A Universal Studios Christmas

When rough times come, I feel we hold onto the good times even tighter. Once what were maybe small moments, become larger than life memories. We dig far into our dreams to remember the times of maskless shopping and seeing our loved ones whenever we wanted too.  Last year at this time, my oldest daughter, Kyra, and I had one of my favorite memories ever. We went to Universal Studios for the day and we had THE most amazing time. From Butterbeer to Scooby and the Gang, and everything in between, it was the holiday of holidays and I wanted to share our fun times with you today.


I know this year is different with the Characters and such, but I truly hope they are back to normal next year because they have such a great variety!  I don’t know what it is with Shrek, Kyra gives me a hard time because I truly love the movie and the attraction even more. Did you know that the Shrek attraction is haunted? For real! It housed the old Alfred Hitchcock attraction and they say he likes to show up now and then at it.

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Anyways, they had a great Christmas parade during the day with Shrek and friends and I geeked out! Gingy, the Three Blind Mice, Shrek and Fiona, and of course, Puss in Boots. The Cast was so much fun to interact with, and to get the pics with the characters were easy and quick.

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The rest of our day was hanging with Dora, Scooby and the Gang, and just playing in the Park. We have a tradition of butterbeers in Diagon Ally and always a ride with E.T. It was just a really nice day, and these are the days I must hold onto while we all try to conquer this year.

Tis the Season to Give!

Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!


Spooky and Scary Pics from Universal Studios in 2020

Happy Halloween!!! I took all of these pictures of the fun and spooky side of Universal Studios. Enjoy this Pictoral post and have a great Halloween.


Thanks for supporting me, Happy Halloween!!!

I LOVE sharing the joy of Disney, Adventure, and Travel! Every dollar you support me with goes right back into my brand for equipment, gas, and essentials. But most importantly, when you support me financially it tells me you BELIEVE in me, and that means more to me than ANYTHING! So THANK YOU for YOU!!

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Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice

During my trip to Universal Studios in Orlando last month, I was more than excited to see they had the “Halloween Horror Nights” Store open. Due to Covid, they only opened two mazes this year so having just a small piece of that event was nice. My oldest and I enjoyed all of the Halloween décor but the best part was the Beetlejuice exhibit (which I am told would’ve been a house this year).


Nothing I write will do this justice, so I am just going to share my pics. The nostalgia of the 80s meets one of the best campy, horror flicks of all time…it was just awesome. Enjoy!


Thanks for your support!

I LOVE sharing the joy of Disney, Adventure, and Travel! Every dollar you support me with goes right back into my brand for equipment, gas, and essentials. But most importantly, when you support me financially it tells me you BELIEVE in me, and that means more to me than ANYTHING! So THANK YOU for YOU!!

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Universally Yours… Tackling Both Universal Parks in One Day

I was so excited, I mean REALLY excited. Why? I was FINALLY going to walk into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and experience it all. Since Kyra got to go with my Mom and Bob for an early Birthday present, I had been so geeked out at what she got to see and do that the time had come for the family to all go together. So turn the HP soundtrack on while I take you through not only that area of the Park, but our entire Universal experience. Enjoy!

We got up early and were out the door by 8:00. The goal was to give ourselves plenty of time to find the place and figure out where to park. We found it with no problem, and we discovered its about 30 minutes from our house. We parked in the Jurassic Park section and rode two escalators up to the Main Level. I have to say their parking garage is very gross- trash was in the corners and it felt like you were parking at the Mall- it didn’t invite you in or get you at all excited about the movie experience you were about to take.

After several moving escalators, you come across their version of security. I did like the fact that they would check my bag ONCE and then I was free to roam from park to park, including City Walk, without having it checked again. It was painless and we were off and away to the Islands of Adventure first.

IOA was a first for Craig, Emily and myself- never been. It was exciting to do something new and we all had that butterfly feeling anticipating Harry Potter. We were able to get in with no issues, and we were practically skipping through each area. It was cool to see Seuss Landing in the morning, as no one was there, along with the Lost City. But the gold, what we wanted, was getting closer and closer.  I recorded us getting to the entrance and how excited the kids were, look HERE for the video!!

