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Here’s Your Guide to Getting the Most Out of D.C. Winter Restaurant Week 2015

Here’s Your Guide to Getting the Most Out of D.C. Winter Restaurant Week 2015


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It’s Winter Restaurant Week 2015 in Washington, D.C. Contrary to what some may think, diners and restaurants can have an enjoyable week and leave the battlefield relatively unscathed — but only if everyone plays nice. And yes, some guests will arrive late, grumble about the menus, and expect to dine like gluttons for a discount. However, price-savvy patrons will find plenty of restaurants offering fantastic food, service, and therefore value, and not everyone who wants to save money on dining out is a cheapskate.

So, how do you make the most of this week of food and fun? Use our list to guide your choices. We’ve chosen restaurants that offer a range of dining styles, cuisines, and new experiences, and many of them are offering true value by discounting their regular menus.

In case you somehow missed the media hoopla about this year’s restaurant week, here are the details:

· Restaurant Week is hosted by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW)

· It runs from Monday, January 19, to Monday, January 25

· This year, more than 200 restaurants are participating

· Not all restaurants serve both lunch and dinner, and they are not required to offer their regular menus at a discount. Some do, and others create special menus just for the week; this is not always a bad thing, and some chefs use it as a chance to introduce new dishes

· The prix fixe, three-course lunch menus are $20.15 per person, not including drinks, tax, or gratuity

· The prix fixe, three-course dinner menus are $35.15 per person, not including drinks, tax, or gratuity

· New this year, RAMW invites diners to get social and share their dining experiences with RAMW’s 7 Days / 7 Winners social media contest. Diners who snap and post envy-inspiring pictures to their Instagram accounts as they dine in participating restaurants. Diners who follow RAMW on Instagram (@RAMWdc), use the hashtag #DMVRW, and tag participating restaurants are automatically eligible to win fantastic prizes, including roller derby tickets, brunch gift certificates, cookbooks, and the grand prize of two tickets to the 33rd annual Rammy Awards and Gala

· Restaurant Week sponsor True Aussie Lamb is also hosting a photography contest for diners this year. Diners who upload a picture of a participating restaurant’s featured Australian lamb dish to Instagram using the hashtag #AussieLambDC will be eligible to win exciting prizes

PARKING PERK: If you want to drive in from the suburbs, or live in D.C. but just can’t face the cold walk to and from the Metro, there’s a parking perk you might want to consider. Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week has teamed up with Parking Panda to offer 100-percent guaranteed parking at garages, valets, and parking lots near participating restaurants. By paying in advance, you are guaranteed a spot even if the lots and garages are full. Learn more here.

Acadiana

We suggest you laissez les bon temps rouler and dine on Cajun-Creole fare from The Big Easy at Acadiana. The restaurant is warm, welcoming, down-home, and yet still refined, thanks to chef Jeff Tunks and executive chef Brant Tesky, who make sure this Louisiana fish house’s food doesn’t disappoint. They take pride in claiming that Acadiana is the only restaurant in the nation's capital to serve Louisiana cuisine at a heightened level of elegance. They are participating for both lunch and dinner, and some standouts from their menus include classic turtle soup; American red snapper with spicy celery root purée, shiitake mushrooms, rapini, and pickled corn emulsion; and decadent chocolate Doberge cake.

Agora

Mediterranean and Turkish cuisine is root in ancient gastronomic traditions and always well worth exploring, but especially so during Restaurant Week. Executive chef Ghassan Jarrouj of Angora has created a menu that’s a culinary journey through the Adriatic and along the coasts of the Eastern Mediterranean. Lunch is a showcase of lighter Turkish fare that tickles the senses, beginning with classic mezze dishes like Imam Bayıldı with baby eggplant stuffed with onions, tomatoes, pine nuts, and garlic; and entrée options like adana kebap of skewered ground lamb and beef with grilled tomatoes and sumac onions on pita bread. For a sweet finish, guests can choose from kadayıf disks of shredded phyllo dough layered with vanilla milk pudding topped with orange blossom honey and pistachios, or the pistachio baklava. The dinner offering will allow guests to enjoy a five-course meal, beginning with the same sampler featured at lunch, as well as the same options for their second course.

Ardeo + Bardeo

Cleveland Park favorite Ardeo + Bardeo is serving some of the best modern American cuisine for dinner only, but is extending the special menu and pricing an extra week through February 1. With a varied and well-designed menu, Ardeo + Bardeo offers delicious dishes to diners with a variety of taste and diet preferences. Diners may choose one dish from the vegetables, savory snacks, or soup and salads section, one dish from the pastas, seafood or meats section, and one dessert. For a taste of Morocco, try the harissa-roasted cauliflower with chickpeas, hummus, and cilantro tabouleh; pan-roasted branzino with apricot-olive quinoa, mustard greens, and lemon; and finish with a sweet flourish with coffee and doughnuts. Be sure to ask about their wine specials, too.

