Tuesday October 18 - Isle of Adventure
We woke up raring to go to Universal, or at least Mum and I did. I was so excited to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I think Stitch was too, but the lure of sleep was hard to fight. She is very much a sleepyhead and would prefer to sleep all day long especially after being out at the parks late the night before. Since she was sleep deprived it was pretty challenging to talk her into getting up and getting ready so we could hit the road. I recall that there was a bit of yelling and even dramatic tears that morning, but eventually we all managed to make it to the car and head toward Universal Studios.
We had small boxes of orange juice, Starbucks Double Shots, fruit, yogurt (which ended up being rejected as it was sugar free--they need to state that a little larger on the carton--gross!), cereal and other breakfast foods to tide us over until we got there. Keeping us all fed is really the key to keeping us from getting truly cranky and snappish.
Pretty much empty park in the early morning!
Waiting for them to start letting us in
After a 15 or 20 minute drive mostly following the signage on the freeway we made it to Universal! We paid an extra $15 to park in the preferred parking nearer the moving sidewalks leading to Citywalk, which is an excellent investment at the end of the day when your party is weary and footsore. We got our email printout vouchers and got in line. True to the informative websites and trip reports we'd read, they started letting people in about 15 minutes before official opening time and we quickly moved through the turnstiles into the park. We were in a real rush to get to WWoHP but had to stop and look at the map to figure out the fastest way to get there, even though we could have easily followed the crowd. I was all for following the crowd, but the six-of-one-half-a-dozen-of-the-other route veering to the left in Seuss Landing rather than the right was chosen for minimal efficiency. Each subsequent visit I went right around the Caroseussal and I think it was about the same.
Walking though the Arabian Market
You can see the track to Hulk in the background
At any rate, the trip through the Arabian market area at the Port of Entry was great-- the buildings here are so exquisitely themed, I wanted to take pics of each of them even though they were just stores. But we were on a roll, we had to press onward! The great theming continued on through the Lost Continent, but of course we weren't about to stop here, as Harry Potter is just beyond this area. We were planning on coming back through and taking some time to really enjoy the rest of the park after we'd had our fill of HP for the day, and when the crowds filled the Wizarding World up. We had carefully plotted how best to maximize our time in the early morning, so instead of using our purses we packed lightly and used slim- profiled, under-clothing card carriers for our valuables and tucked our phones into our pockets. We didn't want to have to waste time or money by renting lockers.
Why are so many of the day's pics blurry? I just don't understand. But look at that empty queue!
Heading into the castle
We went straight to Hogwarts castle for Forbidden Journey, and after marveling for a brief moment, joined the queue. We ended up walking as fast as we could through the nearly empty queue, and even though I recall that it was really cool, I can't remember much about it because we went through it so fast. We ended up waiting for a little bit by the time we got to the greenhouse, but once we were back inside the castle the line moved rapidly once again. The greenhouse was terrible-- even on the relatively cool morning it was humid and hot in there, no help from the fans, most of which were turned off. After our hasty trek we were all hot and sweaty. Of course there are few pictures of the queue because my camera won't take decent pictures in the dark without a flash, and there were too many people that would have been bothered by a flash. Suffice it to say it was very well done and now I wish we chose to ride again and wait in a longer queue so we could really take it all in.
Inside the infernal greenhouse
The ride itself was okay. My phone nearly slipped out of my pocket and tumbled into the abyss but I caught it at the last moment. Phew! We large ladies were packed into the seats pretty tightly, supposedly in the fat girl seats. I am not a big fan of the simulator type rides, they tend to make me seasick as I get shaken around while trying to look at a screen. I don't have that problem on open-air rides, so I wasn't thrilled with the large amount of jostling, swooping and shaking. It almost seemed like the ride makers were trying too hard to shake the passengers up in effort to make the ride exciting rather than making it *actually* fun. I guess whatever passes for excitement is what they will create, whether it is a cheap thrill or not.
So after being underwhelmed by the hype and feeling a bit ill after the rough ride and danger of losing my phone we never found time to ride it again.
We went immediately to Flight of the Hippogriff and waited in a modest line there. They were loading a special needs girl in a wheelchair in the last cart and that took a while, but nobody minded or acted put out by it at all. The expression on her face was priceless as they took off and when they returned! I was amused by the skeleton keys hanging up and the pumpkin shaped accents on the ride hardware. Also, seeing fully grown adults sitting in the seats with the silly netting over their legs was pretty amusing. This was a fun little coaster, we all liked it. Being out in the open air makes all the difference, I think.
