Harry Potter

TBT: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2015

by on November 23, 2016

Greetings! TouringPlans.com Blog Manager Brian here to welcome you to the continuation of TBT: Throwback Thanksgiving week here on the blog. All this week we will be revisiting a few wonderful Thanksgiving-related posts from the past. This wonderful entry from 2015 highlighting the six things that Derek Burgan gave thanks for during that year.

Make sure you come back Thursday at 9:00am for this years items to give thanks for!

 

This week’s SATURDAY SIX  is our annual Thanksgiving Special and takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2015 was another great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, we ask that all Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…

# 6 – Selfie Stick Ban at Walt Disney World

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no_more_selfie_sticks_pamphlet_sethIf you noticed any #Millenials or narcissists wearing black armbands this summer, it was because after banning selfie sticks on Disney attractions earlier in the spring, Walt Disney World completely banned the use of selfie sticks at the parks. Seemingly out of nowhere, the edict came down right after another high profile news story of Disney California Adventure’s California Screamin’ roller coaster being stopped mid ride because of a guest using a selfie stick. On June 26th, WDW guests were given a pamphlet at the parking plaza explaining the selfie stick ban, signage was displayed on the walkways to the parks along with bag check explaining the new policy.

The selfie stick ban was definitely a controversial move to be sure. Universal had earlier become more strict on preventing selfie sticks on rides, but Disney outright stopped people from even entering the park with them. Now we joked earlier about only kids and narcissists using them, the truth is that selfie sticks have become increasingly popular across almost all demographics. While people using selfie sticks inside the parks can be a nuisance, they were starting to become a serious safety factor on attractions. You may have seen what is called an Envelope of Protection as Imagineers test out the attractions. This device makes sure that all the attractions are safe for every rider, basically simulating the possible reach of every guest in the ride vehicle. This is why while it may seem like your may lose your arms in Space Mountain if you hold them up during the ride, but in actuality you are nowhere close to hitting anything. What the Envelope of Protection doesn’t take into account though, is guests holding on to anything that extends their reach.

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TBT: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2014

by on November 21, 2016

Greetings! TouringPlans.com Blog Manager Brian here to welcome you to TBT: Throwback Thanksgiving week here on the blog. All this week we will be revisiting a few wonderful Thanksgiving-related posts from the past. Starting us off is this gem from 2014 highlighting the six things that Derek Burgan gave thanks for during that year.

Make sure you come back Thursday at 9:00am for this years items to give thanks for!

 

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2014 was a great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning, to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, I ask that Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…

# 6 – Disney and Universal Merchandise is Better than Ever

It wasn’t long ago, that the only merchandise people were buying at Universal were Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts. Over at Disney, almost every single store, whether in the parks, hotels, or Downtown Disney, was selling the same generic”Disney Parks”stuff. A seismic shift started to occur in 2010, when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, and blew the doors off everyone’s projections in the area of merchandise and Butterbeer. Guests were now walking out of Universal with house robes, wands and chocolate frogs in hand. This success was then repeated throughout both of their theme parks, with unique and exclusive items found everywhere you looked, from the EVAC action figure at Transformers gift shop, to the faux girl scout cookies in Despicable Me’s Super Silly Store, to my personal favorite – The Film Vault –  a whole new store focusing on retro merchandise.

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Jungle Cruise merchandise found at the Marketplace Co-op in Downtown Disney. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Queues at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on October 1, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Queues at the Universal Orlando Resort. If there is one thing all theme park fans can agree with, it’s that we hate lines. Even people who aren’t theme park fans often return from an Orlando vacation with a similar thought: theme park lines are the worst. Thankfully our Disney and Universal overlords have spent the last decade completely transforming the queue experience. Disney, putting Billions into MyDisneyExperience and FastPass+, are attempting to get guests to spend less time in lines (in hopes that we have more time in places where we spend money.) Universal has gone in a slightly different direction, creating queues that guests actually want to spend more time in. The concept of “feeling rushed” in a theme park line may seem incomprehensible to anyone who has waited an hour in the Florida humidity for it’s a small world or suffered through the mind-numbing banality of the Soarin’ queue, but believe it or not, it’s true.

