Happy Anniversary Diagon Alley!

This week we have a lot to celebrate! Universal Studios Florida replaced Jaws and Amity Island with a new land five years ago that was themed to one of the most magical places on earth…and it includes one of the safest places as well. Lets take a trip down memory lane of the second phase of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley!

Diagon Alley opened July 8th, 2014 and became the second phase of the Wizarding Word of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida. This land has shops, food, shows and pretty incredible rides. Plus, with the addition to interactive wands, it was and still is one of the most advanced lands in the theme park industry. It has even gone through some changes over the years, but it is truly fun to venture in and experience it all.

For dining, you have the Leaky Cauldron which has many british-inspired meals like “Bangers and Mash” and “Shepherds Pie.” They have some deserts there, but if you are looking for a special treat, there is always Florean Fortescues Ice Cream Parlour or The Fountain of Fair Fortune for your drinks, beer and butterbeer alike. You also have a few other spots and carts to get drinks like “Gilly Water” and butterbeer too.

You also have many shops you can get all the Wizarding World gear to get ready for school. There is an Ollivander’s wand shop where “the wand chooses the wizard,” and there is a part where someone is chosen to pick their wand in front of a group which everyone gets excited to be picked. You can even take the wands and do spells all throughout the land and a map shows you where you can perform them.

You can also get your robes and many character outfits at Madame Malkin’s Robes for All and at Quality Quidditch Supplies. They even have Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes where you can get all of your gags and you can get your school pet at Magical Menagerie. If you are feeling bold and into the dark arts though, take a tour down Knockturn Alley and check out Borgin and Burkes. Of course though, you will need money for all of this so do no forget to see the goblins at the Gringotts Money Exchange where you can talk to a teller and receive your wizarding bank notes.

Lets not forget the shows that are put on in the courtyard like the amazing Celestina Warbeck and two puppet shows based on stories from within the book “Tales of Beetle the Bard” called “The Fountain of Fair Fortune” and “The Tale of Three Brothers.” They even have an interactive show with the Knight Bus located on the London waterfront that hides Diagon Alley from muggles. Overall, if you need something to relax these shows can help and give you a moment to check out the scenery while getting an experience.

The ride “Escape from Gringotts,” is the main attraction of the land and it truly is a fun dark ride/coaster. You basically enter the vaults of the goblin-run vaults with Bill Weasley and things go wrong when Bellatrix sees you and thinks you entered her vault. Harry and his gang are there at the same time and Voldemort ends up showing up alongside Bellatrix and they try to kill you for answers about why muggles are at Gringotts. At the end, Harry and his crew save you and fly you out on a dragon and all is well. While this is not my favorite ride of the park, I do love it and enjoy the effects every time. There is even a dragon on top of the ride that goes off every few minutes and scares unsuspecting guests and delights others that know its coming.

They also built the Hogwarts express at this time that helps you get back and forth between the two parks (provided you have a two-park ticket). You have situations arise throughout the ride like dementors, the knight bus, the flying car and many more. Both rides have a different story going to and from London or to and from Hogwarts. Truly find this to be cute and a nice way to relax instead of having to walk all the way to the other park.

Overall, as a Harry Potter fan I love going in and feeling the magic. To this day, I still get chills when I first walk in and see the dragon and the Weasley’s bright orange building. I think that this is just one of the steps in the direction that helps make theme parks better by having so much interaction and options and not just attractions. Here’s to another five years for Diagon Alley and many more!

Thanks for reading my article and I hope you enjoyed. Please feel free to comment and follow my posts as I write weekly. Until next time, see you at the parks!


Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure full review

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to get in line with my cousin and try to ride “Hagrid’s,” for the first time. After four and a half hours in the sun, another hour and a half inside the ride queue and becoming part of the nice family in front of us who was in town from Ireland, we made it! I have to say that while I would not wait six hours again, the ride was amazing,

First off, I would like to say that Universal has an operating system for waiting that may need some fine tuning and better shade but overall works in this situation. They are not opening the ride until the afternoon after they test it a few times and each day that opening time varies. In order to accommodate people who want to wait and be in line for the moment it opens, they have a roped off section over by Poseidon’s Fury and behind the talking water fountain.

