Harry Potter fans rejoice! Universal Orlando Resort has released new details regarding the highly anticipated new attraction Diagon Alley. Set to open this summer, Diagon Alley will explore all of shops, sights and exciting elements that captured the hearts of book readers and movie goers alike.

Diagon Alley will be inside Universal Studios, while the current portion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located at Island’s of Adventure. The two Potter-themed areas will be connected by a train called Hogwart’s Express and guests will be able to travel between the two areas – just like Harry did! It will be an immersive, two-park experience. To see both areas, visitors will need Universal Orlando tickets with dual park access, such as the Park-to-Park 1 Day Ticket.

Get a sneak peak at what’s in store by browsing through these concept art images, along with need-to-know tidbits about each attraction.

Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, where guests can grab wizarding essentials such as telescopes, binoculars, armillary spheres, compasses, magnifying glasses and hourglasses.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a vibrant shop featuring novelty items, magical jokes, and toys inspired by the books and films that will amaze the mischievous child in everyone.

Witness the magical experience of a wand choosing a wizard at Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, one of the wizarding world’s premier wand shops.

Walk the London Embankment and imagine yourself in a scene from your imagination.

Visit Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour for frozen treats in a variety of tantalizing and unique flavors such as strawberry-and-peanut-butter ice-cream and many others.

Board the Hogwarts Express and journey between London’s King’s Cross Station (located in Universal Studios Florida) and Hogsmeade Station (located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure). The journey will be filled with views of London and the British countryside – as well as a few surprises.

Hogsmeade Station

Cross through the iconic brick wall archway from the films and into Diagon Alley – a bustling, wizarding hub within a Muggle city.

Experience a groundbreaking new, multi-dimensional thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which will place riders in the middle of an incredible adventure as they navigate their way through the perils of the Gringotts vaults.

Other elements of Diagon Alley park goers can look forward to include:

  • Discover the darker side of magic in Knockturn Alley, the darkest of dark places that features Borgin and Burkes – a shop specializing in the Dark Arts that will offer a wide variety of Dark objects, such as Death Eater masks, skulls, and other sinister items.
  • Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, where guests will find a variety of wizardwear from Hogwarts school uniform ties, scarves and jumpers, to authentic wizard’s robes and character costumes.
  • Magical Menagerie, which features a collection of plush animals, such as owls and Hippogriffs.
  • Quality Quidditch Supplies, offering a wide assortment of apparel and equipment including Quidditch sweaters, brooms, Golden Snitches, Bludgers, Bludger bats, Quaffles and more
  • Scribbulus, featuring authentic writing implements and products such as feather quills, ink and inkwells, bookmarks, journals, parchment paper, seals, stationery sets and postcards
  • Enjoy traditional British fare that includes favorite dishes such as fish and chips, bangers and mash and more at the Leaky Cauldron.

 

Diagon Alley is set to double the size of Harry Potter themed attractions at Universal Orlando Resort. After learning more about what to expect, I can’t wait to explore the park when it opens Summer 2014. More details about Diagon Alley will be released over time. Follow our Travel Guide to get the latest!

More Universal news ahead! Read about new restaurants opening at Universal CityWalk in 2014.
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Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know. Before you pack your bags, get the latest scoop on Orlando vacations from Ashley.

Disney’s 21st Annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival features plenty of new things to see in 2014. Throughout the 75-day festival, scheduled for March 5 through May 19, Epcot guests will be treated to new topiaries, garden displays, seminars by celebrity HGTV designers, a stellar line-up for the Flower Power Concert Series and a gorgeous butterfly house.

Photo Credit: Disney World Theme Parks
HGTV, the popular home and garden channel, is sponsoring the festival. 

As part of this sponsorship, HGTV hosts will be presenting at the Festival on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the Festival Center on the HGTV Designers Stage between Universe of Energy and Mission: SPACE in Future World. Mondays – Thursdays other flower and garden experts will present. All presentations will be at noon and 3 pm.

The full line-up of presenters includes: 
  • March 7-9: Vern Yip, (Design Star)
  • March 14-16: Chris Lambton, (Going Yard)
  • March 21-23: Matt Blashaw, (Yard Crashers)
  • March 28-30: Matt Meunster, (Bath Crashers)
  • April 4-6: Taniya Nayak, (House Hunters on Vacation)
  • April 11-13: Amy Matthews, (Renovation Raiders)
  • April 18-20: John Gidding, (Curb Appeal)
  • April 25-27: David Bromstad, (Color Splash)
  • May 2-4: Chip Wade, (Elbow Room)
  • May 9-11: TBA
  • May 16-18: Alison Victoria, (Kitchen Crashers)

 All seminars are included with the purchase of Epcot tickets.

Interested in learning more about things to do at Epcot?
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Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know. Before you pack your bags, get the latest scoop on Orlando vacations from Ashley.

