Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter’

How to Enjoy Universal Orlando’s Harry Potter Celebration 2015 without a Special Package)

by on January 14, 2015

TouringPlans is happy to welcome Dani Dennison-Perez to the blog. Dani also writes for Orlando Informer and ThisFloridaLife.

A Celebration of Harry Potter 2015 is on the horizon. Potterheads, Muggles, and everyone else are anxiously awaiting its arrival much like young little witches and wizards waiting their turn to cross onto platform 9 ¾ for the Hogwarts Express on their first trip to Hogwarts. This event officially debuted last year and seems to be a new annual tradition (we hope). This year’s A Celebration of Harry Potter will take place January 30 – February 1, 2015.

Much in the same vein as Disney’s Star Wars Weekends, A Celebration of Harry Potter brings together celebrities from the movies, special shows and Q&A sessions, and exclusive exhibits. What’s more, it brings in a nice hefty revenue stream for Universal Orlando and Loews Hotels as vacation packages with special benefits are sold at a mind baffling rate. But what if you weren’t able to snatch up one of those enticing packages? You can still find ways to revel in the celebration.

Last year I decided not to purchase any of the packages and went about the whole thing very casually. No planning, no forethought, just showed up…. And I got nothing accomplished (though I still had fun). Here now are my tips, just keep in mind, this is based on my experience last year. Some things may be changing this year, but I am confident the same tips will apply.

Photo credit: Universal Orlando

Photo credit: Universal Orlando

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: January 8, 2015

by on January 8, 2015

1Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. Fair warning, there is a TON to share this week! We’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Then we’ll be spending some time at Universal Orlando Resort and finishing off with the reopening of Typhoon Lagoon! Let’s go! :)

It’s pretty widely known that the Magic Kingdom celebrates New Year’s Eve on the 30th and 31st. This year I decided to ring in the new year twice to bring you double the coverage! The night of the 30th, I arrived a little before 9pm and used my FastPass+ for The Haunted Mansion. I don’t want to jinx it, but FastPass+ has been working great lately. The weather was also a big help: it rained consistently all night which ran off a lot of the crowd. Want to see more from New Year’s Eve Eve? Click to read more!

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: January 1, 2015

by on January 1, 2015

1Hi, Everyone! Welcome to a whole new year of the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! Or maybe it isn’t fair to just say Walt Disney World, since I received passes to Universal Orlando Resort this Christmas! 😀 This week I’m excited to share my first trip there in ages, show off the new Polynesian Resort lobby, stop by Disney’s Hollywood Studios to check out the Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special, and lastly pop in Epcot for some last minute holiday fun. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get going!

I’ve mentioned before that I love Universal, but some of the rides are too intense for me. (Maybe that’s why Cat In The Hat was my first stop!) When picking an admission ticket we normally end up choosing Disney just because there’s more we can do together. However, when passes are a gift there is no decision to be made, and I was just dying to see Diagon Alley! Click “read more” below for more on my first visit!

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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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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 20: Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew at the Hopping Pot

by on December 20, 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: Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew at the Hopping Pot (Universal Studios Florida)

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Dragon Scale brew inside Universal’s Diagon Alley. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

We’re getting closer and closer to Christmas Day, so it is no surprise that some heavy hitters of the theme park drinking world are starting to come out. As we begin our final countdown to the big day we have our very first dual nomination, Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew at The Hopping Pot. Just as the Hog’s Head Brew is exclusive to Hogsmeade Village, Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew can only be found inside Diagon Alley. Dragon Scale is a malty lager, making it a great choice in the Florida heat, whereas Wizard’s Brew is a sweet stout, with flavors of chocolate and coffee. The beer tap for Dragon Scale has a dragon draped around it, similar to the iconic one standing atop Gringotts Bank, and is one of those fantastic details that sets the Wizarding World apart from lands in any theme park.

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One-Day/Two-Parks; A Universal Orlando Trip Report

by on December 17, 2014

The gate to the Studios.

The gate to the Studios.

…in which our intrepid couple travels outside the Disney bubble and lives to tell about it.

Step 1 – Transportation from Walt Disney World to Universal and Park Tickets

While planning for a particularly long vacation to Walt Disney World, my husband and I decided to squeeze in a day over at Universal Orlando Resort to try out a one-day / two-park touring plan of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Instantly we were faced with the question, “How do we get there?” We were planning on taking Disney’s Magical Express from the airport and would not have a car while on vacation. Would we dare to use the public transportation and hop a bus? We had seen a harrowing,(although hilarious) YouTube video of a British couple who took this route. It didn’t work out so well for them, and they splurged for a cab ride on the way back. Yes, busing was out of the question. We were on a time limit and didn’t have the three hours it took these poor folks just to get to the park. Well, with rental car and busing out of the question, that left us with a taxi.

We did our homework and priced up the fares using the Mears Transportation website. It didn’t seem too terrible, and this is really what we were leaning towards, until I read in the fine print that even if stuck in traffic, the meter is running. We wanted to be on the roadways during rush hour traffic. This probably was not a good plan either. Well, what to do? Do we just forget about Universal? No! Where there is a will, there is a way. And after more research we discovered that some of the travel agencies that sell tickets also sell transportation packages. Now we’re talking!

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 16: Fishy Green Ale at the Fountain of Fair Fortune

by on December 16, 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 SIXTEEN: Fishy Green Ale at the Fountain of Fair Fortune

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Fishy Green Ale. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

One of the most unique and original drinks created for Diagon Alley earlier this summer was Fishy Green Ale. Like the original Butterbeer and then the Flaming Moe in Springfield, Universal has created a theme park signature drink that was like no other. The drink itself is green in color with a creamy mint taste along with some hints of cinnamon. At the bottom of the drink are plump blueberry “fish eggs.” The Fishy Green Ale comes with a bigger straw than the other drinks to be able to suck these “eggs” up and they almost explode in your mouth. The non-alcoholic Fishy Green Ale may not be  for everyone, but those who enjoy it are going to love it. 

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 14: Hog’s Head Brew at the Hog’s Head

by on December 14, 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 FOURTEEN: Hog’s Head Ale at the Hog’s Head (Islands of Adventure)

HogsHeadBrew

Hog’s Head Ale.

 

Our latest entry comes from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village.  Hog’s Head Brew is exclusively made for Universal by the Florida Beer Company. The brew is amber in color, with a slightly off-white head. The taste is surprisingly good for a theme park beer, with hints of a good Scottish ale while having a crisp taste. The Hog’s Head pub itself is ripped straight out of the pages of JK Rowling’s novels, and also played an important role in the film series as it was where the Hogwarts students formed Dumbledore’s Army in Order of the Phoenix.

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 11: Tongue Tying Lemon Squash at the Leaky Cauldron

by on December 11, 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 ELEVEN: Tongue Tying Lemon Squash at the Leaky Cauldron (Universal Studios Florida)

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Tongue Tying Lemon Squash in Diagon Alley. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

When Universal opened Diagon Alley early this summer, we knew there would be a variety of new drinks making their debut, but we didn’t know which ones or how good they would be. One the surprises of the bunch was Tongue Tying Lemon Squash. Filled with fresh lemon pulp along with hints of vanilla, this version of lemonade immediately became the best on property, and let’s face it, nothing beats an ice cold lemonade on a hot day touring the theme parks. Our recommendation is to head into the Leaky Cauldron, grab a Banger Sandwich and a Tongue Tying Lemon Squash, and just soak in the incredible atmosphere.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six “Easter Eggs” at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on November 22, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six “Easter Eggs” at the Universal Orlando Resort. The Universal theme parks are filled with extraordinary features, from the incredible dragon atop Gringotts bank in Diagon Alley, to the hilarious games of chance in front of The Simpsons Ride, but my favorite ones are the subtle – almost hidden -details that most guests don’t even notice while touring the park. I like to think of these details as Easter eggs, similar to the ones most of us are familiar with in movies (and, in Hollywood, no one is better than Disney Pixar.) Now, some of these details are almost impossible to find unless you know where to look for them, while others are hidden in plain sight, but all of them, whether consciously or subconsciously, add to the overall immersion at Universal.  Today we are going to look at six of these Easter eggs, several of which even longtime Universal fans may have not noticed before. Remember that clicking on any picture will bring it up in full size, keep your head on a swivel, and let’s start counting down…

# 6 – Mickey Ears in Twister… Ride It Out

Our first stop is at an attraction that may not be around for much longer, Twister… Ride It Out. Based around the movie Twister from 1996 (and one of your humble authors favorite guilty pleasures,) the attraction’s pre-show has guests walking through a house that has been ravaged by a tornado. One of the pieces of debris inside the house is a car coming through the roof. If you look closely at the passenger side front tire of the vehicle, you will see a pair of the iconic Mickey Ears.

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Twister… Ride It Out at Universal Studios Florida. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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