Abby’s Orlando Adventure, Part 1. Universal

Hey Thrill Seekers!

I’M BACK!!

I’ve been back a few days now – just about getting over the jet lag but still wishing I was in Orlando.. 🙁 I had the most AMAZING week out in Orlando and had the opportunity to do things i’ve only ever been able to dream of doing until now. I’m going to let you all know what I got up to over a blog or three.  😉 Today’s blog is all about what I got up to at the Universal parks..

So on the 17th September I made my way to Gatwick and met everyone (all 50 of them) at the check in desk ready to do my first ever long haul flight. The flight was fine and seemed like we were there in no time! We then travelled straight from the airport to Universals Cabana Bay Beach Resort which is a really cool 1950’s retro themed hotel. After being shown to our rooms we met over at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort – another one of Universals properties to have a welcome buffet and drinks. At dinner our lovely Universal host Liz gave us the opportunity to go over to Universal Studios to experience Halloween Horror Nights 27. Of course I opted to do this (partly because if i didn’t I would be mocked here at OAT towers) We hopped on a water taxi from Loews over to Universal Studios to experience the best Horror Night event i’ve ever been too! As soon as you walk in to the park it starts, there’s a scare zone after scare zone and so many houses to choose from. I done a mix of Rides and Houses that night, started off on Hollywood Rip Ride Rock It (Kayne West – Stronger, obvious choice 😉 ) – Wicked ride to do in the dark! Also rode TRANSFORMERS-3D, The Simpsons and Men In Black. TRANSFORMERS 3D was my first experience of a simulator ride and it’s safe to say I absolutely LOVED it! Now on to the houses, the first house I went in to was American Horror Story.. one word, terrifying. There is a video / sound clip on our Facebook page that I took whilst walking through the house and you can tell from that how scared I was and also how funny it is to be scared. The attention to detail in the houses is second to none, if you have the chance to go make sure you keep your eyes open the whole time to really take in all of the props and details! The second house I went in was Scarecrow – The Reaping. This house was more jumpy and I did fall over at one point from being scared – not my finest moment ;). The Scare Zones were also amazing and clever, my favourite Scare Zone was the Purge one as you just couldn’t escape! This was closely followed by the Scare Zone Roaming Hordes – Clowns with Chainsaws.. enough said. We made our way back to the hotel at around 1am to get some sleep ready for the next day.

On our first full day we made our way over to Universal Studios where we met our very own VIP tour guides who were going to be taking us around for the morning. We started off by heading in to Diagon Alley – the ‘wow factor’ when you walk in is exactly, if not more, how everyone describes it. We had a quick taste of Butterbeer – I loved this, I love all things sweet and this is definitely sweet, yummy. We then went on to do the Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, I also had a lot of expectations for this ride and it lived up to every single one of them, it’s just so lifelike and cleverly done. After this we met up outside Kings Cross Station, had a few photos with the knight bus and then made our way inside to board the Hogwarts Express. Oh another thing, when you are standing outside Kings Cross you will reeeeeaaaalllllyyyy feel like you are back in London! (let me know below if you know what I mean by this 😉 ) After walking through platform 9 3/4 we hopped in to a carriage.The journey on the Hogwarts Express was soo immersive and be sure to look both left and right throughout the whole journey. In what felt like seconds we had arrived at Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure, another ‘wow’ moment as you catch a glimpse of Hogwarts Castle for the first time. We headed straight for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, probably my favourite of the 2 Harry Potter rides we did, I love the way the ride really puts you in the middle of the action. We then made our way back on to the Hogwarts Express to head back over to Universal Studios, it’s a completely different experience on the way back so make sure you pay close attention (and look out for a cool graphic to do with a tree out of the window side). As we entered Kings Cross earlier on in the morning one of our group had said ‘the only thing missing is a busker’ and as we walked out back in to Universal Studios after departing the Hogwarts Express there was a lady standing at the entrance playing the violin – Universal don’t miss anything do they!  We then got to do most of the iconic attractions in Universal Studios.. Minion Mayhem, Revenge of the Mummy (fantastic ride!!) and Jimmy Fallon were all great, every sense is tested in Jimmy Fallon and the whole experience beforehand is also brilliant. We also rode the Simpsons Ride, TRANSFORMERS 3D, Rip Ride Rock It (Fergie – Glamorous this time) and Men In Black again (well second time for me because i’d stayed out to do them the night before hehe) Men in Black is so much fun, especially when you beat everyone.. not gloating, promise. My favourite ride in Universal Studios, by a mile is TRANSFORMERS – 3D I just absolutely love it for so many reasons. After Universal Studios we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a hosted event at Cuba Libre by Visit Orlando – great fun. 🙂

