Tag Archives: Universal Studios

What’s New Around the Mouse

New! Chalk Art at Downtown Disney ­ Add a dash of color to your weekend when Limited Time Magic presents the Downtown Disney Chalk Art Festival! Watch in wonder as talented artists intricately transform flat concrete walkways into canvases for their dazzling works. This is your chance to marvel at the eye ­catching creations as they carefully come together, crafted entirely from chalk and other materials. And while visiting Downtown Disney area, stop by the Art of Disney Gallery and celebrate with artist Greg McCullough as he appears for signings—from 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM, October 2 to October 6, 2013. Meet the mind behind the art as Walt Disney World Resort showcases the release of new pieces in his collection. It’s all happening for a limited time, courtesy of Limited Time Magic!

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival ­ Disney recently kicked off the super popular Food & Wine Festival at Epcot. This event is free with your paid admission into Epcot. You can enjoy food and beverages around the World Showcase, cooking sessions, and so much more.

Sofia the 1st at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique ­ If you have a little princess that is a fan of Sofia the 1st, you can now get a makeover at Downtown Disney inspired by her. Be sure to make reservations for this experience.

Transportation from Animal Kingdom to Downtown Disney ­ Disney is testing through October 31. They are providing bus transportation (round trip) from Animal Kingdom Theme Park to Downtown Disney. You can then take a bus from Downtown Disney back to your resort or back to the Animal Kingdom parking lot.

Disney MagicBands ­ Disney is still testing the MagicBands at select resorts.

Princess Fairytale Hall ­ This new location for our favorite Princesses at Magic Kingdom Park opened last week. This is a perfect spot to see Cinderella, Rapunzel, and other Disney Princesses.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party ­ This popular special events for families is running throughout September and October at Magic Kingdom Park. This event runs from 7 PM – ­midnight.

Renovations ­ Learn about the latest renovations at Disney World, before you plan your trip or before you head down for your vacation.

Magic Kingdom

Peter Pan ­ Closed 09/30/13 ­ 11/13/13

Walt Disney World Railroad ­ Closed 09/30/13 ­ 10/20/13

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground ­ 09/03/13 ­ 11/19/13

Disney’s All Star Sports Resort

End Zone Food Court ­ Closed 08/05/13 ­ 12/20/13

Arcade ­ Closed 07/29/13 ­ 12/20/13

Downtown Disney® Area

Capt’n Jacks ­ Closed 08/18/13 ­ TBD

Disney Golf Courses

Disney’s Palm Golf Course ­ Closed 06/12/13 ­ mid­November

Universal Orlando Resort

Halloween Horror Nights ­ If you love zombies, Halloween Horror Night is the special event for you! This event runs select evenings through October. For this special event, separate admission is required. You can enjoy themed haunted houses, scare zones, your favorite Universal Studios rides, and much more. Call Destinations in Florida for more information about booking Halloween Horror Nights or a VIP Package.

Despicable Me ­ Do your kids love the Minions? You can now book one of 18 themed rooms at Portofino Bay Hotel (opening on October 1) with the Despicable Me theme.

Disneyland in California

New! Chalk Art at Disneyland ­ Add a dash of color to your weekend when Limited Time Magic presents the Downtown Disney Chalk Art Festival! Watch in wonder as talented artists intricately transform concrete walkways into a series of canvases for their works. This is your chance to marvel at each eye ­catching creation as they’re carefully crafted together from chalk, paint and other materials. Plus, you can even meet popular artist Miss Mindy—from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM, October 4-5, 2013—as the Disneyland Resort celebrates the release of some new pieces in her collection at WonderGround Gallery, in addition to a special artist showcase by Haunted Memories—from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, October 5­-6, 2013. It’s all happening for a limited time, only at Downtown Disney District!

Renovations ­ Click on this pdf to download the latest renovations at Disneyland.

To book your next trip to Disney World, Universal, Disneyland or anywhere else in the world, contact Diana today at diana@beyondcastles.com or diana@destinationsinflorida.com.



