Harry Potter

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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Universal Orlando Releases 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter Schedule

by on January 24, 2016

2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule

Plan you Wizarding weekend with the 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule

If you’ve been anxiously awaiting an official 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule of events from Universal Orlando, you can relax because your owl has arrived! Universal has just announced the full rundown of public happenings during their annual Wizarding World weekend, which runs January 29-31, 2016.

Activities over the three day Celebration of Harry Potter include Q&A sessions with cast members from the hit movies, panels with artists who worked on the films and parks, and special demonstrations and exhibits relating to Potter lore. In 2016, the Music Plaza stage in Universal Studios Florida will be dedicated during the day to kids activities, in addition to hosting the headliner events in the evenings, while Toon Lagoon amphitheater in Islands of Adventure will reopen during the daytime for sessions aimed at adult fans.

All of the below listed activities are open to all park goers, including annual passholder, without needing an extra ticket. One thing you won’t see on the list is autograph sessions with the film stars. After the intense demand for limited autograph tickets last year, Universal has restricted the signings solely to those who purchased special hotel packages (which sold out long ago).

Here is the full schedule of 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter activities:

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25 Drinks of Christmas – Day Twenty Four: Deathly Hallows at Hog’s Head (Islands of Adventure)

by on December 24, 2015

We’re back with everyone’s favorite theme park advent calendar: a daily countdown of our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld building anticipation to the Big Day. 

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where the drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY TWENTY FOUR: Deathly Hallows at Hog’s Head (Islands of Adventure)

Before we start we unfortunately been handed a proclamation by Dolores Umbridge which states:

Theme Park Decree No. 22 All Muggle bloggers are not permitted to use the name Deathly Hallows to describe a particular drink at the Hog’s Head Pub and henceforth it shall only be referred to as The Triple.

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The Deathly Hallows Triple at the Hog’s Head pub. (photo by Brandon Glover)

With that out of the way, The Triple is our favorite of all the incredible specialty drinks you can get at the Hog’s Head Pub. One of the coolest looking beers you are going to find at Universal, the base of The Triple is Strongbow, while the middle is Hog’s Head Brew, and the top is Guinness. A trio of great draughts that make this our go-to drink when entering Hogsmeade Vilage.

Ingredients: Strongbow, Hog’s Head Brew, and Guinness.

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Hog’s Head Pub in Hogsmeade Village. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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25 Drinks of Christmas – Day Eighteen: Hog’s Tea at the Hog’s Head Pub

by on December 18, 2015

We’re back with everyone’s favorite theme park advent calendar: a daily countdown of our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld building anticipation to the Big Day. 

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where the drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY Eighteen: Hog’s Tea at Hog’s Head Pub (Islands of Adventure)

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Hog’s Tea at the Hog’s Head Pub. (photo by Brandon Glover)

When Universal opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village in 2010, it changed everything. It is one of the most immersive lands ever built. It has an attraction with a queue guests actually want to spend MORE time in. It even has another attraction in which merchandise actually chooses the guest (Ollivander’s wand experience may go down as the most ingenious theme park attraction of all time).  But one of the biggest game changers is that Hogsmeade made it almost a prerequisite that new lands must come with a themed drink component. Butterbeer was such a smash hit that sales of it are rumored to have fully paid for the entire Wizarding World within six months. But it wasn’t the only new drink that opened with Hogsmeade, as Pumpkin Juice, Pumpkin Fizz, and Hog’s Head Brew also made their debut.

One of our favorite drinks in Hogmeade is Hog’s Tea. One of the strongest, most potent drinks in all of Universal Orlando, Hog’s Tea is basically a Long Island Iced Tea (a combination of vodka, gin, rum, and tequila mixed with sour mix and soda). What makes the Hog’s Tea better than your average Long Island Iced Tea is that instead of cola, iced tea is used. Traditionally, raspberry tea is used but you can also choose sweet tea or unsweet tea (which makes the drink pretty tart). 

Ingredients: Vodka, gin, rum, tequila, sour mix and sweet tea.

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The Hog’s Head pub in Hogsmeade Village. (photo by Dani)

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The Hog’s Head.

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25 Drinks of Christmas – Day Sixteen: Pear Cider with Firewhisky at Leaky Cauldron

by on December 16, 2015

We’re back with everyone’s favorite theme park advent calendar: a daily countdown of our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld building anticipation to the Big Day. 