DBGB Kitchen and Bar

Now that Daniel Boulud has made his foray into the D.C. restaurant scene, it’s time to see what he has in store for district diners at DBGB Kitchen and Bar. While his menu for Restaurant Week includes continental fare from his regular menu, there are a few dishes with a distinctly Gallic flavor. Take the duck pâté starter; it is definitely classic and French, served with frisée, whole grain mustard, and country bread, or The Frenchie: a magnifique version of a burger that’s a seven-ounce beef patty with confit pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and Morbier cheese, served on a potato bun with cornichons, mustard, and fries.

Farmers Fishers Bakers

Farm-to-table restaurant Farmers Fishers Bakers is offering the discounted prix fixe price for both lunch and dinner. At lunch, diners can choose salad, soup, or sushi for a starter, entrée options include any entrée $16 or under, and dessert choices include any dessert off the menu. The spicy sausage Provençal mussel pot sounds just about right for a starter in this cold weather. Dinner is a choice of salad, soup, or sushi for a starter, any entrée $24 or under, and a choice of any dessert off the menu. With $24 to spend on an entrée, you can order free-range beef, and may we suggest the steak frites? You will want to pace yourself to save room for a house made dessert, like peanut butter mousse pie. Reservations can be made online at their website.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria literally means "fire kitchen and tequila bar," and with a fiery menu and more than 100 tequilas to choose from, why not fiesta the night away at least one night during Restaurant Week? They are only participating for dinner, and guests can choose any entrée and appetizer from the full menu and any dessert from the Restaurant Week menu. Crowd favorites include the starter of Coctél de mariscos with shrimp, octopus, tilapia, spicy tomato, and avocado; a hearty entrée of grilled skirt steak with cebolleta and blistered jalapeños, which is perfect when it’s frigid outside; and irresistible warm churros with canela caramel.

Jardenea at Melrose Georgetown Hotel

Jardenea, and executive chef Nate Lindsay, are passionately dedicated to the locavore movement and exemplify the credo that knowing where our food comes from is not a luxury, but a necessity. Their lunch and dinner menus for Restaurant Week celebrate the bounty of the Chesapeake and include spectacular starters like the cast-iron seared jumbo blue crab cake served with apple cider-braised collard greens, charred heirloom tomatoes, and smoked bacon. Entrées are imaginative and enticing and include standouts like the Dutch Valley veal ossobuco accompanied by herbed soft polenta with Cremini mushrooms and Marsala cream.

The Oval Room

Expensive, upscale restaurants in D.C. are not an endangered species. However, restaurants that offer impeccable service, a fantastic wine list, stellar food, and pricing that doesn’t cost a month’s pay — well, that’s a rare bird indeed. Then we remember The Oval Room. When they launched their special $20 Lunch @ Bar menu in 2014, they broke the glass ceiling on the dining-versus-value equation. Therefore, we weren’t surprised when they offered outstanding menus for both lunch and dinner. Their lineup includes a choice of four mouthwatering starters like chicken liver mousse with red wine apple butter and brioche tuille. There are five excellent entrée selections like the pan-roasted Teres Major steak with crispy potatoes, Cipollini onions, and black truffle emulsion. There are three dessert selections, but a standout is definitely the Bûche de Noël with pomegranate jelly.

Rasika West End

This now-beloved Indian restaurant is a jewel in the crown of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, and executive chef Vikram Sunderam’s eclectic menu of traditional and modern Indian food is worth exploring for lunch during Restaurant Week. Appetizer highlights include smoked lamb galouti prepared with cashew nuts, saffron, and tawa paratha; sea bass dakshini with curry leaves, fennel seeds, black pepper, and upma; and famous palak chaat, crispy baby spinach with sweet yogurt, tamarind, and date chutney. Entrée standouts are Kerala fish curry with grouper, mustard seeds, poppy seeds, and green chilies; tandoori salmon with lime leaves, ginger, garlic, and lemon pickle; and Thali vegetable hot pot with palak paneer and dal makhani. Featured desserts include mango and passion fruit sorbet; gulab jamun with cardamom ice cream; white chocolate kheer; and mocha ice cream.

Smith & Wollensky

Smith & Wollensky doesn’t mess around when it comes to quality, air-dried, and aged beef, so the chance to savor some hearty beef dishes is sure to please meat lovers. They are please to extend Restaurant Week menus and pricing until January 31 and highlight specials that feature a particularly meaty theme. They have added a new item to the winter seasonal menu: beef bacon! The three-course menus include several starter, entrée, and dessert items that feature beef bacon-inspired dishes such as the “S&Wellington” prepared with beef bacon-wrapped tenderloin tournedos with mushroom ragout and puff pastry, and scallops and beef bacon with foraged mushrooms and balsamic glaze. The lunch menu includes the famous Wollensky’s Butcher Burger that comes topped with beef bacon, aged Cheddar, and special Smith & Wollensky steak sauce mayonnaise. For dessert, dark chocolate candied beef bacon satisfies as both a sweet and savory ending.

