The Rest of the StoryPosted: June 15, 2012
On Monday I told you all about our whirlwind trip to Disney World. But, believe it or not, Disney World wasn’t our only stop.
It had always been the plan to go to Disney for 2 days and spend our last day at Universal. But after battling the rain and thunderstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday, and with even more rain in the forecast for Thursday, we weren’t too sure we’d be making it to Universal. But I guess the weather gods took pity on our plight and gave us a few hours of almost blue skies to enjoy.
You can probably tell from this picture how tired the kids were. And… we had just gotten there. Poor things. It had been a long week. Not to mention it was so hot. Like a few degrees cooler than the sun hot. Yuck.
Luckily, Universal is much more compact than Disney. It’s separated into two parks, and we opted to only visit the Islands of Adventure.
Why the Islands of Adventure, you ask? Because it’s home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, that’s why! Mark, Courtney and I had been looking forward to it all week, so we basically made a bee line for the back of the park. I guess they keep the best stuff in the back because you have to go through the entire park to get there. Here are a few things we saw along the way…
Honestly, I wasn’t paying much attention to everything else. I was just snapping photos for posterity’s sake. It wasn’t until we saw this…
that we got excited!! Like coming home.
Clearly, we should all respect the spell limits when visiting.
The Hogwarts Express, right off Platform 9 3/4. There was even a conductor, with a very convincing English accent, who asked my very red-headed sister if she was a Weasley.
The first roller coaster we rode was right off of Hogsmead (to the left of this photos) and it was themed after the Goblet of Fire. At the end of the line we had to pick which dragon we wanted to face, and then loaded in to the car. It was my first time to ride a coaster where my feet dangled, and I did okay, even though I was completely nervous. It was a little scary at first, but oh so fun once I got used to it.
All of these buildings were based on shops from the books. Some were real, like Zonko’s and Ollivander’s, and some were not. But it was all very cool to look at and window shop.
We got to go inside Zonko’s, where they had all of the familiar sweets. Chocolate frogs ribbitted and bogey flavored jelly beans lined the walls. There were also cute little toys and gadgets. Unfortunately, the line for Ollivander’s was too long for us so we didn’t make it in there. But there were a couple of other shops that sold wands, so we did get to eventually see those too.
The attention to detail really made this place spectacular. It felt like we had stepped onto one of the movie sets. I know it’s hard to tell, but in the windows were potted mandrakes that moved and screamed. Even the bathrooms were in character. Moaning Myrtle had flooded them again, and her voice could be heard teasing those who entered.
There were a few butter beer carts around the park. The lines were pretty long, but the end result was worth it. It tasted a lot like a cream soda float. So good on a hot day. Vendors also sold pumpkin juice, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find any polyjuice potion.
And then there was the castle. Hogwarts itself. I can’t say enough about the amount of detail that went into making this place look authentic. Inside Hogwarts was a simulated ride, that we immediately lined up for. The good and bad thing about it was that we had to check all of our stuff at the beginning of the line. So my camera and all of our other belongings went into a little locker until we got off the ride. It was good because I didn’t have to worry about losing my stuff on the ride, but bad because I couldn’t take a single photo while I was in line. But, let me tell you… it was amazing. As we walked through Hogwarts, we saw floating candles, talking paintings including the Fat Lady. We saw statues of the founders and Dumbledore’s office, complete with the headmaster giving us advice on the adventure we were about to embark. Harry, Hermione, and Ron popped up a few times to tell us good luck. And Ron even made it ‘snow’ on us. After we passed through the greenhouse, again with potted mandrakes, it was time to load on the ride. It was easily the best ride of the whole trip!
We hopped on, and after a spell from Hermione to allow us to fly our brooms, we took off after Harry for a Quiditch match. It was amazing! The projected images and the movement of the car made it really feel like we were flying through the castle. There were dementers, projected and real, that blew super cold vapors at our faces. And spiders that spit cold water at us. The ride lasted for maybe a minute, the longest of the trip, and at the end we were congratulated by all of the students and professors for a job well done.
We were all so stoked when we got off. I can’t say enough how awesome it was! After the ride we went through the shops looking for souvenirs.
There were so many people crammed in these little shops, so it was hard to take photos. But we saw everything from sweaters and scarves, to wands and broomsticks. I came home with a sweet little time turner key chain.
If only it really worked!! Wouldn’t that be sweet!?
While there was a lot to see and do in the wizarding world, there wasn’t much for the kiddos to do. So while Mark and Courtney and I were busy in Hogwarts, mom and dad took the kids back to Dr. Seuss land to play a bit.
They had so much fun cooling off and playing in the splash pad!
Mark, Courtney and I finished off our trip to Universal with a ride on the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. It was both amazing and scary at the same time. Definitely worth the 45 minute wait.
So that’s the rest of our vacation story. It really was such a fun trip. We’re already trying to figure out when we can go again. It probably will be a few years at least. We want to give the kids enough time to grow a bit so they can do all the fun stuff, too!