Thursday, May 29, 2014

Janelle's Visit: Harry Potter World

Our last big adventure in Orlando, while Janelle was visiting at the beginning of April, was going to Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure, home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Harry Potter World.)  I will forever think of my Sunset View Elementary friends when I think of Harry Potter.  Every time one of the movies came out we would be at the midnight showing...even if we had to teach the next day.  Several years we dressed as JK Rowling's characters.  So many fond memories with incredible friends over this series.  Dallas laughs that I love it so much and yes even own an Elder Wand, but it's not just the story, it's all the memories it brings up with these amazing people over the years.

After checking out of our hotel, we headed to Islands of Adventure.  Universal has two parks; Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  In order to get to either of these parks you have to meander through their Universal Walk which is their version of Downtown Disney; lots of shops, restaurants, theaters, etc.  I have to admit that I've become a total Disney snob.  I'm no where close to the crazy Disney fanatics that own all the paraphernalia and frequent so many times they know all the secrets.  But I have become very accustomed to the efficiency and incredible guest services and hospitality that Disney offers.  I forget how wonderful it is until I go to another theme park, such as Universal, where things just aren't done as well.  The lines were at least twice as long, if not more, the customer service was severely lacking, and things just weren't run as smoothly.  You can tell that over the years they've tried to emulate some of what Disney has, but they haven't quite got the hang of it.  Having said that, I still love Harry Potter World.  It's such a fun experience to dive into an entirely different world that you've been imagining for over a decade now.  It is even more fun to go with true Harry Potter fans, which is why I haven't been here with Dallas yet!

Entering Universal City Walk...

Entering Islands of Adventure...
As we made our way through Dr. Seuss's kiddy area to Harry Potter world it was cute to see the different signs pointing our way.

Our first glimpses of the Hogwarts Castle...

Entering Hogsmeade...
As you can see from the pictures below, it was packed!
I was so glad we didn't have Daxton with us.  First of all there are no rides for little ones available, but also the crowds were so crazy that I just kept thanking that I didn't have to maneuver them with a stroller as well.  Whats crazy is that we went a good two months before the summer grand opening of the Harry Potter extension "Diagon Alley" into the other Universal Studios theme park.  I can't even imagine how insane the crowds must be now and through the summer!

In front of the Hogwarts Express...

We loved the construction of Hogsmeade and the illusion that the buildings are actually bending and twisting.  I also love the touch of snow.  Weird to see snow around you and still be sweating in the Florida humidity!

We thought they did really well with all the detailing in the windows of the different shops.

Owl Post

Quidditch store, which matched Janelle's new bracelet I got for her.

And of course...
Hogwarts Castle!

The first time I visited Harry Potter World, with my good friend Tracy, we found out about the Hogwarts Castle tour.  Most people don't realize that you can walk through the castle at your own pace, in no lines, exploring the different rooms and detailing.  It's pretty cool and you can take your camera (whereas when you're waiting in line to get on the main ride you've put all your belongings in a locker downstairs.)  It's also nice because you can take as long as you want.

Janelle and I decided to do this first.  We loved watching the different paintings come to life.

Inside Dumbledore's Office there is a magical book that floats and switches place, the penseive, and Gryffindor's sword.

Some of the other fun details...
The looking glass, house points, quidditch lockers, entrance to Dumbledore's office.

After our walk through tour of the castle, we went on the ride "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" inside the castle.  It's my absolute favorite and has a good mix of real and digital effects that make me squeal every time.  We also decided to do the single riders line, which cut the wait time to less than 20 minutes!

After the ride, we headed to the Three Broomsticks for lunch.  We ate yummy salads, drank sweet caramel "Butter Beer", and rested from our tiring morning.

After lunch we explored more of the details of Harry Potter World.  We loved that the ATM machine was a "Gringotts Bank" ATM, that the bathrooms were designed for witches and wizards, and we loved all the little shops.

The first time Tracy and I visited, we somehow missed the Weasley's car, so I made sure to find it this time.  It was hidden along the "Flight of the Hippogriffs" ride path.

Ollivander's wand shop was pretty cute and had a little presentation about a boy choosing his first wand or getting "chosen" from his first wand.

We also loved Honeydukes sweet shop!
So many fun candies and pastries.  I fell in love with all the color!

Janelle got a chocolate cauldron for us to try, which was super yummy.

And of course...
Another round of yummy "Butter Beers!"

We went on a couple more rides and explored every bit of Harry Potter World, before heading back.  After such a crazy couple days at Gatorland, Downtown Disney, Epcot, and then Harry Potter World, we were exhausted by 6pm!

To get out of some of the crowds, we left the parks and ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in Universal City Walk.  It was the perfect ending to an insane and exhausting weekend away.  After dinner we made the three hour drive home to Fort Lauderdale and I was SO glad Janelle was with me to help keep me awake and entertained.  I sure do love that girl!
It was such a fun weekend!

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