I'm in a Sunshine State of Mind (updated 20th Nov!)

Velvetia

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jun 16, 2012
Friday 10 July - Hogwarts Here We Come! part 3

The Hogwarts Express was calling so we made our way out of Diagon Alley, back through the red brick wall and past the Knight Bus to go into Kings Cross station.

Going through the station is just like going through a London station, we felt quite at home! Where you’d normally put your train ticket through the ticket machine to get into the station, there a Kings Cross ticket collector ready to scan your park-to-park passes, as the Hogwarts Express takes you between Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure (where Hogsmeade is).

Once we’d had our passes scanned, we walked right through the queue and up to the platform! We all agreed the early start that comes as part of staying at a Universal hotel is brilliant – no queues anywhere at all so far! We waited at the platform and saw the steam train puffing in to the platform. From this direction it comes in backwards.

So, there must be couple of thousand people in Universal on any given day, I’m guessing, so what are the chances of this…C saw a classmate from school getting off the train!! – we hadn’t known they were coming to Universal at all…But we were in our line, behind barriers with people behind us, ready to have the barriers open to board the train, so we couldn’t get out of line to go and say hello, and they’d rushed off without hearing us calling them! Just goes to show… it’s a small world (after all!) ha ha!

It was our turn to take a ride on the Hogwarts Express. We boarded and sat in our carriage with another family of four. The carriage is just like British trains from the 50s/60s, but I’m sure British Rail still used them right up to the 90s. The seats are a blue and green check design which is so familiar to me from my childhood:



So once again we felt very at home, and pulling out from Kings Cross station was just like it is in real life!

But then things got magical – I don’t want to give any spoilers as it is a real treat to have the train ride not knowing what to expect. But I will say make sure you look both ways, both at the ‘views’ through the windows and the silhouettes on the blinds on the compartment doors which lead to the corridor. And on this journey (Kings Cross to Hogsmeade) you might want to take some chocolate with you! :scratchin (wink!).



We had arrived at Hogsmeade, time to get off and go to school!

We made our way up Hogsmeade Main Street, it was quite busy and crowded here… It’s clear Universal learned a lot about designing an area for big crowds between building Hosgmeade and Diagon Alley, it never seemed extremely busy in Diagon Alley and it always did at Hogsmeade.

We stopped to get some drinks and decided to try the frozen Butterbeer– mmmm, delicious! My new favourite thing, much nicer than the regular version!

We went into the Hogshead pub to get the drinks, there was no queue there at all, compared to the large one just outside at the Butterbeer stall. That was a good tip that I had found on the DISboards! Whilst having our drinks we watched the Toad Chorus show which was really cute:



After stashing our bags in the lockers (even worse than the locker room at Gringotts!!>:(>:(>:(), we went into Hogwarts to ride the Forbidden Journey.

To get through the queue took around 10 minutes, although we were moving all the time, it was quite slow through the Herbology greenhouses and we stood to the side to watch Harry and Ron and Hermione doing spells and to listen to the portraits of the four founders of Hogwarts arguing! That room was great and Rowena Raveclaw was Scottish! That was cool!

The ride was fantastic although quite jerky – our Ride Photo was a complete fail! :




That is my two sons, riding along with me and Granny honest!:rotfl2:

After our Forbidden Journey, we wrestled with the thumb print detectors :crutches: to free our bags from the lockers and then Granny sat in the shade while C, J and I rode Flight of the Hippogriff.

This was our first experience of using our Front of the Line express passes, which come as part of the hotel booking. We felt a mixture of smugness :groom: and guilt :guilty: as we swanned past the substantial queue in our express pass lane and boarded straight away. Granny wasn’t even quite ready with the camera to take a photo of us on the ride…you can just about make us out here:



It’s a quick ride, but good, and none of us were brave enough to the big rollercoaster, The Dragon Challenge, :scared1: so we decided it was time to leave Hogsmeade, after a quick visit to the bathroom where poor Moaning Myrtle was grousing away…and cross the bridge to go back in time and visit some sauropods, raptors and flying reptiles...

