Universal Studios and Harry Potter fans alike have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Diagon Alley. People all over the country have taken to calling it Harry Potter 2.0 and there has been a lot of speculation about when the gigantic structure will be complete.
Located where the classic ride Jaws used to be, King’s Cross Station went up in record time, blowing Disney’s resent renovations out of the water in terms of construction! It seems like Universal Studios Diagon Alley structure just popped up overnight!
Steve Burke, the CEOof NBC/Universal said in a recent conference call that with the Cabana Bay hotel opening soon (March 14 2014) and the Mardi Gras celebration drawing in thousands of Spring breakers, there will be no better time than spring to open the attraction.
Applications for positions in the near area have already been submitted and considered. Interviews for Diagon Alley cast members have already begun, and training will begin right after the new year for those chosen.
With the success of the first installment of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter driving guests to Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios was definitely feeling the cold shoulder from Potter fans. Now, they have devised this genius way to get equal visitors to both parks, as well as making potter fans get multi day or multi park tickets!
Didn’t make it to New York City in time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Not to worry! For almost an entire month, Universal Studios is bringing the parade to park goers! The Macy’s Parade Floats and Balloons at Universal Studios come straight from New York when the parade is finished!
The Macy’s Parade Floats at Universal Studios will certainly be the main attraction, but there will be much, much more to see and enjoy! The park will be hosting the ceremony complete with clowns, full marching bands and more!
Don’t forget that even though it may be a Thanksgiving parade, it is December! This celebration wouldn’t be complete without a visit from Santa Claus himself! Keep an eye out for him! (even though i highly doubt that you can miss him! If i know Orlando theme parks, there will be plenty of fanfare surrounding him!
There will also be a spectacular tree lighting ceremony with decorations, light and music!
This event is included with the price of admission to Universal Studios Orlando!
The Parade times and dates are as follows:
Dec. 7 through Dec. 25, the show will take place at 5PM
Dec. 26 – 31 at the show will take place at 8PM
Jan. 1 – 4 the show will take place at 5PM
Disney’s Hollywood Studios comes alive each year with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights! This year, however there is extra magic to be seen thanks to Walt Disney World’s recent release of “Glow with the Show” Mickey ear hats!
The new Glow with the Show Ears have already been well received at the event as well as Fantasmic! and Celebrate the Magic! The ears are unique not only because they light up, but because their lights are synchronized with the performance, music and fireworks! Sometimes all the ears glow one color, and sometimes they make an array of bright colors.
dancing along with the lights and music, they turn not only the buildings into a spectacle, but the walking crowds as well. This is already one of my favorite events that Disney hosts each year (yes, that includes the Halloween Parties… hard to believe, I know!) Of course, the magic of the ears only works as long as a lot of people buy them (great marketing move, Disney…) so the amount of ears visible in a crowd will vary day by day, but i have only seen crowds absolutely saturated with them!
Of course, having one is just as fun as seeing everyone else’s and adding to the delight of everyone around you!
The parades at Orlando theme parks are always mind blowing! Universal Studios Mardi Gras 2014 will be an incredible 17 weeks of concerts, food and of course, parade floats.
Each year, for 14 weeks the park is transformed into a wild party- Universal Orlando has already announced that Robin Thicke will be performing on February 22nd for Universal Studios Mardi Gras 2014. This year, they have added three extra weeks to the celebration- That’s over four months of bead throwing and beer drinking to enjoy. (I’m looking at you, annual pass holders!)
In preparation for the event, Universal Creative works directly with their team in New Orleans to design and build their unique floats.
Here are a few sketches of what’s to come this year (Looking at the work and time that will go into designing, building and painting each one, I would want people to see it for months on end too!) It appears that these floats are independent of any Universal movies…They look more like true New Orleans style wagons. I am especially excited about the giant mask float!
I can’t wait to start going to the live concerts, riding the coasters and catching beads in the warm weather.
Parade concept art – I never get tired of sneak peeks!
There seems to be a new trend at Walt Disney World; doing meet and greets with princesses from movies that haven’t been released yet. They tried it out with Merida and it seems that it was so successful that EPCOT’s World Showcase has made a new themed area for a Frozen Meet and Greet!
Although the film doesn’t open until November 24th, this Frozen meet and greet area has been open for a few days already. This is obviously fun for kids, but it is also and excellent marketing and promotional opportunity for Disney’s newest film. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was already merchandise for sale in the meeting hall!
