Archive for December, 2013

PotterWatch: Christmas Week Diagon Alley Update and Gringotts Queue Rumors

by on December 31, 2013

Did Santa bring you everything you wanted from Universal Orlando this year? If your Wizarding World of Harry Potter wish list included a Christmas week Diagon Alley update — complete with PotterWatch’s first look at parts of the London Waterfront’s color scheme — then we are here to deliver your post-Xmas presents.

Diagon Alley Construction Update

While progress slowed somewhat over the holiday week, here is a complete overview at the Diagon Alley project, taken on December 26, 2013. For variety’s sake, this time we’ll start from the World Expo end of the construction:

Universal Orlando Diagon Alley update

Day after Christmas Diagon Alley update (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Walt Disney World Crowd Report – December 22 to 28, 2013

by on December 30, 2013

Our predictions did very well again this week with no park-level predictions missing by more than two index levels and no resort-wide predictions missing by more than 1. Before we pat ourselves on the back too quickly, we remind ourselves that predicting high wait times during Christmas doesn’t take a lot of science. However, we were pleased to see that our new wait time models did a great job predicting the nuances between each day. We correctly called which parks would have lower wait times and our prediction that The Studios and Animal Kingdom would trail behind Magic Kingdom and Epcot until December 27 proved correct.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up day-to-day.

The Crowd Report

The Crowd Report

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Universal Orlando Park Map Adds Springfield Attractions

by on December 30, 2013

Universal Orlando has been sliding a number of surprises into visitors’ stocking this holiday season. First, I told you about the stealthy price increase recently enacted on the Universal Dining Plan — Quick Service. Then, Derek Burgan pointed out six things you only see at Universal during peak season. Today we’re bringing you a first glimpse at the new landmarks and attractions of Springfield U.S.A. as they are finally visually represented on the newest Universal Orlando park map.

Here’s how the Universal Studios Florida park map appeared until December 25, 2013:


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Islands of Insanity: Christmas Week Crowd Photos from Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure

by on December 30, 2013

I’ve never participated in the running of the bulls in Spain, nor rung in the New Year in New York’s Times Square, because I don’t need to: I’ve been engulfed by the Christmas week crowd in Orlando’s theme parks. In the spirit of “taking one for the team,” I took on the challenge of visiting Universal Orlando Resort’s Islands of Adventure on two of the busiest days of the year — Christmas Eve (December 24, 2013) and the Friday after Christmas (December 27, 2013) — to give you idea of what guests face during 8 to 10 days on our crowd index.

We maintain our Crowd Calendar to help you avoid days like these, and Tourimg Plans to help you navigate should you be meshuggenah enough to ignore the following photos. These Islands of Adventure Christmas week crowd photos should also serve as great advertisement for the unlimited Universal Express access included with an on-site hotel room. And remember, these mob scenes are just a hint of hordes certain to swarm when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley opens at Universal Studios Florida next summer.

Christmas Eve (12/24/2013)

We’ll start with my mid-afternoon stroll around Islands of Adventure on Christmas Eve:

Wait times are substantial with Forbidden Journey posted at 100 minutes.

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Ultimate 2013 New Year’s Eve Plan

by on December 29, 2013

IMG_3154New Year’s Eve is one of the most amazing nights of the year at Walt Disney World. The fireworks are beyond any other party or event – even better than those on July 4! But even more than the fireworks, there is an amazing party atmosphere that you never see in the parks. Last year I saw the queue of Peter Pan’s Flight completely stopped while everyone in line danced to “Gangnam Style!” Whichever park you choose, there will be unforgettable entertainment and genuine Disney magic. That is the good news… the bad news is there will be crowds like most people never experience! But you have nothing to worry about, because I’m going to share with you my plan for a stress free New Year’s celebration! Here is the fine print: this is just what I would do this year. There are lots of ways to have a great time. and I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

Before leaving for a crazy busy day in the parks, I always pack a survival bag. If you haven’t experienced it, you might be surprised to find out that on a very busy day you could have to wait 30+ minutes for a drink or to use the bathroom. (Bathrooms aren’t as much of an issue at Epcot where they bring in portable toilets.) I always bring snacks, a water bottle, phone charger, and extra layers of clothing in case it gets cold. Rain gear is also a good idea if there are any showers in the forecast.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things You May See at Universal During the Week of Christmas/New Year’s Day

by on December 28, 2013

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Things You May See at Universal During the Week of Christmas and New Year’s Day. December can be a great month for visiting the Universal Orlando Resort. Holiday decorations are out, Grinchmas takes over Seuss Landing, and Macy’s Holiday Parade can be seen over in Universal Studios Florida. However, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day takes a page from Spinal Tap and brings everything up to an “11,'” giving guests an experience they may not receive before or after this special week. Today we’ll look at six things you may encounter if you are brave enough to battle the crowds during this busy week…