Look at the funny safety netting, it makes everyone look like they're wearing fishnets!
Pumpkin bolt covers, hehehe
Interesting basket-looking ride cars
Happily riding in the front!
I'm happy to be here, too!
Buckbeak is blurry because we were travelling past him at 45 MPH!
Awesome view of Hogsmeade from this ride!
Our next stop was at Dueling Dragons, where we got split up because of the limited number of fat girl seats. I had read somewhere that the large-rump seats were the ones on the end, when in fact they're the second seat from the left as you face the row of seats. So I erroneously squeezed myself into the smaller seats and made Stitch ride in the large seat, when we would have done well to do the opposite. We didn't figure out Universal's stupid seat thing until the last ride on the last day we visited. The employees were not terribly helpful when it came to this little quandary, in fact none of them really offered any assistance with choosing an appropriately sized seat at all, but they were willing to shove to get the harness to click so I guess that's all right. Even though as we met the first employee that would allow us into the loading area we always specified that we needed the larger seats, or stood in the "modified seating" line. I did feel nice and safe all squished into the seat, if a little anxious as I couldn't take a deep breath. If I had been a tiny person bopping back and forth between the seatback and the over-shoulder restraint I'm sure I would have felt more scared of falling to my death! Ursula was in danger of losing her Crocs, though, and I could just imagine her shoes falling off and tumbling into the netted area below as we swooped, twisted, and turned upside down.
Flags celebrating the school champions in the path leading up to Dueling Dragons
There's that same Butterbeer cart!
The crashed Ford Anglia
Dueling Dragons is the best of the three Harry Potter rides! We usually rode the red side, which I think is Hungarian Horntail. The one time we rode the blue side we didn't think it was as fun and we were subjected to weird seat treatment. I was instructed to get off in front of everybody, and wait for the next bank of seats, so while my family took off I was just standing there on the platform on the departure side with the employees, waiting. Then there was a miscommunication and the large-ass seat being reserved for my large ass was taken by a little girl who came from the arrival side. Finally an employee was ushered over and straightened it out, but it was pretty embarrassing and there was a noticeable lack of decorum or communication during the whole mess. This was when I finally figured out there where the fat girl seats were, and once I was harnessed in noticed that there was more room to breathe and wobble around, which made me feel a little less safe. If my hard-learned lesson can serve you, look for the seat with the double-strap seatbelt locking mechanism, this will be the large seat for those of us with junk in the trunk (or under the hood).
Dueling Dragons was really fun. Part of the thrill of it is supposed to be that the two sides, red and blue, take off at the same time and appear to be coming right at each other in midair, like a dragon duel of course. Not once did we ever load up and depart at the same time as the opposite side, so we never experienced what it was like to ride with a perfectly timed set of dragons. I think a lot of the thrill is being twisted and turned all around on a track with our feet flying in the air! At any rate, problems with seats and timing aside, we really liked this ride.
After hitting the three rides and managing to miss the long lines and oppressive crowds that we were warned about we decided to get some frozen Butterbeer at the Hog's Head tavern. I knew better than to stand in the long line outside at the cart, so we went in and sat down. It was really neat inside, and I spent a while trying to take pics of the nearly empty restaurant. I didn't realize the Three Broomsticks restaurant and seating area was attached to the Hog's head tavern, so after the nice employees that were outside the entrance to Three Broomsticks took our picture, we thanked them and then walked over to the entrance to the Hog's Head. It wasn't far away but still would have looked pretty silly to anyone that had ever been inside, and it probably gave the nice photographer a chuckle.
Plastic versions of Butterbeer and Hog's Head Brew as well as the bar's other offerings
Neat beer pulls with the snorting hog's head in the background
I want to be a guest at the inn!
Occasionally the shadows of owls would pass over the wall above the fireplace.
Love the look on Stitch's face as she samples her first taste of Butterbeer, while Ursula checks out the park map.
Even looking up offered an interesting view
Frosty delicious butterbeers!
