Bookworms rejoice! Harry Potter takes over London and New York
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" officially opened last Friday, bringing in about $169 million domestically and $307 million around the world in box office earnings for opening weekend alone. The appearance of 'Harry Potter' themed tours and displays has risen along with the popularity of the books and films. From the notable landmarks mentioned throughout the books to the props used in the movies, whether you call yourself a 'Potterholic' or just a part–time fan, these tours and exhibitions are worth checking out.
Warner Bros. Studios London is currently renovating its Leavesden property, and starting in the spring of 2012, visitors will be able to tour actual sets used during the films, most notably for The Great Hall and Professor Dumbledore's office. The Making of Harry Potter, rumored to house a Harry Potter Museum and possibly a Harry Potter themed hotel, is located in Watford, about 20 miles outside of Central London.
Until then, it's good to know there are other tours to keep us busy. For about $32, you can take the Harry Potter Walking Tour of London, a 2.5 hour stroll around "the real Diagon Alley," the entrance to "The Leaky Cauldron," and of course, a classic photo–op for you to try pushing your cart through the entrance at Platform nine and three–quarters. As part of this tour, you can also gain insight into the real–life London attractions brought to life in the books. The two–hour Harry Potter Black Taxi Tour of London offers many of the same perks and visits to attractions, but adds the luxury of a seat for about $82.
Of course, most places featured in the movies are popular London attractions already. For instance, you can drop by the London Zoo, where Harry figured out he could communicate with snakes. Other public sites from the films include Christ Church College (many Hogwarts scenes were filmed here) and the Westminster Tube Station, used for scenes involving the Ministry of Magic.
If you happen to be in the New York City area, stop by Harry Potter: The Exhibition at Discovery Times Square. This "limited engagement" is only around until September 5, and features over 200 props—from the Marauder's Map to Harry's wand and glasses—and costumes—including Hogwarts uniforms and Yule Ball attire—used by the actors in the movies. There's even a place for you to meet creatures from the movie—Buckbeak the Hippogriff and Aragog if you're curious—and try your hand at Quidditch. Tickets are $26 for adults, $23.50 for seniors over 65 and $19.50 for children ages 4–12. Discovery Times Square is open Sunday thru Wednesday from 9am to 8pm and Thursday thru Saturday from 9am to 9pm.
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Is a single day of theme park fun worth $120?
Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando both raised their single-day multi-park passes to a whopping $120 a day. Disney World made the move first earlier this month, Universal followed suit, and the result is that a one-day adult pass (meaning 10 and up) at either of central Florida's largest theme park resorts is $85 to visit one park, or $120 for a pass allowing entrance to multiple parks. Will people pay up? Well, some people certainly will. But more than anything, the goal of raising single-day passes to such exorbitant levels seems to be to make the discounts granted with multi-day passes look more enticing. The move especially makes sense for Disney, where the per-day admission price plummets the longer travelers hang around to hit the parks. As Theme Park Insider noted: Once you've bought three days of theme park tickets at Disney, it costs just $9 to add a fourth day. Then it's just $8 to add each additional day beyond that, up to 10 days total. The discounts obviously save money on admission, but travelers need to understand that the longer they're visiting Disney parks, the more they're likely to spend (and spend and spend) on Disney restaurants, lodging, character breakfasts, souvenirs, and the like. In case you're wondering, SeaWorld Orlando admission is currently $72 for adults purchasing in advance online, and that includes entrance for a second day within a week of the first visit. (Granted, many people feel that one day at SeaWorld is enough.) Tickets for Legoland Florida, which opens in mid-October, are expected to be $65 for adults -- and unlike the other three parks, which charge adult rates for ages 10 and up, the "adult" cutoff at Legoland is 13. Visitors 12 and under pay $55. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: The Completely Obsessive Absolutely Indispensable Guide to Disney World Confessions Of... A Disney Cast Member 12 Things You Didn't Know About Orlando
How many rides do you ride on a day at Disney?
