Category Archives: Theme Parks

Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Part Two

My last post was about our recent trip to Universal Studios, but there was so much to tell that I simply couldn’t complete it in one post. I don’t know how many posts it will come out as, but probably a few. So this is part two. 

After wandering around Diagon Alley and attempting to absorb it all, we decided to head to one of The Wizarding World’s rides. Strolling through one line which led straight through Gringotts bank,  I continually gasped and pointed at small details only a true fan would notice. As we passed a set of golden doors engraved with a poem I knew by heart, I recited dramatically:

“Enter, Stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed.
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath these floors,
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware,
Of finding more than treasure there.”

Goblins

In the ride, you were led through several top-security vaults by Bill Weasley and Griphook the goblin, while being attacked by many security measures which Gringotts puts up against intruders. It was a ride of great quality, being mostly digital but very well done.

Knockturn Alley we had yet to visit. I knew, of course, what it was supposed to be like, and upon finding it I was not in the slightest disappointed. There was Borgin and Burke’s, a store of dark magic into which Harry had once inadvertently stumbled, and in the corner was a vanishing cabinet, and in a glass case was a cursed necklace, and you could there by a “hand of glory,” a severed hand which gave a light which only the holder could benefit from. Or rather, that was the idea; but, of course, these were only skeletal plastic hands with a hole for a tea-candle. I cast a silencing charm on some severed heads, lit a digital bird on fire, and magically unlocked a door – though it still couldn’t be opened. Everything was dark in Knockturn Alley, though outside the world was bright and cheery. A couple cloaked and hooded wizards roamed the streets, looking forbidding; they were only kids in costume, but they had gotten quite into character.

Hogwarts castle in the distance.
Hogwarts castle in the distance.

We stopped into Florean Fortescue’s for earl grey and lavender flavored ice cream, which turned out to be pretty good but still tasted far more like lavender than the earl grey we were hoping for. We drank some delicious butterbeer, enjoyed pumpkin juice, and nibbled a gigantic chocolate frog. Every frog comes with a famous witch or wizard card, and I, a Hufflepuff, got a Helga Hufflepuff card with my first and only frog! We got some gillywater as well, which is nothing more than regular water with a fancy sticker on the bottle, but throughout the day we kept refilling both its bottle and that of the pumpkin juice.

Diagon Alley, I think, was the best part of Universal. Everything else was really fantastic as well, but nothing, not one single thing, could top the magic of this magical shopping centre.

Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Part One

The occurrences of this post took place some time ago, but due to several distractions I am only writing them out now.

Gordon and I were given tickets to Universal Studios for Christmas – it was a three-day pass, including both the Universal Studios park (with Diagon Alley) and Islands of Adventure (boasting Hogwarts and Hogsmeade), and a park-to-park pass which allowed us to ride the Hogwarts Express between the two. Now, if you’re one of the few unfortunate people in this world who hasn’t read J.K. Rowling’s enchanted Harry Potter series, I’ll have to explain some things. Diagon Alley is a street full of wizarding shops, in between Horizont Alley and Knockturn Alley – which is crammed with stores for dark wizards. Hogwarts is, of course, the wizarding school which students attend between the ages of eleven and seventeen, and Hogsmeade is “the only all-magic village in Britain,” located right by Hogwarts. So now that you know the basics, let’s begin.

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Just me, being astonished.

I don’t want to give too much away for those of you who may be going in future, but at the same time I’d rather not make this a bland article, so I’ll do my best to obtain a spot in the happy medium.

We started at Universal Studios and hurried through the New York and San Francisco sections of the park to reach The Wizarding World right away. Each area of Universal Studios is arranged to appear as a real city. Walking by the “ocean” in San Francisco with seagulls over my head, I nearly forgot that I was in Florida. I was already grinning madly as we entered the park, but I became truly giddy upon seeing London. There, in the middle of Florida, are King’s Cross Station, Big Ben, several small bookshops, and a row of apartments on Grimmauld Place. There’s the triple-decker Knight Bus, and Stan Shunpike leaning against its purple exterior chatting idly with Ernie, the driver. And a stereotypical London phone booth, which I later slipped inside to dial 62442, the code to enter the Ministry of Magic, though to my disappointment no cool female voice spoke into the air, asking my name and business.

