We'll get to the cool Hogwarts parts soon, but it's a pretty long post, so get comfy!
I hunted through my suitcase for something at least vaguely Harry Potterish to wear, and ended up with this t-shirt from Choke Shirts that I won in a giveaway a few months ago.
I'm a Ravenclaw, so ya know... blue? Tree? Whatever, I tried. Katie commented that she liked my shirt. "I'm a Ravenclaw!" I explained. "I'm Batman!" was her reply. (Bet you never knew that Batman went to Hogwarts.)
I think I've only been out to Universal twice - once about a decade ago to go to Islands of Adventure with a friend who worked there, and once a few years ago to see a friend's band play at Hard Rock Live at CityWalk. Every time I go, I notice what a hassle parking is - that's one area that Disney definitely does better! Luckily Katie's premium pass gave us preferred parking, but we still had about a long walk to reach CityWalk, and even longer to get to the parks. #CrystalisLazy
A snazzy friend who works there had left me a free ticket at Will Call, so all I had to do was pick it up at a kiosk and we were all set! (It's a basic rule when you live in Orlando that you should befriend people that work at each major park so that you never have to pay to go anywhere. I wish Disney would let us set up will call tickets like this, getting up early on a day off to let friends in somewhere can be a pain!)
On our way towards the park entrance, I spotted a Moe's within CityWalk. I am a total Moe's addict, and we don't have them anywhere near where I'm currently living. I miss Moe's as if it's an actual friend that I've left behind - a delicious, delicious friend. We decided that since neither of us had really eaten that day, it was a spectacular idea to just stop at Moe's before we actually went into the park. Theme parks can wait, I need queso!
Take notes, men. This is the way to my heart.
The only sad thing about this particular Moe's is that rather than having a salsa bar, they keep their salsa behind the counter and you have to ask for it. SO WRONG! One of my favorite things to do while living in Orlando when I actually had a spare $10 (For fast food, Moe's is not cheap) was to go order a cup of queso, and then grab like 10 little cuppy things of salsa. (Stop judging me, if you knew how good it was, you would, too.) This is pretty much all I need in life to be happy. So I was a little sad that Moe's Dude only gave me one red and one verde, but oh well. I stuffed myself into blissful oblivion while Katie ate actual food (a burrito, I think?), and I'm pretty sure that I may have made porn-level noises of joy.
Here's the part where you DO get to judge me: Despite how frickin' good it is, I could only make it through about half of the chips/salsa/queso-palooza. But I just couldn't bring myself to throw such majesty away, especially since I've been daydreaming about it the whole time I've been away. So what did I do? Oh, you know, wrapped the queso and salsa cups in a few napkins and stuffed them in my purse. (I tossed the chips, since acquiring new tortilla chips is easy.) And that's how I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Islands of Adventure with a cup of cheese in my purse. (What a magical story. We should retell it every Christmas!)
The only thing at Islands of Adventure that I was really interested in doing was visiting out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It opened after I left Orlando, so I've not yet had a chance to check it out! It was already around 3 pm by the time we made it to the park, so we left it up in the air as to whether we'd go to Universal Studios so I could see the new Simpsons stuff, too. I totally wanted to check it out, since I'm a bit of a Simpsons nerd, but it's a looooong trek from the back of one park to the far side of the other! This is another area where I prefer Disney's layout - No, you can't walk between the Disney Parks (except Epcot and DHS, if you're feeling somewhat ambitious), but I like having the bus/boat/monorail ride to relax for a while between parks.
We didn't really make any stops between Moe's and all things Harry Potter. I may have broken into songs from A Very Potter Musical (and nearly disowned Katie when she didn't know the words).
Since we'd just spent half an hour stuffing ourselves with food, our first stop was obviously the Hog's Head to stuff ourselves with butterbeer.
And yes, it has the namesake hog's head!
(I just tried to find an image to show how it looks exactly like the movie, and learned that you should never do a Google Image search for "hog's head". BRB, I need therapy now.)
We decided to split one frozen Butterbeer, because as tasty as they are, it's a bit too rich and sweet to drink a lot of. (Plus I had just consumed my weight in chips, queso, and salsa.)
It's so good, you guys.
The whipped cream adds extra magic.
I love that our "Drinking Butterbeer at the Hog's Head!" photo could be a pic of us drinking anything, anywhere. Well done, us. Excellent job with the photo taking. (I loaned Katie spare sunglasses from my purse so we could match.)
At least this one gives a little more detail?
