Trip Report - 5/31/15 - 6/5/15

Just got back from Orlando so thought I’d put together a trip report. Hopefully, anyone going on a trip to Universal will find some of this helpful. And if you don’t, that’s ok too, because I like doing it for myself! :smile:

We had been to Universal Orlando about three or four times prior to this. Typically, just for one day during a WDW trip. I had always wanted to actually stay onsite and really focus on UOR and this year, we finally did. It was perfect timing too as my kids are 12 and 7 and have both fairly recently gotten into roller coasters and more “thrill” type rides.

PRE-TRIP

After researching prices, I booked the hotel through CheapTickets. At the time, I got an additional 20% off with a discount code so the total for five nights at the Royal Pacific was $960. For the park tickets, I bought the “buy two days get a third day free” tickets through Undercover Tourist.

Airline prices just keep getting more and more ridiculous so we made the decision to drive this year. We are in Houston so it’s about a 15 hour drive. We had a successful long drive last year to Arkansas (7 - 8) hours so we figured we’d be able to handle Orlando. To make it a little easier, we decided to split the driving into two days.

I got a good deal through Budget on a “Ford Escape or similar”. $340 for nine days. This turned out to be a REALLY good deal because when I went to pick it up, aw shucks, they only had a Ford Explorer, so I got upgraded. Nice!

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You got a great deal! We always book through Orbitz with a 20% off, but because we go during spring break (no room discounts and high rack rate), we always pay a lot. In April it costs us $750 for just 2 nights at RPR! Looking forward to your report.

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DAY ONE - May 30 - Drive to Pensacola

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the drive but did want to share a couple of things.

First off, I have to pat myself on the back for the preparations I made for car entertainment. My kids really love their Kindles. They like to read, play games and watch movies on them. Usually, at home, with WiFi, they can watch stuff to their heart’s content on both Amazon and Netflix. But, we were not going to have WiFi in the car. Usually, for a 2 - 4 hour trip, I will download movies we own from Amazon onto the Kindles or add movies I’ve converted from DVD to them. For a 15 hour drive, though, there isn’t enough space on the Kindle to put that much stuff. Luckily, I discovered something called a Hoo-Too Tripmate. What this does is it allows you to plug a USB drive or an external hard drive into it and then it will wirelessly stream the files to a tablet/Kindle/phone/whatever. I know I might already be losing people who may think that sounds too complicated but it was really easy to set up and use. I had a little 250 GB drive that I put a whole bunch of movie files on. Then, in the car, I plugged that into the TripMate and then the kids could go into an app on their Kindles and watch whatever was on the hard drive.

Ok, yeah, that is probably more nerdy than most want to get for their car trips but I have to tell you, it worked like a charm. I had put a good variety of their favorite shows and movies on the hard drive so we barely even heard a peep from them other than when they were hungry.

In addition to that, they also had books, Nintendo DSs and I brought some travel card games as well. Between all of that, the kids were pretty happy campers.

So, for the first leg of our trip, we drove to Pensacola. We stayed at the Days Inn right on the beach. The Days Inn was about half the price of other hotels on the same stretch of beach. It wasn’t fancy but for one night, it was just fine and it was RIGHT ON THE BEACH.

We got there around 4 pm or so. We went down and walked along the beach. Swam in the waves, dug in the sand. We did that for about an hour. Then, it was time for dinner. We went to this place called “Crabs We Got Em”. Weird name but we loved it. My DW and I split this crab trio thing - Dungeness, Snow and King Crab - delicious. The place also had hermit crab races which was fun. My DD7 picked a hermit crab out of a bowl of them and that was “her” crab for the race. Then, all the crabs are put in the middle of this big table sort of structure and the first one to cross the line at the edge of the table wins. Her crab didn’t win but it was still fun to watch.

After dinner, we took a nice moonlit beach stroll back to the hotel and got ready for bed. We wanted to make sure and get some rest because the next day we’d be headed to our final destination: The Royal Pacific at Universal Orlando!

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The view walking out of the Days Inn. Pretty much the same as from the much more expensive places to the left and right of us… :smile:

And here are a couple shots of the hermit crab race:

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Ok, I am a geek too, but I love the HooToo TripMate recommendation! Thanks!! Looking forward to the rest of your report. I am still trying to work on mine from Memorial Day week.

