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

Mingling with VIPs at Make M Smile 2018

Taking a bite out of crime with McGruff the Crime Dog and the Universal Volunteers while waiting for our buddies to arrive.

On Saturday June 2, I had the opportunity to mingle with some very talented dancers from The Russell Home for Atypical Children along with the Universal Volunteers for the 16th annual Nathaniel’s Hope Make M Smile Festival at Lake Eola Park.

Nathaniel’s Hope was started by the Kuck Family shortly after the death of their four year old son Nathaniel, who was born with various disabilities. Since his death, Nathaniel’s legacy lives on in a variety of programs that celebrate the lives of children and adults with disabilities, better known as VIPs. With a Birthday Club, a church based respite program called Buddy Break, a Christmas toy drive in the form of Nathaniel’s Toy Shop, and the annual Make M Smile festival, there is plenty of love for all, and most important, limitless fun for everyone.

Along with volunteers from Universal Orlando Resort’s MyAbilities Network, a diversity resource group, I spent my morning bright and early at 5am, starting the morning with breakfast followed by a speech and prayer service led by the Kucks. We were then sent out to help the vendors and exhibitors set up their booths, while having some fun along the way.

Setting up Animal Land with the Universal volunteers, stopping to take a photo with a goat along the way.
Showing off our superhero strength with a UCF Shape of Heart volunteer and Batman
While walking back to meet up with the rest of the group, I met Donovan and his camel friend who were passing out free ice cream. Of course, me and Rolex had to get a photo with him. Thanks for the treats.

Later in the morning, we were introduced to performers from The Russell Home, the first private, non profit, and non state funded care home for children and adults with severe disabilities in the state of Florida.

The Russell Home Dancers dancing to “Let There Be Peace On Earth”

The home was originally opened in 1951 by Vantrease Russell out of her own home shortly after taking in the first child. Since then, the home has grown to house up to as many as 25 children and adults with special needs. The home includes a nursery, dormitories, playrooms, large dining and living room spaces, an on-site daycare, classrooms, a thrift shop, and so much more. Many of the residents have lived their whole lives there and are happy to be surrounded by a true family in the form of the residents and staff. Today, Grandma Russell’s grandchildren have taken her place and have kept her legacy alive.

“Angels Among Us” done Ballet style from the Russell Home dancers

A group of the residents and day care students take part in a weekly dance class. The dance class had the opportunity to become a part of the entertainment line up for Make M Smile, showcasing their talents in a series of three performances, one of them being a synchronized wheelchair dance.

The Russell Home Wheelchair Dancers get ready to perform “Remember the Magic”

After their noteworthy performance, the Universal volunteers and myself took the dancers around the lake for some fun. My buddy for the event was a young lady named Katie, who although hesitant at first to join in on the fun, opened up the moment we bumped into her idol Wonder Woman. The smile on her face was priceless as Wonder Woman signed a Chik-Fil-A fan for her.

Wonder Woman hugs Katie after giving her an autograph
Who is the real Wonder Woman? You decide.

Our buddies had a blast getting to meet a variety of characters, grabbing some free snacks and swag from the various booths that surrounded the lake, and getting a chance to interact with live animals in the Animal Land, including a baby gator from Gatorland.

Gator kisses
Gators need love too.

The event brought smiles and sunshine to many VIP buddies and their families, as a variety of people came together to share resources, stories, talents, and most importantly, love. What a wonderful way to kick off summer by celebrating the lives of these wonderful kids and adults.

Me and Katie hanging out with the superheroes

Interested in joining the party next year? Nathaniel’s Hope hosts Make M Smile on the first weekend in June every year, with multiple opportunities to get involved year round, from hosting a toy drive for Nathaniel’s Toy Shop, to helping your church host a Buddy Break. Find out more by visiting their website here.

Posted in Nerdy and Nifty, Non-Mighty Projects, Out and About in Orlando

Hello Moto. Inside #ConnectOrlando

This past Thursday was the first time I was ever able to attend a real social media event.

They rolled out the red carpet for RJ and me.