Top 5 Butterbeer Recipes

Top 5 Butterbeer Recipes

There are a ton of Harry Potter Butterbeer copy-cat recipes online for you to

Butterbeerenjoy when you get home from your Orlando, Florida vacation or for a Harry Potter party.  Only a few live up to the real thing at the Harry Potter theme park at Universal.  It must be served chilled, preferably frozen (like a slush drink), it must have a frothy head, buttery Scotch flavor, and non-alcoholic (to match the Harry Potter theme park version).

This is a list of those that come the closest to meeting those requirements; worthy of serving at your next Harry Potter party.  It’s not the easiest ones (like mixing butterscotch syrup with cream soda), it’s the ones that most closely match the version from the Harry Potter theme park at Universal.  So many recipes add alcohol (the butterbeer from the Harry Potter books had a slight alcohol content), serve it hot (which was another option from the Harry Potter book series), and have no foamy head.

Harry Potter Butterbeer Recipe #5

This is my own recipe, modified from another I found online.  The original called for root beer (root beer?? There’s not even a hint of root beer flavor in the Harry Potterbutterbeer!).


1 quart butter brickle or vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup butterscotch syrup
32 oz of your favorite cream soda


1. Place 4 (16-ounce) glasses in freezer and chill for at least 20 minutes

2. Mix ice cream and cream soda in a blender until combined

3. Divide between the frosted glasses

4. Top each glass with whipped cream, if desired

5. Serve with spoons and straws

Harry Potter Butterbeer Recipe #4

This one’s from the Food Network.  This one is served warm according to the recipe, but you could just as easily chill or freeze the drink before serving.


  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup butterscotch topping
  • 2 tablespoons whipped butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla cream soda


Combine condensed milk, butterscotch topping, and butter in a glass heatproof measuring cup. Heat in microwave for 1 minute. Remove and stir until butter has melted and incorporated into mixture. Meanwhile heat cream soda in another heatproof measuring cup for 1 minute 30 seconds.

Divide butterscotch mixture between 2 (10 to 12-ounce) mugs. Fill mugs with heated cream soda and stir thoroughly. Serve garnished with an old-fashioned butterscotch candy stick.

Harry Potter Butterbeer Recipe #3

I found this one on e-How.  Again, hot and again, you could freeze or cool before serving.  I liked how this one used butterscotch chips and the coffee creamer.  Adds a real different dimension that still stays on track with the Harry Potter theme parkversion.


  • 10 OZ of Cream Soda (1 & 1/4 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp of Salted REAL Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Butterscotch chips
  • 1/4 Cup Original Coffee Mate Liquid Creamer


Put the Butterscotch Chips and Butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds. Stir and Heat for another 30 seconds.  Now add your Creamer to the bowl.

Microwave in 30 Second increments again. Stirring each time.   It usually takes about 4 times (2 minutes) to get the right consistency.  Set your mixture aside.  The chips and butter should be a thick stir-able paste.

Heat Cream soda in the microwave for 90 seconds.  BE VERY CAREFUL!   Microwaves times vary.  Make sure not to over heat the Cream Soda or all of the fizz will be gone.

Pour Butterscotch mixture into heated Cream Soda.

Stir & Serve!

Harry Potter Butterbeer Recipe #2

Again, one that I modified to fit the requirements of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter version.  This one just sounds delicious!!


1 pint of vanilla ice cream, softened
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bottle (24 oz.) vanilla cream soda (very cold)


1. Allow ice cream to soften, about 30 minutes, and bring butter to room temperature, about 2 hours

2. Blend butter, sugar, and spices in large bowl

3. Add to ice cream and freeze

4. Heat cream soda in a pot until warm but still carbonated (at least 3 minutes).  You could also just go with the very cold cream soda (my preference) and have a more frozen/slushy drink.

5. Fill each glass with a scoop of ice cream mixture and pour warmed or chilled cream soda over ice cream

6. Serve!

Harry Potter Butterbeer Recipe #1

This was the recipe put out by AP, FoxNews, and just about every other site after theWizarding World of Harry Potter opened.  Seems to be the most likely ingredients, but doesn’t serve it cold or frozen, like the park.  The final result does seem to be most like the park version, just needs to be frozen.

