My daughter loved Harry Potter at the same age that my son now has discovered him. I should say, I love Harry Potter too. When those movies are on, I have to watch them. They are just so good!
My son has got the Universal bug. I think a bunch of his friends have gone and have told him all about it. Then he discovered HP and it has been a non stop begging fest to go to Orlando for the last year and a half! We went on a family cruise last winter in lieu of birthday presents. Since both kids have their birthdays around Christmas, it just becomes a bit much. It was the best thing we did as a family. I decided this would be a great idea to go to Universal Studios before the mad Christmas rush as my birthday present again to the kids. It is hard planning family trips with one in Middle School and one in College. I picked the weekend just after Ariana took her last final and before Brody started his. He did miss 2 days of school but I think we all needed the break.
At home we missed the first real snowfall we have had in years (figures) but at least I did not get stuck in a 2 hour drive home like my co-workers. We lucked out and got there in record time and it was warm and the pool was heated.
We stayed at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal.
It was a cool retro hotel with great pools, a lazy river, water slides and awesome poolside drinks. Perfect way to kick off a vacation.
We ate at Universal Citywalk each night. The one place I was most looking forward to eating and seeing was the steampunk restaurant, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. It was better than I read about. The place is so cool, the robot entertainment was a hit with my family and the dinner was hands down the best meal we ate all weekend, and we ate well! But...the dessert was freaking out of this world! The milkshakes were meals with treats hanging out of them. The banana cream pie ice cream sundae was huge and the chocolate brownie layer cake sundae was even better! We ate ourselves into submission. Seriously, if you go to Universal...eat here and not just for dessert. The dinner was to die for. I wish I had pretty pictures of everything but I stuck with my iphone mostly on this trip due to size and convenience. This trip was all about family time and riding some serious rides.
We also ate at Antojito's for Mexican (great with even better service) and Pat O'Briens because it's Pat O's and we love the one in New Orleans. We could not pass that up. Always so much fun. Staying on property was a no brainer. Not having to drive anywhere was great. We never waited for a bus coming or going and they dropped us off and picked us up right in front of the entrance. So much easier than Disney! The big bonus of course was getting to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour before the park opens to the public. This was our main reason for coming and OH-MAH-GERD it was worth every penny. We were all completely blown away.
The first thing we did was ride Harry Potters Forbidden Journey. When this ride first opened the lines were record setting at 7 hour wait times. We walked right up and right in!
The entire ride takes places inside Hogwarts. It is hands down the best ride in the park and arguably the best ride ever made. If 4d rides didn't make me sick after a while I would have rode this over and over again. Brody liked it the first time but was a little scared. The second time, well let's just say the picture afterwards was worth a thousand words. We laughed until we cried at his expense...I know, mom of the year!
All the pictures moved and talked just like in the movies.
The sorting hat also spoke to you.
They really kept you entertained in line for each ride.
Next up was Ollivanders for the wand ceremony. Sadly we were not picked but it was still cool to watch. The intention was for Brody to pick out an interactive wand so he could cast spells throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley but my oldest wanted one to. She chose Serious Black's wand (our favorite character) and Brody chose he who shall not be named's wand. In his defense it was a really cool looking wand. Everywhere you would see these symbols below you could cast spells and do magic.
Some were harder than others, but all were super fun. I think the best one is in Knockturn alley but the funniest one is the fountain.
and yes the book DOES bite.
After rides and wands it was cold and rainy and we were told by a local that we had to try the hot Butterbeer. They only sell it when it is cold outside and it is rarely cold in Orlando, but this Saturday was FREEZING. Only 2 places sell it and they always had lines. SO WORTH IT!
It was time to leave Hogsmeade and ride the train over to the other park to London and see Diagon Alley. The train is JUST like the movie. We rode it in both directions, as it is different each way. You get to sit in a car in a cabin that is just like the one in the movies. The window projects what it would look like if you were really traveling the route that Harry did. The cabin doors project shadows and voices as if Harry, Ron and Hermione were speaking just outside.
Once in London we had to find Diagon Alley. It is next to Kings Cross Station but hidden, with no signs.
We found Kreacher, the Blacks house elf peaking through the window and the knight bus, complete with talking shrunken head. Then we made our way though a plain brick opening and a whole hidden world was behind it.
That was what blew us away the most. Turning the corner and seeing this incredibly detailed world where you truly are fully immersed as if you were in the books and movies themselves.
We got chocolate frogs and every flavor beans, rode Escape from Gringotts twice in a row and cast lots of spells.
Disney has NOTHING on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I would go back. Even my husband, who never gets excited about things like this said he wanted to go back. My daughter made it a point to tell me how glad she was that we did this. I am beginning to think taking family trips instead birthday presents is where it is at.