Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Adventures with Janelle at Universal Studios (December 2015)

After spending a fun week together as a family at Disney, Dallas and Daxton headed back down to south Florida and left Janelle and I to party away the weekend in Orlando.  It was so much fun to spend the weekend having girl time and catching up like old times.  I love Janelle so much and count her friendship as one of the most incredible blessings from teaching in Provo so many years ago.  And as much as I love my little man, it was fun to be carefree again with no responsibility for a couple days!

Our main goal was to go to both Harry Potter worlds at Universal Studios.  We bought a park hopper pass between Universal Studios, where the new Diagon Alley is located, and Islands of Adventure, where Hogsmeade and Hogwarts are located.
We had such a fun time exploring both parks and totally geeking out to all things Harry Potter!

At the entrance to Universal Studios 

Making our way to the back of Universal Studios where Diagon Alley is located...
We were able to see the Mystery van from scooby doo, the car from back to the future, and many other things along the path.

Our first glimpses at the new Harry Potter world!!
The outside was constructed to look just like London and was very detailed.

Janelle and I have serious Harry Potter history together, so it was perfect to get to experience all of this first with her!  And if you can imagine...I totally geeked out...all day long!

In front of Grimmauld Place!

The Knight Bus!
They even had shrunk heads inside.

Walking into the entrance of Diagon Alley...
I love Janelle's excited face!  That's pretty much how we looked all day.

We were both so impressed with all of the details.  There were so many different shops, some you could enter, some you couldn't, but each were constructed with such immaculate details.

One of our first stops was into the Leaky Cauldron for an early lunch and our first butter beer for the day.

Checking out some of the shops...
So many details!

The owl post, spitting fountain, and another yummy stop for butterbeer.

There's an actual Gringotts bank where you can enter, talk with a goblin, and exchange money for gringotts bank notes to use throughout the different shops.  It was pretty cool, but not worth the price for us.

Taking pics in front of Gringotts Bank!
You can tell from our facial expressions that we were pretty excited to ride the new Gringotts ride!  The line starts at the entrance of the bank and leads you past all the goblins, down through several levels of the bank, past several vaults, to the entrace of the ride.  There are so many things to look at that you don't even realize you're waiting in a line.  The ride itself was pretty cool (although I still prefer the Hogwarts castle ride more.)

After exploring the rest of Diagon Alley, we exited back to London and got our tickets for the Hogwarts express!  We entered the King's Cross station and were even able to go through platform 9 3/4!  The bottom left picture shows the visual illusion, which was pretty cool to watch.
Waiting for the Hogwarts Express to arrive!

To be honest, riding the Hogwarts express was probably my new favorite addition to the parks.  Everyone was led into small box cars, seating about 8-10 people each car.  The windows had the illusion of real scenery on the outside but were really TV screens.  As the train moved from one park to the other, the screen changed to make you feel as if you were traveling through the England countryside.  It was pretty cool.  Halfway through the ride, the train suddenly stopped and the door on each of the box cars began to show dementors flying through the train.  Seriously, it was such a cool effect and totally made us feel as if we were in the movies!

When we got off the Hogwarts express, we exited right into Hogsmeade.  This was our second time visiting Hogsmeade together, so we mostly just explored, drank more butter beer, and then got in line for the Hogwarts castle ride.

Walking through Hogwarts castle!
Loved all the moving and talking portraits

After Hogwarts castle, we drank yet another butter beer!
That stuff will never get old!
It was such a great day feeling like a child again with my bestie!

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