United States of America · 4 Days · 25 Moments · April 2017

Universal Studios Orlando, FL USA

15 April 2017

I highly recommend you visit Universal in Orlando. We had a great time! I use Airbnb all over the world and I think it is a great way to lodge. It is so much more affordable than a hotel, especially if you just need a place to sleep, and we had use of the the kitchen and laundry. You also get to meet really wonderful people. I have stayed in many an Airbnb, and I have really liked every host I stayed with. Same goes for Uber.
Total Ride Count: HP Forbidden Flight 8x, Gringotts 4x, MIB 12x, Simpsons 2x. Those were the favorites. My general opinion of the park(s) overall is Excellent. We paid $254 each for both parks for 4 days. Way cheaper than D-land, but not as pristine-clean. The concessions and store products are outrageously expensive, though. $6.99 for butterbeer, $50 for a wand, $100 for a robe, $12 for a chocolate frog. I wanted to send a postcard with a Hogwarts postage stamp, and a postmark from Hogsmead, but you have to buy a pack of postcards for $17 and a set of 10 stamps for $12. No thanks. Also I wanted individual house magnets, but again you have to buy a pack of each house for $9 each. Mercenaries! Another pet peeve is that AmEx is the official card, and if you purchase your tix with it, you can use their private lounge. So I did. But the lounge is tiny and very unluxurious. The unlimited light refreshments were tiny bottled water and chips or granola bars. Lame.
Day 3: We got to the park at 9am and headed straight to Despicable Me. This is a 4D ride that had no less than a 75 minute wait at any given time. Even at opening, we waited 40 min. But is was worth it! It was simply incredible! The graphics and creativity of this ride is so far superior to the early 3D stuff. For instance, we saw Terminator right after, because no one was there, and it seemed so lame. We also went on the ET ride. Beautiful set but boring ride. Shrek 4D was good though. Not Minion good, but entertaining and funny. So we spent the rest of the day at Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Then Ali bought a Pigmy Puff with her Wizard money. I also bought her extendable ears, dark mark tattoos, and a chocolate frog. It's good to be the only kid on the trip!
In "London", there is a phone both that will connect you to the Ministry of Magic if you know the number. Thanks to Pinterest, I did. You dial the numerical equivalent of M-A-G-I-C. After I instructed her how to use a rotary phone (she looked completely perplexed), her face lit up when the ministry answered. They told her the lines were busy and to call back, and they wished her a pleasant day. Nice touch! Nearby was the Night Bus, and she chatted with the driver, that shrunken Rasta head. She like that too. In Diagon Alley, she exchanged $20 USD for Wizard money at Gringotts. The exchange was cool, but the wizard bills were underwhelming. They are super boring and look super fake. At least make them pretty!
Toward the end of day two, I went on HP Escape from Gringotts. There was a little drop in the beginning. In the dark. But it was short and curved and after that, it was so cinematographically awesome. It is a 3-D ride and the effects are so incredible. I knew Ali would like it. I made the suggestion, but she refused. Then she felt bad about it and was increasingly moody for the rest of the day. I was able to distract her with the Simpson ride, a 3D simulated roller coaster, which she loved, and the MIB Alien Attach which is a shooting aliens ride that spins. She loved that too. Toward the end of the night, MIB had a 5 min wait so she rode that like 10 times. Finally, I convinced her to try Gringotts. She whimpered, but admitted that she like it. And the drop wasn't so bad. She was really proud of herself.
We put in 13 hours the first day. We were so tired and couldn't bear to get up the next day at 7:15 again to get to the park at 9. So we slept in until 10. That was so needed! Our wonderful Airbnb hosts happened to be uber drivers as well! I just paid them to drive us to and from the park. It was so convenient, especially picking us up from the park. On day two we ventured out to see what else Universal had to offer. There are two parks with several themes: Marvel characters, comic strip land, Jurassic Park, Hogsmead, Hollywood, NYC, SF, Woody Woodpecker, Simpsons, MIB, and Diagon Alley. There were some good rides. Ali refused to go on anything with a drop, so all the water rides were out. Nothing stood out like the HP rides though.
We spent three days at Universal Studios. The first day was spent mostly exploring all things Harry Potter. It is so well done. They are movie makers after all. The castle looks exactly as it does in my imagination as well as in the film. Apparently, there are tons of actual props from the movie everywhere. The Hogwarts Express is...just that. Every detail is there. If I didn't know any better, I would believe I was in Hogsmead. Or at Hogwarts. It is absolutely magical.