On the second full day, after breakfast, we made the short walk over to Universals Volcano Bay. After collecting our Tapu Tapus we walked the short path (which is very cleverly located) and turned the corner to be face to face with the Volcano. It is so awesome when you first see it, I had a look around and everyone had just stopped dead to stare or take photos – great backdrop for any photos!! We then got to explore the park at our own leisure, I went on Krakatau Aqua Coaster, Ika Moana, Honu, Te Awa Fearless River, Puihi raft ride and the one i’m most proud of.. Ko’okiri Body Plunge. There wasn’t one slide that I didn’t enjoy here they all made me laugh out loud – that is all bar Ko’okiri which was the only attraction in Orlando I was scared to do before I went and admittedly, I was 10x more scared when I cane face to face with it. Not going to lie, it was the main thing I noticed when I first caught sight of the Volcano after walking in to the park. Ko’okiri features a 70-degree fall through a drop door and a 125 feet descent, to be honest it was sooo much fun I wanted to do it again but we didn’t have enough time! 🙁 Krakatau was also wicked, i’d worked myself up so much about Ko’okiri that i’d partly forgotten about Krakatau but it was so thrilling and the dips and drops are a lot bigger and much faster than I had anticipated. It’s definitely a must!! After Volcano Bay and a quick change of clothes we headed over to Universals Islands of Adventure and were told to not wear any denim or white tops.. if you don’t know then i’ll tell you, IOA is renowned for its water rides! We had planned to do the water rides last though (because we are smart like that) so headed straight over to the Hulk coaster – amazing and the launch is really something else, loved it! We also experienced The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and Skull Island: Reign of Kong which is a wicked ride with a really cool surprise at the end (I wont ruin it for you). It was then time for the water rides.. We rode Jurassic Park River Adventure which was pretty cool and I sat at the back so didn’t get very wet.  We then opted for Popeye and Blutos Bilge Rat Barges which was hands down the most i’ve laughed on a ride, ever. You can sit in groups of 12 and you get DRENCHED. Luckily (well, for me) we didn’t have time to get on to Dudley Do-rights Ripsaw Falls but got to catch a glimpse of a few others getting absolutely soaked on it.. hehe! Once we were done at Islands of Adventure we headed back to Cabana Bay to get ready for our ‘surprise evening with Universal.’

#volcanobay @universalorlando amazing morning, conquered Ko’Okiri too!! 🌋💚

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Our surprise evening with Universal was incredible.. we had the whole of Volcano Bay to ourselves, yep you heard it right, the whole park! The lovely Universal had put on a delicious buffet dinner and drinks for us in one of the restaurants and just as we were finishing up our food, the minions walked in to have their photos taken with us! After our photo shoot with the minions we headed down to one of the bars by the Waturi beach for more cocktails and a live band, had a little dance and then we headed down to the beach to watch a fire performer and Waturi dancers, had some more photos taken in front of the Volcano – which changes colour and looks even more awesome in the dark! It was such a fantastic evening and I felt very lucky to be a part of it. After a few more drinks we walked back to Cabana bay for a game of bowling and a night cap. The evening at Volcano Bay concluded our visits to the Universal parks and what a ending it was!!

Overall, my top 3 rides / attractions from the Universal parks were:

3. Ko’okiri Body Plunge

2. The Incredible Hulk Coaster

1. TRANSFORMERS-3D.

What are your favourite Universal attractions?

Stay tuned for my next blog all about what I got up to at Discovery Cove, SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens! You can also take a look at the video below of me and Gavin chatting about what I got up to on the first part of my FAM trip. 🙂

Smiles Included,

Abby

 

Top Secrets at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Hey Thrill Seekers,

We poked our noses in at Universal Studios yesterday so now it’s time to pop next door and nose a little bit more.

We’ll start off in Marvel Super Hero Island where there are red phones dotted around that you can pick up and listen to various options on how to report different crimes.

All the buildings have been designed with all of the Marvel characters. The artist Adam Kubert has secretly signed his first name into each painting with the exception of Storm from X-Men.

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Some of the Marvel characters ride into the park on quad bikes at the top of the hour but quickly disperse to get ready for their character meet and greets.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster has lots of games to keep you entertained throughout the queue on a busy day but don’t forget to listen out for the roar as you shoot out of the slingshot launch tunnel!