Toro Toro

If you haven’t tried acclaimed Toro Toro chef and owner Richard Sandoval’s signature On the Run Exec Express Lunch Buffet, you are missing out on one of D.C.’s best-kept bang-for-your-buck secrets. Sandoval’s Pan-Latin cuisine is wonderfully interpreted by executive chef Felipe Milanes’ daily rotating menu of salads, ceviche, carved meats, and desserts. Tempting choices from the lunch menu include chipotle barbecue pork shoulder with ancho chile, chipotle, and Mexican chocolate; and leg of lamb with adobo, chimichurri, and mint. The dinner menu is just as tempting with dishes empanada criolla of potato, peas, poblano, chorizo, chicken, Oaxaca cheese, and aji verde; Spanish ham croquettes with Chinese mustard and chipotle aioli; and chocotorta Argentina with cream cheese, Kahlua, and strawberry glaze. Toro Toro will be extending their Restaurant Week offering from January 19 through February 1.

Summer Whitford is the D.C. City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal and the DC Wine Examiner. You can follow her on Twitter @FoodandWineDiva.


Explainer: Will a juror’s presence at a D.C. march impact the Derek Chauvin case?

The revelation that a juror who helped convict a former Minneapolis police officer in the killing of George Floyd had participated in a march in Washington, D.C., months before the trial is unlikely to affect that guilty verdict, experts say.

But that’s not always the case. Though rare, there have been cases in which convictions have been tossed out or reexamined after new information about a juror is discovered. Here’s a look at the issue and what comes next:


Top Wedding Trends in Arizona

One of the biggest trends for weddings in Arizona is the number of couples who opt to have their weddings outdoors. Nationwide couples are evenly split between choosing indoor and outdoor weddings, but an overwhelmingly large number choose outdoor wedding venues in Arizona. According to The Knot 2015 Real Wedding Study, 76 percent of couples in Phoenix and 67 percent of couples in Tucson choose outdoor wedding venues.

According to our survey, between 78 percent and 85 percent of couples in Arizona go for semiformal or formal weddings, ensuring that their guests dress to the nines for the occasion. Green weddings, or eco-friendly weddings, have become quite popular in the state. From organic fabrics for the clothing to organic, local foods for the reception, Arizona couples are finding distinct ways to reduce their carbon footprint and lower their impact on the environment when planning their weddings.

Two of the state's most abundant resources—silver and turquoise—find their way into many weddings as a theme or part of the décor.


2. Planta in Toronto, Canada

One of four restaurants run by chef David Lee , Planta serves up a vegan menu inspired by French and Italian cuisine, with dishes such as tuna tartare made from beetroot and served with avocado chutney. There’s no soy protein in sight as the menu replaces meat with appropriately textured vegetables, for instance, the “crab” cakes are made from palm hearts and the bolognese is crafted from mushrooms. The Toronto branch has a clean, modern feel and also serves up signature cocktails.

Other upscale Toronto eateries include Rosalinda , which offers high-end vegan Mexican cuisine with dishes such as coconut ceviche and jackfruit pibl tacos.

Original Sin is an Italian and Mediterranean restaurant in Singapore.


Mickey/Minnie Ears

The $48 ear hat sold out rather quickly, which we definitely expected — who wouldn’t want these heart-warming ears?!

See the Up Designer Ears Online HERE!

And if you missed the cutoff for the designer ears, then check out this pair from BoxLunch. The Minnie Mouse Ice Cream Cone Ears are making us seriously crave a cold cone, even though it’s the middle of winter!

They’re covered in a fluffy blue material to mimic the ice cream, with a waffle cone background, and a sparkly red bow. We’re very curious to see what these look like in-person, and you can find out for $18.67 (they’re currently on sale).

Shop the Ice Cream Ears Here!

Like most Minnie ears, this pair is $29.99 and you can currently find them in the parks as well.

Purchase the Minnie Donut Ears Here!


2021 Spring Dining Guide

Profits? They’re such a pre-pandemic topic of conversation among restaurants.

Press? Publicity remains welcome, but the No. 1 response I get when I talk to the chefs and owners of restaurants that opened in the past year or so concerns people: diners who sustained the industry by ordering takeout, buying gift cards and tipping generously, but also workers who helped keep the lights on.

“People are why we do this,” says Tony Foreman, the veteran Baltimore restaurateur. “This time has hyper-focused it for me. We teach and lead people, cook for people, clean up for people.” The co-owner of the grand Charleston and the new Cindy Lou’s Fish House says he does not intend to get to the other side of the pandemic as the same person. “I want to be sure we prioritize people, the public health, human voices.”

