kids would rather play with their IPad instead. Epic McDonald’s PlayPlace is a rare gem, not to mention huge. If only I were smaller so I could explore this thing.

And of course, my friend Amanda and I had to partake in some fun. Oddly enough, we weren’t limited by our sizes in the toddler area.

In addition to the PlayPlace, an arcade with a variety of modern games and a prize redemption area grace the top floor. From SkeeBall to Jurassic Park and everything in between. It’s indeed a gamer’s dream come true.

Just like the downstairs area, quirky artwork graces the top as well. Even McNight the Moon makes an appearance. 

It’s also a great place for a birthday party, as I was able to snap a photo of a set up before it began. I remember having a McDonald’s birthday party when I was little and how awesome it was, I can only imagine how epic one at Epic McDonald’s would be.

Epic McDonald’s is located at 6875 W Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819-9349. You can read up on EpicMcD at its website here and learn more about the special events they offer as well. Face painting and Magic Shows, anyone? 


Posted in Nerdy and Nifty, Out and About in Orlando

Zombie Outbreak- Not Your Typical Orlando Attraction 

Somewhere in between the Mouse and Hogwarts lies a corridor known as I-Drive (International Drive) which has essentially become the Las Vegas for families. Every single restaurant you can imagine, along with a vast array of roadside attractions as far as the eye can see, dot the street amongst the many shady Disney ticket sales booths and knock off gift and luggage shops. It’s a hodgepodge of crazy hokeyness that makes Wallyworld from National Lampoon’s Vacation look weaksauce.

But amongst the many tourist traps stands Zombie Outbreak, a laser tag experience with a twist. It prides itself as a real life video game, complete with movie set quality props and scareactor zombies around every corner. 

Zombie Outbreak is very hard to find, as it can easily be mistaken for a restaurant. But inside this average-looking building lies an attraction like no other. A sight for sore eyes when it comes to tourists looking for a thrill rather than a novelty.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of laser tag places within the general Orlando area, but how many can let you shoot real zombies?

For roughly about $25, you will be set up with a bandolier and an army replica rifle as you are taken in by militia who will talk you through everything you need to know. 

Upon entering, you will be given the backstory of how the zombies came to be by a very professionally made video. Afterwards you are led by your captain who will give instructions on how to use your gun, at which point you are sent through a very detailed maze of both real and animatronic zombies getting ready to chow down on you. 

The attention to detail is very realistic, almost as if you’re on an army base testing facility. The props used are very high-grade so it doesn’t feel like you’re running around a fun house like most people assume this place would be, myself included originally.

Navigating through the maze takes roughly about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how fast you run through it. Your score would be shown on the screen the end of your run. I did seem to have some trouble with my gun, where it would keep going on to safety mode for some reason,  so for those who’ve never held a gun before in their life, it’s always best to have a friend who knows what they’re doing. 


Although if the worst case scenario happens, you are too scared or your gun gets all weird, you can always back out of the game at anytime and a friendly neighborhood zombie will help you get out of the maze safely. So for those who are noobs like me at this kind of thing, I felt safe knowing I could get the help I needed should something go awry.

And if you’re not great with mazes, no worries. There’s yellow lines on the floor telling you where to go.

Now for a discounted rate, you are able to play up to two more times for about $10 a round. However, doing so will make the game more intense, as in those live zombies will be following crazy close. So be prepared.

For an additional amount, you could take home an awesome souvenir picture of you in your heroic militia gear. The Walking Dead ain’t got nothing on you. They also have T-shirts and the occasional oddity (usually some form of taxidermy) to chronicle your survival and victory.

Zombie Outbreak is located on 7364 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819, nestled between the CocoKey Water Resort and The Titanic Experience. You can learn more about this experience and buy tickets here.

Can’t make it to Orlando? No worries, they also have a location in Wisconsin Dells. All the information on that is listed in the link above as well.

Happy hunting.

Posted in Lights, Camera, Universal!, Nerdy and Nifty, Out and About in Orlando

Let’s Hear It For Jimmy!

Ever since I was little, I always wanted to attend a taping of a TV show first hand. A few years ago, I was able to do the TODAY Show, and this week, I was able to do the Tonight Show. Might as well complete the NBC talk show cycle, right?

My first day wasn’t all fun and games (okay, that’s kind of a lie.) It was actually kind of fun.I got to work the event as an extra hours event guide, since me working the parades somehow made me eligible for special events and some productions, despite not being fully trained. The good thing about this was that I was able to watch the production surrounding the new ride as it was happening, more specifically, this segment with Blake Shelton. Although my job was to keep people from taking pictures of the taping, it was pretty hard not to fan girl out. 

After work was over, I was able to take a quick shower and head off to the concert. Surprisingly, I was able to get pretty close up to the front, even though I was the last person in the holding pen. Not too shabby.

Despite my crappy budget phone, I was still able to get a decent picture of Blake in his hunky country glory. And the added bonus of Jimmy and Blake performing a mash up of random songs at the end made the night even more special. My phone died before then, but you can check out this video by YouTuber Amandahope1981. It was quite a treat to see these two have a little fun.

The next day was a day of rest, as I didn’t wander into the park until about 5:30pm. By then, Jimmy was in the middle of his monologue filming in the Blue Man Group theater (I wasn’t lucky enough to grab tickets) and he was nowhere in sight. But at least I was able to hang out with Hashtag the Panda for a bit. Here we are, channeling our inner Frankenstein. 

After playing with a panda for a bit, I found myself back in the pen for the next concert, Flo-Rida, 99 Percent, and The Roots. 

A few minutes before they opened up the pen, there was a Jimmy Fallon sighting, and the crowd went nuts. People in the pen ran out to chase Jimmy, just as they cleared out, we got released into the music plaza.

Hello, front row!

Never thought in a million years, I would be front row for anything. For a legally blind nerd like me, this is a dream come true. 

The spot I had for Flo’s performance of “Cake” made way for some great close ups of Fallon and the gang in action. 

Well, it’s the dawn of the third day of my Fallon Journey, and I found myself in the “nosebleeds” of grand opening day. Also known as general admission. There was a sweepstakes for the VIP access to the red carpet, and despite entering every single team member and random Facebook giveaway I could find, I was unsuccessful. 

But that still wasn’t necessary a bad thing.

The only saving grace was being able to spot Higgins and The Roots from atop a parade float. That sort of counts, right?

Listening to Jimmy give his speech prior to cutting the ribbon was nothing short of touching. You could almost hear him trying not to cry as he thanked his family and the team members who worked to make his dream a reality. The story behind the ride started off with rejection from the creative director for the parks, Mark Woodbury six years ago. After a few years passed and Jimmy got promoted to the Tonight Show, his idea for a ride that pays tribute to New York City was resurrected and Race Through New York was born. 

Proof that second chances do exist and that great ideas never die.

As I was leaving the area, something told me to go back.I don’t know why I chose to do this, since Jimmy and the gang were heading backstage and nothing special or exciting was happening.

And then I bumped into Tim Tracker, a well known YouTuber, and one of my favorites. 

Guess fate works in mysterious ways.

Needless to say, this week has been one of the best weeks of my life. As much as I wanted to leave Florida behind after the events that unfolded the last few months, I have come to the conclusion that I have indeed found my home. I am beyond thankful for all the amazing opprotunities I have had with Universal and can’t wait to see what my next adventure holds for me at Volcano Bay.

Posted in Lights, Camera, Universal!, Nerdy and Nifty, Out and About in Orlando

Falling for Fallon, A Look at Universal’s Newest Experience 

For weeks now, I have walked past a very impressive mini 30 Rock rising from the dust that was once the home of Twister (a now denfunct interactive experience that made you feel you were on set of the famous Bill Paxton flick.)

Situated on mini 30 Rock is the new Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.This new ride is one of the first experiences at the park that offers a virtual line, similar to Disney’s FastPass service that allows you to reserve a time to go in and enjoy the ride with minimal wait. Universal has been testing a virtual line experience on it’s offical app the last few weeks for Minion Mayhem, but Fallon has taken a step above the typical reserve a time process and made the line it’s own special experience. 

How is a line for a ride a special experience? We all know a typical theme park line is pure unadulterated hell, kids crying, tour groups chanting things in languages you don’t understand, people shoving past you with the excuse of their family is inside. You know the drill.