The music swelled and we were actually walking into the area… I had goosebumps everywhere! The village shops covered with snow in Hogsmeade, the train sitting there with all its majesty, and over the roof tops you could catch the Hogwarts Castle. Since I had taken Bonine in the parking garage so I could ride the Forbidden Journey, it was time. The four of us walked in together, hand in hand, and giggled with glee. I was so geeked out, I couldn’t stand it. We walked past so much from the movie, and in one of the classrooms, Harry, Hemoine, and Ron made it snow!

As we made it to the end of the line, with no wait mind you- place was empty, Craig and Emily took our belongings and headed to the exit to wait for us. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous- but I was no longer scared. It was either the drugs or just adrenaline, but I was so happy to be riding it that I didn’t care.  I was seated just fine, and I was right next to Kyra and two others. The ride vehicle itself only hold four at a time, and if someone is heavier, they put you on the outside, or they can’t let you ride at all. Hence the vehicle seats outside the Castle- they are there for you to MAKE SURE you will fit. And that you know what the snugness feels like.

I personally loved the harness coming down- it made me feel safe. I also love my feet dangling, makes you really feel like you are flying. Now, if you don’t want to know any spoilers, stop reading now. I’m not going into full details, but some that will be noted for those wondering if they can handle this ride. First off, the ride itself puts you literally on your back MANY times. It’s not for long, mostly to take you from sequence to sequence, but it can be alarming, so keep that in mind. Two, the ride takes you from movie scene to real scene to movie scene- this is where motion sickness can play a huge part. I did take Bonine and it worked MIRACLES, so I highly recommend it for this ride! Three, if you don’t like spiders- don’t ride. They are huge, they are in your face, and they spit at you. Remember the big guy from the movie? Yep, they let you see him up close and personal, so beware! Fourth, the Dementors. This area was more like a haunted house area- creepy and in your face, but nothing to alarming. What was more scary was the Whomping Willow that is swatting at you while you are on YOUR BACK. Yes, ON YOUR BACK- so that was a bit alarming. I also want to mention the Dragon, very cool to see, and he is A LOT like our Dino scary guy in Dinosaur- just more in your face. Heights- I am scared of them. But you are on a robot arm that is constantly moving you everywhere, so there is no time to LOOK DOWN, as far as I was concerned I was 5 feet off the ground.

What did I think overall? Well, I can tell you we went back on for a second ride soon after. You don’t see as much the first time because it is so alarming, whereas the second time I really looked around. I encourage everyone to try it at least once, it is a HUGE part of the Harry Potter experience. I seriously would have been upset with myself if I hadn’t had tried it, so I am very proud of myself that I did.  If it isn’t your cup of tea, or butterbeer, then you can walk through the queue with your family, or ask for the castle tour line which is pretty much the same area.  Either one will allow time to look around at all the neat stuff in line, including hearing the entire Dumbledore speech in his office and also Harry and the group’s conversation in the classroom.

After Craig and Kyra took a ride on the Flight of the Hippogriff which is basically a small coaster, we headed for an early lunch as we all seemed starved. We ate at the THREE BROOMSTICKS where we ordered two chicken feasts, the mac and cheese kids meal, and a fish dinner. Including four Butterbeers it came to $51 total. Ouch, but oh so worth it. We loved sharing our first drink together, and it was very neat to be sitting in the Restaurant that you read among the pages of Harry Potter. If you sit long enough, certain shadows cast on the wall of familiar characters!  But it has to be said, ANYTHING you do In this area is worth doing while listening to the soundtrack over and over again.

After our stomachs were satisfied, we headed for the line for Ollivanders Wand Shop. Kyra had raved about the wand show and how Ollivander helps the wand pick someone out of the audience. We waited for about 45 minutes in line, and stepped into this small, dark room. It was quiet, no music, just peaceful. The 30 of us were spread throughout the one side of the room, and with no one saying a word, Ollivander walked down the stairs. He never stopped looking at Emily, and it was then that we knew Emily had been chosen! HOW COOL WAS THIS!?!?!? To see and hear the wand show, check out the VLOG HERE!!

We enjoyed the show, and of course, I bought the wand that chose her. She was so happy that she was chosen, and we were happy that she was so honored. I have to say it made the day so much more special, and I highly encourage you to see the show- you never know what will happen!

