With only one full day at Orlando, I was determined to pack in as much theme park fun as possible. I’m not a big rides person and I’m terrified of heights but with a whole variety of rides on offer I didn’t hesitate to get a Park-to-Park ticket, allowing me access to both Universal Studios Florida and the Islands of Adventure, and of course that all important ride on the Hogwarts Express. After queuing for what felt like an age and playing countless games of Heads Up, I decided I’d quit being patient and opt for an Unlimited Express Pass. Although it didn’t let me skip queues to the big Wizarding World of Harry Potter rides, it did let me make the most of my day.
Of course there’s more to Universal than just Harry Potter, and I was keen to see as much as possible. We decided to start with Universal Studios Florida and, thanks to my fast pass, I managed to hop onto Despicable Me, Shrek 4-D and Men in Black all within an hour. Just as we turned a corner, we were super lucky to be met by Beetlejuice and a parade. Although we arrived a week before the Halloween celebrations began, everything was decked out in cobwebs letting us still experience the magic. Stopping at Krusty Burger for a spot of lunch, we decided it was about time we head to the main attraction. Having caught sight of it across the water, I was more than a little excited.
Universal Studios Florida is home to my favourite part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley. Tucked away in a corner just past the Knight Bus and Grimmauld Place, you could easily walk past the entrance. For someone who has grown up with the books, and then later the films, rounding that corner onto the Alley was something else. I’ve been on the Studio Tour in London, but this takes it to the next level. Every little detail has been thought of with dozens of shops all filled with themed goods. The inner child in me couldn’t resist popping in to Olivander’s to pick up a wand and no trip would have been complete without a Butterbeer ice-cream. Preferring to sit out in the Alley and people watch, I didn’t go on the Escape from Gringotts but so many people raved about the special effects. After watching the dragon breathe fire and finally getting a picture, it was finally time for the moment I had been waiting for, the Hogwarts Express.
Transporting you from Universal Studios Florida to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Hogwarts Express is possibly the best form of transport. Ever. Set out like King’s Cross Train Station, every little detail was taken care of. From departure boards to staff uniforms everything was spot on, making it more magical than I would have thought. Even though we couldn’t use our fast passes, the line went super quick and we got seats on the next train. Stepping into a compartment, images flash on the windows and, after a close run with a Dementor, we safely arrived in Hogsmeade.
In any normal situation there would be something weird about seeing snow-topped rooftops in 100 degree heat. But this isn’t a normal situation, we were in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and I couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear. Catching a glimpse of the towering Hogwarts Castle over the village, we oohed and ahhed at the perfectly themed shops and couldn’t resist having a drink in the Three Broomsticks. Luck seemed to be with us that day as we even arrived just in time to see the Frog Choir perform. Think a magical version of Glee and you wouldn’t be far off, as I drank Butter Beer listening to a mashup of Justin Bieber and the Smashing Pumpkins. After much exploring, and a tentative look at the the Forbidden Journey and Dragon Challenge rides, it was time to head back to the Park Inn by Radission for some time out of the sun. Mischief Managed.
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