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A 30-something living in the foothills of the Virginia mountains; I'm saved by grace, addicted to coffee and my little sister is my best friend! I devote most of my time to exploring, reading, attending as many Nationals games as possible and documenting life here. My Prince Charming got lost somewhere along the way...but I'm trying to remain hopeful that true love exists.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Orlando Experience - You're A Wizard, Harry!

Sunday might just have been my favorite day of our trip - I cannot even stress that enough. Why, you ask? We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and I was basically in nerd heaven (right alongside my little sister) all day long. We've both read the books...more than once and we've also watched all the movies...more than once. So spending the day at WWHP was like stepping into the stories we've read over and over again. In a word, it was: Magical. ;)

The Knight Bus parked outside the entrance to Diagon Alley....

Why look - a large dragon appears to have decided to sit down on top of Gringotts...
We took a taxi from Disney to Universal Studios on Sunday and then we followed the crowd (literally - the park employees said "if everyone will just follow us, we are leading you straight to Diagon Alley) to the entrance of Diagon Alley. Everything was just amazing - you see the London street front with Kings Cross station, the Underground and some store fronts and as you pass through a brick walkway, you hear the sounds of the bricks shifting...you round the corner, walk through an opening in the brick and you are on Diagon Alley...and it is amazing. There was a lot to take in but the first order of business was to book it to Escape from Gringotts as quickly as possible!

Waiting in line for Escape from Gringotts!
Why did we rush there? Well this part of the park had only been open thirteen days and the wait time for this ride has; on some days, climbed to 7.5 hours. I'm not even kidding... When we got in line, even though the park had just opened, enough people moved a bit faster than us to make the wait time ninety minutes. The line for the ride was interesting though, weaving through the outside of the bank past informational signs about the bank, into the bank and past goblins busy counting money...but not too busy to look up and give a glare at all the "Muggles" coming into the bank...and finally going into the hallways of the bank, where at one point Harry, Ron and Hermione's silhouette's appear behind one of the many doorways and you hear a whispered conversation about how they will sneak into Bellatrix LeStrange's vault...

Once you board your elevator down nine miles into the bank, you pick up your security goggles and board your cart. Almost as soon as you leave the loading station, you run into Bellatrix and she "curses" your cart, causing it to drop forward at a 60 degree angle...and then you sit, waiting to drop forward. This moment caused me to wildly exclaim "we're going down!!!" - I don't really do thrill rides but since this was Harry Potter related, I had to try it out. You get beat up by cave trolls, thrown through the Thief's Downfall, attacked by Voldemort and rescued by Harry, Ron and Hermione. The ride was awesome - no doubt about it!

Diagon Alley - shops everywhere!

The Magical Menagerie

If you take a wrong turn, you''ll end up in Knockturn Alley...

It actually wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be...
Lindsey and I ventured into Ollivander's where we were herded with about twenty other people into a room - some lucky soul (not myself or Lindsey, sad day) is selected and then they begin the process of obtaining a wand. Even if you are just watching, it's still really neat. The wand maker asks the lucky duck to perform this and that with the wands he gives them...until, of course...the music plays, the lights glow and the wand chooses the wizard! Once we finished watching that performance, of course we couldn't help but go out and pick our own wands out...right? Right!

Wands everywhere...and also, people everywhere.

Every fifteen minutes or so, the dragon lets out a burst of flame. He growls & grunts first, causing everyone in the area to stop, swivel in his direction & aim cameras. This was usually followed by lots of "oohs" & "aaahs"...

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes!

First taste of Butterbeer - it's delicious. Absolutely delicious.
We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron - which was amazing! Mostly because there was Butterbeer involved and it is absolutely delightful and delicious and I wish I could drink it all the time. Lest you think all we did was spend the whole day on Harry Potter, we did go ride Revenge of the Mummy, the Hulk, Spider-man, and a couple rides in the Seuss section of the park...but we did spend almost all our time in the Harry Potter sections. What can I say? My parents raised two nerds and we were in heaven!

Anyone fancy a ride on the tube?

Hedwig was ready to catch a ride to Hogwarts...

All aboard! On the Hogwarts Express!

Hogsmeade - the section of the WWHP that was located in Islands of Adventure!

Banners all along the walkway to the Dragon Challenge ride - very cool!

Oh my gosh - you guys, it's Hogwarts!

Only in Hogsmeade is there snow in July (oh wait...that's not true, but I'll get to that later)! I let my parents and Lindsey take on the Dragon Challenge; they all rode the Hungarian Horntail and then Lindsey and my Mom went back to take on the Chinese Fireball - obviously they were fans. We all climbed on board enchanted benches to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was a cool ride even if I do look terrified in the picture below - how would you react if a huge dementor popped out right in front of your face? Exactly! The line for that ride is amazing as well - you weave through the Greenhouse and into the castle where you pass the house points and the entrance to Dumbledore's office. You also pass through a portrait room where all the pictures are aflutter because there are Muggles in Hogwarts and they're sure this is one of Dumbledore's hair-brained schemes! You go through Dumbledore's office and into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione tell you all about the adventure you're about to embark on!

I was holding on to my shoes for dear life - this ride spun, tilted, almost tipped you upside down...

Churros at Moose Juice, Goose Juice...

Butterbeer - Glass Two!

Ready to go to Hogwarts again - I mean, we have our wands!
We had supper at the Three Broomsticks because our parents love us and indulged us - letting us have both our meals that day in the Harry Potter areas of the park. The main reason was because we are nerds and that excited us...but also, more Butterbeer! :) We were sad to leave the magic of Harry Potter behind but I'm so glad we got the chance to see it and I can't wait to go back again someday - plus, this was only Sunday! We had Monday through Friday at Disney World! Awesome!!

A Chocolate Frog, my wand & my Butterbeer mug - from round 3!

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