Rivers of Lights has officially debuted at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and I had the opportunity to experience it for myself. This is a show you do not want to miss. Continue reading
Halloween Horror Nights. Did a chill run down your spine? It should have- this is the nation’s premier Halloween event. In its 26th year at Universal Orlando, Halloween Horror Nights has a stellar lineup of houses, both original and intellectual … Continue reading
Today was an exciting day for two of Orlando’s major theme parks- SeaWorld and Universal, to be exact. SeaWorld hosted its Media Day for its newest coaster, Mako, which has been marketed as the fastest, longest and tallest roller coaster … Continue reading
It is no secret to anyone that knows me, or reads this blog, that I am in love with Disney. My time on the Disney College Program only made my love for Disney stronger and ever since I left, I’ve … Continue reading
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights will have its final dance tonight at Disney’s Hollywood Studios before its lights go dark to conclude its 20th, and last, season.
A spectacle that has become a family tradition for many guests is going away as construction on Star Wars Land is expected to start some time this year in the very area where the lights have danced every holiday season for the past 20 years.
Even though I only had the pleasure of visiting the lights the past two years, I am still deeply saddened to see them go. They truly are a special sight and you can’t help but feel happiness as you stand in the middle of their twinkling beauty.
While Disney has said that this is the final year for the lights…there has also been some signs that they might not be gone forever!
First, Disney extended the date of the lights from the 3rd of January until tonight, the 6th.
Second, when asked on Twitter if this was, in fact, the final season, they replied that this season was currently planned to be the final season. And, as the crazy theme park fan and lover of Disney that I am, I certainly read that as there being a slight chance that they could, in fact, bring the spectacle back in the near future.
Whether they choose to bring the lights back or not, guests have been blessed with 20 years and I think we can all agree it’s been quite a run. But, even if they put some new holiday festivity in its place while construction is underway, it just won’t be the same.
Here are some pictures from my final trips (yes, I made two trips from Naples to see the lights because necessary) that I hope bring a smile to your face as we all say goodbye to the Osborne Lights.
I am a journalism major at Florida Gulf Coast University, and I was given the opportunity to write an article about ANYTHING for one of my classes. Surprise, surprise–I decided to write about Disney.
I’ve seen a lot of articles about the changes coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but they focus on the what is happening and when it’s happening aspect of it, completely failing to speak to guests and get their reactions, which I believe is an important part of the story.
I wrote a story highlighting the changes and what guests are saying about them. Feel free to sound off in the comments and let me know if you agree or disagree!
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Gets A Face Lift
By: Monet Massa-Sena
If there’s one thing fans of Disney are used to, it’s change.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. is in the process of getting a much-needed park update. Some attractions are closing their doors, some are getting changes, and the sorcerer’s hat—the park’s icon—will be removed in early 2015.
Guests who have been going to the parks for many years welcome the new changes. Priscilla Perez, an annual pass holder and journalism major at Brooklyn College, said that it’s about time for an update to the park.
“Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been a cry for help for many years,” Perez said. “There are empty buildings, attractions that haven’t been updated since opening, uncompleted ‘lands,’ a lack of restaurants and a lack of entertainment.”
Perez isn’t wrong. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has the least amount of attractions of all four Walt Disney World theme parks, 15 to be exact, and hasn’t added a new ride since they opened Toy Story Midway Mania in 2008.
While new attractions haven’t been announced just yet, Disney has removed several attractions thus far, including the Studio Backlot Tour, which was one of the only attractions in the park when it first opened in 1989, the American Idol Experience, and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow.
The most shocking change that has been announced, and the most controversial in the Disney community, is the removal of the sorcerer’s hat in early 2015. The icon made its debut in 2001, blocking the view of the Chinese Theatre replica that houses The Great Movie Ride.
Christie Teague, a former Disney College Program cast member and communications major at the University of Northern Iowa, said that she’s not excited about the hat being removed.
“Disney’s Hollywood Studios was my home park for my first college program, so it has a special place in my heart,” Teague said. “I’m sad to see so much change with something I know so well.”
Some Disney fans, however, feel that the hat has overstayed its welcome.
“It was only supposed to be in place for a year or so, probably more, but of course time ran its course,” Perez said. “Essentially, I think Disney has realized that the hat is an icon, but not the right icon for the original envision of the 1989 Studios we were introduced with.”
