Hey all. I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath for a blog update. :) When we got back from vacation I had to get caught up on my capstone research project, plus prepping for the tech camp I’m running next week, plus some website work for the district and for the Vermont Library Association (yeah, I volunteered to help them, ’cause, why not?!) so all of my “screentime” went into those efforts. Now I’m feeling a little caught up and thought a blog post was in order! :)
Last week we flew down to Orlando, FL to experience the magic of Harry Potter world. Technically it’s The Wizarding World at Universal Studios, but really HP was the main attraction, with Spiderman coming in a close second!
Day One: Travel and The Chocolate Emporium
We had an easy flight down to Florida. I opted for convenient travel times instead of bottom dollar prices for this trip, so we flew out of Logan around noon and landed in Orlando around 3pm.
We took a Lyft from the airport to our hotel. As we drove past the Universal sign I told the driver to pull-over! He said ok! Turns out he was stopping for a red light anyway. :)
We stayed at the Loews Royal Caribbean Resort on the Universal Studios campus. They gave us red carpet treatment the whole time.
After checking and stowing our stuff, we ventured out to find dinner. What better place for dinner than The Chocolate Emporium!
The had some pretty crazy desserts, especially these “milkshakes” that had chopped up stuff mixed in and full-on desserts on top! We all shared one for dessert and it was delicious, but more than enough.
Alan and I split an amazing appetizer (Avocado Bruschetta: Fresh avocado, fried avocado, avocado crema, tomatoes, balsamic reduction, toasted ciabatta) and were duly let down when the meal came. Lots of “meh” feelings all around. We got a chocolate brownie milkshake so we could end on a high note. :)
Day Two: Universal Studios, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, and a Tornado warning!
On day two we were ready to go into the parks! We started at Universal Studios and headed straight for Diagon Alley. We had early park admission as well, so we got up early and got in before the crowds.
Diagon Alley was pretty cool. Tons of little shops on the outside, many of which weren’t real stores or connected together on the inside.
There’s also a dragon sitting on top of Gringott’s. Sometimes he roars fire!
We went to Ollivanders and saw the wand ceremony. My kids were happy to not have been chosen for the ceremony. :) We watched another kid go through it though and then we purchased wands. The decision was a tough one! So much for the wand choosing the wizard!
Outside there are a bunch of areas that you can perform a magic spell and make something happen. They are embedded into the brick walkway. We had fun finding the places and making magic happen.
It was fun seeing all the treats that they talk about in the books. No Melt Ice-Cream made me laugh. It looks like a cup full of frosting. Yum!
We had brunch at The Leaky Cauldron Pancakes for everyone, four little trays of breakfast meat for Alan. :)
We realized pretty quickly that we are not theme-park people. We did one ride (Escape from Gringott’s) and by early afternoon when the sun was hot and the streets were crowded, we decided to make our way home, with a short detour through Springfield.
We swung through Springfield, ate some churros, rode the Simpson’s ride (fun!), rode an alien ride (kids only), laughed at Moe’s Tavern, and moseyed on out of town. It started to rain during dinner, so we headed back to the hotel for a little while. The goal was go to back out after the rain, but the weather decided not to cooperate. Oh well.
It started raining just as we were approaching the hotel, so we got soaked, but not for long. Back at the hotel we changed and settled in for an afternoon break.
We ended up with a tornado warning, lots of rain, and high winds… so we stayed inside and played cards instead. :) Alan’s family always loved playing Spades, so he took this opportunity to teach the kids how to play. They loved it too!
As much fun as we were having, I was antsy and wanted to get back out there, so when the storm cleared we decided to head back for dinner and to catch the light show at Hogwarts. We had a fun dinner at Cowfish, a restaurant that specializes in sushi and burgers. They even have PB&J sushi for the kids. Then we headed back into Universal Studios to take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade.
The train was a ride in and of itself, with the windows being screens that showed HP characters along the way, and some dark happenings in the hallway. We were all safe inside our cabin though. When we got to Hogsmeade we discovered it was winter there! Everything was covered in “snow.” It was very cute, especially at night.
They have a whole light show on the castle each night. It had a part for each house. There are some videos in the Google album if you want to see it.
With the parks being officially closed after that, we walked out, with the throng of other park-goers, through Suessville, and other areas, discussing what we wanted to come back for the next day.
Our first day was spent in Universal Studios, but the Hogswart Express goes from there to Islands of Adventure (another park) where Hogsmeade is located. We spent the next day exploring Islands of Adventure. Stay tuned…