Doctor Dooms Fearfall has prints of his victims, the Fantastic Four, on the floor! There’s also a little cubby hole underneath the Osborn Industries sign. If you stand there and listen carefully, you will hear two thugs planning their next stunt!

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Just across the road at Captain America’s Diner, you will see Thor’s hammer stuck in the glass and if you head inside, Thor will be over the other side, mid-throw.

Time for some Jurassic Park now and if you look carefully just outside the exit of Jurassic Park River Adventure, on the shelf there is a Barbosol shaving cream tin which represents the tin that contains the dino embryos in the film.

We’re gonna jump across back to by the entrance now into Seuss Landing where it all looks a bit different and crazier than the rest of the park! There are no straight lines and all of the buildings are unorthodox.

As you enter into the area, you will see McElligot’s Pool on the right hand side. One of the fish in the pool is special and if you toss a coin into it’s mouth, you’ll see what happens next..

“Young man, young man, you’re sort of a fool. You’ll never catch fish in McElligot’s pool”

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Moving swiftly over the The Lost Continent, you will find a mystic fountain which you can talk to. He will tell you jokes and riddles, but you won’t want to get the riddles wrong…!

Let’s go over to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter now but this time we’re in Hogsmeade! Ladies, if you’re wanting a toilet break, now is the time to go. If you listen carefully you will be able to hear Moaning Myrtle!

Olivander’s is the place to be if you want to become a wizard with your very own wand and if you’re lucky, the wand may even choose you! You can then head off to some of the spell locations dotted around the area and cast some of your own spells!

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Just outside of Olivander’s is the Owl Post station where you can post a letter of your own to anywhere in the world with the official Hogsmeade stamp before heading back to Diagon Alley on the Hogwart’s Express. Don’t forget, the journey is a completely different experience this way!

So there we have it, some of Universal Islands of Adventure’s secrets. What else have you found on your travels?

Smiles Included…

Louise

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Happy 5th Birthday The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter! What’s Next?

Hey Thrill Seekers,

Hard to believe, but last week The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade celebrated its 5th birthday! Located in Universal’s Orlando Resort at Islands of Adventure there is no denying that this Harry Potter themed land really raised the bar!

J.K. Rowling herself had final approval on all aspects of the land even down to the taste of the Butterbeer and this attention to detail plus Harry Potter’s popularity made it a massive success.

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The obvious step was to extend the Wizarding World and hence last year we were treated to stage 2, Diagon Alley. Diagon Alley followed on from where Hogsmeade left off. Again the attention to detail was amazing but the introduction of interactive wands and the Hogwarts Express took it to a whole new level!

But what’s next? I asked members of the Orlando Attraction Tickets team what they’d like to see next at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Rachel

I love the Hogwarts Express its such a clever way of linking the two parks together but I’m a thrill seeker… what I’d love to see is a second option to get from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. In the books (and films) Ron and Harry make their own way to Hogwarts by using Arthur Weasley’s Flying Ford Anglia! Its a crazy ride with lots of twists and turns perfect for a roller coaster!…

Frank

I’d like to see them add a Wizard Duelling stage show. A mixture of live action and special effects. Similar to what they do at The Blue Man show. I love all the attractions and rides but some live entertainment wouldn’t go amiss.

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Jamie

With Wet N’ Wild closing at the end of 2016 and conjecture suggesting it will make way for a hotel I’d love to see the new hotel themed as Hogwarts Castle. All the rooms could be themed as per the house you book i.e Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin or Ravenclaw! The main restaurant could be like the main Hall featured in the films.

Imagine the look on childrens faces when they entered a real life Hogwarts Castle!

Kelly

I really like the Knight Bus, I think it could be a pretty simple but cool ride. I was thinking along the lines of the Simpson’s Ride, a 3d experience where you zig zag in and out of London.

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Louise

I’d like them to be able to provide us with brooms that actually fly!!!

There’s always one!!!!

Who knows what the future of the Wizarding World holds in store for us Muggles but one things for sure… it will be exciting

Smiles included…

Jamie

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Yes Interactive Wands At The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Are Cool!

Hey Thrill Seekers,

What is this?

10730221_902175283127589_5586109338008875308_nOne of our customer described it as “Lots of fun” another as “amazing” but what is it?

When Universal Orlando decided to expand the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade they knew they’d have to make it bigger and better. For those of you who’ve been to the new Diagon Alley at Universal Studios you know they definitely delivered! Not only is the staging superb but they added a fire breathing dragon and a fully working Hogwarts Express!

However for me its the little things that make it such a success and that brings me back to my original questions, what is the symbol above?