#ConnectOrlando is an event sponsored by Verizon Wireless, showcasing some of their newest phones, like the Moto Z2 Play and the Moto G4 Plus, in addition to their new Unlimited plan that now covers Mexico and Canada. So many reasons to celebrate, and a lot more reasons to socialize.

A picture is worth a thousand words as me and RJ pose with a giant gold frame.

The event was held at Snap Space, a local art gallery in the Mills 50 district of downtown Orlando. Food and access to an open bar were included for free, with a DJ and a few spots for photo ops, given the event’s main focus on Instagram influencers.

Rolex the Llama poses in front of a Hello Moto backdrop

Which means Rolex got to party like the big kids.

Rolex made friends with Captain Morgan at the open bar.
Rolex enjoys some spring rolls and fruit
Moto-Rolex…Rolex poses in front of a Motorola sign

All in all, the event was a great way to connect with local bloggers and influencers in a nice relaxing manner while taking in the local art and photography showcased in the gallery.

Me, Rolex, and RJ pose with a golden picture frame, American Gothic style…only drunker.

At the end of the night, each guest was gifted a Mophie wireless charging dock, something that has been on my to buy list for awhile now. Despite the package focusing more on iPhones, my Galaxy S8 handles it like a pro, even with my Otter case in the way.

Verizon Swag Bags on display
Morphie wireless charging dock, the gift found in the swag bag.

A special thank you to the Central Florida Bloggers Facebook group for spreading the word on this amazing event. Looking forward to many more in the future.

Posted in Nerdy and Nifty, Out and About in Orlando

An Event Worth Dying For

Have you ever wanted to be a zombie for a day and live out your Walking Dead desires? Surprisingly, Orlando has quite a few opportunities to do so throughout the year, from organized flash mobs, horror events like Spooky Empire, and even a Zombie 5K, a simple dig around Facebook will help you unleash your inner undead.

One such group that organizes such events is ZoCorps, which hosts a yearly Zombie Walk, as well as the upcoming Zombie 5K still in the works. These Zombie Walks have taken over many spots in Downtown Orlando and Winter Park, wandering amongst the living, eventually ending at a local spot for noms that don’t involve brains.

This year’s walk has hosted on International Drive, a popular tourist hub full of fun and tacky attractions, needless to say the perfect place to raise a little mayhem.

For $15, each participant was made over by local make up artists, many are the artists behind the monsters of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando. From airbrushing to minor prosthetics, you got the VIP treatment that was of high quality.

Our Make Up station was housed in the Orlando Crossings Atrium, home of the epic comic and collectible shop Gods and Monsters and their almost monthly Nightnare at Camp Blood event, which showcases local artists, cosplayers, and vendors who specialize in horror themed goods. Not to mention cupcakes, because Zombies Love Cupcakes. This tasty treats come from Ria’s Smashcakes.

Although we were asked to show up early around noon, our step off didn’t happen until 5pm, which required a lot of waiting. But there was plenty of shopping to do at Gods and Monsters, which not only houses comics and collectibles to purchase and feast eyes upon, but also various arcade games to pump quarters in and board games to borrow, as well as The Vault, a speakeasy style bar hidden in the back of the store, which is the ultimate nerd den.

Sadly, the Vault didn’t open until four, but a sober zombie is a happy zombie, right? Maybe?

At 5pm, we were carpooled over to the Orlando Eye area, where we were given the route and the rules, no chasing the locals beyond three steps, no destroying property, and to retreat out of character if things get nasty. Our scenic tour took us around several businesses in the I-Drive 360 plaza, as well as the parking garage, which gave a great place to acoustically get your groans on.

Our final destination was The Sugar Factory, which agreed to house our undead horde, but the Orlando Eye security didn’t appreciate our little group of ghouls and we were asked to leave. But not before the manager at the Sugar Factory turned on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as we made our deadly departure to a wildly excited crowd of diners.

As we were leaving, we stopped by King’s Entertainment to use the restroom. That’s where Orlando Police met up with us to get the scoop as to what happened. With a laugh and a few compliments on our make up, the cops let us go, and with management approval, we took the party to King’s instead.

