Walt Disney World & World Travels

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Today’s guest post is from Megan, a 16 year old who knows Harry Potter as well or better than JK Rowling herself.  As excited as Megan was to go to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, she was also a bit worried that it wouldn’t live up to her expectations.  Here are her thoughts on WWoHP:

I first started reading the Harry Potter series in first grade, just after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released.  I went to the midnight release parties for the final three books and stayed up all night to read them.  I’ve seen all the movies and read the books a million times over.  Now, as I am starting eleventh grade, they are still my favorite books.  I have grown up with Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and the entire Weasley family.  I know all the details in all the books.  I have extremely detailed, over-developed pictures in my head of Hogwarts castle, Hogsmeade village, and the Hogwarts Express.  Needless to say, I had high expectations for the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The morning started around 7, much earlier than I like to wake up in the summer, when we got ready to leave our room at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort for a night at Loews Portofino Bay Resort at Universal. We checked in at the resort and got to Islands of Adventure around 8:40—just in time to get back to the Wizarding World for early entry.  Early Entry was a great resort benefit, especially since we were there for the Wizarding World’s opening week.  At regular opening, there was a 4 hour wait just to get into the Harry Potter section of the park.  We cut across a couple islands and arrived at the entrance to the Wizarding World.

We walked into the beautiful, snow-capped village of Hogsmeade, where we could see the Hogwarts Express pulled into station and landmarks like the Three Broomsticks that readers have been imagining since the beginning of the series.  The Hog’s Head Pub and Zonko’s Joke Shop are also there, as well as a new, second location of Ollivander’s wand shop.  Throughout the village there are stands selling all types of wizarding necessities: wands, brooms, and cool, frothy butterbeer.

After entering the Wizarding World, we headed to its headlining attraction: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  The queue area for this attraction is almost as good as the ride; Hogwarts is holding an open house for muggles (non-magical people), and you are on a tour of the castle.  On your tour you go through the Herbology greenhouses, various classrooms, and hallways in which some of the portraits may start moving and talking in their frames.  The effects in the castle are fantastic; it’s impossible to tell which portraits will move and which will not, and the oil paintings are beautiful.  I will not divulge much about the ride except a quick warning.  If you get motion sick, take Dramamine before you ride; the Forbidden Journey is an absolute don’t-miss, but it’s much more enjoyable if you don’t feel like hurling.

After we rode the Forbidden Journey, we made a short walk over to Flight of the Hippogriff, a small, fairly gentle coaster with a cute theme, based on Harry and Hermione’s rides on Buckbeak in the third book.  It’s faster than I expected, but the track is similar to Goofy’s Barnstormer at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  The rest of the family went to ride Dragon Challenge while I recovered from my Forbidden Journey motion sickness (Really, be prepared and take the Dramamine before you ride!).  Dragon Challenge is based on the first event of the Triwizard Tournament, when Harry has to capture an egg from a particularly volatile dragon.  There are two tracks for the coaster, each a little different.  Supposedly, the blue track is better than the red track, but if you get a chance, try both and compare them.

After hitting all three attractions in the Wizarding World, we stopped at a stand for butterbeer.  Cold and sweet, butterbeer is the Coca Cola of the magical world; it is a butterscotch-flavored soda with a thick, foamy head like a beer, available regular or frozen.  Though rich, it is a decadent way to cool off on a hot day.

Butterbeer in hand, we wandered around Hogsmeade and the area surrounding Hogwarts Castle.  The attention to detail in the Wizarding World is truly incredible—a step up over everything else in Universal and even areas of Disney (Am I going to be excommunicated as a heretic for saying that?).  As a rabidly obsessed and picky Harry Potter fan, I don’t do this often, but I give the Wizarding World of Harry Potter my stamp of approval.

Just ran across this classic cartoon from 1937 and thought it was a great way to get in the mood for planning a Hawaiian vacation.  Disney’s new Aulani Resort & Spa in Hawaii will start taking reservations the first week of August 2010 for stays starting Fall of 2011.  It’s going to be an amazing resort and as we get closer I’ll write more about it.  In the mean time, enjoy the cartoon.

Disney Hawaiian Holiday

There are a lot of ride time applications available  for free or for a small fee.  I was curious how some of them worked and if they were worth the money.   Today you get a guest posting from my 13 year old son.  While on our recent Disney trip, I gave him a job; download the Verizon-Disney Mobile Magic application and test it for the week.    Here is his report on it:

Mobile Magic

Mobile Magic is an  application for Verizon phones created by Disney and Verizon to show accurate wait times in the park that you are currently in.  Mobile Magic is a very simple application to use.  We found  that the app was always right compared to other applications out like Ride HopperRide Hopper (a free, social reporting application) was very random, it could have wait times with-in 5 minutes or it would be 2 hours off.  Mobile Magic was always right in all four parks on wait times but that’s not all the application can do!  The app can help you find your favorite Disney characters  or locate a restroom or dining or whatever you will need.  Overall, Mobile Magic was a great application to have while we were on our trip.

