After a goodnight's sleep, we grabbed some breakfast from the hotel buffet and somehow magically found ourselves on the right bus, which took us right to Universal Studios. It was actually really lucky. We walked over to the mall, asked someone which bus we needed to be on and just as we did that, that bus drove by. After sprinting after it, we got on and had a long but enjoyable ride.
Once we got there, my excitement really started to build up. I was starving (after all I only had like a banana and a cup of cereal for breakfast), so we stopped at Green Eggs and Ham in Seuss Landing and bought some lunch, that I ate all by myself as fast as I could. Who wants to waste time eating anyway??
Afterwards, we headed straight to the place I had been anxiously waiting for all morning; Harry Potter World! It would be an understatement to say that I had been dreaming of that day my whole life. Ever since I first picked up that Harry Potter book in Grade 2, or went to the first movie in theatres when I was 12 for my friend's birthday party, I was immersed into the magical world that it was. I actually found myself wishing that Hogwarts was real, because I wanted to go there so badly.
Every summer when the new book would come out, My mom would drive me around to like 8 different stores to get my hands on a copy. It always came out during the summers so we were usually somewhere in the states on vacation. When the fourth book came out, my cousin Candace, my sister Jessica and I went to the midnight party at the bookstore in Boise, Idaho. I remember when the 7th book came out, my family and I were in the middle of a roadtrip to Utah and Vegas. I made them drive around the town we were in all morning until we found it before we could get on the road again. And then when I finished that book in the MGM Signature hotel 2 days later, I just lied on the bed and cried because I was so sad it was over. I just couldn't believe there was no more Harry Potter. I'm writing this down, not so you will judge me, but to reiterate how much of a fanatic I am and how this day was a huge day for me.
Anyways, when I first caught a glimpse of Hogsmeade and heard the music, I truly felt like a young wizard who had just received their Hogwarts Acceptance Letter. I was coming to pick out my wand (who am I kidding, the wand chooses you) and my pet and buy my books/robes etc. (forgive me for geeking out on you, but I am not nearly finished).
The first thing you see when you walk in is the Hogwarts Express. Fun fact, they are actually creating Diagon Alley in the other Universal park and having a real train as the Hogwarts Express transport you between there and Hogsmeade/Hogwarts. I think they said that will be completed sometime this year.
I was so impressed with all the detail that was put into the scenery. It made it feel so real.
While we were there it started pouring rain. I loved it because in a lot of the movies it was always raining when they went to visit Hogsmeade. Luckily we had already bought some ponchos off of someone on the way over, and we were in Florida. so it was warm. Still such a weird concept to me, warm rain.
We visited Zonko's (the joke shop), Honeydukes (the candy shop), Ollivander's Wand shop, The Three Broomsticks,The Owl Post and many other little shops.
They had everything you could possibly think of from the books/movies including chocolate frogs, the Mauraders map, The Book of Monsters, The Quibbler, Sirius Black's wanted poster, "Gringotts Bank", Butterbeer,The Nimbus 2000 etc.
At Ollivander's wand shop they had everybody's wand you could possibly think of. My favorite wands were Harry Potter's and Dumbledore's, the Elder Wand. They also had other wands that belonged to nobody yet, so if you wanted, the wand could "choose" you.
After we made our way through Hogsmeade we found ourselves at the Hogwarts Castle, it was just as beautiful as I imagined it would be. We waited in line for an hour and 20 minutes to get into the castle for their virtual ride. It was crazy! It was like they tried to fit all 7 movies into a 3 minute ride. When you weren't getting your soul sucked out by dementors you were being chased by spiders or you were racing for the snitch in a Quidditch game. So exciting.
Once you got into the castle, the wait was actually so enjoyable because there was so much to see. They had the candles suspended up high like in the Great Hall ceiling. They had the talking pictures, where they would actually move into each other's frames. They had the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom, Dumbledore's Office, the sorting hat and Dumbledore, Harry, Ron and Hermoine would show up sometimes to talk to you.
The other rides weren't running because of the rain so we decided we would go check out the rest of the park and come back later.
We went on lots of fun rides! First we went on the Jurassic Park ride, there was no line up at all because nobody seemed to want to get soaked. We decided that we were already wet so why not. It was definitely one of my favorite rides.
My other favorite ride was The Tower of Doom. It was really intimidating looking and I refused to go on it at first. The whole time we were in line I would tell Garth I was scared and didn't want to go on it but I also didn't want to be a wimp and not go on it. Garth would console me and tell me that I didn't have to do it, but it was going to be super fun. Once we got near to the end of the lineup, I had started to calm down about it, and Garth started feeling super sick/nervous so then I ended up consoling him. And then because he was feeling sick I got all worked up again and started freaking out as they strapped us into the seats. And then all of the sudden you fly up in the air and then just drop...and drop and drop and drop... and then you fly up again. I could hear Garth yelling at me to open my eyes, and when I did I saw the most breathtaking view of Universal Studios, we were so up high. I was really glad we did it because it wasn't nearly as scary as I imagined.
Later on, we decided to make our way back to Harry Potter World to go on those other rides. One of the them was The Flight of the Hippogriff, it was definitely more kid friendly, and you passed Hagrid's house on the way there.
My favorite ride of the whole day was the Dragon Challenge. It was based of the Triwizard Tournament in the fourth book. There were two different roller coasters: one was faster and the other one (the Hungarian Horntail) was more intense. We had to try them both out to see if that was true, and it was. We were really lucky with the lines because they weren't busy at all. The rides had been closing and opening all day long because of the rain so luckily we showed up at a good time and finally got a chance to go on the ride. It was crazy! First of all, we were on a roller coaster. Second, our feet were dangling. Third, it was dark out so you couldn't see anything. Fourth, it was raining! So you were going upside down, spinning around in the dark while getting sprayed in the face the whole time. It was so exhilarating, I wish we could have gone on it 100 more times. On the way there, we passed the car that Ron and Harry crashed into the Forbidden Forest in the second book. We also had to stop and take more pictures of the castle at night.
I was really reluctant to leave, but after making another round through Hogsmeade and bought a couple souvenirs, we departed from the Magical World of Harry Potter.
Our last stop at Universal was Seuss Landing. Garth and I are both obsessed with Dr. Seuss so it was really fun. I felt like I was in the How the Grinch Stole Christmas movie. Everything was so colourful. We stopped in the Mulberry Street Store and bought Grant a cute little cup with his name on it. By the time we got off the Dr. Seuss ride, the park was closing so we headed out.
Even though the park was closed, the party atmosphere was still alive right outside. It was so fun to be a part of it. That is what I love about being on vacation in a place like this. Everything is so electric. and alive. We grabbed some Panda Express and rested our aching feet before we got on the bus back to our hotel.
It was an amazing day, better than I could have ever hoped for! Hopefully we don't have to walk that much tomorrow. Wait...we are going shopping all day? In one of the biggest malls in America?
Bring it on, I'll sleep on the cruise.