Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter’

Dani’s Best Week Ever October 27, 2016: Bidding farewell to Halloween in Orlando

by on October 27, 2016

Halloween season is almost over here in Orlando, and if you listen close enough you can hear sleigh bells ring in the distance. It’s hard to believe, but here in the land of eternal entertainment our Halloween and Christmas / Winter holiday season starts in September and runs continuously to January, more than a quarter of the year. Thankfully, I am a sucker for this season, yet I still find it comical that we get two full months each of Halloween and Christmas.

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Over the course of this past week I enjoyed my favorite Halloween celebration in Orlando’s theme parks, conquered a thrill ride at the last minute, and started to see signs of the Christmas season celebrations. Let’s begin to say our farewells to Halloween and slowly turn our attention to the most festive time of year.

Orlando’s most valuable Halloween celebration – SeaWorld Spooktacular

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is the best value for Halloween in Orlando’s theme parks. It is included in regular park admission, no extra charge. It takes place during regular park hours on weekends in October. This allows guests to enjoy all the regular park offers plus the added bonus of a fantastic trick or treat trail, whimsical characters, festive decorations, and great photo opportunity. Plus you don’t have to keep the kids up late for an after hours event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Now, the ‘wow’ factor is not as strong as Mickey’s event at Magic Kingdom, but it is charming, fun, super affordable, and very kid friendly. Costumes are allowed, policies can be found here.

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Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Queues at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on October 1, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Queues at the Universal Orlando Resort. If there is one thing all theme park fans can agree with, it’s that we hate lines. Even people who aren’t theme park fans often return from an Orlando vacation with a similar thought: theme park lines are the worst. Thankfully our Disney and Universal overlords have spent the last decade completely transforming the queue experience. Disney, putting Billions into MyDisneyExperience and FastPass+, are attempting to get guests to spend less time in lines (in hopes that we have more time in places where we spend money.) Universal has gone in a slightly different direction, creating queues that guests actually want to spend more time in. The concept of “feeling rushed” in a theme park line may seem incomprehensible to anyone who has waited an hour in the Florida humidity for it’s a small world or suffered through the mind-numbing banality of the Soarin’ queue, but believe it or not, it’s true.

But which of Universal’s queues are the best? We polled some of the biggest names in Universal fandom (including Seth Kubersky – author of the Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando – Orlando United, Parkscope, the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast and more) and have tabulated the results. So sit back, look out for the neuralyzer at the end, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Men In Black: Alien Attack

The queue for Men In Black: Alien Attack checks off several items we consider crucial to having a good queue, not the least of which is that you are in air conditioning for a long time. That may seem like a minor thing until you’ve almost experienced the sensation of melting while waiting outside for The Simpsons Ride or Rip, Ride, Rockit. It also recreates several areas that many guests will fondly remember from the first Men in Black film. But one of our favorite parts of this queue is that you can actually experience it hands on with a tour of the Immigration Room. Guests aren’t guaranteed this opportunity, but after riding you can ask a Team Member if you can take a tour. This will allow you some unbelievably great photo opportunities, along with a chance to see so many incredible details that Universal Creative has put into this room that the average guest will never see.

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Immigration room at Men In Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Travis Terrell)

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Men In Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Men in Black: Alien Attack. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The Weapons Room. (photo by Travis Terrell)

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Universal Orlando Photo Update, June 6, 2016

by on June 7, 2016

Welcome back to another Universal Orlando Photo Update! We’re in the middle of a very exciting time here at the resort, with two attractions opening up in the coming weeks and a brand new resort hotel not too far behind. We’ll start this week’s update with a look at Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium before taking a trip around Universal Studios Florida and a look at some smaller updates, including Fast and Furious: Supercharged and the Hello Kitty Store. Over at Islands of Adventure we’ve got a short look at The Incredible Hulk as well as some new information about Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Then we’ll close our update out with some shots of the nearly completed Sapphire Falls as well as next year’s Volcano Bay. All that and much more, so let’s get started!

Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium

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Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is Universal’s latest restaurant concept, opening this fall. It replaces the former NBA City concept and is currently undergoing a complete makeover to turn the form basketball restaurant into a chocolate factory.

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The giant windows are leftover from NBA City and will again afford guests a great view of the CityWalk lagoon.

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The Basics: Planning A Trip to Universal Orlando for Disney Veterans

by on March 18, 2016

gringotts dragonThis is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

Even the most ardent Disney fans have become aware that there exists ANOTHER theme park complex in Central Florida that people visit from time to time, and some of you have probably even considered popping over there for a bit to see what it’s all about. Gatorland aside, however, let me tell you about Universal Orlando, which is yet another top notch theme park experience that you should consider. This article will hopefully provide you with some guidance as a first timer to help you get the most out of the experience.

Let me get this out there at the outset: I realize that there exists this whole “Disney vs. Universal” rivalry that exists in the fan community. I’m not really trying to steer anyone towards one park or the other, I’m just trying to provide enough objective information to help Disney fans that are considering going to Universal make an informed decision and plan for the best trip possible. Because I am writing this for those that are familiar with Disney, however, some comparison of the two is a useful way to go about it, as it provides some context. I’m sure some of the more passionate folks on either end of the issue will take some of these thoughts as a shot across the bow. Just know that I’m a fan of both places, I have annual passes at both places, and I’m honestly doing my best to be as fair as possible. Please keep that in mind before you fire off your scathing email or comment! So, without further ado, let’s jump in!

