Long Lines Don’t Faze Diagon Alley Fans

The Orlando Sentinel captured the excitement of the July 8 opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. The new attraction was christened with welcoming remarks by Universal president Bill Davis, fireworks, and confetti.

The heat and long lines – there was a two-hour wait to get into the park and 7 1/2-hour wait for the Escape from Gringotts Bank ride – didn’t deter fans’ enthusiasm. Nor did the occasional technical glitches in the signature ride, described by Universal spokesman Tom Schroder as “not unusual for a highly sophisticated ride.”

There were the wands (at $45 a pop), which worked or didn’t, depending on its user, and the food, where guests lined up at the Leaky Caldron to chow down the ploughman’s lunch.

Potter celebrities were absent, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the many guests; Universal does not release attendance numbers.

Diagon Alley is included with the regular admission to Universal Studios, which is $96 for a one-day ticket, $90 for children, but the cost jumps to $136 and $130 for visits to both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

Check out the Sentinel’s video clip:


July 8 Opening Date for Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

The media has been speculating all week about the opening date of Diagon Alley, the new Harry Potter land at Universal Studios Orlando.

The opening date – July 8 – was finally made public at a “State of the Universe” press event June 18.

TravelPulse reports the first official photos of Diagon alley.

TravelPulse appears to be among the first to report on the much-anticipated happening. It published the first official photos of Diagon Alley, noting “no more renderings.”

“Can you feel the magic in the air? This is Harry Potter we’re talking about here,” said Thierry Jean-Andre Coup, senior vice president of Universal Creative, Universal Parks & Resorts’ research and development division. “We’ve been looking forward to this moment for four years.” Read More…

Universal Orlando Offers New Official App

It was only a matter of time.

Disney has its “My Disney Experience” and now Universal Orlando has “The Universal Orlando Resort App.”

Introduction of the new app conveniently coincides with the opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. Park guests can access the app through free Xfinity Wifi by looking for “xfinitywifi” on their mobile devices and downloading it through the Apple or Google Play app store.

Included within the app are attraction wait times and a GPS map that uses park images to guide users to their location, as well information on show times and special events. An instant Express Pass purchase and customizable itineraries will be added later.

Here’s a slideshow of the app’s features, courtesy of My Way.


‘Skyscraper’ Coaster Planned for Orlando

Orlando will be home to the world’s tallest vertical roller coaster, a project to be built by developers David and Joshua Wallack.

“Skyscraper,” the 570-foot vertical coaster will top the current record holder for tallest steel coaster, Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure, which is 456 feet tall. It was originally dubbed the Polercoaster.

Read More…

Aqua Drag Racer to Open June 12 at Wet ‘n Wild

Wet 'n Wild's Aqua Drag Racer

With all the Harry Potter Diagon Alley hype, let’s not forget the other attractions at Universal Orlando Resort.

Wet ‘n Wild has announced a June 12 opening date for its Aqua Drag Racer. According to Wet ‘n Wild, the ride is the tallest and fastest of its kind in Florida. The 65-foot-tall ride will feature four 350-foot parallel lanes down which guests will race at 15 feet per second. Guests must be 42 inches tall to ride Aqua Drag Racer

“This ride combines friendly competition along with the excitement of sharing the rush with family and friends,” senior vice president and general manager of Wet ‘n Wild said.

Wet ‘n Wild is offering the first 500 guests a one-time Express Pass wristband to use for the fast lane.

Aqua Drag Racer is number 18 among the attraction’s rides and water-based activities.

More Details on Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley

Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Gringotts

Photo from Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando has yet to announce an exact opening date for its new Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley (beyond this summer), but details continue to … err… leak.

This time it’s about the Escape from Gringotts, which is the signature ride of Diagon Alley. According to Universal, it promises to be like no attraction in the entire world.

The story line is centered around the last Harry Potter book where Harry, Ron and Hermione are searching the labyrinths for the Horcrux, which will be used to defeat Lord Voldemort. Muggles entering Gringotts Bank (where the realistic-looking goblins count the contents of their vault) engage in a magical battle between Harry and friends and many dangers, including a 60-foot fire-breathing Ukranian Ironbelly dragon on top of the bank. They’ll also come face to face with Bellatrix Lestrange.

It all happens in a span of 4 minutes, combining animatronics, special effects, 360-degree sets, digital animation, and 3-D projections.

Check out the photos from Orlando Business Journal and a detailed video.



Ihu’s Breakaway Falls Opens

Ihus_Breakaway_Falls_Logo_450x270Ihu’s Breakaway Falls at SeaWorld Aquatica opened Friday, May 9.

At almost 80 feet, it’s the tallest point at Aquatica. Featuring three extreme drop slides (and a fourth that’s more conventional), the riders fall 80 degrees for nearly 40 feet and then turn a 360-degree spiral. When they’re lined up in the canisters on the platform, arms crossed and feet crossed at the ankles, they don’t know who is going to drop first. Read More…

Cabana Bay Beach Resort: A Niche of Affordability

Photo: Universal Orlando

Much has been written about the opening of Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando. The retro-themed 1,800 room (600 of which are now available) hotel celebrates the family road trips of the ’50s and ’60s in every way.

Sean Daly of the Tampa Bay Times provides one of the best overviews of the newest collaboration between Loews Hotels and Universal.  Prior to Cabana Bay, the pricey Portofino Bay Resort, Royal Pacific Resort, and Hard Rock Hotel all made Universal guests dig pretty deep into their pockets.

Cabana Bay, however, seems to provide a lot of bang for the buck, with standard rooms at $93 and family suites at $134. And it’s not lacking in fun amenities, which include a Jack LaLanne fitness room, a large pool area, the 10-lane Galaxy Bowl, and a “cheeky” bar called the Atomic Tonic.

Still to come are 1,200 additional rooms, a lazy river ride, a white-sand beach and a poolside eater, the Hideaway Bar & Grill. They’re scheduled to open mid-summer.



Never Too Early for Halloween at Universal

You would think that Universal Orlando Resort was so preoccupied with the new Harry Potter land, Diagon Alley, that Halloween would be the furthest thing from its mind.

Think again.

Ever anticipating the next big thing, Universal has announced the dates for the 24th Halloween Horror Nights: Sept. 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, and 28; Oct. 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, and 31; and Nov. 1.

According to Orlando United, “it seems as if ‘Street Experiences’ will once again return instead of traditional scare zones.”

As in the past, guests will be entertained and frightened by haunted houses, street experiences with terrifying “scare actors,” plus live shows and the rest of Universal Studios Florida’s attractions.

Ticket information is still to come, and you can be sure that Universal will share all the details over the coming months.

Meanwhile, here’s a clip to whet your whistle!



Universal Previews Hogwarts Express Details

Universal has revealed images from the Hogwarts Express trip from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley. (Photo from Universal Orlando)

Little by little, Universal Orlando is revealing the story lines behind Hogwarts Express and the new Harry Potter land, Diagon Alley. shared some details from a press event held in New York City.

We already know that the train trip will include views as it travels through the Potterly countryside. Now it’s reported that there will be “several environments, different for the rides from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley and vice versa… ” “Windows” will show scenes from the Harry Potter saga. Read More…