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DAY TWO - Sunday, May 31st - Arrival at RPR!

We got up and hit the road for Orlando. After about 7 - 8 hours (with stops), we arrived at the Royal Pacific!

We self-parked and then went in to check in. I have to pause here to say that this was probably one of the best check in experiences I’ve ever had. The lady that checked us in was so friendly. We’ve stayed at WDW resorts several times and have never had anyone as friendly as her. That’s not to say they were UNfriendly but, this young lady blew everyone else away. I actually worked front desk at Disney’s Contemporary a long time ago and know how stressful and demanding the job can be.

For starters, as she went to look for an available room, I asked about the refurbed rooms and she immediately started looking and said “ah, here’s a good one - do you mind a bathtub?”. Actually, that was our preference - apparently some rooms are shower only. So, she booked it and then started making our keys. As she did, she asked my DD7 if she liked Harry Potter. This was because for each one of us, there were different designs on the keys. The one for DD7 was Harry Potter. We admitted that she was more of a Minions fan and without batting an eye, she (the front desk hostess) made a new one for DD7 with the Minions on it. Then, asked about DD12 and I told her Jurassic Park so he got a cool key with a T-Rex on it. I asked about the fridges in the refurbed room and was assured that it would just be a normal mini-fridge without the minibar or any $15/day charge. Apparently, they will be doing that for all rooms in the future. Anyway, it was just a very pleasant experience all around.

Our room was on the first floor in the Windward Tower (Tower 1). It proved to be a great location for us. It was close to the pool and restaurants but not in the main hallway so it was in a quieter section. From our window, we could actually look out and see the pool.

The room looked great. I don’t know how they looked before the refurb but we thought it was lovely. Smelled new too.

Once we got everything from the car to the room, we were all hungry. I wanted to try the Islands Dining room, mainly, because I was curious about the kids’ dining room area there. Well, when we got into the restaurant, we went to look at it but it was dark and no one was in there. It wasn’t quite what I thought it was based on the description on the Universal and Loewe’s websites. No matter, we went ahead and sat together which was fine. DW and I had the Wok Experience.

For the Wok Experience, there a bunch of fresh vegetables out and you pick whichever ones you want and put them in a bowl. Then, you go to the chef and get a choice of meat (beef, chicken or shrimp), sauce (can’t remember all of them but there was thai peanut, sweet and sour, siracha,) and either lomein or rice. DW and I both agreed it was good but not great. The beef had kind of a weird flavor - we both preferred the chicken. Overall, a good meal.

After dinner, it was time to go swimming. The pool at Royal Pacific is really nice and we had a great time playing in it.

Each night, there is a movie shown once it gets dark. You can check the schedule of what will be playing on a board at the main pool entrance. Unfortunately, they aren’t always what I would consider “kid-friendly”. The movie that night was “X-Men: Days of Future Past” which is a great flick but it is PG-13 and is a bit too violent/intense for my 7 year old. It was easy enough to swim in a different area away from the screen, though.

After about an hour and a half of swimming, we turned in for the night. It was going to be our first full day in the parks so we wanted to get plenty of sleep.

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Thank you so much for writing about your trip! I really hope to do a Universal vacation some day.

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I know, right??? Doubt I’ll get that lucky again!

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Thank you we will be ther for 1 night and I’m looking forward to all your tips

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Looking forward to reading more!

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DAY THREE - Monday, June 1st - Universal Studios

Woo hoo! Finally, our first day in the parks!

So, being a Liner and all, you know I had been obsessively planning out what we’d be doing. Of course, with Express Pass, I wouldn’t have to worry about most of the rides. The only two I really needed to plan for were Gringotts and Despicable Me.

The plan was to do Despicable Me first and then go over to Diagon Alley to hopefully find a short line for Gringotts. This was assuming that the park would actually open at 8:30 am rather than the published 9 am.

We got to the USF gates at a little after 8:15 am. Something of note about the front gates - there is a big gate in the center with no turnstiles. Then, to the left and right of that are turnstiles. If you get there early, it looks like you aren’t supposed to go to the center. Most everyone is lined up at the turnstiles to the left and right. My DS12 went and asked a Team Member and was told that the center was the same as the turnstiles lines. So, we lined up there and were a good bit closer than we would have been.