Tim Ma, co-owner of the youthful Lucky Danger, says, “Covid made us all slow down and look at life.” Was the restaurant rat race worth it? His latest restaurant, one of 22 featured in my spring dining guide, is also his most personal, an homage to the long-ago Chinese takeout opened by his uncle in New York. “I’ve come full circle,” says the chef. “There’s legacy to be left there.”

When I penned a love letter to the trade last spring, forecasts were grim and no one was certain what recovery might look like. Through resilience and creativity — tools that chefs relied on as never before — the men and women who feed and serve us rose to the industry’s greatest challenge in such a remarkable way, I felt compelled to share their successes in a fall dining guide.

Chef Michael Rafidi in the kitchen at Albi in Washington. (Scott Suchman for The Washington Post)

The Tripleta sandwich at La Famosa restaurant. The bento box meal at Cranes. (Photos by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post)

LEFT: The Tripleta sandwich at La Famosa restaurant. RIGHT: The bento box meal at Cranes. (Photos by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post)

Hurdles remain, including the ongoing problems of food supply chains. And then there’s lack of staff. Every restaurateur I’ve pulse-checked recently bemoans the shortage of the many hosts, cooks, servers, sommeliers, managers and dishwashers who left the field when they lost their jobs and haven’t returned.

Glass half-full: A lot of businesses made it through the dark of winter. As is their inclination, hospitality types comforted diners with welcome distractions. Here’s hoping heaters, blankets, fire pits and igloos keep us warm during cold times in the years ahead.

“We survived,” says Darren Norris of Shibuya Eatery in Adams Morgan, which opened in July. “We’ll make it to the other side.”

Spring, the season of renewal, is a time of reflection. These days, I’m marveling at the good work I see on the dining landscape, especially among restaurants, many run by people of color or women, that opened their doors despite a global crisis. Join me as I raise a Fauci-Pouchy (what’s more reassuring a drink than one with the good doctor’s mug on it?) to 22 examples of determination and deliciousness.

Diners on the outdoor patio overlooking the Potomac River. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Ada’s on the River

Get a view of the Potomac and a taste of Randall Matthews’ polished cooking

Entrees $19 to $32

The surf is as good as the turf is as good as the view at the 10th and largest dining venue from Alexandria Restaurant Partners. Piloting the kitchen is Randall J. Matthews, former chef de cuisine at the beloved St. Anselm near Union Market in the District. The Maryland native delivers everything you expect of a proper steakhouse, along with dishes that are, as he playfully puts it, “against the grain.”

Dinner can commence with a wedge salad — or a foie gras doughnut. Entrees include 75-day aged New York strip, but also ricotta gnocchi infused with the smoke of a live fire. Matthews figures 90 percent of his work touches some part of the grill before it leaves his open kitchen — salads included.

The beef is all prime and dry-aged. Go for the signature cut: a flavorful tri-tip, which the chef rubs with powders and spices before cooking sous-vide and finishing on the grill. Like all the steaks, this one benefits from a brush with beef fat. Matthews, a pescatarian, lavishes just as much attention on seafood and vegetables. Cue the tall crab cake, framed in creamed leeks and pickled shallots. Bring on the spinach, uncut greens mixed with not too much Mornay sauce and Parmesan, meaning the spinach retains its texture and taste.

Ada’s chocolate souffle takes 20 minutes to prepare. Use the time to admire the company’s recent expansion nearby: Barca, a Mediterranean-themed wine bar positioned on its own pier on the Potomac.

3 Pioneer Mill Way, Alexandria, Va.

Dinner daily, lunch weekdays, brunch weekends

Delivery via website, Uber Eats or Grubhub. Pickup via website, Grubhub, Uber Eats or phone. Accessibility: Wheelchair-friendly ramps at the entrance and ADA-compliant restrooms.

Grilled black bass. (Scott Suchman for The Washington Post)

21 Universal Studios Tips to Maximize Your Time

1. Buy your tickets in advance.

You'll always save time and money when you buy your Universal Studios Hollywood tickets in advance. If you want to skip the lines and get priority seating for shows, consider purchasing a Universal Express ticket, which includes admission as well as one-time express access to each ride, show and attraction.

During the Universal Studios reopening period, the ticket booths are not selling tickets. The park must limit capacity with advance purchase tickets or reservations for previously purchased tickets. Date-based tickets are back on sale as of April 8, 2021. If you have tickets purchased before April 8, 2021, you'll need to make a reservation before visiting. Pass holders no longer need to make reservations.

2. Pick the best times to visit.

While any day you can head to Universal Studios Hollywood is a great day, some days are better than others! You'll find the waits are lowest in the fall, winter and spring. Avoid the days around the holidays and times when children are out of school. Weekdays are often less crowded than weekends. Be sure to hop over to our Los Angeles Crowd Calendar to check out crowd predictions and hop over to our guide to the best times to visit Universal Studios Hollywood. Another thing to consider is park hours. Check the park hours before your visit. When park hours are short (say, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), you'll especially want to arrive early to fit everything in before the park closes.

