Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX: Top Six New Drinks in Universal’s Diagon Alley

by on July 19, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Top Six New Drinks in Universal’s Diagon Alley. The original plan for this week was to take a look at the top six options for food and drink in the newest addition to the Wizarding World, but after reaching out to a blue panel commission to tabulate the results we came to one realization: that mission was truly impossible. There are so many new foods, snacks, and drinks within Diagon Alley and each person seems to have a different favorite. So we’re going to take a page from Bill O’Reilly’s playbook by throwing out the previous plan and we’ll do it live! We’re gonna break down our favorites in each category over the course of the next three weeks and we’ll start off with our favorite beverages…

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A murderer’s row of drink if there ever was one. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 6 – Tongue Tying Lemon Squash

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Tongue Tying Lemon Squash (photo by Brandon Glover)

Our list begins with the Tongue Tying Lemon Squash. Think of the lemonades you get freshly made at your local fair or farmer’s market and imagine more lemon being used along with a hint of vanilla. The taste is very tart, but this drink has already become the best lemonade on property. ($4.79 at the The Hopping Pot)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of Universal’s Hogwarts Express

by on July 12, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Surprises of Universal’s Hogwarts Express. With the opening of Diagon Alley this week, most of the headlines have been focused on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Whether it’s the incredible animatronics inside the queue, the amazing ride itself, the seemingly never-ending outdoor portion of the extended queue, or the oft-reported downtime, much of the week’s conversation has been spent on the newest E-Ticket attraction at Universal Studios Florida. However, right next door to Diagon Alley another ride opened on the same day with almost no issues, but has received much less fanfare. Maybe it’s a case of the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but for our money the Hogwarts Express was one of the most wonderful additions to the Wizarding World expansion.

The Hogwarts Express is the first attraction in theme park history to go from one park to another. With all the details in the King’s Cross and Hogsmeade stations along with the ride itself, this edition of the SATURDAY SIX is going to look at six of our favorite surprises of this newest attraction, starting with…

# 6 – Live Musicians in King’s Cross Station

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A saxophone player that would make Bleeding Gums Murphy and Lisa Simpson proud (photo by Brandon Glover)

The word you are going to see in pretty much every review of anything related to the Wizarding World at Universal is authenticity, and one small touch that adds so much depth to the experience of King’s Cross is the live musicians that play as you walk into the queue. You can hear men and women playing violins, guitars, and saxophones as you enter the cavernous building. All that’s missing is a hat to leave tips in.

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A SATURDAY SIX Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America)

by on July 5, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness!

# 6 – Voices of Liberty (Epcot)

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The Voices of Liberty (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! June 2014 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on June 29, 2014

MMM positiveWelcome to the one year anniversary of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! When I pitched the idea of a monthly photo report of the Disney Outlet Store to the Powers That Be, I was told it couldn’t be done. That it wouldn’t be done. And now after reading a year’s worth of articles from your humble author, most agree that it shouldn’t have been done. But without it, how would you – Dear Reader – be able to experience the wonder of Mickey’s Personal Disney Assistant, A print of Daisy Duck in the style of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring painting, or a shirt with Darth Maul getting a rainbow painted on his face? It’s schadenfreude writ large, and I want to thank each and every one of you for being along the journey with me. Now let’s hit the outlet!

Walt Disney famously said “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse-stache.” Or something like that. I’m not good with quotes. Originally $3.95, these are now $1.99.

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I’m sure you’re all shocked, SHOCKED to see these make their way to the outlet.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Photo Ops at Universal

by on June 28, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers the Top Six Photo Ops at Universal. Previously we have covered our favorite Photo Connect experiences at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, but this week we are going to look at the six must-get photos when we walk around the parks. For first time visitors, these are the locations that are going to make you stop in your tracks and get out the camera. Some are iconic, others are breathtaking, but all are memorable and should be considered for your vacation scrapbook. Let’s start off by heading into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village….

# 6 – Hogwarts Express and Conductor (Islands of Adventure)

Muggles stepping foot into Hogsmeade Village for the first time are going to love the great photo op with the Hogwarts Express and interacting with the train’s conductor. Holding his enchanted pocket watch, the conductor is the go-to person with any question on Hogsmeade as he is always well versed on Potter-lore and everything within this magical land.

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Hogwarts Express (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL EDITION: Six Reasons Why We Love the London Waterfront Area of Universal Studios Florida

by on June 14, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers the Six Reasons We Love the London Waterfront Area of Universal Studios Florida. Wait a minute, didn’t we already do a Saturday Six on Harambe Nights for this week? Yes we did, but the construction walls came down earlier this week, and our excitement level about Diagon Alley is at a fever pitch. Now that we’ve had a day or two to pick our jaws up off the ground, it’s time to present those items that blow our minds by looking at what is the most elaborate facade in theme park history.

# 6 – Kreacher at 12 Grimmauld Place

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Kreacher peering out the windows at the filthy muggles outside. (photo by HateToFly)

To quote German poet and professional basketball player Dirk Nowtizki, we can basically SHUT IT DOWN right now as Kreacher peeking through the curtains at 12 Grimmauld Place is everything that makes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter the gold standard in theme parks today. A Kreacher animatronic is taking fan service to the Nth degree and will make anyone who has ready the Potter books or has seen the movies to almost swoon in disbelief. Before you even walk through the doors, Universal Creative has shown they get it.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Harambe Nights at Animal Kingdom

by on June 14, 2014

HarambeNights_logoThis week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Reasons We Love Harambe Nights at Animal KingdomWhen Walt Disney World announced its newest hard ticket event, Harambe Nights, we at the Saturday Six were a bit skeptical. At a starting price of $119.00 per person, this party is expensive even by Disney standards. However, we are big fans of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party as well as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and faithful readers will remember that we recently debunked the rumor that Animal Kingdom was a half day park, so a party at the Animal Kingdom is right up our alley.