The area is located right across from Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (One of my favorite Disney restaurants when i was a kid) and is fittingly called the Princess Plass! Here, the sisters (and the main characters of Frozen) Anna and Elsa feel right at home, since the movie’s lands were inspired by the landscapes and weather were inspired by Norway!
There is also an exhibit of some of the sketches, inspirations and scenes from the film inside the wooden church nearby. (This is the building that used to house the tastefully edited Viking – era artifacts, weapons and stories.)
Universal Studios may be a little behind Disney World in terms of Holiday decorations- But now they are emerging and they were definitely worth the wait! All of Seuss Landing has been transformed into a veritable WhoVille in preparation for the Grinchmas Celebration that will take place next month, starting on December 7th.
Logically, this area would have to be full of whimsical touches all year ’round (since it is a children’s area and since Dr.Seuss’ work is the premise of the entire land) so it makes sense that the ornaments would be liberally and generously placed. Especially the red bows that were so prevalent in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Still, i am always a little disappointed that the ornaments so not look animated or as fantastical as the surrounding area. I wish the ornaments had the bold black lines and matte solid coloring as the illustrations do for Christmas. I wish the bows also had them! I wish they all looked more like they belonged!
Still, Christmas decorations of any kind (and as many as there are here!) make familiar theme park attractions and areas look like new, unexplored places! I give the decorations here 4/5 stars only for the style of the ornaments.
I am excited to report that The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is finally open for the year and that so far it has been a huge success! It is my favorite Christmas event at Walt Disney World! The ‘Glow with the Show’ ears have been able to somehow take the show to another level as well.
I am here to argue the rumor that has been surfacing lately that this will be the last year for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. The rumor is that the new Star Wars expansion to Disney’s Hollywood Studios will move into this area and that the lights will be cancelled. Whoever started this rumor has had the Disney fan community in a tizzy. I feel that there are many more reasons to think it is false than was taken into account by this troublemaker.
To begin with, the show is extremely popular among guests. Attendance to the event has not been faltering this year (or last year either..) On top of that, expensive additions, makeovers and repairs have been made annually to the event, making it better each year and more impressive to guests. Why would a company invest so much effort and money into something temporary?
Secondly, the show is a huge crowd pleaser. If Star Wars was to move into that area, Disney knows better than to have less offerings to draw people in for the Holidays! Worst-case scenerio would be moving the lights to Hollywood blvd. or another area of the park that has many open buildings. So does Sunset blvd in the same theme park!
Please, try not to panic until more information is released, but removing the lights seems like a very improbable action on Disney’s part.
The Hawthorn Suites Universal Reviews and Information
To book, you may speak to a The Orlando Vacation Store representative or visit the Hotel Page
- Hotel Description
The Hawthorn Suites Universal is perfectly located off International Drive and is very close to Universal Studios, Sea World, and the Wet & Wild Water Park. This saves time on the daily commute to the parks (that’s more time that you can spend having fun!) It is also located within easy walking distance to the restaurants and shops that International Drive has to offer. These are known Nation-wide as being entertaining and they have something for everyone!
- Room Description (this one bedroom suite comfortably accommodates up to 6 people)
This room includes 2 queen size beds in the master room, a dining area and a queen sleeper sofa in the living area. It also offers a fully equipped kitchen, hairdryer, iron, & ironing board and 2 cable TVs (accommodates 6 people) This suite is great for privacy, comfort and relaxation. This is especially important when you have children of different ages and activity levels!
This hotel also has many great amenities and activities including:
-Outdoor heated pool – Hot Tub – Fitness Center – Laundry facility – Business Center – Game Room – Convenience Store – Cocktail reception Daily – Free Parking – High Speed Wireless Internet (fees applies) – Basketball Court – Daily Housekeeping – Lounge bar- There is something for guests of all ages to enjoy (so adults can have fun their way too!)
Complimentary transportation within regular park hours to the Disney Theme Parks, Universal Studios Orlando and Sea World.
Complimentary All American Breakfast Buffet offered daily. Yum! Start your day the right way and give your family plenty of fuel for the fun filled day!
- Tripadvisor Reviews:
“Large suite, clean had two queen beds, mini kitchen. The location has excellent access to Universal, and has easy access to Disney. Front desk staff was very friendly and helpful… As we had a baby, the separate living room, bathroom and bedrooms was very helpful. The older kids could watch TV in the evening while the baby slept.
Stayed October 2013, traveled with family
-Errol D. Nashville, Tennessee
Greeted by friendly staff, in fact everyone we encountered at the hotel had smiles! The room was nice queen beds, living area kitchen. the free breakfasts were good!. There is a happy hour every night we were out and did not take advantage of though. Check in and out was a breeze. Will stay here again!