We said goodbye to the WWOHP for awhile and checked out the rest of the Park. We took a walk through Seuss Landing, where the kids met Characters and we rode the trolley train high above the area. A slow moving ride, it had me a bit nervous with how high it- especially when it went over the water- I found it almost comical how nervous I was on the trolley, but not on the Forbidden Journey.  It was a beautiful day, low 80s I would say, but the sun was still zapping my energy by early afternoon. We decided to head to the other Park to see what was there and at least say we had done it.

The walk between IOA and Universal Studios isn’t that bad, maybe 10-15 minutes. You walk through City Walk again, more on a boardwalk area, but it’s a small hike. We got into that Park with no issues, and no expectations. It wasn’t like Disney where we had a clue of where to go, we even grabbed a park map. The last time I had been there was Halloween Horror Nights, Kyra and Craigs last time was 1999, and Emily had never been here.  It was exciting to do something new again, so we decided to go with the flow.

We grabbed some chili-cheese fries at Mels Diner, then headed towards E.T. to take Em on for the first time. I had forgotten how cool this ride was, and after some coaxing Emily on, we all got on. I really love the queue for this ride- it’s just such a neat forest. We were happy we had all done it as a family- weird to think that Emily wasn’t even an idea yet the last time we had ridden it- and now she is 11 and Kyra is 18. Where did the time go?

We took picture at the Simpsons ride, passed on Men in Black and Jaws, and Kyra and I tried out Twister.  Nothing to write home about, but still cool to see at least once. We didn’t stick around for the Macy’s Day parade, but they had everyone out and ready for it, so if you want to meet those in the parade, they were all hanging out. You could tell it was a dead Park day, no one was there. The employees seemed bored, and the whole Park had a very quiet vibe.  I can tell you this, I won’t be buying an Annual pass for this Park.

Dinner was eaten at Panda Express, in City Walk, which Craig and Kyra were happy about- it’s the orange chicken they crave! We had eaten out all day, I could feel my digestive system weeping. We headed back into Islands of Adventure and walked to the left route to WWOHP. The Marvel area was really cool, and Emily was most excited about taking pictures for her previous teacher, Mr. Bonson. He was a Marvel nut!

We then headed into the Toon area, which was really odd to me. A new park, I would assume they would have done something more with this. Jurassic Park was the final area we hadn’t seen, and that was just ok too. We didn’t ride anything, but it was deserted. I did like the tree ride where you could swing on a line through the trees, but it was for children only.

We were finally back in Hogsmeade and headed to the Castle.  Craig, Em and I took the Castle tour while Kyra rode one more time. I had eaten so much msg for the day, I was terrified what a third ride would do to my stomach. The tour was so cool, as I said before, we could listen and watch everything without holding up the line. The line was so short for the ride that Kyra got out before we did!

It was hard to say goodbye to the area, it was so beautiful in the evening. We said hello to our friend Shane, who works there, and just enjoyed the sights and sounds one more time. We all agreed that if we could buy Annual Passes for JUST the Harry Potter area, we would do it. Otherwise, not so much.  The rest of the Park didn’t give me any warm fuzzies that would make me want to go back- and THAT is what Disney does best!

I will stick with Walt Disney World in my back yard, but it was a pleasure to experience the movie magic for one day. Thank you to a good friend who made it all possible for us to go, we thank you!!

It’s Only a Nightmare- Halloween Horror Nights 2011

What’s in your nightmares? Well, if you don’t want to see them in the real world, face to face, you probably want to avoid special events like Halloween Horror Nights hosted by Universal Studios. It’s not for the squeamish, or the faint of heart, but if you can handle a zombie or two, you will do just fine.  Most of you probably don’t think of me as the “scary movie” type, but I like them for the excitement they bring, how they can make my pulse race, and that’s why since I had heard about this event years ago, I wanted to attend some day.

My day came last night, October 6th, 2011, when good friends Ken, Anthony, and Joe asked if I would be interested in going with them. Craig wasn’t interested, I would never let Emily go, but Kyra did have an interest in it. I thought it best for myself to try it out first before introducing it to anyone else, just so I had a clear idea of what I was getting in to. So after some red wine and a fantastic dinner made by Anthony, we were ready to get our scare on.