Of course, in 2021, capacity is limited to allow for plenty of physical distancing space in the park. The Studio Tour and ride capacity will be limited, as well. You'll want to plan ahead when purchasing tickets no matter when you visit to make sure the date you want has availability.

3. Consider the Universal Express Pass during the busiest times.

If you are planning to visit around the holidays, spring break or summer, consider purchasing Universal Express passes. With it, you will get one-time priority access to every ride, show and attraction! Now that's the way to maximize your time at Universal Studios Hollywood! And with the Universal Express Pass, you should have no problem seeing most attractions, even on the super busy days. The park limits the number of Universal Express passes it sells, and the price can fluctuate at the park depending on the season and demand. Buying Universal Studios Hollywood Universal Express passes in advance are a must if you cannot arrive in the morning to purchase them at the gate.

With the box offices closed, you can still upgrade in the park. Or, you may want to plan ahead by purchasing Universal Express in advance. If one-time priority access is not enough, you may be able to upgrade in-park to Unlimited Universal Express. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it could come in handy if you are visiting on a busy day and you want to ride again, and again, and again.

Even with reduced capacity in the park, you will run into lines. If the rides have empty rows to space out parties, it will reduce the number of people who can ride, leading to lines. Universal Express is one toadally awesome way to skip the lines, during the reopening period.

4. Arrive ahead of park opening.

We frogs have a saying . the early frog gets the flies! When you arrive ahead of park opening, you will be one of the very first people inside the park and will have the opportunity to experience the rides with the very lowest waits of the entire day. This is one of our top Universal Studios tips!

If you are at the park entrance 30 minutes early, you just might get in early (depending on the day). Not all attractions may be open, but it gives you a great head start to your day. If the Lower Lot is open, head there first and knock out those rides early in the day as they generally form the longest lines later.

During some peak seasons, Universal may offer early entry (which can be purchased directly through Universal). This is no longer offered daily or even for some holidays. But if early entry is happening, the park may open the gates to all guests after they let in any guests with early entry tickets. That means you may score early access to the Wizarding World before the park officially opens! This may vary based on the time of year and size of the crowd. But it's todally cool when it happens.

5. Allow at least 30 minutes for parking and security.

Give yourself enough time to park, walk to security and get through the metal detectors. Most general parking is sent to the farthest parking structures. Those lots will have you walking through Universal CityWalk (about 10 to 15 minutes) to get to the security screening area. You can upgrade to Preferred parking to park at Frankenstein (and sometimes even closer to the front gate). The Frankenstein structure is very close to the park exit for that quick getaway at the end of the night. You can further upgrade to Front Gate parking, which puts you right next to security. That saves time, but costs more money. If you plan to shop and eat in CityWalk anyway, then regular parking makes the most sense.

6. Eat breakfast before you arrive.

So that you maximize your time experiencing the rides, shows and entertainment, we suggest you eat breakfast before you head to the park! We give two thumbs up to the buffet at Universal Hilton (as low as $201 a night), which includes a variety of cheeses, cold cuts, fresh fruit, muffins, a doughnut bar, dim sum, pork dumplings, eggs, bacon and even Nutella! Wandering through Universal CityWalk, your breakfast options include Starbucks, Johnny Rockets, Subway, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Voodoo Doughnut. If you've skipped breakfast, The Three Broomsticks serves an English breakfast in the Wizarding World.

7. Bring your own water.

While Universal Studios Hollywood isn't as lenient as the Disneyland Resort about bringing in outside food, you can bring water bottles (maximum 2 liters), baby food, small snacks, fruits and vegetables into the park. You can bring items required for medical purposes and special dietary needs. Small, soft-sided, insulated bags are okay, but you will need to leave coolers and food purchased from outside locations (minus the above exceptions) at home. Note that Universal Studios Hollywood does not even allow water or any food brought in for Halloween Horror Nights.

If you are concerned about meeting your dietary needs in the park, you can consult the Dietary Food Guide for hints on how to find gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and peanut-free foods in the park.

8. Check the park website if you want to spot some celebs.

A couple of weeks before your park visit, check the official website to find out which celebs will be filming. Sometimes "Access Hollywood" films just inside security in front of the Globe during the morning hours. "The Voice" is filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood. If you want to attend a taping, you can find tickets here. But it is best to attend on a day you are not visiting the theme park because tapings and their check-ins are time-consuming and have dress codes.

9. Schedule your day according to the shows.

Not all shows will reopen right away. The Animal Actors Stage reopened first. Shows will have to limit capacity to space out the audience. That means the stadiums may fill up sooner than they would in a normal year, so the bottom line is to arrive early if you want to see a show.

