Florida Vacation

I left for the airport right after work on Thursday. The flight was easy, and we arrived safely in Orlando at about 10:30. After picking up our rental car, we headed over to the resort to check into our sweet suite.

Day One

The first day, standing outside the resort
Originally, we planned to wake up early and get to Universal an hour before the parks opened. However, it was midnight by the time we got settled, so we decided to sleep in instead. We ended up getting to Islands of Adventure around 10:00. It didn't seem terribly busy except that there were SO MANY school groups. Uggghh.

Right off the bat, we headed to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter while I geeked out as we got closer.  Pardon all the pictures.  I really did pare these down quite a bit.

What you see right before you walk in.

What you see right after you walk in.

By the Hogwarts Express

The first ride we went on was Dragon Challenge since there was not much of a wait. This ride is based on a challenge in the Tri-Wizard tournament in Goblet of Fire, the fourth book. It was an inverted coaster with two tracks, which made it seem like sometimes you were going to run into the other "dragon" that was running/flying.

Our first ride of the day - Dragon Challenge

Next up was Flight of the Hippogriff by Hagrid's hut.

Hagrid's hut

And a hippogriff

It was an amusing little coaster that reminded us of Whizzer at Six Flags Great America. After that, we headed to Hogs Head Pub, where I got a Butterbeer! It was deeelish!


My geeking out reached a new level when we did a walking tour of Hogwarts, where the Forbidden Journey ride takes place.

Talking pictures along the walls (not all of them talked)

Dumbledore's office

Defense against the Dark Arts classroom

The line was pretty long for the Forbidden Journey, but we realized we could go in the single rider line and ride separately, which would get us on a lot faster. The ride was sooooooooooooooo awesooooommmee. But it did make me a little nauseous. I just didn't care. So you're in a four-person flying bench on a track, and it takes you around to different screens where Harry and his buddies are flying around, then you see an animatronic dragon, some giant spiders, and the whomping willow. It was just awesome.

From there, we explored the rest of Islands of Adventure, taking advantage of the single rider lines most of the day, and we didn't wait more than a half hour for anything.  Maybe even less than 20 minutes for everything.

I'm not sure what order we did the rest of the park in, so I'm gonna just throw in pictures of all the rides we did and explain them.

We probably went to Jurassic Park next since it was right next door to the Wizarding World.

The River Adventure water ride was soooooooooo fun.  You're basically in maybe a twenty-person raft type thing, taking a tour around Jurassic Park that goes awry.  The end is the best part, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone.  So scary and awesome at the same time.

Inside Toon Lagoon was another water ride called Ripsaw Falls.  On this one, you're in a five-person log.  The final drop looks pretty intense, and it kind of is when you're in the front row with all the water that hits you.  Another water ride we loved, though!

As far as the non-water rides, there were Hulk and Spiderman. Hulk was kind of hardcore and may have been fun, but it gave us both headaches. Spiderman was cool, though. It was 3D but also similar to Forbidden Journey where you're in a car that flies around and shows you different things. The 3D aspect made it even cooler, though, because the characters would jump on the car and get all up in your business.

Still wet from the water rides, waiting in line for Spiderman with our 3D glasses on.

After that, we were ready to break for dinner at Margaritaville at CityWalk.  We each enjoyed a tasty margarita of course and then headed to the Dr. Seuss area for a leisurely ride on the train.

With the rest of our night, we went back to the Wizarding World, since the park was less busy then, and caught the wand show at Olivander's. It was very cute. Two boys were selected from the crowd, and the wand store guy presented them each with wands. Just like in The Sorcerer's Stone, the boys tried out their wands, and wackiness ensued until they found a wand that fit them just right.

Inside Olivander's

By that time, it had started POURING and storming, so we hiked it back to our car, but not before my camera died in the torrential downpour. Boo. Luckily, the rain only killed my camera, so the recap continues!

Day Two

Saturday morning, we hopped in the car and headed to my high school friend's house in St. Petersburg, which was 1.5 hours away. After seeing her house and hanging out, drinking smoothies and eating white chocolate puppy chow (yum!!!), the four of us (including her girlfriend who I met for the first time--she was really sweet and fun!) headed to one of the many beaches in the area.

