Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Prepare yourselves for lots of pictures. Andrew posted them all on Facebook, but you get to see them again! This time with commentary! Hooray!

We started our trip at the airport, of course. We parked the car and took the shuttle to the terminal. For such a short trip, it was way more convenient to just pay for long-term parking than it was to find someone who could drop us off and pick us up.

Then we grabbed some ridiculously expensive airport food and waited for our flight. I hate the waiting part of trips. And often the flights. The turbulence makes my stomach queasy, and since Andrew and I had to sit across the aisle from each other, we couldn't watch movies together or play any games. Lame. But we survived the flight and made it to Orlando, where we waited for our shuttle to take us to the hotel. We didn't get in until after 1:00 a.m., when we immediately crashed and were up again in five hours.

But waking up wasn't too bad because I knew that soon, very soon, I would be seeing Hogsmeade in real life! Well, as real life as Hogsmeade gets. Our hotel was conveniently located a mere 20-minute walk from the park, so we headed out to take advantage of our early admission to the park. We got to the entrance, used the kiosk to print our tickets, and stood in line, only to be told that what we had weren't the right tickets. We were directed to guest services, where we were told our registration didn't show any park tickets. Ummm . . . that was certainly a problem, and seeing as how we had all our confirmation documentation, we could prove that we actually paid for our tickets. We were finally given comp tickets for the day, and then we had to go to another office to figure out our actual registration. Eventually all was well, but it ate into our park time, so neither Andrew nor I were the happiest of campers.

But then we walked into Hogsmeade and my eyes were filled with this:

Who wouldn't be happy after that?! My mood was immediately awesome and I kind of started freaking out a little bit. It was so cool!

We started our day with breakfast at the Three Broomsticks.

A traditional English breakfast. It was tasty. Except for the black pudding. That was not so tasty.

If you watched long enough, the hog head would MOVE. Magic, I tell you!

A super nice security guard offered to take our picture.

We then headed over to the Forbidden Journey, which we had heard wonderful things about. I was almost more excited—scratch that. I was actually more excited about going inside Hogwarts than I was about the ride itself.

The line starts in the Herbology greenhouse and moves through the entrance hall, Dumbledore's office, and the History of Magic classroom. The portraits on the wall actually move and talk and cross over to other frames. It was incredibly well done. I just had so much fun looking at everything and taking it all in. I loved it, of course.

At night, these words would suddenly appear on the pillars.

The ride itself was pretty awesome and impressive too. It was half roller coaster, half simulated in the vein of Soarin' Over California. There was a lot of movement, though, and going on it after eating a full meal may not have been the best decision.

We then had to go and try the famed butterbeer.

Photo attempt #1: Andrew took too long to take the picture and my mouth got so full of butterbeer that I couldn't hold the pose anymore. This was the result. 

Photo attempt #2: Success!

Andrew only needed one attempt.

Butterbeer is quite possibly the greatest beverage known to man. So good!
We spent the remainder of day one wandering the shops in Hogsmeade, taking pictures of awesome things (which were everywhere), and going on Spiderman and a whole bunch of water rides that left us sopping wet. I was not a huge fan of that last part.

This baby Mandrake was squealing at us from behind the glass.

When we got home, I got such a kick out of seeing purchases from Dervish and Banges and Zonko's on my credit card.

Watching a kid get chosen by a wand in Ollivander's would have been so much cooler had the kid actually seemed like a Harry Potter fan instead of being a sarcastic little bugger.

Pretty sure I was sopping wet by the time this picture was taken. Sorry about that, Mr. Conductor.

After taking a rest in the hotel room and changing out of our soaking wet clothes, we headed back over to the park in order to catch our showing of the Blue Man Group. Neither of us really knew what to expect from the show. I had seen the clips of the percussion and paint, but that was about all I knew, other than that the performers were covered in blue paint and didn't speak. But it was so much more than gimmicks. The percussion was truly awesome, and there was improv and comedy and audience participation, and the whole thing ended in a giant dance party. Instead of streamers, they shot toilet paper out over the audience, and these huge, light-up beach balls fell from the ceiling to be tossed around the audience. It was such a blast. Unfortunately, taking pictures was prohibited, so this is all I have to show for it:

We started out day 2 at the other park, which was called Universal Studios (Harry Potter is in Islands of Adventure). We used our early admission intending to hit up Transformers before the line got to be three hours long, but to our dismay, it was down. So our early admission was wasted two days in a row. But we made the best of it by going on Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, which was adorable, and the Shrek 4D show, which was not nearly as adorable. We then stood in line for this ridiculous-looking roller coaster, which broke down before we could get on. So we ducked out of line and gave it up as a lost cause.

Andrew wanted to hit up the Simpson's ride, so we headed over there, and he had a good time looking at all the things they have set up there. What he did not enjoy, however, was the ride itself. It is a simulated ride that twists and turns and goes backward and forward and his motion sickness kicked in like nobody's business, so he had to spend a few minutes sitting and sipping Sprite.

After going on a few other kind of lame rides, we decided to head back to Islands of Adventure for lunch at the Three Broomsticks. On our way out, we checked in on Transformers, and it was up and running again! We used our handy-dandy express passes that we had gotten as a compensation for losing half of our registration to avoid the two-hour line. It's such an awesome ride; we both loved it.


Andrew was so excited for this picture. Those robots actually have people inside them. Pretty insane costumes, eh?

We headed back over to Harry Potter and got fish and chips (and more butterbeer, of course) for lunch.

I was pretty worn out from the heat and humidity by this point. My flyaways/frizz are awesome, though.

The Three Broomsticks does fish and chips right!

We honestly could not get enough of this stuff. $3.75 a glass? Totally worth it.
By this point, the heat and the humidity were getting to me in a bad way, so we decided to take a break and nap in the hotel. Who knew that 20 minutes could feel like an eternity? My hands were so swollen that I looked like I had sausages for fingers, I was sweating bullets, and I thought I was going to pass out. But I made it back to the hotel in nearly one piece and collapsed on the bed, reveling in the wonderful air conditioning.

That rest was just what I needed to gear up for our last night at the park.We headed back over to Islands of Adventure, and by this time, clouds had rolled in and it was sprinkling slightly. It made the weather quite beautiful, and the park was nearly empty compared to the lunchtime crowds we had just left. We went on the Hulk roller coaster, which was FANTASTIC, and left me with some pretty awesome hair.

What you can't see is the little nubbin left in my ponytail holder at the back of my head.
We also went on the Dueling Dragons, which was also a fun roller coaster in Harry Potter, though the Hulk was better. There were more cool things to see in this line, too, this time all related to the Triwizard Tournament.

We spent the rest of our evening relaxing in the Three Broomsticks and just wandering the streets of Hogsmeade. I really didn't want to leave—it just had the greatest feeling. I felt like Hagrid could stroll through any door at any moment. I really felt like I was in Hogsmeade and that witches and wizards really did exist. But alas, all good things must come to an end, and our trip was no exception. And as spur of the moment as the trip was, and as short as it ended up being, I am so glad we were able to go. I had such an incredible time. I can't wait until they finish the one in LA so that Harry Potter can be a little bit closer to home.

And now, a few more pictures.

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