Posts Tagged ‘Universal Studios Florida’

Observations from Halloween Horror Nights and Updated HHN24 Touring Plans

by on October 8, 2014

Hhn24 touring plans

Plan your Nights of Horror with our updated HHN24 touring plans (photos by Seth Kubersky).

Halloween in still three weeks away, but Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 24 is well underway, and as always the event — and therefore our HHN24 touring plan — is ever evolving. After experiencing the rain-soaked chaos of opening night, I returned on a precipitation-free Thursday without the benefit of an RIP guided tour or Express Passes.

The good news is that I was able to experience all 8 haunted houses, and both shows, before the evening ended even without those extra-cost line-cutting perks, but it wan’t easy. To update my previously published Halloween Horror Nights Survival Guide, here’s a summary of my recent observations, followed by an improved edition of my HHN24 touring plans to plot your escape from the evil of overstuffed queues.

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Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Changes Starting September 2 [UPDATED 8/30/14]

by on August 30, 2014

Early Park Admission Sign

Big changes are coming in September to Universal Orlando’s Early Park Admission perk (Photo by Seth Kubersky)

As the summer season comes to a close, we’ve gotten word of some upcoming changes to Universal Orlando Early Park Admission policies that are scheduled to go into effect early next month.

While no details have been officially announced, we’ve confirmed this information with guest service leads at both parks, and we believe the following modifications will be made to Universal Orlando’s early park admission perk (otherwise known as “early entry” or “early admission”) offered to guests at the resort’s four on-site hotels.

We will be on hand to report on the new procedures, and we will update the information on our Early Park Admission page as policy changes develop.

[Note: Universal Orlando has recently confirmed an update to the off-season early entry, see below for bolded changes]

Early Park Admission General Information

Universal Orlando offers admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas at Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade) and/or Universal Studios Florida (Diagon Alley) one hour before regular park opening. This perk is given for free to all guests staying at a Universal Resort Hotel. Guests with certain types of “vacation packages” (most commonly sold by Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations and involving both accommodations at a Universal partner hotel and theme park admission) are also allowed in early.

The turnstiles to the park(s) participating in early entry should open approximately 90 minutes before the official opening time. Both hotel and day guests will be admitted to the park, and each eligible guest will need to show his or her own room key to pass beyond the park’s entry plaza during the early admission hour. Guests not eligible for early admission will be held in an alternative area to await the official opening time.

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Visiting Disney with an Infant

by on August 7, 2014

Princess Aurora and her Twin

Princess Aurora and her Twin

After getting pregnant, I’ll admit I was worried that visiting Disney World with a baby would prove too difficult. However, after bringing my daughter Annie at 11 weeks old, I realized that with a little more planning, we could still have an amazing time. With that said, allow me to share my tips and tricks for bringing an infant to Disney.

Top Tips for Visiting Disney with an Infant

- You can check your car seat and stroller for free with most airlines. It’s your choice if you want to check them at the desk or the gate. The employees don’t usually mind either way. It’s a good idea to put a name tag on your stroller (unless someone has a better stroller than you…then you might want to “accidentally” walk off with theirs – I did say I would give you tips and tricks, didn’t I?).

- Most airlines will let people with children board first, giving you extra time to get situated without the crowd. Take note that the airlines will not let you sit in an exit row if traveling with an infant, so keep that in mind when booking your seat.

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Observations from Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Week of July 28

by on August 1, 2014

observations from Disney's Hollywood Studios

Does Disney’s Hollywood Studios hold up in a post-Diagon Alley world? (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

“It was the best of rides, it was the worst of rides…”

With deepest apologies to Charles Dickens, today I present a Tale of Two Parks. As regular readers may have noticed, I’ve been spending a lot of time these past few months at Universal Studios Florida, documenting the debut of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley. But USF isn’t the only movie-centric theme park in Orlando. So on Monday, July 28, I stopped by the other Studios for the first time in forever — or at least since Star Wars Weekends — for some observations from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. How does DHS stack up in the age of Harry Potter’s newest expansion?

First, a bit of background. The origins of DHS and USF will forever be entwined, as Michael Eisner accelerated the opening of Walt Disney World’s third gate to upstage Universal’s first Floridian attraction. Though it was announced first, Universal Studios Florida opened a year after Disney/MGM Studios (as the park will forever be known in the hearts of long-time fans) and was initially hobbled by famously malfunctioning E-Tickets like Jaws and Kong. MGM sported only a half-day slate of entertainment upon its debut, but added major rides like Star Tours and Tower of Terror during its first decade, while Universal used that time to tame its balky headliners and add effects-driven shows like Twister and Terminator 2.

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New Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plans

by on July 31, 2014

Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans

2½ hours is considered a moderate wait at Gringotts! Be prepared with our new Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

If you are planning to devote a day of your vacation to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ll quickly discover that there is more to do at Universal Orlando’s park than can be covered in dozen hours. We’ve had a great response to our recently published Diagon Alley touring plan and one day/two park touring plans, which I encourage you to read if you haven’t already. But an even better way to experience everything Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure has to offer is with these new Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans.

The good news for guests just now getting to Gringotts is that the ride is running much more reliably and with greater capacity than only a couple weeks ago; as a result, standby wait times are peaking in the morning at half their former 450-minute high-water, and dropping to 120 or less by late afternoon. There is still a rush to Diagon Alley every morning, resulting in a queue to enter London for early arrivers. But the return time tickets are rarely needed any more, and crowd control barricades around the area have been vanishing by lunchtime.

Note that these new two-day/two-park touring plans have been optimized to account for the recent reduction in operating hours, and should scale well with diminishing crowds as hours are reduced further this fall. As always, we’ll continue refining our plans using the latest data, and subscribers can edit and evaluate them for themselves by personalizing a copy of our premium plans. (Be sure to look for a link to Part 2 at the top of the plan, and make a copy of each part.)