They had water coolers set up and passed out water and they had a food cart with snacks so everyone could stay hydrated and fed. Now yesterday they estimated two o’ clock, so after four rolled around, they gave everyone in line a fast pass for the inconvenience. I cannot speak to this being a regular thing, but it was nice of them to acknowledge those of us that waited. They basically kept us there until it was open, then they moved some barriers around and closed off a section while we walked over. Once you put your stuff in the lockers that are for the ride, you get in the queue and that is where the ride truly begins.

We walked up the long path up to the queue entrance that was full of homage to the dueling dragons coaster and showed Hagrid’s creature collection all throughout the halls. While we did not get to see the pre-show for the ride with Arthur and Hagrid, we did see Fang the dog walking around on the screen. We also were stuck in a room with all sort of eggs from different dragons and different pictures and creatures all across the wall. Then we walked through the halls and got to the pre loading dock area that had all sorts of effects going on too. Personally, the queue is fun in certain spots but bland in others. Once the ride has the kinks worked out and the pre-show is consistant it will be better. Not to say that is bad though, plus it leads to a great ride with a fun story.

So once you board and are either on the motorbike or sidecar (I was on the Motorbike) you take off through the forest to find Hagrid. Now being on the motorbike gives you the higher spot to see, but I think having the height difference helps get different perspectives, but next time I will ride sidecar. You also have an interactive part on the motorbike having to hit a button which is fun. Personally I can see where the sidecar would feel more secure but the motorbike is more fun.

Now the ride starts with you finding Hagrid and he has a Blast-Ended Skrewt standing next to him. He starts his lesson of running you through the forest. You see fluffy the three-headed dog and then the Ford Anglia covered in Cornish Pixies and the bike stalls. You fly backward and you run into a centaur and while trying to dodge him, you end up in some Devil’s Snare. Hagrid teaches you an incantation to say and once you both say it, the bike drops. As the motorbike driver, you hit a purple button and the bike blasts through and Hagrid ends the lesson and gets you out of the forest.

The technology is so advanced on this ride that I can see why it takes some time to get this thing running. The track has amazing speed and the feeling of the ride is smooth. I also like the different forces you feel going backward and when you drop, so if you like coasters, you cannot go wrong. I also love the story and how it feels perfectly Hagrid as you go through all of the different scenarios. Hagrid would put himself in these situations but would also remain calm and manage to get out, and I totally love and felt like this would be a class with him if he had control.

Overall if you can get out there and ride it, go. This is a great coaster and a great addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As if you needed me to tell you…

Well that is going to be it for today folks. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed my review! Please feel free to comment and tell me how you felt about my review and the ride itself if you have gotten to go. Until next time, see you at the parks!

Universal Orlando’s HHN 29 House Alert!!!

Today we were graced with yet another house announcement. While the last one had us going under the sea for scares, this has us venturing into the arctic tundra in “Yeti: Terror of the Yukon.”

This house is inspired by the scene in last year’s grindhouse/b-movie house “Slaughter Sinema,” titled Attack of the Swamp Yeti. This will have a colder vibe though so it is a little different.

The story goes that these loggers and trappers were trying to get out of the cold and seek shelter in a campsite they found, and they stumble upon the Yeti. As you try to run away, there are caves you will have to survive. As you try to find your way out though, you will hear the screams of the other victims who won’t make it. He will be out for blood, so be careful!

Overall I am truly excited to see what Universal has in store for us with this original plot. Everyone wanted to see a house stem from Slaughter Sinema last year, and the Yeti is a perfect choice. I always love the “cold” houses and this sounds like there will be blood all throughout so it could also be gory. So far, this year’s line up is not disappointing.