Harambe Nights, itself, is a celebration of the 20th Anniversary of The Lion King, one of Disney’s all time greatest films. The centerpiece of the entire party is The Lion King: Concert in the Wild, a retelling of the classic story using a celebrity speaker, an orchestra, film clips, dancers and more. Does Harambe Nights justify the price tag? We’ll talk about that more at the end of the article, but we can safely say that the party delivers the goods, and here are our top six reasons why…

# 6 – Walk Around Characters

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Both the Halloween and Christmas parties at the Magic Kingdom have character meet and greets that often draw huge lines. With time limited at the party, spending 30 minutes, one hour, or even two hours in line to meet Jack Skellington or the 7 Dwarfs is a big commitment. For Harambe Nights, there were several characters (including Mickey and Minnie in tradition African garb, Timon and Rafiki from The Lion King, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) that were roaming around meeting guests, just as many people remember them doing in the years before meet and greets became so structured. This was a refreshing and unexpected surprise.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Can’t Wait for Diagon Alley to Open

by on June 7, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Reasons We Can’t Wait for Diagon Alley to Open. It seems every day something comes along which whets our appetite even more for the new Harry Potter themed land coming to Universal Studios Florida. In just the past few days we’ve gotten a Disney Dish with Jim Hill episode that covered the new food items coming to the Leaky Cauldron, three of the Weasley clan taking a look into Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and Seth Kubersky’s preliminary touring plans for Diagon Alley. With the media preview taking place June 17-20, it’s safe to say we’ll be walking around the wizarding shopping area very shortly. Here’s what we are really excited about experiencing after the most recent developments:

# 6 – The DRAGON

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Ukrainian Ironbelly atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank (photo by HateToFly)

Sitting high atop Gringotts Bank (already the tallest building inside Diagon Alley) is the half-blind Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon that we all remember from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Besides its immense size, the attention to detail on the dragon is staggering. You can see the marks around its neck where chains tore into its skin, holes in its wings, and an overall aura of authenticity that almost has you feeling for this tragic character even in its menacing pose. While it is still not completely known how much (if any) movement the dragon will have, the gas lines have been installed, and soon it will breathe fire.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons Animal Kingdom is NOT a Half Day Park

by on May 31, 2014

Earlier this year at the SATURDAY SIX we did an article looking at six things we wish theme park fans would stop complaining about. One of those complaints was that Animal Kingdom is a half day park. We gave our reasoning for why this isn’t true, but we wanted to get an expert opinion on this controversial subject. We reached out to Michael McBride of JamboEveryone.com and the Radio Harambe podcast, two of the best resources on the Animal Kingdom park. So today we are proud to present Six Reasons Animal Kingdom is NOT a Half Day Park. Take it away Mike…

It drives me crazy when people call Animal Kingdom a half day park. Yeah, I know, it’s a common observation, but still I know those people are missing out on a lot that the park has to offer. Yes, Animal Kingdom has fewer “rides” than the other parks. But there is so much more to a park then plopping down in an omnimover or coaster. The meaning of the word attraction is a lot broader than that. So when people say that Animal Kingdom is a half day park, they are not enjoying the shows, the trails, or the entertainment offerings that this place does so well. Those people skip Flights of Wonder, don’t bother with Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and have no idea what a Burudika is.

To be fair, Animal Kingdom is a different kind of park. It’s not really conducive to hustling from one attraction to the next as fast as your feet can take you. It’s a park that needs to be lingered over and meandered through. Rivers of Light will surely be a game changer, much like World of Color was at Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort. When that comes, guests will stick around to see the nighttime closing event, but that does not mean Animal Kingdom is a half day park now. It’s not. And here are 6 reasons why.

6 – Wilderness Explorers

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Channel your inner Russell and try Wilderness Explorers (photo by Brandon Glover)

Wilderness Explorers is so stinkin’ great! Imagine that you are Russell from Up (I often do, but that’s a separate issue) and you need to earn badges. Now imagine, just for a moment, that you need to earn over 30 badges. Yes, 30! That’s this game. I have spent a lot of time discussing the little things that set this park apart from the rest. What do you do when some of your party are Disney touring commandos? Play this game. It has you delve into the little places of the park. For example, it is the best way to discovery Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which is often skipped. I think Planet Watch, alone, is a strong reason that Animal Kingdom is not a half day park. Alas, this is a list of six, so I am jamming that into this entry. This is true throughout the park. One badge takes you into a little side path along the Discovery River, and another takes you to little traveled section of DinoLand U.S.A. And the Explorers game is also a fun way to work your way through the town of Harambe in Africa and Maharajah Jungle Trek

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SATURDAY SIX Special Edition: A Theme Park Tribute to America

by on May 26, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX for Memorial Day is a very special one. A Theme Park Tribute to America. It is thanks to our brave members of the military, both past and present, for the great country we live in and the freedom we have to visit some of the world’s greatest theme parks. Today we’re going into the Orlando parks and looking some of the tributes to America and its soldiers.

# 6 – Spirit of America Fife & Drum corps (Epcot)

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Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps (photo by Brandon Glover)

Who knows where we would be today without the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War and the Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps perform a patriotic tribute to them in front of the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot. With marching music and military formations, the Fife & Drum corps evoke the spirit of the Continental Army. Whether it’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “God Bless America,” or “Grand Old Flag,” the four man band (plus a flag bearer) will have your heart pounding in pride.

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