Right at 8:30, they started to open the gates and let people in. We went straight to Despicable Me and walked right into the pre-show. It was our first time and we all enjoyed it. Well, all except my poor DW who doesn’t do so well on simulation rides.

By the time we got out of DM and walked over to Diagon Alley, I believe it was around 9:05. Walking into Diagon Alley for the first time is pretty awesome. I wanted to just stand and gawk, which I did a little, but I knew we needed to get to Gringotts quickly if we didn’t want to wait in an hour long line. Unfortunately, when we got there, the ride was down. People were waiting around for it to open back up. I didn’t really want to stand around so I had us go over to Ollivanders for the wand show. I was really hoping one of my kids would get picked but no kids were picked. It was a lady - probably in her 30s, I’d guess. The show was ok. Pretty short but at least we didn’t wait long for it. I think we waited around 5 minutes before going in, if that. Coming out of the show, of course, the kids wanted wands. I wanted to get them the interactive ones. This was a pretty unpleasant process. First of all, the store was wall to wall people. Also, it’s hard to tell which wands are what. The people that work there seem to be overwhelmed and, in some cases, a little over it. Like “dang, I’m sick of working in this non-stop crowded with tourists wand store”. I asked one worker who was near the exit for help but she told me she wasn’t allowed to leave her post. Thanks. I had us leave because I remembered reading that Gregorovitch’s is less crowded.

We headed out and walked past the Hopping Pot. There was no line there so I went and got us Butterbeer. Mmmmmm… We all liked that! Initially, I got one regular and one frozen but DD7 realized that she wanted frozen too. Luckily, it was easy to switch it out so everyone was happy.

When we went over to Gregorovitch’s, there was a line. I guess I didn’t realize that you don’t actually go into a store there. You line up and they get the wands for you there, I think. Even still, it looked pretty long to me so we went back to the chaos of Ollivanders. We found an employee to help us and were able to get the wands the kids wanted. One Willow and one Rowan.

My take on the wands was that they were a waste of money for us. I am not saying that people shouldn’t get them but they are quite expensive and I don’t think we got our money’s worth. I think if you have time to set aside for really exploring the Harry Potter areas and doing the different spells, then it would be worthwhile. Our problem was, my DD7 isn’t really into or familiar with the HP books or movies and didn’t have the patience to just hang out in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. I think had DS12 and I been able to go back in the evenings with just the two of us, we could have gotten more out of the interactive wands. During the morning and afternoon, though, all the interactive spots were always really crowded - kind of annoying. I LOVE the idea of them, though, and again, I’m sure for others they are/were a lot of fun. My other beef with the wands is that for some, like the one my DS12 got, their boxes are really long and don’t fit in some of the lockers. Like, at Men in Black later that day, I couldn’t fit the stupid wand and its box in the locker. I ended up “hiding” the box up on the top of the lockers. I think, at the end of the day, the fault lies with me. If you plan it out better, you could have a really good time with those things.

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I wasn’t planning on buying my kids the wands. We have 1 of the old ones from our first trip and it has sat untouched for years. We had never been to Olivanders and decided to go in this past trip. There was no line and us and maybe 4 other people went into a room. Well, guess who got chosen…my DS11. It was quite a cute ceremony and I could not say no since the wand chose him, right? So almost $50 later we had another wand. My kids loved it and did every single spell in both parks. We found the best time to do the spells was late in the evening or during EE before it got too crowded. We did notice lots of younger kids having problems making the spells work.

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That’s the way to do it! At least we have them now and can just bring them along next time and not have to buy again. (well, assuming they don’t get lost or something)

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Day 3 Continued…

After Ollivanders, Butterbeer, wands and a little bit of spell casting, it was around 10 am. We went back to Gringotts to check it out but it was still down. Diagon Alley was also getting even more crowded so I decided it was time to move on. Knowing that we had two more days in the parks relieved a lot of stress. There were still people waiting outside of Gringotts for it to open. Who knows how long they were going to have to wait. Also, I’m sure for some, that was their only day there so Gringotts was probably a must-do for them that day.

