Universal Orlando Opens New Escape Room Experience
Universal Orlando’s world-renowned craft of creating innovative, multi-sensory themed entertainment comes to life in two distinct escape adventures. Guests can now book epic escape adventures inspired by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s iconic Jurassic World and Back to the Future films by purchasing tickets for Universal’s Great Movie Escape – comprised of two next-level escape room experiences, opening today on December 9 at Universal CityWalk.
Universal’s Great Movie Escape invites guests of all ages to solve their way through a pair of first-of-its-kind escape rooms based on two of the biggest film franchises in history. Universal’s entertainment team partnered closely with filmmakers and escape room industry experts around the country to create innovative experiences that go beyond the typical escape room – blending state-of-the-art challenges, detailed sets and original storylines to immerse guests in story-driven adventures that allow them to escape into the movies like never before.
Another unique feature of Universal’s Great Movie Escape is the variety of challenges guests must work together to complete – each one specifically crafted so that the experience is enjoyable for novices and escape room-aficionados alike. Each adventure boasts eight incredibly detailed environments featuring state-of-the-art activities that are:
- randomized – so the solution can vary with each visit
- customizable depending on party size – ensuring everyone gets to participate
- designed to adjust based on skill level and complexity – so there’s always something to solve
As soon as guests enter the art deco-style, theater-inspired venue, they’ll immediately be swept into one of the following adventures:
Jurassic World: Escape
Guests are new geneticists at a secret lab on Isla Nublar, where they are undergoing training that includes the completion of various day-to-day tasks that range from feeding ferocious dinosaurs to splicing dinosaur DNA to create new genetic codes…until they learn an apex predator has broken free and now they must work together to avoid becoming its prey.
Back to the Future: OUTATIME
Guests are transported to a museum in 1993, where they learn Back to the Future’s antagonist, Biff, is up to his antics and has stolen Doc Brown’s newest time travel device to sabotage the space-time continuum. Guests must work together to uncover Doc Brown’s clues as they travel through time to track down Biff and save the past and future before they run “outatime.”
Tickets for Universal’s Great Movie Escape are on sale now and start at $49.99 per person, plus tax for access to either Jurassic World: Escape or Back to the Future: OUTATIME (experience includes up to six guests per group and may include multiple parties). Pricing varies depending on date and time of visit. Guests may also book a private experience exclusive for their party starting at $300 per group, plus tax (up to eight people). Tickets can be purchased at www.universalorlando.com.
For discounted Universal tickets be sure to check out Budget Travel's Universal page.
For more information about Universal Orlando Resort, visit www.universalorlando.com.
Best Holiday Celebrations at US Theme Parks
Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood Pigeon Forge, Tennessee - Nov. 5 - Jan 1, 2023 With several new lighting displays across its 160 acres, Dollywood theme park—the 14-time winner for Best Theme Park Christmas Event—now boasts more than 6 million shining, shimmering lights as part of the popular Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana. "I believe each season in the Smokies is a precious gift from above, but I also know there is no better time than Christmas to experience the magic of this special place,” Dolly Parton explained. “Christmas is a time for new memories to be created, cherished family traditions to be celebrated and the love of the holidays to warm us all.” Guests will find hundreds of lighted trees throughout the park this year, as well as more new décor elements and eight different light zones to provide each area of Dollywood its own unique look and feel. Glacier Ridge fills Dollywood’s Timber Canyon, Wildwood Grove, Wilderness Pass and Upper Craftsman’sValley with an expansive arctic experience sure to inspire and delight guests. Wilderness Pass serves as one of the highlights of Glacier Ridge thanks to the Wonderful Christmas! Plaza Tree Show, which features a 50-ft. tall animated tree sparkling to life to present a fully-synchronized, dazzling light show throughout the evening. Each show is capped by an immersive snow finale! Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas - Courtesy of dollywood.com Additionally, Dollywood features indoor and outdoor stages with special shows. The festival’s headliner, “Christmas in the Smokies,” has been a must-see for families every Christmas season since it began in 1990. Many other Dollywood Christmas classics return including “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “O’ Holy Night,” “Christmas with the Kingdom Heirs,” “Heart of the Holidays,” “Candlelight Carolers,” “The Mistletones,” “Appalachian Christmas with the Smoky Mountain String Band,” “Holiday Wild Roots” and more. Returning this year on Friday and Saturday evenings is the “Merry & Bright!” fireworks display, which provides a sparkling ending to the day. And for those looking to celebrate the holidays with the perfect family meal, Dollywood’s team of chefs have a menu full of culinary surprises sure to delight. From herb-roasted turkey breast and citrus-glazed carved ham to chicken pot pie in a bread cone, there are a number of savory items to satisfy every appetite. A number of unique items abound including eggnog cupcakes, gingerbread-dusted funnel cake, holiday limeade and more. An Olde Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City Christmas lights in Silver Dollar City - Courtesy of silverdollarcity.com Branson, Missouri - Nov. 5 - Dec. 30 Bright lights line streets, buildings, pathways and trees during Silver Dollar City's An Old Time Christmas. This season marks the debut of a new production show Coming Home For Christmas, along with over 6.5 million lights, an elaborate 8-story animated Christmas tree, a light parade, holiday foods and more. Throughout the streets of The City carolers sing and stroll, while the centerpiece of Joy On Town Square, an 8-story Christmas tree, and surrounding lights glow spectacularly. Even brighter is Christmas in Midtown with its remarkable display of light tunnels, wreath portals, flying angels and special effects 9-stories tall. For thrill seekers, rides soar under the Ozark Mountain starlight with all the Christmas lights visible below. Plus, craftsman in the Christmas spirit demonstrate glass-blowing wood carving and pottery, creating one-of-a-kind heirlooms. The City's stages offer more than 30 shows each day and night including the longtime favorite production, A Dickens' Christmas Carol. The all new show, Coming Home for Christmas, features a live band and a cast of 14 singers and dancers presenting holiday music, stories and family traditions. Other productions include The Living Nativity and the Saloon Frontier Fa-La-La Follies. Rudolph's Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade winds through The City each evening with lighted floats, characters, dancers and performers. To add to the festivities, menus offer a variety of seasonal treats such as a Holiday Dinner with smoked turkey, ham, prime rib and trimmings; specialty soups like potato leek; Silver Dollar City's Miner's Beef Stew; plus, a variety of sweets such as hot chocolate and wassail, s'mores or warm apple dumplings with homemade cinnamon ice cream. Tasting Passports let guests sample their way through The City. WinterFest at Kings Island WinterFest Wonderland Parade at Kings Island - Courtesy of visitkingsisland.com Mason, Ohio - Nov. 25 - Dec. 31 WinterFest is an unforgettable holiday experience where Kings Island transforms into 11 enchanting winter wonderlands. Voted in 2021 as one of the top Theme Park Holiday Events in the country by USA TODAY readers, the annual event features ice skating on the Royal Fountain, the Eiffel Tower turned into a magical Christmas tree, the WinterFest Wonderland Parade, more than five million lights and live entertainment throughout the park. Plus, experience up to 20 rides including Mystic Timbers and Kings Mills Antique Autos. Cincinnati’s premier holiday event is open select nights in November and December. Guests will be treated to a grandiose showcase of dazzling displays and extravagantly decorated floats with the WinterFest Wonderland Parade filled with classic holiday themes such as toy boxes, gingerbread houses, choo-choo trains, and more. This year, special live entertainment acts include the all-new Swingin’ Into Christmas, plus Tinker’s Toy Factory, Jingle Jazz, Cool Yule Christmas and so much more. Visitors can participate in holiday fun like skating on Snow Flake Lake, decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus and getting a family photo with the big man in red himself! Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Busch Gardens Williamsburg - Courtesy of buschgardens.com Williamsburg, Virginia - Nov. 11 - Jan 8, 2023 The World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park is once again transformed with over ten million twinkling lights, one of the largest holiday displays in North America. Enjoy heart-warming holiday shows and classics such as Santa’s Workshop, the Christmas Town Express and ‘Twas that Night ice skating show. Over 20 rides and coasters pair thrilling moments with holiday cheer. During "Santa’s Fireside Feast" presented by Coca-Cola, guests gather around the majestic castle as Santa recounts a classic Christmas story while elves prepare a scrumptious all-you-care-to-eat meal and Mrs. Claus dazzles the dining room with holiday cheer. Visitors can also find a number of seasonal characters in the park's different sections, which are themed after various countries. In England's Kidsington Palace, families can snap a photo with Father Christmas and enjoy a drink in front of the fireplace. In Festa Italia, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Clarice can be found in Rudolph's Winter Wonderland, while Frosty the Snowman & Gingy the Gingerbread Man can be found in France. Families are invited to participate in an all-new holiday scavenger hunt celebrating traditions around the world including Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Pick up a clue sheet in England to identify holiday symbols throughout the park and redeem a sweet treat at Emporium once all have been found. Throughout the park, festive treats, holiday shopping and special photo opportunities complete this holiday tradition for friends and families. Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Christmas on Ice - Courtesy of buschgardens.comTampa, Florida - Nov. 14 - Jan. 9, 2023 Just like its Virginia counterpart, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay puts on its own spectacular Christmas festival. Visitors can experience the joy of the season up close with animal encounters, thrilling rides, holiday inspired culinary delights and festive shows. The park's longest running classic holiday show, Christmas on Ice, returns this year to the Moroccan Palace Theater. This inspiring skating production transforms the stage with incredible feats of skating athleticism for a truly unmissable show set to holiday classic songs. At night, enjoy classic holiday tunes and watch festive bursts of Christmas colors as they cover the sky in a dazzling fireworks and fountain display (offered on the Festival Field every Saturday and select nights of the event). Visitors can ride the Holly Jolly Express and celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with favorite songs of the season and wild views of Busch Gardens' 65-acre veldt, home to giraffes, rhinos, zebras and more. In the Pantopia section, Rudolph's Winter Wonderland features the famous reindeer and all his friends. And, in Santa's North Pole Experience, jolly elves guide guests to see Santa in his workshop as he prepares for the holiday season. Great for Christmas photo opportunities, this fun and festive activity is perfect for making memories with your family and friends. Other memorable shows include Storytime with Mrs. Claus, Three Kings Journey, and Elmo's Christmas Wish. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom's Main Street at Walt Disney World - Courtesy of wdwnt.com Orlando, Florida - Nov. 8 - Dec. 22 Holiday cheer will fill the Magic Kingdom as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party returns this year on 24 select nights in November and December. A 65-foot-tall Christmas tree, adorned with dazzling lights and ornaments, welcomes guests to the park where they’ll discover favorite attractions featuring special holiday overlays, Disney characters dressed in the spirit of the season and seasonal entertainment, seasonal nighttime spectaculars, transformations of favorite attractions, special food and beverages and more. All the standard entertainment is back this year. First off, Mickey Mouse and his pals appear on the Cinderella Castle stage for the fifth year of the Christmas extravaganza “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration.” The show features singers, dancers and surprises all choreographed to nostalgic and modern medleys of holiday music. And every night, Minnie Mouse orchestrates a sparkling nighttime spectacular with dazzling fireworks, castle projections and seasonal songs in “Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks.” Of course, don’t miss Santa Claus as he joins Mickey Mouse and friends in the classic “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.” As well, partygoers can indulge in complimentary cookies and hot cocoa at locations throughout Magic Kingdom. Select Magic Kingdom attractions will get a jolly holiday overlay with Jungle Cruise transforming into Jingle Cruise once again, and special holiday makeovers of Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, and Mad Tea Party returning for the first time since 2019! New sweet treats this year include Texas-sized Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Meringue and Candied Pecans found at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café to go along with returning favorites like the Mickey-shaped Cinnamon Roll with White Icing and Holiday Sprinkles at Main Street Bakery.