After I got our Butterbeers, Ursula went and got us an order of fish and chips to share. I wasn't too hungry but I enjoyed the Butterbeer immensely. We never bothered getting it just cold, we all like frozen drinks like slushies so deciding between frozen and cold Butterbeer wasn't ever a problem. I really like the cream stuff they pour on to simulate a head on top of the slushy part. I'd read many complaints about this part but Stitch and I loved it! Ursula liked the Butterbeer all right, but it was very sweet and I think this put her off a bit, as she's not a fan of overly sweet drinks. We got it in the regular cups so we wouldn't have to pack a sticky, dirty souvenir mug around all day. Since we're not big soda drinkers the promo of reduced-price soft drinks with use of the mug in the rest of the park didn't hold much allure.
We decided on a plan for the rest of the day, checking out the map of the park. After getting cleaned up we went to Gringott's, where mum extracted some gold from Stitch’s vault so she could go crazy buying candy (just like a Hogwarts student!). Our first stop after eating: Honeydukes and Zonko's, where Stitch and I bought some packaged candy and I went crazy taking pics. I also bought a tee-shirt that had Felix Felicis in gold on it (can't have too much perfect luck, right? And it was good quality cotton in brown, love!) and had it sent to the front of the park. The "bulk" section of the candy shop was a no-go as they would not ship those items to the front for us, and we didn't want to carry anything around all day. The HP stores are really cool, and though very small they weren't too terribly crowded when we were there in the late morning, but it's also the off season. Was disappointed that most of the pics I took turned out blurry. I was really glad we would be returning to Universal for one more day later in the trip, as this gave me the chance to take more pics that would hopefully turn out a little better.
Sugar Quill and Blood Pop
Would have loved just one Exploding Bon Bon, rather than a whole box.
So this is where black licorice comes from!
Cauldron Cakes (and other confections)
Honeydukes and Zonko's share a space and a cash register, so it's easy to wander from candy to jokes and toys.
Vintage-looking Halloween display in the window
I see the results of the ton-tongue toffees in the (blurry) display!
Fanged Flyers, Extendable Ears and a few other pressed tin wind-up toys
Stitch was tickled by the glass jars of U-No-Poo candies, but Ursula nixed the purchase of easily breakable items.
HP-specific toys were interspersed with more ordinary items, but it was all very much in the joke/toy shop theme
Even though fireworks were widely used in the displays, none were actually available for sale, thank the gods.
The shop windows are all set up with interesting scenes, we enjoyed looking into all the windows. People would mob them taking pics, waiting for the giant chocolate frog box to open or whatehaveyou. The glare off the glass was terrible so I don't know that anyone's photos really turned out that well.
Animated Wizard chess display in the window (taken from inside, obviously)
The animated "puking" of the pastilles is much more fun to see in real life.
I didn't see gummy skulls of any size inside, but I would totally be down for some!
Chocolate frog pops out of the box occasionally
Extra shot of the frog from another angle in effort to reduce the glare
Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans
People looking impatient waiting for Ollivander's
The line for Ollivander's was long, as was promised in all the pre-trip reading we'd done, so we were all pretty glad not to have to wait to take part in the wand choosing ceremony. Stitch was interested in having a wand for herself, so at one point we looked at them in a little stand near Hogwarts, but after posing for a few pictures and gawking at the pricetag she decided against purchasing one for her and one for each of her friends. Stitch's MO for the whole trip seemed to be to buy crap for all her friends; Ursula and I remarked to each other more than once that she would spend every last dime of her sizable savings on stuff for her friends and not get anything for herself. She's a sweetheart and bless her soul, but really, a small gift from Florida for her closest friends should be enough.
Stitch would have liked this wand, I forget whose it was modeled after.
A very impressive castle from any angle!
It's definitely a fun little corner of the park, but it was getting crowded
Giant line for butterbeer-- where does it end?
We were happy to have purchased ours like sensible people in the Hog's Head
This hideous snowman seemed to be a picture spot. Why not? I was happy to model my second butterbeer of the day.
Fun window displays for the stores that were not "open."
You can see Gilderoy Lockhart's book display in this one.
The best I could do to get a shot without people in it. Love all the storefront details though!
This is clearly Ollivander's/Owl Post. Charming!
Right outside the Owl Post was a merch cart and some seating. If the owls were real you wouldn't catch me sitting underneath them!
