SeaWorld Orlando’s Summer Nights

From June 22 to Aug. 11, SeaWorld Orlando stays up late for Summer Nights. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In addition to longer hours alongside sharks and sea turtles, Summer Nights also hosts two nighttime shows, Shamu Rocks and SeaLions Tonite. Show times vary by day, so check the show schedule to make sure you don’t miss a beat. During the week, each show is usually performed once, but multiple times are available on the weekends.

Shamu Rocks

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Photo from SeaWorld.com

Shamu Rocks is the daytime Shamu show, One Ocean, set to pop rock music. Don’t expect a surge of AC/DC and Aerosmith, though. The soundtrack incorporates more of a pop vibe with a few rock and Latin hits. Lighting adds a mysterious feel to the show, as during the daytime it’s easy to see what the orcas are about to do. If you have limited time during your stay, I would recommend only watching One Ocean or Shamu Rocks, since the shows are similar. Though Shamu Stadium is large, it fills up quickly. For a good seat, you need to arrive about 30 minutes before showtime. You can catch a seat with an obstructed view about 10-15 minutes before. Remember that the lower bowl of Shamu Stadium makes up the Soak Zone, so if you don’t want to get splashed by a school bus-sized killer whale, it’s best to grab a higher seat.

Sea Lions Tonite

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Photo from SeaWorld.com

Sea Lions Tonite is a comedy show starring Clyde and Seamore, SeaWorld’s star pinnipeds. The show parodies pop culture and SeaWorld culture. Clyde and Seamore spend a day at SeaWorld with their trainers, and they perform their own versions of popular shows like Blue Horizons, Allure: the Call of the Ocean, and even Shamu in One Ocean. Be sure to experience all of SeaWorld’s shows before seeing Sea Lions Tonite so none of the jokes are missed. The later in the summer you visit, the more tricks you’ll see. The sea lions, otter and walrus develop new skills as the summer progresses. Definitely arrive early, at least 30 minutes, to grab a close seat. You also don’t want to miss the pre-show featuring the hilarious pirate mimes. Be warned: if you arrive late, a mime will make fun of you.

If you can only catch one show at Summer Nights, I recommend Sea Lions Tonite. With hilarious jokes, upbeat music and furry creatures with fins, it’s a nonstop party. Also enjoy shorter lines at attractions like Journey to Atlantis, Kraken and Manta during the late hours.

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Restaurant Review: Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

Now, here you are, the best spaghetti in town.

Tony, Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Located in the Magic Kingdom, Tony’s Town Square Restaurant offers a taste of Italy on Main Street, U.S.A. Remember when Tramp whisks Lady off to a romantic Italian dinner, ending in the spaghetti kiss?

degrassi.wikia.com
degrassi.wikia.com

They enjoyed their pasta at Tony’s. Though the couple dined in the alley, visitors dine inside a turn-of-the-century-inspired restaurant. The decor honors Lady and the Tramp through wall art displaying scenes from the film and a fountain featuring a statue of the pair. In the waiting area, the movie continuously plays on an old-timey television.

Listen for the a waitress or waiter to shout, “Attencion! Attencion! Tony has a special table for the (your name) family!”

My fiance, Kent, and I always eat at Tony's when we visit the Magic Kingdom.
My fiance, Kent, and I always eat at Tony’s when we visit the Magic Kingdom.

Salty, warm ciabatta bread served with olive oil and cracked pepper begins the meal. The bread pairs well with a Tony’s house salad – mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, feta and peppers with a red wine vinaigrette – or a tart and creamy Caesar.

Tony’s serves a variety of traditional Italian dishes, such as chicken parmigiana, cannelloni and mushroom ravioli, but their signature dish is the same one shared by Lady and Tramp — spaghetti. Served with meatballs, Italian sausage or plain, a heap of noodles is topped with fresh, mild marinara. Not a pasta fan? Tony’s also serves steak and pork tenderloin.

My friend, Allison, and I loved the menus featuring Tony himself.
My friend, Allison, and I loved the menus featuring Tony himself.

I always order chicken parmigiana. Crispy, pan-fried chicken smothered in mozzarella and Parmesan is served atop a bed of noodles with marinara. I rarely finish the large serving. To view the entire menu, click here.