14 April 2017

Ministry of Magic. How may I direct your call?

13 April 2017

The dark mark!!! Al????? Got these in Knockturn Alley. Oh yeah!
Knockturn Alley is super cool. In Borgin and Burkes they had all the Dark Magic and Wizard wares. Ali poses with some of her friends?
Ali appears to have an affinity for Slytherin. She must be the sweetest Slytherin there is! At Madame Malkin's she tried on her robes and immediately captured the attention of other first years. The products are so well made and unique, but so expensive! I wanted a Hufflepuff scarf. Just a plain, knitted one, but not for $37! Sheesh! There are two photos in this post. Swipe to the left to see the other one.
Diagon Alley
THe Hogwarts Express was absolutely fantastic! It takes you between the two parks, and the line was loooong. About 40 minutes, but worth the wait. We started in Hogsmead and took it to London. We rode in a compartment and through the window, there is great scenery; realistic, since it is like watching a movie. As we are coming out of the forest, Fred and George flew by and threw a firecracker into the sky which ended up being an ad for Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Clever! On the trip from London to Hogsmead, it appears you are walking through a wall onto platform 9 3/4. So cool!
Butterbeer. Sat at the Three Broomsticks and had lunch. We ordered a butterbeer, which is a must, but honestly, it was too sweet. "Check" on the butterbeer. The restaurant ambiance was superb! We felt like a couple of witches on a regular day.
Harry Potter's forbidden journey is the most awesome ride I've ever been on. That is not an exaggeration. We just got off the ride and are immediately going on again! The wait feels like nothing because you are walking through Hogwarts Castle the whole time. It is exactly as it is described in the book and in the film. The portraits talk and move. The ride itself is like flying on a broom during the dragon challenge. So Amazing! Once Ali acknowledge it was fun, not scary, we rode again and again. An hour wait, but we discovered the "single rider" line, which is a fraction of the wait time. You miss going through the castle, but we already saw it. Let's just ride!
What's this???? SLYTHERIN!!
Have you seen this wizard? Name: Aliyah Jaget Alias: Ali, Aly, Tiny, Bubsy. Sometimes poses as Albus Dumbledore. Last known persona: Muggle
Honeydukes candy store.
The village of Hogsmeads
First years have to take the boats to the castle. Welcome to Hogwarts!

12 April 2017

We landed in Orlando and were picked up by a really nice Uber driver in a Cadillac Escalade. It was damn expensive, but it was worth the money because the car was so nice, he was nice, Uber professional 😉, and smelled really good. We traveled in style! Now we're staying at a really nice Airbnb. As you can see, Ali really likes the pool. We went to the grocery store and bought a lot of fruits and vegetables and matzah. We're set for the next three days. The plan is to enter Potterworld at 9 AM and stay until 10 PM!
Ah...yes!! Pralines are awesome! Did you know it's pronounced "praw-leens"?
Ali and I set off just fine. No rushing, TSA was nice, flight was on time, we had comfortable seats, we ate matzah and drank tea on the flight. We just arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana. I've never been here. It's very green and very pretty. As soon as we got off the plane, we saw a praline store! Ali had no idea what a praline was. I wish I had a picture of her face when she bit into it. Needless to say she liked it! Some other New Orlean fare that Ali was wary of: Jambalaya Gumbo Grits Alligator sausage links Sweet potato pie Collard greens Fried chicken livers
We are off!