Another former college program participant and Fairfield University graduate, Jen Fiorillo, said she’s also excited about the removal of the park’s current icon.
“I’m so glad that The Great Movie Ride will be the icon of Hollywood Boulevard again,” Fiorillo said.
The Great Movie Ride, another attraction that has been a staple of the park since its grand opening, will not only be the focal point of the park once more, but will also getting an update of its very own.
According to the New York Times, the changes include a remake of the video guests see while they’re in line for the ride and the classic movie montage they see at the end of the ride. These changes will be introduced within the first few months of 2015, and guests are both excited and nervous to see what’s in store.
“Whatever they have up their sleeve with the Great Movie Ride will bring back the classic feel to the park,” Perez said. “The start of refurbishment and partnership with TCM is a perfect start for the new and improved DHS.”
Josh Reyes, a student majoring in the dramatic arts at the University of North Carolina and a Disney Vacation Club member, said he’s looking forward to the changes but is also a bit skeptical.
“I’m excited for the Great Movie update, but that’s one of my favorite rides,” Reyes said. “I’m also a little nervous about the updates coming from TCM.”
Teague said she thinks the update is necessary in order to attract younger fans and keep them engaged while waiting in line.
“I’m excited for the Great Movie Ride refurbishment because I love the concept and I know many people younger than my age have no idea what the movies are that are featured on the attraction,” Teague said.
Even though Disney fans are in the dark on what the concrete plans are for the expansion of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it doesn’t stop them from dreaming about what changes they’d like to see.
“I would love to see Cars Land from Disney’s California Adventure and additional Pixar attractions and shows be added to the Pixar Place area of the park,” Fiorillo said.
“I’m excited mostly for the ‘Star Wars Land’ concept they’ve announced,” Reyes said. “I think it will be a great addition to the pre-existing elements.”
But for some fans, it isn’t about what they plan to put in place—they’re just excited that change is on its way.
“I hope that The Walt Disney Company takes a distinct look at each corner and crevice of the park,” Perez said. “What was originally envisioned in 1989 has quite honestly gone down the drain in the 21st century, so it’s about time for some change.”
It’s no secret that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure has been a huge success since its grand opening in June of 2010. However, the creative team at Universal has brought to life an area that very well may trump its predecessor. What area is this, you may ask?
Why, it’s the Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida.
Tip #1: Get to the park BEFORE it opens.
I cannot stress how important this is. For the remainder of the summer, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure will open at 8 a.m. each morning. Diagon Alley is located in Studios, so make your way there FIRST. If you are under the impression that you can get into IOA, ride the Hogwarts Express (more to come on this later), and get into Diagon Alley that way, you’re wrong. You will STILL have to wait on a line in order to get into Diagon Alley, so your best bet is to go straight to Studios.
When my family and I arrived on July 9th (the day after Diagon Alley was officially open to the public), we were allowed into the park before 8 a.m. and were held with the rest of the early morning crowd behind a rope on the ‘street’ that is home to Terminator 2: 3D and Theatre Magic (aka the ‘Hollywood’ section). *Note: On-site resort guests were able to get into Diagon Alley starting at 7 a.m.* When 8 a.m. arrived, Universal employees walked WITH the rope down toward the entrance to the line for Diagon Alley, which is located next to Men In Black: Alien Attack. This was an excellent strategy for crowd control–it allowed the guests to safely, and SLOWLY, make their way through the park, reducing the risk of injury and fights. I was quite impressed with this, actually. Kudos, Universal.
Once we made it over to the entrance to the line, we were only held up for about 25-30 minutes until we were moving, fast, through the queues. We did stop a few times briefly after this, but we were able to enter London and make our way into Diagon Alley within an hour. Yes, you read that right. The day after the grand opening and we were IN Diagon Alley by 9 a.m. You may gasp. I won’t blame you.
Tip #2: Do Not Take A Return Ticket
If you are already on line to get into Diagon Alley, do NOT, for any reason, leave to get a return ticket, thinking that it will save you time. We saw several people get off the line to get return time tickets that ranged from 9:30-10 a.m. Had they stayed on the line, they would have gotten in WELL before those return times. If you are waking up early to get into Diagon Alley, just wait on the line. It’s the best option if you want to experience everything, including the new ride, before the day is over.
