Welcome to THE BIG 5, a definitive top five list of various Orlando related, uh, stuff. THE BIG 5 is wide ranging, and will run the gamut from the top five Disney vinylmations, to the top five restaurants on I-Drive, to the top five reasons Stitch’s Great Escape should be immediately imploded no matter how many guests are inside, and everything in between.
Today’s list for THE BIG 5 is the top five options at Universal Orlando Resort to quench your thirst. A rather large research team was given this mission with inexhaustible resources. Here are the results in descending order:
#5: HOG’S HEAD ALE
Available at the Hog’s Head at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
While butterbeer gets all the hype, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has another exclusive drink that is worth getting your hands on if you’re 21 years or older. Available only at the Hog’s Head (which is attached to the Three Broomsticks restaurant in Hogsmeade), Hog’s Head Ale closest equivalent would be a micro brewed beer and blows away the standard Budweiser/Miller Lite that most theme parks have as their beer choices. Also it’s not a bad deal if you get the souvenir mug (which is bigger than the butterbeer souvenir mug).
The atmosphere in the Hog’s Head is also worth checking out. With a gigantic animatronic hog’s head moving behind the bar, it’s straight out of reading a Potter book or being in one of the movies. The level of detail is second-to-none, and you’ll be shocked to see the amount of other beers on tap (Guinness and Stella Artois among the ten available — see the image below). And let’s not forget that it’s much cooler (both figuratively and literally if we consider how unbearably humid standing outside in Florida sunshine cane be) to order your butterbeer inside the Hog’s Head from a bartender than outside at one of the carts. Last but not least, the price of all these great drinks are downright reasonable when you consider it’s just about $3.00 to get a Coke in a theme park.
And most of all remember this: you’re drinking Hog’s Head Ale in the Hog’s Head in an insanely detailed recreation of Hogsmeade village. That alone has to be a notch higher than drinking a margarita in Jimmy Buffet’s Margarittaville.
#4: COKE FREESTYLE MACHINES
Available at Oasis Coolers in IOA’s Lost Continent and Richter’s Burgers in USF’s San Francisco area
Electricity. Television. The iPhone. Indoor plumbing. These inventions and many more pale in comparison to the Coke Freestyle machine, by far the best evidence yet of intelligent design. With over 100 options to choose from at the press of an on-screen button, the Coke Freestyle machine gives the user an opportunity to select Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero (my personal preference, with no ice), Powerade, Fanta, Minute Maid Lemonade, Dasani, Barq’s rootbeer, Pibb Xtra (the poor man’s Dr. Pepper), Vault Red Blitz, along with a whole bunch of flavor shots like vanilla, cherry, grape, strawberry and the like. The only drink this machine is missing is that blue stuff Aunt Beru was making in Star Wars: A New Hope.
Available at Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Drink That Changed Orlando. What can be said about butterbeer? In a sea of massive hype jobs that ultimately are unfulfilling (I’m looking at you George Lucas, 3D TV, and the Segway) the Wizarding World of Harry Potter gave us everything we wanted and more. Butterbeer was ripped from the pages of JK Rowling’s universe and tasted just as good as we dreamed it would be. There are some out there, generally hardcore Disney fans with their blinders on, who try to dismiss butterbeer as just “cream soda.” No, I’ve had cream soda and I can’t stand it. I love butterbeer. Butterbeer is a magical creation, pun intended, whose combination of the butterbeer and the vanilla-like frothy head have people lining up 20 or more deep just to get one.
Can you imagine that? Waiting in line for a drink. And this isn’t like a line you’d see at a churo or popcorn cart. This is closer to a queue for an attraction. And it doesn’t matter, because butterbeer is that good. I was doubter. I thought people were insane to stand in line for anything outside of a ride at a theme park.
And then I had a Butterbeer. You’ll see me standing in line.
#2: DRAFT BEER AND REFILL
Available at AMC Loews Universal Cineplex 20 at CityWalk
Orlando is one of the best places in the United States to see movies. It’s so good that about once a quarter I drive up with my friend for the sold purpose to spend an entire weekend watching films. There’s a great IMAX theater at Pointe Orlando. At Downtown Disney the new Fork & Screen option is incredible, with the food being restaurant quality (and not theme park restaurant quality, Real World restaurant quality). And the AMC Lowes Universal Cineplex 20 has the best draught beer bargain in Orlando.
You read that right. The best deal on drauft beer in any theme park is at a movie theater. Not only can you buy a 20 oz draught at the concession stand, downstairs at the bar you can buy a 20 oz or a 32 oz draught. The 20 oz is $4.50 and get this, the 32 oz is only $5.00 with REFILLS AT $3.00!! That is not a typo. In fact it probably deserves two more exclamation points. With refills at that price it’s no problem to get enough beers to make even Ghost Rider 2 worth watching.
The beers on draught include Budweiser, Bud Light, Blue Moon, Amber Bock, Michelob Ultra and Yuengling. Downstairs you can also get mixed drinks, many with a movie tie-in theme.
Now that we’ve established the AMC Loews Universal Cineplex 20 at CityWalk as one of the best bargains in Orlando, let’s work on convincing them to go with an even longer name! Give a call to the theater at (407) 354-3374 and let them know that AMC Loews Universal Cineplex 20 at CityWalk is just too easy to say, we as customers demand something more challenging, something that doesn’t just roll off the lips so simply. Occupy Universal Blvd!
#1: FROZEN BUTTERBEER
Available at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Okay, go read everything I said about butterbeer and then wrap your head around the fact that frozen butterbeer is about 10% better than the cold version. The cold version is more authentic when it comes to what we see Ron, Harry, and Hermione getting in The Three Broomsticks, but the Frozen version is just out of this world. If you are traveling with a group, I would recommend getting both versions and taking a sip from both.
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