This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s A Celebration of Harry Potter. Universal has several great events during the year, including Mardi Gras and Halloween Horror Nights, but one that doesn’t get as much attention celebrates a character who completely changed the fortunes of the Universal Orlando Resort: Harry Potter, the boy who lived. Jam packed into this annual three day event are Q&As with celebrities, wand dueling classes for kids, and a whole bunch of cool stuff inside the Harry Potter Expo. Today we are going to look at our favorite parts of the event, so sit back, take a shot of firewhisky, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – The Sorting Hat Experience
With the Harry Potter books, author JK Rowling created a world that feels as real as our own. It is rich with depth and includes many concepts that readers can instantly identify with. The first Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – finds Harry going to Hogwarts, a magical school for gifted wizards and witches. Each student at Hogwarts is then sorted into one of four houses. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. The way the students are chosen for the houses is through the Sorting Hat. The first Harry Potter film brought this hat to life in an unforgettable scene, and Universal does its best to recreate that moment at A Celebration of Harry Potter.
Guests are brought up to the Sorting Hat and asked several questions from the robed Team Member (including where they were from, what they did for a living, if there’s a house they feel they might fit well in, etc). The Sorting Hat then announces which house it has sorted them in. It sounds crazy, but it’s fun and it’s popular. In fact the Sorting Hat experience gets some of the longest lines of the entire celebration, and why shouldn’t it? Getting sorted is something many Potter fans dream of, and although filling out a questionnaire on Pottermore is one way to get sorted, getting sorted by the Sorting Hat feels real.
SATURDAY SIX’s own Megan Stump moments before being sorted into Gryffindor. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)
“Hmm, difficult. VERY difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh yes. And a thirst to prove yourself. But where to put you? ” – The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (photo by Hunter Underwood – @elvenage)
Disney California Adventure’s annual Happy Lunar New Year celebration has kicked off once again. The event features Disney characters in special Lunar New Year outfits, special food, exclusive merchandise, arts and crafts, and local community groups and performers in several different shows. Lets take a look at how Disney is celebrating the year of the monkey:
Happy Lunar New Year Procession Featuring Mulan and Mushu is the main event of the celebration. Dozens of performers, including drummers, acrobats, and more are a part of this 10 minute show that takes place outside of Paradise Gardens. The character meet and greet spot is located next door to Paradise Garden Grill. Here you can meet Mushu, Mickey & Minnie (in Lunar New Year outfits), or Chip & Dale (also in Lunar New Year gear). The characters rotate every 30 minutes.
Guests at Walt Disney World will be able to celebrate Black History Month at the America Adventure Pavilion in Epcot throughout the month of February. Guests will find new historical artifacts, learn history about the influence of African-American culture, and take part in book signings.
First, Guests will have the opportunity to meet three acclaimed African-American authors on select Saturdays. Book signings will be open to all guests. Authors include:
Terry McMillan, author of “Who Asked You?” Saturday, February 6 – 1-2 p.m. and 3-4 p.m.
Critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Terry McMillan is known for her powerful novels and short stories about African American women. Many will remember her novel, “Waiting to Exhale,” which was adapted into a film starring Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett back in 1995. Other novels by McMillan include “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “Disappearing Acts,” and “A Day Late and a Dollar Short.” McMillan recently published her eighth novel, “Who Asked You?,” a story about the challenges and strength of a family. Read the rest of this entry »
We’re often asked to recommend an inexpensive hotel room for one night near Walt Disney World. If your family is staying at at Disney resort for most of your visit, for example, and you need a place to crash on your arrival night before their vacation begins, you may not want to spent hundreds of dollars on a Disney hotel for just a few hours of sleep. Or if you’ve just finished your Disney vacation and need a bed for the night before your early-morning flight, you could save a lot of money by moving to a budget hotel.