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But the true magic lay behind a brick wall passageway discreetly hidden in Muggle London. I stepped hastily through and saw to my pure joy and astonishment a very nearly perfect replica of Diagon Alley. I stood there for several moments with my jaw hanging open, filled with amazement, hardly able to breath for happiness, admiring Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes on my right, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor on my left, and straight ahead, Gringotts bank, topped by a blind albino dragon which breathed fire every ten minutes. After recovering myself, I set off down the street taking it all in. It was a bit crowded, by not overly, being a Friday when most visitors with annual passes were busy with school and work. The cobbled road was wet, though it hadn’t rained in a week, because it was London, and in London it’s always just rained.

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I gaped at Ollivander’s wand shop (since 382 B.C.), grinned at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, and continually reminded myself to breathe. In Horizont Alley, I watched Celestina Warbeck perform several songs I knew (A Cauldron Full of Hot Strong Love, You Charmed the Heart Right out of Me), and several I didn’t (the Quidditch anthem, for example). I bought a wand from Ollivander’s, because there are interactive sites throughout Universal’s Wizarding World which allow you to “perform magic” if you have the proper wand, and that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I also pretended that it was me causing the dragon to breath fire, and every time it happened I held up my wand with a look of intense concentration and cried aloud “incendio!” It was fantastic to explore Diagon Alley and imagine myself in the world of Harry Potter (after Voldemort’s time, of course).

Seven Peaks

On Saturday we went to Seven Peaks with our friends Ike and Justice.  It was super fun! Gordon and Ike wanted to go on Jagged Edge first thing, so they stuck together the whole time, and Justice and I went together. He and I raced down Avalanche first. He won, but I couldn’t get started… Come on! It was super fun and afterward we did Cave-In. That’s one of my favorites. It’s a tube slide, so it’s super dark inside, but there’s glow-in-the-dark stuff on the walls.

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The Lazy River

Then we did Vortex, where you go down a tube and come out in a whirlpool, then you go through a hole in the middle out of a shoot. Last time I went I did Boomerang, but it was incredibly scary, and I didn’t want to do it again. You go down almost a straight down fall on a tube, and then you go flying up the other, almost straight up, side.
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One of the other really cool ones Justice and I did was Shotgun Falls. This was the first time I’d ever done it, and it was super fun. It’s a tube slide that goes really fast, and there are three awesome drops. The only bad thing about it is that it’s so quick. But luckily, because of that, the line is fast-moving. You’ll be too light if there’s only one person on the tube, and you’ll hit your head, so we traded our two single tubes in for a double tube. The first time we went I was in the front, which made us go faster, but after that the lifeguard was different and she made us do heaviest in the front. Justice and I also went twice on a triple tube with Mom. With all three of us we got some air on the second drop, but the first time we went we got stuck just before the first drop. It was scary, but we were able to wiggle the tube enough that it got moving again.

Gordon and Ike went down all the extreme slides. They started with Jagged Edge, a yellow slide that you go down on your back, with three intense drops. Then they did Free Fall a bunch. If you don’t know about Free Fall, it’s a super tall slide with almost a straight-down drop. You ride down feet first on your back, or face first on a mat. They also did Sky Breaker. I think it looks worse than Free Fall, because it’s basically the same thing but straighter, but Gordon said that because there was water spraying in his eyes so he had to close them, it wasn’t as scary.

Seven Peaks was awesome.

-Lillian

Sea World

You read that right. We went to Sea World. And it was cool. Let’s start with shows. The first show we saw was an amazing series of dolphin tricks. They jumped, spun, and ran backward in the water. They flopped onto the the stage and then pushed themselves back into the water. People even rode on two dolphins like a jet ski. It was incredible! Then we saw the Shamu show, where the awesome killer wales jumped and turned and copied whatever their trainers did. It was so indescribably amazing that… um… I’m having a hard time describing it.

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In the evening we saw the ice skating show, where people sang, somebody twisted herself up in weird ways that made everyone gasp and try to figure out what she was doing, and, of course, people doing amazing ice skating gymnastics. It was like the Rockettes on ice.  Wow.

