America’s Most Amazing Theme Parks: No. 3 Universal Orlando Resort

Ride the movies! That’s what Universal Orlando Resort is all about.

Amazing Parks Universal Orlando
Photo via Universal Orlando

Amazing Parks Universal Orlando

The Universal Orlando Resort is made up of several distinct areas/parks. Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay Water Park and CityWalk.

Like the WDW resort properties, Universal Orlando Resort is more than one single theme park – it’s more of a resort destination. Universal offers an APP to help you plan your stay. You can set alerts for ride wait times and order meals. The property offers 7 on-site hotels for visitors to choose from. Staying on-site also offers certain benefits like early admission, priority seating and Express Pass.

Amazing Parks Universal Orlando
Photo via Universal Orlando

Universal Studios Florida

The park opened in 1990 and welcomes 10.2 million visitors each year.  There are 8 lands at Universal Studios Florida. Each land boasts interactive experiences including 4D rides and simulators. Movie franchises have a huge presence and include Harry Potter, Fast & Furious, Transformers, Men in Black and Shrek. For the little ones to stay entertained, there’s Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone, Curious George and Barney’s Backyard.

Universal Studios offers 30+ dining locations throughout the park, 15+ attractions/rides, over 15 entertaining shows, and you can shop til you drop in more than 35 stores.

Kids play areas and character encounters make Universal Studios fun for the entire family!

Photo via Universal Orlando

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Thrilling roller coasters, Marvel superheroes and Harry Potter make this sister park a must see!

Island’s of Adventure opened in 1999 and welcomes 9.6 million visitors per year. This area offers 17+ attractions and shows, 25 dining spots and 26 gift shops.

Universal Studios is where you “ride the movies” and Islands of Adventure is the spot to truly experience them. The park is full of state of the art thrill rides all themed to big entertainment entities.

You can explore Hogwarts; escape a killer T-Rex; and brave the wrath of Doctor Doom. There’s plenty of excitement for the little ones too with interactive play zones and live stage shows in Seuss Landing and Toon Lagoon.

Amazing Parks Universal Orlando

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter spans across both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. It is an absolutely magical experience. This land opened in 2010 and offers 5 shows and attractions, 5 dining areas and 14 gift shops.

Amazing Parks Universal Orlando
Photo via Universal Orlando

Universal Volcano Bay

Volcano Bay opened in 2017 and welcomed 1.5 million visitor it’s first year. The park includes 19 attractions, 6 dining locations and 2 gift shops.

Volcano Bay is inspired by Polynesian Islands and cultures, offering  a carefree island lifestyle to relax in. Plunge down water slides, relax on the beach or chill out in a private cabana.

Photo via Universal Orlando

Universal CityWalk

CityWalk opened in 1999 and offers 25 dining spots, 8 gifts shops and 11 entertainment venues. This entertainment and retail district is the perfect spot to visit before or after visiting the parks.

Guests must pass through CityWalk to enter Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure. You can start your day before entering the parks with breakfast or end your evening with a concert. The most popular show, the Blue Man Group, is also at CityWalk. 

Did you have the chance to read America’s Most Amazing Theme Parks – The History of Amusement Parks where you can learn how it all started! Also, don’t miss:

Amazing Parks Universal Orlando

Toy Story 4 – The Lessons We Learn From Toys

Be prepared to laugh – to cry – and to fall in LOVE with Toy Story 4! The Toy Story movies are ones that we all love, our children love, our grandchildren love!

Toy Story 4 Lessons we learn

Everyone thought that Toy Story 3 would be the end. It seemed like a perfect end and a great way to say goodbye to our beloved friends. When Toy Story 4 was announced, we couldn’t imagine where they would go with the story.

I’ve seen so many mixed reviews about Toy Story 4. Many feel it wasn’t a necessary addition to the Toy Story saga. I disagree.

Toy Story 4 feels like it was made for adults but is also a movie that kids will enjoy and love too. It feels like it was made for all those little 5 year olds that fell in love with the very first Toy Story movie in 1995 and who are now adults wanting to see what has happened to their long forgotten toys (friends).