This is the second year staying at the Hawthorne Suites and once again it was brilliant, rooms nice and clean, daily cleaning and towel changed, sheets where changed once a week, the staff where nice and friendly, especially the breakfast room staff…
Stayed September 2013, traveled with family
-masters68. Chesterfield, United Kingdom
*Overall, this hotel has been very popular and well received by our guests! We recommend it!
Downtown Disney will be alight for the Holidays thanks to Disney’s Festival of the Seasons! Downtown Disney is a great place for dining, shopping and relaxing and is always colorful, nostalgic and fun. Santa Claus will be there too, so bring a camera!
Disney’s Festival of the Seasons will bring Holiday cheer to the area thanks to beautiful decorations. Each year, I wonder how they will be able to outdo previous years and somehow, they always manage to exceed my expectations. The amount of detail and care is astonishing! Christmas trees will also be added to Downtown Disney.
In addition to the decor, there will be plenty of live entertainment at Disney’s Festival of the Seasons keeping spirits bright! Carolers will fill the air with classic tunes, stilt walkers will amaze and delight children and other street performers will bring a fresh twist to the classic celebration!
This special celebration will last until December 30, 2013. This is great because the Holiday spirit will go on for a little extra time, so you can keep enjoying the season! Then, the next day you can get ready to party for the Disney New Year’s Eve celebrations! These have also been very exciting and well done, but I must warn you that the vent at EPCOT may be the best, but it gets very crowded and difficult to leave or enter the parking lot. However, If you’ve never been, I would still recommend it.
“Limited Time Magic” events have been giving fresh new experiences to Walt Disney World guests since January 2013. The idea was to have a new event taking place every week for the entire year. Now that the year is winding down, we’re ready to see what they will bring for the Holiday season!
There will be a “Holly Jolly Trolley” show running from now until January 4th at the Magic Kingdom as part of Limited Time Magic. The show, which will feature the singers and dancers from Main Street (This is also where it will be taking place) will perform several times a day, reinforcing the beautiful decorations and cast member costumes.
When the idea of Limited Time Magic was revealed to the public, it was done in such a dramatic way! There was a giant ice sculpture in Times Square, NYC that was not taken down or maintained. It simply melted away slowly, showing that the magic would only last a little while and then be gone.
I thought at the time that it was very overdone, since it was used more like a guilt trip for possible travelers than a treat. They released statements about how quickly children grow up, how childhood fades etc… It seemed to me like they were saying “this is your only chance to be a good parent!” However, as the events continued throughout the year it became much more reasonable.
Now, guests are wondering (rightfully so, considering the display and statements) if January will really be the end of the new practice. I have to admit, it’d be nice as a resident of Orlando to have something new every time i visit the park! I’ll be sad to see it go!
Disney Holiday Decorations are up at the Magic Kingdom park and I for one, could not be happier!I wait to see what the parks will do each and every Holiday Season, and this year they have outdone themselves!
It may seem like the parks are jumping the gun a little bit, but Christmas came early for guests enjoying the Disney Holiday Decorations! The holiday magic isn’t limited to just Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! For those of us who visit the Magic Kingdom during the daylight hours ( as well as the other three parks and Downtown Disney) can still get just as much holiday cheer. There are special treats in the bakeries, cast members are decked out in their best winter attire (yes, we know Florida is still warm…It’s called pretend.) and there will be a live show on Main Street several times a day featuring all the best music of the season.
The parks aren’t limited to plastic ornaments and lights! Several specially qualified teams will also be decking the halls with live winter-time plants, wreaths, statues and more!
I love these tin soldiers! It’s refreshing to see that not all of the decor will be Disney themed, rather it will have a classic and nostalgic feeling.
Not even the lamp posts go untreated! I love the fresh look of the Florida citrus that has been integrated.
Oh boy! Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party had a successful opening weekend, delighting guests who were ready to start the Holidays early this year.
Apart from it being easier to book/afford the party in November than in December, this is also a great time to start shopping for Disney gifts while there are still plenty in stock. Here are the commemorative Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party T-shirts for 2013.
The design can be found in both red and green and although may people will be buying them as gifts for the folks back home, I think (like concert T’s) they are best worn and appreciated by those who were actually at the Christmas party.
I for one wish they would make more modern shirts for the Holiday celebrations. I know it’s a classic, but they are only one small step away from reaching ugly sweater status. What do you guys think? Hot or not?