One of my problems with it was that it was very slow, it could take a while to load when you are at a resort with good cell service, and it took forever to load in the parks with not as good cell phone service.  Is it worth the money?  I say it is, besides the loading problem I found that the application was great.  I think it is worth the money.  It was great you could wait in line for one ride and right after say let’s go get fast passes for Space Mountain.  It would give you fast pass return times and the wait time.  It would also show you a map of the park which is useful when finding food. Again, I think that the application Mobile Magic is worth the money every little bit.

Thank you Jason for your review!   A few extra things to know;  the cost is $9.99 for 180 days of access.   You do need to have a cell phone that can access the internet and data charges are separate.    Data usage does add up, especially when playing games or trivia while waiting in line for your favorite rides or on the bus ride to/from the parks.  Tip: add a monthly data package instead of paying per MB, then drop the plan when you get home from vacation.

Temperatures are warming up,and the Atlanta Braves are back at Disney World for spring training.  I love spring time!

Through the end of  March you can see the Braves play the Tigers, Phillies, Cardinals and more at the ESPN  Wide World of Sports.  For schedule & tickets check out Disney’s ESPN WWOS

Is it just me or does this winter feel like it is dragging on forever!   We’ve had snow, ice & rain and a whole bunch of gray blechy skies.  It was really starting to get me down, but I decided a little touch of Disney would perk me up; so I planned a meal perfect for the weather and for my mood.  So on a cold winters day, my husband and I spent the afternoon making one of our favorite meals: Le Cellier’s  Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup and pretzel bread!  The soup recipe we got from Disney, the pretzel bread was from a recipe we found while doing some research.  Disney actually buys the breadsticks from a Canadian bakery, so they don’t have the recipe for them.  Don’t worry, this one is really good!

Le Cellier’s Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup

serves 10
1/2 pound of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium red onion cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 TBSP butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
4 cups milk
1 pound grated white cheddar cheese
1 TBSP Tabasco sauce
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
Coarse salt, freshly gound pepper to taste
1/2 cup warm beer
chopped scallions or chives for garnish

1. In a 4 or 5 quart Dutch oven, cook the bacon, stirring over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
2. Add the red onion, celery, and butter and saute until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes over medium heat. Whhisk in the chicken stock and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the milk and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Do not boil after you add the milk.
5. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, slat & pepper until the cheese is melted and the soup is smooth. Stir in warm beer. If the soup is too thick, thin with some warm milk.
6. Serve the soup hot, garnished with chopped scallions or chives.

Pretzel Breadsticks
2 1/4 Tsp dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/4 cups bread flour
2 tsps salt
1/4 cup butter, softened

3 TBSP baking soda
2 quarts water
1 large egg yolk mixed with a TBSP or 2 of water
coarse salt

In a small bowl, whick the yeast and 1/4 cup of the water until smooth. In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the remaining 1 cup water, bread flour, yeast mixture, salt & butter. Mix at slow speed for 3 minutes, scraping down the sides o te bowl and the hook as necessary and the mixture blends evenly. when the ingredients are well combined, increase the speed to high and continue mixing and occasionally scrapping until the dough is firm and elastic (about 8 minutes). If the mixture is too firm for the mixer to handle, finish kneading it by hand. Turn the ball of dough out onto a lightly flowered work surfasce and let rest for 5 minutes, loosely covered with a kitchen towel. Line a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer with parchment paper and set aside. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a long cylinder about 1 inch in diameter. With the palms of your hands, roll each cylinder into a rope about 12 inches long of even thickness. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

When dough is all shaped into sticks, let it sit in a very warm, moist place to rise until almost doubled in size (about 30-50 minutes). Freeze the rised pretzel dough uncovered on the baking sheet for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. The dough should be frozen solid.

Before removing the pretzels from the freezer, combine the baking soda and water in a large sauce pan and bring it to a simmer. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove pan from the freezer and using a large flat skimmer, dip each frozen pretzel stick in simmering water for about 3 seconds, letting the excess water drain before returning it to the baking sheet. Brush the pretzels with the egg & water mixture, then sprinkle with coarse salt. Immediately place the baking sheet in the hot oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 8-12 minutes more.

A few tips on the recipes:  for the soup, chop the bacon and veggies smaller and use a hand blender right before adding the cheese to make the soup extra smooth.  For the breadsticks, we’ve found making more of them, but shorter works better.  They fit in the pot better and on the cookie sheet easier.

If you need a little winter pick me up, make this meal; open up a Molson’s or Labatt’s and imagine that you’re at Epcot.

Still miserable about the weather?  Call me and we’ll plan your Disney trip!

Hope everyone has had a very happy holiday season so far!  Here’s a little message from our friends Woody & Buzz from ToyStory


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