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Hogwarts Express REVIEW [Minor Spoilers]

by on July 2, 2014

Hogwarts Express review

All aboard the Hogwarts Express at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (photos by Seth Kubersky)

As PotterWatch wraps up with the approach of Diagon Alley’s July 8 official opening date, I’m proud to present Touring Plans’ first in-depth review of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. During the recent VIP preview week, I spent nearly 12 hours exploring the expansion at Universal Studios Florida, and was the only member of the media to successfully ride the Gringotts attraction three times. I’ve distilled that first-hand experience into the following Hogwarts Express review, which will appear in edited form in the 2015 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, as well as other affiliated titles.

Bear in mind, the following opinions and information are based on a preview of the attraction, and is subject to change once the area is open to the public. BEWARE: Minor spoilers ahead.

Hogwarts Express

4 1/2 STARS

 

APPEAL BY AGE

  • PRESCHOOL 4 stars
  • GRADE SCHOOL 5 stars
  • TEENS 4 stars
  • YOUNG ADULTS 4 1/2 stars
  • OVER 30 4 1/2 stars
  • SENIORS 4 stars

 

What it is Transportation attraction with special effects.
Scope and scale Super-headliner.
When to go Immediately after park opening.
Special comments Expect lengthy waits in line. A park-to-park pass is required to ride.
Authors’ rating A moving experience; Not to be missed; 4 1/2 stars
Duration of ride 4 minutes.
Probable wait­ing time per 100 people ahead of you 7 minutes.
Loading speed Moderate.

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Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts REVIEW [Minor Spoilers]

by on July 1, 2014

 

gringotts review

A panoramic view of the majestic Gringotts bank lobby. (photos by Seth Kubersky)

As PotterWatch wraps up with the approach of Diagon Alley’s July 8 official opening date, I’m proud to present Touring Plans’ first in-depth review of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. During the recent VIP preview week, I spent nearly 12 hours exploring the expansion at Universal Studios Florida, and was the only member of the media to successfully ride the Gringotts attraction three times. I’ve distilled that first-hand experience into the following Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts review, which will appear in edited form in the 2015 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, as well as other affiliated titles.

Bear in mind, the following opinions and information are based on a preview of the attraction, and is subject to change once the area is open to the public. BEWARE: Minor spoilers ahead.

 

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

5 STARS

APPEAL BY AGE

  • PRESCHOOL 2 stars
  • GRADE SCHOOL 4 stars
  • TEENS 5 stars
  • YOUNG ADULTS 5 stars
  • OVER 30 5 stars
  • SENIORS 4 stars

What it is Super-high-tech 3-D dark ride with roller coaster elements.
Scope and scale Super-headliner.
When to go Immediately after park opening or just before closing.
Special comments Expect loooong waits in line; 42″ minimum height requirement.
Authors’ rating The ultimate realization of “Ride The Movies!”; Not to be missed; 5 stars
Duration of ride 4 1⁄2 minutes.
Probable waiting time per 100 people ahead of you 4 minutes.
Loading speed Moderate-Fast.

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Disney Adds Two New VIP Tours at Walt Disney World

by on July 1, 2014

Just one of the attractions you'll get to ride on “The Ultimate Day for Young Families - a VIP Tour Experience.”

Just one of the attractions you’ll get to ride on “The Ultimate Day for Young Families – a VIP Tour Experience.”

If you are someone who enjoys experiencing the ultimate indulgences while visiting the Walt Disney World Resort and would enjoy partaking in a special VIP tour, you are in luck! Disney is now offering two brand-new unique tours to choose from–one with the thrill-seeker in mind and one geared towards families with little ones.

The first is “The Ultimate Day for Young Families - a VIP Tour Experience.” This tour caters to families with children under 10 years of age and features family-friendly attractions.

The tour begins in the Magic Kingdom, where guests will get the chance to enjoy Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, it’s a small world, The Barnstormer, Tomorrowland Speedway, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. After a tour of the Magic Kingdom, guests will enjoy a table service lunch at a Disney resort. The tour will then continue at Disney’s Hollywood Studios where guests will enjoy Disney Junior – Live on Stage! and Toy Story Midway Mania! Finally, guests will head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where the tour concludes with Festival of the Lion King and Kilimanjaro Safaris.

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Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley REVIEW and Touring Tips

by on June 30, 2014

Diagon Alley lies waiting just behind this London facade. Are you prepared to face it? (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Diagon Alley lies waiting just behind this London facade. Are you prepared to face it? (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

As PotterWatch wraps up with the approach of Diagon Alley’s July 8 official opening date, I’m proud to present Touring Plans’ first in-depth reviews of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. During the recent VIP preview week, I spent nearly 12 hours exploring the expansion at Universal Studios Florida and was the only member of the media to successfully ride the Gringotts attraction three times. I’ve distilled that first-hand experience into the following Diagon Alley review and touring strategy, which will appear in edited form in the 2015 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, as well as other affiliated titles.

Bear in mind, the following opinions and information are based on a preview of the attraction and are subject to change once the area is open to the public. BEWARE: Minor spoilers ahead.

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley Review

Guests approach the Wizarding World’s London Waterfront from either the San Francisco or World Expo areas of Universal Studios, at the opposite end of the park from the front entrance. Wrought iron fencing surround the park-like promenade (complete with snack and souvenir stands, and a towering statue-topped fountain) with a shoreline sidewalk along the embankment bypassing the area. Guests access London through the gateway closest to the Fear Factor Live stadium, and exit towards Disaster!

