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  • Springfield Opens at Universal Studios HollywoodWe review Krusty Burger and take a look at all the new offerings
  • Ready to Get Twisted?Twisted Colossus is nearing completion at Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Is Fastpass+ Helping or Hurting?Walt Disney World fans debate the program's first year of operation
  • The Wizarding World of Harry PotterRead our complete guide to Universal's Harry Potter theme park lands
Springfield Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood Ready to Get Twisted? Is Fastpass+ Helping or Hurting? The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Robert Niles

Trader Sam's Opens and Aunt Polly's Returns at Walt Disney World

Published: March 28, 2015 at 3:50 PM

It's been a great weekend for new food and drink experiences at top theme park resorts. We told you yesterday about the new Springfield USA restaurants at Universal Studios Hollywood. Today, the east coast welcomed a popular new establishment as another Trader Sam's tiki bar opened at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto

Inspired by the original Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel in California (and, just a little bit, by the old Adventurer's Club at Pleasure Island before that), Trader Sam's Grog Grotto seats 50 inside and 82 on the patio, and wait times for a table inside ran up to four hours, according to readers on Twitter this afternoon.

Shrunken Zombie Head at Trader Sam's

Once in, you can order from a wide selection of tropical inspired drinks (mostly alcoholic, but with a few sans the booze). Many popular choices are served in souvenir mugs and glasses, including the Krakatoa Punch and the Shrunken Zombie Head (pictured above - photos courtesy Disney). A selection of appetizers, including sushi, kalua pork tacos, and bahn mi sliders, also is available.

If you're looking for a different flavor of nostalgia — and a much lower price point — Aunt Polly's reopened today on my beloved Tom Sawyer Island, after an absence of many years.

The walk-up quick-service window is serving turkey sandwiches, PB&Js, and lemonade.

That's a step up from the days when I worked the Tom Sawyer Island rafts, and Polly's served only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and soft drinks. "Where's the lemonade?" might have been the second-most popular question guests asked me when I was working on the island back then. ("How do I get off this island?" being the first, of course.)

Where have you been eating in the parks this weekend? Tell us in the comments.

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Robert Niles

Where to Eat? Springfield USA Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood

Published: March 27, 2015 at 10:52 PM

Universal Studios Hollywood's new "Simpsons"-themed land, Springfield USA, soft-opened today.

We say "soft-opened" because the park hasn't issued yet any press announcement declaring the new land formally opened. Yet I can't recall another soft-opening that fronted the cover of a park's guidemap. Usually, when something gets to that point, it's official.

Let's just ignore the semantics and take a look around, shall we?

Welcome to Springfield USA

Greetings from Springfield USA, the sign says. Just ignore that wizarding village in the background, okay?

Crowds swarmed the new land on its opening day, though it's nice to see the main pathway through the park opened up again.


Lard Lad Donuts is the first of Springfield's many eateries you will encounter as you walk through the land.

Lard Lad

Lard Lad menu

Across the street is Phineas Q. Butterfat's Ice Cream, which was one of four new locations that remained behind barriers and closed to the public while I was at the park today.

Phineas Q. Butterfat's

Next door is Suds McDuff's Hot Dogs.

Suds McDuff's

Beyond that, you will find the entrance to the Duff Brewery beer garden.

Duff Brewery

If you're hungry inside the beer garden after it opens, head over to Bumblebee Man's Tacos, which also remained closed to guests today.

Bumblebee Man's

The Seven Duffs line the entrance to the Duff Brewery. I don't want to know what Sleazy has in mind, though.

Sleazy and Bumblebee Man

Let's try something to eat, shall we? Back across the street, next to the Lard Lad, we'll find the flagship restaurant of the new Springfield land, Krusty Burger.

Krusty Burger

Visitors who have been to Universal Orlando's version of Springfield are in for (yet another) surprise when they enter Hollywood's Krusty Burger.

Inside Krusty Burger

Here, the "Simpsons"-themed restaurants aren't crammed together into one "Fast Food Boulevard" food court. Instead, they each get their own space, with separate ordering and service counters. While that helps each restaurant retain its own thematic identity, it's an extra hassle if one person in your group wants a burger and someone else wants chicken.

After about a five-minute wait, I got through the queue to order The Clogger (bacon double cheeseburger, with waffle fries and cole slaw - $12.99) and a Buzz Cola ($3.69).

The Clogger

The Clogger beat the life out of the chili burger I had at Disney's Smokejumpers Grill earlier this week. Juicy throughout, with the faintest hint of pink in the middle, Universal left some life in these patties, then topped them with wonderfully crispy bacon, "secret sauce," tasty pickles and tomatoes. This might have been the best counter-service burger I've ever had in a theme park, easily surpassing not only California Adventure's offering, but the original Krusty Burger from Orlando, as well.

Another change from Orlando? You'll find most of the dining space upstairs, though there are no windows overlooking the street below.

Upstairs dining

If you want a view, head a few steps into the upstairs dining area, and into Krusty's VIP room.

