If you follow me on Instagram, you should have guess by now that I took a little vacation to Universal theme parks in Orlando last week. Tip: Spend the extra money and stay in a Universal Resort. They are all a short shuttle, walk, or water taxi to the park. Therefore, you can come and go as you please (i.e. take an afternoon nap). My sister and I wanted to marvel at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Tip: Get a multi-day pass. You'll get tired if you try to spend 12 hours in the parks, but you will want more than just a few hours, especially if you take a mid-day break to wait for the lines to die down. The Scot just wanted to be able to go outside without a parka on. We had different vacation goals. So, with this post, get ready for some photo overload. Obviously, I go a bit overboard with the camera.
Of course I purchased matching Gryffindor scarves...via Etsy
because of course I wasn't paying theme park prices.
12 Grimmauld Place
Before you venture through the brick wall into Diagon Alley, you can take a stop in London and 12 Grimmauld Place. Even prior to entering the thick of it, you will be astounded at how many grown a$$ adults are prancing around in robes waving wands. However, it costs about $200 to look that whimsical.
Diagon Alley is a bit overwhelming, to say the least. every where you there are brightly colored signs and little details harkening back to the books and movies. You can even take a little jaunt through Knockturn Alley (too dark for pictures though!). And you have to stop off for a butterbeer. Out of the three choices (frozen, cold, and hot), I recommend the hot butterbeer. It's like warm butterscotch. I am sure it's like 9,000 calories. But since it was vacation, I had two.
In all of Diagon Alley, my favorite building was the bright purple, towering owl post office. each little window had a little owl in it. It was just beautiful and adorable.
And did I mention that the dragon on top of Gringott's bank breathes fire?! Oh yeah...there's a dragon. Hence my declaration that the place is "overwhelming." I was able to ride the Escape from Gringott's coaster twice. The inside of the ride is simply amazing. They make you put your large cameras in a locker and cell phone pics just don't do it justice. Tip: If you are just carrying a very small cross body bag you can totally take it on the Gringott's ride. You're in a car and there is more than enough space next to you. But the lockers are free for the duration of the ride. After waiting online outdoors, you are brought into the main part of the bank. Chandeliers and animatronic goblins abound. The goblins are busy at their desks writing and counting coins. They even creepily blink like living creatures.
After (or before) you ride, you can change your money at for Gringotts notes. It doesn't cost anything and it's a one for a dollar ratio. But, you get to step inside and talk to the goblin in charge. Again, he is super life-like to a creepy. And when you use your 10 Gringotts notes to purchase two butterbeers, the staff thanks you for banking a Gringotts.
Once finished at Diagon Alley, you can head over to King's Cross Station, Platform 9 3/4 and get on the Hogwarts Express to the other side of Harry Potter World. Tip: You must get a park hopper pass to ride the Express. The train is just a slow moving train ride, but a 3-D movie place in the "window" making you feel like you are journeying to and from Hogwarts. Tip: The ride is different each way, so make sure to ride it twice!
We stepped off the train an into Hogsmeade in the shadow of Hogwarts castle. The sheer detail is again overwhelming. By far the best ride in the park is Journey Through Hogwarts. Tip: If you stay at a Universal Resort, you get early admission into Harry Potter World. Head straight for Hogwarts. This will be the longest line. Another tip: download the Universal Parks app so that you can monitor ride wait times throughout the day. You might get lucky!
For some reason I was really into photographing roof tops. They just looked so cute against the clear blue sky.
While in Hogsmeade we grabbed some candy at Honeydukes and a beer at the Hog's Head Tavern. It's definitely worth it to have a beer at Hog's Head. Although the Harry Potter themed beers are not amazing (I think they were just Budweiser and Yuengling with a fancy tap handle), you can go out on the back patio and drink in the shadow of Hogwarts. It's a really impressive view.
And then we did visit the rest of the park. I hung out with my bud The Lorax on Suess Island. I am pretty sure we made it on to almost every ride. I highly recommend the Minions, Transformers, and Simpsons rides. Also, have a beer at Moe's Tavern. It's eerily like being in a cartoon. I had a Duff Beer. I was a little disappointed that a Flaming Moe is just an orange soda that (somehow) smokes. My disappointment stemmed from 2 areas: 1. I wanted it to be alcohol that was lit on fire, which I now realize is completely unsafe for a theme park; and 2. I don't think I want to put whatever chemical makes orange soda steam and smoke into my body.
And of course there's the Jurassic Park water ride. We didn't go on it because I really didn't need a hair tragedy and soggy underwear. However, I was pretty proud of this photo I took. I feel like Universal should purchase this photo for promotional purposes.