Toy Story 4 Lessons we learn

The History of Toy Story

On January 19, 1993, production started on one of the most memorable animation films ever created…

This was to be the first ever completely computer-animated feature-length film. The technology to pull this off did not exist.

So what do great thinkers do when the current tech isn’t enough?They make new tech.

And that is exactly what Pixar did. On top of creating an amazing storyline, they were responsible for developing brand new hardware and software to execute that storyline.

Toy Story was released on November 22, 1995, and it killed at the box office. It grossed $192 million in the US and $356 million worldwide. That wasn’t the end of the Toy Story.

Toy Story 2 was released four years later. It grossed $246 million in the US and nearly half a billion worldwide.

Eleven years after that, Toy Story 3 came out and was a huge hit. It grossed$415 million in the US and $1 billion worldwide.

The lessons we have learned in the first three installments are ones that both children and adults can apply in our everyday lives.

Here we are in 2019 and Toy Story 4 is in theaters. I saw an early screening and here are my thoughts:

Toy Story 4 Lessons we learn

I laughed. I cried. I was startled. I was overwhelmed. 

The movie opens with a flashback to nine years ago (between the events of 2 and 3) R.C. is being swept down a storm drain. Woody and the other toys mount a successful rescue operation, but while they are busy, a mysterious man buys Bo Peep; despite Woody’s efforts to prevent the sale, Bo reassures him that it is part of being a toy to be taken away.

Toy Story 4 Lessons we learn

Forky is born

The movie then moves to two years after Andy gave his toys to Bonnie and Woody and the other toys are content in their new life. Worried that Bonnie will feel overwhelmed at her kindergarten orientation, Woody – who Bonnie has been neglecting – sneaks into her backpack, and his fears come to light as Bonnie becomes shy around her new classmates.

Woody covertly places a spork and other items from a trash can on Bonnie’s table during arts and crafts, and she turns them into a handmade toy-spork she names “Forky”. After Bonnie places Forky in her backpack, he comes to life, much to Woody’s shock.

And the adventure begins!

Toy Story 4 Lessons we learn

Toy Story 4 is full of fabulous new characters, including two plushies voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, and Duke Caboom, a motorcycle-driving action figure voiced by Keanu Reeves.

It’s during Bonnie’s last summer trip before starting kindergarten – to an RV camp alongside a traveling carnival – that the story really takes off. As Forky continues to try to escape his new owner’s affectionate clutches, Woody tries to tutor the newcomer in proper toy behavior.

Everyone in my family has their favorite Toy Story characters. My almost 3 year old grandson loves Buzz. He actually calls him “Bubble Buzz” because of the Buzz Lightyear bubble toy he got (and has played with endlessly) on one of his WDW trips. My granddaughter loves Jessie, my daughter is a Woody fan and I have always been a Mr. Potato Head lover.

I left Toy Story 4 completely in love with different characters. Forky and Duke Caboom are now up on top of my favorites list. It’s a mix of good, nostalgic emotional and sad emotional. It’s happy. It’s sad. It’s startling.

I would definitely say it’s the end of the line as far as the Toy Story story goes. It would be a stretch to get another story out of it. Woody has found his way to a life without his own kid. However, Pixar has a way with finding and creating a new stories so I as the saying goes – “never say never!”

Toy Story 4 is definitely the best as far as I’m concerned. It is for kids, it is for adults. It is closure for all those little five year olds that watched the very first Toy Story in 1995. What happens to all of my beloved toys when I grow up. Those five year olds who are now adults have watched through different installments as Woody moved on. They have grown up thinking of Woody and Buzz as friends.

The Toy Story 4 Lessons

Spunk, ingenuity, teamwork, loyalty and self-sacrifice. Listening to your inner voice is a theme throughout the film. The importance of friendship is in there too! It’s okay if we don’t know who we are as long as we are trying, and the only thing we have to do is be good to one another. The lessons are many.

Woven throughout the film is Woody’s quest to find a new purpose, since he is no longer the favorite toy.