Cappuccino cheesecake is served alongside two furry friends.
Cappuccino cheesecake is served alongside two furry friends.

Try to save room for one of Tony’s signature desserts. Desserts rotate, but cheesecake of some sort, chocolate cake and gelato frequent the menu. If it’s available during your visit, I highly recommend the pistachio creme brulee. Served warm, the mint-green custard is buttery and sweet, finished with the crunch of the caramelized glaze. Served alongside candied pistachios and fresh strawberries, it blends the traditional taste of brulee with savory and sweet pistachios.

Tony’s is a popular spot, so be sure to make reservations. This can be done through the Magic Your Way app (free in the App Store), the Disney Dining website, or 1-800-WDW-DINE.

Tony’s Town Square Restaurant is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 4:40 to 9 p.m. Meals are $15 to $29.99 per adult.

Shopping Review: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, located within Universal Orlando Resort’s Islands of Adventure, offers some of the most accurately themed shopping I’ve ever experienced. Though skipping over shops in theme parks is usually not a big deal, here the shops are as entrancing as the attractions.

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Even in a 90-degree Florida summer, the snow-capped buildings of Hogmeade transport visitors to the world of Harry, Ron and Hermione. The narrow streets of Hogsmeade, fashioned this way to keep the look intimate and accurate, can become crowded, especially in the summer. If you choose to stay at a on-site hotel at the Universal Orlando Resort, you can enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the park opens to the public. I highly recommend taking advantage of this offer, as this is the most crowded and popular area of the park. Three of the my favorite spots for shopping at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are Honeydukes, Zonkos and Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods.

Honeydukes

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Honeydukes.JPG
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Honeydukes.JPG

The mint and bumblegum pink storefront of Honeydukes is as sweet as the treats inside. The candy shop offers snacks made famous by the Harry Potter series.

Can’t Miss Items:

  • Chocolate Frogs: The ornate gold and blue box is almost as collectible as the trading card inside these sweets. Complete with a solid milk chocolate frog (about the size of your palm), these treats are a mix of souvenir and snack.
  • Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans: “Ah earwax,” Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore remarked when eating these candies. For a taste of oddity and fun, these jellybeans, produced by Jelly Belly, are an adventure as you explore every flavor (and they do mean every flavor).
  • Strawberry and Chocolate Truffles: Though these sweets are not inspired by the Harry Potter franchise, they’re an example of the delicious, well-made candies Honeydukes offers. Pairing dark chocolate with sweet and tart strawberry makes these truffles a tasty treat.

Zonkos

universalorlando.com
universalorlando.com

Zonkos sells traditional pranks, like whoopie cushions and pepper gum, with a magical spin. Mimicking the joke shop Harry and his friends frequent in the books and movies, it’s well worth a tour.

Can’t Miss Items:

  • Pygmy Puffs: Just like Ginny Weasley’s pet, these pink and purple furballs are unique stuffed animals. The shop usually runs specials that help customers save when they buy more than one pygmy puff.
  • Sneakoscope: Though this contraption isn’t guaranteed to light up when someone untrustworthy is around, it is a reproduction of Harry’s own sneakoscope. It also lights up and spins. You be the judge why.

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods

universalorlando.com
universalorlando.com

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods is located at the exit of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the ride inside the Hogwarts castle. This shop features the biggest variety of Harry Potter souvenirs.

Can’t Miss Items:

  • Maurauder’s Map: Exact replicas of the secret maps are available for those who “solemnly swear they are up to no good.”
  • Stuffed animals: Characters like Fluffy, Fawkes, Crookshanks and Norbert (several are puppets as well), are represented in fuzzy, well-made stuffed animals.
  • House scarves: Represent your House colors, whether you’re a brave Gryffindor or a sneaky Slytherin, with thick, striped scarves. Unsure of your allegiance? The shop also sells Hogwarts scarves, representing all four houses.

Expect to see more shopping at Diagon Alley, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s expansion at Universal Orlando. Specifics haven’t been released yet, but I’m predicting shops like Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Flourish and Blott’s, and maybe even Borgin and Burkes, for the darker wizards, will be represented.