Universal Orlando Resort

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons March is Going to be AWESOME!

by on March 5, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX presents a brand new concept for us. The first Saturday of each month we are going to give a quick preview of some of the coolest things going on here in the theme park world in Florida, as well as those out there in California. We present to you Six Reasons March is Going to be AWESOME. Now it is going to be hard to top February considering we finally received details on Star Wars Land, had the soft opening of the Wizarding World West, saw the start of Universal’s Mardi Gras, and let’s not forget my personal debut as a YouTube sensation, but I think March just may be able to top it. So sit back, make sure you are wearing something green, and let’s start off with…

# 6 – Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar Has Actual Souvenir Mugs! (Disney Springs)

Our long national nightmare is over. Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, one of the coolest new additions to Disney Springs, finally has more souvenir mugs in stock. The Hangar Bar opened last September, and it debuted having a menu filled with pictures of unique souvenir mugs. There was only one catch: none of the mugs were available. Late in the year, the awesome Cool-headed Monkey mug arrived but nothing else. In March 2016, the clouds lifted, and new souvenir mugs are now in stock! Added to the list of available mugs are Reggie’s Revenge and the Hovito Mojito.. The cool mugs, unique stirrers (including a python snake and a blowdart), and a multitude of coasters make the Hangar Bar one of the best places at WDW for collectors.

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The Hovito Mojito. (photo by Dirk Wallen of @WDWNT fame)

# 5 – Zootopia Opens

Having just made its national premier yesterday, Disney’s newest animated film Zootopia is already wowing both critics (with a shockingly high 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences alike. Since Disney bought Pixar, the two companies have seemed to go in opposite directions. The once flawless Pixar has been criticized for churning out sequels and even produced its first ever “flop” with last Fall’s The Good Dinosaur. Meanwhile Disney animation has been killing it with an incredible run that includes Wreck It Ralph, Big Hero 6 and the world wide phenomenon Frozen. Early reaction to Zootopia by the fans are overwhelmingly positive, and right now you’ll be able to catch the two main stars of the film at both the California and Florida parks. If the box office of the film matches the height of that audience score, we just may see more Zootopia in the parks sooner rather than later.

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Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde posing with a true character, the SATURDAY SIX’s own Megan Stump.

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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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Universal Orlando Crowd Calendar Report – February 14 to 20, 2016

by on February 26, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Resort Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Resort Last Week?

Last week, President’s Day crowds at Universal Orlando Resort were larger than we have seen historically. Monday and Tuesday in particular were several points higher than we usually see. As the week progressed we saw wait times in both parks converge with the projections made by the Universal Crowd Calendar.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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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 Crowd Calendar Report – February 7 to 13, 2016

by on February 16, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Universal Orlando was more crowded than expected last week. Resort-wide we saw the two Universal parks hit crowd levels one to three points higher than the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted. Universal Studios had larger crowds than Islands of Adventure each day.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – January 31 to February 6, 2016

by on February 12, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week wait times were so close to what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted it is hard to discern the two lines on our graph. Only Sunday and Tuesday had resort-wide crowd levels that differed from what we predicted and they only missed the mark by one level.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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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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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – January 24 to 30

by on February 5, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week, crowds were within a point of what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted most days except for a rain-soaked two day stretch mid week. Crowds tended to be down all week, never hitting a resort-wide level higher than what we predicted.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Orlando Resort Crowd Report:

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Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

by on February 2, 2016

Yes, Disney has Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, while Universal boasts Halloween Horror Nights and Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular – but one of the best and most fun annual events to be found at either of the theme park resorts is actually a little something called Mardi Gras, which, until recently, it seems, was a little-known secret to Florida locals and annual passholders. And, best of all, it’s absolutely free – no need for pesky separate tickets or dessert party add-ons.

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

Image © Universal

Plan on checking out the family-friendly version of New Orleans’s most wonderful time of the year? We’ll tell you everything there is to know.

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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: Bait You Can Click On

by on January 30, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a truly special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. What a week. If you’re like us you’ve been deluged with #Blizzard2016 pictures, the Oscars dealing with a diversity problem, and Donald Trump being Donald Trump. However we’ve been informed that a whole lot of stuff happened in the theme park world recently. So we took a page out of our old college playbook and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Pizza Planet Under Major Refurbishment. Coming Back With a New Theme?

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Could Pizza Planet actually come back with a Muppets theme? (photo by Matt Cleary)

First, some backstory. For years Jim Hill, an icon of theme park media, has been telling the story of how the Muppets were originally going to be used in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. One of the things that never ended up coming to fruition was The Great Gonzo’s Pandemonium Pizza Parlor. Can you imagine a Muppet’s themed restaurant, with a kitchen run by the Swedish Chef, where Mama Melrose’s Restorante Italiano now sits?  Dare to dream.

Now it’s time to put on the detective hat. Recently Pizza Planet at DHS closed down for a long refurbishment. What should have been a wonderfully themed venue themed to the world of Toy Story was instead one of WDW’s most bland restaurants/arcade. Back at the D23 Expo, Disney unveiled details of the upcoming Toy Story Land expansion. This new land is going to built on the other side of the park, so it would be strange to have a Pixar related restaurant (no matter how poorly themed) so far away from everything else. After the construction walls went up around Pizza Planet, WDW uncharacteristically put up a lot of humorous signs on the walls. Gags that are much more in line with the type of jokes  you see in the building of say… Muppet*Vison 3D. In a recent edition of the Disney Dish podcast, Jim Hill said that instead of a Gonzo themed restaurant, we may actually see The Swedish Chef’s Cooking School.

Will Pizza Planet return from it’s refurbishment as a Muppets themed restaurant? Time will tell, but it is almost assuredly not coming back as Pizza Planet and for that we can all be thankful. To stay up to date on this story follow the boys over at WDWThemeParks.com.

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