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New Universal Orlando Wizarding World Two-Park Touring Plans

by on July 23, 2014

Gringotts Queue

Learn everything you’ve always wanted to know (but were afraid to ask) about visiting both Gringotts and Hogwarts with our new Wizarding World two-park touring plans! (photos by Seth Kubersky)

A few days ago, we published our newly updated Universal Studios Florida touring plans, which provide step-by-step instructions for tackling Diagon Alley and the crowds at the Gringotts bank ride with maximum efficiency. Those guides are now available as premium touring plans that can be copied and edited in Lines, with versions for Early Entry guests and for those staying off-site.

Today, we’re following up with the first installment of our most frequently requested touring plan: one-day/two-park plans covering both sides of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These new plans cover both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. They feature all Harry Potter attractions (including rides on the Hogwarts Express in both directions) in a single day, and assume you have a Park-To-Park (Universal lingo for “parkhopper”) ticket.

[Note: If you caught the early edition of this post, you may notice that the touring plans have changed slightly. Using the latest data crunched overnight, we've tweaked the morning attraction order to squeeze in one extra attraction! Similar upgrades have already been made to the premium one day USF/Diagon Alley plans we've previously published. You're welcome!]
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New Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Touring Plans

by on July 19, 2014

Diagon Alley touring plans

Massive crowds await inside the Gringotts bank. Be prepared with our new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley touring plans! (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

It’s been a little over a week since the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, and Universal Studios Florida‘s blockbuster new attraction continues to attract astoundingly oversized crowds. While you won’t find the massive queue clogging park walkways that accompanied the opening of the original Wizarding World in Islands of Adventure, thanks to greatly improved crowd control procedures, guests are still waiting upwards of 5 hours on a daily basis just to Escape from Gringotts. While the new “multidimensional” thrill machine is certainly a marvel, we here at Touring Plans are congenitally allergic to advising any of our readers to invest half their vacation day in any one attraction, at the expense of experiencing everything else that Universal has to offer. In that spirt, we offer our newly updated Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Touring Plans, along with a comprehensive commentary with everything you need to know in order to open your magical bank account with a bare minimum (relatively speaking) of waiting.

The following Diagon Alley touring plans are based on first-hand observations conducted during pre-opening media previews, soft openings, and daily operations during grand opening week. The plans were optimized based on a peak day (9.5 out of 10 on our crowd calendar) and may need modification once off-season arrives with shorter hours. As operational patterns evolve, we’ll continue to update our plans for maximum efficiency.

These plans will also shortly be available as premium plans on TouringPlans.com and in our Lines app, so subscribers will be able to copy and edit them at will. Be aware that our system is not yet able to properly account for the queuing and return time tickets required to enter Diagon Alley, and may therefore return inappropriate results for that area’s attractions; for the moment, we recommend editing the attraction order manually through our website, and using “evaluate” instead of “optimize” for Diagon Alley plans.

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The Magic Next Door: Universal Orlando Resort

by on July 12, 2014

Universal Orlando Resort: A Basic Primer for Walt Disney World Vacation Veterans

Friends, vacationers, locals… lend me your comically over-sized souvenir mouse ears! Most of you like the Walt Disney World Resort, and for good reason. But, dear reader, let me tell you about another place. A wonderful place. A place where you can squeal and fawn over little jellybean men in overalls and not feel weird because everyone else is doing the same thing. That place… is the Universal Orlando Resort.

 

Universal Orlando Resort

Copyright – Universal

There are some people out there who might tell you that there are Disney Folk and Universal Folk, and that never the two shall meet. But, dear reader… that just ain’t so. It doesn’t matter what your family is composed of or how much coffee you drink out of your oversized novelty Donald Duck Mug. If you like roller coasters, Universal Orlando Resort has something for you. If you like great food, the resort has something for you. If you like dinosaurs and wizards, swashbuckling and dancing, beach chairs and tornadoes… it has something for you. Below you’ll find a brief summary of the Universal experience, from the events it hosts to some very important ways it differs from the House of Mouse.

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PotterWatch: Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley Soft Openings

by on July 6, 2014

Diagon alley soft opening

Regular guests get their first look at the Universal’s newest Wizarding World during the first day of Diagon Alley soft openings (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Nearly a month after construction walls came down around Universal Studios Florida‘s London waterfront, PotterWatch finally paid off this past week, as regular guests were finally allowed to experience Universal Orlando‘s new Harry Potter attractions in advance of the expansion’s July 8 official opening. Hogwarts Express began “technical rehearsals” on July 1, and the first Diagon Alley soft openings started on July 3.

While the Gringotts ride is not available during these previews, all shops, restaurants, and shows in Diagon Alley should be open to guests on a daily basis until the grand opening on July 8.

As congested as these photos may appear, this is nothing compared to how busy Diagon Alley will be once opening day officially arrives. With minimal queues to enter the area, and posted standby waits at Hogwarts Express of 30 minutes or less, this is an ideal time to experience Diagon Alley without the crushing crowds that are surely coming right around the corner.

Check out these front-line photos from July 3, documenting the first few hours after ordinary visitors were first allowed to experience the new Wizarding World:

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront Walls Are Down

by on June 9, 2014

As Laurel Stewart shared in a newsflash a short time ago, the construction walls around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley came down late last night, unveiling the new London facades without walls for the first time to this morning’s guests (including myself). Without further ado, we present a long-awaited PotterWatch milestone, without our first full look at the expansion with the London Waterfront walls removed.

Wizarding World Harry Potter Diagon Alley London Waterfront walls

A first look at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley and the London Waterfront without walls (photos by Seth Kubersky)

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