Butterbeer Ice Cream at Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Studios

butterbeer universal harry pott

Butterbeer ice cream at “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Studios Hollywood.

I still haven’t been to the “new” Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. First I was waiting for Christmas, but it was too crowded. Then I was going to do it for my son’s birthday, but he wanted to do something else. Now there’s Butterbeer-flavored ice cream?

I don’t think I can wait any longer. Universal Studios just announced that Butterbeer™ ice cream is now being served at “ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter ™” at Universal Studios Hollywood ™, arriving just in time for summer.

The rich palate-pleasing Butterbeer-flavoured hard pack ice cream is a delightful and delicious new addition to the menu of Butterbeer items currently available, including such Butterbeer favorites as traditional, frozen and hot beverages, as well as Butterbeer Potted Cream and Butterbeer Fudge.

Reminiscent of butterscotch and shortbread, Butterbeer ice cream is perfectly fine-tuned as a cool Hogsmeade treat and will be served at various carts located within Hogsmeade and at Three Broomsticks™.

Gathering inspiration from historic British taverns, the adjoining Hog’s Head pub features original draught beers and spirits created exclusively for the land, including Hog’s Head Brew, Dragon’s Scale, Wizard’s Brew and Fire Whisky.  Also available are Pumpkin Fizz and Gilly Water and the three Butterbeer choices: traditional, frozen and hot.

Inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters that were brought to life in the Warner Bros. films, “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Studios Hollywood is a masterful recreation, faithful to the visual landscape of the fiction and films, including as its iconic focal point, Hogwarts castle.

From its snow-capped roofs and cobblestone streets to the historic British sensibilities that characterize the whimsical look and feel of the land, “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” transports guests of all ages to the very places they watched on the silver screen.

The architecturally stunning land also includes the captivating and highly acclaimed “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” thrill ride, enhanced with 4K-HD and ride film projecting at an astounding rate of 120 frames-per-second for an even more immersive glimpse into Harry Potter’s world, as well as “Flight of the Hippogriff™,” Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor family coaster.

“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” resonates with immense detail, inviting guests to enjoy authentic food and beverages at multiple locations, including Three Broomsticks and Hog’s Head pub, as well as the Magic Neep and Butterbeer carts.  A foray through the shops adds to the authenticity of the land with such retail venues as Honeydukes™, Ollivanders™, Owl Post™, Zonko’s™ Joke Shop, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Dervish and Banges™, Gladrags Wizardwear, Filch’s Emporium™ of Confiscated Goods and the Hogsmeade™ Station.

California residents can get discounted tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood that are as low as $99 per adult! Check the website for prices and dates. Maybe we’ll see you there!

Malibu Country Mart’s Annual Winter Wonderland

malibu country mart christmas tree

Starting this Saturday, December 6, and running through December 20, the Malibu Country Mart will be transformed into a winter wonderland, SoCal style. There will be the usual suspects: Christmas tree, menorah, and twinkling lights. But on each of the December Saturdays before Christmas there will also be special activities.

Victorian carolers will stroll through the Mart, singing holiday favorites while children participate in holiday-themed activities such as stocking and dreidel decorating, face painting, and homemade cookie decorating.

malibu country mart holiday events

And for the older kids and parents, the stores in Malibu Country Mart will be running holiday specials. If you’ve never bothered to stop at the Mart on your way to somewhere else, trust me. It’s worth it. In fact, it’s a great destination in itself!

See their website for additional information.

Channel Islands Cruise, Starring Anacapa

 You’ve never visited the Channel Islands even though they are right here? What are you waiting for?


Channel Islands National Park is one of those places about which my husband and I keeping saying “We should go there someday.” Well, I finally got to go there and trust me, you totally should.

Known as the Galapagos of Southern California because it is far enough away from the mainland that land animals have been left mostly alone to evolve and keep to themselves, the Channel Islands consists of Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands, in ascending order of proximity to Channel Islands Harbor to the west, and Santa Barbara Island to the south. Island Packers offers cruises and other trips out to all five islands where you can hike, camp, kayak, snorkel, or join conservancy projects like cleanups or fish counts.



In early October I joined a group of writers as a guest of Island Packers for a Wildlife Cruise to Anacapa. This trip consisted of a 90-minute ride out to the island, and then a sightseeing tour of its shoreline, helpfully narrated by Mike, who was a font of information about the island’s history and evolution.




On the way to and from Anacapa, our boat, the Vanguard, passed through huge pods of dolphins, and some sharp-eyed passengers even sighted a whale spout out in the distance to the west. The dolphins came in several varieties, and they seemed to love having us as company.


I took a zillion pictures of them, trying to capture their graceful arcs as they playfully jumped up to say hi, but they all look just like this one! Here is a video taken by one of the other writers on the trip.

The Vanguard isn’t exactly comfortable, but there are plenty of places to sit or lean against the balcony to watch the horizon or the sea lions lounging on the oil rigs as you pass. There is a snack bar in the galley, but you can also bring a bag of your own snacks. In fact, you can bring a tent and sleeping bags and everything to survive a night on a Pacific Island, because not only is this trip great for sightseeing, but it is also a shuttle for campers and day hikers. After the long and dolphin-strewn ride out to the island it was exciting to catch the first glimpse:


That is Arch Rock to the left, the trademark of Anacapa Island and subject of many many photographs. Once we arrived at the landing cove, the boat had to be steadied next to the big pier so the people who were getting off could safely disembark. There was a group of Channel Islands eco team members going up to the island that day. One of them told me their job was to remove non-native plants. So basically, weeding.



IMG_0853The water is really this clear and blue in the landing cove at Anacapa Island.


Once the daytrippers and campers disembarked, the rest of us were taken on a shoreline tour. This lighthouse is not manned and nobody lives in it, but you can hike all the way up to it. The foghorn sounds all day and night, even when there is no fog.

IMG_0864Again, the famous Arch Rock.



Along the east-facing side of the island, there were a few places of historical interest that narrator Mike pointed out.

IMG_0903This is called Keyhole Rock.

redwood cove

Nobody lives on the islands now (and the only mammal is a small mouse), but evidence suggests that the Chumash tribe visited the island as far back as 5,000 years ago. This spot is known as Redwood Cove. The Chumash used to come here to harvest the downed trees that landed here as driftwood to make canoes.


I chose a spot on the top deck for this part of the tour to get better views.


This spot is known as Frenchy’s Cove, named after Raymond “Frenchy” LeDreau, a hermit who lived here starting in 1928 selling fish and lobster and helping people with illegal shipments of alcohol during Prohibition.

After marveling at the mostly untouched beauty of the island, we headed back to shore, passing again through the dolphins. I was so moved by seeing the island up close that I longed to join the day hikers, so I vowed right then and there to return with my family sooner than later.

The weather that day was perfect – it started off chilly and windy and overcast, but by the time we arrived at the island the fog had burned off and the sun kept us nice and warm. The water that day was fairly calm, but it does happen that the waves get too big and choppy for a pleasure cruise. Even if you buy a ticket in advance there is always a chance that the trip will be cancelled due to unsafe conditions, so keep that in mind if you go.

This particular trip is $37 for adults with lower rates for children and seniors. There is a variety of different destinations and trip lengths and types on offer, so I encourage you to explore the website and start planning to satisfy your wanderlust. Since the Channel Islands are so close, there’s really no reason to put it off any longer.

Island Packers
Channel Islands Wildlife Cruise – Anacapa
1691 Spinnaker Drive Ventura, CA 93001