In a normal year, we schedule our day around the shows we want to see. Since the rides run continuously, but the shows do not, it's best to schedule your day around the show schedule. Universal Studios Hollywood publishes a show schedule on its website and in its official app. There are also show and wait time boards located around the park. Shows normally begin in the late morning, so if you arrive at or before park opening, this gives you plenty of time to experience The Wizarding World and Lower Lot attractions (which have much shorter wait times early in the day) before the shows start. The shows offer a rest for your tired flippers in the afternoon.

10. Plan your visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

One of our top Universal Studios tips is to break up your visits to The Wizarding World, which is centrally located in the Upper Lot. You can ride the Wizarding World rides — Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff — first thing in the morning. Then, tear yourself away to other rides with short wait times (such as those in the Lower Lot). Circle back to Hogsmeade later in the day for lunch or dinner and shopping when the wait times in the park peak. Both of the rides in the Wizarding World accept Universal Express passes, but Ollivanders Wand pairing demonstration does not (note that Ollivanders is temporarily closed). The line for Ollivanders is longest in the morning after opening. The line drops off significantly in the late afternoon and evening, so it is better to wait.

During the reopening period, we have found that the Wizarding World has the shortest waits in the later afternoon and early evening, so save your visit for these rides at the end of your day.

11. Hit the Lower Lot in the morning.

If you arrive at opening, you also should have no problem hitting the Lower Lot with very few people and minimum waits. We have put together a Universal Studios Hollywood Park Plan so that you can prioritize the rides, shows and attractions. Be sure to ask when the Lower Lot opens. Lately it is when the park opens, but at slower times it could be an hour later. Hit the Lower Lot ASAP for the shortest wait times of the day.

There's now a new Indominus rex animatronic as part of Jurassic World — The Ride. That means try to hop on the ride as early as you can to experience this new ending! It's so realistic!

12. Try to reduce time on the StarWay.

The series of elevators that connect the Upper Lot and the Lower Lot are very loooonnnnngggggg and can very well take 10 minutes each way (or more during peak times). Avoid multiple trips at all costs by doing everything in the Lower Lot once! We recommend hitting the Lower Lot first (as soon as it opens in the morning) because the lines are shortest there in the morning. They peak in the afternoon.

13. Use the Single Riders line.

Heads up for 2021 visitors: Single Riders lines are not allowed when any of the California theme parks reopen. Ride attendants will be spacing guests out rather than filling empty seats and putting parties together. But here's a look at how to use Single Rider once it returns. (It's our favorite way to skip the lines for free!)

If you don't mind splitting up your party on a ride, the Single Riders line is the fastest way to get on a ride without having a Universal Express Pass. Plus, it's a free way to skip the line! It's one of our top tips to maximize time at Universal Studios Hollywood. There are minimum Universal Studios height requirements for tadpoles to ride without an adult, so make sure they measure up first.

Attractions with the Single Riders line:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Revenge of the Mummy - The Ride
  • Transformers: The Ride 3D
  • Jurassic World - The Ride

14. Head to the Studio Tour in the heat of the day (during the pandemic, we recommend riding in the morning as soon as you finish the Lower Lot rides, since physical distancing makes for longer wait times)

The Studio Tour is what makes Universal Studios Hollywood, well, Universal Studios Hollywood. You will go down to the Backlot, where you will visit some of the most famous backdrops in movie-making history! The Bates Motel, Wisteria Lane from "Desperate Housewives" and town square from "Back To The Future," just to name a few. You might even see some filming taking place! King Kong 3D and Fast and Furious make the tour an exciting ride, as well. We recommend it in the late morning, afternoon or early evening when waits for other attractions are high, temperatures begin to rise and your legs could use an hour of rest. Also, keep in mind that the Studio Tour closes before Universal Studios Hollywood closes, so check the last tram departure and wait times so you don't miss out.

As you may have guessed, the Studio Tour will be spacing guests out and that means there will be limited capacity and fewer people able to ride in a typical day during Universal's reopening period. Our advice is to arrive at the Studio Tour earlier rather than waiting until the end of the day so you do not miss out. Expect a physically distant line, as well.

15. Have lunch during off-peak times.

You'll save the most time at Universal Studios Hollywood if you dine outside of peak meal times. Know that there are no table-service restaurants within the park and you won't be able to make reservations in advance. If you are looking for a sit-down restaurant, there are plenty of options at CityWalk next door. Try the tasty Costa Rican food at Jurassic Cafe in the Lower Lot. If you are a Harry Potter fan (OK, even if you aren't), we find the most relaxing and delicious meal in the park to be at The Three Broomsticks. Grab an early lunch or early dinner and eat like a wizard in a replica of an iconic Harry Potter setting. Wizarding alcoholic beverages are available for purchase in the Hog's Head Pub.

One big change to dining will be where you can eat. You cannot help but notice more tables spread out around the park to offer more distanced and outdoor areas to eat. Enjoy the views. These are the only place to remove your face covering. You will even eat snacks there. Bring credit cards, debit cards and gift cards as preferred forms of payment.