Servings: 4

1 cup light or dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

6 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

3/4 cup heavy cream, divided

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

Four 12-ounce bottles cream soda

In a small saucepan over medium, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer.

Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4 heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the rum extract.

In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2 to 3 minutes.

To serve, divide the brown sugar mixture between 4 tall glasses (about 1/4 cup for each glass). Add 1/4 cup of cream soda to each glass, then stir to combine. Fill each glass nearly to the top with additional cream soda, then spoon the whipped topping over each.

These were our Top 5 butterbeer recipes to help you to remember your Orlando, Florida vacation to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Enjoy!

Ready to get to Universal Studios?  Contact Diana at diana@beyondcastles.com or at her cell phone 740-953-0373.



Mardi Gras Concerts at Universal Studios

It’s Time For Mardi Gras!

Are you ready to let the good times roll?  Check out the amazing concerts coming to Universal Studios Orlando during Mardi Gras!  You can see some of today’s top performers in a much more intimate setting as well as some of your older favorites.  Better still, all concerts are included with your park admission ticket!  Here’s the lineup:

February 11th
The B-52s

February 18th
Kelly Clarkson

February 19th
Boyz II Men

February 25th
Diana Ross

March 3rd
Goo Goo Dolls
March 10th

Big Time Rush

March 16th
J Cole

March 23
Hot Chelle Rae

March 24th

March 30th
Plain White Ts

March 31st
Prince Royce

April 7th
Cyndi Lauper

April 14th
KC and the Sunshine Band

Weekend packages (3-nights) to Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Orlando start at just $249.00 per adult including hotel, park admission and all concerts and Mardi Gras festivities.  What are you waiting for?  Contact us today at 740-953-0373 or diana@beyondcastles.com to plan your trip.



Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida 2012

One of the biggest celebrations is coming to Universal Studios Florida– Mardi Gras!  On Saturdays and select nights from February 11 to April 14th, Universal Studios Florida presents Mardi Gras.  The whole family will be able to enjoy this party as the sights and sounds of the Big Easy come to Universal Studios.

Mardi Gras concert series will feature performances by 14 top- name musicians including Kelly Clarkson on February 18th.

Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida®

Catch beads with your family as you watch the Mardi Gras parade wind its way through the park, enjoy amazing floats, stilt walkers, street performers and more!

If you are ready for a Universal Studios Mardi Gras getaway, call Diana at Beyond Castles Travel at 740-953-0373 or by email at diana@beyondcastles.com.

The Holidays at Univeral Studios Florida

Come experience how Universal Studios does the holidays from December 3- January1, 2011.  Start your day with a great breakfast at Confisco Grille in the Islands of Adventure with the Grinch and friends.  Then head over to Suess Landing that has been transformed into Grinchmas!  Don’t miss the show, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with music featuring Manhattan Steamroller.  When you are done with the show, you can stroll around the Wonky Christmas Tree Lot, check out all the amazing lights and decorations, and have your picture taken with the Grinch!

Make sure you’ve gotten your 2-day Universal Studios tickets, so you can head over to Universal Studios Florida, right next to the Islands of Adventure for more holiday fun.  Every night at dusk, see authentic balloons and floats from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with marching bands, street performers and, of course, Santa Claus!

IMG_holidays_holiday_treeAfter the parade, watch the spectacular tree lighting with music and enjoy the lights all around the Holiday Village.  The holiday village is filled with local artisans, perfect for some Christmas shopping.  There are crafts for kids, and great snacks (additional charge for food).  Then dance the evening away with live performances every night- StarToons Holiday Show, A Barney Holiday, and the Blues Brothers Holiday Show.

Be sure to stay in one of the Universal Studios Hotels and take advantage of their great holiday offerings–

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel – Feste Felici-Enjoy holiday festivities for the entire family at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel! The kids will love:

Visits from Santa

Universal Orlando Character Dining

Holiday Dive-In Movies at the pool

Face painting and much more!

Plus, on select nights in November and December, enjoy nightly tree lighting and the Holiday Video Concert Series in the harbor piazza.

Hard Rock Hotel® – Happy Rockin’ Holidays- The holidays will be rockin’ at the Hard Rock Hotel® this season:

Special holiday buffets and champagne brunches

Hanukkah Candle Lightings

Every Friday in December, take the kids to The Kitchen for a visit from Santa where they can also enjoy Universal Orlando Character Dining, holiday movies and more!

New Year’s Eve Party with a balloon drop, confetti cannons, champagne toast and the Times Square Countdown via satellite!

Loews Royal Pacific Resort – Hom ‘ol i Lanni-Celebrate the spirit of the holidays in the islands at Loews Royal Pacific Resort! Families will enjoy:

Visits from Santa

Cookie decorating

Hanukkah Candle Lightings

Tree lighting and much more!

At Beyond Castles, we are Universal Specialists ready to help your amazing holiday vacation.  Email us at diana@beyondcastles.com or call us at 740-953-0373.


Pre-Purchase Your Harry Potter Theme Park Tickets- Save Time and Money!

Call 740-953-0373 to Book!

One of the questions we get most often is,” How do we get Harry Potter theme park tickets. ” and “Where’s the best deal on Harry Potter tickets?”  Here’s the scoop:

Cheap tickets to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and other Florida theme parks can be one of the most difficult things to come by in Orlando.  You can save money on food, your Orlando resort, rental cars and so on, but tickets remain full price and a hassle to buy. Usually.

You can save a few bucks per ticket and a HUGE amount of time, though if you pre-purchase your tickets (call 740-953-0373 to purchase)!  As with most discounts on tickets to Florida theme parks, the cost savings generally seems pretty minimal, although it adds up quickly when you’re buying tickets for the whole family.  We recently bought Universal Express passes before going to the parks and saved $5 per ticket vs. the gate price.  A nice $25 savings for our family.

The big difference in pre-purchasing (call 740-953-0373 to purchase) your Harry Potter theme park tickets occurs in time savings!  You can waste hours of your precious day buying Universal Express and a ticket to the park without having seen a single attraction or riding a single ride!  Don’t make this mistake!  Pre-purchase your tickets and you’ll walk right into the park after a quick stop at will call.

When you arrive at the park to pick up your tickets, you will need:

  • Credit card.  You must have the card you used to purchase the tickets.  This will be swiped into the kiosk at will call to pull up your tickets.
  • Confirmation number.  You will be asked to enter your confirmation number to receive your tickets.

That’s it!  Don’t forget either of these items, though, or you’ll lose all that time you saved trying to resolve a minor ticket issue.

So, what’s stopping you from pre-purchasing your Harry Potter theme park tickets?  Call 740-953-0373 today!

Great Rates with The Best Days To Vacation at Universal Studios Orlando Hotels!

The Universal Studios Orlando Hotels have released some amazing rates during some of the best days to vacation!

Universal Studios — Portofino Bay

Save up to 30% when you stay 3 nights or longer.  Enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Halloween Horror Nights, Macy’s Holiday Parade, Mardi Gras or just a fun trip to Universal Studios when you travel during these dates:

  • August 21 – October 6
  • November 27 – December 22
  • January 1 – February 16

In addition, get a Universal Studios Orlando hotel savings book that can save you up to $150 on food, drink, spa treatments and more!

Don’t miss these great rates on the 4-diamond Universal Studios Orlando Hotels!  To book your trip, contact us at 740-953-0373, by e-mail at diana@beyondcastles.com or visit us online.

Harry Potter Movie Party!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Weekend

Universal Orlando Resort announced, yesterday that special vacation packages will go on sale Sunday, July 31st that will give guests the opportunity to attend “A Celebration of the Harry Potter Films.” This special event will celebrate a decade of movie history by allowing fans to share their love for the Harry Potter films.

The event will take place from Friday, November 11, to Sunday, November 13, at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, home to The Wizarding World of Harry PotterTo ensure your best chance at your own Harry Potter vacation package, call us at 740-953-0373!