All in all, the event was remarkable, even though we were ousted from our dining ressies at Sugar Factory. In the end, it was totally worth it. I can’t wait to see what the team at ZoCorps comes up with next.

Special thanks to RJ for purchasing my ticket and making this an epic date night I won’t ever forget.

PRO-TIP Be sure to purchase your cleaning supplies in advance. Some of the make up used doesn’t come off too easily without the aide of make up wipes, baby wipes, and rubbing alcohol. These are must needs for after, otherwise, you’ll have a hard time catching an Uber, as we watched one cancel on us right in front of our undead eyes. Thank you Guiscard for the ride home and an epic sense of humor.

Posted in Mandy Eats, Out and About in Orlando

Mandy Eats- Let’s Call It Bella Notte

Side by side with your loved one
You’ll find enchantment here
The night will weave its magic spell
When the one you love is near

Disney’s Magic Kingdom park is a mecca of dining opportunities, often overshadowed by the gems many camp out in front of their computer or My Disney Experience account up to six months in advance to get, like Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table.

Little do they know that somewhere special is right in front of their nose the whole time.

May I present to you Tony’s Town Square Resteraunt. Located right next door to the Town Square Theater Meet and Greet on Main Street USA.

Tony’s is a gem all of it’s own, what it lacks in character dining flare, it makes up for in its theming. Based off the 1955 Disney animated film Lady and the Tramp, Tony’s takes you to that beautiful night, that Bella Notte, when the dynamic doggo duo fell in love. Artwork and atmosphere take you to that place where love began, from beautiful artwork and Italian style kitchen props gracing the walls to the cutest little fountain I have ever seen, it’s all a feast for the eyes as much as it is for the food itself.

I mean, come on, even the restrooms have cute theming as well. (This honestly gave me a good chuckle.)

But what about the food?

Tony’s is an Italian restaurant serving up classic Italian dishes, from classics like pizza and chicken parmigiana to the infamous first date spaghetti dinner of Lady and Tramp, complete with giant meatballs. Needless to say, I hope you packed your appetite, as the portion sizes are actually up there with the prices. You get what you paid for, so much so many people around us shared their meals “Family Style” despite being sold as individual plates.

Although there are options for antipasti or appetizers, there really wasn’t a need for it, considering the table gets offered a nice plate of breadsticks with a garlic and olvie oil dipping sauce. Great way to start a truly authentic meal.

I had the Chicken Parmigiana, a lightly breaded chicken breast topped with mozzarella cheese and Tony’s marinara sauce, served over a plate of spaghetti. A simple dish sure packs a lot of flavor, the sauce flavorful and hearty, the cheese super creamy, and the chicken nice and tender. For a girl who grew up in a half Italian family, this dish gave me a taste of home.

My bestie Amanda ordered Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, which is also offered in chicken form as well. This delectable portion of shrimp is served on a bed of fettuccine with a nice creamy Alfredo sauce drizzled on. It wasn’t too much and it wasn’t too little, but somehow rationed into the perfect dish that any Alfredo fan would enjoy.

Although stuffed full of Italian goodness, we decided to treat ourselves to dessert. Despite being small in comparison to other dessert menus on property I have seen, the choices offered at Tony’s pack in the sweetness and variety that anyone with a sweet tooth would love. From Gelato or Cannolis, a simple chocolate cake or cheesecake, each item looked and sounded so amazing, it was hard to pick just one.

In the end, I went with the Tarimisu,Kahlúa Espresso-soaked Lady Fingers and Whipped Mascarpone topped with Mocha Cream. I have had plenty of Tarimisu in my lifetime, but never of this size. Holy Hannah, this piece was huge. I almost didn’t finish the whole thing. The Kahlúa was strong with this one, and in a good way. The lady fingers soft and dainty (like anything called lady should be.) And the strawberry a nice touch to an already note worthy dessert.