Having arrived at the London area, take a moment to spot Kreacher (the house elf regularly peers from a second-story window above 12 Grimmauld Place), and chat with the Knight Bus conductor and his Caribbean-accented shrunken head. Then enter Diagon Alley next to the Leicester Square marquee in the approximate center of the building facades. As in the books and films, the unmarked portal is concealed within a magical brick wall (which unfortunately does not actually move, due to safety concerns) that is ordinarily reserved for wizards and the like. However, the endless queue of Muggles (plain old humans) in shorts and flip- flops will leave little doubt where that entryway is.

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Frozen Summer Fun-Live Coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on June 26, 2014

A "Frozen" Summer at Disney's Hollywood Studios

©Disney

If you are a fan of Frozen, have I got a great new experience for you! Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be presenting a brand new summer-long special event called Frozen Summer Fun – Live. This fun-filled event is scheduled to last from July 5 through September 1 and is slated to feature:

  • Olaf on Summer Vacation: Olaf will chime in throughout the day to keep everyone updated on all his adventures. In addition, you can snag your very own Take-Along Olaf (which will be available in locations around the park) so he can join you on your summer vacation. Be sure to tag and share Olaf via social media sites with the hashtag #OlafSummerVacation because they may potentially be selected to appear as part of the fireworks spectacular.
  • Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome: Each day, at 11:00 a.m. a Frozen mini-parade will take place. Anna and Elsa will make their way down Hollywood Boulevard in a horse-drawn sleigh. Kristoff will be there, too, joined by a flurry of skaters, skiers, ice cutters and more! The procession will end in a special moment at the Sorcerer’s Hat Stage to officially welcome the visiting royalty.

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Walt Disney World Changes Park Hours and Extra Magic Hours For Several Dates Through 2014

by on June 26, 2014

2014-02-15 22.33.39Changes are a taking place! If you have a trip to Walt Disney World scheduled from starting anywhere from July 13 through the remainder of the year, you may want to double check park hours and Extra Magic Hour offerings, as both of these will be changing at most the the theme parks. Here’s what you need to know:

Magic Kingdom: On many days, the park’s operating hours have been extended. In addition, Evening Extra Magic Hours have been moved to different days. (Most of the time, the change is that Evening Extra Magic Hours have been added on Saturday evenings; they will no longer take place on Sunday or Monday evenings.) Also, additional Main Street Electrical Parade performances have been added.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: On many days, the park’s operating hours have been extended. There are also changes to Extra Magic Hour days. Plus, additional Fantasmic! shows have been added.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom: On many days, the park’s operating hours have been extended. In addition, Morning Extra Magic Hours have changed; they will now take place for the most part on Sundays, with a few exceptions.

Epcot: Has seen no changes. Its park hours will remain consistent with before.

If you are planning a trip to Walt Disney World in the next six months, be sure to check out the Crowd Calendar for the latest updates.

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 6/24/14

by on June 24, 2014

It’s been almost a month since we’ve had some Newsworthy Notes, but today, I’ve compiled quite a list that I wanted to share with you all since some of these updates may potentially impact your vacations to Walt Disney World. Let’s dive right in!

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Fourth of July Festivities for Walt Disney World

by on June 23, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

While I will be celebrating this year’s Fourth of July with a box of sparklers in my backyard, Walt Disney World is getting ready to put on a fantastic show for guests who visit during the patriotic holiday.

At the Magic Kingdom, the festivities kick off on July 3, with a two day celebration. Both days, the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade will run at 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Each night will then culminates in the “Disney’s Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky” fireworks extravaganza. The show will take place on both July 3 and July 4 at 9:00 p.m. After the fireworks, there will be two performances of the Main Street Electrical Parade, one at 10:00 p.m. and one at 12:00 a.m. The Magic Kingdom will be open from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. both days.

Epcot will offer tons of fun activities to help celebrate the occasion. First, guests will be able to meet their favorite Disney characters dressed in patriotic attire outside of the American Adventure.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios Invites Guests To Rock Your Summer Side

by on June 23, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

While I myself was on summer vacay last week (not to a Disney destination…unfortunately), Disney introduced an all new dance party for you to experience while you are visiting the Walt Disney World Resort on your summer vacation. The party, which takes place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is called “Rock Your Summer Side.”

During this event, guests have the opportunity to dance along to both a DJ spinning hot tunes, as well as to a live band called The Hollywood Rockers (otherwise known as Mulch, Sweat, and Shears). Guests may also meet and dance with their favorite Disney characters, who are dressed for summer fun. Finally, guests can take a photo with a giant postcard backdrop.

The action all takes place at the Sorcerer’s Hat Stage nightly from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Guests will be able to rock their summer side until August 22.

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Two New Animal Encounters Introduced at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on June 19, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

Lately it seems like Disney has been introducing quite a few new offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park has seen some new food options (like pineapple soft serve), new animals (like the Grevy’s Zebra and Sumatran Tigers), and new experiences.  Today, I’m here to tell you about two new, relatively minor experiences that you should certainly check out on your next visit, especially if you are an animal lover.

The first is one that had been announced about a month ago, “Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight,” which is now being performed daily at 9:15 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. While there are set showtimes, the show is still technically in testing mode, so times are subject to change.

The show is an animal experience featuring macaws that fly over the park, back and forth between a perch found on Discovery Island and a perch found near the DinoLand U.S.A. bridge. The main component of this new show features an up-close encounter where avian experts share conservation stories and insightful information about the birds. The experience features six different types of macaws: hyacinth, green-winged, blue and gold, scarlet, blue-throated, and military. 

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