We looked at the merch at Filch's Emporium, taking pictures with a few things we didn't intend to purchase (Fluffy the 3-headed dog and Crookshanks, Hermione's cat) and I bought a chocolate frog keychain. I was unwilling to shell out $10 for a real chocolate frog (I heard the chocolate was waxy and not very quality stuff-- for that price it better be the best!) but the keychain was cute and it was around $5. Money well spent-- I attached it to the rental car keychain and so it was put to use immediately. And don't worry, I remembered to bring it home with me at the end of the trip! We poked our heads in one of the more crowded shops but declined to stay very long.
Lots of interesting bottles, books and other wizardly details!
Quick pic of the Hogwarts Express as we left WWoHP for the time being, no time to stop and pose!
After exhausting the supply of stores, windows, and sipping another butterbeer, we moseyed at a more casual pace back toward the Lost Continent.
The Arabian marketplace part was really cool, and I imagine at night it looks great all lit up! I wandered around a little taking pics while the others found a restroom. I'm really impressed by the theeming of IoA!
This was some sort of neat coin smashing thing, this TM was making necklaces.
We were all so impressed with the great theming around Poseidon! We did the little “tour” thing here, and it was okay-to-good. It was the sort of deal where you and a bunch of other families walk from room to room and listen to the spiel given by an employee. I don't remember that much about it to be honest, but it was neither a must-see nor a must-skip. If you've got the time, do it. If you don't get around to it you probably didn't miss much. We stopped to take a bunch of pictures outside because the ancient ruins were so neat!
I did my best to get shots without other tourists in them, but I see here I failed.
Impossible to get a pic without people in it. Oh well.
On we traveled to Seuss Landing, where we looked around at a couple of stores, then got in line for the High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, which takes you on a little tour of Seuss Landing. We enjoyed the low-key trolley ride and asked to go again right away. There were just a handful of people in line and we only waited about 2 minutes to be loaded up again. This time we got on the other side and had a different tour, which surprised us all, as we weren't aware that it would be different.
Trolley Ride as seen from the ground
We made a bee-line for gizmos gadgets and goodies galore
Even the guard rails are seussical!
First stop was the Circus McGurkus area. Ride was closed but restaurant was open.
If I lived in Suessville this would be my house!
I spy truffula trees!
I say, is that Sylvester McMonkey McBean from the Sneetches?
Must be Sam-I-Am's rooftop garden!
Fun, colorful world of Dr Suess
Along the tour you see the tops of buildings and can look down at all the rides, which is cool. However,we did see some peeling paint, rust stains and areas that seemed like they were just not up to par with Disney standards and that was kind of sad. Perhaps it is part of the Disney/Universal difference? We spent a long time trying to put our finger on just why Disney is so much better than Universal. We never did come to a definitive answer. As much as we enjoyed WWoHP and other aspects of Universal's parks, Disney is our clear winner.
Next we rode the Caro-Seuss-el, which was cute. Mum would have loved to take baby Stitch to this land, she mentioned, and this ride in particular.
Stitch found Horton's egg! Appropriate, since her dog's name in Maizy named for lazy bird Mayzie in Horton Hatches the Egg.
Yes they really sold some green ham sandwich at the Green Eggs and Ham stand.
One Fish Two Fish was next, which is kind of like the Dumbo ride, but with a risk of getting wet, as there are squirting fish posted that will randomly spit into your car! It was fun but I wasn't into getting wet, so I brought my car up high to try to avoid the fish. This was another ride that was kind of sad looking-- lots of water damaged, rust-stained, fading/peeling paint made it feel a little pathetic. There were practically no lines for anything, just a few other families with small children, and us. It was kind of nice not to be crowded or rushed. And we only felt slightly silly doing the little kid rides. Very slight. I don't seem to have any pics of this ride--since Stitch and I rode, Ursula took the pics, and I no longer have the pics from her camera on my computer. Long story short: my hard drive crashed but I had my memory card so all was not lost. Thankfully. This TR would not have been able to go on without the back up card!
We looked around the stores and got a few things for my cousin who is having her second baby. We were pleased to see a bookstore there carrying Dr. Seuss books. All of us are big readers and seeing books available with a quiet reading corner in a theme park brought us much joy.
I had been talking about riding the Incredible Hulk Coaster ever since I saw it during my research. Ursula evidently also saw pictures of it and assumed I must be joking. When I announced I was ready to head over to ride the Hulk she was somewhat astounded. “You're really going to ride that thing? Well I'll walk over there with you but I'm not going to ride.”