I won’t tell you more about the film because YOU MUST go see it for yourself. Much of the story centers on Woody trying to teach Forky that he isn’t trash, but instead a toy with the great responsibility of comforting Bonnie as she makes her way through kindergarten. 

There is plenty in the movie to make any Disney fan smile, including Woody mimicking the pose of the classic Mickey Mouse telephone and a reference to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride during the end credits.

The first three movies focused on the relationships among the toys and the bonds with their child. The end of Toy Story 4 has us thinking of the toys as more human and their relationships with each other. 

The Cast

  • Tom Hanks as Woody
  • Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear
  • Annie Potts as Bo Peep
  • Tony Hale as Forky
  • Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as Ducky and Bunny
  • Madeleine McGraw as Bonnie
  • Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby
  • Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom
  • Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples
  • Jay Hernandez as Bonnie’s dad
  • Lori Alan as Bonnie’s mom
  • Joan Cusack as Jessie
  • Bonnie Hunt as Dolly
  • Kristen Schaal as Trixie
  • Emily Davis as Billy, Goat and Gruff
  • Wallace Shawn as Rex
  • John Ratzenberger as Hamm
  • Blake Clark as Slinky Dog
  • June Squibb as Margaret the Store Owner
  • Carl Weathers as Combat Carl
  • Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head (digitally due to his passing)
  • Estelle Harris as Mrs. Potato Head
  • Jeff Garlin as Buttercup
  • Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants
  • Jodi Benson as Barbie
  • Jeff Pidgeon as Aliens
  • John Morris and Jack McGraw as young and teenage versions of Andy
  • Laurie Metcalf as Andy’s mom
  • Mel Brooks as Melephant Brooks
  • Carol Burnett as Chairol Burnett
  • Betty White as Bitey White
  • Carl Reiner as Carl Reineroceros

Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach Kicks Off Summer 2019

And what a great summer it’s going to be! Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach kicked off Summer 2019 with stilt walkers, fire dancing and drums! Smiling faces, good food (20+ restaurants) and lots of fun is what you’ll find at Broadway at the Beach all while making great family and vacation memories.

Broadway at the Beach Summer 2019

All year long Broadway at the Beach is fun and entertaining, but summer time really kicks it into high gear!

Broadway at the Beach Summer 2019

Everyone in the family will be excited and showing it when you visit Broadway at the Beach on your next visit to Myrtle Beach!

All There is to do

Whether you’re a local or visiting the area for your family vacation, you’ll be amazed at how much there is to do this summer at Broadway. I recently shared with you two amazing new attractions that you won’t want to miss – The Simpsons 4D and Charles Bach Wonders – and both are what family fun is made of!

Broadway at the Beach Summer 2019

Fun attractions, shopping and great restaurants are just a small part of what you can do when you head to Broadway at the Beach. Just walking around this summer will be a treat because of all they have planned. Check out this summer schedule:

Mondays this summer

7 – 9 p.m. Dance Party with Mr. Nigel in Center Court

7 – 9 p.m. Stiltwalkers on The Avenue

8 – 10 p.m. Fire Dancers on The Avenue


Tuesdays this summer

7 – 9 p.m. Dance Party with Mr. Nigel in Center Court

7 – 10 p.m. Next Level Vocal Showcase in Heroes Harbor

7 – 9 p.m. Ripley’s Ruckus Drum Line strolling throughout Broadway

8 – 10 p.m. Stiltwalkers on The Avenue

8 – 10 p.m. Fire Dancers on The Avenue

10 p.m. Fireworks over Lake Broadway

Wednesdays this summer

7 – 9 p.m. Dance Party with Mr. Nigel in Center Court

7 – 9 p.m. Stiltwalkers on The Avenue

Broadway at the Beach Summer 2019

8 – 10 p.m. Fire Dancers on The Avenue

7 – 10 p.m. Next Level Vocal Showcase in Heroes Harbor

Thursdays this summer

5 – 8 p.m. Live DJ on The Avenue

7 – 9 p.m. Stiltwalkers on The Avenue

7 – 10 p.m. Next Level Vocal Showcase in Heroes Harbor

8 – 10 p.m. Dance Party with Mr. Nigel in Center Court

9 – 11 p.m. LED Dancers strolling throughout Broadway

Fridays this summer

7 – 9 p.m. Dance Party with Mr. Nigel in Center Court

7 – 9 p.m. Ripley’s Ruckus Drum Line throughout Broadway

7 – 10 p.m. Next Level Vocal Showcase in Heroes Harbor

8 – 10 p.m. Stiltwalkers on The Avenue

9 – 11 p.m. LED Dancers strolling throughout Broadway

10 p.m. Fireworks over Lake Broadway (June 21-August 16)

Broadway at the Beach Summer 2019

Saturdays this summer

7 – 9 p.m. Stiltwalkers on The Avenue

7 – 9 p.m. Face Painters in Center Court

7 – 10 p.m. Next Level Vocal Showcase in Heroes Harbor

7 – 10 p.m. Costumed characters in Center Court

9 – 11 p.m. LED Dancers strolling throughout Broadway

Sundays this summer

7 – 9 p.m. Stiltwalkers on The Avenue

7 – 9 p.m. Face Painters in Center Court

7 – 10 p.m. Costumed characters in Center Court

9 – 11 p.m. LED Dancers strolling throughout Broadway

Broadway at the Beach Summer 2019

Broadway at the Beach, South Carolina’s most visited attraction, is proud to announce the official kick off of summer and its partnership with Blue Star Mothers of America as part of the Great American Summer Nights celebration.

Broadway at the Beach Summer 2019

The Blue Star Mothers

Broadway at the Beach and Blue Star Mothers are partnering this summer to give back to our military in the form of heartfelt words of encouragement and monetary donations.

Broadway at the Beach Summer 2019

Blue Star Mothers of America are mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, foster mothers and female legal guardians who have children serving in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans. These mothers support each other and their children while promoting patriotism.

The organization focuses on their mission every single day and vow to never forsake the country’s troops, its veterans or the families of its fallen heroes. Currently, there are more than 6,000 members from more than 200 chapters throughout the nation.

“Blue Star Mothers of America is an amazing organization that we knew we wanted to partner with to help those who serve our country,” said Melissa Armstrong, director of marketing for Burroughs & Chapin, parent company of Broadway at the Beach. “We know having a family member serving in the military can be trying for any family, so we wanted a way for our guests to show those servicemen and women that we’re thinking of them, and we appreciate the sacrifices they and their families make for us.”

Send our troops a note

Guests of Broadway at the Beach are encouraged to write a note of thanks to our troops serving in the military – both domestic and abroad – at the Mail For Our Military corner in the Guest Services Center. Letters, cards and pictures drawn by children will be collected throughout the summer and given to the Blue Star Mothers for inclusion in care packages to the troops.

Broadway at the Beach will also donate the loose change that is tossed all summer long in the three fountains throughout its property, and red, white and blue souvenir bracelets are available in Guest Services Center for a $1 donation, with all proceeds from both initiatives going to the Blue Star Mothers.  

Toys for Tots this Summer

During the month of July, Broadway at the Beach will team up with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves to host a Toys for Tots toy drive. Guests can bring a new, unwrapped toy to the Guest Services Cneter throughout the month.

As part of the Great American Summer Nights celebration, Broadway at the Beach has added more patriotic music to the rotation on Radio Broadway, and guests will notice red, white and blue bunting on the center bridge over Lake Broadway.

Military Discounts

More than 80 of Broadway at the Beach’s merchants offer military discounts. The list of those merchants can be found here: or at Guest Services.

Don’t forget the rides!

Keeping the little ones happy is easy at Broadway at the Beach when you head to the Pavilion Park West area that is full of rides for the little ones and big kids too!

Broadway at the Beach Summer 2019

Grammy Tip: All of the rides require that children under 36 inches ride with an adult no matter how small or large the ride is. Be sure to have enough tickets and be ready to ride if your little one doesn’t measure up to the 36 inch line. The ride attendants are very conscientious and do check heights.