Up next: Back to the Jurassic Era
 
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  • Velvetia

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2012
    Friday 10 July - It's a brand new era...

    We crossed over the bridge singing a John Williams-penned theme tune …

    “Da-Dah, Da-Dah, Da-Di-Da-Di-Da-Di-Da…”

    Didn’t you recognise that?

    It’s Jurassic Park!

    C was really excited to be in the Jurassic Park Island, dinosaurs are his life. He has decided he wants to study palaeontology at University when he is 18. He even invited one of the lecturers from the University to his school in May to talk about palaeontology to his class.

    He is pretty intent on being a palaeontologist when he grows up!



    We headed straight for Pteranodon Flyers. They have weird rules for this ride…C was too tall to ride as a child, so could go on as an adult with J as the child but the boys didn’t want to do that, I think C really wanted to go on with an adult as it’s really really high. So just me and James rode and left C and Granny sitting in the shade.

    After our sky-high flight, we made our way back to the Institute, to the store, where both boys used some of their souvenir money to buy dinosaurs. The cast members in this store were really friendly and patient with the boys who both had that excited indecision of what to buy…

    We saw the Raptor encounter as we walked past, and stopped to watch for a few minutes, it looked pretty cool but the boys didn’t want to go in.

    So we had a leisurely walk to Mythos for our lunch reservation.




    Mythos is a stunning restaurant both from the outside and the inside and the food was really good. We checked in and had to wait for maybe 10 minute in the foyer, you do have to book, we saw lots of walk-ups being turned away whilst we were waiting.






    We were seated in a lovely cool room overlooking the water.



    Can you spot J in this one?




    The food was really good. Granny and I had the crab cake sliders:



    The kids had pizzas:



    And - oh no! - dinosaurs attacked the drinks!! I guess they were thirsty...





    Portions were large and we were all quite stuffed so we had the signature dessert to share, the Warm Chocolate Banana Gooey Cake, it was yummy:



    We loved this restaurant. All stuffed and happy, we came out of Mythos to a baking hot Orlando, and so went straight over to Posieden’s Fury, which is indoors and beautifully cool.





    This was fun, really quite 80s cheesy, but fun. It’s a walk through ride/ show with around 4 or 5 different rooms.

    You reach the first room by very dark cave tunnels. The first tomb room you go into was really cool, very Indiana Jones and there we met our hapless guide, from the archaeology team, and uh-oh, wouldn’t you just believe our bad luck, we accidently awoke an ancient baddie-god and we got sealed in to the tomb with our hapless guide!

    There were a few more rooms and puzzles to solve and then the finale – a huge room with a water fall and screens showing the epic battle between Posieden and the baddie-god. It did remind me of the 80s cartoons I used to watch in my childhood, like Masters of the Universe – it’s that level of non-naturalistic acting! We all really enjoyed it, it was great fun!

    The we ventured back to the Jurassic Institute, to hang out with some dino-dudes and we even got to see one hatching! It was just like the first movie. Granny hasn't seen it since it first came out which is 22 years ago, so we added this to our must see movies when we get home. C was in his element. I didn't think we'd ever get him out of there...







    We did, however, finally persuade our palaeontologist-to-be to leave and we headed back to the hotel, by boat this time, which was a lovely journey, to have some pool time.



    Up next: Dinner at Citiwalk & Diagon Alley in the dark...
     
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  • Mrs Doubtfire

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 27, 2006
    Read a lot of good things about Mythos but never been. We too did Posieden's Fury, but don't think the teens found it too enthralling!!
     

    Velvetia

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2012
    Friday 10 July - Last chapter of a busy day!

    C & J & I had a couple of hours by the pool while Granny had a siesta.

    Then we got the boat to Citiwalk and had a wander around before we decided on a fast food dinner at Panda Express & Burger King, which are joined together. Granny, C & I really like the food at Panda Express and J was happy with a happy meal from Burger King and a cardboard crown!

    After dinner we wandered around Citiwalk, goofing around with the props that they have there:





    We went into Cinnabon thinking that we’d get some for breakfast in the room tomorrow but they were sold out of the little ones and it would be an hour before they had more prepared…aw :(

    So, we crossed over the bridge and into Universal Studios.




