Islands of Adventure

My favorite part of Universal Islands of Adventure was, again, the Harry Potter area…this time The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade. But there’s a lot of other things to see and do there…let’s take a look.

Because we entered the Universal parks through the Universal Studios entrance, we didn’t get see the landmark at Islands of Adventure (a giant lighthouse) up close, but we did see it, appropriately enough, from across the water:

This park is split up into different “islands.” We missed the Port of Entry, but there aren’t any rides there, just places to eat. Adjacent to the first area is Seuss Landing, one of our favorite parts of the park. Yes, the rides are tame, and yes, it’s designed for the younger set, but it’s bright and colorful and just plain FUN!

On the other side of the entrance is Marvel Super Hero Island, where Turkey and Ladybug rode the Incredible Hulk Coaster, which was terrifying to me on several levels.

We mostly just walked around the rest of the areas, including Toon Lagoon, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Jurassic Park, and the Lost Continent. I think the only other ride we went on that wasn’t in Hogsmeade or Seuss Landing was the Storm Force Accelatron, a teacup-style ride in the Marvel area. We did enjoy seeing how each part of the park was different, though, and were impressed by all of the details!

That’s it for our time at Universal. I’ve never considered myself to be a big theme park person, but I will say that this was the most awesome vacation experience I’ve ever had, and if I had the opportunity to go back, I’d jump at the chance!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Hogsmeade

I already shared how awesome the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley (located at Universal Studios Florida) is…today I’m taking a look at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade, located in Orlando’s other Universal theme park…Islands of Adventure.

Like its counterpart, Hogsmeade is a fantastic reproduction of the village from the books and movies. There is a train station which connects to Diagon Alley, familiar shops and restaurants, including Honeydukes and Three Broomsticks, an Owl Post, places to use your interactive wand, and just down the path, the crowning glory of the area…Hogwarts itself! You can meet students from Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang at the Triwizard Spirit Rally, and hear the frog choir sing (which sadly we missed). There are also two rides: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which takes place inside the school, and the Flight of the Hippogriff, which swoops past Hagrid’s hut.

After dark, Hogwarts lights up, and while we didn’t get to see it at the park, we could see it from our hotel room, and that’s also a fun attraction. This is another great way to get the experience of being a character from the Harry Potter story, and there’s plenty for the whole family to see and do (even Chickadee was able to ride the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster!).

Tasty Tuesday–Three Broomsticks

For the first time ever, I’m reviewing a restaurant in a theme park! This is very unusual for me, mostly because we haven’t really gone to a theme park before this summer (unless you count Six Flags, which I don’t). But while we were at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Fab Five and I ate lunch at Three Broomsticks, which is in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade area of the park, and we enjoyed our meal so much, I thought it deserved to be shared!

The atmosphere, like everything else in both Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas, is perfect. You really feel like you’re in one of the books or movies, eating in a restaurant in an actual village called Hogsmeade. The place was crowded, and we did have to wait in line, but it moved efficiently, the staff was very friendly, and we had so much fun looking around, it made the time pass quickly.

On to the food. I had assumed that theme park food would be only ok, and the portions would be small, but I was wrong about both. The fish and chips, which Bunny and I both ordered, were excellent…among the best I’ve ever had, and they even had malt vinegar on the tables, which made it even better. Turkey ordered a smoked turkey leg, which he really enjoyed. Ladybug felt the same about the chicken legs she ordered from the children’s menu. And Moose and Chickadee both liked the mac ‘n’ cheese, and the serving was so generous, I could hardly believe it…I can’t think of another restaurant I’ve been to (aside from Red Robin and their bottomless mac ‘n’ cheese refills), that dishes out such a large portion…and there were grapes and applesauce to go with it! The butterbeer, a staple in Harry’s world, was pictured at the Leaky Cauldron, but is also available at Three Broomsticks, and was delicious. Very sweet, but also quite refreshing…we’ve already figured out how to make a copycat recipe at home!

I won’t lie…the prices were pretty high for us. But I don’t think they were unreasonable, given the experience, the quality of the meal, and the amount of food we received. If we ever find ourselves back at Universal, I would happily eat another meal at Three Broomsticks!

Markel Family Summer Vacation–Day Three

Last Friday was a HUGE DAY for us. We started early in the morning, because the SpaceX Dragon was scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral at 5:42 a.m. I wasn’t sure if we’d actually be able to see anything, since Orlando is over an hour away from the launch pad, but we thought it was worth a shot…and our early morning efforts were rewarded! We not only saw the rocket go up, we also saw the separation stage, and Turkey and I even thought we heard a rumble during lift-off!

That wasn’t even the biggest moment of the day for us, though, because Friday was Universal theme parks day for the Fab Five and me (Ryan spent the day in Daytona Beach at the CEO fighting game tournament, which the reason we went to Florida in the first place)!

Our main goal at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure was seeing as much of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as possible. Our trip to Legoland was a dream come true for Turkey, but walking in the footsteps of Harry Potter was beyond Bunny’s wildest dreams! So once we were in the gates of Universal Studios Florida, we made a beeline for Diagon Alley. We got to see the shops just like we were in the movie, and our first stop was at Ollivander’s to buy a few interactive wands. We also got to see things like the Knight Bus, Sirius’ motorbike, and Platform 9 3/4 (which is where we headed next, to board the Hogwarts Express!).

After getting off the train (we had tickets that less us travel between both parks), we found ourselves in Hogsmeade (located in Islands of Adventure), where there were more shops, places to use our interactive wands, two fun rides (including Chickadee’s second roller coaster), and an opportunity to meet some of the participants in the the Triwizard Tournament (who told us we looked like a “proper wizarding family”).

While we were at the Islands of Adventure property, we also visited Seuss Landing, which was a fun and very colorful part of the park:

We walked back over to Hogsmeade (in the rain, of course) to eat lunch at Three Broomsticks:

Once the lightning stopped, Turkey and Ladybug tormented me by riding the Incredible Hulk coaster at Marvel Super Hero Island:

We then took the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley, where we stopped at the Leaky Cauldron for Butterbeers:

After Chickadee and I waited for The Bigs to ride Escape from Gringotts, we visited Springfield: Home of the Simpsons, and went on a fun virtual reality roller coaster:

And got donuts at Lard Lad…they were ENORMOUS!

After walking through Diagon Alley a bit more, we took the Hogwarts Express back to Hogsmeade, where I finally remembered to ask someone to take a picture of all six of us. I can’t even begin to describe how much fun it was to share the experience with the Fab Five and see their reactions to everything! As for me, I already liked Harry Potter, but Universal made me fall in love with it in a way I didn’t expect, and I’d like nothing more than to go back someday!

After 12 hours at the parks, we finally boarded the shuttle bus back to our hotel. We were all exhausted but extremely happy…it was a fantastic day!

Up next…a relaxing day at the hotel, which we all needed!