Harry Potter park serves up 1 millionth Butterbeer

It’s not just a beverage, it’s an experience. That’s the word from Universal Orlando Resort, which said today that the company has sold 1 million Butterbeers in its Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The creamy-smooth concoction is a favorite drink in the Harry Potter books and movies, and it’s also a favorite at the theme park, where guests will wait in ride-sized lines to buy a cup. Last year, a fourth location selling the drink was added to the theme park to alleviate some of the lines.

There’s no alcohol in Butterbeer. It’s a sweet drink, which Universal says tastes of shortbread and butterscotch. I liken it to a cream soda. You can get both cold and frozen versions at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park where the Wizarding World is located.

There are lots of do-it-yourself Butterbeer recipes out there online, but Universal’s is secret. In fact, the company says it has put special security procedures in place to keep it that way.

To celebrate the 1 millionth Butterbeer, Universal passed out 1,000 free ones on the streets of the Wizarding World.

Harry Potter ride seats modified for larger riders

Universal Orlando has modified some seats on ride cars for the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and many people who couldn’t ride the centerpiece attraction at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter should be able to now.

When I saw the Wizarding World of Harry Potter during an early preview in May, the ride was not in operation, but the “test seats” outside the ride were working. Would-be riders can sit in the seat to check it out before entering the ride queue. The seats have an over-the-shoulder harness that has to be pulled down and “click” three times. You get a green light if it does, and a red light if it doesn’t.

After watching folks check out that seat, it was evident that the Harry Potter ride would not accommodate riders of size.

But new seats were introduced over the weekend. Now there is also a yellow light on the test seats. If you get yellow, as some rounder or taller guests will, you will be asked to wait until a ride car with modified seats comes around.

Theme park employees told Orlando Attractions Magazine the seats are allowing more people to ride the marquee ride:

Team members we talked to said the modified seats have helped tremendously. They said before they had to turn away hundreds of guests, but over the two days since the modified seats have been in place, they’ve only had to turn away one guest.

The modified seats are on the inside and outside positions on a handful of the ride cars. The seat itself is not any larger; it’s the locking mechanism on the harness that has been changed. Universal says it is safe for both larger and smaller riders to sit in the modified seats.

[Image credit: Flickr user calleecakes]

Harry Potter ride hits 1 million riders

It has been just 60 days since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter threw open the gates of Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando Resort, and already, more than 1 million people have ridden the theme park’s centerpiece attraction.

Universal says the ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, has set a new record. The 1 million riders claim follows second quarter numbers released last week that showed Universal Orlando had its first quarterly attendance gain in two years.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is best described as a robocoaster. Riders sit in robotic arms that are held above a track that moves along through the ride. During this forbidden journey, riders fly around Hogwarts castle, meet up with a band of dementors and even get caught up in a quidditch match.

The ride is intense and features a tight over-the-shoulder harness system for safety. But riders of size don’t fit on the new Harry Potter ride, and that has caused some controversy. There’s also a long list of medical restrictions.

Even if you think you can’t ride for whatever reason, you should walk through the queue – it’s your only way to get inside Hogwarts Castle, and it’s some of the most immersive stuff in the Wizarding World. There’s a “chicken exit” before you board your enchanted bench for the Forbidden Journey.

To quell crowds, Universal halts liquor sales at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

It’s been almost a month since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, and folks are still waiting, and waiting, and waiting to see the new attractions at Universal Orlando Resort.

In fact, more than 500,000 people have ridden the Wizarding World’s centerpiece ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (But rest assured, none of them were obese.)

As the Orlando Sentinel reported, Universal is having to get creative to handle the crowds. One of their more creative moves is halting the sale of liquor in the Hog’s Head tavern at the theme park.

Now you might think that liquor sales were halted to keep the crowds from lingering over another round, but that’s not the case. The prime culprit is butterbeer, the nonalcoholic brew described in the books as tasting “a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch.”

Apparently, the bartenders at Hog’s Head need to spend more time pouring butterbeer to keep up with the demand, so Universal has taken mixed drinks off the menu.Beer and wine is still for sale, and park officials say the liquor ban is temporary.

I can attest that the butterbeer is wonderful stuff – golden, creamy and smooth, and probably, probably, worth the wait.

Bonus trivia note about drinks inside the Wizarding World: Know what else isn’t for sale? Soda. Sodas are of course sold elsewhere in the Islands of Adventure theme park, but not inside the Harry Potter section.

By the way, it’s still weird to see photos of people dressed for the Florida heat walking around Hogsmeade with its snow-topped roofs. It doesn’t feel funny when I’m there, it just looks funny afterward in the pictures. Just me?

[Photo credit (top): Flickr user Digital Rampage]

[Photo credit (middle): Flickr user gordontarpley]

Wizarding World of Harry Potter souvenirs now available online

Universal Orlando’s online store is now selling some of the exclusive Harry Potter merchandise available in the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme-park stores.

Seven categories of Harry Potter merchandise are available: accessories (including this Gryffindor backpack – one of my faves – for $39.95), apparel, collectibles, headwear, home decorations, souvenirs and toys.

I’ve talked with a couple of Harry Potter fans who ran to the park specifically for the home decor available there. I was surprised to find that they were more interested in pillows and fleece throws emblazoned with the Slytherin logo ($24.95 each) than the new ride or restaurant.

And that Slytherin pillow is already listed among the online store’s best sellers, so who am I to judge?

The dozens of collectible wands for sale are sure to be popular, as well. They come in Ollivanders gift boxes. This alder wand ($28.95) is said to denote intelligence and strength.

The biggest benefit of this online store for travelers, of course, is that you can save the extra baggage fees on your return trip from Orlando by waiting to order your Harry Potter souvenirs and having them delivered directly to your home.