Trip Report – Orlando - Highlights.

Edited: May 16, 2015, 7:05 PM

May 1st to May 9th.
Parks – Universal Orlando for 3 days - Magic Kingdome 1 day

Sheraton Vistana Resort on RT 535.

We were all overexcited for this year’s visit to Sunny Orlando. This past winter was a harsh one for us in the north east and we needed this reunion in Orlando. Therefore myself, wife, daughter and daughter’s best friend went on a journey to Florida. We booked the flight in November so by the time May 1st came around, we were more than ready to go.

Checked into the Sheraton Vistana Resort late Friday night
May 1st.

Saturday May 2nd – we went to Publix for supplies since we have a Villa (which has a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms) and needed some groceries for the room. Then we took some time to relax by the pool and needed to get my vacation mind into Florida mode.

Sunday May 3rd – Time to hit the Parks. Do you know the kind of theme parkers who get up early, wait at the gate\park for it to open? Well that is not us, we get up casually on vacation and go to then park when we get there time… So at about 11:00 am we hit Universal Studios.

We bought park to park passes for 3 days (Buy 2 days get 3rd day free). We always go to the right first when entering Universal Studios. Although we were tempted to go straight to Diagon Alley, we resisted and took the traditional route. So off to ET it is… Went through the park, ya know, ET, Simpsons, MIB, yadda yadda..

Then we hit the much anticipated Diagon Alley. We took some time sit by the fountain to take it all in. Kreacher even watched us a few times. Checked out the Knight bus, then we wandered in Diagon Alley. It was better than I imagined or seen in pictures. I would say at least 35% to 40% of the park visitors were in Diagon Alley. We looked up, we looked down, and we looked all around (Dr Seuss tribute in that last line). It was incredible. We spent several hours checking out every little nook and cranny.

And of course the Escape from Gingotts bank was great. The queue was fun and entertaining. It was about a 40 minute wait. We had ice cream, went down Knockturn alley and ate a meal at the Leaky Cauldron. Also had a few butter beers.

Then we went to Kings Cross Station where we were able to enter platform 9 and ¾ and rode the Train. The train stopped at HogsMead so we decided to get off. We then challenged the Chinese fireball dragon and conquered it.

After defeating this very dangerous dragon, we took the Forbidden journey. We heard the train back to London was about to leave so we scurried back to catch it.

Back in Diagon Alley we spent some more time enjoying all the stores and the atmosphere. We hit Escape from Gringots once again to a short 20 minute wait. Then we journeyed out to challenge a Mummy. It was getting late and we were tired so we left the park.

Monday May 4th – Today we ventured to the Magic Kingdome, We went later in the day, 3:00pm because we wanted to stay until midnight and watch wishes at 10:00 pm. We have not been to this park in several years. And I was quickly reminded why. Damn, this park gets busy. Even at 11:30 pm it was still busy with many folks in the park. We did try the new family coaster 7 dwarfs mine train and at night there are some totally dark elements. I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It was about a 30 minute wait but the sign said 50 minute when we entered. We found that on many attractions the times were way off. Space Mountain said 45 and it was only 25. Anyway it was okay to hit this park but as I said, way too busy…

Tuesday May 5th – took the day to rest and hang out at the pool. The resort has 7 pools and we wanted some time to enjoy the nice weather. It was 85 every day for the week we were in Florida. Later in the day, we went to Downtown Disney to see Age of Ultron at the AMC fork and Dine Theater. Movie was great and that screen is so damn large. Plus we bought some shakes at Ghirardelli and did some shopping. We bought the movie tickets online two weeks in advance. That fork and dine movie theater does sell out since there is a limited number of seats and they are assigned.

Wednesday May 6th – Back to Universal, this time to IOA. My personal favorite park in Florida. Now this day was filled with several free-bees. We received 3 different free items since my daughter and her friend are into Amine and they both had Amine shirts on. We got a free plastic Butterbeer mug, free water and an express pass entry at Spiderman attraction. Every worker at Universal that liked Amine gave us some stuff. I guess it was a bonding thing because of Amine. We did the whole park and as usual, I still love Jurassic park river ride. Front seat is the best on this attraction.