16. Don't want to worry about anything? Purchase the VIP Experience.

The VIP experience is more limited in capacity at this time, so you'll get a private theme park tour with a maximum of 10 people per tour and no more than three households.

With the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience ticket , you will enjoy a six- to eight-hour personal, guided tour of the park. This includes valet parking, a light breakfast in the private VIP lounge, exclusive Backlot access, unlimited priority access (think Universal Express) to all of the rides and shows (with a guide to get you the best seats) and a gourmet, all-you-can-eat lunch at the Moulin Rouge dining room. You'll take a trolley down to the Backlot and visit working sound stages, Universal's sound department and prop warehouse and other areas not open to the general public. The order on the itinerary can vary per day, but you will eat about three hours into your tour. There is limited availability, so book in advance. Children must be at least 5 years old.

17. Take advantage of Child Switch.

If any of your children cannot ride, an adult can wait with the child in the attraction’s Child Switch room. When the rest of the party returns, you can switch and take a companion with you. We have more tips for entertaining small children at Universal Studios Hollywood if you are bringing a little tadpole with you.

During Universal's reopening period, Child Switch is offered, but you'll wait outside the attraction.

18. Make the best of ride breakdowns.

Sometimes a ride experiences technical difficulties. If you happen to be on the ride when this happens and team members need to have you exit (or delay you on the ride before it starts operating again), they will generally try to keep you hoppy with some consolation prizes. These may include a treat. We have gotten packets of Jelly Belly jellybeans. They may also tell you a secret code to come back and ride again (once the attraction reopens) without having to wait. Remember this word or snap a picture of it, just in case you forget it.

And the best prize of all is a single-use Universal Express Pass (it is good for any ride except Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey). But be smart: They only give one pass per party (each pass admits up to five people). When team members ask how many people are in your party, you might divide into smaller groups — especially if you are planning to split up or head to different rides. So one family of five could technically be five parties of one. You might decide to share rides together after all by jumping in on a family member’s pass or decide to split up because you enjoy different rides. Anyway, if things go wrong, we frogs always try to make the best of it. And the benefits from breaking down can mean less time standing in line.

19. Take a break midday.

In a perfect world, you could arrive before park opening and stay until the very end. That way, you could take advantage of the shortest lines and most comfortable temperatures at the end of the day. But that is easier said than done. All of the walking, heat (especially in summer) and missed nap times take their toll. If your hotel is nearby, consider leaving midday to escape the crowds and heat. Be sure to hold onto your ticket and get a hand stamp when you exit. Relax in a hotel pool or darkened hotel room to recharge for the evening. This is only recommended for days with longer park hours. Otherwise, you might miss out on experiencing everything.

If you don’t want to leave the park, the Special Effects Show (temporarily unavailable) and Kung Fu Panda are air-conditioned, making them a great choice for cooling off and escaping the sun. Use this time to meet characters. The tadpoles will enjoy splashing in the Wet Zone area at Super Silly Fun Land, which has over 80 water play features. Parents can sit in the shade and cool off in the mist while watching the kids.

Another cool suggestion is heading out to Universal CityWalk. This themed mall offers familiar and unique shopping, dining and entertainment. Tad loves Things From Another World — a crazy comic book and sci-fi shop. Lily is into the whole "crazy socks" thing, so The Los Angeles Sock Market is her haven. For dinner, we're fans of Karl Strauss Brewing and Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. #finstotheleft We usually visit CityWalk after we've left the park for the night because CityWalk is open later than the theme park.

Something to consider during or after your day of movie theme park thrills is catching a movie at the Universal Cinema AMC Theater. A dark, air-conditioned theater can be a welcome oasis for tired bodies and a fun way to close down a day. Bring your Universal Studios Parking ticket to the theater Box Office for a parking rebate.

20. Save your souvenir shopping until the end.

Many of the items you can find throughout the park are also available at the gift shops on the way to the park exit (including Wizarding World souvenirs and candies). You can avoid lugging bags with you through the park and shop in a less-crowded store with perhaps shorter lines just before leaving. Plus, your chocolate frogs won’t melt in the sweltering heat if you buy them just before you leave. So unless you are looking for an interactive wand, themed mask or accessory that you can enjoy in the park, save your shopping until just before exit time.

Keep an eye out for lines to get into shops due to reduced indoor capacity. Try to hop in when the line is low.

21. Download the Universal Studios Hollywood app.

The Universal Studios Hollywood app is your best guide in the park for quickly finding upcoming shows, reserving a showtime, checking wait times and locating restaurants or shops. It also guides you through Universal CityWalk. The park offers free Wi-Fi. You can always ask a team member if you can't find a showtime, such as the Wizarding World performances (temporarily unavailable) since not every show is listed.

