Posts Tagged ‘wizarding world of harry potter’

Harry Potter: Orlando vs. Hollywood vs. Japan

by on February 22, 2016

In case you haven’t heard, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood has already begun its technical rehearsals in the lead-up to its April 7 grand opening. After five years of rumors and speculation about what, exactly, this third iteration of Hogsmeade would entail, the theme park community can finally take inventory of what has made the transition – and what hasn’t. It’s enough to make one giddy like a Hogwarts school girl, but it’s also enough to make one appreciate all the more just what is exclusive at the original Orlando location.

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What’s that, you say? You didn’t know that there were “exclusive” differences between Islands of Adventure and USH? Why, yes, in fact, there are – Universal long ago announced that each Wizarding World across the globe would have at least one specific experience that wouldn’t be available at its other two brethren, and while none of these has turned out to be anything mind-blowingly large (not like, say, the hypothetical Hogwarts Great Hall restaurant that was rumored to be coming to California), they do appreciably add to your overall experience in the Wizarding World.

While we’ve already provided a walk-through tour of Harry’s new digs in Universal City, it’s worth going a little more in-depth into these specific points of departure.

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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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Universal Orlando Releases 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter Schedule

by on January 24, 2016

2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule

Plan you Wizarding weekend with the 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule

If you’ve been anxiously awaiting an official 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter schedule of events from Universal Orlando, you can relax because your owl has arrived! Universal has just announced the full rundown of public happenings during their annual Wizarding World weekend, which runs January 29-31, 2016.

Activities over the three day Celebration of Harry Potter include Q&A sessions with cast members from the hit movies, panels with artists who worked on the films and parks, and special demonstrations and exhibits relating to Potter lore. In 2016, the Music Plaza stage in Universal Studios Florida will be dedicated during the day to kids activities, in addition to hosting the headliner events in the evenings, while Toon Lagoon amphitheater in Islands of Adventure will reopen during the daytime for sessions aimed at adult fans.

All of the below listed activities are open to all park goers, including annual passholder, without needing an extra ticket. One thing you won’t see on the list is autograph sessions with the film stars. After the intense demand for limited autograph tickets last year, Universal has restricted the signings solely to those who purchased special hotel packages (which sold out long ago).

Here is the full schedule of 2016 Celebration of Harry Potter activities:

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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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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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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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25 Drinks of Christmas – Day Sixteen: Pear Cider with Firewhisky at Leaky Cauldron

by on December 16, 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 SIXTEEN: Pear Cider with Firewhisky at Leaky Cauldron (Universal Studios Florida)

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Pear Cider with Firewhisky at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. (photo by Brandon Glover)

To celebrate the release of the trailer announcement for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we ourselves are heading back into the Wizarding World. Today we make a stop in Diagon Alley and try the Pear Cider with Firewhisky found inside the Leaky Cauldron. While the Wizarding World has blessed us Muggles with some fantastic beers such as Dragon Scale and Hog’s Head Ale, Blishen’s Firewhisky is our first taste of liquor enjoyed by wizards and witches. Known for filling one’s body with courage, Firewhisky can be purchased as a single shot, a double, or as we recommend: mixed with pear cider (you can’t go wrong having it with apple cider either). Here’s a toast to Alastor Moody, Cedric Diggory, Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks and all the great people we have lost over the years but will live forever in our hearts.

Ingredients: Pear cider, Blishen’s Firewhisky, and a pinch of magic.

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Our fearless editor Megan Stump in front of the actual Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Great Souvenirs From the Universal Orlando Resort

by on August 29, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Great Souvenirs From the Universal Orlando Resort. After two straight years of covering The Disney Outlet Stores each and every month for this fine blog, you can assume that we are pretty big fans of theme park merchandise (that or we did something awfully bad in a previous life). While exiting into a gift shop has become a running gag for many theme park guests, browsing those stores is actually something we here at the SATURDAY SIX offices look forward to almost as much as the rides themselves. 

Today we are going to look at great souvenirs found at the Universal Orlando Resort. Until the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in 2010, it was actually rare to see guests walking around with merchandise bags, but today it is more rare NOT to see someone carrying around loads of souvenirs. But how to determine the best theme park souvenir? Sparing no expense, we used the Arnim Zola algorithm (along with such factors such as price point, usage in actual movies/TV, and theme park exclusivity) to break down the best of the best on property. So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Bort Keychain (Kwik E Mart, Universal Studios Florida)

No one has mercilessly attacked the world of theme parks with sharper wit than The Simpsons television show. One classic moment when they turned the screws on the parks we all love happened way back in 1994 with the episode “Itchy & Scratchy Land.” One of the more memorable gags from the show was Bart Simpson running into one of the most ubiquitous pieces of merchandise at any theme park, the gift with YOUR name of it. In this instance, Bart was looking at personalized mini-license plates and found the names Bert, and Bort. What happens after is even better but the capper comes later in the episode when it is revealed the park has sold out of Bort license plates. Universal’s own Springfield USA pays tribute to that classic moment with a Bort keychain found in the Kwik E Mart gift shop.

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Bort keychain at the Kwik E Mart.

They even have more personalized items with Bort!

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Bort, the Kwik E Mart’s employee of the month. (photo by Darren Schmidt of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast)

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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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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s DIAGON ALLEY

by on July 11, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s DIAGON ALLEY. Who can believe it was just one year ago that Diagon Alley opened at Universal Studios Florida and changed the way we looked at immersive lands inside a theme park forever? When Hogsmeade Village opened in Islands of Adventure in 2010, it immediately became a gold standard and had industry-changing effects on themed merchandise as well as food and beverage. You can make a case that Butterbeer alone changed the entire future of the Universal parks by becoming such a phenomenon that it helped the $250 Million area pay for itself within six months. That immediate and unqualified success led to a fast tracking of many things, including Diagon Alley. 

But could Universal Creative top Hogsmeade Village, with the iconic Hogwarts Castle facade for Forbidden Journey, interactive show stopper Ollivanders, and wonderfully detailed areas like the Hog’s Head pub? SPOILER ALERT: Yes. Yes, they did. Today we are going to look six of the many reasons we love Diagon Alley and to narrow down our list we consulted with an expert in Muggle Studies, Megan Stump. You may remember Meg from last year’s #PotterWatch, where she was on hand for 30 straight days leading up to the grand opening. So grab your favorite Pygmy Puff (or Horcrux, if you’re Voldemort) and settle in for the countdown, starting with….

# 6 – The Entrance

One of the most unforgettable moments of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was Harry’s entrance into Diagon Alley. It was his introduction to the wizarding world, but was also ours. It was something both real and fantastical at the same time. Harry entered Diagon Alley through a magical brick wall, which revealed an entrance after an elaborate shifting of the bricks. In order to accommodate more than 500 Muggles a day into the land, Universal had to be a little creative in recreating this experience. They succeeded by having guests walk through a brick wall which slowly reveals the wonder of Diagon Alley before them.

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To get into Diagon Alley, guests enter the London Waterfront area to find a magical brick wall… (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Potterheads Amelia Brose and Sasha Atherton enter Diagon Alley for the very first time. An unforgettable experience. (photo by Megan Stump)

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