Posts Tagged ‘Diagon Alley’

Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever December 24, 2015: Universal Orlando Star Wars Staycation at Cabana Bay

by on December 24, 2015

Universal Orlando Star Wars Staycation

Take a vicarious Universal Orlando Star Wars Staycation at Cabana Bay with Best Week Ever (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

After my recent visit to New York City, I didn’t want my holiday vacation to end…and here at Best Week Ever, it doesn’t have to! Thanks to an amazing annual passholder discount, I was able to enjoy a single night Universal Orlando Star Wars staycation at Cabana Bay Beach Resort and celebrate the opening of The Force Awakens in CityWalk IMAX style. Don’t be jealous, because I’m bringing you all with me in today’s photo-filled recap.

 

I checked into Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort on Thursday, December 17, amid the festive retro decorations in the value-priced hotel’s Mad Men-esque lobby.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever December 3, 2015: Black Friday at Universal Orlando

by on December 3, 2015

black friday universal orlando best week ever

The day after Thanksgiving has become one of America’s most important secular holidays, as young and old celebrate capitalism by camping out for dirt-cheap televisions. I was also out there shopping on the big day, but in true Best Week Ever fashion I spent my Black Friday at Universal Orlando among the vacationing throngs.

I started my Black Friday shopping with a major purchase by renewing my Universal Orlando annual pass. After disconts, my Premier pass costs just under $1 per day. That’s a lot more than it was when I first became a passholder 15 years ago, but still a great value considering how quickly the parks has been adding new attractions.

 

Once inside Islands of Adventure, I was greeted by the still-jarring sight of the Incredible Hulk Coaster…or rather the lack thereof.

 

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Video: 4 New Universal Studios Florida Street Shows

by on November 11, 2015

new Universal Studios Florida street shows

See videos of Straight Outta Food Truck and 3 other new Universal Studios Florida street shows. (Videos by Seth Kubersky)

Between the end of Halloween Horror Nights 25, and the recent permanent closures of Disaster and Twister, Universal Orlando has said farewell to a long list of attractions in the past few weeks. But when one door closes, another opens — or in this case, four new Universal Studios Florida street shows have opened.

To be accurate, some of these shows aren’t exactly brand new; one has played seasonally at USF for years, and others have been in previews for a month or more. But Universal finally added them as official attractions on the most recent park maps, so we are bringing you a look at these entertainment additions with full videos of each new production. None are worth making a special trip to the park for, and their combined attendance won’t approach the capacity of the major rides recently closed, but all four shows are worthy of 15 minutes out of your day if you are in the area when one begins.

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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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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Drinks, Snacks and Food options at DIAGON ALLEY

by on July 11, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best Drinks, Snacks, and Food Options at DIAGON ALLEY. We are still celebrating the one year anniversary of Universal’s Diagon Alley, and today we are going to look at the unsung hero of this incredible land. No, not our favorite ride the Hogwart’s Express. No, not the love of our lives Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. Not even the glorious dragon sitting high atop Gringotts Bank breathing fire. Forget all that stuff, our unsung hero is the new themed food and beverage items Diagon Alley brought into our lives… things we had no idea we were missing but now can’t live without! As theme park foodies it’s going to be pretty much impossible to narrow our list down to just the top six, but we’re going to try anyway starting with…

# 6 – Butterbeer Ice Cream

The biggest debate in theme parks right now is not who’s better between Universal and Disney, or the Raptor Experience and Val the Velociraptor, but instead it is the hotly contested debate of which style of Butterbeer is the best? Many will stand by the traditional Butterbeer, while others swear by the Frozen version. Your humble author’s opinion is that hot Butterbeer trumps them all, but there is something to be said about Butterbeer Ice Cream that made it’s debut with Diagon Alley. Available at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor (but the pros know to skip that line and head over to Fountain of Fair Fortune instead) Butterbeer ice cream is mostly vanilla soft-serve with swirls of Butterbeer flavoring. Like the Butterbeer drinks, the ice cream is very sweet, but it certainly feels right eating inside the Wizarding World. Now when exactly will Universal start selling a Butterbeer float?!

