WDW/Universal Oct '14 - Part 2: You're a Wizard!

So now that we've gotten to Florida and toe Cabana Bay safe and sound, it's time to start the real fun. To start I just want to introduce you to Wookie and myself a bit more!

If you are just joining me, you can check out Part 1 here: WDW/Universal Oct '14 - Part 1: The Great Delay!

Me (Katherine) - I grew up in Ohio with more of less yearly trips to WDW, I know the drive from Ohio to WDW well. I worked at WDW for a year on back to back internships, first was a DCP attractions internship and then a Professional Internship. It was awesome! WDW is my Disney home and I got the privilege of going to Universal a lot too while working there. This was my first time experiencing Diagon Alley and it had been over a year since I'd been to Universal.

Wookie (Boyfriend) - He grew up in the SF Bay Area and has made many trips to Disneyland but had never been to Florida at all. So while he was familiar with park touring and Disney, this was his first trip to the theme parks east of the Mississippi!

So anyways on with the trip! From here on out I going to be doing just highlights but feel free to leave questions in the comment area and I can go into more detail!

That morning we checked out of Cabana Bay and packed up the car since that night we were going to be checking into All Star Music and returning the rental car in at a hotel in the Downtown Disney area.

Express check out card drop off!
Time to hit the road!

After packing up, we hopped on the super convenient bus to the parks to take advantage of the Early Park Admission to Diagon Alley. On top of everything being awesome at Cabana Bay, this was the perk we were really hoping to cash in on.

We arrived and proceeded to the park entrance. We had printed out our tickets and I found it interesting that we just used the paper print outs the whole day, they didn't print a "real" ticket. Way to save some trees and $$$ Universal!

We then proceeded directly to Diagon Alley and here are my thoughts:

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts - I was nervous to get on this ride since I had read so reviews about how it's a bit intense but really this ride is pretty gentle. It swivels you around a lot and there is one or two drops that give you a little speed but the motion of the car is about as intense as Spiderman. The effects were cool and the queue and theming were AMAZING but overall, Wookie and I got off the ride and were kind of "meh" about it. It's totally worth waiting to check out for the first time, but I don't think I'd wait more than 30 minutes for this ride in the future.
  • Knockturn Alley - This is such an amazing little part of Diagon Alley. You have to go looking for it since it's tucked away but it's such a gem!
  • Interactive Wands - So normally I'm not one to buy things that are useful only the day you ar at a theme park, but these wands are so fun to play with! Right now, you can only get a variety of character based wands with the embedded tech in them but for $10-$15 dollars more than the "normal" wands you can interact with "stations" (for lack of a better word) all around the Harry Potter areas. Super fun and you really do feel pretty magical! If you are going to buy a wand anyways, I'd upgrade to this one!
  • Butterbeer Softserve - Pretty gosh darn good. I recommend trying it at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour
  • Overall - Just an amazing area. Everything is filled to the brim with Harry Potter-ness and any fan will appreciate the details. The dragon on Gringott's is pretty freakin' awesome too!
Here we go!
Gringott's goblins

Knockturn Alley

After Diagon Alley we took the Hogswarts Express to Islands of Adventure to see the rest of the Harry Potter experience! The train is so much fun! It's not so much that it's the best attraction but it just feels... magical. It's exciting to see it pull into the station and then board into your own train compartment. The only thing is that the Hermione voice actress was... not great. It just sounded completely wrong. Other than that, it's awesome and you should ride it both ways because they are very different experiences!


Now it was time for the "older" half of the Harry Potter experience. I had been here before so it was great to come back to such an awesome area!

  • Forbidden Journey - This attraction is still awesome. I really came to appreciate it more this trip and Wookie said it was his favorite ride at Universal Orlando! We got to ride it twice since the wait time didn't get over 30 minutes when we were there. I think this kicks the Gringott ride's butt.
  • Threesbroomsticks - This is still my favorite Harry Potter restaurant. I love the shepard's pie and the Hogsmeade brew is a delicious beer.
  • Dragon Challenge - I forgot how great this coaster is! We ended up riding the fire side twice and the water side once. SO MUCH FUN!
  • Overall -  I love that this area feels really different from Diagon Alley. They clearly come from the same world but they each have their own personalities. Hogsmeade is just so charming! The Hogwarts a cappella group is pretty awesome too if they are singing when you wander by.

All aboard!

Here be dragons!

Three Broomsticks!

Other Universal Highlights!

  • The Hulk - This is such a great coaster. The power, the rumble, the rush as you burst out of the top of the gamma ray gun (or whatever you want to call it) really can't be beat!
  • Spiderman - This is a can't miss for me. There is so much that makes this ride beyond awesome and everything works together to make a seamless ride experience.
  • Men in Black - We single rider-ed this ride because the wait was super long, you miss so much of the queue and all the fun nods to that movie doing this! If you haven't been on this ride before, don't single rider it, you will miss a lot.
  • Terminator - this was a new one for me and we ended up having technical difficulties so 2 of the scenes were messed up, it was good but I don't think it's as impressive as Spiderman interms of overall story integration.
  • The Mummy's Revenge - I remember being really underwhelmed when I went on this ride before, but this ride is solid. I love the psyche out at the end, totally forgot about that!
  • Poseiden's Fury - I remember the final scene being way more epic, did they change this experience? Overall still a really unique experience and I totally recommend it!
  • Simpson's Ride/Area - I'm not the biggest Simpson's fan so I never spent much time in this area before, but this is a great area! We grabbed a beer at Moe's (so fun!) and we rode the ride which was better than I anticipated. If you like the show even the slightest bit, you should take a second to wander through the buildings here.

The Hulk!

Grabbing a drink at Moe's!