I checked the app (the official UOR one) throughout the day and most of the time it just showed “Opens at 9am” for Gringotts which I took to mean that it was still down. But, it was showing that well into the afternoon and I don’t think it was down that long. (who knows, though) What I found over the next few days was that the wait time for Gringotts was not very much in synch with the app. Several times, I found that while the app reported one thing, the actual posted time outside the ride was something else. Or, the app would just have “opens at 9am” well after 9 am and the ride being open. Anyway, I learned the best way to check the Gringotts wait was to go there.

Here are some D.A. shots:

Wands at Ollivander’s:

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UOR would do themselves a huge favor if they sold some sort of wand carrier! We purchased an interactive wand for our DS 11 and they did allow us to send the box back to the hotel. However, the wand did not fit inside my bag. The wand did fit in the lockers, thankfully. The interactive tip also appears to be rather fragile which was a concern. My DS’s wand did make it through several days at the parks, but it sure would be nice to have some sort of carrier with a strap to keep them safe and easier to carry. He was able to do the spells pretty easily and really enjoyed doing them. He is a big HP fan (movies and books) and the spells were a highlight of the WWOHP experience for him! We found the best time for spell casting to be early in the day before it got too crowded, but we did not try evenings.

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So, the morning wasn’t going exactly as planned but I was ok with that. We still got to do and see things in Diagon Alley that I wanted to plus, I knew we’d be back.

Next up, we went over to Men In Black. This is a ride my DW will go on and she especially enjoys it because she kicks all of our butts in scoring. Actually, I kicked everyone’s butts this first time but only because I pressed the red button at the right time for the 100,000 point bonus. Otherwise, I only had a paltry 23,000 points while DW had 80 or 90k.

From there, we headed over into the Simpsons area. We had been on the Simpsons ride before but that was before the whole Springfield expansion so that was really cool to see. The ride is as fun and funny as ever. I love all the little jokes and I was laughing out loud during the part just before you get on the ride. Even though DD7 has never watched a Simpsons episode and didn’t get a lot of the jokes, she loved this ride. We ended up going a second time right after.

Let me pause for a moment and just say how much I LOVED having Express Passes. (who doesn’t, though, right?) It was so great when we wanted to do something again that we knew we could jump back in line with minimal wait using EP. I’m usually able to do this with certain things at WDW but I have to plan it out just right and I have to know which rides the kids will want to do twice in a row. That was before FPP, though, so not sure how it will work next time we go. I’m sure I’ll be fine doing some similar planning - e.g. Splash Mtn early and then use FPP shortly after. I did get a chance to try out FPP on a business trip in March. I went to Magic Kingdom one evening and I really liked it and I think I would be able to make a good plan using it for our next family trip. I think both systems - EP and FPP have their advantages and disadvantages but I like them both a whole lot more than waiting in hour+ lines.

After our second ride with the Simpsons, it was getting to be lunchtime. We went over to the Fast Food Blvd to eat. The kids both had pizza from Luigi’s which they liked. DW and I both got something from Cletus’ Chicken Shack. She surprised me by getting the Chicken and Waffle Sandwich. I’m usually the one that gets weird stuff like that. She really liked it and let me taste her maple mayonnaise. I thought it was pretty good. I got the Double Batter Chicken Platter which was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and corn on the cob. I liked everything except the coleslaw.

Oh, and lest I forget, I also made sure to get myself a Duff Beer. As a longtime Simpsons fan, this was a must-do. I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. I got a regular Duff which is an amber beer. I’m not any kind of connoisseur so all I can say is that it was good. I would definitely get it again.

After lunch, I had planned to go see the Animal Actors show if the timing worked. The next show was at 12:15 and it was approaching 12 as we finished up - perfect! We got there in time to line up in the EP line. We ended up with some nice seats in the middle.

It’s a really cute show if you like animals. It’s one we always go to when visiting Universal and we always enjoy it.

I had originally planned to leave the park around this time (after the show) for a mid-day break back to the hotel. As anyone who has been to Orlando in June can attest to, it gets HOT so we usually like to get out of the sun and either into a pool or into our air conditioned hotel room. As luck would have it, though, most of the day there was a good amount of cloud cover so the heat wasn’t so intense. We decided that we were all doing ok enough to keep on going.