Mermaids at Sea Life Aquarium Mermaids Dive - Courtesy of Sea Life Aquarium Kansas City, Missouri Now – November 13th These seven magical maidens are a fanta-sea come true! Watch as the mermaids dive into the Ocean Exhibit with sea turtles, sharks, and other aquatic friends. Come see these beautiful mermaids dive with their friends. The dives take place Friday – Sundays at various times. Be sure to look for them on land for some Meet & Greets between 9:30am – 5 pm. Las Vegas Days Rodeo at CORE Arena Las Vegas Days Rodeo - Courtesy of the Las Vegas Days Rodeo Las Vegas, Nevada - November 11 and 12th The rodeo will feature bull riding, barrel racing, team roping, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, breakaway, and bareback riding, with prize purses totaling $40,000 and custom belt buckles for champions. The event will also feature a free Whiskerino contest, Mutton Busting, historical exhibits, and coloring contest for Southern Nevadan children in grades kindergarten through six. The Whiskerino contest returns to the rodeo this year. Free to enter, the contest offers prizes in multiple categories including Longest Beard, Longest Mustache, Best Natural Beard, Worst Beard, and Most Unique. Participants are encouraged to dress in Western attire or early 1900’s period costumes. Registration is open until Oct. 28 on the Plaza’s website. Participants must be present at the rodeo to win. If your child wants to become a cowboy/girl make sure to sign them up for the Mutton Busting! The sheep riding competition is open to children ages 4-10 who weigh less than 60 pounds. The winner gets a commemorative buckle. Registration and more details can be found here. Both nights start at 6 p.m. (gates open at 5 p.m.). Admission is free but RSVP is recommended online. Universal's Holiday Tour at Universal Orlando Grinchmas Courtesy of Universal Orlando Orlando, Florida - November 12 through January 1, 2023 Embarking on an exclusive guided tour - Universal’s Holiday Tour and encounter the mean, green one himself, the Grinch, while enjoying a delicious breakfast during the popular The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast. Enjoy a meet-and-greet and photo opp with Santa Claus and cap off the night in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade with an exclusive, after-hours showing of “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” – a stunning projection of holiday spirit and Christmas moments inspired by the beloved “Harry Potter” stories brought to life on the majestic Hogwarts castle.Tickets begin at $79.99 (plus tax) and separate theme park admission with a 2-Park 1-Day Park-to-Park ticket is required. Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum Human and Nature sculpture Hallow - Courtesy of Morton Arboretum Chicago, Illinois - November 19 through January 7, 2023 You will explore 18 different features along a tree-lined one-mile walking trail immersed in color, light and sound created exclusively for The Morton Arboretum. Within this array, six new exhibits will join returning favorites such as Treemagination and Hug-a-Tree, including a spectacular finale in the Arboretum’s new Grand Garden. This year is the addition of Electric Illumination, an 18 and older late night event, 9:30-11 p.m., Dec. 16, 23 and 30, featuring an eclectic, DJ-curated mix of Trance and Progressive House music synchronized to the breathtaking light displays. IllumiBrew returns for a special pre-opening event Nov. 17 and 18 for guests 21 and older to enjoy craft beer tastings along the Illumination trail. The annual light exhibition highlights the beauty and form of trees in winter. Warm concession tents offer beverages and snacks such as s’mores kits to enjoy by crackling bonfires along the route. In addition to the new Grand Garden spectacular, a traditional favorite, Meadow Lake Magic, will be completely reimagined to include 15-foot-high mirrored towers floating in the water with light beams shooting from atop each into the sky. Among the interactive features will be Shadow Play, a new touch-free wall where guests can express themselves while casting colorful shadows. Two of artist Daniel Popper’s Human+Nature exhibition sculptures will be featured in this year’s exhibition. Illumination tickets are on sale now, ticket prices range from $10 to $35 per person. Children under age 2 will be free of charge. It will open each evening at 4:30 p.m., with the last entry at 8:30 p.m., and lights will go out at 9:30 p.m. with the exception of Electric Illumination late-night hours from 9:30 to 11 p.m..
Most affordable water parks across the U.S.