Tickets, passes and packages are all available now so do not forget to get your ticket on https://orlando.halloweenhorrornights.com/site/hhn/products/event-tickets and the event will be running the longest it ever has going from September 6th-November 2nd.

That is going to be all for today’s post, but stay tuned this week as I will write another about other news in the passhole world. Thanks for reading and hope you have a great week and I will see you in the parks!

This week in Passhole land…

The world of “passholes,” has had a busy few weeks. At Disney, California had the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, they announced a preview for the one in Orlando, and they also gave us an increase on all Florida annual pass-holder prices. Universal Orlando had Hagrid’s Magical Creatures motorbike adventure opening to amazing reviews, and they had to update their operating procedure for it. Busch Gardens has new animal encounters and Discovery Cove is offering a Florida resident discount now. Lets get into the details!

So for Disney, everyone loves Galaxy’s Edge in California. They had a system for return times for people staying on site and for people going to the parks during the first month that gave people four hours to explore the land. In Orlando, they announced they are going to schedule passholder previews for the top three tiers and will probably do something similar for the rest as well and announce it as we get closer to the opening date of August 29th. Personally, I cannot wait to see what we have in store. They also made an announcement that each pass had an increase overnight from between $9 for the water park pass to$225 for the Passport that covers California and Florida. The price change varies between what kind of pass you have, so go to Disney’s website and it will go into further detail about how much each pass increased.

For Universal Orlando, it has been a magical week. They opened to rave reviews on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. It has been opening with lines out to the Port of Entry and Seuss Landing with a 600 minute wait opening day. They had to make an announcement this week that they will no longer be opening Hagrid’s for the entire day and only opening it in the afternoon in order to make sure the ride maintains its performance because it is such sophisticated technology. Overall, people will have to be patient while they sort out the technical and weather factors for this coaster.

At Discovery Cove, Florida residents receive a 30% discount of their ticket if they book for 2019-2020 between now and June 30th. Visit the Discovery Cove website to book now and get more details on pricing. Busch Gardens Tampa has new animal tours as well. You can see the “Sloth Encounter,” which is a 30 minute tour and “Rhino Encounter,” which is a 45 minute tour. They now have 10 experiences for you to get up close with animals now and these new tours cost $59.99/ person. Book on Busch Gardens website or call 813-884-4FUN (4386) to get more details.

So as you can see, all of the parks have a lot going on and there is fun to be had by all! Thanks for reading my post and getting the updates. I cannot wait to review the rides for myself very soon! Until next time, see you in the parks!

Live Stream for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

After a brief delay, I was able to catch the live stream for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. I thought it was great and had a celebration of Harry Potter vibe to it which we missed this year. It was very short and sweet which I can appreciate for everyone there that wanted to get on the ride and for everyone watching as well. I will give a rundown in case you missed it.

At the event tonight, a lady named Jemma hosted and she got the crowd together and started after the brief delay. She introduced Chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts Tom Williams first and he came out and said thank you to all of the teams and people that were involved in making this “StoryCoaster,” happen. He handed the mic back to Jemma, and that is when the fun started.

She then started to introduce parts of the cast to help her with the ceremony and Warwick Davis (many characters, but for tonight I will just say Professor Flitwick) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) were first on stage. Then all of a sudden the Ford Anglia (Aka: The Flying Car) rolled up and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) came out and joined them. Jemma then introduced a brief video of Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid) explaining the magic of the forest and once he was finished, the motorbike pops up with non other than our favorite twins, James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley) to help in the mischief .

The final step Jemma had was to move the boxes out of the entrance to the ride and she needed help. Davis comes up with a clever idea to make the boxes levitate out of the way with his incantation, “Wingardium Leviosa.” They count to three and the cast holds their wands up and says it with the crowd, the boxes moved and lights started to glow over the house banners with their respective colors (Blue, Green, Red and Yellow). Jemma told the crowd to look around and have fun and that was the end of the show.

