Today’s feature will be fun for many of you! Saraallie did a Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme with lots of pictures.
Your theme was a tour of Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter – what made you chose that theme?
If I answer in short I'd just say, "because Harry Potter!!" But let me explain. My sister, The Abbie (from Abbie's Adventure Diaries) and I are crazy Potterheads! Our annual family vacations have been to Orlando, Florida since the last few years. It's our own private little world where the two of us completely forget everything and have the time of our lives. It's our most favorite place in the world, basically. So when I had to think of a theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge the first thing that came to my mind was Harry Potter! Abbie did the same theme too.
We'd taken three trips to the park and each year I'd come back home and say to myself, "Hmm, I totally have to blog about my experience!" Somehow though, each time I ended up not being able to. This was just the perfect excuse to motivate myself. Oh and of course add Harry Potter to anything and it automatically becomes awesome!
Just how overwhelming was Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes shop?
Oh dear, that place is insanely awesome! You step inside the Diagon Alley side of the Wizarding World and the first thing your eyes see is the giant Weasley head propped on top of the shop. It stirs up instant excitement. I felt like somebody had switched something on inside my stomach. Even before you step inside to be totally overwhelmed with everything, a funky purplish wall outside is the perfect background for pictures. I took some beautiful shots right there. Finally when I stepped inside with Abbie it was beyond belief real! I couldn't understand what to look at first, which product to pick up and examine, which one to take pictures of, which one to take pictures with, what to buy, what not to buy and leave it for the next time we visit ... That shop is literally everything I had imagined reading the Harry Potter books and seeing the movies. It put me in a state of fantasy! And as if all of that wasn't enough, there's an actual adoption experience you can enjoy if you decide to take a Pygmy Puff home. I adopted a Pygmy Puff for my baby niece Gubby (the nickname I use for her), named it Gubby too, and was told not to feed it sugar or it'll 'bounce off the walls and be all hyper'. So cool!
What was the most amazing effect or setting you saw?
No doubt, the mighty dragon on top of Gringotts Bank! It's one fiery beast, really. I think there isn't a single person in the park who isn't craning their neck up to get a good look at it. It breathes fire after roaring angrily every few minutes and when that happens the park becomes slightly quiet because every single person has their cameras pointed up and ready to take a video or a picture. I think I had pretty good pictures the first time I saw the dragon breathe fire, even then I still had some camera or the other ready every single time.
The magic entrance to Platform Nine and Three Quarters came real close to being the coolest effect too but I have a biased love for that dragon in my heart! Hey, that's one gorgeous beast, it's not my fault!
Where is the best place to eat?
The park has two sides, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade Village. There are two restaurants, one on each side. Diagon Alley has the newly opened Leaky Cauldron and Hogsmeade has The Three Broomsticks. They both have the same menu and are the perfect spots for someone wanting to add magic to their eating experience. Personally though, I prefer The Three Broomsticks over Leaky Cauldron. I thought it was bigger and had much more cool effects to see while we ate. Like if you look up at the ceiling in The Three Broomsticks you can see shadows of somebody cleaning around. The seating is more suitable for families or if you want a private corner, like I did with Abbie. Over at Leaky Cauldron they have the long joint tables (like The Great Hall does in the movies!) so chances are somebody you don't know will be seated beside you, unless you're lucky like us and find one of the side tables that are more private. I suggest the Fish and Chips (oh my God, so tasty!) and the Sticky Toffee Pudding. That pudding is a killer! We also tried the Fishermen’s Pie and it was deliciousness served in a bowl.
Whatever happens though, always save space for ice cream because the flavors at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour will make you fall in love! The Salted Caramel Blondie flavor was our favorite. (I am drooling just thinking about it!)
What was the coolest thing you found in Zonkos?
Zonkos was such a cool shop, but sadly when the park expanded they closed it down. The shop front is still there but when you step inside it’s an extended part of Honeydukes. I’m not much of a prankster so I didn’t have my eyes set on the brilliant pranking products they had. For me the coolest product at the old Zonkos were the You No Poo bottles. The constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation! Abbie and I had a good laugh examining those bottles. It’s basically candy but exactly the way they were in the movies. The new Zonkos has a gorgeous bakery section as part of the extended Honeydukes shop. The treats in the glass showcases are so mouthwatering. If we weren’t so full with ice creams we would have definitely tried something. I mustn’t forget the Chocolate Frogs. I’ve bought three and unfortunately gotten Helga Hufflepuff’s wizard card each time. I kept one, Abbie kept the second one, and we kept the third one for our scrapbook. It is seriously delicious premium chocolate, the box is beautiful too, and the cards are collectibles that every fan needs.
What did you see that you wanted to come home with but didn’t? What’s the coolest purchase you did make?
The fire breathing dragon! Yes, imagine what it would have looked like on the roof of my house. Oh and the Hogwarts Express! I’d have the coolest transport arrangements. Sadly, they can’t let me have those regardless of how crazy of a Potterhead I am. I found a lot of awesome Potter merchandise there though. Something I almost bought was Hedwig. I’ve already brought home Fawkes the Phoenix and Buckbeak the Hippogriff. Hedwig has always been my favorite and the plush toys there are so adorable. The single reason that’s kept me from bringing Hedwig home is that it’s a puppet which means it’s empty from inside instead of being fat and fluffy like the other plush toys.
My coolest purchase has got to be my wand. Abbie and I didn’t buy wands the first two times we were there but when we visited the third time we had decided at home that it was time we got our wands. I looked up wands belonging to all the main characters. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and etc. all had cool wands but I still needed something with the wow factor. Today, I am the proud owner of a very gorgeous, classic, and super cool Voldemort’s wand. Yes, I chose Voldemort’s! He is one of the most important characters after all. He’s got to be my favorite villain too. His wand was bone-y and unique. It stood out to me instantly, I fell in love, there was a connection, and soon a long black box with Ollivander’s embossed in silver alphabets was in my hands. Abbie bought Narcissa Malfoy’s wand for how beautifully black and silver it was. I guess we both inclined towards the villains.
What advice would you give to someone who intends to visit the park?
Book a longer visit because the parks are overloaded with people, the lines for each ride are very long (120 minutes waiting time kind of long!), and if you have fewer days you’ll end up missing a lot of the details that add to the magic. Make sure you ride the Forbidden Journey (if you’re comfortable!) because it is one of the best rides I’ve ever been on in all my life (and I’ve been to a lot of parks and rides). We stayed at Cabana Bay the last time we went, which is a sort of on site hotel with shuttle service to and from, and it was a great decision. Abbie and I used to go to the parks early in the morning, come back to our hotel for lunch and a little rest, and then headed back once the sun had cooled down a little bit. It helped us enjoy our visit to the max because we weren’t tired and sulky. It also is great if you get a park to park ticket because the Hogwarts Express experience is different both ways and you can enjoy both sides of the park easily if you have one.
What theme are you considering next year? Going to another theme park?
I actually have been thinking a lot about my theme for next year. I’ve had so much fun doing the A to Z this year that I’m definitely going to do it again. I don’t think I’m visiting another theme park (or that any theme park could be as cool as this one!) but hopefully, and I am crossing my fingers here very tightly, we’ll get to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter again before next April.
As for my theme, so far I’ve come up with two ideas. Let me show off a little bit here and tell you I’m keeping it a secret! One of the ideas is more nostalgic and the other is more a showcase of talent. I’m not sure if I’ll settle down with one of these or come up with a totally different one. Let’s see. What I do know is that I am really very excited!
Hope you get to go back!
Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars, and his blog can be found HERE