Universal Orlando Resort

New Universal Orlando Wizarding World Two-Park Touring Plans

by on July 23, 2014

Gringotts Queue

Learn everything you’ve always wanted to know (but were afraid to ask) about visiting both Gringotts and Hogwarts with our new Wizarding World two-park touring plans! (photos by Seth Kubersky)

A few days ago, we published our newly updated Universal Studios Florida touring plans, which provide step-by-step instructions for tackling Diagon Alley and the crowds at the Gringotts bank ride with maximum efficiency. Those guides are now available as premium touring plans that can be copied and edited in Lines, with versions for Early Entry guests and for those staying off-site.

Today, we’re following up with the first installment of our most frequently requested touring plan: one-day/two-park plans covering both sides of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These new plans cover both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. They feature all Harry Potter attractions (including rides on the Hogwarts Express in both directions) in a single day, and assume you have a Park-To-Park (Universal lingo for “parkhopper”) ticket.

[Note: If you caught the early edition of this post, you may notice that the touring plans have changed slightly. Using the latest data crunched overnight, we've tweaked the morning attraction order to squeeze in one extra attraction! Similar upgrades have already been made to the premium one day USF/Diagon Alley plans we've previously published. You're welcome!]
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Shocking Savings of a Universal Orlando Annual Pass

by on July 23, 2014

Universal AP

Universal Annual Passes are a great way for even infrequent guests to save money.

We have been vacationing to Florida for the past seventeen years; visiting Universal Orlando Resort on each trip. During this time, it had never occurred to me to purchase an annual pass. After all, annual passes are more for those people who live close and can visit many times in the same year, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the potential savings of purchasing an annual pass for Universal. The annual passes can be a money saving option for people visiting as few as two days. Not only do you get unlimited day passes to the parks, but you also get free parking, discounts on food, merchandise, admission and special event tickets, and onsite hotel discounts.

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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…

WWOHP_drinks

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

# 6 – Tongue Tying Lemon Squash

WWOHP_Lemon

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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New Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Touring Plans

by on July 19, 2014

Diagon Alley touring plans

Massive crowds await inside the Gringotts bank. Be prepared with our new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley touring plans! (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

It’s been a little over a week since the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, and Universal Studios Florida‘s blockbuster new attraction continues to attract astoundingly oversized crowds. While you won’t find the massive queue clogging park walkways that accompanied the opening of the original Wizarding World in Islands of Adventure, thanks to greatly improved crowd control procedures, guests are still waiting upwards of 5 hours on a daily basis just to Escape from Gringotts. While the new “multidimensional” thrill machine is certainly a marvel, we here at Touring Plans are congenitally allergic to advising any of our readers to invest half their vacation day in any one attraction, at the expense of experiencing everything else that Universal has to offer. In that spirt, we offer our newly updated Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Touring Plans, along with a comprehensive commentary with everything you need to know in order to open your magical bank account with a bare minimum (relatively speaking) of waiting.

The following Diagon Alley touring plans are based on first-hand observations conducted during pre-opening media previews, soft openings, and daily operations during grand opening week. The plans were optimized based on a peak day (9.5 out of 10 on our crowd calendar) and may need modification once off-season arrives with shorter hours. As operational patterns evolve, we’ll continue to update our plans for maximum efficiency.

These plans will also shortly be available as premium plans on TouringPlans.com and in our Lines app, so subscribers will be able to copy and edit them at will. Be aware that our system is not yet able to properly account for the queuing and return time tickets required to enter Diagon Alley, and may therefore return inappropriate results for that area’s attractions; for the moment, we recommend editing the attraction order manually through our website, and using “evaluate” instead of “optimize” for Diagon Alley plans.

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Halloween Horror Nights 24: From Dusk Till Dawn Added to Lineup

by on July 16, 2014

HHN23_FromDuskTillDawn

Photo provided courtesy of Universal Studios

After previously announcing that AMC’s The Walking Dead would return for its third straight year at Halloween Horror Nights (the first brand of any sort to accomplish that feat,) Universal added Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn series to the list of 8 haunted houses that will make up HHN 24.

Many know the From Dusk Till Dawn brand thanks to the original 1996 film which was directed by Robert Rodriguez, written by Quentin Tarantino, and featured George Clooney in his first major movie lead role. From Dusk Till Dawn went on to have two straight-to-video sequels (the second of which stars Robert Patrick, who played the T-1000 character in Terminator 2) and has recently been revived into a television show on the El Rey network.

The haunted maze at HHN 24 will be based on the From Dusk Till Dawn television show, featuring characters and locations from the first season’s 10 episode run.

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The Magic Next Door: Universal Orlando Resort

by on July 12, 2014

Universal Orlando Resort: A Basic Primer for Walt Disney World Vacation Veterans

Friends, vacationers, locals… lend me your comically over-sized souvenir mouse ears! Most of you like the Walt Disney World Resort, and for good reason. But, dear reader, let me tell you about another place. A wonderful place. A place where you can squeal and fawn over little jellybean men in overalls and not feel weird because everyone else is doing the same thing. That place… is the Universal Orlando Resort.

 

Universal Orlando Resort

Copyright – Universal

There are some people out there who might tell you that there are Disney Folk and Universal Folk, and that never the two shall meet. But, dear reader… that just ain’t so. It doesn’t matter what your family is composed of or how much coffee you drink out of your oversized novelty Donald Duck Mug. If you like roller coasters, Universal Orlando Resort has something for you. If you like great food, the resort has something for you. If you like dinosaurs and wizards, swashbuckling and dancing, beach chairs and tornadoes… it has something for you. Below you’ll find a brief summary of the Universal experience, from the events it hosts to some very important ways it differs from the House of Mouse.

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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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PotterWatch: Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley Soft Openings

by on July 6, 2014

Diagon alley soft opening

Regular guests get their first look at the Universal’s newest Wizarding World during the first day of Diagon Alley soft openings (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Nearly a month after construction walls came down around Universal Studios Florida‘s London waterfront, PotterWatch finally paid off this past week, as regular guests were finally allowed to experience Universal Orlando‘s new Harry Potter attractions in advance of the expansion’s July 8 official opening. Hogwarts Express began “technical rehearsals” on July 1, and the first Diagon Alley soft openings started on July 3.

While the Gringotts ride is not available during these previews, all shops, restaurants, and shows in Diagon Alley should be open to guests on a daily basis until the grand opening on July 8.

As congested as these photos may appear, this is nothing compared to how busy Diagon Alley will be once opening day officially arrives. With minimal queues to enter the area, and posted standby waits at Hogwarts Express of 30 minutes or less, this is an ideal time to experience Diagon Alley without the crushing crowds that are surely coming right around the corner.

Check out these front-line photos from July 3, documenting the first few hours after ordinary visitors were first allowed to experience the new Wizarding World:

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Ollivanders Interactive Wands REVIEW

by on July 3, 2014

 

Ollivanders interactive wands review

Some of the new models of interactive wands available in Ollivanders at Diagon Alley. (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 Ollivanders interactive wands 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.

Ollivanders Wand Shop and Interactive Wands

4 STARS

APPEAL BY AGE

  • PRESCHOOL 4 stars
  • GRADE SCHOOL 5 stars
  • TEENS 4 stars
  • YOUNG ADULTS 4 stars
  • OVER 30 3 1/2 stars
  • SENIORS 3 1/2 stars

What it is Combination wizarding demonstration and shopping op.

Scope and scale Major attraction.
When to go Just before or after riding Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Special comments Audience stands.
Authors’ rating Enchanting; 4 stars.
Duration of presentation 6 minutes.
Probable waiting time per 100 people ahead of you 7 minutes.

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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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