Personally, I love when Universal does stuff like this and I cannot wait to experience the newest attraction. Based on previews from people who have already rode it, this ride is fun and intense.

The coaster opens to the public Thursday, June 13th so sooner than later, this girl is going to be on it. I will give my ride review as soon as I get across.

That’s gonna be it for tonight folks. I hope everyone enjoyed that quick review I appreciate the read. Until next time, see you at the parks!

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

As we have 3 days until Galaxy’s Edge opens over in California, I decided tonight I would try and talk about what we have heard about this new land. I have not gone in to much detail about it before this, so now is a good a time as any!

Our backstory to this land is that we are along the galaxy’s outer rim on a planet called Batuu where explorers, traders and smugglers alike will have places they can hide out for a bit. Throughout the 14 acres the land encompasses, you will see a lot of familiar faces from the entire series and cast members will be dressed as Batuuans as well so they will be fully involved and immersed in the story. There will also be two rides, food, drinks, shops and your Disney parks app will have a part to play in the experience as well.

The first ride “Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s run,” will have you taking control and flying the falcon and you will be interacting and based on how you respond, the outcome changes. You will have the chance to be pilot, flight engineer or gunner. The second ride “Star Wars: Rise of the resistance,” will be you joining the resistance and fighting the first order in a battle where you will go inside a star destroyer and full-size starships. In both cases for these rides, Disney says they have never done anything like this. Between the interaction and guest cooperation, they truly believe these will be fully immersive experiences.

Now lets talk food, drink and shops. For drinks, Black Spire Outpost Market has your Blue Milk at the milk stand and Oga’s cantina is where you can get your alcoholic beverages from the Fuzzy Tauntaun to the Yub Nub. It also will have non-alcoholic drinks like the carbon freeze and cliff dweller so everyone can go in and enjoy Oga’s, but be mindful of her rules! Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo will be where you can get food and a few drinks as well and Ronto Roasters will be your other option too for food.

For Shops, you can get a pet at Bina’s Creature Stall. Need a lightsaber? Savi’s Worshop has you covered with personalized features with kyber crystals in the core. You can even stop at droid depot for a droid of your own. Dok-Ondar’s den of antiquities is also where you can get all of the best black market merchandise. The den is an amazing museum as well in case you want to just see what he has.

You also cannot forget the Star Wars Datapad on the Disney parks play app. It will help you interact with droids, scan objects to translate messages and codes and even translate Aurebesh which all of this can help you hack into devices, control panels and even the droids you were looking for. It will work throughout the entire land so make sure you have it handy and ready when you go in for the first time so you get the best experience!

So there seems to be a lot to do when you are on the edge of the galaxy. I hope everyone enjoys the lands as they open and that it is as amazing as the previews seem to be making it. We will see it open on May 31st in Anaheim and on August 29th at Disney’s Hollywood Studios so pretty soon we will have even more details as people go. May the force be with us as Disney gets all of us through to experience this.

That is going to be it for this week, so thanks for reading! Until next time, see you at the parks!

New HHN Orlando House Announcement!!!

This afternoon, the Universal powers that be gave us new HHN information as I was brainstorming what to write about this week. We now have house announcement number four of ten for HHN Orlando or HHN29 and it is called “Depths of Fear.” It is about sea mining so lets dive into the details of this house.

In the description on Halloween Horror Nights, we have learned that we be will exploring a deep-sea mining company that went too deep and found some new lifeforms. We will be running into parasitic creatures called “Mouthbrooders.” These creatures will be spouting out flesh-eating acidic eggs and you will encounter them and their victims. You will be trying to escape alive as these creatures attack and you hear the self destruct alarm going on letting you know the facility is about to implode.

