We got up really early Thursday morning and drove down to Orlando (about a 2.5 hour drive). We stopped along the way for breakfast. I anticipated it being much warmer once we got down there, but it was freezing! I believe it was in the low 40's for most of the day! We layered our clothing pretty well and bundled up!
Let me start off by talking about the parking situation. It's $15 for regular parking and $20 for preferred. We opted for the regular because we thought we could find something else better to do with that extra $5....I mean, how bad could it be, right? Well, what they don't tell you in any of the commercials, brochures or newspaper ads is that it's about a mile from where you park your car to the entrance to either of the two parks (Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios)! All I can say is THANK GOD for moving sidewalks!
Warning: If you decide to use the moving sidewalks...STAY TO THE RIGHT! Otherwise, you will get mowed over by people who are in a HURRY to get to wherever it is they are going!
Once you are beyond the "getting out of the parking" area, you come upon something called City Walk! This is where you find lots of restaurants (including famous ones like Bubba Gumps, The Hard Rock and Emeril's), bars, nightclubs, stores and a movie theater. Visually, it's very over stimulating. Since it was early in the morning...nothing was opened and we moved right through this pretty quickly.
At this point, you come to a "Y"....to the left is Islands of Adventure and to the right is Universal Studios. Incidentally, I had no idea that these two parks are in NO WAY associated with Disney! Truthfully, I thought the entire city of Orlando was owned by Disney...but I was wrong! Apparently, they are competitors in the movie making business as well as the theme park business. MGM Studios is the equivalent for Disney. But I digress.
On Thursday, we opted for the Island of Adventure side as this is where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter lives. Since we got there early, we were thinking that it would be best if we went to see the HP stuff first so we could beat the crowds. Guess what? Thousands of other people had the same idea! I must say though, they did an awesome job with the construction of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Here are a few photos....
|This is the view when you first enter Islands of Adventure! Quite impressive!|
|Entering Hogsmeade Village|
|It was actually a good thing that the weather was cold!|
|Dan in front of the Three Broomsticks Restaurant|
|Inside Hogwarts where the pictures come alive!|
I would say that probably 80% of the visitors in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter were wearing H.P. scarves. They were selling scarves from Gryfindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. Each were $34.95! Can you believe that? People PAID that much for a scarf! Nathan really wanted a wand from Ollivander's, but they wanted $29.95 for them and I told him OVER MY DEAD BODY! Besides, the line to get into Ollivander's was over 2 hours long!
We tried a Butterbeer and visited Zonko's and Honeydukes! We attempted to get into some of the other stores in Hogsmeade but the stores are very small and they were just too many people inside! The butterbeer wasn't that great. It reminded me of root beer only much, much sweeter....kind of butterscotchy!
As far as the rides go....the girls weren't tall enough to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and although he won't admit it, Nathan was too scared. As always the line was fairly long and we had to decide if we wanted to wait or not, we opted to "come back later" and then never did. But, the good news is that we have the annual passes and will come down again soon for the day. There was no pressure for us to see and do everything to get our money's worth.
All in all, I was very happy with our Harry Potter experience! I look forward to our next visit when we can explore more of Hogsmeade.
Stay tuned for Birthday Trip-Part Two!