I mean, obviously not HOT, but are these at least an acceptable representation of the event, given the quality and amount of thought and planning that goes into the party each year? Every detail is perfect, fun, fresh and heartwarming and THIS is what guests will opt to wear around afterwards? Unfortunately, i see these being closet stuffers rather than stocking stuffers.
For those of us who embrace, enjoy and savor the different cultural experiences that Disney’s Epcot Center has to offer, the Holidays are an extra special time to visit the theme park. Come enjoy the Holidays around the World!
Disney’s Epcot Center has all kinds of goodies planned for the 2013 Holiday season, when the different pavilions will share their traditions.
(Although subject to change) Disney has released this official list on their website. Holiday festivities this year may include:
- American Adventure: Meet Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, celebrate the traditions of Hanukkah and discover the spirit of Kwanzaa.
- Canada: Follow the Canadian Holiday Voyageurs on a musical tour as you explore seasonal customs of the Great White North. *This is one of my favorites!
- China: Watch the agile Monkey King weave his tall tale with twists and turns celebrating Chinese New Year.
- France: Discover the magic of Père Noël and the joy of the season through a Christmas letter from a child.
- Germany: Listen as Helga tells the story of the first Christmas tree and the tale of her first Nutcracker.
- Italy: Meet the kind-hearted witch La Befana who arrives on the eve of the Epiphany to grant gifts to good children.
- Japan: Hear the fascinating story of the Daruma doll and the Japanese customs of the New Year.
- Mexico: Celebrate with Los Tres Reyes Magos, the Three Kings, as they tell of their journey to the Posada and traditions today.
- Morocco: Join Taarji, a Moroccan drummer, as he reflects on family traditions commemorating the holiday of Ramadan.
- Norway: Spend time with Sigrid and learn about Julenissen, the Christmas Gnome. * this year, characters from the new film, Fozen will also be on hand, as the usual Viking history display will feature a “making of” display of the animated movie hitting theaters later this month*
- United Kingdom: Share in the vivid stories of Father Christmas, dating back to 15th-century England.
Happy long weekend, everyone. It may be a day off from school, mail and work for Americans, but we won’t forget the reason for this wonderful Holiday. Starting today, Disney’s special Limited Time Magic for the week will be a lovely Veteran’s Salute at the Magic Kingdom them park.
As part of Limited Time Magic, every Night in the Town Square, there will be a Flag Retreat Ceremony. The Main Street Philharmonic will be accompanying the Voices of Liberty ( a singing troupe typically found in the American Adventure and at the Grand Floridan Resort) in a salute to the men and women of our armed forces.
Every event will feature a Veteran of the Day who will be the flag bearer accompanying an Honorary Color Guard throughout the ceremony.
Today through November 15 2013, you can be a part of this elegant celebration, so if you are interested in checking it out, don’t forget to be at the Town Square. Ask a cast member for each day’s specific event time.
Thanks to the Laughing Place for this photo
During this time, ( in a special event on November 14) Disney’s veteran employment initiative, “Heroes Work Here” will be having an extra-special workshop, promoting and creating jobs for veterans of all ages within the Walt Disney Company. The Keynote speaker this year will be the First Lady herself, Michelle Obama.
This is certainly a Veterans day for the ages!
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is proving to be the little engine that could for Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The last piece of the new Fantasyland puzzle, progress on it so far has been hard to see, due to its slow-but-sure construction. now, it is actually beginning to look like a real Disney ride!
I could not be more excited to share this image I found recently of the kid-friendly coaster. Details such as the broken wooden pieces and cartoonish carts are starting to be seen. The coaster, which was originally scheduled to open in 2013 has been pushed back long enough, and it seems Disney is really pushing to have it open by early 2014.
The new Fantasyland has been a huge success and a triumph for the park ,but due to the classic nature of this area, Snow White’s absence has definitely been felt. The very first Disney Princess needs to come back home to the Magic Kingdom! hopefully she will be at least somewhat present in this ride, which is obviously dwarf heavy. After all, part of the ride takes guests through their humble eight-person cottage. (Surely the woodland creatures that are seen everywhere in the movie will also make a debut.) After the well loved original ride closed to make way for Princess Fairytale Hall, people are craving this classic story!
Every year, when the weather starts to get chilly, Disney World’s spectacular decorations and events signal the start of the holidays here in Orlando. Before investing an entire day at a park, i like to enjoy little snippets of free time in between work and in the early evening checking out the little details that make this season so special.
