Soooooo . . . I’m just going to casually start blogging again after a 2 month hiatus. No big deal. Actually I plan on playing a little catch-up in a later post, but let’s just say that Derek’s surgery rotation took over both our lives for 8 weeks. Bleh. On a positive note we celebrated the end of the rotation from hell with a fun-filled trip, which is what I’ll be writing about for my triumphant return to the blogging world.
For those of you who don’t know me or Derek, you would assume that my lovely husband is the geek in the family. And for the most part you would be correct. When it comes to Star Wars, DotA, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and most other geeky fandoms Derek is your man. However, I take full and proud ownership of being a Harry Potter fan. (Fun fact: I told Derek I wouldn’t marry him until he read all of the books, and bless his heart, he read them all.)
Back in December, we started talking about taking a trip. We knew it couldn’t be too far away because I can only take a few days off from work, and we knew we wanted to go somewhere warm. We threw around a few romantic and mature ideas like Charleston or Savannah, but we ultimately decided that we wanted to do something FUN. Derek came up with the idea of heading down to Orlando to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. I was, of course, completely on board with this plan.
We bought our park tickets, found a flight, booked a hotel, and waited for the end of April to finally arrive. Last Saturday we flew out at 7am and were in our room at the Hyatt Regency by 10am. Let me just say, our room and the entire stay at the hotel was great. The staff were helpful, the pools were beautiful, and the room was spacious. Hyatt Regency is especially a smart pick for weekend travelers (it’s business-oriented and therefore less expensive on weekends) and for government employees. We received a significant discount for the room because I’m a federal government employee.
After settling into our room (AKA marveling that we got HBO and playing with the wildly unnecessary but fascinating TV screen in the bathroom mirror), we headed straight for Universal Studios.
After some debate, we ultimately decided to spring for Express Passes. They’re pricey, but it was completely worth it. Derek and I went to the front of the line on rides with 60 minute wait times. If you’re going on a quick 2- or 3-day trip like us, they are particularly useful. We basically covered all of Universal Studios in one day because we didn’t wait in line. We bought Express Passes for the first 2 days but didn’t get them on the third day because most of the Harry Potter rides don’t have express lines.
Quick recap of the best rides at Universal Studios:
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
We spent our second day at the Islands of Adventure park. Derek and I also wore matching tanks (because we’re cool).
Quick recap of the best rides at Islands of Adventure:
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
- Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
- The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
Our third and final day at the parks was dedicated to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is actually divided between the two parks at Universal. In true wizard fashion, we started the day at Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) and later took the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts/ Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure).
One of the most clever aspects of the park design was the lack of signage for Diagon Alley. The outside looks like a street in London with Kings Cross Station. We had to find the right hole in the wall to get to Diagon Alley.
Diagon Alley looked spectacular. I stopped and stared as soon as we walked in.
There was so much to see. We walked in all of the shops and loved pursuing through everything.
I ended up getting a Hogwarts shirt, and Derek purchased a Gryffindor quidditch jersey. It was too dark to get any good pictures of it, but there’s even a Knockturn Alley with creepy shops and items for sale. After walking around for a while, we rode Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Waiting in line for the ride included a walk through Gringotts, complete with haughty goblins hard at work.
After that we headed to lunch at the Leaky Cauldron.
The Wizard’s Brew was a dark stout with hints of chocolate and coffee. Delish!
After lunch, we headed to platform 9 and 3/4 to take the Hogwarts Express.
Hogwarts and Hogsmeade were just as enchanting as Diagon Alley. Universal really did an excellent job of making the books come to life.
We rode both sides of the Dragon Challenge (Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail), and the Flight of the Hippogriff. Word of advice, don’t ride the Flight of the Hippogriff unless you’re a fan of 15 seconds of crushing and/or being crushed by the person next to you. 🙂
We eventually worked our way back to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was my favorite ride at all of Universal. Even waiting in line for this one is entertaining because you make your way through Hogwarts and see different places like Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and hallways with moving and talking paintings.
After our long day of witchcraft and wizardry, we stopped by Honeydukes for some sweet treats on the way out.
Our trip was the perfect way to celebrate the end of a tough few months. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, or just love theme parks, I would definitely recommend a trip down to Orlando. We had a blast!