Category Archives: Only at a Theme Park

Draco Malfoy Visits the Wizarding World

Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) visited with the Beauxbatons at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter during his recent visit to Universal Orlando Resort.

First Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and now Tom Felton (the actor better know as Draco Malfoy) has made his way to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. He’s one of our favorite “bad boys” and what fun to see him here in Orlando. He was present at the Grand Opening, but it’s nice that he’s come back again.

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Filed under Only at a Theme Park, Universal

Mousevent: A Fun Twist on the Old Advent

When I heard about this, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect… an audio advent calendar?  Say what?  But, the MouseVent idea has proven to be quite a fun thing.

I must say it really is ingenious fun!  Brought to us by a group of Disney-oriented podcasts, who have created a special audio message for each day of the advent calendar. They bring a bit of Disney trivia and insider knowledge which creates some very interesting listening material.

Just click on the day and listen to fun stories by some of the best theme park and Disney-focused podcasters.  For example, did you know we can thank Santa Claus for the idea of being able to dine with characters at Disney World? Other times the podcast is just silly fun to listen to! (Day 3 provides fun sing-a-longs children will especially love!)

So, if you are fan of Advent Calendars, give this one a try! It’s free and right on your computer. Gotta love that!

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Filed under disney, Only at a Theme Park, Seasonal

Sea World’s Christmas Celebration: It’s a Sure Thing!

The Top 5 was invited to a tweet up at Sea World to preview the newest things at their Christmas Celebration, and I was quite impressed.  I had never attended their seasonal offerings before, and I found myself rediscovering Sea World at night, where it is a seemingly different park!

Since hubby and son were unavailable, I grabbed my mother and we headed out for a VIP greeting by Sea World’s PR staff.  Swag bag and credentials in hand, we were escorted to a reception area complete with yummy cookies and two special guests: Pete and Penny Penguin!

 

Top 5 editor Bess Auer chatting with Pete and Penny Penguin.

 

The reception overlooked the beautiful lake where you could see a watery, majestic forest of brightly lit trees. Gorgeous!

 

Beautiful backdrop for our gathering!

 

We were then officially greeted by the Sea World marketing and PR department, where Michael Fletcher took time to explain the different “zones” and new highlights of the Christmas Celebration:

Clyde & Seamore’s Holiday Show – Sea World took one of my favorite shows and added a holiday twist. These funny sea lions must tidy up and complete some chores to make Santa’s “good list.”  Hilarious!

Shamu Christmas… Miracles – a fabulous new show with really cool multi-media effects. Again, seeing it at night creates such a different ambience than a daytime show. I liked it! (See video at bottom of post.)

The Sea of Trees – a beautiful forest of brightly lit trees whose lights flash and change color according to the music. There are 75 trees, several tons of light bulbs, and over 8 miles of cables of lights! Yeah, it is pretty darn spectacular!

The Christmas Market – my personal favorite space, due to the unusual lighting and atmosphere.  There are gorgeous white crystal ice trees surrounded by penguins and polar bears. Here you can shop for special gifts or get toasty hot chocolate. Sea World has come out with lots of new gifts and products just for the season.

 

Ice tree

Brightly lit polar bear family

Lit up penguin family

Top 5 editor Bess Auer with a new friend

 

 

Winter Wonderland on Ice – a super-cute ice skating show that features some fabulous athletes and actors! (See more in the video at the bottom of the post.)

 

Photo from Sea World.

Photo from Sea World

 

Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street – this lovable Sesame Street creature takes time to welcome little ones to Sea World’s Christmas, just like she did for Halloween. I love this pairing of Sesame Street and Sea World!

All of Sea World’s normal attractions are open during this time, including the Manta and other rides, and you can even visit the Polar Express where you will be serenaded and the transported to meet Santa Claus! (See video at bottom of post.)

And, it wouldn’t be a theme park Christmas without S-N-O-W!  And, Sea World doesn’t disappoint, as it snows several times throughout the night!

 

Look closely for snow flurries

 

And, I must admit, I like the thought Sea World put into their planning and decorations. Who else would have created a snowflake design featuring whales!

 

Can you see the whales in the snowflake?

 

I did have a charming time strolling the boardwalk among the magical trees. I highly recommend going on one of the nights… it is the perfect setting for seasonal romance! (Too bad I my hubby wasn’t there!)  However, it is a moving setting for anyone, young or old, to venture through the spectacularly dramatic park as trees light up and music softly plays. Truly majestic!

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and I was excited to see friends and fellow bloggers Jennifer Leet from The Dirty Shirt as well as Rori Paul from RoriTravel’s Florida.

 

Bess Auer with Laura and Rori Paul

 

I also got to hang with Gabe Travers from WESH.com as well as Kevin Cantor who is one of my favorite tweeps as @FLallday. (See the Top 5 Facebook page for photos of Kevin and others.)

Final thoughts – I definitely recommend adding Sea World’s Christmas Celebration to your must-do holiday list. Unlike the other theme parks, where red and green holiday decorations abound, the colorful and iridescent variations of the watery atmosphere seem to transport you to another place. Purples, pinks, deep blues and greens, as well as penguins, polar bears, sea lions, and walruses beckon you to stay and play in the winter wonderland.  The wide sidewalks provide plenty of wheelchair and stroller space and somehow seem less hectic and chaotic than other theme park celebrations.

And, yes, the Sea of Trees is mesmerizing in the most wonderful way!  here’s a video overview with footage provided by Sea World:

To see all the photos from the Top 5’s trip to Sea World’s Christmas Celebration 2010, visit our Facebook Fan Page.