The number of rides enjoyed by the average Disney park visitor may seem surprisingly low. So what's the average? Nine rides. In a whole day. Considering that a one-day adult ticket costs $87 and change, and entrance for a child age 3 to 9 is $78.81, this means typical visitors are paying roughly $9 or $10 per ride. A recent New York Times story highlights Disney's secret strategies for shortening the lines at park rides, and these efforts -- which include starting parades to draw park goers into less crowded areas, and sending out a Jack Sparrow actor to amuse folks in line at Pirates of the Caribbean—have sometimes been able to inch the average number of rides to 10 per person per day. Though some Disney enthusiasts enjoy shopping, parades, and other aspects of the experience just as much as the rides, the cost-per-ride ratio still strikes us as pretty excessive. What do you think? Is a three-minute Disney ride worth the equivalent of $9 or $10 a pop? For that matter, if you're an avid Disney visitor, do you tend to hit more or less than 10 rides in a typical day? If so, would you care to offer tips for newbies who are trying to get the most ride-age for their dollars? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Confession of a Disney Cast Member Ask Trip Coach: Walt Disney World Whose Disney World is it? Do you like the idea of a day with no kids at the Disney parks?
Pet Travel News: A handy app, a Disney resort, and more
Good news for folks who consider their pets part of the family. The Mo's Nose app—based on a children's book series of the same name—is your go-to guide for pet-friendly travel. This GPS-enabled tool helps you sniff out everything from groomers, dog parks, and kennels to hotels that welcome canine guests. Does your pooch have a deep dark secret you can't wait to crack? Oddly enough, you can even search pet psychics across America. Released on August 19, this app is compatible with iPhones and iPod Touch and can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store. This week also saw the opening of Walt Disney World's Best Friends Pet Care, a 17,000-square-foot luxury pet resort. Just like their owners, pets can stay in a wide range of rooms, from the budget to the swanky. Accommodations start with 32-square-foot indoor rooms and move up to 226-square-foot Very Important Pet suites, which come equipped with televisions and private backyards. Amenities include a nature trail for relaxing walks with owners and a splash-around pool. The property welcomes more than just dogs—it boasts a Kitty City pavilion, as well as boarding areas for birds and small mammals. Hamsters love Mickey, too! As much as I loved my cat and rabbit growing up, vacation time was a human-only affair. All this talk of pet travel got me wondering: Do Americans really take their pets with them on vacation, or is this a niche market reserved for spoiled pageant dogs and cat ladies? Let us know—have you ever traveled with a pet? What kind of pet did you take? Where did you go? And did your dog watch television while you were there?
Disney: Fantasyland expansion, Alaska cruises, and more
Earlier this year, Disney launched D23, its first official community for Disney fans. For a fee of $75, members receive a quarterly publication and exclusive gifts. One of the coolest perks is a chance to attend California's D23 Expo. This annual event took place earlier this month. Here's the news you missed: • The much-rumored expansion of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World in Florida is happening. Slated for 2013, Fantasyland will expand into parts of the Magic Kingdom currently used for Mickey's Toontown Fair and will also use dormant land left over from the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction. The expansion will be princess-heavy, as most of the new attractions will feature the likes of Ariel, Belle, and Snow White. But if princesses aren't your thing, there will now be a circus tent area where the classic Dumbo attraction will be moved to—and doubled in size. (Parents can only hope this signals the end of the hour-long waits in the sweltering, shadeless queue!) • After years of endless rumors and waiting, Star Tours will be updated at both Disneyland and Disney World. Set to debut in 2011, the new Star Tours will feature scenes from George Lucas's prequel trilogy (we'll let others comment on whether that's a good thing) and—more importantly—will be in 3-D. • Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim is proceeding with its plans to build Cars Land, scheduled to open in 2012. This six-acre expansion of the park will allow guests to enter the town of Radiator Springs, featured in Pixar's Cars. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE The Disney Cruise Line also has changes afoot. In 2011, the Disney Wonder will add ports of call in Alaska and the Mexican Riviera. From May through early September, the Wonder will feature 7-night cruises to Alaska. Starting and ending in Vancouver, the cruise will make stops in Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. For the remainder of the year—and bookending the relocation to Alaska—the Wonder will cruise out of L.A. to the Mexican Rivera, making stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas. For more information, visit disneycruise.com. Disney buys Marvel: Let the theme park wars begin! (50+ comments) Ask Trip Coach: Walt Disney World 2009