This particular beach was having some sort of festival, so it was busier than usual, but there was still plenty of room to lay out and enjoy the sunshine and surprisingly warm water. And get terribly sunburnt, but let's focus on the positive! We grabbed a small lunch at the festival and walked around the stands that were set up and shopped a little.

After a quick trip back to the house to freshen up, we went out to dinner at my friend's favorite bar/restaurant, Queens Head. They serve British food, and the outdoor area has a resort-type feel where you can lounge on beds! It was pretty sweet, and the food was delicious. As were the sangrias.

Day Three

We had big plans to hit Universal Studios, our favorites from Islands of Adventure, and a piano bar at CityWalk; and somehow, we were very efficient and accomplished it all!

Since we figured the parks would be busier that day, we bought an Express Pass to skip the lines on all the Universal Studios rides. The only one the pass didn't apply to was probably our favorite ride in that park--Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.

Besides this coaster being super fun and smooth in general, it's even cooler because you get to pick your own music to play during the ride (from a limited selection), and a camera is filming you the whole time, giving you the option to buy a DVD of yourself riding afterward. Which of course we didn't do, but it was still fun hamming it up for the camera. I chose "Stronger" by Kanye West for both times we rode. And I must say, my music video would've turned out awesome. Haha.

One of the great things about Universal Studios is all the theming. You basically walk around from city to city depending on the area--New York, San Francisco, LA. Plus, all the rides have such fun theming as well based on different movies.

Twister was cool, but honestly, I felt a little guilty and kind of sad enjoying it because of the tragedies tornadoes have caused in the south. It's definitely not a laughing matter down there right now.

On a less realistic note, the Mummy ride was awesome. (I realize I'm only using like three adjectives to describe these rides, but whattaya gonna do? I'm not exactly functional this morning.) We both wished it were longer.

Disaster was a funny experience.

A couple hundred people gather in a room, and the assistant director guy selects seven people to be a part of a Disaster film, which is directed by Christopher Walken (with some other name I can't remember), who shows up via hologram. There is also a ride in a subway involved for everyone in the room, and at the end, they show you the final product. Hilarious stuff.

Hmm, what's next? Jaws was fun. Bunch of people in a boat. A shark comes. Ya know. This recap is getting long, eh?

And yes, I'm wearing a Slytherin T-shirt. I'm not evil--I just really like Malfoy and Snape. It was way too hot to even be wearing a T-shirt at all, but I wanted to protect my sunburned shoulders.

What else, what else? Ah yes, The Simpsons Ride. My least favorite.

They put you in a simulator car with eight people total in a very hot room and then jerk you around for 5 minutes. If you don't get motion sick, you'd probably enjoy this ride. I, however, couldn't wait for it to end.

Because of this, I was a little worried about the next ride, which was Men in Black.

Although Men in Black was spinny, it was well air conditioned, and you got to shoot aliens. Super fun! Our scores were like 70,000 something, and the men in front of us on our car got like 200,000 something. Ah well. Still fun!

We finished up Universal Studios with Shrek 4D.

4D meaning a 3D show with water being spit at you, seats moving, and air blown at the back of your neck occasionally. It was a really cute show, and I love some good 3D effects. I had a tall guy sitting in front of me, so it hindered the experience a little, but I still enjoyed it.

It was only like 5 or 6:00 at this point, and the park was starting to get less busy, so we headed back over to Islands of Adventure to do Harry Potter and the water rides again. Dragon Challenge AND Forbidden Journey broke while we were in there, so we decided it was a sign to say goodbye to the Wizarding World. First, we ate dinner at Three Broomsticks, though.

But good times were ahead as we did the two fun water rides from Friday and also Bilge-Rat Barges. There is no way not to get soaked on that one. See?

Well, I guess you could wear a poncho, but what's the fun in that?

At the suggestion of a friend, we checked out Pat O'Brien's, which is a piano bar at CityWalk. It was entertaining and the drinks were yummy, but I was too wet and tired to fully enjoy it.

That's about it! Afterward, we headed back to change into dry clothes and flew home the next day.

So it was a really fun vacation and escape from reality for the weekend. We didn't want to leave (although I did miss my baby girl), and I wanted to live at Hogwarts. Next time, I'm down there, I'll have to check out Disney, though, because I can't remember every going. Shocking!!