Because Anthony is a passholder to Universal, the parking was included. We parked in Cat in the Hat, and took the long walkways to the main hub of Universal, heading through security then having to walk through City Walk first, and then the area splits off to either Islands of Adventure, or Universal Studios. We headed to Studios, taking in all the cool stuff that City Walk has. I do have to say that Downtown Disney is so much nicer and accessible than City Walk- you can park at DTD and walk in to grab a sandwich or something, but here you would have to pay for parking, then walk forever just to get to grab a quick bite of food. I don’t forsee us ever having Annual Passes here, but I still would like to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter once.

We grabbed a group photo before heading in, because of course you need one before you look like you have been scared to death. We headed through the turnstiles, and before we could even put our passes away, the Chainsaw gang was out in full force, revving up the chainsaws as close as they could to you. Yes, it caught me off guard, but it also got me in that “prepared mode” for what was all to come that night.

Anthony bought express passes for us, because he is so awesome, and because he and Ken had done this event in past years and had waited up to three hours in one line for a haunted house, and they just weren’t going to deal with that again.  What the Express Pass is, is a pass in which you carry on you at all times, and can be used only ONCE at each haunted house, attraction, and show. Unlike Disney’s Fastpass, this is an extra cost, so purchasing it for this even or any Universal park day would have to be worth it.  I could see using it on a busy holiday week, or weekend, but at any dead time I wouldn’t bother with it.  But, I will tell you it was an amazing thing to have, because as the night went on, the crowds got bigger and bigger and we were bypassing lines with no problem. It is a great feeling to know you can walk right in without stopping once to wait and it was honestly probably better for me, because the nerves start to get to you when you have to wait to experience you know what is going to be scary. Check the Universal Studios site for more details on express passes and how much they cost, as they vary from event and Park to what day of the week you need it for.

Our first experience would be the Scare Zone named “7.” Here the ladies during the daylight are beautiful and charming, but once it got darker out, they would reveal their 7 deadly sins.  Since we caught in the daylight, it wasn’t anything bad, except for people coming to scare you in your face, you just got used to looking forward and not making eye contact. I learned very quickly that if you LOOK scared, they will scare you- so I put my poker face on through every scare zone we encountered.

We walked past the Pantages Theater which would host the “Ghost Hunters- Steve and Tango” later that evening, and already the line had started. I had hoped to meet them, but I really wanted to experience everything there, and standing in line all night for a 2 minute meet didn’t seem as appealing anymore.  We passed on them and headed into another Scare Zone called “Grown Evil” which was like a garden that had went all crazy.  Animals on stilts, monsters coming out of every corner- it was hard to take pictures because you were constantly being scared.  We made it through and headed to our first haunted house for the evening.

You have to imagine this- I hadn’t been to Studios in many years, so I was already in awe of everything we passed. E.T. made me smile, as we had taken little Kyra there back in 1999.  I laughed as we passed the Fievel playground (um, does any child know who Fievel is anymore?) and then got in line for the first house- “The Forsaken.”

Of course walking up to this house was a bit nerve wracking, until we had to walk through the “Barney” soundstage to get to it. Again, seriously, does ANYONE know who Barney is anymore?? Universal, wake up and work on that Park! So anyways, we walked up to the first house and I looked at Anthony and said “I am going to grabbing your arm or hand, it’s my gut reaction, and I apologize now.” He was such a sweetheart about it, why wouldn’t he be- best guy friend a girl could have.  We headed in to “The Forsaken” which was an abandoned Spanish fort where Columbus’ forth ship went missing- basically ghost pirates took over.  It was cool to walk over planks, and you could feel the wind and spray of the ocean water on your face.  Once someone got scared in front of you, you were pretty much guaranteed to be left alone by that character. They also had many hallways in the houses where you could see the actors hiding, so it gave you a heads up on where to watch for them.  Once we got that first house done with, I felt empowered to do the rest. You knew what it was going to be like now, so the actual scared feeling was something you were ready for.

The next house was right next to the first one, which was a bit confusing. They had signs to mark it, but with all the ropes for lines everywhere, and being right next to another one, it could have been confusing for some. Also a lot of the houses emptied into the same exit area, so you felt you were having constant déjà vu.  Our second house was the “The In Between” which was a 3D glass wearing experience in which you went into room after room like you were tripping on something.  I wound up not wearing my glasses as it could be very disorientating experience with them. Walking through a tunnel full of neon graffiti, then a room full of mirrors with neon string attached from ceiling to floor- it was very, very cool. It wasn’t as scary as just visually stimulating.