During this special event, guests can celebrate their favorite memories and stories of Harry Potter with filmmakers, cast members and fellow fans.  While all theme park guests will be able to enjoy The Wizarding World of Harry Potter during their visit, only a limited number of guests and those who buy special event packages will have access to exclusive benefits such as:

  • A spectacular evening gala in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — this is similar to the grand opening event  last year!
  • Autograph signings with celebrities from the Harry Potter films
  • Q&A sessions with Harry Potter filmmakers and cast members as well as  with the creators of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Screenings of all eight Harry Potter films – including “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” – at the AMC Universal Cineplex 20 in Universal CityWalk.  Access to the screenings can be added to the vacation packages for an additional fee.

Throughout the three-day celebration, guests will also be able to explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where the wonder, excitement and adventure of the Harry Potter films come to life.  They will enjoy experiences such as soaring above Hogwarts on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, sipping Butterbeer in Hogsmeade and being inside Ollivanders and seeing a wand choose its wizard.

The primary way to participate in celebration events is by purchasing one of Universal Orlando’s special vacation packages.  Packages are extremely limited and go on sale at noon EDT on Sunday, July 31.

To ensure your best chance at your own Harry Potter vacation package, call us at 740-953-0373!

Guests can choose from two vacation package options:  the Celebration Vacation Package and the Premier Vacation Package. There will be additional ways for a limited number of people to participate in celebration events. Stay tuned for more details.

Vacation Packages for A Celebration of the Harry Potter Films

Celebration Vacation Package – Starts at $369 per person

  • 4-night accommodations at a Universal Partner Hotel
  • 3-day ticket to both of Universal Orlando’s theme parks
  • More time to enjoy The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Early Park Admission starting at 6 a.m.
  • Reservation to one in-park Harry Potter talent Q&A session (one per person)
  • Commemorative pin (one per person)
  • Harry Potter Blu-Ray set (one per package)

Premier Vacation Package – Starts at $699 per person
All of the above, PLUS:

  • Reservation to one in-park Harry Potter cast member autograph session
  • Admission to the exclusive nighttime gala event on Sunday, November 13
  • Breakfast at the Three Broomsticks

For additional information, contact diana@beyondcastles.com.

Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights

Looking for something a little more intense than Mickey’s Not-So-Scary-Halloween party?  Grab your

Universal Studios tickets and head on over to Halloween Horror Nights!  On select nights between September 23 and October 31, Universal Studios Orlando transforms from a family-friendly theme park into a living nightmare.  Friendly streets become a labyrinth of haunted houses.  Lively rock concerts metamorphose into terrifying live shows.  Movie sets are reinvented as frightening scare zones.  Halloween Horror Nights are not for the faint of heart (in fact, it’s recommended that children under 13 stay home), but they are a horrifyingly good time!

To book your creepy Universal Studios vacation (or just a regular Universal vacation!) contact us at 740-953-0373, by e-mail at diana@beyondcastles.com or visit us on the web at www.beyondcastles.com.

Universal Studio Tickets

Call 740-953-0373 or email diana@beyondcastles.com to Order!

Shuttle Transfers Included from any Orlando Hotel to Universal Studios with the Universal 1-Day/2-Park Pass

NEW!  Universal Now Offers a 2-Day/2-Park Pass with  Shuttle Transfers!

Save  $75-200 on transportation costs with free shuttles!

Save $10 per ticket with pre-order discount prices!

The Universal Studios 1-Day/2-Park Passes or 2-Day/Park Passeswith Shuttle Transfers allows you admission to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (hosts the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter).  You can even hop between the parks.  Plus, get shuttle transfers (provided by Mears Transportation) from any Disney or Orlando Hotel to Universal Studios Park and then back to your hotel.  The shuttles runs in the morning from your hotel to Universal Studios (up until 10 AM).  Then shuttles from Universal back to your hotel start at 3:15 PM and run everyone hour (quarter after) until 2 AM.

Ready to make a stop at Universal Studios on your Disney World vacation?  Give Diana a call at 740-953-0373 or email us at diana@beyondcastles.com.