Since we were near the Kid Zone, we headed over there. First, we did E.T. This is one of those rides that has sort of an obligatory feel to it. Like Small World. It’s not particularly great but there is some nostalgia - at least for DW and me. The kids’ assessment was that it was “creepy”. Yeah, I guess it is, kind of. I still have to do it. When E.T. came out in 1982, I was 12 and it was my absolute favorite movie. I loved it. In fact, I’m probably one of the few people who, upon first riding E.T., knew that we were on the Green Planet. I actually read the book “E.T. The Book of the Green Planet” by William Kotzwinkle back in '82 during my E.T. obsession phase.

We went over to the Woody Woodpecker roller coaster afterward. Kids were not impressed. They were ready for bigger thrills.

I think my DW was a little sad when we left the Kids Zone. It was the first time in recent memory that we’d gone there and NOT done the Barney show. About 8 years ago, when DS was 3 or 4, we visited and he absolutely loved the show. Then, four years ago when DD was 3 we went and SHE loved it. We have these cute videos (perfect for blackmail some day) of them dancing to the songs and meeting Barney afterward. I wasn’t too sad to skip Barney this time… :wink:

We walked down Hollywood Blvd to get to our next destination. On the way, we stopped into a Magic Store. They were going to be doing a show in the next 10 minutes or so but we decided we’d try to get back there later. We continued on to Transformers. This was new since our last visit so I was excited to try it out. I knew it was similar to Spiderman which is one of my favorites. Kids and I went on it and really liked it. We did it a second time. (Thank you, Express Pass!)

After Transformers, DS12 and I went over to Revenge of the Mummy. He didn’t go on it on the last trip when he was 8 so he was excited to try it. I didn’t think DD7 was ready for it yet so she stayed with mom. DS really liked it - it ended up being one of his top 3 favorites. Of course, we had to do it a second time before getting back with the girls.

From there, we went over to Twister: Ride it Out. I always thought this was kind of cool but it did not go over well with DD or DW. DD got scared by the pre-show where they talk about how deadly tornadoes are and DW got dripped on quite a bit from where we were standing.

We went to Shrek after that and it was fun. Then, we went over to the big store at the front of the park. While there, I mentioned Rip, RIde Rock It and wanted to know if anyone wanted to go on it. For whatever reason, the sight of it intimidated the kids and neither wanted to go. I went by myself because this was another ride that I had never been on. I think it was there when we went the last time but we skipped it because kids were little and we only had one day to do both parks. I was a little nervous when the lady asked me how tall I was and mentioned that there was a height MAXIMUM. Yikes! So, if I’m too tall, will my head get chopped off or something?? Turns out, I was short enough to ride at 6’5". It was a great ride…I think. It scared the you know what out of me but at the same time I was laughing loudly the whole time. I met the family back in the store so we could move on to the next thing.

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We hadn’t explored the San Francisco area yet so that’s where we headed. My plan was for all of us to ride Disaster but, unfortunately, Twister scarred my poor DD7 so bad against natural disasters that when she heard the ride involved an earthquake, she was out. DW took her to a candy store while DS and I went on it. It’s a fun show. Particularly at the end when you actually get to be in the “disaster”. Once we finished that, it was getting close to dinner time. I had made a reservation for Lombard’s for 5:30 pm so we headed over there.

Just a note - reservations for the Universal restaurants were pretty easy to get in my experience. I booked reservations for Lombard’s, Mythos and Tchoup Chop less than a week before our trip and got all the times I wanted. So, it doesn’t seem to be as big a deal to make them way, way in advance like at WDW. I will say, it is a good idea to make the reservations at some point, even if it’s same day as I did later in the trip. At both Lombard’s and Mythos, we saw people get turned away who were walk-ups.