The next house was super exciting, as it was based around the madness that was Edgar Allen Poe. I figured ravens would rule pretty much everything in the house, and I was right. I loved the rooms, and  my favorite was a ballroom where the dancers dressed in masquerade clothes would dance and then scare you as they went past you. It was a very unique house and I thought they did a great job with it.

We decided to hit one more house before getting a seat for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so we expressed passed it again into “Saws N’ Steam.”  Every time we used our express pass we would need to show it first to get into the line, then they would scan it before you walked into the house. I was a bit weary of this house, the sound of steal slamming down could give me an instant headache, but it actually was nothing to bad.  Every time we walked into a house, Joe led in first with Ken, then Anthony and I screaming and laughing together.

After another house under our belts, we found a seat for the Bill and Teds Excellent Halloween Adventure show. Before we even walked in, I wanted to buy a T-Shirt with Bill and Ted on it because I truly loved the movie and the concept of it.  The show started minutes after we sat down, and I would have to say that there is no point to getting there early- there were plenty of open seats left.  Maybe the reason why was because the show was seriously horrible- besides the fact that Bill and Ted just didn’t have much of a plot line, the pop culture references just weren’t that funny. I laughed once when they poked fun at Twilight and True Blood, but that was about it.  I would say to anyone wanting to see this show, save the time and do something else.

After that disappointment, not only didn’t I want the shirt anymore, but I was now even more excited for another haunted house because they were actually interesting and exciting. Next house was “H.R. Bloodengutz: Holidays of Horror” which was a comical look at different holidays. I can tell you this, Santa’s elves were very unhappy, and the Easter Bunny had quite a lot of tooth decay.  The standby line for this house was very long, so again, happy to have the express pass.

It was time for a drink and a sit for awhile, so we stopped by a quaint little pub and Restaurant located across from “Mummy’s Revenge.” Posh benches helped us relax for a bit, and I was able to check in with the family and let them know that I had not died of fright.  After getting recharged, the guys headed to the Mummy for a ride, while I enjoyed the Scare Zone called “Acid Assault” which was basically like every movie that looked like the atomic bomb had dropped on it. The surrounding buildings had a video on them, so they looked like the buildings were falling apart around you- like the images on the Castle during the Magic, Memories, and You Show.  I enjoyed talking to Craig on the phone while taking all the sights in, it was cool to enjoy something different.

Next we headed into the house called “The Thing.” Coming out soon in Theaters, they have revived the old classic movie, and revved it up with a bit more scare.  If I had seen the movie first, it may have may a bit more sense, but I think once I see it, I will go “Ah yes, I remember that!” It was snowing inside the house, which I told Anthony it’s the ONLY snow I want to see in FL, and basically you watched the movie play out with all the characters. Again, it would have been cool to see the movie first.

House seven would be “The Nightingales Blood Prey” which took place in World War 1.  Gun fire could be heard everywhere, and the good guys would warn you to get out. Overhead were the nightingales, peering over at you while they attacked the service men.  I didn’t like this house as much, only because they were using fake guns, but they would fire blanks over your head and behind you, and it was just too close to something that happens in real life for me.

“Winter’s Night” would be our last house of the evening, and I believe we left the best for last. The standby line for that was crazy, crazy long- so we were pretty giddy to walk right in.  I thought we had walked right into the land of Narnia- it was a beautiful winter scene. Too bad we were walking right into a Cemetary, which was incredibly creepy. The walking dead came out of every wall, and I would have to say that this house scared not only me the most, but Anthony as well.  Every time we came around a corner we would either slow down and wait or hurry to get past what was there- we were pretty good at looking for the dangers by the time we hit that last house.

Needing some type of snack, we came across a stand that sells potatoes on a stick. Different flavors were available, and they cut the potato right in front of you and fry it. Anthony got the salt and vinegar, and Ken got the Cheddar one. I tried both and they were delicious, definitely try them out when you are there! I think they were $5 each.

We headed back to the Simpsons Ride, as I had ridden “Back to the Future” before, so I knew what the ride was like. When Anthony told me in line it was like being on a rollercoaster, my head started to spin. I don’t do well on the simulators anymore, so I was a bit nervous. In the front row, I made sure to close my eyes when I had to, but otherwise did just fine. Still like Back to the Future better though.