Krusty's VIP dining room

You'll find mementos from Krusty's long (and entirely made-up) career in here, including the clown's Walk of Fame star.

Walk of Fame star

Cut back across the upstairs dining area, and you'll end up in the second-floor of Cletus' Chicken Shack.

Upstairs at Cletus' Chicken Shack

Cletus serves fried chicken, BBQ grilled chicken sandwiches, and a chicken and waffle sandwich here, at prices similar to the Krusty Burger.

Cletus' menu

Listen for the clucking noises while you stand by the front entrance.

Outside the Chicken Shack

In fact, watch and listen closely throughout Springfield, where the nuclear power plant above you "melts down" every few minutes, belching smoke from its cooling towers while alarms sound. And then look down, to see some of the detail that Universal's embedded in the grates surrounding the trees that line Springfield's sidewalks.

Sidewalk detail

Even though the "actual" new buildings in Springfield are food and beverage locations, Universal's surrounding them with whimsical facades, including Dr. Nick's.

Dr. Nicks's

And at the end of the land, it's Stu's Disco — closed until Disco comes back. Perhaps the wizards about to move in behind you might help with that, Stu.

Stu's Disco

But let's head back to Moe's Tavern, which occupies the first floor between Krusty Burger and Cletus' Chicken Shack.


Let's step inside for a drink!

Inside Moe's

Uh, Barney seems to have beaten us to that.


Never mind, the bartenders here are ready to serve up Duff Beer, Shock Top, or the signature Flaming Moe ($8.99).

Flaming Moe

The Flaming Moe sounds great in theory — a smoking orange beverage that the whole family can enjoy (since it has no alcohol), but at nine bucks, there just wasn't enough flavor here to justify the price, even with the souvenir glass. The Flaming Moe in Florida tasted like an intense orange soda, but this one came across more like a heavily carbonated glass of Tang. (Yes, I am dating myself with that reference.) I won't bother with another one — I'll save my money and the calories for another one of those Cloggers.

All together, Universal Studios Hollywood's version of Springfield takes the concept first developed in Orlando to another level of detail, with an immersive environment that should help make this corner of the park a place where fans will want to linger, instead of just hurrying through to the Studio Tour or the Lower Lot. Great theme parks create a sense of place — a space where visitors want to hang out and be as much as they want to get on to the next ride or show. Springfield finally delivers that for Universal Studios Hollywood.

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Robert Niles

Twisted Colossus Construction Tour: March 2015

Published: March 27, 2015 at 6:16 PM

Six Flags Magic Mountain invited us back out today for another look at the progress on Twisted Colossus, the Rocky Mountain Construction steel re-top of the park's former Colossus wooden coaster.

The lift chains are in place now.

The lift chains are in place now

And workers are installing the lift motors.

Workers installing the lift motors

There's an envelop testing unit on the track, which workers will use to test the clearance around the coaster train along the track, as it is completed.

Awaiting envelope testing on the track

Much of the track is in place now, but some around the Outward Banked Floater remains to be installed.

Track remaining to be installed

We took a walk around the structure to look at one of Twisted Colossus' signature maneuvers, the High Five.

The High Five feature

Workers are building the one of the coasters' inversions, the Top Gun.

Workers building the Top Gun inversion

Six Flags spokespersons said that they are not ready to announce an opening date for the ride, but that they expect to make an announcement of that date within the new couple weeks. In the meantime, we leave you with a photo of Twisted Colossus' drop, with Goliath and Superman in the background

Twisted Colossus, with Goliath and Superman in the background

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Robert Niles

Vote of the Week: After a Year, What's Your Experience with Disney's Fastpass+?

Published: March 27, 2015 at 6:18 AM

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Robert Niles

Hacking the Future of Theme Park Entertainment, This Weekend at Universal Orlando

Published: March 26, 2015 at 4:57 PM

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Robert Niles

Disney Announces Tomorrowland Movie Previews for Disneyland, Disney World

Published: March 26, 2015 at 10:20 AM

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Robert Niles

Has Disney World Started Work on the New Entrance for Hollywood Studios?

Published: March 26, 2015 at 8:34 AM

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Russell Meyer

Fury 325 is Creating Buzz at Carowinds

Published: March 25, 2015 at 8:30 PM

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Universal Orlando Installs Metal Detectors at Rip, Ride, Rockit

Published: March 25, 2015 at 7:59 AM

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Robert Niles

Bonus Vote of the Week: The Best New Coaster of 2015, Part Two

Published: March 24, 2015 at 4:33 PM

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Robert Niles

Where to Eat? Lunch at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

Published: March 24, 2015 at 10:31 AM

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Robert Niles

Weekly Top 10: The Best Disney Attractions

Published: March 23, 2015 at 10:01 AM

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Creative Leaders Come Together for the Annual TEA Summit and Thea Awards

Published: March 22, 2015 at 8:18 PM

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg Officially Announces Tempesto

Published: March 22, 2015 at 3:13 PM

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