Amanda, being the typical New Yorker she is, decided to go for the cheesecake. Although small in comparison to the Tarimisu, the cheesecake was super rich, much like the famous cheesecakes served up in the Big Apple itself. A small side of strawberries complete the course, which vary by season according to the menu.

Tony’s is a great little getaway from the hustle and bustle of Main Street and the ultimate date night or bestie lunch. It might not have the Belles and whistles (see what I did there?) of other popular eateries nearby, but one stop into this quant bistro will easily make you fall in love.

It’s a Bella Notte anytime of day. Bone appetit!

Shout out to Amanda for treating me to this best kept secret hidden in the Magic Kingdom so I can share it with you all.

Ready to dig in and share some spaghetti and more with the people you love? You can book a reservation at Tony’s Town Square by calling Disney Dining at (407) 939-1947 or by downloading the My Disney Experience App on IPhone and Google Play.

Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Lights, Camera, Universal!, Out and About in Orlando, Overcoming Adversity

So you want to work at a theme park…

With the frigid tempatures, typical 9-5 nonsense, or lack of job getting you down, don’t you just wish you could throw all your stuff in a duffle bag, run away, and start a new life?

You’re not alone.

Each year, hundreds if not thousands of people apply for Florida’s theme parks in hopes of a better life, even if it means living paycheck to paycheck or bunking up with roommates in your late 20’s or 30’s. The perks are awesome and there is plenty of room for growth if you don’t let the pleasures of free park admission swallow you whole. 

Orlando FL is a booming economy where entry level attraction and theme park jobs are king. Universal, Disney, and  Busch (now Seaworld Parks and Entertainment) are just some of the many places one can apply to. A lot of these jobs cater to the out of state prospect in the form of web and phone interviews, and in some cases, the occasional Skype call. But eventually, you need to make the trip down to have a formal interview, in most cases, you’ll get an answer right away as to whether or not you made the cut. 

The whole process is daunting, but here is what I had to do in order to get down here. Keep in mind, the process I did was way different than one if you go for an internship or exchange program, where housing is offered. 

Apply today!

The best way to grab the attention of said job prospects is to apply directly from the source. Websites like Indeed or even the state run career sites are middlemen where your application you spent 3 hours on just sites in cyberspace withot a single click except from some random Kenyan call center. I have listed the sites below where one should apply to. These three companies I have worked in some form or another and I can attest to the often quick feedback I have received from them. 

Walt Disney World Resort

Universal Orlando Resort 

Seaworld and Busch Gardens

Other sites I highly recommend based on my friends’ experiences also include Loews HotelsFun Spot (a chain of small amusement parks,) and Legoland. There are plenty more places to apply for, but these places come to mind for a Floridian newbie in hopes of getting their feet in the door.

Each company has it’s own interviewing processes, some do group interviews, others multiple one-on-one interviews done in the same day, and others spread throughout many weeks. In my case with Disney, mine was going to be a one time interview given I was only going for a role in a retail position, but due to not following the “Disney Look” or grooming guidelines, I had to stretch out the process over the course of a month and a half, making two trips down to square everything away. Lucky for me, I had a good support system from my family and was able to hoard a bunch of paychecks from my then current job as a teaching assistant to make it happen, but at the expense, I lost my apartment and moved in with my dad. Which brings up my next point.

Look the Part

Most of the hospitslity industry runs on wardrobe and grooming standards,  affectionately called by the industry “The Disney Look.”  In plain simple English, the look requires no visible tattoos or piercings beyond one in each ear,  hair color to be of natural tone, finger nails to be clean and if desired, a natural tone nail polish,  and men’s beards to be trimmed and not longer than half an inch or even shorter.  In all the interviews I went to, you must inform them where your tattoos are,  as sometimes, they might interfere with the wardrobe provided to you upon hire.  In my case, regular shirts and long pants cover mine so it wasn’t an issue,  But say if I went with a role that involved a dress,  I would most likely be turned down for it given my ankle tattoo. 

My gages although small, resulted in me being sent home,  But luckily, going home for a month let me heal my ear lobes and prepare to do things the right way.