Are you ready to brave a watery free-fall at Aquatica?  In 2014, you can at Aquatica Orlando’s all-new water thrill slide – Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. 
 
The drop slide will be the tallest, steepest and only multi-slide ride of its kind in Orlando.  Reaching a height of 105’, riders will suddenly from its peak downward side-by-side as the ground disappears beneath them.  Sounds like quite the rush, huh?

Curious about the name Ihu?  The slide is name after Aquatica by SeaWorld Orlando’s colorful gecko, who spends his time searching for the biggest thrills, steepest hills and coolest spills in the theme park. 
Get a sneak peak of the thrills in store with this video:

Follow our Travel Guide to learn more about Aquatica and other Orlando attractions.
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Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know. Before you pack your bags, get the latest scoop on Orlando vacations from Ashley.

If you’re searching for Arabian Nights tickets, you’ll be disappointed to learn the show performed its last show December 31, 2013.  Although I’m sad to see the spectacle-filled, horse themed show go, there are alternative Orlando shows available to fill the entertainment void.  Arabian Nights Orlando may no longer be open, but the following shows are excellent options to see instead.

Blue Man Group:  The festive atmosphere of a Blue Man Group Show puts a smile on your face right from the start.  Located at Universal Orlando Resort’s CityWalk, this show puts three blue men up on stage who wow with their unusual performance pieces.

Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Show:  Improv and mystery combine at Sleuth’s for an adult-themed night in Orlando.  Better-than-expected dinner show food, comedic characters and freely flowing drinks make for an uproarious show you’re sure to enjoy.

Pirate’s Dinner Adventure:  Hit the high seas for a swashbuckling, family-friendly adventure.  Daring stunts set to dramatic music take place abroad a replicated 18th century Spanish Galleon, all while you dine on a pirate’s feast. 
Medieval Times:  Keeping the chivalry of knights alive, Medieval Times combines pageantry and tournament action for a gallant yet thrilling show.  You’ll see brave knights compete in games of skill astride magnificent Andalusian stallions.
These are just a few of the shows in Orlando you can see on your next vacation.  Check out Reserve Orlando’s selection of shows for ticket prices and show times.

Searching for more information on Orlando dinner shows?
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Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know. Before you pack your bags, get the latest scoop on Orlando vacations from Ashley.

Disney World has a major new attraction underway at Animal KingdomAvatar Land.  The themed area is an expansive new land is being created through a collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron, the man behind the film “Avatar” and Walt Disney Imagineering.  Together, they will bring the world of Pandora to life.  The new land will feature floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees, all part of the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history.

The addition of Avatar Land has made some Disney die-hards skeptical.  Pandora?  At the Animal Kingdom?  These two lands don’t seem to coexist, you might think.  However there are plenty of reasons to be excited about this attraction.  In fact, here are five reasons to look forward to Avatar Land.

1) The Animal Kingdom has largely been a park about experiences – not necessarily rides and attractions.  One of the most popular things to do at the park is the Kilimanjaro Safari, which is sightseeing based with animals the star of the show.  Now, with Pandora, there will be at least two new rides at the park – one of which looks like a boat ride while the other simulates flying.  Naturally, these fit in nicely with the ecological elements of Animal Kingdom. 

2) Animal Kingdom is the only Disney theme park to not stay open at night.  When Avatar Land opens, that will change.  This means you’ll get to explore the lush, unique sights of the park in a whole new way.  Imagine riding Expedition Everest at night or seeing the Tree of Life glowing in the night sky.  Sounds pretty great to me!

3) With new nighttime hours at Animal Kingdom, as well as new things to do, Disney World’s three other theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios – should see fewer crowds at night.  This is a bonus for all park goers as it will make nighttime festivities even more enjoyable. 

4) As the Animal Kingdom will be open after dark, new nighttime entertainment is planned.  Things to do when the sun goes down include a nighttime Kilimanjaro Safari tour and nighttime show along Discovery River. 

5) One things is certain – Disney creating Avatar Land will only increase the competition between central Florida theme parks.  The last decade has seen a plethora of tractions open at Disney, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld. Avatar Land will amp up the attraction race, which all vacationers will benefit from because it means new things to do at all Orlando theme parks.

We still have some time before the debut of Avatar Land.  The scheduled opening date isn’t until 2017.  Until then, we look forward to seeing what Disney Imagineers wow us with next!

Interested in learning more about Avatar Land?
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Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know. Before you pack your bags, get the latest scoop on Orlando vacations from Ashley.

SeaWorld Orlando has followed in the steps of its sister park in San Antonio, expanding Jack Hanna Weekend into the Wild Days Festival.  Scheduled for weekends in January, Wild Days is an engaging event connecting families with the wild.  Dig into a variety of shows and experience animals up-close during this three weekend long event.