Finding cheap, clean, safe hotel rooms is part of the basic research we do for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. There’s even a section titled “Top 30 Hotel Deals” that takes price, amenities, and location into account. It’s one of my favorite research projects, and I’ve stayed at more than 100 Disney-area hotels over the years. Only once did I wake up covered in bugs.
My “Holy Grail” of hotels is one that’s $50 or less per night (with tax), clean, safe, and where everything in the room works. From what I’ve seen over the past week, though, that room might not exist. Here’s a summary of the 6 hotels I checked over the past 5 nights, along with their pros and cons.
Laurel says: I’ll be adding my own asides in this article. You should read them in your head in the voice of your significant other. For perspective, I was perfectly happy with a room I stayed in in New York City once where the sink was IN the shower.
Pros: Very clean. Great layout. Best night’s sleep I had the entire trip. $49.49 with taxes. Feels safe.
Cons: Sink and toilet didn’t drain properly. Wi-fi didn’t work. Low water pressure in shower.
I’ve wanted to stay at this Motel 6 for a long time (“Dream big, Len”, I know). It was one of the first to introduce a new room design across Motel 6’s properties, with triangular bathrooms, hardwood floors, and vertical storage cubbies. Plus it’s really close to Universal Orlando. I was ready to like this hotel.
Have you heard of the Disney Junior show, The Lion Guard? Well beginning this Sunday, February 7, Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be able to become an honorary member of the Lion Guard with The Lion Guard Adventure.
The Lion Guard Adventure is a self-guided experience that encourages Guests to protect the environment and care for animals. Guests can do this by finding small statues of some of the characters from the TV show.
To take part in the fun, Guests may pick up a Lion Guard Adventure map at one of the following locations:
Oasis: The Outpost
Discovery Island: Island Mercantile
Africa: Zuri’s Sweets Shop, Mombasa Marketplace, and the Festival of the Lion King merchandise cart
Asia: Maharajah merchandise cart
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Guests will be able to find the following statues throughout the park: Kion (lion), Fuli (cheetah), Beshte (hippo), Ono (egret), Bunga (honey badger). Once you have found all the statues, you will need to return your map to Rafiki’s Planet Watch where you will take a special pledge to become an honorary member of The Lion Guard and receive a special button.
This opportunity will take place through early April.
Last week, crowds were in line with what the Disney World Crowd Calendar predicted. Cold rain washed out most of Wednesday and Thursday last week but otherwise, crowds were within a point or two of what we expected. Epcot continues to have crowd levels lower than historical levels while Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom seem slightly busier than usual.
Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week:
Last week, crowds were within a point of what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted most days except for a rain-soaked two day stretch mid week. Crowds tended to be down all week, never hitting a resort-wide level higher than what we predicted.
Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:
Last week, Disneyland Resort saw wait times that tended higher than we would normally expect for late January, especially mid-week. The crowds were busier on the weekend than during the week, a trend that is most apparent during the off season and one that the Disneyland Crowd Calendar predicted well last week although crowd levels were one to two levels higher.
Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Disneyland Resort Crowd Report:
Unless you live in London, New York, or L.A., you probably don’t see celebrities walking the red carpet in person every day. But for this Best Week Ever, we are taking a road trip to a movie premiere in the well-known cultural capital of…Winter Haven? Legoland Florida (which we cover in-depth in the new edition of Beyond Disney) recently hosted the global debut of the newest installment in their hit cinematic franchise, and I was lucky enough to get an invite to last weeks’s premiere of The LEGO Movie 4D A New Adventure.
Rain or no, it’s a Best Week Ever when we’re at Legoland’s premiere of The LEGO Movie 4D (Photos by Seth Kubersky).
Legoland counldn’t have picked an unluckier day for their big blowout, because the wind was blowing and rain was coming down in buckets as dusk fell. The storm was slacking by the time I arrived at the park, which is about a 75 minute drive from my home, mostly along poky Highway 27.
Check-in for the event began around the park’s closing time. While the media huddled under the entryway to stay dry, we were handed color-changing LED wristbands to wear. They would turn out to play a part in the presentation later on.