We sat down and began perusing the menu. I ordered the Corn and Lobster bisque as an appetizer. DW also ordered the spinach artichoke dip. I ended up sending the bisque back. I didn’t like it at all. Now, granted, I’m really picky with seafood. If it has a fishy taste at all, I don’t like it. Usually, lobster bisque is a safe bet. For me, though, this one was fishy tasting and not good. The spinach dip was ok. For entrees, DW and I both ordered the lobster rolls. Thankfully, these were pretty good. They were a little on the dry side and I couldn’t tell if all the meat was actually lobster or if maybe they mixed in some “Krab” meat as well, but they were decent. We don’t have a lot of experience with lobster rolls. We tried them for the first time in Vegas last year at this place called “Lobster ME” and LOVED them. They were so good there and when I saw “lobster roll” on the menu for Lombard’s, it is what made me make the reservation. The Lombard’s rolls were a little bit of a let down compared to our first lobster roll experience, but, again, they were decent. DS, for his meal got the Cheese Bites off of the appetizer menu and those were also pretty good.

Moving on to dessert, they have these dessert shots you can get for around $2 each. DS and I each ordered two. I got the chocolate cake and the cookies and cream and he got chocolate cake and another one I can’t remember. We were underwhelmed. These were obviously pre-made somewhere else and had a slight freezer burned taste. Neither one of us ate all of any one of them even though they were small portions.

So, Lombard’s was a little hit and miss for us. In spite of that, overall, it was great to get out of the park and into a nice relaxing table service experience. I would probably try going there again but would get some different items.

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Of course, someone has already thought of this… just not UOR… love Etsy:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/212913475/harry-potter-inspired-magic-wand-carrier

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After dinner, I think it was around 7 pm. Seemed like a good time to check on Gringotts. When we got there, it was up and running. I think the wait time posted was 45 minutes which was longer than I’d hoped but we went ahead and got in line as we were anxious to see it. DW (who was not riding) said they changed it to 60 soon after we entered. Yeah, we got tricked. It was a long wait. But, I knew that with Gringotts, if you weren’t doing single rider line, you most likely have to bite the bullet and wait a while. There are worse things to have to do, right?

So, we finally get on the ride and, what can I say, it was incredible. I had remained relatively spoiler-free so didn’t quite know what to expect. I was really blown away by the ride system and all of the cool effects. Kids loved it too. I really wish DW could have seen it/experienced it but she just doesn’t do well on the more thrill type rides.

Quick note - the plus side of her not doing rides like that is that we don’t typically have to deal with the locker situations at the HP and other rides since she will hold our bags. She is really sweet about it and actually enjoys just hanging out and people watching so it all works out. There was just one time I did have to use the locker at Forbidden Journey because DW had gone back to the hotel and it SUCKED. It’s so crowded in there and so many people don’t know how to get the lockers open so I am really thankful that she takes one (two, three, four…) for the team!

After Gringotts, we met back up with DW, who wanted to show us something. She discovered Knockturn Alley while waiting for us and took us there. We looked around the Dark Arts store and also tried out some spells. It was pretty cool. She told us that when she first went there, nobody was there and it was a little creepy. That wasn’t the case when we went. The spell areas had other people at them and there were several people in the store. Still cool to see, though.

When we were done exploring, we left Diagon Alley and headed for the Hogwarts Express.

We enjoyed the ride and arrived at Hogsmeade station. I think it was around 8:30 pm at this point. We went over to Hogwarts Castle and the Forbidden Journey ride. The posted wait time was 15 minutes. Excellent! We had only been on Forbidden Journey one other time before. On the trip where we did both parks in one day, we did it in the morning but then never got back to Hogsmeade to do it again.

Basically, we walked right on. It was so cool to just walk right through everything. Maybe, even a little too quick. I let some people go in front of us because I still wanted to look at some things for at least a second or two. Anyway, we got to the ride and it was awesome as ever. I had forgotten about a lot of things so it was almost like riding it for the first time. We got off around 8:45 or 8:50 and it was an easy decision to go and ride it again. Once again, we walked right through the queue and were back in flight. When we exited, it was 9:01 pm. Parks were closed. Great ending to a great day. We walked back to the hotel and got ready for bed knowing that we had another full day ahead of us.

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DAY FOUR - Tuesday, June 2nd - Islands of Adventure

This was our IOA/Early Entry day. We were a little slow getting out the door and by “we” I mean “I”. I was definitely dragging. We got out the door by 7:50 which wasn’t ideal but what are you gonna do? We entered the park by 8:06 am, I believe, and headed over to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter along with everyone else.