We hit the rest of the Scare Zones we had missed, called “Nightmaze , Canyon of Dark Souls, and Your Luck Has Run Out.” Nightmaze wasn’t too bad, they moved the walls constantly while you walked through it, so you had to be quick if you wanted to get out without getting scared. The Canyon one was a bit more challenging, as they had large figures who didn’t move, but the actors were hidden near them, so you didn’t see them coming. I got really good at looking forward all night, so when I did get scared, it was almost fun like “You got me!”  The Luck one had the ladies that you have seen on the commercials that were pretty much the face of the theming this year. They weren’t scary as much as the Chainsaw gang that was back, and located in the very small ally.  It was a very small space and quick space, probably the smallest zone they had.

The thing about the Scare Zones is that if you wanted nothing to do with them, you could just walk up on the sidewalk around them. They were located mostly on the streets, and marked very clearly, so you knew what you were heading in to. For the life of me, I will never understand why I saw little children there last night- take them to MNSSHP, not HHN.

We wound up by the Pantages Theater around 11, and the Ghost Hunters were just wrapping up. The guy let me go in and look at Tshirts, so I did get to see them, but they wouldn’t let me take a picture.  Once I headed out, the Drums show came out, very loud but cool to see at least once.

The guys hung out at the Bakery while I shopped for awhile, getting excited at all the new merchandise I had never seen before. Seeing the Harry Potter stuff got me really excited, I hope to go there soon. It was an amazing night and it was everything I had hoped it would be. Because we got there right at 6:30 at the start of the event helped us tremendously get stuff done and see things in the day light.  Again, the express pass was definitely worth it, as we had done pretty much everything, plus stop and chill out, by 11 p.m.  We headed out before midnight, grabbing a pic near the HHN sign on the outside of the gate.

If someone asked me if it is worth it, I would say YES! But, you have to like the scary stuff. If you don’t mind screaming and occasionally jumping, it’s a lot of fun. If any of that genre offends you, then REALLY don’t go.  I always took scary movies as silly fun, but that as an adult you have to make the choice to see. I don’t encourage the kids on them, as it’s not for children’s eyes AT ALL.  It’s something, as an adult, I wanted to try once, and I am glad I did. Thank you to Anthony, Ken, and Joe for a great evening!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hello readers! It’s Belle and I’m here to write about my adventures in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This was an early 18th birthday gift to me from my Nana and when she told me, I freaked out! Being a huge Potter fan (read all the books twice, seen all the movies, signed on to pottermore), it was like a dream come true to finally be able to go!

We woke up pretty early to make sure we could get there at a good time. Dad dropped us off (after a lot of confusing navigation through Universal) and I was bursting with anticipation. First we walked through City Walk, and I thought that was really neat, but I had tunnel vision for Potter. We got to Islands of Adventure and walked through the main area and to the right into Seuss Landing. I thought it was adorable and I thought of how my sister would love it. They have a little train track running across the top like their version of the TTA in Walt Disney World, but only in Seuss Landing and it lasts about 5 minutes, if that.

After we left Seuss Landing we walked into the Lost Continent area, which looks like it has a lot of mythology references and a big Poseidon temple that has a walk through ride called “Poseidon’s Fury” it was okay, kind of cheesy but the effects were nice.

Then I saw it, the Hogsmeade sign!! I squealed and Nana and Bob chuckled at how excited I was. I ran up to the arched sign and snapped a picture then tried to contain all the screams of excitement inside. The Hogwarts Express was just inside the arch and I got my picture taken with the conductor. He asked for my name and told me it sounded like royalty so he had me take his arm.

After that I took a picture of the street with all the shops lining it, and the grin on my face would stay there all day! I took pictures of Zonkos and Honeydukes, then ran over to this small plaza in front of the three broomsticks restaurant and saw a wanted poster with Sirius Black in it, moving just like it did in the movie!! I squealed again and took a picture, even though it didn’t turn out too well. We walked closer to the castle Hogwarts and past the Dueling Dragons coaster and Flight of the Hippogriff.