And then you get into Fallon and everything you thought about the line experence is thrown out the window.

Got my ticket to Fallon…sort of.

Right now, they are doing soft openings of the ride at random, it’s official opening day April 6th. The last two weeks, they had the normal line set up, but the day I went, they were testing the virtual line, where you go to a kiosk and get a ticket with a time stamp.

And now we wait.

When it was my time to go in, I was given a colored plastic card that would tell me when it was my time to ascend to the next room. Fallon is split amongst three rooms, the lobby, the lounge, and the actual ride itself. When it was my time to go to the next section, the famous NBC chime would ding and the room’s lights would change to that color. 

I happened to be blue that day. 

Waiting for my color.

The lobby is found on the other end of a hall of many NBC logos, great stop for taking selfies.

In the lobby was a museum of different Tonight Show memorabilia, chronicling each era of hosts from Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and everyone in between. Even Conan got his time in the spotlight as well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any good photos since it was my time to wander up to the lounge.

It’s Hashtag!

The lounge was a great little area with cushy chairs with phone charging stations, touchscreen games, meet and greets with Hashtag the Panda, and an actual performance by the Ragtime Gals barbershop quintet. Who knew waiting in line could be so much fun?

All in all, Race Through New York was a fresh take on the virtual stimulator rides of yore. It wasn’t super cutting edge and some of the jokes would go over non-Fallon fans’ heads, but it was a silly ride with a playdul vibe. You have to see it to believe it and take it for it’s silly attitude. 

The whole experience itself was different in the sense that your time spent wasn’t wasted fighting with line cutters or staring at the same wall for two hours herded like cattle.This was an experience unlike any other. You felt like you were at 30 Rock, as a matter of fact, people who have been to the tapings have posted that this is almost an exact clone, every detail made down to the chairs, the decor, even the loading area for the theater. The performances from the Ragtime Gals and Hashtag were fun and playful, making them more of an attraction than the actual ride. I almost didn’t want to go in because I was having so much fun. 

All in all, once this ride opens, it will not disappoint. Take it for it’s fun and whimsy nature rather than the next big badass ride. It’s clever, fun, and a great ride for all to enjoy.

Well, mostly all. Here is a video clip of the preloading instructions.

https://youtu.be/AD5fzlFGawE

Posted in Lights, Camera, Universal!, Out and About in Orlando

Throw Me Something, Mister!

After dealing with Bill drama the last few days, a girl deserves to treat herself to a fun day out.

Universal Orlando has a Mardi Gras event every year, full of concerts by well known bands, street performers, food kiosks, and the headline of the night, the big parade with real floats straight from the streets of New Orleans.

The parade allows for participants to ride the floats, first the annual passholders and a few random hotel guests, then those who decide to wait in stand by, and sometimes, manager picked families as a random “magical moment”

I just so happened to do the stand by line. I waited in front of Barney’s Backyard Theater for about an hour and a half amungst a crowd of people hoping for their chance to ride the float.

I got in. 

I was assigned to a float called the Garden Sprite, a float themed around forest fairies, mushrooms, and lots of glittery flowers. She is one of six new floats that made their debut this year in the park, a theme revolving around mythology and fantasy stories. A co-worker a few days ago told me more about the history of Mardi Gras and the floats and mentioned that sometimes, there’s an underlying theme surrounding the floats that are in the parade. It just so happened that Universal has it as a fantasy theme this year. 

The float surrounding us each had their own special effect, whether it be shooting fire, confetti, or a smog effect. Our little sprite just so happen to shoot confetti, and lots of it.

And of course, riding a Mardi Gras float wouldn’t be complete without beads,  and tons of them. For 30 minutes, guests on the float had to toss an almost endless supply of beads to the masses…

…while also grabbing some for yourself. 

Sometimes, doing something as spontaneous as riding a float can really change your outlook on life. Needless to say, it’s a whole different experience being on the float then walking in front of it like I often do as an escort. Of all the things I ever did at Universal from the guest and team member perspective, this happens to be one of my favorites.

The event runs until March 25th with parades happening daily. If you want to be part of the action, hang out at the orange benches outside the Barney Theater about 2 hours before parade step off. 3 hours if it’s a concert night.