But which of Universal’s queues are the best? We polled some of the biggest names in Universal fandom (including Seth Kubersky – author of the Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando – Orlando United, Parkscope, the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast and more) and have tabulated the results. So sit back, look out for the neuralyzer at the end, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Men In Black: Alien Attack

The queue for Men In Black: Alien Attack checks off several items we consider crucial to having a good queue, not the least of which is that you are in air conditioning for a long time. That may seem like a minor thing until you’ve almost experienced the sensation of melting while waiting outside for The Simpsons Ride or Rip, Ride, Rockit. It also recreates several areas that many guests will fondly remember from the first Men in Black film. But one of our favorite parts of this queue is that you can actually experience it hands on with a tour of the Immigration Room. Guests aren’t guaranteed this opportunity, but after riding you can ask a Team Member if you can take a tour. This will allow you some unbelievably great photo opportunities, along with a chance to see so many incredible details that Universal Creative has put into this room that the average guest will never see.

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Immigration room at Men In Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Travis Terrell)

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Men In Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Men in Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The Weapons Room. (photo by Travis Terrell)

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Celebration of Harry Potter 2017

by on August 19, 2016

Universal Orlando's A Celebration of Harry Potter returns for 2017. Image ©Universal

Universal Orlando’s A Celebration of Harry Potter returns for 2017. Image ©Universal

Hello, Muggles! Universal Orlando has announced its dates and vacation package prices for a Celebration of Harry Potter 2017. This very popular event happens January 27-29, 2017, at Universal Orlando resort. Folks who purchase a vacation package will have access to ticketed events other attendees will not.

There are many ways to experience this event from buying the whole vacation package, to including it in your already scheduled Universal vacation, to experiencing it as a day guest. For the most part, the Harry Potter activities are concentrated in Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida.

Here is some of our previous coverage of a Celebration of Harry Potter:

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Universal Orlando Photo Update, June 6, 2016

by on June 7, 2016

Welcome back to another Universal Orlando Photo Update! We’re in the middle of a very exciting time here at the resort, with two attractions opening up in the coming weeks and a brand new resort hotel not too far behind. We’ll start this week’s update with a look at Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium before taking a trip around Universal Studios Florida and a look at some smaller updates, including Fast and Furious: Supercharged and the Hello Kitty Store. Over at Islands of Adventure we’ve got a short look at The Incredible Hulk as well as some new information about Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Then we’ll close our update out with some shots of the nearly completed Sapphire Falls as well as next year’s Volcano Bay. All that and much more, so let’s get started!

Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium

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Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is Universal’s latest restaurant concept, opening this fall. It replaces the former NBA City concept and is currently undergoing a complete makeover to turn the form basketball restaurant into a chocolate factory.

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The giant windows are leftover from NBA City and will again afford guests a great view of the CityWalk lagoon.

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SATURDAY SIX: BUTTERBEER Showdown – Which (Sugar) Extreme Will Reign Supreme?

by on February 27, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at a question that needs, nay MUST be answered. What is the best form of Butterbeer? Now there was a time when there were only two forms of Butterbeer: regular and frozen, and you had to go to Islands of Adventure to get them. That’s right, back in my day we didn’t have all these fancy schmancy new flavors, we just had two and we liked it. We loved it! Kids today have a whole bunch of great new choices and for this very special edition of the SATURDAY SIX we are going to rank the six types of Butterbeer items in order.

Using a top secret double blind scientific study (AKA a Twitter poll), votes were tabulated and have given us a definitive list of the absolute best form of Butterbeer. Today we are going to countdown the flavors to find out which is hands down the greatest, so sit back, keep an insulin needle nearby, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Butterbeer Fudge

Making its debut just days before this year’s A Celebration of Harry Potter event, Butterbeer Fudge is the latest creation from the Wizarding World. Found at Honeydukes in Hogsmeade or the new Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop in Diagon Alley, eating a full piece may fill you with so much sugar that you just might be able to vibrate through walls like The Flash. It does have the classic Butterbeer flavor of caramel and butterscotch, but a little goes a long way so consider sharing a piece with another Muggle (or three). The top is so concentrated that it even has a small taste of candy corn.All that said, it is definitely our favorite piece of any fudge offered at the Universal parks. ($3.95)

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Butterbeer Fudge. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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Butterbeer Fudge. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

# 5 – Butterbeer Potted Cream

Butterbeer Potted Cream is also a very new addition to the Butterbeer family, making its debut in the parks in December of last year. Available at the Leaky Cauldron and the Three Broomsticks, it is a Butterbeer version of the Chocolate Potted Cream which arrived with Diagon Alley. Served in a really cool and unique container (which would score straight 10’s across the board from any Pinterest focus group), this potted cream basically boils down to an unbelievably great tasting butterscotch pudding. This is one of the snacks that may fly under the radar, so be sure to go out of your way to try one on your next trip to the Wizarding World.