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where the drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY SIXTEEN: Pear Cider with Firewhisky at Leaky Cauldron (Universal Studios Florida)

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Pear Cider with Firewhisky at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. (photo by Brandon Glover)

To celebrate the release of the trailer announcement for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we ourselves are heading back into the Wizarding World. Today we make a stop in Diagon Alley and try the Pear Cider with Firewhisky found inside the Leaky Cauldron. While the Wizarding World has blessed us Muggles with some fantastic beers such as Dragon Scale and Hog’s Head Ale, Blishen’s Firewhisky is our first taste of liquor enjoyed by wizards and witches. Known for filling one’s body with courage, Firewhisky can be purchased as a single shot, a double, or as we recommend: mixed with pear cider (you can’t go wrong having it with apple cider either). Here’s a toast to Alastor Moody, Cedric Diggory, Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks and all the great people we have lost over the years but will live forever in our hearts.

Ingredients: Pear cider, Blishen’s Firewhisky, and a pinch of magic.

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Our fearless editor Megan Stump in front of the actual Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley.

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New Wizarding World of Harry Potter E-Guide — Free to Subscribers

by on December 16, 2015

Cover_iPadWe know that there are a lot of Harry Potter fans out there as evidenced by the millions upon millions of people who have read the books and seen the films. This immense popularity led, of course, to the creation of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort. While we have always covered the Wizarding World on TouringPlans.com, we have decided to go a step further to help those planning a Universal Orlando visit.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter E-Guide was designed with many different readers in mind. For those completely unfamiliar with Harry Potter and all of his exploits, the guide will give you all of the necessary background to help you understand just how amazing the Wizarding World is. Alternatively, if you have read the Potter books an embarrassing amount of times (as I have), the guide is full of little details that you’ll want to seek out. Anyone in between those two extremes will also enjoy it, although I admit that I’m a bit biased.

The best part about the Wizarding World E-Guide? It’s included with your TouringPlans Universal Orlando subscription! Simply go to our TouringPlans eBook page and click the appropriate link. If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up for only $5.95 and that gets you a full year of our time-saving Universal Orlando Touring Plans, decision making Crowd Calendar, and the in-park mobile app Lines (not to mention this fantastic new E-Guide).

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SATURDAY SIX: Six MORE Reasons We Love Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 25

by on October 31, 2015

This week is a very special one as we have a second SATURDAY SIX taking a look at the Six MORE Reasons We Love Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 25. That’s right, six MORE because we already give six of our favorite reasons why this year’s HHN is one of the best ever. But there was just so much more we wanted to talk about, and what better day to do it than Halloween itself?! So sit back, eat some of the good candy you bought for trick or treat but is really for you, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – HHN Bear

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HHN Bear in Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)

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When Goldilocks slept in @HHNBear’s bed, she was mauled.

Every year a surprise hit comes out of HHN. Last year at HHN 24 it was Puppet Dyin’ (you had to be there). This year, the SILVER ANNIVERSARY of HHN no less (when Jack is back, there’s an incredible new stage show, and four houses that could be considered the best house in any given HHN), the viral sensation turned out to be HHN Bear. A scareactor located in Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem, HHN Bear was an immediate hit and took on a life of its own, including a Twitter account (@HHNBear) that has been favorited and retweeted by a Who’s Who of the HHN Community (not to mention some famous wrestlers such as Stardust and Scotty 2 Hotty.)

Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem is basically a “greatest hits” of awesome haunted houses Universal has made over the years. HHN Bear can be seen in the room recreating a scene from Scary Tales (HHN 18) and is a terrifying take on the Goldilocks children’s story. While guests are distracted by one bear on the floor going to town on a poor victim, out comes HHN Bear for the big fright. A classic misdirection that works to great effect, but one thing that has taken on a life of its own is guests in the know chanting “Bear! Bear! Bear!” when HHN Bear attacks. This chant has, on occasion, started an impromptu HHN Bear dance.

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HHN Bear’s partner in crime. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever September 3, 2015: Universal Orlando Update

by on September 2, 2015

In case you hadn’t heard, a little project I’ve been working on for most of the past year was finally published recently. Ironically, I’ve been so busy writing about Universal Orlando, and giving interviews about the book, that I haven’t had time to actually enjoy the resort in weeks. So, on the eve of my extended absence from Florida, I took one last Best Week Ever look at some Universal Orlando updates, including a couple attractions that won’t be around by the time I get back.

Universal Orlando is currently offering Early Park Admission to all Annual Passholders on weekdays in September. So my day started bright and early, before Islands of Adventure’s 8 a.m. opening. There’s no time at the parks quite as peaceful as pre-opening on a beautiful morning!

 

 

Only IOA is currently opening early entry, so the iconic lighthouse was my first destination.

 

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