Suddenly I got a little nervous about what we were hurrying to do: The Forbidden Journey ride inside Hogwarts. Some people told my mom and I that it was pretty intense and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I like tame thrill rides (if that makes sense), but I had no idea what it would be like! Despite being kind of scared and seeing all the signs saying: Don’t go on if you get motion sickness, I plowed through the entrance telling myself “I CAN DO THIS!” Nana was nervous too – she’s really sensitive to that stuff and gets sick pretty easy, but she had the same mindset as I did. I was doing this and there was nothing that was going to stop me!

So we walked in and had to blink several times so that we could see, it’s very dark inside. The attendants told us that we needed to get a locker for the backpack because there’s really no space to put it on the ride. We walked into the locker room and they’re organized in wall sections with a touch screen for each wall. They take your finger print and then open a locker for you (it’s totally free by the way) and then you open it up and put your stuff in, no problem. Also, the lockers look really small but we were able to fit nana’s purse and a full backpack into it.

Now we have our stuff taken care of, so we set off into the line. It starts off in Hogwarts and we walked past the Mirror of Erised. For those that don’t know, that’s the mirror in the first movie that shows what you desire most. Like for Harry, it was his parents. (Erised is Desire backwards). Then you walk outside into what looks like a big greenhouse like the one shown in the second movie when students have to pull those creepy Mandrakes out of the pots. It’s a decent wait out there when it’s busy, but we walked right through because it was still early.

Then we head back into Hogwarts and the really cool stuff starts to show up. Like on the right is a big statue with the house mascots draped at the man’s feet, and four jars with beads tallying house points (Gryffindor was in first, Ravenclaw was last), then straight ahead at the end of the hall was the entrance to Dubledore’s office – that really big phoenix with his wings slightly extended.

We round the corner into a big hall with talking portraits – all who happen to be the founders of each house such as Godrick Gryffindor and Rowena Ravenclaw. They talk and bicker with each other and talk about the people in line, and it’s amazing how real it looks. Then we walk into Dumbledore’s office and his tools are in the glass containers all around the line and people wing around to see his desk and Dumbledore himself in his portrait talking about how brave we had to be for the journey ahead. He mentioned the Defense Against the Dark Arts room not having a teacher at the moment.

We walk into the Defense Against the Dark Arts room next, and immediately you can hear Harry, Ron, and Hermione talking to each other. Everyone looks kind of confused because it’s an empty landing, then they suddenly take off the invisibility cloak and they’re standing up on the balcony in front of us. It looks like they’re really there, and everybody in line got excited (including me!). They were explaining the ride and what we were going to do, but I didn’t catch any of it because: 1. I was too busy freaking out that they were there and 2. The line was moving fast and we had no time to hear any of it.

We round the corner into another short hall with more talking portraits and then- we’re there. The ride has officially started. Now, I’ve tried to explain the concept of the ride to people but it’s difficult. It’s like soarin at Disney World (the way you sit) but it’s also like the Sum of All Thrills. The ride is on a robot arm and it twists you through different scenes. The reason why it has warnings for motion sickness is because the ride goes from screen to actual ride (props and scenery and animatronics) to screen again. It’s not 3D (thank God) but it still manages to get me pretty dizzy. It’s very fast and it jumbles you around a lot. There’s a harness that you wear like on rollercoasters, and it made me feel really safe so there weren’t any “Oh gosh I’m going to die” moments, hahaha.

I won’t give too much of the ride content away, but if your children are prone to being easily scared, please don’t put them on this ride. There are dementors, spiders, and dragons, and things do fly at your face. Also – nana learned this the hard way – they mean it when they say don’t ride if you’re prone to motion sickness. It didn’t outright spin you in circles, but it does whirl you around a lot and the constant transition between screen and animatronics gets to be a little much sometimes.

After we got off the ride we headed over to Ollivanders and stood in line. Yes, there is a line outside of that shop, and it gets very long! I would actually suggest doing that before going on the ride in Hogwarts because we waited for a good 20 minutes and it was still very early in the morning.

But whatever you do – don’t bypass it! They take about 15 people at a time into Ollivander’s wand shop and it’s simply amazing. I would say that’s one of the most authentic-feeling places of the whole park. Ollivander (who looks and sounds like the one in the movie) pulls someone out of the crowd and has them try out different wands – and the results are truly magical. At the end he explains how the wand chooses the wizard, and the person finally gets the right one. I’m pretty sure they still have to pay for it, but I wasn’t picked so I wouldn’t know.