What I love most about this area is there are “just enough” rides. Not too many that the kids want to stay there for endless hours but enough to keep them happy after dinner or shopping. There is the perfect mix of attractions for the really little ones mixed in with ones for the tweens, teens and adults.

Grammy Tip: If visiting during the day the South Carolina sun is HOT so bring a small hand towel in your bag for the little one to sit on during their rides so their tiny little bottoms don’t get too hot.

About Broadway at the Beach

Broadway at the Beach is South Carolina’s number one tourist, shopping, dining, and entertainment destination attracting millions of visitors annually. Broadway is set on 350 acres in the heart of Myrtle Beach and features world-class shopping, dining and entertainment in a series of magical, interconnected villages, surrounding the 23-acre Lake Broadway.


Broadway’s distinguished tenant mix has something for the whole family: popular attractions; outstanding restaurants and eateries; extraordinary specialty shops with national and local brands; and first-rate hotels. A past recipient of the South Carolina Governor’s Cup, it was deemed the state’s best travel destination by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.







Best Things to Enjoy in Mobile, Alabama

Every year, thousands of people visit New Orleans because of Mardi Gras. The allure of reveling all day and night in the open streets really take partying to a new level.

Mobile Alabama
Mobile, Alabama – Photo via Washington Examiner

But did you know that it’s not really the first one to offer Carnival season festivities in the country? The first one to do so was Mobile, Alabama.

They have an annual event that really brings revelers to the streets. Theirs is a more family-friendly carnival that even the kids can enjoy and participate in. There are floats and community balls, and the locals wear royal attire fit for the celebration. There are a lot of beads to share and moon pies to eat for every visitor.

But that’s not all. If you’re not really up for the spring party vibe, you can still enjoy Mobile any time. You can hang out on Mobile’s main nightlife spot, Dauphin Street.

You can grab a cold beer while enjoying different food available in the area. This street is the hotspot for the city’s best restaurants. Art and architecture in Mobile easily rivals that of New Orleans and Savannah. You can see distinct influences of the French, Spanish, and English. You can explore different art galleries and soak in the relaxed vibe of a very artistic town.

Other Things to Do in Mobile

Even if your visit is a bit early or a tad late of the carnival festivities celebrated there, you can just drop by the Mobile Carnival Museum. It holds the distinction of being the only museum in the country devoted to the history of Carnival.

Mobile Alabama
Photo via Mobile Carnival Museum

Carnival is the official festival season in Mobile, and you’ll learn more about its origins when you visit the museum. The museum has rooms full of collections of the lavish attire worn for the celebration even back in the days. Oh, and don’t forget to take something home with you! Grab a souvenir mask when you stop by the gift shop.

Your trip back to the past won’t be complete without visiting the historic Oakleigh house in Mobile, AL. This is one of the oldest houses in Mobile, and comes packed with great stories about the past. This museum holds artifacts relating to cotton picking and slavery, railroad expansion, and many more.

There are also things to learn about the Civil War, as well as various epidemics that took countless lives of the local population. This house ‘houses’ the colorful history of the port city, dating back more than 300 years in the past. It’s definitely a must-visit place, especially if you’re looking to learn more about the town.

The Mobile tour won’t be meaningful without stuffing yourself with some of the best foods Mobile, Alabama has to offer. Go from one restaurant to another and enjoy the bountiful harvest from the bay. Get filled with the best oysters of the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Mobile Alabama
Photo Credit:

You can also enjoy classic Alabama barbecue while enjoying great music and company at many different restaurant chains littered across town. All you need is to get out of your hotel room, walk a couple of blocks, and surely, there’s one such restaurant waiting ‘round the corner.

America’s Most Amazing Theme Parks: No. 2 Disneyland

And our series continues with the number two spot for America’s Most Amazing Theme Parks: Disneyland!

Most Amazing Parks Disneyland

Disneyland in California was the very first park opened by Walt Disney. It remains one of the most popular all these years later. The park opened in 1955 and welcomes 18.3 million visitors each year.

