The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

We solemnly swear the weather’s up to no good! It was 5 degrees warmer in Boulder than in Orlando today.  But, we decided that the rain and dreariness added to the ambiance of England 🙂

We spent a perfect Day at Universal Studios.  By staying at Cabana Bay, one of Universal’s hotels, we were granted access to Diagon Ally an hour early.  I thought the time change would make it difficult to rouse the kids, but everyone was so excited we all jumped up when the alarm went off.  Rusty and I took a late night jog to Whole Foods the night before and got some yogurt, granola and fruit to eat for breakfast.  We put on the warmest clothes we had and headed out into the rain.  Luckily most of the day it was just a misting rain. There were only a couple hours when it was coming down hard.  As soon as we got into the park we hightailed it to Diagon Alley in search of the Escape from Gringotts ride.  It wasn’t hard to spot, what with the giant, fire breathing dragon on top 🙂  Diagon Alley is spectacular!  Every single detail is just perfect.  For a family full of Harry Potter fans, it felt like being transported right into one of the books.
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We walked right onto the ride.  And it was sooooo fun!  I thought Blake or Josh might be a little scared of Bellatrix, Voldemort, or the giant Trolls that try to smash you, but they loved it!  Like most the rides in Universal, this utilized a motion-base vehicle and 3D animation to take us deep inside Gringotts where we got to go on a wild adventure of our own to escape Gringotts unharmed.  When we were done we, of course, wanted to go again.  We didn’t want to have to go back through the whole queue so we asked one of the attendants if we could ride again.  She led us to a shortcut straight back to the loading zone.  Perfection!  We rode 3 times in a row before we all needed a brain break.

We headed to Olivander’s next.  The Diagon Alley rendition of Olivander’s was waaaay better than the one in Hogsmeade. Josh was really hoping to be “chosen” by Ollivander, but there were two girls in full robes that got picked instead.  Rusty remarked that it looked like you had to be dressed in Harry Potter gear to get picked.  This remark will become important later.
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After the show in the wand shop Blake picked out a really cool Death Eater wand.  Josh opted to wait till later in the day in hopes that we could maybe come back for another show so he could try to get picked again.

We decided since the rain was keeping the crowds away that we would hop on the Hogwarts Express and head to Hogsmeade to do the Forbidden Journey ride before lines got to long and come back to explore the shops of Diagon Alley later in the day.  So we went to Kings Cross and Platform 9 3/4.  The Hogwarts Express was so cool!  We boarded the train and got to journey with Harry, Ron and Hermione as they confronted a Dementor on the train.
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The Hogwarts Castle is absolutely amazing.  Every detail is just perfect.  I wish I would have walked through more than once.  And the Forbidden Journey ride is, in my opinion, the best in the park.  So unique.  So fun.  We also did this ride 3 times in a row with no wait.  Thank you, rain, for keeping people away!

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The town of Hogsmeade was super cute.  We rode Flight of the Hippogriff and Halle and Rusty did the Dragon Challenge Roller Coaster.  Then it was time to stop off at the Three Broomsticks for some pick-me-up Butterbeer and fish and chips.  We got both normal and frozen butterbeer.  We all agreed that frozen was the best.  YUM!
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Honeydukes Sweet Shop was next.  Blake got a giant chocolate frog with a Gilderoy Lockheart card.  Josh got some chocolate Fizzing Whizbees and Halle got Exploding Bon Bons.
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After we had our fill of Hogsmeade we decided to leave Harry Potter behind for a bit and explore the rest of the park.

Some of our favorites included:

Seuss Landing.  Where we went on an adventure with the Cat in the Hat and rode on a whimsical carousel.
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The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man.  This was a family favorite all around.
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Poseidon’s Revenge.  Everyone loved this except for me.  I thought it was soooo dumb.  And I though everyone else was just messing with me when they said they loved it.  But, they really did love it.
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The Incredible Hulk Rollercoaster.  Halle was the only kid who tried this ride, so she got to go twice.  Once with Dad and once with Mom.
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After we exhausted all the rides at Island of Adventure, we hopped back on the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios.

Here the favorites included the Minion ride and a tour through Springfield.  We couldn’t resit the pull of the Big Pink Donut from Lard Lad.
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Then, back to Daigon Alley to finish up the day.  As we past Ollivanders Josh noticed the line was really short.  So, we gave it one last shot.  We chatted up the assistant as we waited, hoping to boost our chances.  And, it worked!  Ollivander chose Josh.  He also asked Blake if he had a wand.  Blake said that he did, so Ollivander only let Josh come.  Josh tried out several different wands, enacting some crazy spells that killed some flowers,  and made several books go awry before finding the perfect wand.  Birch wood with a Phoenix tail core.  The music swelled and lights shone down as the wand picked Josh.  It was so magical.
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As we left the shop Blake burst into tears.  He was so devastated that he didn’t get to participate.  And he was so mad at Rusty and I.  He said the only reason he bought the wand earlier in the day was because Dad said he had to have Harry Potter gear to get chosen.  It was so hard to see him feel so disappointed.

It was getting close to park closing time so we did a little shopping, enacted a few spells with Josh’s interactive wand, found 12 Grimmauld Place, spoke with the conductor and the shrunken head at the Knight Bus, and called it a day.  By this time we were all pretty wet, freezing and tired.  We hit a food court on Universal City Walk and then straight to the hot tub at our hotel to try to get warm again.  Every night of the trip the kids fell asleep as I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban out loud to them.
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