Monday, July 06, 2015

Florida Vacation, 2015

We went to Orlando in June. It was the bomb. Unbelievably HOT (who would have thought?), but incredibly fun.

Universal Studios was awesome! We got Orlando Flex passes which gave us access to the Universal parks, Sea World (I know, I know), and two water parks, so we went to a theme park Every. Single. Day. And a dream of mine finally came true.

I got to go to Hogwarts.

IT'S AMAZING. If you suspend your adult brain, just a tiny bit, you will have the time of your life. And so, I did. I let go of about 30 of my years and had the time of my life pretending that I had actually arrived at Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. When we flew with Harry on The Forbidden Journey and Escape from Gringotts, I WAS REALLY THERE. All in, folks. Allll in.

This must be what it feels like for 4 year olds at Disney World.
Eating at the Leaky Cauldron. THE LEAKY CAULDRON.
 Butter Beer, Gilly Water, Pumpkin Juice... We had it all.

 Wands that work, BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY DO! They cost a pretty penny, but these were the only souvenirs we got the kids. AND you can't really go to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley without going to Ollivander's, can you? The answer is No. You cannot.
 I know we spent hours over the course of our week in Ollivander's. These two pulled every. Single. wand from the shelves, no joke. NO. JOKE. I think Evan would have just stayed in there if we had let him.
 While the actual train ride between the parks itself is merely "Meh", it was still pretty cool getting in line at Platform 9 & 3/4. Plus, it's WAY faster than having to walk from one park all the way to the other one.
 Hagrid's Hut is in line for the Flight of The Hippogriff. If you happen upon it when the line is about 2 minutes long, then do it. Otherwise, seriously, pass it up. Super short ride, crazy slow line. The Dragon Challenge is WAY better and the line moves insanely fast through the abandoned castle.
 I had really hoped that George and Fred would make an appearance in their shop. Or that something would explode. Nothing did, but it was definitely loud and crazy and had all of the tricks and jokes you would expect to find.
 In line for Forbidden Journey, AGAIN. (We rode it at least 3 times). This line might seem long, but it is sooooo worth it. YOU GO THROUGH THE CASTLE. The really real Hogwarts. I'm serious. This is the real deal.
I said it. I did. "Sherbert Lemon!" That griffin totally spun around IN MY MIND.

Holy crap, there were goblins. COUNTING GOLD.
 These two got to hang out all week which made our lives with the Teenager Who Despises Heat way more tolerable. This is right around the time that Kayla admitted she had never watched all of the movies and NEVER READ ANY OF THE BOOKS. We allowed her to stay with us, but just barely.

HONEYDUKES!! Candy and air conditioning. Two of our favorite things.
If you go to Universal, don't skip the shops in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. Take the time to really explore, because they are amazing. And definitely don't forget to go down Knockturn Alley! The kids used their wands and made all of the creepy spells work and Corinne scared the living @#$# out of me when she put a pretend rat on my foot while we were in Borgin and Burkes. I screamed loud enough to make her laugh and other customers stop and turn. This has become one of her favorite memories. So...yay. Little brat.

 Did you know there are other things besides Harry Potter at Universal Studios? There are. The Mummy ride was a really awesome surprise. If you go, do not walk past this ride!

If these were just a little bit cheaper, I might have been convinced...
 Ice cream for dinner because VACATION. (Also, ice cream for breakfast because you can't take ice cream and toppings on an airplane.)

 On one of the hottest days, we went to Sea World and had a really good time, despite the misgivings of Evan and me. (Ever watch BlackFish? Yeah.) Still, the roller coasters were awesome and there were several animal experiences that were worth the trip. We left early so that we could go back to our rental house, eat Chinese food, and swim. And swim we did.
 I'm starting to really see the resemblance that everyone talks about.
 Renting a house is SO WORTH IT. We paid about $800 for a 4 bedroom, 2 bath with a game room and a pool that overlooked a golf course. FOR 9 NIGHTS. Yeah. Do the math, and try to find a hotel that can even come close to comparing. SO WORTH IT.

These kids swam in the early morning and as late as we wanted. Sometimes for just a half hour while we sat on the deck with our beers and said "Holy shit, this is a good vacation."

Right behind that attractive man is a tree with Spanish freaking moss on it...And a black bird that stole golf balls off of the course. It was an extra entertainment watching golfers in garish clothing searching for balls in 100 degree heat.
And because we were in Florida over Father's Day, we surprised this guy with an air boat ride in the swamp!
5 alligators, 3 cows, 1 turtle and hundreds of birds later, we left with smiles on our faces. It was amazing. We used The Spirit of the Swamp, if you're looking for a recommendation. For the price, experience, and customer service, it was worth it.
My God, so many memories were made...

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