Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Our Harry Potter Adventure of AWESOMENESS!!!

John really out did himself this year at Christmas time. For my "big gift" he purchased a trip to Orlando for our whole family so we could visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. He scheduled the trip for the weekend of my birthday!! How fun/awesome/amazing/thoughtful/stupendous is that!!! We had such a blast. Above you will see the Stevens' children on the bridge to Hosgmeade standing in front of Hogwart's. Let the magic begin!!

We spent 2 days in Universal's Islands of Adventure and the vast majority of that in HP land, as we referred to it. The creators of this amazing theme park area really out did themselves on everything from Zonko's to the Hogwart's Express. The original set designers from the movies helped with the creation and layout of the park and it's just spectacular. However, I think those narrow streets are going to be quite crowded during peak season!

Look!! It's Hogsmeade from the top of Flight of the Hippogriff! Avery loved this ride because it was one of the few roller coasters she could ride on the trip due to height restrictions. Come on!! My sweet 6 year-old who would ride ANY ride, and she can't ride em' all. Sheesh. Each of the 3 rides in HP land were lavishly decorated with all kinds of decor and props to make the rides feel even more wizardesque. All 3 kids enjoyed choosing their own movie replica wizard wands as well. Addy: Sirius Black, Aidyn: Ron Weasely, Avery: Hermione Granger.

The 3 Broomstick's restaraunt was spectacular inside and out. The food was decent, the ambience was exeptional, and the prices were as expected for the fair in an amusement park of this calibur. And the Butterbeer!!! MMMMmmmmmmm what a recipe these Universal people have cooked up. This stuff is the real deal and you won't be dissapointed. Imagine extra creamy cream soda with a butterscotch flavor and a delicious frothy head that lasts. Dreamy.

Addy, Aidyn, John and I LOVED The Dragon Challenge. This hanging double roller coaster boasts a Tri-Wizarding cup themed walk-through with all the bells and whistles. The Red Chinese Fireball Dragon coaster and Blue Norwegian Ridgeback Dragon coaster start off together and zoom through all sorts of swoops, twists and turns. The result is a super high speed, fast, enjoyable ride. This was definitely one of the best hanging roller coasters I've ever ridden.

Flight of the Hippogriff if a great rollercoaster for those under 44 inches. Avery adored this ride and enjoyed going on it several times. The big kids humored her, kudos to them. The bowing Buckbeack was my favorite part.

For you Harry Potter buffs out there, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey will definitely be your favorite ride of the trip. The line is a bit unfortunate, but well worth the wait! Once you get inside Hogwart's you are thoroughly entertained; the set is spectacular!! We are talking awesome props like the house counters, a room full of pictures that actually move and talk (one wall representing each house), impressive holograms including Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, and Hermione that look very real (Avery was fooled), and a room where it actually snows!!! In the picture below where you can see the candles floating, if you look closely you can see blurs in the air. Yep, snow. Sooooooo cool!!!!

The ride itself is equally spectacular. This ride includes watching a 3-D animation screen while the car you are in actually moves around (a lot) and there are props in between the animation (dragon, dementors, and spiders oh no!!) that really scare the snap out of you!! For those of you who get motion sickness, beware!!! I almost puked on this ride (I'm hoping that was due mostly to the fact that I was getting over a cold and still very congested). Take your dramamine an hour before riding and don't be drinking any Butterbear during that hour!! The second time we rode, the ride was stopped for vomit-mopping. Nice!! Still worth the wait!!!

After 2 days of Hogwart's, Hogsmeade, Olivander's, Honeyduke's, Zonko's, Dervish and Bang's, the Owlery, the 3 Broomstick's, and all the utter fabulousness that the Wizarding World had to offer, we explored other areas of Universal Island's of Advnenture and Studios. Addy and I left VERY reluctantly. Above you can see us enjoyoing some dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park area.

More Jurassic fun. There was a neat adventure area type fort in this part of the park that was pretty much like a gigantic jungle gymn. Rope bridges, climbing areas, slides, nets, Aidyn was in boy heaven. One of the rope bridges is pictured below.

The Mummy Ride in Universal Studios was really well done. If you have ever been on the Indiana Jones ride in Disneyland, it has that sort of feel to it but it's much scarrier!! There are some great robotic special effects as well as fire! Lot's of fire! Avery was super sad she couldn't go on this ride, but after I got off, I was glad she wasn't tall enough cuz it definitely would have scared her.

Speaking of Avery being scared....Jaws!! This ride is a classic and I am pretty sure Avery just about wet her pants when that silly fake shark popped out of the water and started gnawing cable. She grabbed on to my arm for dear life, burried her head in my arm, and told me to tell her when it was over. So cute!!

On our last day in town, we spent our time in the Magic Kingdom. That place never gets old. This was our 4th visit as a family and the kids love the Disney magic each and every time. We had a day to ride all our favorites and those included Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Carribean, Buzz Lightyear and just a handful more. When I next wish upon a star I will wish that next time we travel to the Magic Kingdom, Disney finally decides to offer unlimited fast passes for those whose name begins with the letters STEV

A few travel tips for those headed to The Wizarding World in the near future:
1-Don't even bother during peak season. I would imagine that they will have to put a cap on the # of people allowed into this area of Universal. The streets and shops were over crowded in February.
2-Yes to Fast Pass!!! This Universal upgrade is well worth it. Let me break it down for you: pay for one day in the park plus fast passes for everyone, ride all the high profile rides and see the park in one day OR pay for two days in the park for everyone and enjoy standing in line 75% of the time. Duh.
3-Don't bother with Olivander's. The line is OBSCENE!!! You will spend half your day waiting in it. And once you get into the store (7 at a time only) only one person is selected for the wand to choose them deal. If you are that one person, maybe it's worth it. If not, SUCK!!!
4-We all agreed that Universal Island's of Adventure was great fun, and that Universal Studios was a bust. There are only a few rides in Studios worth riding and the rest is mostly mediocre eye candy. Don't bother with the park hopper. Spend your time in Island's with a fast pass and enjoy the FUN park.
5-The 3 Broomstick's is a must. Of course, you will pay more than you want to spend but the experience is worth it. And yes to Butterbeer!!! The fish and chips and turkey legs are both delish.
6-If you are on the fence about this experience because your whole family is not into Harry Potter, get off!! Addy and I are die-hard Harry fans. Avery and Aidyn like the movies and John could care less. Well, we all loved it. I think I might even be able to get the hubby to read the books after this experience. Maybe I'll ask for that as a Mother's Day gift. Love you all!!! Thanks a million, honey for these great memories.