As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
Today I’m hopping out of order on my Trip Reports. Next week, I’ll be sharing about our visit to Sea World, as part of a special loop on The Blogorail – all about aquariums (so be sure to stop back!) For today, I’ll be focusing on the end of our week – Friday, March 6th – and our visit to Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventures.
Originally, this day was supposed to be for just me and Gracie. Gracie has been a Potterhead for awhile now; and I’ve changed my tune about Harry Potter over the years. In order to prepare for this visit, I read all the books and watched all the movies. Ashley attempted to read the books, but ever got further than just into Book 3. When it all came down to it, though, she couldn’t resist the peer pressure and decided to go with us!
A Bit About Our Day
In order to save on parking fees, we had Brian drop us off at the park. (Kudos to Universal for having a drop-off zone!) We strolled through the entrance area, having no idea what to expect on the other side. We realized that we could go left for Islands of Adventure or right for Universal Studios – we went right and, once through the gates, followed the map toward Diagon Alley. Along the way, though, we started to realize how impressed we were with this park! We weren’t expecting it to compare to Disney (in cleanliness or theming) – but it totally does! As we were walking through the park, we all commented that we’d have to come back sometime and explore more of it.
But, we had a goal for this particular day . . . And, as you can see, Gracie and I even had special shirts for our visit! We made it to Diagon Alley and Gracie’s face lit up (Harry Potter is to Gracie as Legoland is to Ian.) She stopped to check out 12 Grimmauld Place, and we had to check out the Knight Bus and meet the conductor (who, by the way, was NOT Stan Shunpike). Gracie also wanted to listen in on the phone conversation in the phone booth.
From there, we headed to King’s Cross Station. Having read Universal Orlando 2015 by Kelly Monaghan, I had a great itinerary for the day. We hopped on board the Hogwarts Express, bound for Hogsmeade.
I was on a mission . . . so our first stop was to try some Butterbeer. (Throughout our day, we tried it cold, frozen, and as ice cream. I honestly don’t know which was my favorite – not the ice cream – but the cold and frozen were both AWESOME!)
The girls got on the Dueling Dragons ride, while I strolled through Hogsmeade and snapped pictures. We were just amazed at the theming. Everything is just so spot on with the books!
I strolled through some shops while waiting for the girls. Once we hooked up again, we headed back to Hogwarts to check out The Forbidden Journey ride. Wow! Even the line was awesome (theming!) But, the ride itself was unlike anything else I’ve ever been on. I was afraid (having experienced some MAJOR motion sickness issues the day before at Sea World); but, I just prayed through the ride and came out feeling OK.
Afterwards, we hopped in line at the wand shop. Someone had left a comment on my Facebook page, suggesting that we stick around and be the last people to leave the demonstration, so we did. And I’m so glad. The man who was doing the demonstration spend time chatting with Gracie and suggesting various wands that might suit her best. It was very cool. Of course, we spent a TON of time looking through all the wands. Eventually, she decided on Professor McGonagall’s wand (even though I was partial to Sirius Black’s).
From there, we went for lunch at Three Broomsticks. We all really enjoyed our meals (which I will talk about in upcoming Favorite Food Friday posts).
After lunch, we decided to stop by Honeydukes and stock up on some candy!
Next it was time to hop aboard the train and head back to Diagon Alley. We rode Escape from Gringotts (another awesomely themed ride), got ice cream at Florean Fortesque’s Ice Cream Parlor (yes, I chose the Butterbeer flavor), strolled through the many shops (which had some really cool theming), and walked through Knockturn Alley (not once, but twice).
Gracie couldn’t get the thought of a second wand out of her head. In the end, she caved and bought Sirius’s wand as well. Now, we need to figure out a way to display them (she’s actually hoping to collect more of them over time).
The crowds were getting to me by mid-afternoon, and we all decided that we’d start making our way out of the park. Ashley decided to give Rip Ride Rockit a try, while Gracie and I sat in the shade and relaxed. We went in a gift shop and picked out some pins for our collections and exited the park. We strolled through the City Walk and went over to Islands of Adventure and entered there. We got as far as a coffee shop and decided to sit down and have a drink. We realized we were pooped and called Brian to come pick us up.
All in all, we had a great day!
What We Liked
The theming of both Wizarding World areas. Though, I have to admit, I’m partial to Hogsmeade. (Maybe it’s because it was much less crowded.)
The food was good, and we appreciated the fact that there were employees to find an empty table (so you don’t have to carry a big tray around, searching for a place to sit).
What We Didn’t Like
The process to order and pick up your food seemed a little chaotic.
The crowds in Diagon Alley were a bit annoying. (Of course, this isn’t the park’s fault and is a GOOD problem for them, I suppose.)
The ride queue for Escape from Gringotts had a TON of steps. I found this annoying. Seems like there should be a better system (maybe like the Haunted Mansion at Disney with the dropping floor – is it really dropping?!)
Will We Visit Again?
Yes! When we went there, we were looking at it as a “one time deal.” But we were so impressed with the Wizarding World and had so little time to explore the rest of the two parks that I can definitely see a repeat visit in our future (hopefully sooner rather than later!)
Oh, and now that Ashley has actually experienced Harry Potter’s world, she’s reading the books! She finished books 3 & 4 and is working her way through book 5!