 If you run into a situation regarding the grooming guidelines and make a small faux paw,  Don’t stress out.  Usually a talk with the recruiter will help buy you time.  My recruiter at Disney was amazing and allowed me to send emails of my ears healing up each week  in order to keep the offer on the table. 

 When it comes to wardrobe, the basic rule of thumb is to not wear jeans and T-shirt to your interviews.  Dress as though you’re going to a business event or a fancy dinner out.  Black slacks or khakis with a collared shirt or button-down blouse will do the trick.  Dresses  and skirts are allowed,  Just don’t wear anything you might wear to a night club.  Keep it modest and professional. 

 But when it comes to the 3 parks I worked for,  Disney is the most strict when it comes to the grooming guidelines,  followed by Universal and SeaWorld.  But  when in doubt, dress to impress. 

Snag that job!

 Many of the interview questions remain the same no matter where you interview at.  Typical ones include how you handled negative feedback from guests or clients, what was a good guest experience you had, what kind of knowledge you have about the job or the park in general, and occasionly, a role play the test out such knowledge.  My advice for anyone trying to snag a job is to just be yourself.   Be polite, courteous, and professional.  Also be honest and truthful. 

 If you receive an offer for a job, usually the sign in process will be right away.  If you have any sort of criminal background or  if your job requires it, Universal and Disney will send you to do a drug test.  SeaWorld and it’s parks are very strict about drug testing, and will require you to do one that day,  including urine and hair samples, no matter who you are.  You will also need to complete your fingerprints and background checks for all 3 parks,  which unlike the drug test, are done on site.  Sometimes you’ll have a lot of paperwork to do, like in Disney’s case where it takes about 45 minutes to complete.  Case in point,  prepare for at least 3 hours at the career center of your choice on the day of your interview. 

Keep in mind upom completing the paper work, you will be offered work with in a 2 week time frame as well as your training.  If needed more time to complete a move, just ask the recruiter.  Just keep in mind, the location they give you in the beginning might not be the location you end up in.  I was originally supposed to be at the candy shop at Disney Springs but I wound up at the premium outlets offsite instead.  Just be flexible and patient.  You could always try for that dream location 6 months after you begin.  Transfers are always an option. 

Finding your home base

Florida over the last few years has gone through a housing boom, which although it sounds great on paper, it’s not as magical as it seems. A basic studio can set you back $900 A month in a decent neighborhood and a one bedroom about $1200. This does not include utilities typically. The closer you get to the parks, the higher the price for an apartment gets. Most apartments are run by big housing companies like McKinley or Camden, which require you to have excellent credit, a co-signer (usually a parent or guardian with a higher salary) or you go in with friends or roommates. Section 8 and assisted housing are hard to come by unless you are a domestic abuse survivor or homeless, and even that won’t guarantee you a place right away. Remember, these jobs require a Florida address, so try to get this squared away as soon as possible.

I was able to secure a co-signer in the form of my father and pay all of my social security money into the rent. At the time of me getting this apartment, this left me with some cash left over and my job had to pay the rest. But now, I have relied on moving my boyfriend in to help lessen the load. 

But what do you do if you don’t have a safety net?

Do what one of my friends refered to it as and “treat the theme park work experience like college and snag yourself a roommate.” Although not ideal, splitting the cost with people who will most likely be working in the same park as you will help you save money. There are many rooms for rent available via Facebook group pages like the “Disney World Cast Member Apartment/Roommate Finder” (a simple search will pull up many pages like this one) that will connect you with rooms for rent and some housing reviews. A good chunk of these rooms are located in the complexes closer to property. 

There are other not so perfect options availabnle for housing, some include motels that house long term and short term, many are in the Kissimmee area, and there is cheaper rent in places like Pine Hills and Washington Shores, which tend to have a higher crime rate. The good thing about those options is you will have the opportunity to live alone and if your credit isn’t so great, they can be a good place to start if roomating isn’t your thing. But always keep your safety top priority in these options. 

Getting around town

It is recommended highly that you own a car in order to make life easier. Orlando is HUGE, and the commute can be long and annoying. Having a car eliminates having to use the bus system, which although cheap in comparison to using your car, can lead you into travel nightmares.