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Butterbeer Ice Cream. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Photo Gallery: 2015 Universal Orlando Spring Break Crowds

by on April 7, 2015

The Easter eggs have all been hunted, and the Passover seder plates are put away, but the 2015 spring break crowds have not yet departed from Orlando’s attractions. While wait times over the weekend weren’t quite as bad as initially predicted, it’s still been a very busy holiday week at Universal Orlando, as Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure both experienced their heaviest attendance since New Year’s Day. In case you weren’t brave or foolish enough to experience Easter Week in person, here is a photo gallery of Universal Orlando spring break crowds to give you a virtual taste of last week’s madness.

Universal Studios Florida Spring Break Crowds

You know its going to be a busy day at USF when the temporary turnstiles in between the entry gates are in use.

Universal Orlando spring break crowds 2015

Spring break crowds descended on Universal Orlando last week. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

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SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL EDITION: Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards (AKA “The Burgys”)

by on February 21, 2015

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The most coveted theme park award of all… The Golden Burgy.

This week’s SATURDAY SIX presents the Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards. This weekend, while the rest of the world is preparing for The Oscars and spending hours watching awards given to films they haven’t even heard of, let alone watched (not to mention the outright Best Picture snubs of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier), readers of this column will be able to see their favorite theme park attractions get the attention they deserve. The Golden Burgy, theme park media’s highest award, is being handed out to the rides, shows, restaurants, and experiences that truly stood out over the past year.

Just as the Academy Awards hand out their lesser prizes before the main show, we’d like to present two of our minor awards before we get to the big ones. First, a Golden Burgy goes to the Holy Land Experience in the category of Best Theme Park Food Pun for their Garden of Eaten Chicken Salad Sandwich. Interestingly enough, Holy Land had all the nominees in this category including JerusaLamb, Land of Milk (no honey,and My Cup Overflows Souvenir Refillable Cup. The category of Biggest Theme Park Free Fall experience was the tightest race of all the nominees. Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens was the favorite to win, but the coveted Golden Burgy instead went to SeaWorld’s stock price. Now that’s a drop.

With those out of the way, allow us to present to you the Inaugural SATURDAY SIX Theme Park Awards, starting with…

# 6 – Best New Ride Experience – Diagon Alley’s Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts 

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The rotunda inside Gringotts bank includes an incredible view. And this is just the queue! (photo by Tom Bricker)

What else needs to be said about Universal’s newest E-Ticket attraction? The queue for Escape From Gringotts is one of the best in theme park history, loaded with magical details from the Harry Potter films. There are incredible goblin animatronics and million dollar chandeliers hanging above that make the Gringotts Bank lobby almost an attraction by itself.

Unlike IOA’s Forbidden Journey’s “best of” trip through the first four Potter films, Escape From Gringotts places guests directly into events from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Ingeniously showing a movie scene from another perspective, Escape From Gringotts takes Universal’s motto of Ride The Movies to the next level.

Worst New Ride Experience – Being attacked by bees on Rip Ride Rocket 

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“Oh the humanity!” Swarms of bees attack riders on Universal Studios Florida’s Rip Ride Rockit. (photo by Mike Sperduto and Matt Cleary.)

While just a minor blip on the radar in 2014, the story of Rip Ride Rockit having a minor problem with bees was enough for us to envision the plot of a new horror film.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort According to Our All-Star Panel

by on January 24, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. We invited distinguished theme park experts from all over the world to come together and decide – once and for all – what the six best attractions are at the Universal Orlando Resort. Unfortunately, they were all busy. So instead we would like to introduce to you an all star, blue ribbon panel, made up of Universal experts. These include members of some of the greatest Universal websites (including Orlando United and Orlando Informer), the best Universal podcasts (including Parkscope and the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast), the most amazing Uni photogs (including Mike Sperduto and Brandon Glover), high ranking officials of the Theme Park Illuminati (such as Len Testa and Jim Hill), fan favorite park icons (including Scarlett Litton and Mark Diba), and the man who literally wrote the book on Universal, Seth Kubersky. We used a total of 25 individuals, in honor of Universal’s upcoming 25th Anniversary.

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SATURDAY SIX staff crunching numbers.