    Our first stop was the Minions ride, making good on our promise that we’d made as we’d swooshed past it early this morning. There was a huge queue to get in, it was an hour wait, but we only waited around 10 minutes in the express pass queue.

    C&J loved the Minions ride, I thought it was okay but I wasn't mad keen on it...I'm a little like that about the movies too, they're good but not "WOW", for me. However this guy was cute and threw some great shapes in the dance party that you come into at the end of the ride...we all had a dance...




    Then we split up, as J wanted to spend an age in the Minions shop and C had his heart set on seeing Disaster!, as he’d really liked the look of it from the outside when we passed it this morning.

    Granny and J were going to have a shopathon then have a wander around and then we were going to meet later ‘at the Dragon’ ! What a meeting point!


    Disaster! wasn’t on my radar at all – I knew nothing about it, C had spotted the props outside earlier and really really wanted to go and do it, so we walked that way, through the wharf area. It was starting to get dark now, this area is really pretty in the dark.

    As we walked past the Transformers ride, we noticed that the huge statue of Optimus Prime on top of the ride is pointing straight towards the dragon. Cool detail!

    The next show of Disaster! was posted as 20 minutes so we went in search of snacks. There was something on my mind… I’ll admit it, I fondly remembered having an M&Ms ice cream sandwich at Universal Orlando the last time we were here (4 years ago!). After all that time, would they still be stocked here? :hyper:I looked gingerly into the ice-cream unit in the candy store, holding my breath…

    YES! – they had them! I was soooo happy.
    :yay: Ha, who needs Cinnabons!?:woohoo:

    Mmmm M&Ms ice cream sandwiches are lovely, it’s two chocolate chip cookies, except with chocolate M&Ms instead of chocolate chips and sandwiched between is yummy vanilla ice cream. Soooo good! C didn’t want one (clearly crazy –
    :confused3 ), he chose a huge slab of chocolate fudge (we were still getting used to the huge portion sizes in the States!) and we took our goodies to the Disaster! queue to eat whilst we waited.

    Now, the show was really great, we loved it, BUT it’s now gone (as of 2 weeks ago) to make way for a Fast & Furious Ride. I haven’t broken this news to C yet, as this was one of his favourite things at Universal!


    So, I can’t recommend that you go…but to give you an idea, it was set up like the filming of a low- budget disaster movie, under the direction of a cooly grumpy, meglomaniac director played by Christopher Walken – holographically (he was great!).

    In the first room his assistant director picks volunteer actors from the audience, in the second room you get some direction from Mr Walken and then the next room is set up like a sound stage with green screen where the volunteers do their acting stuff! Lastly you all board a subway train and it all get a little like the Universal Studio Lot Tour, as you’re all extras an NY subway disaster scene. As the subway train then takes you back to the safety of the studio. The TV screens show the movie that was just made with all the volunteer actors and the special effects. It’s really good, and really funny! C loved it…this wouldn’t be the last time we saw this, on this holiday.

    Then we made our way into Diagon Alley – WOW – it is even better in the dark! It's so atmospheric! When that dragon breathes fire it’s amazing! We wandered around here for a little, doing a few more spells...(The spell at the U No Poo display in the Weasley's shop window was particularly popular with my kids!)... before we decided to head back to the hotel for another lovely night’s sleep.

    I’m sorry there’s not many pictures for this eve, so here's a lovely picture I found on the web...mmm...



    Next up: More Universal Adventures!
     
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    tink1957

    Proud Redhead
    Joined
    May 18, 2008
    I found your report on the Universal board today and followed it here...you have a lovely family...can't wait to read about the rest of your adventures.

    By the way, I'm definitely going to have one of those cookie sandwiches...yum.
     

    Velvetia

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2012
    I found your report on the Universal board today and followed it here...you have a lovely family...can't wait to read about the rest of your adventures.