The bus system for Orange County is called Lynx and there is a separate line run by a different company of streetcars called the I-RIDE that runs the length of International Drive. Both cost about $2 to ride one way and each offer multi day passes to suit your needs. Although the streetcars run more frequent than buses, they won’t get you everywhere in the city, but can be a good shorter option to travel International Drive if need be, as the Lynx bus 8 tends to be crowded and often runs late.

If you must rely on Lynx as your form of transportation, keep in mind they run three different schedules, Weekday, Saturday, and Sunday/Holiday (Holidays include New Years Day, Martin Luther king Jr Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Most of these jobs require full holiday availability so plan on taking an Uber or Lyft those days if need be.

The bus routes that go to Universal are the 21, 37, and the 40, with a twice a day stop from  the Disney Direct bus 303. The 21 and 37 run about every half hour with the 40 running every hour instead. 

The Disney Direct or the 300 buses drop off at the hotels and backstage areas of Disney World and are typically offered in a schedule similar to the housekeepers in the Pine Hills/Washington Shores area so people who need help getting to work can. They only rub about twice a day but offer the express option to get to work, ideal if you are on a housekeeping schedule.

Other buses that run to Disney include the 50 from downtown Orlando and the 56 from Kissimmee, each run aboout every half hour or so.

The bus 8 runs to SeaWorld as well as Downtown Orlando, although if you can swing it, snag yourself a streetcar ride on the I-RIDE instead. If you have a photo ID from any of the parks or hotels you work at, the one way ride is only 25 cents. Sweet!

 If you are planning on using the bus system, plan accordingly for delays.  Leave your house at least a couple hours before you’re supposed to be at work to guarantee a clean record card.  And don’t forget to pack your patience.  Not to mention in extra battery charger for your phone. 

The perks 

Although the struggle can be real at times, it is worth it being able to say you work for some of the best companies in the world with the best benefits.  Many of these companies offer free park admission for you and your friends,  deep discounts on merchandise and meals,  health benefits for full timers with the option for part timers who work a certain length of time, special backstage events and parties, access to credit unions, barber shops, pharmacies, doctors offices, gyms, and discount shopping no other guest can partake in, and so much more. These companies want you to stay and be happy and will do whatever it takes to brighten up your day and put your mind at ease. 

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and give it a go. 

Happy job hunting. Hope to see you in the parks!

Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Media Reviews, Out and About in Orlando

Raven About The Holidays

It’s that time of the year again, where Disney goes all out for the holidays. From Mickey’ s Very Merry Christmas Party, to Epcot’s Holidays Around The World, and the newest events at Hollywood Studios, there is no stopping the fun. 

One tradition the Disney Parks have each year is their yearly holiday special. Christmas Day on ABC was where they always showed the parade and the occasional concert, with some Make A Wish style moments thrown in to celebrate families who run non profits, reunite from deployment in the military, and have defeated the odds despite whatever life has thrown at them. It’s a well loved tradition that keeps families glued to the TV, and I got to experience it first hand. 

Spot the Amandas

Thanks to my bestie Amanda, who works for the company, I was able to score a chance to be at a taping for one of the many specials Disney has set out to present this year. She was given a time to show up and a comp ticket for me, with no other info on what we would see or do. Contrary to popular belief, Disney doesn’t film the special live, but a few weeks ahead of time. Usually, they only open the filmings to cast members,  which are people who work for the company, before they allow guests to join in too. 

The stage in front of the castle, all glitzed out and ready to go

Once we got to the stage, our M.C. Cam explaimed more about what we will see and do for the couple hours we would be there for. He went on about the directors cues, when we should applause, and just kept the crowd entertained in between takes. We were also told that we were there to see the Descendents perform holiday medleys of their hit songs from the movies, with Raven Symone and Isaac Brown from “Raven’s Home” stopping in to film transition segments for the special. It was also explained to us that our special will air on Disney Channel December 2, with multiple reruns throughout the month. 

