Our trip to Florida was much too rushed, but we thoroughly enjoyed our day at Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Hogsmeade – The Hogwarts express sits just inside the gates, awaiting passengers to be ferried between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley (requires a separate ticket or park-to-park admission. We felt the park-to-park admission was worth it for the day).
Tour Hogwarts Castle while you wind through the line for The Forbidden Journey. The Dragon Challenge seemed a bit too extreme for us, but the Flight of the Hippogriff was loads of fun, soaring past the pumpkin patch and Hagrid’s Hut.
Hogsmeade Station experienced a brief shut down as the train underwent some minor difficulties, so we continued to tour the town until we were able to board the Hogwarts Express. We love trains, even if it is just for a 5-minute ride to the other Universal Park.
Diagon Alley has quite a bit more shopping and a few more rides than Hogsmeade, but it also closes up earlier, so get there with enough time to enjoy all it has to offer.
Diagon Alley – Escape from Gringotts is rollicking fun. Atop the bank is a fire breathing dragon. Inside is an opulent reconstruction of the movie set, designed to entertain you as you wind through the line for hours awaiting your 2-minute experience. We were lucky. The longest lines we had to wait in were about 30 minutes. Without the express pass.
Other fun highlights outside Diagon Alley include the Knight bus (outside only) and 13 Grimmauld Place (outside only).
Kings Cross Station – entering platform 9 ¾ was not as exciting as we had hoped, but we got over it, as the excitement of boarding the train mounted.
In Diagon Alley, traditional pub fare is available at the Leaky Cauldron, along with pumpkin juice and butterbeer. We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, with butter beer and pumpkin juice. Altogether too much sugar! I got a tummy ache.
Carts throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley purvey bottles of ice cold pumpkin juice (be ready for the $7.50 price tag) and mugs of butterbeer.
Ollivander’s wand shop offers instruction in choosing wands – economy or deluxe. The deluxe version allows the wizard to perform magic at several spots in the wizarding world. Got wands for me – Molly Weasley, of course; the boy – Sirius Black (who knew?!), and my daughter – Snape.
Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes offers just about everything it does in the movie and more. We made sure to get a chocolate frog, peppermint toads, and some other delectables. Quite a few visitors toured the park in Madame Malkin’s “bespoke” robes. Luckily for my wallet, I had made us robes a few years ago, which were still quite serviceable. No wonder I identify so closely with Molly Weasley. It was great fun going through the shops and looking at all the wizarding items. Borgin and Burkes’ shop is as creepy as it was in the movie.
Back in Hogsmeade, we decided to explore other areas of the park and made our way to Jurassic Park, where we narrowly escaped being lunch for a “friendly” velociraptor. Jurassic Park was exciting, especially since we had recently seen Jurassic World in the theater.
By the time we made it to Marvel Super Hero Island, it was raining. Not wanting to crush our belongings in ride lockers again, we took turns under the umbrellas with the backpacks.
Adventures of Spider-Man in 3D is thrilling. The close calls really get the adrenaline going. Storm Force Accelatron is a good old fashioned spinning ride.
At the end of the day, it was relaxing just to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of Hogsmeade – something we should also have done in Diagon Alley.
Note that Universal does not allow guests to bring in coolers and the lockers are quite small. Certain rides have lockers available for personal items, but they are also very small. Free for the duration of the ride, though.
My notes for future visits – keep backpack light. Just a few snacks and water. Shop just before leaving – your wands will get crushed in the tiny ride lockers. The “all day” lockers are not much bigger than the ride lockers, but if you must bring additional items, they’re a good option. they are located in the Marvel Studios area of Islands of Adventure. Also nearby are the cell phone and tablet charging lockers. This was a new feature to me and seemed like a very good idea. Though I carry my own power pack, there was a time I didn’t, and phone and camera batteries can get used up quickly on trips like these.
Yup. Have to. Because I loved this movie and I have to shout it out. First of all, don’t listen to the negative reviews. Who knows what the critics are thinking? Maybe they’re as tired of remakes as I am. But this is more a new interpretation of the novel. The novel? Yeah, I didn’t know…
With Roma Downey and Mark Burnett as producers, you can pretty well expect an uplifting message. A few of the actors are celebrities here in the States, but it was refreshing to see so many fresh faces in the cast.
