Monday, June 5, 2017

Paige and Ree's Epic Vacation: Part 3

Hi there! If you haven't been following along, I have been recounting, in detail, my recent trip to Orlando with my best friend, Paige. You can read the story behind the trip in Part 1, and our first couple days in the theme parks in Part 2.

To summarize, just in case you haven't got time to read all that, both Monday and Tuesday we went to Universal (Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure) and did ALL THE HARRY POTTER THINGS!

Wednesday (March 29)
On Wednesday we took the later free shuttle from the resort, which left at 11:15am, and came back at 7:15pm - earlier in the week we had taken the 9:20am shuttles and found that we were exhausted by the end of the day and our feet were just killing us. It turned out to be a smart move, as having just a few less hours of standing/walking in the heat, we felt so much better at the end of that day.

By this point, we were still very much into the Harry Potter stuff (Harry Potter stuff can't get old, right?), and we decided to dedicate our time to experiencing again the Harry Potter rides we had enjoyed the most, and also using our wands. So we went straight to the Dragon Challenge ride, the most exciting one. We ended up on the second dragon (there are two tracks) so it was a slightly different experience, and we got split up so that we could get on the ride faster, and the line was still pretty short at that time of day (which was around 11:45-ish, although I don't think I ever saw the sign say more than a 20 minute wait for that ride). After the Dragon Challenge, we went through Hogwarts for the Forbidden Journey ride again. We went back over to Diagon Alley for lunch at The Leaky Cauldron again because we preferred the atmosphere and experience there over The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.

We spent the rest of the afternoon practicing our charms and spells in both parks. The spells in Diagon Alley (and Knockturn Alley) were fun & interesting, but we had a miserable time getting most of them to work for us! There are witches wandering about to help you, but there are only a couple of them, for a dozen spell spots, so we didn't get too much assistance. And there were tons of kids around lined up to take their turn at practicing each spell. So it made me feel a bit silly to be standing in line with a bunch of kids and then not be able to make the thing work. I tried very hard to leave behind my insecurities and just have fun, but this was one situation that I could not let go of.
Posing with wands for a double selfie is really difficult...
There were a few more spells to do in Hogsmeade, but of course that day, half the village was "jinxed" so nobody's spells were working, which was unfortunate. We did, however, have an amusing conversation with the Hogwarts Express conductor. There weren't really as many cast members around as I would have expected, and it wasn't clear with most of them whether they were actually in character or not, but with the conductor, it was very clear (once we caught on!)... We asked if we could take his picture in front of the Hogwarts Express, which he consented to. He said he hadn't known when he took the job that he'd become so famous, it was the train who was the famous one! He then asked us where we were from, so we said Canada, of course. And he confirmed that it was still pretty cold there. He then proceeded to ask us why we (and everyone else) were dressed in summer clothes when it was so cold? We especially, being from a colder climate, should have known to bring warmer clothes! He himself needed his longjohns and the fur liner in his coat to keep warm! We had a good chuckle! :) (Because the buildings in Hogsmeade all have snow on them, you see.)

After we had had our fill of spell casting, and as it was nearing the time for the shuttle, we slowly headed toward the entrance. Earlier in the week we had seen Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in CityWalk, and had taken a peek inside. It is a 19th Century steampunk-themed chocolate store, restaurant & bar - which is about as awesome as a thing can get! We had also seen a girl from our shuttle with one of their milkshake cups which we thought we ought to try, so that's where we headed Wednesday afternoon on our way to the shuttle. The milkshakes were an outrageous $13 USD (plus tax), but they were quite something. I got the brownie one, which had a huge fudge-y brownie on top with the straw stuck through it. The straw was actually full of brownie, though, which wouldn't budge and resulted in me spilling milkshake all over myself and my bag. They were pretty tasty, but sooo filling! While we were sitting on the patio enjoying our shakes, there was a lady in full steampunk costume (apparently called Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome, which I found out after doing some research once home) who walked around talking to customers... she wasn't talking to us, but her costume was awesome! I wish I had taken a picture. I wasn't feeling it too much at the time when we were there, but if I were ever to go back to Universal, I would definitely like to spend a little more time at Toothsome - get a meal and whatnot. :)

Thursday (March 30)
Thursday was Disney's Magic Kingdom day! We had decided before the trip that we would go to Disney on Thursday, as it's supposed to be a "less busy" day at Magic Kingdom. We knew that we wanted to stay later for the fireworks, and knowing how tired we had been earlier in the week, we decided to take the last shuttle that went to Disney, at 12:15pm, which came back at 10pm. If I were doing it again, I think I would put in a few more hours at Disney, especially because we were only there for one day. I was tired at the end of the day, but we didn't get to do everything we had wanted to, and it felt a bit rushed at some points during the day, so a few more hours could have been put to good use.

The shuttle from the resort actually only goes to Epcot Centre, so we then had to take the Disney Monorail over to Magic Kingdom. It was really hot that day! We had made a vague list of things we wanted to see/do, but of course had forgotten it behind at the resort. So, we started wandering, took the obligatory selfie-in-front-of-Cinderella's-castle pictures, wandered through shops on Main Street to get out of the heat, etc. There aren't too many "thrill" rides at Magic Kingdom, but there were a few we had in mind to do, so we headed over to Frontierland first (totally bypassing Adventureland, which is actually where Pirates of the Caribbean is and a few other things we wanted to see, so we never even saw those things, and didn't realize until we were back at the resort!!). On the way to Frontierland, were caught part of the Muppets' Memorable Moments in American History show in Liberty Square. Then we got in the long line for Big Thunder Mountain. There is entertainment along most of the line, and the ride was fun, but I think my childhood memories were more exciting. I'd probably give it 3/5 stars.

After we got off Big Thunder Mountain, there was a parade happening, so we had quite a time getting to where we wanted to go! But we eventually made it over to Fantasyland and did It's A Small World, Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, and the Mad Tea Party. It's A Small World is one of those classic Disney rides, but in hindsight, we could have skipped it because it wasn't all that great. I don't think that the Little Mermaid ride was there when I was a kid, if it was I never went on it, so that was kind of cute, lot of music to sing along to. (Haha!) I told Paige that if we had time and it wasn't a ridiculous line, then the Mad Tea Party was a must because I didn't get to do it when I was a kid and it was a sore spot. ;)

Beauty & the Beast's castle!

We would have loved to eat at Be Our Guest,
but it was booked solid for the week!

Statue of Gaston
After those rides we got supper at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Diner in Tomorrowland, which was delicious! I got a pulled pork burger, and it was just amazing. After that we headed over to Space Mountain. It was a ridiculous wait time (80 minutes!) and while there were some interactive games along part of the path, for the most part it was just a lot of standing and shuffling a few paces at a time. We got separated on this one too so that we could ride faster. It was so exciting and exhilarating! I loved it! I think Paige liked it in the end... That one gets 5/5 stars, for sure. It was just as I remembered it as a kid!

Next it was time to do our souvenir shopping and find a spot for the amazing Wishes fireworks show! So we headed back to Main Street, spent an hour or more shopping, and then found a perfect spot for the show beside a super sweet young family. While waiting we got some snacks - we had both wanted Mickey straws but forgot to order them with our meals, so then we were running around Main Street trying to find some, but the best we could do was chocolate-covered marshmallows on straws. The Wishes show was a spectacular 15 minutes long and so beautiful! I am so, so glad we included it in our itinerary! Immediately after the show we headed out with the masses to take the monorail to Epcot in order to catch our 10pm shuttle back to the resort!

Part 4 detailing the last two days of our trip is up now!

Magic Kingdom souvenirs! <3

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