Thursday May 7th – Since we have Universal park hopper passes, we wanted to concentrate on Harry Potter areas. This was our 3rd and last day at Universal. We started out on the IOA side since at closed at 7:00 pm and the Studios side was open until 9:00 pm. We hit all of our favorite rides before stopping for dinner at CowFish. And might I say it was awesome. This CowFish restaurant is bases on Beef and fish. We had great burgers and Sushi, it is located in the city walk area. Also has outside seating and several floors.

After we eat we headed over to Studios park, it was getting later in the day and we wanted to see Diagon Alley at night. And it did not disappoint, even better than during the day. We took our time to take it all in and rode Escape from Gringots once again. This time there was no one in the queue, we took time in the Goblins area, looked at everything. Talked to the folks working in there, and they said they loved it at night when it was slow and you could see everything. After the ride, we stayed for a bit enjoying the almost empty Diagon Alley. We passed a man working outside Olivanders wand shop. He asked us if we wanted to go in for the last show of the day. We accepted and my daughter was selected as the one that the wand selects for the show. Remember the wand select the wizard, the wizard does not select the wand. This was a nice surprise as I thought they would pick a smaller child.

After the Olivanders show we walked around Diagon Alley until they kicked us out for closing. Plus the nighttime specular show was beginning. So we watched the 100 years of movie highlights and fireworks show. Again we hung out looking at the façade of Diagon Alley for a bit until we were forced to leave the park. During the night we also hit a few other rides like Transformers and we got to see Bumblebee interact with folks through music.

Friday May 8th - spent some time enjoying the resort. I went to the general store\marketplace to print out tickets for southwest for the following day. And here is where technology is kinda hard for some. There was one computer open out of six of them for free public use, So as I sat down and realized the browser was a mess, being Windows 8 machine and being forced to IE - I can understand why. So I fixed it, got it back to a usable state but the printer was broke. I then went to another open machine, and it was already in a session. You get 45 free minutes per session.

But it was not only logged onto a session, but it was in the middle of an airline account. A woman from Nebraska left it on her account. I used the back button to get to a starting point in a browser, but what I found was her info, all of her info - Name, address, checked bags at $75 apiece, credit card number, exp date… I was like, what the Monkey… She is lucky I am an honest man, so I closed out the account, started a new browser. But wait there is more, then I looked down and saw her Apple I-phone. It was an older 5C model. So after I finished printing my boarding passes, I turned in her phone to the resort…

Anyway I digress, back to our last day in the resort. We decided to hit downtown Disney one more time. Grabbed some last minute souvenirs. As you might know Disney is adding to Downtown, but what I loved was the damn parking garage, Yes parking garage. This new garage is the best one I have even seen. High ceilings, natural light, every floor marked with how many spots available, every row marked with how many number of open spaces, each open space in each row marked with a green light if it is available. Plus elevators and escalators. Even had cracked jack security there… Every parking garage should be designed like this one.

Other ramblings:

Don’t skip the Flight of the Hippogriff ride which is next to Forbidden Journey, it has great views of the Castle and Hagrads hut along with a fantastic real live Hippogriff.

I saw a few Payphones in Universal which caught my eye.
These are like dinosaurs now.

Kong is coming along nicely and – Nintendo just announced. Disney is making a mistake going with Avatar land when they should be building a large Star wars area.

I also brought home 2 - $25 dollar Florida scratch tickets as I do every year. After we were home and settled beak in for a few hours, we decided to scratch them. And ka-Blam – I hit it for $1,000. My daughter said it was because I turned in that Iphone and closed out that lady’s account so no one would steal her credit card info…
Karma you say…!

Replies (2)

May 16, 2015, 7:51 PM

Yes, you are so right about Diagon. Our expectations were very high, but the immersiveness of the land far exceeded our expectations. We never wanted to leave. And it is even better in the evening. Great ambiance, & that Dragon is really something. It's now my favorite theme park icon. It was amazing that every 15 minutes, nearly everyone on the streets of Diagon, stopped what they were doing to watch the Dragon roar & shoot fire. Diagon is just awesome.

May 16, 2015, 8:09 PM

Thanks Rob... I couldn't agree more... We are already looking forward to next year's visit... If we can wait that long.... Just wish we lived a bit closer...

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