In case you are unfamiliar, Ben Hur is the story of a Jewish prince, at the time of Christ. Judah Ben-Hur’s family adopts a Roman orphan, Mesalla. They grow up as brothers and best friends. Due to his orphan past, Mesalla becomes increasingly restless, as he ponders his place in the world. His love for Judah’s sister is frowned upon by their mother, so he eventually sets out to join the Roman legion and pursue his fortune.
When Mesalla returns, he asks for Judah’s help in keeping the peace for the arrival of the new Roman governor. Instead, Judah protects a Jewish assassin, by taking the blame for an attempt on the life of the governor. An angry Mesalla betrays Judah to a long, slow death as a galley slave.
There is plenty of action. Judah’s escape from the galleys and near drowning; Mesalla’s battle exploits; the chariot race.
The chariot race. Possibly the highlight of the entire film. Even though you know how it turns out, getting there keeps you on the edge of your seat. The horses are fantastic and every precaution was taken to ensure their safety during filming. The actors insisted on performing nearly all the race scenes themselves, instead of letting the stuntmen have all the fun. The Roman Circus was a place of blood and violence, and the chariot race delivered. Even without fake blood spurting on the screen, there was plenty of gory death as charioteers were systematically ejected and trampled.
In the end, hatred and revenge give way to forgiveness and reconciliation, largely due to chance meetings with Jesus. As it should be.
Go see it today and support good, clean, uplifting filmmaking!
Currently in theaters.
The Silver Bullet is coming up on her first birthday. With me, anyway. Last year, the man-of-the-place purchased a truck bed off Ebay, and decided for the price of shipping, we could go to Florida to pick it up and have some fun while there. It also provided an opportunity to test out the new-to-me truck, pulling the trailer on a long drive. She did very well, by the way.
Although the trip was way too quick and not scenic enough, (we stayed on the interstate) we were in a time crunch, to not spend too much time away from the abuelo. From Colorado, we made dry camp in a parking area outside Amarillo, Texas. The following day we stopped to have lunch at Cracker Barrel with my brother and his wife.
After our lunch date, we zipped along into Louisiana and stopped near some train tracks, where we could put the slide out and cook some dinner. Another early start. Another long driving day and we made it to Florida. We parked it at a farm, thinking it was the one we were headed for, but it was next door. Luckily the guys were friends and were very patient with our goof.
After picking up our merchandise, we treated ourselves to 2 nights in an rv park (which we got for ½ price with our Passport America Membership) and went to Harry Potter world at Universal Studios. Had a great time.
While in Kissimmee we also did the brakes and enjoyed the pool at the rv park. Very much. Then it was back to long driving days.
We zipped through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, getting introduced to boiled peanuts on the way – yum! Rivers and swampland were visible from the interstate, but we didn’t get off to explore. Sheets of rain slowed, and at one point completely stopped our progress for a while. When we finally emerged, we were grateful for dryer weather. Even though fuel prices were significantly lower in the southern states.
This would be a great trip to do again, sometime. With plenty of time to explore, and no torrential rains or potential floods to contend with.
We normally reside at about 7500 feet, but even then, at above 10000 feet I notice the effects of the altitude. Cumbres Pass is over 10,000 feet in elevation. When we went on our hike, I noted several symptoms of altitude sickness in myself and immediately took steps to prevent it.
Drink lots of water
As we started out on our hike, I felt a dull headache. Dehydration happens fast at this elevation. I was not even thirsty, but with a simple pinch test (pinch the skin on the back of your hand. If it doesn’t immediately return to normal, you’re getting dehydrated.) I could tell I was definitely needing water.
Consume extra protien
I also indulged in the salty snacks and made sure I consumed some extra protein. Thus, I did not suffer any nausea or other symptoms of altitude sickness, as I did the last time we made a jaunt to the high country, in Leadville, CO.
One of the reasons for altitude sickness is the lower levels of oxygen present in the air at high elevations. Slow down and breathe deeply to help your body adjust.
Take a nap
While the guys were fishing, I drowsed in the sun, enjoying its warmth after too many months of winter.
Most people will adjust to a higher altitude within 2-3 days. When we went to Leadville, I didn’t realize I was suffering from altitude sickness until it was well underway. My headache persisted through the weekend, and nausea made me lose my appetite.
Move to a lower altitude
If all else fails, head back down to lower ground. As soon as we were back to the car and driving down the hill from Leadville, My headache began to subside. Once we got home, it was gone.
More info on moderate to severe altitude sickness see: http://www.traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm