Slow-speed Hogwarts Express testing has begun at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter (photo by Seth Kubersky)
Exciting news, Harry Potter fans: Hogwarts Express testing has commenced at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando Resort! The iconic Hogwarts Express trains, which were lifted onto their elevated rails in late October, began slow-speed movement tests over the weekend.
It will still be many months before guests get to ride the Hogwarts Express attraction, which is expected to officially debut in June 2014. When complete, the Hogwarts Express will provide transportation between the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley expansion in Universal Studios Florida, and the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
Ordinarily, the Touring Plans team would be the first to bring you footage of the Hogwarts Express testing, but this time our friends at Orlando Attractions Magazine have beat us to the punch (blame our post-Thanksgivukha turkey & latke hangovers). Check out their video below, which also includes some shots of the London Waterfront construction, and check back here often for further PotterWatch progress updates on Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Stormy Central Florida skies couldn’t keep Orlando from welcoming a little piece of Italy to town today (Saturday, November 16, 2013), as the new Red Oven Pizza Bakery opened at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk. The new quick-casual al fresco restaurant replaced Pastamore’s counter-service market, and offers a new moderately priced alternative for upscale pizza and salads at Universal Orlando.
This afternoon we were among the establishment’s first day of paying customers, and returned with the following footage to give you a first look. We’ll return to Red Oven Pizza Bakery soon for a full review, but our first impressions were very positive. All the ingredients — which include house-sliced prosciutto and hand-pulled mozzarella — tasted fresh, and the pizza crust had the perfect amount of chew and char.
The first new episode of TNA Impact will be recorded live at Universal Orlando’s Soundstage 19 on November 21-23, 2013. In the past, guests wishing to be part of the studio audience could attend free of charge. Since production typically occurs inside the soundstages, we anticipate little to no impact on crowds or touring inside the parks on broadcast days. Keep an eye on Universal’s production website for information on how to attend.
As of a couple weeks ago, Filch’s has begun selling a new electronic interactive version of the Marauder’s Map that is exclusive to Universal Parks and the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. The new maps, which retail for $59.95, feature light-up footsteps and sound effects that are triggered by a “magic” wand.
We’re heading into the home stretch of Universal Orlando’sHalloween Horror Nights 23, and if you plan on facing the undead hordes you’ll need a good plan now more than ever. Luckily for you, we’ve been on the ground every weekend of the event so far, and have recorded over 300 pieces of wait-time data for the haunted houses.
Here’s the final result: field-tested touring plans, designed to help you tackle all eight mazes in a single evening without the use of extra-cost express passes — provided you pick the right night to attend (Wednesday or Thursday are best, Saturdays are worst, and Sunday can be surprisingly busy), arrive early, and stay late.
(Remember, you can click on any picture to see the full size version)
Fried Sweet Potato Chips (Applewood Bacon and Cheddar)
# 6 – Fried Sweet Potato Chips
Located in the New York section of the park (or the Fall of Atlanta scare zone for HHN fans), you’ll run into the stand selling Fried Sweet Potato Chips as you’re queueing up for the Evil Dead house or on your long walk out of The Cabin in the Woods, Resident Evil: Escape from Raccoon City, or An American Werewolf in London houses. It was good to see waffle fries brought into the park, something that should be around all year. The two available toppings that are Applewood Bacon & Cheddar and Candied with Cinnamon and Marshmallow, the latter of which scares even me.
We went with the bacon and cheddar topping and found the serving size to be more than generous. While normally I prefer regular fries over sweet potato fries, the taste combination of the sweet potato and the toppings was definitely more flavorful than the regular fries would have been. It’s very filling, and – at $7.00 – it isn’t too bad a deal for the amount of food that you get.
Usually when people talk about Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida the first thing they mention (after the gore and booze) is the huge lines. But this year, I lucked out. So far, I’ve been on an “RIP” guided tour, attended during exclusive annual passholder hours and “Stay & Scream” early entry periods, and made full use of my “Rush of Fear” and “Frequent Fear” unlimited Express passes. As a result, I’ve been able to experience all eight of the event’s haunted houses at least five times each so far this season, with an average wait time of under 15 minutes.
All photos by Seth Kubersky
But last Friday (10/4/2013), I wanted to experience how “the other half” lives and see the event from the perspective of an ordinary guest. Is it possible to arrive at the front gate on a moderately crowded night without any special line-cutting passes and still have a good time at HHN? Let’s find out!