    By the way, I'm definitely going to have one of those cookie sandwiches...yum.
    Hi Tink, thanks for you comments :thanks:- I am so jealous you'll be there in 1 week and 1 day! You'll have a wonderful time! You are braver than I am by doing the HHN though, I'm a bit of a wuss with horror houses! :scared1:
     
  • Velvetia

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2012

    Saturday 11 July – More Universal Adventures

    Another early start to make use of our hotel guests’ early entry. We had breakfast in our lovely room and walked to Universal. We started at Islands of Adventure this time.



    Went to do Spiderman – not so much a walk on as a run on…we were the only ones in the queue and the cast members loading the vehicles waved us through really quickly! Brilliant! We all loved this ride, it’s great, and amazing to ride it with no queue at all!

    At this point J announced he wanted to do the Hulk...erm…we stood and watched it go over our heads for a while.

    The Hulk…Granny and C were of the ‘never in a million years’ opinion. I was more ‘okay…if you really want to, I’ll go with you…’ (my internal dialogue bounced between…ARGHH!/ Be a good mum, if your son really wants to do it, go with him/ ARGHH!…you get the idea...).

    We got some churros and had a few photos taken by an PhotoExpress Photographer (putting off the ride…me??)…:rolleyes1

    I look more than a little worried in this photo! ha ha:







    Thankfully, phew, J announced he’d have a think about it…and maybe ride it later. (More relieved than I can tell you!)…

    We went into Seuss Landing and pretty much had the place to ourselves. We rode Cat in the Hat and then the Sky High Trolley Ride.



    Then we doubled back into Marvel land to meet someone very special, he was awesome!




    What’s that? Where’s the Ice cream for breakfast today you say?

    Well…here’s where we discovered Dippin’ Dots! C & J & I had a cup each as we wandered back through Seuss Land. Mmm the tiny balls of sorbet were really good! Seuss Landing is a really cool land, I loved it here. We all love the Dr Seuss books, so we got all the little references all around.

    Here are C & J with the Lorax



    We wandered up into the Lost Continent and had a seat in the shade near the talking fountain.

    The styling in Universal is just great. I think I could pretend we actually went to Egypt when showing people this photo:




    We walked up to Hogsmeade station and took a ride on the Hogwarts Express to Kings Cross.

    The steam train puffs in frontwards on this journey...it's much more picturesque!:






    The ride was brilliant again, there’s so much detail to take in. It’s great to ride both ways as they’re both completely different, just as in the books, so this way we’re journeying from Hogwarts School, returning to Kings Cross for the school holidays…

    We explored the London area and had a great chat with Stan Shunpike.



    He was astounded to hear the boys had seen a dragon and he raised an alarm…he made a huge announcement (in his brilliant cockney accent) to everyone around that they shouldn’t go into Diagon Alley, there’s a dragon on the loose! This really made the boys giggle!



    We were brave souls though and – against Stan’s advice - we ventured into Diagon Alley again...

    Up next: Shutterbuttons and Elixirs...
     
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    Krista in MA

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 1, 2008
    I'm thoroughly enjoying your trip report! We are headed down in just over one week from now, yay! You said the magic words that reeled me in... Ice cream for breakfast! :dog2:

    It sounds (and looks) like you're all having a wonderful time!
     

    Velvetia

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2012
    I'm thoroughly enjoying your trip report! We are headed down in just over one week from now, yay! You said the magic words that reeled me in... Ice cream for breakfast! :dog2:

    It sounds (and looks) like you're all having a wonderful time!
    Hi Krista - I'll be following along on your trip report - I hope you have a wonderful time! :)
     

    Velvetia

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2012
    Saturday 11th July - More Universal Adventures continued

    So, we ventured into Diagon Alley.

    Wow! It never gets old as you come in through the wall, with the sound of bricks moving, then see Diagon Alley stretched out in front of you with the Dragon-topped Gringotts at the end:






    We were going to do the travelogue movie today. This is in Shutterbuttons, which is at the back of Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes.

    There’s a counter where you pay and meet your director. C & J already had their Hogwarts cloaks, they gave granny and I cloaks to wear. And then it was 'Action'!:dance3:

    I hope you’re ready for this, dear reader, I did warn you that we are a happily ridiculous family!