No one can visit Southern California without spending a day at the “Happiest Place on Earth!” Disneyland is second only in attendance to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

Since it’s opening in 1955 Disneyland has welcomes more than 700 million people. The park continues to get better with age as evidenced by the recent opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Most Amazing Parks Disneyland

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is the crown jewel of Disneyland. The It’s a Small World attraction in Anaheim offers hidden looks at some Disney and Pixar characters including Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, Cinderella, Aladdin and Jasmine and Woody from Toy Story, and spends a small portion outside.

The New York World’s Fair and Walt Disney

The 1964 New York World’s Fair was a shining moment for Walt Disney and Disneyland. It provided the opportunity to create brilliant attractions that still exist today. The fair also provided funding for Walt Disney Imagineering which led to the development of new vehicles and showmanship that hadn’t been seen before.

Most Amazing Parks Disneyland

One of those new developments included the OmniMover, a ride system still used in iconic attractions like the Haunted Mansion and the Little Mermaid. It also included water driven vehicles like the boats found in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. On top of funding, the Walt Disney Company was also hired by many U.S. companies to build pavilions, including:

  • Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, sponsored by the State of Illinois. This grand attraction is still amazing guests on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland.
  • The Magic Skyway, sponsored by Ford. Parts of the attraction, like Primeval World and the Grand Canyon exhibits, can still be found on the Disneyland Railroad.
  • The Carousel of Progress, sponsored by GE. The attraction was moved to Disneyland after the World’s Fair, but now calls Walt Disney World home.
  • “it’s a small world,” sponsored by Pepsi-Cola.

Each of these World’s Fair pavilions provides fond memories of the past. However, it was the “it’s a small world” attraction that was one of the most popular at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. This pavilion, originally called “Pepsi-Cola presents Walt Disney’s ‘it’s a small world’ – a salute to UNICEF and all of the world’s children,” inspired fair-goers to remember that we are all truly the same. It pulled from cultures around the world and was no surprise when the ride became a permanent attraction at the Disneyland Resort.

Most Amazing Parks Disneyland

Disneyland had opened in 1955 and Walt Disney was always looking for ways to improve his amusement park and he is famously quoted as saying, “Disneyland will never be completed and it will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world”.  So, by working on these various sponsored attractions for the World’s Fair, Disney was able to develop new ride systems which would eventually be used in Disneyland. 

After the conclusion of the New York World’s Fair in 1965, all the attractions were disassembled and moved to Disneyland in Anaheim, California.  (Special Note:  Walt Disney died in 1966 and the four attractions created for the World Fair were some of the last projects that Disney was directly involved in from concept to ride completion.

Disneyland Attractions

Although there are many of the same rides and attractions in Disneyland as in Walt Disney World such as Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – the rides are not identical on both coasts.

Most Amazing Parks Disneyland
The Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland has a very different look from the one in WDW

Disneyland also includes rides that haven’t made it to Florida such as Alice in Wonderland, Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Storybook Land Canal Boats.

There are lots of opportunities to meet the stars of Disneyland. Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Tinker Bell and of course, Minnie and Micky too.

Disney California Adventure

Disneyland’s sister park is full of roller coasters and interactive games starring Disney, Pixar and Marvel characters.

Disney California Adventure opened in 2001 and welcomes 9.6 million visitors annually. California Adventure is the go to park for comic fans and will be even better in 2020 when Marvel Land opens with a Spider Man ride, Avengers roller coaster and Doctor Strange stage show joining Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout.

Pixar Pier and Cars Land are popular areas of California Adventure and both offer fun filled looks into some of the best fantasy Disney has to offer.

One thing is for sure – if you’re a regular Walt Disney World visitor, you should really take the time to visit Disneyland and vice versa. As much as they are the same – they are very, very different.


Did you have the chance to read America’s Most Amazing Theme Parks – The History of Amusement Parks where you can learn how it all started! And don’t miss America’s Most Amazing Theme Parks – No. 1 Walt Disney World.