Jan. 11-12: Jack Hanna Weekend
Join “Jungle Jack” for a wild weekend of furry and feathered fun. Recognized around the world for his boundless enthusiasm for animals and conservation, Jack Hanna helps share in his wondrous connection to wildlife and the world.
Jan. 18-19: Sea Rescue Weekend
Meet some of the leaders in the world of animal rescue and rehabilitation as they share stories that have been featured on the national television show, “Sea Rescue”. SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue team is on call 24/7, 365 days a year to help ill or injured animals, and for nearly 40 years the team has rescued more than 22,000 animals. Featured animal rescue stories will include: turtles, flamingos, manatees, pilot whales and dolphins.

Jan. 25-26: Penguin Lovers’ Weekend with Julie Scardina Join SeaWorld Animal Ambassador Julie Scardina as she shares her lifelong love of animals and the parks’ commitment to wildlife conservation. She’ll also tell stories of her trips around the globe, from continent to continent. At Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, to celebrate the weekend, penguin lovers will have the special chance to virtually dance like a penguin, walk side by side with a penguin colony, and star in shareable Antarctica photo opportunities at the coolest “ice” block party.

All Wild Days shows are included with Sea World tickets with show times at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at SeaWorld’s Nautilus Theater. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Shows and times are subject to change without notice.

Interested in learning more about SeaWorld?
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Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know. Before you pack your bags, get the latest scoop on Orlando vacations from Ashley.

Check out these Orlando events happening this February:

February 1 – March 7:  Real Music Series at Busch Gardens
The Real Music Concert Series continues at Busch Gardens Tampa during February. Concerts are held Wednesdays-Saturdays and feature live music from a variety of artists including Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Chubby Checker, Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Osmonds, and Frankie Avalon.

February 1 – March 9:  Bands, Brew & BBQ at SeaWorld
Saturdays and Sundays treat yourself to beer, barbecue, and live music at SeaWorld Orlando. This year’s awesome line-up features 6 full weekends of top artists in classic rock and country music including a side stage showcasing local bands.

February 8 – March 9:  Bands, Brew & BBQ at Busch Gardens
Sample craft beers and tasty barbecue while enjoying live rock and classic rock concerts at Busch Gardens Tampa. Bands, Brews & BBQ takes place each Sunday with concerts beginning at 5pm.

February 8-9: 12th Annual Orlando Folk Festival
The 12th Annual Orlando Folk Festival features folk and Americana music all day on the main stage, dance, storytelling, traditional craft demonstrations and plenty of food and art vendors. Hours are 10am-5pm.  Admission is free.

February 9 – May 31:  Universal Studios Mardi Gras
Take part in one of the most spectacular Mardi Gras celebrations outside of New Orleans at Universal Orlando. On Saturdays and select nights during the spring, enjoy live concerts, parades, street performers, and authentic Cajun cuisine.

February 20-23:  Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend
The half marathon weekend features fun and athletic competitions for the whole family. Events include Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, Disney Royal Family 5K, runDisney Royal Family Kids’ Races, Disney’s Fit for a Princess Expo, and Pasta in the Park Party.

In spring 2014 Disney World will open the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Fantasyland inside the Magic Kingdom. The new ride will be the crown jewel inside the classic character themed land, completing the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history. In addition to the new attraction, Fantasyland will also be featured in a new parade set to march down Main Street USA.

Some of Disney’s most classic yet beloved characters – Sleepy, Doc, Bashful, Grumpy, Sneezy, Dopey and Happy – magically come to life on the new ride they’ve inspired. Hop aboard the family-style Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster for a rollicking, music filled journey into the mine where diamonds shine. There are a lot of signature details from the film Snow White. You’ll cross a stone bridge and walk through a magnificent forest home to the Dwarf’s cottage. And that’s before you even board the ride! Once you board the ride vehicles, which feature first of its kind pivots allowing for your vehicle to rock back and forth, you’re in for a surprise-filled adventure with the dwarfs and Snow White as your guide. Lines will surely be long when the attraction first opens, so be sure to enjoy the fun mine-themed activities as you pass through the pre-ride area.

A few details regarding the new daytime parade, named the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, have been released. An original soundtrack with popular songs from Disney films, a new parade theme song, vibrant character costumes and top notch parade floats bring the fantasy of Disney to life. Planned parade floats include a larger-than-life music box hosting an “Under the Sea” music party with Ariel and friends and an enormous bagpipe-shaped float, surrounded by Scottish dancers, welcoming Merida. Disney Princesses, Peter Pan and Wendy, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider and other beloved characters will also appear.

Interested in learning more about Fantasyland at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom?
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Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know. Before you pack your bags, get the latest scoop on Orlando vacations from Ashley.