Nana bought me a wand of my own, but it wasn’t a character wand. A store employee helped me pick out a wand according to my birthday. It’s about 31 dollars including “ministry” tax (ha) and the character wands are the same. The shop is separate from Ollivander’s and it’s technically called the Owl Post, which had owls and mail strewn about the ceiling rafters.

Nana also bought me a Hufflepuff patch (that’s the house I got sorted into on Pottermore) so I could iron it onto a shirt or sweatshirt. Then we went into the middle of the street and bought my very first BUTTERBEER! I got it in a special mug that said butterbeer (it’s plastic). It tastes amazing – like butterscotch rootbeer with this buttery frothy foam on top. I took it into Honeydukes and fell into candy heaven. There was pretty much every kind of candy imaginable plus authentic candies from the books like chocolate frogs, peppermint toads, and Bertie Botts every flavor beans! Nana bought me a jar full of peppermint straws with the words Honeydukes on the outside so I could stare at it in my room (hahaha).

Nana and Bob waited outside while I looked at Honeydukes sipping my butterbeer, and then I walked into Zonkos. The hall that connects them has a sign that says “shh, the walls have ears” and then you look up and there’s a bunch of ears hanging on strings. The joke shop is filled with rubber chickens, whoopee cushions, and pygmy puffs galore! Laughter is heard throughout the store and puffs of air startle some people in different areas.

After I finished and cleaned out my butterbeer mug, Bob and I decided to go on the ride again so we could get experience more and not be so terrified this time. Nana stayed behind since she still wasn’t feeling too well, and she met a nice family from England. Meanwhile Bob and I had to wait a little longer than last time (about 30 minutes) but that was fine, the line scenery really makes it all worth it. I would wait an hour if I had to.

After we got off the second time I was starting to feel it – that small feeling in the stomach that says “ok you’re done now, unless you want to see that butterbeer come back up”.

I took about 50 pictures of Hogwarts at every possible angle and pictures of the buildings in Hogsmeade. We ate lunch at the three broomsticks. I would suggest it for sure because the food was amazing. They had fish and chips, chicken, potatoes, meat pies, and more – very hearty and healthy feeling food that you would want at your own table. I wouldn’t suggest eating before any rides though because it is pretty heavy. They had the Hogs Head as well but I didn’t check it out.

In front of Dervish and Banges right next to the Owl Post is a man in front of a booth and what he’ll do is send your letters and put a nice wax seal on a special Owl Post letter! I told myself next time I go I’ll definitely have to do that for my friends.

We saw the two shows they have: the Triwizard picking and the Frog Choir. The triwizard thing is cool because the Beauxbaton and Durmstrang schools both do short little talent displays and then at the end they let you take a picture with all of them. The frog choir is very cool and they sing about 4 songs including the main Harry Potter theme. One person from each house sings and two people hold deep voiced toads who sing with them. They come right up to the crowd at the end of one of their songs so get as close as you can – it’s really cool!

I didn’t ride the roller coasters, which now I guess I kind of regret, but I had an amazing day. To wrap it up (after we toured more of Islands of Adventure) we said goodbye to the Wizarding World by having one more butterbeer. They also had Pumpkin juice but I didn’t try it, I only took a picture of it. There’s a lot more that I didn’t mention but I’ll leave that for you to discover!

Everything is authentic as it can be, they cover almost everything in Hogwarts and on the ride, and Hagrid’s hut is inside the roller coaster Flight of the Hippogriff so don’t freak out if they don’t have something you wanted to see – because they probably do, you just haven’t looked hard enough! It does seem like a very small area but there’s a lot to do. We got there at 9 and stayed in the Harry Potter area until about 2pm so there’s a lot to occupy your time with. The merchandise is very expensive but make sure you look at every store because there are some little bits in them from the movies that you might recognize (especially the store window displays).

I had an amazing day and I would go back again in a heartbeat – I was really sad to say goodbye to it. BUT, I have my wand to show off and remember what a great day it was. I have thanked Nana and Bob so many times because without them I wouldn’t have been able to go. It was a great birthday present and I suggest those die-hard Potter fans like myself plan a trip – it is SO worth it!!