It is also worth noting that both Butterbeer Fudge and Butterbeer Potted Cream were the only items on the list that did not receive a single first place vote. In fact both only got one second place vote each. ($5.29)

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Butterbeer Potted Cream. (photo by @AmusementBuzz)

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Butterbeer Potted Cream. (photo by @amusementbuzz)

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Harry Potter: Orlando vs. Hollywood vs. Japan

by on February 22, 2016

In case you haven’t heard, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood has already begun its technical rehearsals in the lead-up to its April 7 grand opening. After five years of rumors and speculation about what, exactly, this third iteration of Hogsmeade would entail, the theme park community can finally take inventory of what has made the transition – and what hasn’t. It’s enough to make one giddy like a Hogwarts school girl, but it’s also enough to make one appreciate all the more just what is exclusive at the original Orlando location.

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What’s that, you say? You didn’t know that there were “exclusive” differences between Islands of Adventure and USH? Why, yes, in fact, there are – Universal long ago announced that each Wizarding World across the globe would have at least one specific experience that wouldn’t be available at its other two brethren, and while none of these has turned out to be anything mind-blowingly large (not like, say, the hypothetical Hogwarts Great Hall restaurant that was rumored to be coming to California), they do appreciably add to your overall experience in the Wizarding World.

While we’ve already provided a walk-through tour of Harry’s new digs in Universal City, it’s worth going a little more in-depth into these specific points of departure.

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Universal Studios Hollywood: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Review

by on February 13, 2016

DSC00168The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a new land at Universal Studios Hollywood based on the Harry Potter series of books and films. The land officially opens on April 7, 2016, but we were able to catch a technical rehearsal to the fully operational land. In this review I will cover all of the attractions, dining, and shopping in Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I will try my best to review the west coast version of this land as its own entity, but there will be certain things that must be compared to the version of the land in Islands of Adventure in Florida, and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or WWoHP as I’ll call it for the rest of this post, is located on the Upper Lot, directly across from Animal Actors stage. It’s a short walk from the main entrance of the park, which is nice as that’s probably where most Universal Studios guests will start their day from now until the end of time. Luckily WWoHP is pretty much a straight shot from the entrance of the park, which makes it easy to find in a park that some people find hard to navigate due to having no central hub (unlike most Disney theme parks). It’s also worth noting Universal’s Upper Lot is mishmash of themes and architectural styles: one stretch is 1920’s Los Angeles, the next is Paris, and then all of a sudden you’re in Springfield from the Simpsons. If you expected Universal to change this with the opening of WWoHP, they did not.

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Hogsmeade Village at Universal Studios Hollywood with Hogwarts in the background.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s A Celebration of Harry Potter

by on February 6, 2016

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.

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SATURDAY SIX’s own Megan Stump moments before being sorted into Gryffindor. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)

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“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)

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever January 28, 2016: Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Update

by on January 28, 2016

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Indulge your sweet tooth in this Best Week Ever update of Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando (photos/video by Seth Kubersky)

 

I hope you set your alarm clocks this morning, because this Best Week Ever is up and at ’em before daybreak to enjoy one of my favorite theme park perks. Early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is usually restricted to Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests, but throughout January annual passholders were allowed to join to early morning crowds on weekdays. At the same time, Universal has made some tweaks to the way this popular option operates, so this past week I awoke ahead of the sun to bring you the Universal Orlando Early Park Admission update.

First, the big news about Universal Orlando Early Park Admission is that it is currently offered at Universal Studios Florida only. For most of 2015, Early Park Admission was offered only at Islands of Adventure during off-peak times, and at both parks during peak holiday periods. Early in 2016, Universal returned off-peak Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida only. While communications from Universal have been inconsistent about the future EPA calendar, we currently expect Early Park Admission to remain at Universal Studios Florida only until the Easter/Spring Break peak season.

Here are some other Universal Orlando Early Park Admission updates:

  • When Universal Studios Florida opens for Early Park Admission, only Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the attractions inside Diagon Alley (including Escape from Gringotts) are regularly open. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers may also open early if the crowds warrant, but they were not operating early during my recent visit.
  • When Islands of Adventure opens for Early Park Admission, the Hogwarts Express usually begins operating 30 minutes before Universal Studios Florida officially opens. However, when Universal Studios Florida open early, the first Hogwarts Express train depart only a few minutes before IOA’s opening hour.

 

Got all that? Great! Now, let’s take a morning stroll around the parks.

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