    Disclaimer: This movie contains an awful lot of goofball over-acting! Not recommended for viewers with a dislike for ridiculousness! :lmao:

    Click on the link below to see our Travelogue Movie:


    http://photoconnect.amazingpictures.com/VideoShare.aspx?id=14187

    It was really good fun to do, and we get a good giggle out of watching it back, it’s a great souvenir! :happytv:

    It takes 20 – 30 minutes for them to edit the movie, so we decided to hang out in the Carkitt Market, and get some of the magical elixirs. The boys tried one elixir each, they loved making the potions, this was a big hit!














    Granny and I shared a frozen Butterbeer and we had our drinks watching Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees singing soul songs. They were cool :cool2:.





    Then we paid a visit to the Gringott's money exchange, just opposite the elixirs, and got some goblin money.



    Oops… way more than 30 minutes had passed, we went to collect our Shutterbuttons dvd, and then had a wander around Diagon Alley…

    We got excited to see the offices for The Daily Prophet. Why? Well we had Harry Potter Sundays for 8 weeks leading up to our trip, where we’d have a little party and watch the movies in order. The last one, just the week before we left for Orlando, was fancy dress…can you guess who we are?:

    Granny:



    Me:



    We are Professor Sybill Trelawney and Rita Skeeter of course… (#happilyridiculous!)

    So that’s why we were excited to see the Daily Prophet offices, where ' I ' work...although I realise I look nothing like Rita in the photo!:



    And, of course, we had to visit Knockturn Alley again, where C and J did lots of spellcasting with their wands and J spent some of his holiday money to buy his brother a Nagini tshirt, which was very sweet of him!

    We exited Diagon Alley:



    And found Grimmauld Place!

    The order of the Phoenix is one of my favourite book/ films in the series and it is so cool to see Sirius Black’s secret house made real!

    You mustn’t miss this if you go. It’s just opposite the Knight Bus.

    Can you spot Kreacher?










    It was getting hot hot hot right now, at around midday, so we found the AMEX lounge and had a cool break in the air-conditioning, watching some cartoons on the TV and leafing through the magazines. It’s a neat little lounge, and the staff here were really friendly. You can access the lounge if you’ve bought your Park tickets with Amex. It’s just opposite the exit of Shrek, behind the face-painters. It’s quite a hidden away entrance. You have to show your ticket to gain entry and there’s crisps and cereal bars and bottles of water to help yourselves to. We had a drink and then took some snacks and water in our bags.



    We were getting hungry for lunch now, so we headed out of the park, stopping to play with the Universal Globe for a bit:



    Before heading to Citiwalk for our lunch

    Up next: Stupid is as stupid does
     
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    Krista in MA

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 1, 2008
    Hi Krista - I'll be following along on your trip report - I hope you have a wonderful time! :)
    Thank you! Reading your TR and others is lending itself to even more excitement!!!

    I'm not sure if it's because I'm trying to view it on my cell phone, but your travelogue gave me an error message after I clicked on the link. I'll check it out later on my desktop!

    I really enjoyed your latest update! Your Sybill & Rita outfits are awesome!
     

    tink1957

    Proud Redhead
    Joined
    May 18, 2008
    Great update...I was able to see the travelogue on my phone but it was a bit jumpy. What a wonderful souvenir of your trip. It makes me wish that I'd bought the package for our trip but it wasn't in the budget...maybe next time.

    I agree with Krista...those costumes are awesome :thumbsup2

    Your boys are lucky to have a mom and grandma who are so much fun.
     

    Mrs Doubtfire

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 27, 2006
    The movie is great. We had 3 days at Universal in July but it's like seeing it with new eyes! I didn't even know about the movie, is it part of a package?
     

    Velvetia

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2012
    The movie is great. We had 3 days at Universal in July but it's like seeing it with new eyes! I didn't even know about the movie, is it part of a package?
    Hi Mrs Doubtfire! - you can include the Travelogue movie in the Photo Express package, but you don't have to, you can just pay for it when you walk up.
     