We really had a BLAST at Universal, it will never be Disney but it has a solid day of theme park fun!

Once we finished up at Universal, we hopped on the bus, grabbed our car from Cabana and made the drive over to All Star Music! Once we checked in (getting a King bed room - score!), we got everything in the room and then willed ourselves to head to Downtown Disney to return the car. We dropped it off and then went over and grabbed dinner from Earl of Sandwich, because what's better than a Holiday Turkey sandwich?

We grabbed our food to go and hopped the bus to All Star Music and spent the night relaxing. We had a full day of Epcot and Food and Wine ahead of us!

You can check out all our photos here: http://www.pinterest.com/kpease128/universalwdw-trip-october-2014/

Continue to Part 3 here: WDW/Universal Oct '14 - Part 3: Around the World

WDW/Universal Oct '14 - Part 1: The Great Delay!

Hello all!

The time has come to do a recap of my recent non-running, trip to Universal and Walt Disney World.

We were there from 10/19-10/27 and it was awesome! Food and Wine Festival, Hoop Dee Doo, Harry Potter, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, and generally good crowd levels and weather. We also got to use Fastpass+ in a real way since they rolled out the ability to connect it with Wookie's silver pass, score!

So on with the show!

This is going to be part trip report but mostly just highlights of the notable things we did on the trip.

Leaving Ohio

So the plan was to run the Columbus Marathon, head home and have a nice lunch with the family, and then head to the airport for our 5 o'clock flight on American Airlines. This would get us into Orlando around 11pm and then we would head to Cabana Bay, rest up, and hit Universal the next day.

That is what was suppose to happen, but this is what actually happened.

Everything went according to the plan, until we boarded our flight and waited... and waited... and waited... finally it was announced there was an issue with a hydraulic something and we were going to deplane. The part they needed was suppose to arrive on the next flight which would arrive at 7:30, but this delay meant we were going to miss our connection in Dallas. I totally understand these things happen, so Wookie and I talked about it and figured out what to do next.

7:30 came around and the part was not on that plane, further delay. From then on they just kept nudging out the time of departure and we had already decided to get to Dallas and take the first flight out at 6am the next morning which would get us into Orlando by 9:30am the next day. At this point we were still on the fence about doing Universal the next day or just waiting a day and having a hotel day.

Finally, after lots of confused communication from American we boarded the flight at around 10:30pm. We got to Dallas at 1 local time and got to the hotel they had set up for us because of the delay around 2 (which was also a 20 min drive and we passed MANY hotels on the way).

Since we had planned to grab the earliest flight because when we booked our morning flight we weren't getting in as late, this meant a whopping 1.5 hours of sleep since we had to grab the hotel shuttle. Also, in Columbus they had told us that we'd get our bags in Dallas for the night, nope, they held them which was frustrating because that meant I had no overnight stuff with me. Again, communication fail. Also, this delay also meant that we pushed back our entire trip by a day. Since we got no sleep we decided to hold Universal for a day which meant adjusting every rental car, hotel, and dining reservation we had made.

So after all of this we arrived in Orlando, ready to finally start our vacation, and guess what? My bag was not on our plane. It didn't even get to Dallas, it went to Chicago somehow and would arrive an hour after. Since at this point we were tired and in no real rush, we decided to just wait the hour at the airport instead of waiting for a luggage delivery. Also, how did my bag fly with me? Isn't that a security thing that you are suppose to be on the plane your bag is on?

Augh, it was super frustrating and because of the lack of communication and how slowly they managed the whole process, I will be thinking twice, triple, quadruple... before flying American Airlines again.

Since we were so pooped by this point, we got the rental car, picked up the park tickets and some groceries and then went to Cabana Bay to take a nap and then swim and chill. This is exactly what we needed after the silliness that had ensued.

Cabana Bay

After everything that had happened I just wanted to take a nap. After running a marathon, a good nights sleep is always in order and instead I had spent the 24 hours after the race traveling. Not ideal.

Did I like Cabana Bay? HECK YES! This resort is so awesome. The theming, the team members, the pool, and the rooms were all amazing. I highly recommend staying here!

Our view!

So we settled in, grabbed a beer and chilled for a bit and then snuggled in for a nap. We set some alarms (we thought) so we didn't sleep the day away and finally got the rest we needed.

After a longer than expected  (but much needed) nap, we awoke around 6 and decided to check out the pool. We had seen the lazy river from our room and wanted to check it out. The pool was awesome, but it was starting to cool off so it was a bit chillier than I would'v liked. After swimming for a bit, we hopped out and decided to head tot he food court for dinner, I got a chicken sandwich and Wookie got some pasta. Both were good and the I thought the food court area was so cute.

Food court had different stations and was very open. The only disappointment was that the soft serve machines were empty.
We then wandered over to the other half of the resort and checked out their pool area (didn't get in) and grabbed an adult beverage at the pool bar. After chilling for a bit we wandered back to our side and snuggled into bed, excited for Universal (aka Harry Potter) fun the next day!

I'm really glad we decided to take a hotel day and got to check out this awesome resort. Highly recommend this place if you want to check out Universal!

That's all for Part 1! Continue along to Part 2: WDW/Universal Oct '14 - Part 2: You're a Wizard!

You can check out all my shared vacation pictures here if you'd like a sneak peak: Universal/WDW Trip October 2014

Katherine' Orlando Picture Pinterest Wall!

I'll be posting a lot of pics here as I explore Universal and WDW on vacation! Come along and check in regularly because I'll be updating this frequently!

We'll be doing all of Harry Potter (both parks), Hoop Dee Doo, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Food and Wine Festival, and a ton more! Come along for the adventure and fun!

Check out this page for updates: Universal/WDW Trip Pics (Oct '14)