This description makes it sound like we will have a lot of water effects and with it being in a deep-sea facility, we will have tight spaces to crawl through. Personally I when they do houses with water effects and that have the water creatures. In the past they had “The Spawning,” “Saws and Steam,” “The Forsaken,” and things like that where the sea and water played a vital role in the story line and they are some of my favorite houses from the past.

As we learn more details about this event, I will keep you posted. For now, We have four houses announced with six more to go along with five scare zones and the possible live entertainment. The event will run select nights from September 6th to November 2nd, and do not forget the promotional buy one night get an extra one free is going on until June 5th.

That is going to be it for now guys. I will possibly post another one this week since this was so short, so stay tuned. Until next time, see you at the parks!

Epcot Flower and Garden 2019: Full review

Finally! I am sitting down to tell you all about one of the many annual festivals that Epcot holds: Flower and Garden. Now while it may seem rare to go to Epcot when there isn’t a festival going on, I do not feel that it takes the fun away for me honestly. With the new food, drink and topiaries each time you cannot lose. Now since this is a repeat event we tend to see a few novelty items always come back, so I will highlight the new things and some of my favorite classics. Lets dig in!

The topiaries are something I truly enjoy. Some of my favorites to check out are Simba and Friends over at Outpost and Figment in Future World. Plus, they added to one of my favorites this year too which is cool. In honor of the new movie Toy Story coming out on June 21st, Future World also has Buzz and Woody again but they have added Bo Peep and her sheep which is so cute! Another addition was in American Adventure where they added some sunflowers which are always pretty.

They also have the many gardens to roam around too. They added new ones like the Washed Ashore Penguin sculpture, Plant a Garden Perfect for Pollinators and Bo Peeps Playtime Training Grounds in Future World and the new Play Full garden between Mexico and Canada. So if you add these new pieces in with the few traditional ones that stayed, to say the Flower and Garden festival has tons of Flowers and Gardens to explore and take photos of is an understatement.

The Festival Passport will also help you as you roam around because it tells you about all of these amazing places and also some fun for kids and fun scavenger hunts too. Plus it does show where the shops are located throughout the park and the concert lineup so you can see who is playing that day. It also shows the tours you can go on throughout the different sections of the park which can be a nice break if you are looking for one. So if you are looking for things to do besides eat, drink and look at flowers, you have options and it will help you find them in the passport so do not forget to pick it up when you walk in the entrance.

The overall best part of any Epcot Festival is the food though, and it did not disappoint me. I went to the new “Arbor the gardens terrace” which was just inside the Odyssey center and I had the Cider Flight which was delicious. I did not try the food there, but was told the Mixed Berry Buttermilk Cake was not bad. The Flavor Full Kitchen was another new stop on the way and it had some lighter food options and fun non-alcholic beverages. Also new on the menu was The Citrus Blossom which had a delicious Lobster Tail and Orange sunshine wine slushy and if you want the Orange Bird cup, you could order the orange cream slushy and get it here. The next and final stop was on the new list was Trowel and Trellis for the Grilled Street Corn on the Cob and it was very good and while I did not get any tea, they all looked good. I heard the blueberry lemon and ginger tea was the best though.

Of course though, I always have to stop at my favorites. The Honey Beestro was back with its honey cheesecake which you know I had a bite of that. The adult Dole Whip was the Pineapple Promenade as well. You had the Jardin de Fiestas in Mexico, Lotus House in China, Bauernmarkt in Germany, Primavera Kitchen in Italy, The Smokehouse in America, Hanami in Japan, Taste of Marakesh in Morroco, Fleur de Lys in France, Northern Bloom in Canada and Fresh from Florida all back as well with their classics for you to choose from. You had a good mix this year of new and old because of this and it made it cool.

As you can see, there are many things to see, do, eat and drink at Epcot. Also, if you are a passholder you can get your Pluto and Daisy magnet while supplies last. They said they would only give out Pluto until April 10th but as of the first week of May they were still handing them out. I hope you are able to find the time to get over and take in the fun of all the festival has to offer and feel like its a fun time for all because of all there is to do.