We entered London and even though we all wanted to stop and and take pictures, we were on a mission: Get in line for Harry Potter and The Escape From Gringotts. We walked through the ‘wall’ into Diagon Alley, and were immediately greeted by the focal point of the entire area–Gringotts Bank and its guard dragon. That first sight is honestly breathtaking. My jaw dropped, and I walked in a daze, snapping quick photos as we made our way to the line. The current wait time was 330 minutes, or five and a half hours. No surprise there. However, we took a different route, and this is my third tip for you.
Tip #3: Wait in the Single Rider line
Okay, okay. I know half the fun of this attraction is the line itself, but if this is your first trip to Universal, do you want to spend a HUGE chunk of your day waiting in line for this ride? In addition, if you’re one of the unlucky few (or hundred) that waited 5+ hours just to get INTO Diagon Alley, do you want to wait another 5 for the ride? That would be 10 hours just waiting in lines. If you have older children that can ride alone, do the single rider line. You may not get to experience the entire queue area, but you do get a quick glimpse of the bank on your way to a hidden corridor until you meet up with the other line in a stairwell leading up to the attraction. Trust me. It’s better in the long run.
My family and I waited approximately two hours to ride and, luckily for us, we got to ride with each other! My dad and mom got to ride together, and my sister and I got to ride together. In fact, my sister and I got to ride twice. While we were on the ride, it stopped moving. While it didn’t bother us too much because we’ve dealt with malfunctions on new rides before and understand that it happens, many guests were outraged. The whole ‘experience’ was kind of ruined because we did miss a few parts, so the employees allowed us to ride again with a minimal wait. I was very pleased with how they handled this, but I was disgusted by the rude remarks made by the guests who were getting to ride AGAIN.
They were completely rude to the attraction attendants who, of course, have no control over the ride malfunctioning, and are allowing all of us (and there were quite a few of us) to ride again. Be courteous and respectful to these employees. They’re doing their best and it isn’t their fault. Keep the curse words and nasty attitudes to a minimum, please.
I won’t spoil the ride for those of you who will be making a trip to Universal and want to be surprised, but I will say that it’s very different from Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey. If I were to describe it, I would say it’s a mix of Revenge of The Mummy and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. However, I honestly won’t be waiting to ride it again until that wait time goes WAY down–but that’s just me.
Within 3 1/2 hours, we had gotten into Diagon Alley and rode Gringotts (twice, in my case). We were feeling like winners–we had managed to do the impossible. This left plenty of time to explore Diagon Alley and, of course, take a ride on the Hogwarts Express.
Tip #4: Stop and Smell The Roses
There may not be any actual roses to stop and smell, but the point of this tip is that it’s important that you take your time to truly explore and take in everything that Diagon Alley has to offer. Watch the stage shows, get a butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour (which, in my opinion, is better than ButterBeer), get in touch with your silly side in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, purchase a wand from Ollivanders, explore Knockturn Alley, or exchange your Muggle money for Gringotts Bank Notes at Gringotts Money Exchange. There’s so many things to do, and once you leave Diagon Alley you may not be able to get back in due to long lines, so make sure you do everything you want to do before you head out!
Before leaving Diagon Alley, of course we had to dine at the Leaky Cauldron. The atmosphere was perfect, the food was good, and the service was friendly. If you’re not feeling courageous enough to try their signature dishes, there are a few familiar dishes that are sure to satisfy your hunger, including a chicken sandwich. I would definitely recommend eating here during your trip to Diagon Alley.
Upon leaving Diagon Alley, we visited the Knight Bus before heading into Kings Cross Station, where we would board the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
This leads me to my fifth tip for you:
Tip #5: Make Sure You Have a Park-to-Park Ticket
Because you will be traveling from Universal Studios Florida to Islands of Adventure, you need a park-to-park ticket, or an annual pass, in order to board the Hogwarts Express. Unless you really have no desire to explore the other park (I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to), then definitely get the park-to-park ticket. You’ll be able to fully experience everything the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has to offer, as well as the other attractions within both parks.
Another side tip–ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions, meaning ride it from Kings Cross to Hogsmeade and then from Hogsmeade to Kings Cross. You get a different experience each way, and they’re both worth experiencing.
I hope this post has helped you with your own Universal trip planning, has gotten you excited, or has informed you in some way. If you have any questions about anything mentioned or anything left out, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! I’d love to help make your trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter even more magical.
Oh, and don’t forget to stop and take a picture of the dragon breathing fire 😉