What is the symbol?

Well this symbol denotes that you can use the new interactive wands here! Yep thats right Universal, the clever so and so’s, have created certain areas within both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade that will react when certain “spells” are cast.

Where?

When you purchase your interactive wand at Ollivanders (either shop) you’ll be given a map which details all the interactive spots in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, make sure you use the map as there are tons of spots that you’ll miss if you just follow the crowd.

How?

Follow the map, when you reach the interactive point (symbol above & below) take a good look at it. The symbol will tell you exactly how to cast your spell.

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This particular spell is to make a feather float. You’ll notice that the symbol has words written around the edge, these are the “magic words” that you’ll need to perform, as per the books the magic words used to make things float is “Wingardium Leviosa” however you don’t just need words you’ll also need to know what to do with your wand. You’ll notice in the middle of the symbol is a strange mark, this mark is actually your instructions for what to do with your wand, a “u” movement and then a swish downwards for this spell and a flick.

While I was in Orlando our guide actually helped one of the guests to use their wand, here are his tips to casting spells.

  • Try not to stand in front of the symbol. either behind it or on it will see the best results.
  • Try smallish movements, no big over the top movements… its not what Wizards do!
  • Be patient, it will come, no one said being a Wizard was easy!
  • If you’re having issues talk to a cast member, they’ll be more than happy to help you.

1491583_900386143306503_6798817227309893272_nUniversal’s interactive wands cost approx. $47 each which might seem pretty costly however the joy and look of amazement that you see on childrens faces is totally worth the cost.

Smiles included…

Jamie

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Universal’s Hogwarts Express Hits 1 Million Passengers

Hey Thrill Seekers,

Riding the Hogwarts Express was a key part of Universal’s new expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley. The idea of linking Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley via an actual working Hogwarts Express was not only genius, (whoever came up with this concept deserves a massive pay rise) but also the first of its kind at any theme park in the World.

Yesterday just under a month after its official launch the Hogwarts Express welcomed its 1 Millionth rider!

Hogwarts-Express-Millionth-Rider-Celebration1

Reviews of the Hogwarts Express experience have been very positive with the majority of people (UK) really impressed with the attention to detail not only on the train but also at the Kings Cross replica.

HogwartsExpress reviewsThe Hogwarts Express offer 2 totally different ride experiences depending upon which way you ride it, which is a great way of really keeping everything authentic. To ride the Hogwarts Express you will require a multi park ticket, Orlando Attraction Tickets only offers multi park tickets so you’re safe in the knowledge that once you’ve booked with us you can ride like Harry and the gang as much as you like.

Have you ridden it yet, what did you think?

Smiles included…

Jamie

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Wondering What Tickets You Require To Ride The Hogwarts Express?

Hey Thrill Seekers,

Today is the official launch of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley, it comes almost four years after Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade took the theme park industry by storm and we just can’t wait.

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One of the major attractions and a complete stroke of genius in my opinion is how guests can travel from Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios (vice versa) the introduction of the Hogwarts Express not only adds to the whole Potter experience but also introduces a completely new way for visitors to enjoy a theme park! Its pretty easy for me to state that this is a first within any theme park.

What type of ticket do I require?

To ride the Hogwarts Express you’ll need to have purchased a multi park ticket. A multi park ticket is a ticket that allows you access to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios on the same day.

Here at Orlando Attraction Tickets we only offer multi park tickets so you’re safe in the knowledge that you’ll be able to access the Hogwarts Express as many times as you like 🙂

universal ticketsThe tickets shown above all offer 14 consecutive days unlimited entry into both parks.

The Hogwarts Express ride offers two completely different ride experiences depending upon which way you’re travelling (Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley and Vice Versa). The initial reviews have all remarked on how realistic the train journey feels and looks which is no surprise when it comes to Universal.

This is set to be one of the most popular attractions of 2014, if you’re lucky enough to ride it please remember to let us know what you thought. 🙂

Smiles included…

Jamie

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Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Video

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Hey Thrill Seekers,

Another day, another video. Universal Orlando last night released another new video, hot on the tails of yesterdays Goblin releases, we’ve received another video showing some further details of the Hogwarts Express.

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The video shows the pains Universal have gone to in replicating the look and feel of the Hogwarts Express. There are also a few nuggets of information in there, have a watch and we’ll chat afterwards…

So here’s what I took from this video;

Universal are calling the Hogwarts Express the most authentic thing they’ve ever built, actually that anyone has ever built for a theme park. To keep continue to be authentic it very much sounds like you will enter platform 9 3/4 through a “brickwall”!