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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 Studios Hollywood: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Review

by on February 13, 2016

DSC00168The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a new land at Universal Studios Hollywood based on the Harry Potter series of books and films. The land officially opens on April 7, 2016, but we were able to catch a technical rehearsal to the fully operational land. In this review I will cover all of the attractions, dining, and shopping in Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I will try my best to review the west coast version of this land as its own entity, but there will be certain things that must be compared to the version of the land in Islands of Adventure in Florida, and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or WWoHP as I’ll call it for the rest of this post, is located on the Upper Lot, directly across from Animal Actors stage. It’s a short walk from the main entrance of the park, which is nice as that’s probably where most Universal Studios guests will start their day from now until the end of time. Luckily WWoHP is pretty much a straight shot from the entrance of the park, which makes it easy to find in a park that some people find hard to navigate due to having no central hub (unlike most Disney theme parks). It’s also worth noting Universal’s Upper Lot is mishmash of themes and architectural styles: one stretch is 1920’s Los Angeles, the next is Paris, and then all of a sudden you’re in Springfield from the Simpsons. If you expected Universal to change this with the opening of WWoHP, they did not.

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Hogsmeade Village at Universal Studios Hollywood with Hogwarts in the background.

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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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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever January 28, 2016: Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Update

by on January 28, 2016

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Indulge your sweet tooth in this Best Week Ever update of Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando (photos/video by Seth Kubersky)

 

I hope you set your alarm clocks this morning, because this Best Week Ever is up and at ’em before daybreak to enjoy one of my favorite theme park perks. Early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is usually restricted to Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests, but throughout January annual passholders were allowed to join to early morning crowds on weekdays. At the same time, Universal has made some tweaks to the way this popular option operates, so this past week I awoke ahead of the sun to bring you the Universal Orlando Early Park Admission update.

First, the big news about Universal Orlando Early Park Admission is that it is currently offered at Universal Studios Florida only. For most of 2015, Early Park Admission was offered only at Islands of Adventure during off-peak times, and at both parks during peak holiday periods. Early in 2016, Universal returned off-peak Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida only. While communications from Universal have been inconsistent about the future EPA calendar, we currently expect Early Park Admission to remain at Universal Studios Florida only until the Easter/Spring Break peak season.

Here are some other Universal Orlando Early Park Admission updates:

  • When Universal Studios Florida opens for Early Park Admission, only Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the attractions inside Diagon Alley (including Escape from Gringotts) are regularly open. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers may also open early if the crowds warrant, but they were not operating early during my recent visit.
  • When Islands of Adventure opens for Early Park Admission, the Hogwarts Express usually begins operating 30 minutes before Universal Studios Florida officially opens. However, when Universal Studios Florida open early, the first Hogwarts Express train depart only a few minutes before IOA’s opening hour.

 

Got all that? Great! Now, let’s take a morning stroll around the parks.

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25 Drinks of Christmas – Day Twenty Four: Deathly Hallows at Hog’s Head (Islands of Adventure)

by on December 24, 2015

We’re back with everyone’s favorite theme park advent calendar: a daily countdown of our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld building anticipation to the Big Day. 

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

DAY TWENTY FOUR: Deathly Hallows at Hog’s Head (Islands of Adventure)

Before we start we unfortunately been handed a proclamation by Dolores Umbridge which states:

Theme Park Decree No. 22 All Muggle bloggers are not permitted to use the name Deathly Hallows to describe a particular drink at the Hog’s Head Pub and henceforth it shall only be referred to as The Triple.

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The Deathly Hallows Triple at the Hog’s Head pub. (photo by Brandon Glover)

With that out of the way, The Triple is our favorite of all the incredible specialty drinks you can get at the Hog’s Head Pub. One of the coolest looking beers you are going to find at Universal, the base of The Triple is Strongbow, while the middle is Hog’s Head Brew, and the top is Guinness. A trio of great draughts that make this our go-to drink when entering Hogsmeade Vilage.

Ingredients: Strongbow, Hog’s Head Brew, and Guinness.

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Hog’s Head Pub in Hogsmeade Village. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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25 Drinks of Christmas – Day Eighteen: Hog’s Tea at the Hog’s Head Pub

by on December 18, 2015

We’re back with everyone’s favorite theme park advent calendar: a daily countdown of our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld building anticipation to the Big Day. 

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

DAY Eighteen: Hog’s Tea at Hog’s Head Pub (Islands of Adventure)

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Hog’s Tea at the Hog’s Head Pub. (photo by Brandon Glover)

When Universal opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village in 2010, it changed everything. It is one of the most immersive lands ever built. It has an attraction with a queue guests actually want to spend MORE time in. It even has another attraction in which merchandise actually chooses the guest (Ollivander’s wand experience may go down as the most ingenious theme park attraction of all time).  But one of the biggest game changers is that Hogsmeade made it almost a prerequisite that new lands must come with a themed drink component. Butterbeer was such a smash hit that sales of it are rumored to have fully paid for the entire Wizarding World within six months. But it wasn’t the only new drink that opened with Hogsmeade, as Pumpkin Juice, Pumpkin Fizz, and Hog’s Head Brew also made their debut.

One of our favorite drinks in Hogmeade is Hog’s Tea. One of the strongest, most potent drinks in all of Universal Orlando, Hog’s Tea is basically a Long Island Iced Tea (a combination of vodka, gin, rum, and tequila mixed with sour mix and soda). What makes the Hog’s Tea better than your average Long Island Iced Tea is that instead of cola, iced tea is used. Traditionally, raspberry tea is used but you can also choose sweet tea or unsweet tea (which makes the drink pretty tart). 

Ingredients: Vodka, gin, rum, tequila, sour mix and sweet tea.

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The Hog’s Head pub in Hogsmeade Village. (photo by Dani)

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The Hog’s Head.

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