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Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Fun, General Info, Only at a Theme Park, Sea World, Seasonal

Hollywood Glamour Meets O-Town!

How fun!  Celebrity sighting in Orlando: Academy award-winning actors Michael Douglas and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones along with their children flew over The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and past Hogwarts Castle while riding Flight of the Hippogriff at Universal Orlando Resort.

 

Photo credit: Matt Stroshane, Universal Orlando Resort

Fans of the Harry Potter books and films, the family also sampled Butterbeer, got fitted for wands at Ollivanders and toured Hogwarts Castle while on vacation at Universal Orlando over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the most spectacularly-themed entertainment experience ever created that was inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters.

We hope the celebrity family enjoyed their time as much as the Top 5 did when we got our sneak peek back in June before the Wizarding World officially opened.  At any rate, it’s nice to see a bit of Hollywood glamour here in O-Town!

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Filed under Celebrity, Fun, Only at a Theme Park, Universal

Top 5 Central Florida Videos Weekly Round Up

We are thinking about doing a new weekly feature, where we show the Top 5 youtube videos of events from around Central Florida, all uploaded within the past week.

It should give a great snapshot of all the different things happening. (And you can give us a shout out if you post a great video. Who knows, it might be featured on our Weekly Round Up!)

So, let’s get started with this week’s videos:

Car races:

From Attractions Magazine:

Light Up UCF:

From Disney Parks – Mickey becomes a Magic Player:

Building of Legoland:

Bonus videos–yeah, we couldn’t decide on just 5 this week!

From NBCActionNews, because this was just so darn crazy!

Singing, because we loved Spring Awakening when it was in Orlando:

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Filed under Amway Arena, Bob Carr, Broadway at Bob Carr, Charity, disney, Non-profit, Only at a Theme Park, Orlando Magic, Top 5 Video Round Up, UCF

NASCAR’s Tony Stewart: You can meet him for free!

Okay race fans, here’s your chance to get up close and personal with NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart!  The NASCAR Sports Grille at the Universal Studios Orlando is opening its doors to the living legend and welcoming his fans for a casual meet and greet and autograph session from 6pm – 8pm on Thursday, October 28.

Beware: tickets are limited to 525 attendees and you can get in line for tickets starting at 10 am the morning of the event, Thursday, October 28.

Hmmm… maybe Tony can explain why the Daytona International Speedway is closing the doors to the Daytona 500 Experience! (Boo! Hiss!)

So, if you are a NASCAR hound, be sure to check it out! For more info, email webmail@nascarsportsgrille.com.

 

 

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Filed under Fun, NASCAR, Only at a Theme Park

Sneak Peek Part 3: Ollivander’s, Butterbeer, and More!

So after the Forbidden Journey ride in Hogwarts Castle, my hubby needed to rest his stomach a bit, so he found a seat in the Owl Conservatory. Owls of all sizes roosted in the rafters of this open seating area…but since they were animatronic, there was no owl poop! Nice!

My son J was dying to go on Dueling Dragons, now appropriately part of the Wizarding World, and so he got in line for that. I wasn’t too keen on a rolling roller coaster so soon after flying about on a broom, so I found my downtime at Ollivander’s Wand Shop.

There was a line to get into Ollivander’s, which made me wonder why Universal designed such a small gift shop! But the line moved quickly, letting in groups of fifteen to twenty people at a time, and I soon found out why…Ollivander’s is actually a show! A very, intimate, quaint show that gives the place a very authentic feel. As I entered the wand shop, there was shelf upon shelf of wands, all stacked together as if they had been there for centuries! As a collector of old books, I loved the musty-dusty feeling of the place, but yes, it was a tight fit for all of us in there.

Then, a wand keeper started the show by calling forth a boy from our group. After some clever dialogue, he had the boy try a wand or two, creating some magical effects along the way. (See the video below.) After a few minutes, the show ended and we were ushered into the real wand shop/gift shop to pick out a wand. Here’s mine:

A quick gripe: This real gift shop still left me wondering why on earth Universal designed something so small! It was nearly impossible to navigate through the crowded, tiny space to find the perfect wand or anything else for that matter. You could purchase a celebrity wand (Dumbledore’s, Draco’s, He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named’s, etc.) or you could purchase one based on your birthdate. I went for my birthdate and got that kooky striped one that seemed perfect!

Another quick gripe: Yes, I willingly paid my near $30 for the plastic toy in incredibly nice wrappings (love the box!) but it would have been a much better effect if they had included a simple slip of paper that told a bit about my wand. For example, does it have a unicorn hair in it? Or a dragon heartstrings? Or a phoenix’s feather? When was my wand made, etc.? This would have added greatly to the fun of my fine wand made just for me! Oh well, maybe that touch will be forthcoming.

At any rate, all griping aside, I highly recommend Ollivander’s at it was my favorite thing about the attraction!

After that, my son and I reconvened with my hubby, who still was a bit disoriented, and we all tried a bit of butterbeer. It is extremely sweet and the froth on top is extra yummy! I do not recommend the regular, though, as it reminded me of day old sticky root beer that has sat in the Florida sun for too long, but the frozen butterbeer is infinitely better…YUM!

So we ended our big morning at Universal by heading to Hard Rock Cafe. (Where else!?)

All in all, we’ll be back after the crowds from opening day die down a bit. I highly recommend you go see it, especially all you Harry Potter fans out there. Here’s hoping the magic is real!

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Filed under family, Fun, General Info, Only at a Theme Park, Tourist, Uniquely Florida, Universal