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Now for hands-on experiences. The one roller coaster we did left me carsick for hours. It was called the Manta. I’ll give you an idea of what it feels like. You are lying on your stomach rushing forward face-first. On the first down hill you scream so hard you’re sure your head is going to fall off. After a while you start to get used to it, but you’re still pretty sure you’re going to die. And then you suddenly are flung on your back and can’t breathe. That was the only time I wasn’t screaming. I was panting and nearly crying when we got off. I’m not usually the kind of person who likes that, and I still don’t know if I liked it. What a coaster! :0
Something that I do know I liked was feeding dolphins. It was magical. They were so friendly. You got a little container of fish, and then the dolphins would come up to you and open their mouths. When one did, you could reach your hand underneath its chin and pet it, and then you would drop the fish down into its mouth. It was just amazing, and the dolphins were so sweet.

 

There was also a simulator that we did that simulates that you’re a turtle and you narrowly escape being attacked my a shark. You’re in a room projecting the scene on the walls and rounded ceiling, and although the floor is flat the whole time I could swear it tilted. I almost fell over a couple times.

I liked waiting in line for that one, too, because there was a pool with manatees in it, and as I’ve proven here, I love them.

And we saw penguins.

I'm actually cold. And that's actually real snow.
I’m actually cold. And that’s actually real snow.

So, yeah. Seaworld was awesome. My rating would be 4 of 5 stars. The only reason I wouldn’t give it five stars is because they charge extra for dolphin feeding and because they don’t have any rides that aren’t really extreme.
-Lillian.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS…

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Us with Greg and Karen

IMAG1772 Hollywood Studios is a Disney park themed like old Hollywood and is home to some rides almost as famous as the stars in real Hollywood. TIMAG1774here’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster,the Tower of Terror, and one of my favorites, Star Tours (I did them all, of course). Plus, there are lots of shops to enjoy and plenty of shows starring your favorite Disney characters. We went with some friends, Greg and Karen. Greg works for Disney. He is an electrician there. He maintains some  of their animatronic characters to keep them in shape he also does underwater repairs on the attractions. by Gordon.

One year anniversary of traveling.

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Beauty and the Beast!!

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Driving into Magic Kingdom
Disney world.
I had to play with this picture a lot, but it turned out pretty magical.

April 1, 2014 was our one year point since leaving South Jordan and traveling. To celebrate this we went to… Disney world!! We went to the Magic Kingdom Park. We went with some new friends, Greg and Karen. Greg works at Disney, fixing characters and scuba-diving to do underwater repairs. This is where Cinderella’s Castle is. It’s also where “It’s a Small World” is. When we got there we did “The adventures of Winnie The Pooh” very first. You might think that that would be baby-ish, but really it was great. You go through the story about Piglet getting trapped in the flood, then into Pooh Bear’s dream about “hunny”. It is very well done. At “It’s a Small World” we saw the beautiful dolls from all over the world sing, and at the end, all of them dressed in white, they sang happily together.  We also did these classics: Dumbo, Mad tea party, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, and The Haunted Mansion. One of my very favorite things was the fantasy parade, where all of the Disney Princesses come down the street in giant, amazing floats. These floats where so amazing that I can’t describe them, so I will have to let the pictures tell all. – Lillian

Elsa and Anna, from Frozen!!
Elsa and Anna, from Frozen!!

MAGIC KINGDOM

Magic kingdom is a theme park created by Walt Disney and is home to Minnie and Mickey mouse and also many other Disney characters. There are rides and shows and all kinds of games and activities of all sorts. The rides consist of everything from the sentimental and picturesque boat ride “Small World” to the new action packed shoot ‘em up game ride Buzz Lightyear. The shows were also great; some of my favorites were the Tiki show where birds come to life and sing fun songs to Hawaiian music, the Philharmagic orchestra where Donald Duck goes through some of the classic Disney movies and last but not least the laugh floor where great comedians and high tech visual effects make Mike Wazowskie and his Monsters University friends come to life in a top notch comedy show. All in all Magic Kingdom is one of my favorite theme parks I have ever been to. Here are some pics.IMG_3895 IMG_3906 IMG_3904 IMG_3881 IMG_3889 IMG_3870     by Gordon