Frank the Pug from Men in Black

# 6 – Characters You Rarely See In The Parks

Guests get to see Men In Black’s Frank the Pug during the underrated Animal Actors on Location show, but during the busy weeks you may also see him out in the park. In fact, while you are battling the crowds between Christmas and New Year’s, you’re going to be treated to a plethora of walk around characters and “streetmosphere” that are much harder to experience during the less busier weeks. In Islands of Adventure your chances of meeting characters like Dr. Doom and the Green Goblin increase, while in Universal Studios Florida you may see an amazing street performance where person builds a tower structure out of wooden chairs and then climbs to the top.

There are more walk around characters, more live music, and overall more things to distract you from the fact that the rides you want to go on probably have a really long wait (more on that later…)

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In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of December 27, 2013

by on December 27, 2013

In Case You Missed It!

Did you have a great holiday week? Here’s what you missed while enjoying precious family and friend time.

In Case You Missed It – Disney News and Rumors

With the holiday season just winding up at Walt Disney World, did you ever wonder about where they store all the festive decor? Here’s a look at the huge Holiday Services warehouse where Disney keeps everything organized and ready for each year. (If only I could be that organized!)

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New Disney Dollars Series Available at Disneyland and Walt Disney World

by on December 27, 2013

New Disney Dollars Series


If you love Disney Dollars, Disney has rolled out a brand new series to both resorts, Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

The new design celebrates the Disney Mountain Ranges and features Splash Mountain on the $1.00 bill, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad on the $5.00 bill, and Space Mountain on the $10.00 bill.

So what are Disney Dollars? They work just like cash and are essentially a gift certificate that can be spent towards many different items at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. These can be redeemed at various locations on property. Many people also collect them as a souvenir of their trip.

Keep in mind that supplies are limited. This new version of currency will be sold at Guest Relations in Disney theme parks, at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort Hotels, and at World of Disney in Downtown Disney on both coasts.

Universal Studios Hollywood Despicable Me Minion Mayhem opens April 2014

by on December 27, 2013

Universal Studios Hollywood Despicable Me Minion Mayhem April 2014

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem arrives at Universal Studios Hollywood in April 2014

Gru’s lovable yellow Minions have already wreaked Mayhem at Universal Studios Florida, and now we know when their popular Despicable Me simulator ride will arrive at Hollywood. According to the webpage for a contest sponsored by the retailer rue 21, at Universal Studios Hollywood Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem will debut in April 2014.

The new attraction, which replaced USH’s Terminator 2/3D attraction, is largely identical to the Orlando version, but features a much more elaborate facade depicting Gru’s home and neighborhood. Adjacent to the ride (replacing the Coke Soak area) will be Super Silly Fun Land, an amusement park-inspired playground with a “spinner” kiddie ride.

The addition of Despicable Me is the first of many changes coming to Universal Studios Hollywood, including the recent demolition of the revolving tunnel on the Studio Tour, the rumored addition of an expanded Simpsons area similar to the new Springfield USA in Orlando, and the eventual opening of a west coast Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Read the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland for complete info on USH, and keep an eye on this blog for future updates on the evolution of Universal.


Observations From Disneyland and Disney California Adventure: December 23, 2013

by on December 27, 2013

DSC01401Guy here again with another Observations post. December 23 was a rarity for me: I spent all day in Disneyland/DCA (8 AM until 12 AM). I like to spend a full day in the park at least once a year. It gives me the opportunity to test out our optimizer and submit plenty of wait times to our Lines app. Plus, I had a friend in town making his once-a-year visit. This gave me the chance to tour like a tourist instead of a local (this means actually riding rides).

DSC01402Our first task of the morning was to grab FASTPASS for Radiator Springs Racers over in DCA. We arrived at the front gate at 7:25 and got through the turnstiles in less than 5 minutes. After entering the park we made our way to the FASTPASS line, which at this point was surprisingly short considering the park was only 30 minutes away from opening. By the time my friend and I got in line, it was only back to Carthay Circle Restaurant.

31 more pictures after the jump:

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