Here's something that drives me nuts: If you go out to the outdoor seating area behind the Hog's Head and Three Broomsticks, this is what you see:
Yep, totally magical, right? This would NEVER happen at Disney! Take note next time - If, for example, you're in Tomorrowland, ALL you can see from there are Tomorrowland things. What's the point of going to so much work to create an atmosphere to make you fee like you're somewhere else if you're going to slack on things like this? Grr. (Fun fact - The reason that the Tower of Terror is painted the color that it is? You can see it from Epcot, so it's made to blend in with the buildings in Morocco there.)
Yep, that's Hogwarts. Through the Jurassic Park gate. Maybe Dumbledore hangs out with dinosaurs in his free time? My Disney training about how important show is CAN NOT DEAL WITH THIS.
Um, but back to our Hogsmeade exploration. *cough*
There's really not THAT much to do here. The shops are super cute, and grabbing a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks or Hog's Head is pretty rad, but other than that, there's just the kiddie Hippogriff rollercoaster and the big ticket ride inside the castle. I'm curious to see what they'll be adding when they build Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. I mean, everything is beautiful and detailed and fun, but after you ride a ride and look in some shops, you're done. I'd love to see more areas that you can really explore.
We browsed Olivander's a bit (I'd love a wand, but I'm too cheap to drop $30 for one!) and I giggled at a mother telling her small daughter, "It's Le-vi-oooo-sa, not Le-vi-o-Saaa!".
Pygmy Puffs! Ginny Weasley has a purple one named Arnold, so I totally want one too. Because Ginny is cool. I passed for now because they're $15, but I may give in and get one eventually.
Ginny with Arnold on her shoulder
Honeydukes was STUFFED with people, too. It's super cute and looks a lot like the one in the movies, but I feel like everything is way too overpriced to even consider. (Seriously - chocolate frogs are $10. Ain't nobody got gold Galleons for that!)
I somehow doubt that Ron pays $12 for his Bertie Bots.
This machine is SO COOL in theory! It looks a lot like one of those fortune teller machines (like in Big!), but instead, the house elves are supposed to snip off your selected amount of the guy's licorice beard. It would be insanely cool... if you could use it. Instead, they just sell the licorice in bags. Fail.
Similar machine in Prisoner of Azkaban movie
On our way towards Hogwarts castle, I spotted this arch and tried to recreate my infamous Twitter profile pic. It didn't end up anywhere near as awesome. Sad!
Yep, I actually have negative arm muscles.
From what I've heard, the line for the Forbidden Journey is usually crazy long, but it was only 10 minutes today! We skipped riding since we were still stuffed with food and apparently motion sickness is a huge thing on this one. We did learn, though, that you can tell the people who work there that you want to do a "castle tour", and they'll let you into a separate line where you can walk through and see all of the cool things without actually riding or waiting in line. Excellent idea!
I didn't get any great photos inside, but there are billions on the ol' internets if you do a bit of searching. We did pose for pics in this hall of talking portraits, though.
This weeks Quidditch match is Ravenclaw Vs. Batman!
As we were posing for photos, a portrait caught my eye, instantly familiar. "HEY!" I exclaimed. "Is that Richard III?" (Okay, I was close on that first guess...) After going a little closer to investigate, I realized that it was Henry VII! "Henry Tudor was a WIZARD?" Who knew?? Later, when i was home, I checked online to make sure I wasn't just imagining the resemblance. LOL NOPE!
You're a wizard, Henry!
(Suddenly, that whole Bosworth thing makes way more sense!)
Yep! They replaced his Tudor rose with a quill, and changed up his robes a bit, but it's otherwise totally the same image! Confirming this makes me want to go back and see if there are any more recognizable faces hanging on the castle walls!
I didn't take that many photos of the rest of the park. Here are the few I did snap:
All Grinched up for the season.
I was pretty into this tree. We passed it again at night, and all of the ornaments were lit up in different colors. Preeeetty!
It's almost everything I care about in a single store!
Make your own jokes about what the IOA icon looks like.
By the time we finished at IOA, it was already around 6 pm, so we decided to skip heading over to Universal Studios for the Simpsons stuff, in favor of swinging by Publix for a few groceries and going back to Katie's place to watch Harry Potter. (And yep, I ate the rest of my queso and salsa around midnight. I'm a little sad that I missed seeing the Simpsons stuff, but it will still be there when I go back.
More Florida adventures to come! Possibly within a reasonable amount of time!