    Velvetia

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2012
    Saturday 11 July - Bubba’s and Luau

    We were seated straight away at Bubba Gump’s which was a good surprise as we had been ready to be turned away without a reservation.

    It was a really great lunch BUT most of the Forrest Gump experience of the restaurant was lost on our party, it swooshed right over our heads, as neither C nor J nor I had seen the movie, and Granny had seen it once when it came out which was 21 years ago!!

    So, of course we added the movie to our list of must-see movies when we got home…we have now all seen it and so these things made sense retrospectively:
    The smiley face stickers around the place:


    :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

    J’s kids meal came in a really cute trawler called Jenny:






    The Run Forrest Run sign!

    (but we didn’t realise that playing around with this so that it read Stop Forrest Stop means that a waiter comes right over to see what you want – oops, sorry!)



    However, the waitress – who was really lovely – was met with our completely blank faces when she gave us a Forrest Gump trivia quiz…errmmm…we’ve got no answers at all, sorry … so we ended up chatting with her about Harry Potter instead! She was another Potter Fan! She loved working at Citwalk, she had a Universal annual pass and she could visit Diagon Alley all the time – sigh! I would love that too! pixiedust:


    We loved the food here, I had the coconut shrimp, it was truly delicious!:




    And Granny and C shared the 'shrimp done all kinds of ways' cones:



    C and J loved their light up Forrest Gump cups.

    And we had photos by the bench (even though it made no sense to us at the time!):






    And then we tried our luck in Cinnabon again, and hooray! they had the little ones ready this time, so we took a selection in a bag to go, for our breakfast tomorrow.

    Granny and J wanted to get the boat back and C and I decided to walk. We popped in to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville to say hello to the sharks:



    And as it turns out, C and I didn’t actually walk back, as a pedal bike rickshaw lady offered us a ride, so we hoped on, and had a ride back to the hotel along the walkway, that was cool!

    Back to the hotel for a bit of pool time and a little rest in the room as we were partying tonight!

    Whilst Granny and the boys were getting ready, I went check in for the Luau. I had to do this around an hour before the party started – it took quite a while, maybe 30 minutes of lining up at the check in cabin, and it was pouring with rain! :umbrella: They provided umbrellas, and it was good to chat the people in the queue but it did strike us all that this wasn’t a great way to organise the checking in when it’s raining…they could have had a desk in the reception area instead!

    Once I’d checked in, I returned to the room to get tikified…I had to put a flower in my hair of course and a tiki dress…the boys donned their Hawaiian shirts and then we were all ready to have a Hawaiian Luau – Aloha!



    The Luau is held in a venue at the back of the hotel, the opposite side to the pool. The Venue is quite large and you are seated on long banquet tables, with buffet at the back of the room and the stage at the front – the sides are open with curtains, which tonight gave us great views of the tropical storm outside and the forked lightening – I love storms, it really added to the atmosphere.



    We were welcomed with Alohas and leis and were seated right at the front, stage left. Fantastic seats!:



    I had a never-ending (!) Mai Tai, as the waitress kept filling it up (hic!) and Granny had a glass of red wine, again filled up constantly!

    The buffet was wonderful, there was lots of choice, and it was all delicious. The boys liked having their own buffet station with mac and cheese and pizza and PB&J sandwiches!

    There was fabulous Hawaiian food:







    The pulled pork:





    We had to try one of each of the 4 dessert options each of course:



    I loved the show, it was much longer than I was expecting, which was a good thing, as it was top quality, and we had plenty of time to revisit the buffet - we ate a lot!

    The musicians and dancers were fantastic:









    The boys really liked the fire eater:



    The kids were very amused by the crazy little yelps that the dancers make, they were recreating them all through the holiday after this…

    Both boys were getting very tired by now though, it was quite late so we had to take them up to bed before the show ended. As we left they were getting volunteers from the audience to teach them Hawaiian dancing.

    But we had to bid Aloha, as it was time for us to hit those comfy beds …

    Up next: Our last Universal day
     
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