I knew Stitch would be up for it and even if they both chickened out I was going to go by myself. But once we got up to the ride Ursula said something to the effect of “Oh hell, I'll do it, but if my back goes out you're going to be the one pushing my wheelchair!”
We walked through the empty queue, stood for about 2 minutes and then got loaded onto the Hulk, again being smashed into the seats quite firmly. Oh my goddess, this was the best! We all LOVED this roller coaster! It looks really extreme from the ground, but once you're on it, it is smooth, fast, and awesome! Ursula was so glad she'd gone on it, it ended up being one of our favorite rides of the vacation!
I wanted to go on it again immediately but Mum needed a little bit of recovery time. After walking by the Hulk Smash! car we decided to do the Storm Force Accelatron, which is like the teacups but with a different theme.
Next we went over to Doctor Doom's Fearfall. Ursula again had reservations after seeing people launched up into the air, but I told her it looked like Tower of Terror minus the Twilight Zone theming and she was convinced to ride. It was good. We enjoyed the view from up high, but it was over fast and none of us needed to ride it again. Not as good as ToT though the principle of being taken up high and dropped feels much the same.
Stitch wanted to spend more time in the Marvel Super Hero Island looking for comic books, but she abandoned the quest rather quickly. As a whole we are not really superhero people, and the kind of comics Stitch is into are more down the Anime and graphic novel road than the classic Marvel comics.
Dark clouds rolling in as we sat and looked out over the lake. Hogwarts is looking ominous!
That must be the infamous Popeye ride over yonder. Never did make it over there to check it out.
Stitch enjoying her last butterbeer of the day.
Fun building as we walked out.
We all rode Hulk one more time, then Ursula sat and rested while Stitchy and I hustled back to the Wizarding World to grab another butterbeer before we left for the day.
None of us were enthused about going to Jurrasic Park, and we didn't want to get all wet riding the Popeye ride, so we didn't bother heading over to the far side of the park at all. We came and saw what we really wanted to see, which was Harry Potter.
On the way out we were all lagging and some of us were getting downright grumpy (those of us who did not have a third butterbeer), so we stopped at Cinnabon at Citywalk, got coffee and feasted on cinnamon rolls. It was only about 4 or so, and so while we were there we decided to try and find a Disney Outlet store on our iphones and do some shopping.
I wanted to see what an outlet store had available before I bought too much at the parks, as I didn't want to overpay for something if I didn't need to. I was specifically thinking about keychains and souvenirs that I might get as gifts.
We located a good one with great reviews, figured out the way to get there, then left Universal for the day. Once again I was glad we would be coming back again later on. The primo parking was a godsend and we were very glad to not have to walk another half a mile or more to get to our car. The covered parking area was also nice because the car, while still hot, wasn't absolutely roasting in the sun all day. Points for Universal over Disney.
The Disney outlet was great-- they had a huge selection and some things were really marked down. I got a fun Alice in Wonderland bag, a few pins, keychains and other various gift items there. I looked at the clothes but didn't see anything I couldn't live without. I even looked at the kids clothes, but the cute jammies and dresses were still a little more than I was willing to spend.
Mum and Stitch also bought quite a few things, and we were all very happy that we stopped there.
It was definitely dinner time though, and we walked to the busy crowded food court to find dinner. Mum and Stitch ate at Taco Bell, but I decided to go with this Italian type place. I got some sort of a cheese and veggie sandwich and a salad there. After all our sweets and fried food I was ready for some greenery. But as I ate the salad my stomach started to hurt. It wasn't very good. I ate some of the sandwich and it wasn't very tasty, either. I sipped my drink and did some people watching as my family finished eating, then we loaded up in the car and headed back to the resort. After getting back on Disney property, taking a wrong turn (of course, of course!) and turning around at Downtown Disney I started to feel really sick. I thought I was going to throw up, and I wanted someone else to drive. Ursula made a hundred excuses why she couldn't possibly drive, so I ended up driving us back to the resort anyway. I rushed to the room so I could vomit, but nothing happened, I just continued to feel gross and rumbly in the tumbly.
We all were pretty exhausted so we turned in for the night and vowed to be ready to get up early so we could pack up and do the hotel switch the next day. Stitch might have taken another swim, but I am not sure. I was already in bed and mostly unconscious.
Bad ending to a pretty good day!