Universal Orlando has warmed up to hot butterbeer. The beverage, part of the Harry Potter lore, is now a year-round fixture at both of its theme parks.
Two cooler versions — one frosty, one frozen like an Slurpee — debuted alongside the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure in 2010. It's a strategy good for the long, hot Florida summers, but some fans bristled because the butterbeer in J.K. Rowling's fiction is sometimes described as a warm beverage. Five of the seven "Potter" books make reference to the drink. At Universal, it has a shortbread-and-butterscotch taste to it.
Earlier this year, hot butterbeer was served to folks who attended the Celebration of Harry Potter event at Universal. This summer, a butterbeer-flavored ice cream was one of the new food items introduced when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley opened at Universal Studios.
And now, hot butterbeer has been added permanently to the Universal lineup. It will be a year-round offering, not just a cold weather/holiday treat, Universal said.
It will be restricted to the Potter places though. Visitors can pick up a cup at the Leaky Cauldron restaurant, Hopping Pot counter and The Fountain of Fair Fortune store at Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. Over in the original part of Wizarding World, now known as Hogsmeade, it is sold at Three Broomsticks restaurant and Hog's Head Pub.
There's still no alcoholic version of Universal's butterbeer, despite the tipsiness it may have caused in young people and house-elf in the fiction. But the new product does come with foam on top, suitable for creating faux mustaches.
Just be careful. It's hot.
Going to Gatorland
Say cheese. Gatorland, the longtime animal attraction in south Orlando, wants you to help celebrate its 65th birthday.
The Orange Blossom Trail establishment is seeking old pictures of tourists exploring Gatorland, including but not limited to its trademark open-jaws entrance. (I wouldn't say it was smiling, would you?) It will also accept pictures of Gatorland souvenirs
The deadline for submissions is Tuesday. There's an electronic submission form on Gatorland.com, and a booth called the "memorabilia station" at the park.
Gatorland plans to celebrate by giving away 1,949 prizes — as in 1949, the year it was established. Prizes will include free admission to Gatorland and a "once-in-a-lifetime" vacation to Orlando.
Back to Bok
Bok Tower Gardens kicks off its holiday celebration today. Festivities will include the 20th annual Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate, the 1930s mansion on the Lake Wales attraction's property.
The tour does not have an overall theme for the rooms this year, opting instead for a greatest-hits approach. Each room will be different and based on past themes. The décor will date back to 1996's edition of the tour.
"The Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate is consistently our largest fundraiser of the year thanks to thousands of visitors who have made it a family tradition," said Jennifer Beam, director of visitor services & programs. "Every dollar we raise through admission tickets and activities during the holiday season goes right back into the Gardens."
Tour admission is $20 ($9 for ages 5-12), and that includes general admission to Bok Tower Gardens. Tours are available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays-Saturdays through Jan. 4. Sunday tours are noon to 5 p.m.
Other Bok holiday events include live Christmas music on the 60-bell carillon, hour-long winter walking tours of the gardens and "Holly Jolly Saturdays," which feature festive sweaters. For more information, go to boktowergardens.org.
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