The Criteria: Each of the 25 experts voted on what they consider to be the six best attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. These attractions could be any ride or show currently in Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida. Special event shows – such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure or the Blues Brothers Christmas Show – were not eligible. Each attraction listed would be awarded ONE point, except for the attraction that the voter ranked in his #1 spot – that received TWO points. The votes were then sent to a top secret location in Florida and counted no less than 22 times (we’ve had some problems in the past. Sorry, Mr. Gore). The results are in, and we now proudly present….

The DEFINITIVE GUIDE to the SIX BEST ATTRACTIONS at the UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT.

# 6 – MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack (14 Points)

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MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Jim Hill, JimHillMedia.com – Steven Spielberg was supposedly the guy who came up with Universal Studios Florida’s original catch phrase (“Ride the Movies”). But MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack was the first theme park attraction that really did allow guests to ride a movie. To immerse theme park visitors in this hyper-detailed environment that then tried to replicate the specific look & feel of a particular motion picture. So much of what Universal Creative has since been celebrated for when it comes to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it first did with the April 2000 opening of this 70,000 square foot attraction. From the exterior to this enormous show building (which replicates the observation towers of the New York State Pavilion that played such an important part in the finale of the original Men in Black movie) to the insane level of detail found in this attraction’s queue (e.g., being able to listen in on the “worm guys” as they take their coffee break) to how interactive the actual “Alien Attack” ride is all by itself… The sheer ambition of MIB:AA is still kind of mind-blowing. And then when you factor in that upwards of 2200 Guests are able to experience this USF attraction every hour … Well, is it any wonder that the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) decided to give Universal Creative an Outstanding Achievement award in 2001 for all the great work that it did on this interactive, genuinely immersive attraction?

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2015 Celebration of Harry Potter Schedule and Autograph Session Information

by on January 16, 2015

Celebration of Harry Potter schedule and autograph information

Plan your Celebration of Harry Potter weekend with event schedules and autograph advice.

If Dani’s recent blog post about Universal Orlando‘s upcoming Celebration of Harry Potter event inspired you to attend, you’re probably looking for some hard information on the weekend-long fan convention kicking off at Universal Studios Florida on January 30th. Fear not, muggles, because we’ve found the full details on the Celebration of Harry Potter schedule and autograph session information to help you snag some face time with your favorite wizarding stars.

 

Celebration of Harry Potter Basic Information

The Celebration of Harry Potter, scheduled for January 30 through February 1, 2015, brings Harry Potter fans together with the actors and artists who helped create the blockbuster franchise. Similar to sci-fi and comic book conventions held around the country, the Celebration features panel discussions and question & answer sessions where guests can see some of the series’ stars in person, and possibly get an autograph. Confirmed participants in 2015 include Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), and James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley). Paul Harris, the choreographer who created “wand combat” for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, will also attend to lead popular masterclasses in wizard dueling.

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 25: Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

by on December 25, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

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

DAY TWENTY FIVE: Butterbeer (all versions) at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Orlando Resort)

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Frozen Butterbeer and regular Butterbeer with Hogwarts Castle standing majestically in the background.

 

The Game Changer.

When the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village opened in 2010, it was a brand new day at the Universal Orlando Resort. Guests were leaving with bags filled with Potter merchandise, a stark contrast for a resort that sold a ton of Thing 1 & Thing 2 shirts, but little else of note. Harry Potter and the Forbbiden Journey had a queue that guests wanted to spend more time in. Imagine that. In a world where theme parks are spending Millions (if not Billions) on getting guests through queues quicker, guests wanted to stay longer in the elaborate Forbidden Journey queue. As Vizzini would say, “Inconceivable!”

But what no one was prepared for was a little drink called Butterbeer. To say it was popular may be the understatement of the century, as Universal celebrated selling one million Butterbeers just six months after their debut. It is said that Universal made enough money of the sale of Butterbeer in those six months to completely cover the entire cost of the Wizarding World. Since the very first drinks were poured, guests have debated which was better: regular Butterbeer or frozen Butterbeer. The answer? Neither, the Hot Butterbeer is clearly the best. They are all so good they are going to collectively get the # 1 spot and, what the heck, we’re going to add in Butterbeer Ice Cream from Florean Fortescue’s as well!

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