Although I am not a fan of the Descendents, I did fall in love with Sofia Carson, her voice is incredible and her attitude brilliant, always smiling and having fun with what she does.  She sang two songs, multiple times. Her first song was “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and her second song featuring her fellow villian friends “Chillin’ Like A Snowman” a play on the song made famous from their movie “Chilln’ Like A Villain”

Even Olaf makes an appearance, because why the heck not?

Sofia Carson
Did somebody say snowman?
The Descendants perform “Chillin Like A Snowman”

But what got me hyped was Raven making an appearance. From her Cosby Show days to That’s So Raven, I feel as though I grew up with her, and with the success of Raven’s Home, it’s exciting to see her continue on entertaining a whole new generation. Along with her co-star Isaac, they kept the audience pumped, even for us 90’s/2000’s babies who could…and did… recite her That’s So Raven theme by heart. 

“You all are old. I love it!” She said as the crowd laughed.

Raven and Isaac scoping the sights as they make it to the stage
Practicing their lines for the next segment
Having fun with the audience

Be sure to look for me and Amanda amongst the crowd during the Disney Parks Holiday Celebration, starting December 2nd on the Disney Channel

Posted in Mandy Eats, Out and About in Orlando

Mandy Eats the Waturi Way, at Volcano Bay

View from the Tott Tiki Reef of the Volcano

Volcano Bay is Universal Orlando Resort’s third theme park, and what has said to be its best one yet. Themed after inspiration of tribal explorers (also known as Waturi) from the Pacific Islands and packed with the latest technology known as TapuTapu that holds your spot in the queue lines and unlock special surprises throughout the park, Volcano Bay has something for everyone. With 18 different attractions, including the Krakatau Aqua Coaster and the Kokiri Body Plunge that sends you 125 feet down a volcano via a trapped door, the park boasts it’s fair share of thrills, but what about the food? 

From the park’s inception, the food offered in the park was prided as some of the best quick service theme park food on property. And they weren’t kidding. During the summer, there was a brief moment when the menu was changed to a basic burger and hot dog menu, and everyone flipped out. Thankfully, most of the 60 or so menu items that opened the park to high reviews have come back, making this foodie one happy girl. 

A selfie from paradise

Using a Universal Quick Service dining plan, as mentioned in an earlier post, I was able to sample some of the park’s finest foods. Armed with a meal credit and a snack credit brought some tasty results.

Waturi Blend Ice Cream

Waturi Blend Ice Cream

Because in paradise, rules are meant to be broken, so why not opt for dessert first? The Waturi Blend Ice cream is a rainbow colored soft serve delight, packed with tropical fruity flavor that will get you in the tropical mood. Strawberry, Pineapple, Orange, and Blue Raspberry blend in such a way that reminds me of an everlasting gobstopper, where the flavor and color change each lick. Plus, it’s totally Insta-worthy. Not to mention delicious. You can find the ice cream stand in the front of the park closer to the Wave Village Concierge Hut. 

Jerk Shrimp Mac and Cheese

Jerk Shrimp Mac and Cheese

Although it is a bit of a hike to get to, I managed to make the trek to Whakawaiwai Eats to indulge in what I believe has to be the park’s finest culinary masterpiece. 

Amongst the menu of longboard pizzas and grab and go salads lies the Jerk Shrimp Mac and Cheese, a spicy shrimp Mac and Cheese made with real big chunks of shrimp and spicy seasonings. It’s very creamy, the white cheese strikes a balance between the hot and cheesey, I never thought I would rave over Mac and Cheese as much I have here at Volcano Bay. It’s a far cry from the typical burger and hot dog fare many waterparks opt for. A nice spicy surprise, and a fairly big portion to boot. 

Volcano Bay has slowly been reintroducing their menu items that have been taken away during the summer, and more surprises await. From burgers topped with tropical slaw, hot dogs nestled in pretzel buns topped with pineapples and bacon, and a long surfboard shaped BBQ chicken pizza, things are far from boring in the land of the Waturi. So grab yourself a dining plan and explore the bay. You’ll be glad you did.