Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and the Rest of my Florida Trip)

Winter in central New York is brutal. I struggle with depression periodically and the short days, cold temperatures and overall gloominess really seem to exacerbate things--I suspect SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is to blame. In the first part of March, my sister surprised me with an early birthday present (my birthday is in a few days) and bought me a plane ticket to Florida during her spring break so that we could visit The Wizrding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. She knew the sunshine and sister time would help me make it through the rest of New York's seemingly interminable winter.

It was a whirlwind trip--only three short days and then I had to fly directly from Florida out to Utah for my husband's grandmother's funeral--but we fit so much amazingness into the brief time I was there.

As soon as my sister and niece picked me up at the airport we drove directly to the beach. We stopped at a locally famous seafood place for lunch--fish tacos for Taco Tuesday!--and then enjoyed a stroll along the beach. In blue jeans. It was in the teens temperature wise when I left New York so I wasn't dressed for the beach but the warm sand and the blue water were an instant balm to my winter-weary soul.

That evening we planned our next day at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and bought our tickets online. We also did the sorting ceremony on Pottermore so we would know which Hogwarts house we belong to (HUFFLEPUFF!) We got to Diagon Alley shortly after the park opened and stayed at the two parks until closing time. 

Diagon Alley
Trying on hats at Madam Malkin's
Eeylop's Owl Emporium
The first order of business was visiting Ollivander's to see a  wand chooses the wizard ceremony. After that we hit Madam Malkin's and Eeylop's Owl Emporium then The Fountain of Fair Fortune for frozen butterbeer which we sipped while we waited in line for the Escape from Gringott's ride. The rides were incredible, virtual reality type rides. I have never experienced anything like them. The parks have so many amazing things to see and do. I really want to bring my boys to the parks one day so they can feel the magic of being immersed in the wizarding world.

Gringott's Money Exchange allows you to convert your muggle money to
 wizarding bank notes which are accepted throughout the parks.
This Gringott's goblin spoke to us and answered our questions.
In a back corner of Diagon Alley is the entrance to Knockturn Alley so we checked it out before heading to Hogsmeade.

Skelegrow Display outside of Knockturn Alley
Inside Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley you can see the vanishing cabinet and hear a bird tweeting inside.
 We decided we needed to go for it and have the full magical experience so we changed our muggle money at Gringott's before heading from King's Cross Station to board the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade (we had purchased a park hopper pass so we could ride the train back and forth between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade).

Platform 9 3/4! 

Me and my niece after disembarking from the Hogwarts Express.
If you ever make it to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, do buy the park hopper pass. You are going to want to  be able to see Diagon Alley and Hogmeade and riding the Hogwarts Express is an experience in itself. 

At Hogsmeade we headed to The Three Broomsticks for lunch before exploring the villiage.
I had the Cornish pasties and they were delicious. The pear cider was also fantastic.

Hogsmeade--even the snow is magical! It doesn't melt in the Florida heat.
In Hogsmeade you can send a letter by owl, visit Honeyduke's, see Hagrid's cottage and say hello to Buckbeak and experience Hogwarts on  the "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" ride. Our longest wait of the day was for this ride, but it was totally worth it. I felt like I was really flying--so cool!

My niece sending a letter by owl.
Ron Weesley sighting outside of Madame Puddifoot's.

Hogwarts--don't skip this ride!

Chocolate frogs display at Honeydukes.
After standing in lines in the Florida heat we were ready for some refreshment again:

By this point we decided to we had seen what Hogsmeade had to offer and decided to head back to the Hogsmeade station and take the train to Diagon Alley for dinner at The Leaky Cauldron. Our timing was perfect and there was no line once we got there and were ready to eat. My sister, my niece and I decided to go all out for dinner; we ordered toad in the hole, fish and chips, the ploughman's platter (with scotch eggs) for our entrees and all tried each other's food. We had fishy green ale (a cinnamon, mint drink with bursting boba) and tongue tying lemon squash (a lemon squeeze) to drink. Dessert was sticky toffee pudding, chocolate potted cream and cranachan (kind of like a raspberry, custard and granola parfait). It was all delicious--although admittedly the fishy green ale was kind of weird.

Fishy green ale (photo from Yelp)
After dinner we decided to check out the Knight Bus and talk to the conductor and the shrunken head while we let our food settle so we could ride the Gringott's ride again. 

A peek into the Knight Bus earlier in the day.

There are all kinds of shows going on in the parks so we sat down for a minute and enjoyed a puppet show about the Deathly Hallows before making our way to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes so that I could pick up chocolate frogs for all of my boys.

Puppet show about the Deathly Hallows.
Wesleys' Wizard Wheezes
U-No-Poo display at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes
Diagon Alley is just as magical at night as it is during the day--maybe even a little more so (even if it is a little harder to get clear pictures).

My pictures only represent a small part of what there is to see and do at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I loved every minute of it. I have been to DisneyWorld as well and if I could choose to go to one again I would choose The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in a heartbeat.

The next day we took it easy and rested out tired feet but we did make a trip to a farm stand for dinner. 

Fried tomatoes, tomato cucumber salad, homemade onion rings, salt potatoes and steamed green beans. Tasted like summer.
That night we went for boba (ours was tea-less--just a blended fruit drink with the tapioca balls). It was my first time trying it and I have been craving it ever since.

I left for Utah around 6:00am the next morning.

Although I would have loved a couple of more days with my sister, I think this is one of the best birthday presents I have ever received. New York winters make me feel like I can relate a little more to how Harry Potter must have felt having to return to the Dursley's house after Hogwarts let out for summer. It wasn't fun to come back to the cold and the snow, but the happy memories have helped  sustain me until spring arrived. Now the weather has improved, spring is here and I am feeling more human again. Life has become a little more magical.

So, are you a Harry Potter fan? Have you been sorted? Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What was your favorite part? Tell me in the comments.

1 comment:

Tanya said...

Awesome birthday present!!! Looks like a perfect escape from winter! I showed your pics to my son and told him he needs to grow up and be a bazillionaire and take us all to Florida!