Engagement Vacation Part I: Islands of Adventure


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To say I was ready for a vacation was an understatement. My last vacation was back in October 2012 when we went hiking in the Smokey Mts.  I was ready to look at Tampa in my rearview mirror and say hello to Orlando. I wanted a longer vacation but I couldn’t ask for a week off after a month and half on the new job. Luckily I was able to snag Friday off and thus have a three day weekend.

Disney or Universal?

We had such a hard time deciding which parks to visit.  Between the two, Disney is hands down my favorite. However the both of us had only been to Universal once before, and neither had been to the Harry Potter World yet (we were itching to go).  On the other hand Disney just renovated Fantasy Land and between the 4 Disney Parks, Magic Kingdom will always hold a special place in my heart. In the end we choose Universal and Islands of Adventure because A.) the tickets were cheaper (BOGO deal for Florida residents) and B.) we really wanted to try that butterbeer!

Since it was only the two of us and it was such a short vacation we had the ability to splurge on a nice hotel. We stayed at the Vista Palace Hotel and Spa, which sits directly across from downtown Disney.  As with all of our hotel adventures, there were a couple of snafu’s but the hotel’s employees were extremely gracious and fixed our issues.   If we had the time I wanted to have Sunday breakfast with Goofy at the hotel’s Disney character breakfast but it was our last day.

Islands of Adventure

On Friday we decided that Islands of Adventure wouldn’t be as crowded as say Saturday or Sunday, so this was our first choice. Unfortunately we were wrong, oh so very wrong.. Oh well, I got over it and had a great time!!

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I don’t do roller coasters, but we rode on everything else like the Cat and the Hat and Spider Man, and we watched a show called Poseidon’s Furry. The show was full of fire, water and darkness. You don’t sit down but walk through these rooms were each “scene” is played out.

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Harry Potter World

I could ramble on how great Islands of Adventures is with its roller coaster and special effects, but I know you are here to hear about Harry Potter World, well at least I hope so. 🙂

Cue the cartoon with his mouth wide open to the ground –

The minute we walked through the stone walls we felt like were in Hogsmead (minus the 200+ tacky tourists, including us). It was so magical! Universal did Harry Potter good. Rows and rows of  stone buildings with roof top covered snow, sat on either side of the cobbled stone walkway. In the not so farway distance I saw it, all tall and mighty – Hogwarts Castle. Oh man just wrap me in a Gryffindor robe and hand me wand and I’ll spend my days trying new spells and plotting schemes with Harry, Hermione and Ron.

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I didn’t know where to begin –  Honeydukes, Olivanders, Zonko’s, The Three Broom sticks – oh my.  Gurgle Gurgle….looks like my stomach made my decision. To the Three Broom Sticks for some real London/Harry Potter cuisine.  Off course I decided against the british fare of Sheppard’s pie and fish and chips and decided on the chicken fingers with grapes (I don’t eat chicken finger so it’s a vacation splurge).

The ambience inside was pretty cool. I can’t explain, you just have see for yourself.

FYI- those that like to drink, make a stop here because they have beer on tap, wine and spirits and mixed drinks. The beer is both domestic and imported.

Joe and I aren’t big drinkers unless you find a bar that serves flavored ice tea. But now that were on the topic I must say the butterbeer was exactly how I thought it would be: creamy, fizzy and heavenly. It tasted like ginger ale mixed with cream soda.

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Our bellies full it was time to visit the wand shop at Ollivanders. About every 10 minutes a group of 20 is taken inside the wand shop. And just like in the book the wand chooses you. Being a theme park and all, they aren’t going to give away wands to everyone, so Ollivander chooses one boy or girl and we watch them cast a few spells with wands until they find the right one. And in true theme park style after the “show” we are herded into a room where you can buy wands. I really enjoyed this. It was so cool to watch the little girl swing her wand and cast spells – the same one we watch the characters cast, and then watch in person the spell working. Watching this brings the book/movie to life. And the actor that played Ollivander was so good that you would think for just a second maybe wizards do exist. Off course I bought a wand. You can buy a wand for almost any character featured in the series. I chose Fleur Delacour’s because it was so elegant and intricate looking.  Sorry I didn’t take a picture of it. I’ll try and do that and post it on my Facebook page.

We saved the best for the last – Hogwarts Castle. Joe thought it was going to be this rinky dink looking thing. I think we were both surprised how massive it really. We really felt like first years entering the castle for the time ready to go into the great hall and have our houses picked out. There is a ride and the line you stand in takes you through the castle. Again there aren’t words to describe how grandeur everything was. And again no photos. Sorry guys I told myself that on this trip I would enjoy being in the moment rather than worry about taking pictures to post. I didn’t take as many photos on this trip.

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The ride – oh the ride! I am so glad we waited the hour long wait because it was worth it. It really is the best ride I have ever been on. I really felt like I was flying along side Ron, Harry and Hermione on their brooms. I was tempted to stand in line a second time.

Before exiting Harry Potter World I tried pumpkin juice and browsed Zonkos and Honeydukes. I really wanted to buy Bertie Bott’s flavored beans but at $14 a small box Universal can….. I’ll just leave it at that.  Speaking of prices they get you. It cost $6 for a small bottle of pumpkin juice.  That’s insane but it’s the price you pay if you want the true experience.

Oh and one last thing. A complete stranger bought Joe and I a frozen butterbeer, so we got to try it twice. The frozen is twice better.

Stay tuned for part two Cocoa Beach……..

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