Well that’s going to be it for now everyone. Thanks for reading about Epcot this go around and until next time, see you at the parks!

Disney Updates park-wide and at Hollywood Studios

So this week Disney has unveiled a few new items and a few new rules that went in to effect. We learned that Hollywood Studios got a new logo and Toy Story Land will be getting a new restaurant which is exciting. Less exciting for some people are the bans that they put in to effect on May 1st. Lets dig in to these hot topics!

At Hollywood Studios we got a new logo for its 30th anniversary. Most people have been reviewing it as very plain and similar to a universal studios logo, which I can agree. It highlights Mickey Mouse which is nice and his art design is from the new ride coming soon called “Mickey and Minnies runaway railway,” BB8 from Star Wars which I am assuming is in honor of the new “Galaxy’s Edge,” and Woody from Toy Story which just had its land open in 2018. I think it is nice to go simple sometimes but perhaps they could have done more.

They also announced a new indoor restaurant in Toy Story Land called, “RoundUp Rodeo,” which had no official opening timeline yet. All we know at this point is that it will be air conditioned and will have a rodeo theme. It will also surround you with different toys and will have the same vibe as if Andy built it himself. I think it will be nice to have a place to get away from the heat while you are in there, but it will interesting to see how it filters crowds. Overall, we are just getting started so I am excited until I see otherwise.

Finally, we had 3 new bans go into effect on May 1st. Large strollers, bringing in outside ice in coolers and smoking are no longer permitted in any Disney parks anymore. Due to the safety and cleanliness of the parks for all guests, they felt these bans would make all guest more comfortable while trying to trek around the parks.

Personally I don’t smoke so that does not affect me though I can imagine the nicotine addicts having an issue and you can already see the out-pour of dislikes on this move throughout social media. The ice does not seem to be an issue really either and it is mainly so people cannot hide things under it, so I do not know many harsh responses to this and once again, I do not bring a cooler. Finally, the large strollers being banned makes me happy since people with them always run me over and I hated them, but people with big families are upset because they carried their kids and everything in them to survive the day. Its not all strollers, just the large ones where two kids could fit in them and they look like a wagon.

Overall, I think the parks are having some good growing pains. I like the idea of having a air conditioned section in Toy Story land and the logo may be mediocre but it ushers in the new era of Hollywood studios so I can deal with it. As far as the ban on ice I am okay with it and I feel for the big families on the stroller ban, but just pack differently and understand that its a safety concern when those huge things are lying around everywhere. Lastly on the bans, while I never felt like I smelled smoke outside of passing a smoking section, I am sure there were always a few people that went outside and perhaps other parks have a worse issue with this than ours. I feel for those with this addiction and I am sorry, but I think its just one more step in a cleaner Disney direction (along with the paper straws).

Well that is going to be it for this now. I am planning to do a review on Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival 2019 next week, so unless some news is released that trumps that, be on the lookout for that next Sunday. Until next time, see you in the parks!

Halloween Horror Nights 29 announcement!

This past week Universal made their third house announcement out of ten for Halloween Horror Nights 2019, and I must say I am truly excited. They announced they are going to have a house called “Universal Monsters,” which will bring back some classics. In their announcement they stated we will see Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, the Creature of the Black Lagoon, the Mummy and “more,” which leaves some surprise.

While they have done this before, the announcement they released makes you feel like we are going to get a more modernized version and get to see each creature in their element individually. We will see Dracula’s gothic castle, the Bavarian forest of the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s lab and the tomb of the Mummy.

I think it will be cool to have these monsters come back in their own elements since it has been a few years since we have seen them in Orlando. While have been used before, a new take on an original Universal intellectual property (or IP for short) is always great to me!

As these announcements keep coming, I will keep posting and telling you the details of this awesome annual event. Until next time, see you at the parks!