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  • Let's Try Disney's New Smokejumpers GrillWe review the burgers at this new restaurant in Disney California Adventure
  • Leaders Gather for Annual Thea AwardsThe themed entertainment industry came together for the annual TEA Summit in Anaheim
  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg Announces TempestoThe Sky Rocket II coaster from Premier Rides will open next month
  • The Wizarding World of Harry PotterRead our complete guide to Universal's Harry Potter theme park lands
Let's Try Disney's New Smokejumpers Grill Leaders Gather for Annual Thea Awards Busch Gardens Williamsburg Announces Tempesto The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Robert Niles
Editor

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.

Crowds

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 fried 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.

Moe's

Let's step inside for a drink!

Inside Moe's

Uh, Barney seems to have beaten us to that.

Barney

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
Editor

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
Editor

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

Published: March 27, 2015 at 6:18 AM

It's been more than a year since Walt Disney World implemented its new Fastpass+ system for making reservations for its rides and shows in advance of your visit to the resort. Given the experience that many of us have had with the system, let's take this opportunity to vote on how it's working for us.

If you've visited Walt Disney World during the past year, you probably know that Fastpass+ allows you to make three reservations a day for rides and shows at the Disney parks, up to 30 days in advance of your visit. (It's 60 days for guests who've booked a stay at one of Disney's on-site hotels.) To take advantage of the reservation system, you must have purchased a Disney World theme park ticket and associated it with an account on the Walt Disney World website. Once you're logged in with a valid ticket, you can start making reservations within your time window.

Fastpass+ return at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

We recommend that you use the system to book a visit on the three attractions you most want to experience in the park you'll be visiting that day. (And you can see our suggestions on our theme park travel tips page.) Don't worry about times at first -- just get the attractions you want. That way, you'll be assured of getting in to see the rides or shows you most want to experience with minimal wait, allowing you a bit of peace of mind for the rest of your day. You don't have to rush around the park early in the day to get your first Fastpass, either. You can lock in three for everyone in your group at your convenience, before you leave home.

Now, if you want to play Fastpass+ at the advanced level, try to time your three reservations for early in the day, as Disney will allow you to pick up additional Fastpass+ reservations, one at a time, inside the park on the day of your visit. You can make or change Fastpass+ reservations in the park by getting help from cast members at designated locations in the park, or by using the My Disney Experience app that you can download for your smartphone.

If the attraction you selected is down, for whatever reason, during your scheduled time, the system will (should?) give you a "golden Fastpass" to use on any other attraction in the park, so you won't lose one of your three Fastpass+ line-skipping opportunities.

Okay, that's all good news. The bad news is that the expansion of Fastpass+ to dozens of attractions that never offered ride reservations under the old paper ticket-based Fastpass system has disrupted guest visitation patterns throughout the parks. High-capacity attractions that rarely had long waits before Fastpass+ now often do, as Disney uses the system to direct more guests to those high-capacity attractions, filling both their Fastpass+ return and stand-by queues. People who'd mastered getting the most for their money at Disney under the old system have had to start over and develop new strategies for getting on as many rides and shows as possible during their day.

And making Fastpass+ reservations at home isn't always the carefree experience that Disney promotes. If you want one of the really hard-to-get Fastpasses, such as the Anna and Elsa meet and greet, you'll need to be up at the crack of dawn exactly 60 days before your visit, logging into your Disney World account in an attempt to get one those just-made-available times before they're all gone.

Of course, not every Walt Disney World Resort visitor uses Fastpass+. As with the Fastpass system before it, many visitors just ignore the opportunity to claim reservation times for selected attractions, and choose instead just to use the standby queues as visitors have been doing at theme parks for decades.

For this Vote of the Week, we'd like to ask about your experience with Fastpass+. Have you visited the Walt Disney World Resort since the system went into widespread use in early 2014? If you have, did you use Fastpass+? Did you like the experience, or not?


In the comments, please tell us the one thing that you think other visitors should do to get the most from using Fastpass+. (Or tell us what you think Disney should do to improve the system — and no, it's not going away.) As always, thank you for being part of the Theme Park Insider community!

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Robert Niles
Editor

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
Editor

Disney Announces Tomorrowland Movie Previews for Disneyland, Disney World

Published: March 26, 2015 at 10:20 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

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
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Fury 325 is Creating Buzz at Carowinds

Published: March 25, 2015 at 8:30 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Universal Orlando Installs Metal Detectors at Rip, Ride, Rockit

Published: March 25, 2015 at 7:59 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

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
Editor

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
Editor

Weekly Top 10: The Best Disney Attractions

Published: March 23, 2015 at 10:01 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

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

Published: March 22, 2015 at 8:18 PM

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Russell Meyer
Writer

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Officially Announces Tempesto

Published: March 22, 2015 at 3:13 PM

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