The video also gives us a look at the two different journeys you’ll experience when riding the Hogwarts Express depending on which way you’re going. From London to Hogsmeade I’m pretty sure they just confirmed that Harry, Ron and Hermione will be on the train with you!

but they will be on the train with you, and you may actually see them there!

The reverse trip offers a totally different experience, and the video shows a great sequence involving the nightbus. Universal are extremely confident about this addition calling it a “game changer”!

When it comes to a firm opening date Universal aren’t as forth coming however their parent company Comcast during a conference call to discuss first quarter earnings confirmed that they expected a stronger results from April through to June due to a late Easter and the opening of Diagon Alley!!!

Comcast Chief Financial Officer, Michael Angelakis stated;

In the second quarter, we are very excited about the opening of Harry Potter 2 in Orlando, as well as having the spring holidays in full swing,

We expect an announcement shortly from Universal confirming the actual date… as always we’ll keep you informed.

Smiles included…

Jamie

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Bigger, bolder & now more powerful than ever!

Hi All,

There’s something brewing in Orlando and its getting stronger! 

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Universal have today launched a national television campaign in the USA to promote the much anticipated opening of the expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The 30 second commercial bills The Wizarding World of Harry Potter featuring; Hogsmeade, The Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley. This is the first visual to encompass the whole park experience.

The commercial describes the new features to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as; Bigger, bolder and more powerful than ever! and to be honest its pretty much looking that way 🙂

Still no official launch date has been released the commercial is also pretty vague stating that the expansion will open summer 2014. However, as always we like to speculate on these things and we believe that is will open sometime in June.

We’ll keep you posted on this one 😉

Karl

#SmilesInlcude

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Other Things We’d Like To See Added To The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

Hey Thrill Seekers,

Not sure if you’re aware or not, as its been kept really quiet… 😉 but Universal will be launching the second phase of their massively popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter later this years, the new land featuring Diagon Alley and London will find a home at Universal Studios meaning that Islands of Adventure will have Hogsmeade and Universal Studios will have Diagon Alley… both connected by a working and rideable Hogwarts Express!!!

The phrase “a sure thing” has never been truer when it comes to how popular the new expansion will be, the hunger for all things Potter hasn’t subsided and with Universal’s OCD like attention to detail we’re pretty confident that 2014 will be dominated by Diagon Alley. Recently Universal held a webcast to reveal a few details , you can read about what they told us here.

Today we’ve been thinking about what we would like see added to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter after Diagon Alley opens. Here’s what we came up with…

Wizarding Lessons

Universal already offer some great shows including the Horror Make-Up Show at Universal Studios, wouldn’t it be cool if they did something similar for Potter. Imagine being able to enter a Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson where us Muggles are taught by one of Hogwarts teachers…

Not just this lesson but what about watching a lesson where we see two Wizards dualling or Professor Snape teaching us potions? This type of entertainment would be great, the books offer tons of ideas for how these lessons could be scripted and the cost to Universal would be minimal. Win Win.

wizarding lessons

Wand Interaction

We’ve mentioned this before on another post, but we’d love to see the Wands you can purchase from Ollivanders actually do something within the Wizarding Worlds. We’re not technical in any but we’re pretty sure you could make the wands RFID enabled very similar to the Disney Magic Bands and Tickets, so that they could link certain items around the Wizarding World to make them interactive, for example a suit of armour could collapse,dance or levitate.

Perhaps you could even pay for things in the park by linking your wand to your debit card, a flick and swish and that Butterbeer is yours?…

Imagine the delight on childrens faces when their wand actually does something! 🙂 #amazeballs

Shrieking Shack 

In the Potter books the Shrieking Shack is a notoriously haunted house found just outside of Hogsmeade. We think it would be pretty interesting to incorporate a house that would be similar to the houses offered at Universal Halloween Horror Nights, maybe not as scary as those but a walk through scare house.

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Whomping Willow

Between The Whomping Willow and those tree’s that walk in the Lord of the Rings, I think I’ve easily covered the most violent trees ever written about. The Whomping Willow is pretty iconic in the Wizarding World. The image of the tree trying to smash anything that comes within range lends itself pretty easily to an attraction based on it.

In my mind it could be a mixture of Samurai and Rush at Thorpe Park, giving the rider a mixture of shaking and spinning caused by Samurai and the long sweeping belly turning movements of Rush…

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So there you go four ideas that Universal can use if they want to, I’ll accept my usual cut of 50% 😉

What would you like to see added at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

Smiles included…

Jamie

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