You may also use the Universal Studios Hollywood app to get a Virtual Line Pass, when offered. Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash offers a Virtual Line. That allows you to enjoy the rest of the park instead of standing in a long line! You have to be physically in the park to get a pass. We recommend joining the virtual line once it opens mid orning. You can also join the Virtual Line near the ride at kiosks that look like subway ticket machines (toadally awesome feature, BTW). You can join the Virtual Line and from the ticket machine as it is not linked to your park ticket.

Have a Universal Studios Hollywood tip we didn't mention or a question? Share it in comments below! Don't froget, we offer a Universal Studios Hollywood Park Plan to maximize your time!


Can Universal Orlando Be Done in One Day?

The simple answer is: Yes! it’s toadally possible to fit Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure into one day. What makes park hopping easy at Universal Orlando is the fact that the two parks are right next to each other. You can exit one park and walk to the entrance of the other, or you could take the Hogwarts Express! The proximity of the two parks greatly helps when you’re trying to experience as many attractions as possible. You don’t have to worry about driving somewhere else or relying on other forms of transportation. As a bonus, the Hogwarts Express is an attraction in itself, so you’re really hitting two lily pads in one leap. If you have enough time, ride the Hogwarts Express twice, as each direction tells a different story.

That said, it’s impossible to experience EVERYTHING that both parks have to offer in one day, even if the parks aren’t too busy. If only Hermione Granger’s time turner were real so you could hit all of the attractions … but in reality, you have to prioritize your must-do rides or shows, which will require some planning. It’s important to be aware of this expectation so you don’t leave the parks disappointed! We usually recommend at least a full day at each park, and maybe more depending on time of year and a few other factors, but sometimes that's just not possible.

Frogtunately, we have some advice on how to make the most out of Universal Orlando in one day, which involves some planning ahead. We’ve split up our tips into things that you can do before your trip and things you can do inside the parks to maximize your time.


Guide to Spices

Cinnamon is a staple of baked goods like apple pies and oatmeal cookies. But it's also used in savory dishes, like Indian curries and Moroccan chicken, and it's a favorite for spicing up hot drinks like Mexican hot chocolate and mulled wine. As sticks, cinnamon can keep for two to three years, but ground cinnamon needs to be used more quickly. When buying ground cinnamon, look for the palest powders – they have the most flavor.

Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices, due to the exhaustive process of cultivating and curing the long thin pods. Vanilla beans are the fruit of a specific orchid, and the pods are cured for three to six months, drying in the sun and sweating in blankets, until they are shrunken, brown and fermented. Seventy-five percent of the world's vanilla comes from Madagascar. To use the beans, slit down the middle and scrape the seeds into foods. Vanilla extract is made by chopping vanilla beans and macerating with alcohol, so the flavor is drawn out. Don't be tempted into buying the much cheaper imitation vanilla – it's usually pure artificial flavoring with a chemical-like taste.

Black pepper is a fundamental spice that is used around the world to season almost every savory dish. It grows in grape-like clusters on a pepper plant, the fruit dried to produce the familiar spice.

Peppercorns can be black, green or white, but the most common is the strongest flavored black peppercorn. Black pepper is usually added at the end of cooking to season a dish, but when added in larger amounts it has a bold flavor without too much heat. Green and white peppercorns are milder flavored. Resist the urge to buy a large container of pre-ground pepper – once ground it loses flavor quickly and is best used within four months.

Paprika, commonly used as a garnish and to spice up foods, is a powder made by finely grinding different types of red pepper pods. Color and flavor vary from mild to hot and orange to red. Hungarian paprika is considered the best quality, and the spice is a staple of traditional Hungarian dishes. Pimenton, a type of Spanish paprika made from smoked peppers, has a distinctive rich flavor. Keep a couple types of paprika on hand to pump up the color and flavor of savory dishes.

A touch of spicy cayenne can add a lot of heat to a dish without radically changing the flavor. It is a mixture of ground, dried chili peppers and can be used with a wide variety of cuisines, particularly Italian and Mexican. Since it's always sold in the powdered form, it shouldn't be stored for longer than six months.

Dried red chili peppers, sold either ground or in flakes, works well either added early to dishes that are going to cook for a while or simply shaken on near the very end. Because they can vary greatly in terms of heat, taste your red pepper to see just how hot it is — and make sure to replace it every six months.

Cumin is mainly used in Middle Eastern, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines, and a common ingredient in curries and chili powders. The toasted seeds can be used whole in dishes or ground right before use. Pre-ground cumin loses its potency quickly, but can be resuscitated by a quick toasting in a dry skillet over medium-low heat.


Dae Gee Korean BBQ

Dae Gee Korean BBQ grills meats right at your table for a fresh take on barbecue with unlimited helpings. Try the spicy pork bulgogi or stick with brisket for a savory all-you-can-eat meal. The restaurant requires a minimum of two people per party. Dae Gee also has another location at 827 Colorado Boulevard in Denver.



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