Just in time for National Waterpark Day (July 28), vacation rental marketplace HomeToGo is making a splash by releasing its 2022 Water Park Index to help travelers identify the top water parks to visit this year. From Florida to California, from pulse-pounding to placid, they’ve done a deep dive into the best water parks that America has to offer. Most Affordable States to Make a Splash: Water parks in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, California and Illinois climb to the affordable peak of this year’s ranking.Best States for Water Park Enthusiasts: California reigns supreme with the most water parks on this year's ranking (11), followed by Texas (10) and Florida (9). The average total cost per day among the featured water parks in California is $138.06, compared to $132.96 in Texas and $139.16 in Florida.Average Entry Prices: This year’s average entry cost is $39.82. The water parks with the cheapest entry costs are Buccaneer Bay and Sun-N-Fun Lagoon both in Florida, which both cost $13 per adult.The tallest waterside in the country is Thrillagascar at DreamWorks Water Park in New Jersey (Ranked #32), which stands at 142 feet tall and reaches free-fall speeds of +60 mph and features the world's biggest indoor wave poolThe largest water park in the U.S. is Noah’s Ark Water Park in Wisconsin Dells (#44), with a total of 51 waterslides, 2 wave pools, 2 lazy rivers, and 6 additional attractions. Rankings are based on cost of parking, entry, locker and nightly accommodations. 3. Buccaneer Bay - $91.02Weeki Wachee, Florida Buccaneer Bay - Courtesy of floridastateparks.org Buccaneer Bay, located within Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, is the perfect place for families to spend a hot summer day. This water park is Florida’s only spring-fed water park and is home to a variety of different attractions including waterslides, sandy beach area, lazy river float ride, beach volleyball court and legendary mermaid shows in a submerged theater. On top of this, the water park is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery due to its unique location. This water park offers food and beverage options for guests who need to refuel and hydrate, as well as covered picnic pavilions for those who would like to bring their own snacks. 2. Splash Kingdom Oasis - $90.46Shreveport, Louisiana Splash Kingdom Oasis - Courtesy of hometogo Splash Kingdom Waterpark in Shreveport, Louisiana is a water park for the entire family to enjoy and embrace the family tradition of taking trips together. With more than 15 rides and attractions to choose from, people of all ages can come to this fun oasis and never worry about running out of things to do. On top of this, guests can enjoy food and drinks for whenever they get hungry or need to quench their thirst after a long day. Guests can also expect a multitude of different aspects of entertainment, with events being held that showcase music, movies and more. 1. NRH2O Family Water Park - $87.99North Richland Hills, Texas Thunder - Courtesy of NRH2O Family Water Park NRH20 is a 17-acre water park filled with plenty of fun and excitement for guests to enjoy. This water park is home to 14 attractions along with food and beverage amenities. With a great balance between thrilling waterslides and kid-friendly attractions, this water park is welcome to all ages looking to let off some steam and just have fun. NRH20 is known for its friendly environment, relaxing atmosphere, and reasonable prices. Located in North Richland Hills, Texas, the water park’s popularity has flourished within the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Click here to see the complete list of top affordable water parks and the methodology for the rankings.
Did you know - Land of Oz!
Autumn at Oz September 9th-11th, 16th-18th, & 23rd-25th at Land of Oz - Beech Mountain, NCCourtesy of Land of Oz Travel Over the Rainbow to Beech Mountain, North Carolina and celebrate Land of Oz's annual Autumn at Oz Festival - one of the world’s largest Wonderful Wizard of Oz events! Experience the magic of Oz during this three-weekend event where the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion are ready to perform for you on your journey to meet the Wizard! Keep a lookout for the Wicked Witch and her Winged Monkeys, plus other favorite characters from this classic story! Visit the Gale farm in Kansas, experience the twister, meet Glinda in Munchkinland, and follow the real yellow brick road to Emerald City where the Wizard grants everyones' wishes - right before your eyes! Courtesy of Land of Oz Shop unique craft & memorabilia vendors, enjoy delicious varieties of food and beverages, get your face painted, and watch live performances. Plus, there are plenty of photo-ops along the way including our Over the Rainbow Observation Deck - one mile high in the sky! Enjoy the magical Land of Oz on the site of the original 1970's theme park where the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. Courtesy of Land of OzIn the Land of Oz:Don't wear your high heel ruby slippers - Oz has uneven paths, ramps and stairs and therefore is not wheelchair or stroller friendly. The weather in Oz (Beech Mountain) can be cold and blustery, so be prepared for the weather by dressing in layers and wearing comfortable shoes. It is also suggested that guests bring a jacket and an umbrella just in case.You can get to Oz by bus or scenic lift ride (additional cost). The lift ride from Beech Mountain Ski resort will give you amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. General Admission Tickets: $55.00 + Taxes & Processing Fees Children 2 & Under are free.