So, let me pause here and say that this was probably my biggest “mistake” of the whole trip. Which, tells you how awesome the rest of the trip was because it was very minor. I would just do it differently next time. First of all, by not getting into the park until six minutes after opening, we were WAY behind the crowd. It doesn’t seem like much but Forbidden Journey fills up fast in the morning. Secondly, we had just experienced how wonderfully easy it was to get on FJ later in the evening so why go on it first thing? DS was asking this as I herded us over to Forbidden Journey. The wait time posted was 30 minutes and I pointed that out and told him that it would be a fun way to start the day and it wasn’t a bad wait so let’s go ahead and do it while we are here. Unfortunately, the wait time sign LIED. It weren’t no 30 minute wait. There was an extended queue outside that did a bunch of zig zagging before you even got to the green house. I think we probably waited around 40 - 45 minutes which was dumb. We wasted almost the whole early entry hour waiting in line for an attraction we had just done twice in a row the night before. On the plus side, the ride was still awesome once we got to it.

Next time, I wouldn’t bother with FJ first thing. I would use the time to explore Hogsmeade and do the interactive spell stuff. As it was, Hogsmeade just kept getting more and more crowded so we didn’t really get to do that. We did go on Hippogriff which I think is a nice little coaster but the kids weren’t impressed. Then, we also did the Dragon Challenge which the kids loved and so we did it a couple of times.

And now for some obligatory pictures of Hogwarts!

After WWoHP, we headed over to Jurassic Park. DS12 is super excited about Jurassic World coming out this summer and is also a big fan of the three JP movies. We had all been on the JP River Adventure before on prior trips and it is one of my favorites. On our way there, I noticed the wait time for Pteranadon Flyers was only 10 minutes. I had never been on it before because the wait times had always been prohibitive. I thought, with a 10 minute wait, why not give it a try?

The rules for it are a little convoluted. Adults can’t ride unless they are with someone who is under a certain height. I don’t know the specifics but, bottom line, me, DS12 OR DW could ride as long as we went with DD7. DW and DS weren’t all that interested so I went. The wait did end up being about 10 minutes which wasn’t too bad. It is a fun little ride. We got a nice view of the park, including the construction going on for the new Kong ride. I don’t know that I’d wait much more than 10 minutes for it, but I’m glad we got to try it out. Later, the wait was 45 minutes and up so was doubly glad we went when we did.

After that, we headed for the River Adventure. We came prepared for IOA bringing an extra back pack that had our swimsuits and rain gear for the very wet rides. The JP River Adventure is one where I have sometimes not gotten very wet but have also been soaked. We didn’t get into our full regalia for it but we did put on our rain coats and rode it twice.

We did pretty good and didn’t get super soaked thanks to the rain coats.

After the River Adventure, I asked a lady in the store what time the Velociraptor Encounter started. She told me that they were told 11 am but that it didn’t really have a set schedule yet. It was around 10:40 am so I figured we should go ahead and get in line so we could make sure to see it. When we got there, it was already going on. At about 10:55 while we were still in line, they said that “Lucy” was going to take a break but that “Ethel” would be out shortly. Sure enough, about 5 minutes later, a different Velociraptor (presumably, Ethel) came out.

It’s pretty darn cool! The kids loved it. Especially when the 'raptor roared at them as they started to walk away.

So after surviving a T-Rex attack (twice) and a close-up encounter with a Velociraptor, we had worked up an appetite and headed over to Thunder Falls for lunch. I got the chicken and ribs combo which was pretty good. I think most everyone else got burgers except for DD7 who wanted a hotdog. Unfortunately, Thunder Falls doesn’t sell hotdogs so I went out to a cart and got her one there.

After lunch, it was time to don our swimsuits to take on the water rides of Toon Lagoon. The kids and I changed and then got in line for Ripsaw Falls. It’s a really fun ride and you get really wet. We did it again and then went over to Bluto’s Bilge Barges so we could get even more wet. We did that twice and then went to Ripsaw one more time. We decided we’d had enough (well, I did, anyway) and changed back into our dry clothes. I thought that worked out really nicely because I really don’t like to have to walk around in wet clothes all day.

At this point, I had originally thought we’d be going back to the hotel to swim or chill. But, again, the cloud gods were with us and we felt like we would be fine to keep on going so, off to Marvel Super Hero Island we went.

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