The Disney World resorts always have a little something extra for the Holidays and it’s fun (and free) to take a walk through the property to see them. Bring the camera! Here are some of my favorites:
- The gingerbread and chocolate Holiday Gazebo in the lobby at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. As its name suggests, this is a tasty edible sculpture full of hidden Mickeys. (sorry, they won’t let you eat or touch it.)
- Another fun treat in the Disney’s Boardwalk Resort lobby, Stitch’s Bakery Store Front, features cast members making gingerbread houses right in front of your eyes. Get a treat from here to enjoy while you walk around the Boardwalk!
- The Holiday Carousel at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts is life-size, edible and spinning. It’s beautifully decorated, as well. Check it out!
- The miniature Holiday Village at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts is an adorable and realistic tiny train making its rounds.
Gingerbread Holiday Tree On the Grand Canyon Concourse at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, guests can visit a huge holiday tree made out of gingerbread, complete with ornaments, candy canes and presents.
Life-sized Gingerbread House in the lobby at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. not only is this house impressive, but you can also buy baked treats here too. It’s the house’s 15th anniversary to boot!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has had a reputation for a long time now as only being fun in the morning and early afternoon. Many people either leave early or choose to skip the park entirely when planning a vacation to Orlando.
Due to obvious considerations for the animals, safaris and animal viewing end pretty early. Subsequently, there isn’t enough left to do and Disney’s Animal Kingdom closes earlier than every other park, oftentimes closing its gates when the sun is still up.
Animal Kingdom is definitely not known for any nighttime entertainment, and Disney is ready to change that. A new, unnamed nighttime spectacular coming to Discovery River, in conjunction with the new Avatar expansion, is sure to keep guests there longer and extend park hours.
The show will include floating lanterns, live music, animal imagery and water screens on the river. Knowing what Disney is capable of with projection and live performances, I know they will exceed expectations. No word yet on when the show will debut, but there will also be a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safari and nightly performance artists on Discovery Island. Plans for the show have been released, but there are no concept drawings yet- I cannot wait to see them.
Even though November in Orlando means a light jacket on the worst days, The heat is gone, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter starts coming to life.
This is my favorite time of year to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as the weather finally matches the carefully designed landscape. The heat is a distant memory and we can finally enjoy the area’s pumpkin juice and baked goodies. (This area does not allow any beverages to be sold that do not exist in Hogsmeade in the book series, such as soda and ICEEs.) Also, butterbeer of course, for those who enjoy it.
This area also looks amazing at night or dusk when the weather cools down even more. The three broomsticks is very magical already, but at night the place has a totally different side to it. The windows of all the shops are also gorgeous throughout the day, but nothing beats seeing the sorcery and special effects lighting up the dark night.
Oh, I almost forgot! the centerpiece of the entire area, Hogwarts, looms over the Wizarding world, casting a shadow over all of the snowy rooftops. (While their chimneys slowly spew out smoke) And of course, fans of the film series will adore the beautifully subtle, ever-playing soundtrack. How romantic!
Magic Kingdom opens its doors extra late for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on select nights from 7:00 PM to midnight, November 8 to December 20, 2013! It is so close, I can almost taste the gingerbread already.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party offers a Holiday experience that you can’t see anywhere else. Upon entering the park, one is instantly struck with the spirit of the season. Main Street is fully decorated, snow falls from the sky and Cinderella’s castle is alight with what look like icicles. Kids and adults (so, everyone…) will feel the magic as cast members hand out free hot chocolate and cookies on the street and Mickey, Minnie and the rest can be seen dressed in their best Holiday outfits. Not to mention the parades, meet and greets, fireworks show (it’s a real tear-jerker each year) and rides.
I for one will be enjoying the party early, as there is a much smaller crowd in November and early December than later in the month.
Pick the best day to come down, plan a trip with us and mark your calendar. Christmas comes early this year!
Here in Orlando, Halloween this year will be the best Halloween ever!
This is my favorite holiday! I have been celebrating all month long in preparation for the best day in fall! I have been to Halloween Horror Nights, seen my favorite characters at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and carefully picked out the perfect costume. I’ve screamed and laughed equally with the best spooky movies of all time.
Now, it’s finally here!
Whether you went trick or treating with Mickey, or got scared out of your wits at Universal Studios this season, we hope you had fun with us! For our friends at home, we hope you have the best costume, candy and scares of your life!
Happy Halloween, everyone! It only happens once a year!
We hope you will join us next year here in Orlando. Whether it’ll be the first time or the hundredth, there will always be new things to see, both spooky and fun!