Monday, March 25, 2013

Orlando: Universal Studios

 Self confession: I love Harry Potter. I knew as soon as we decided to go to Orlando that we had to make a trip to Universal Studio's to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

On the first full day of our Orlando vacation, we ate breakfast in our condo and packed a picnic lunch, and we headed off to explore all that Universal Studio's had to offer.

The last time I was at Universal Studio's was in 1993 and the first thing you notice is that some things sure have changed and other things are exactly the same. There is a new city walk very similar to the one in Las Angeles. The city walk connects Universal Studio's two parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

We entered the park and immediately started seeing characters: Betty Boop, The Minions for Despicable Me, and The Simpsons. While waiting in a fairly short line to grab a photo with Bart and Homer Simpson, I started studying the park map and quickly realized we were in the wrong place!

Harry Potter is not at Universal Studios. He is at Islands of Adventure. My heart sank all the way to my knees. As I was trying to figure out if I could live with coming all the way to Orlando and not see Harry Potter, a very nice staff member and I started talking. After confirming my error, he then made the biggest offer that saved the day!

He took our Simpson photo and then walked us straight to Guest Services. He explained to Guest Services what happened to us, buying the wrong tickets, and asked them to reissue us new tickets to Islands of Adventure. Within moments we were leaving the wrong park and heading to the right one.

The first area we checked out was Marvel Super Hero Island. The boys headed to The Incredible Hulk Ride while us girls wandered around. And who did we meet while wondering around? Spiderman.

Spiderman provided The Short Chic with lessons on how to shoot a web. She has practiced a lot and has gotten really good at it. Next time she meets Spiderman, she will be ready.

Before lunch we also visited Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park.We enjoyed riding The Spiderman ride, got totally soaked riding Ripsaw Falls and Jurassic Park River Adventure.  {When I say we, I don't actually mean ME! I did not get soaked. I waited on dry land for the family who got totally soaked!}I did chuckle to see Human Dyers outside the water rides. For $5.00 you can fit as many people in a human dryer as possible and warm/dry yourself.

After lunch we headed straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My initial reaction to this part of the park was WOW! It looks just like a village with a school looming above it. Then I noticed just how crowded it was. It was beyond crowded!

Hogwart's Express has just arrived at Platform 9 3/4.

 While The Boy and I waited in line and rode The Dragon Challenge, Daddy and The Short Chic found a nice spot to sit and wait in The Owlery. The Owlery was perfect, it even had fake bird poop all over the rafters as you would expect in a place that housed hundreds of owls. The only thing missing {and I so wish they had} was a real working post office. They had a post office type building but it sold souvenirs  But how cool would it have been to send a parcel {Post Card} home to all of our friends with a Hogsmeade post mark? {Come on Universal, think it all the way through!}

Hogsmeade itself was pretty. The buildings where dark and full of alleyways. We went into Ollivander's and shopped for wands {they cost about $35.00 each and you can get your own wand or a reproduction of a famous wizard's wand}. The Hog's Head was there {a cafeteria you can eat at}, Zonkos {toy shop}, Honeydukes for all of your sweet needs {We purchased Chocolate Frogs with Wizarding Cards}.

By the time we went to ride Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey we had the child swap program down. Child Swap allows the whole family to wait in line for a ride together. One parent gets to go on the ride with those children big enough to ride while the other parent waits in a lounge with those too small. After the ride, you reverse roles. It allows both parents to ride the ride with the kids and the bonus is that children big enough get to ride it twice.

Waiting in line to ride the Forbidden Journey brought us many moments straight from the book/movies: The Sorting Hat, The Photos on the wall really talked, the newspapers moved, the Monster Book of Monsters was even kept in a metal cage so it could not get out. I even got a kick out of the mandrakes. They were actually screaming the most annoying scream possible!

The ride itself was INTENSE! It is a 3-D ride. I literally felt like I was riding a broom and playing Quidich. We had close encounters with Dementors. We ran into Hagrid after he lost his pet Dragon. I will say, I kinda felt a little concerned for The Boy, he rode it back to back and was very queezy afterwards.

But nothing a Butterbeer could not fix!

The Boy and I hung out around Hogsmeade while Daddy and The Short Chic rode The Flight of the Hippogriff {she still says this was her favorite ride of the vacation!}. We watched the Frog Choir, shopped at Honeydukes, Zonkos, and enjoyed a glass...or two of Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice.

By the time we left The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I was exhausted and ready to head home. But we had yet to spend any time at Seuss Landing.

The Short Chic loved it because all the rides were her size. But we were also there late and it was starting to get cold. We failed to pack jackets or sweatshirts so it was pretty chilly.

Universal is selling turkey legs. And all I can say is, "You can take the boys out of the midwest but you can not take the midwest out of the boys!" Both of them had to purchase turkey legs.  In fact they served as our dinner that night.

Random thoughts for Universal Studios:

  • Parking is $14.00 but you can upgrade to $20 parking that gets you super close. 
  • If you are visiting in the spring, pack jackets. As the sun drops so do the temperatures. 
  • The City Walk is lots of fun. Margaritaville even has a walk up bar!
  • Universal Studio's does not have a fast pass but they do sell  an express pass. For extra money you can upgrade your admission ticket and it allows you to enter a completely different line that gets priority. 
  • The park let us come and go with our valid ticket. While we packed a picnic lunch, we left it in the car. I kinda wish we would have looked to see if they had lockers for rent.

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