Saturday, 17 January 2015

Harry Potter Universal Studios Florida

I let my nerdy inner child loose and had an amazing day in Universal Studios  pretending I was a witch. We went to two Harry Potter attractions, which are split over two parks in Universal Studios. A park to park pass is around $145 and parking for the day was $17. Most hotels will run shuttles to the parks at set times, but since I'd run the marathon the day before I wanted to be able to be flexible in case I got tired or sore. We arrived at 8.45am and went straight into the park.

 After showing our passes, ID and linking the passes to us via a fingerprint, we practically ran through Islands of Adventure to the Harry Potter Hogsmeade Attraction. We went straight to the Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey Ride. This is a simulation but on the way to the ride you get to walk through Hogwarts, seeing the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom etc. The line was only 10 minutes.                                                                 The lines were very short all morning and the crowds small...not so much in the afternoon so its worth being there as the parks open. I'd imagine this would be even more important in the busier seasons.

After that we went to Ollivanders where we watched a little show, when a kid gets chosen to find their wand. I was jealous!! Hogsmeade was fun to explore and I might have gotten some candy along the way. Since I'm not a huge fan of rollercoasters Martina rode one of the bigger rides (which are apparently very good for an adrenline junkie) while I browsed. We also got to try Butterbeer. It was good but rich, so if you don't mind the germs, buy one to share if you just want to try it.

Hogsmeade explored we hopped on the Hogwarts express where we also got a little show and got called first years, its been a while since I was a first year anywhere!!
We emerged into the London section of Universal and came across the Knight Bus and Stan Stunpike.
Then you find your way to the entrance of Diagon Alley. The pictures don't look like much but it literally took my breath away...they did a great job with it!
Diagon Alley was mainly a lot of themed shops but it was really fun exploring.  The dragon on top of Gringotts breathed fire every 10 minutes..and you could actually feel the heat from it.

We explored Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes, Madam Malkin's Robe Shop and the Quidditch Supply Store, amongst others.

Since the big ride in Diagon Alley is Gringotts, we really wanted to do that. This was the longest wait of the day-20 minutes-nothing for a theme park. Again, walking through the area where lines would normally be, there was loads to see and photograph...almost too much because I kept wanting to hold up the lines to take pictures. The designers did such a good job with Gringotts. It looked suitably opulent and the animated goblins were so life like it was creepy.

Then we ate lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. This was cool because it looked the part. The food options were not so great for vegetarians and a lot of the people around us didn't seem to impressed with their food. I don't know if this was because the menu was designed around English pub grub (which Americans might not have experienced before) or if it was just bad. Our food was ok but a bit overpriced for what we got. So maybe give this a miss...or try The Three Broomsticks!

It was a short trip down Knockturn Alley and into Borgin and Burkes, which had a selection of 'darker' merchandise. Then we left Harry Potter and went out into the Universal Studios part of the park. Martina rode some of the big rollercoasters, with the compromise that she must find me a seat, water and a coffee. At this stage we'd been at the park for almost 6 hours (almost all walking). I was falling asleep standing, the beer at lunch might not have helped lol!

We went back to Kings Cross and rode the Hogwarts Express back to Hogsmeade (a different show on the train this time). By the way..the level of detail in the park was awesome, the shop on the 'Muggle' side of Kings Cross had Mars Bars (kind of like a Milky Way Bar) which you can't get here. Im sure if I'd looked closer the other candy was English. 

Martina hopped on another rollercoaster in Hogsmeade since there was no line. Then we started the long walk back to the car. At this stage my right knee (now ok) was sore and I was literally dragging my feet along the cement rather than lifting my legs. 
Apparently, a lot of runners in the Disney Parks hired wheelchairs for the day (probably those crazy Dopey crazy I mean hardcore). Towards the end of the day I wouldn't have said no to one lol. 
It was around 3.30 pm and the rain started. We stopped in a Starbucks, at the last set of shops close to the car, for a hot chocolate and cake pop. A nice sugar pick me up. 
We timed our departure almost perfectly. On the highway back to our hotel it started to pour down and for a long time we were driving at 25mph. At least we didn't have far to go. 

I was worn out but it was possibly one of the best days I've ever had!

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