My sister graduated undergrad and I graduated from grad school in the same year so as a sort of graduation present, my parents brought us to Universal Studios – specifically, Harry Potter World. My mom said the expressions on our faces walking through Hogsmeade were worth all the hassle of getting down there.
Since this was before the second part of Harry Potter World opened, we did not get to go to Diagon Alley but that was okay by us since we were so excited just to experience the magic of Harry Potter’s Wizarding World in person!
Our first day in the parks we got there early and went directly to Harry Potter World getting in when the crowds were low. We rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and the Dragon Challenge (still one of my favorites even now that it is re-themed to HP – I loved it as dueling dragons) and spent time exploring all around HP world!
We stopped for lunch at the Three Broomsticks, trying the Butterbeer and Frozen Butterbeer (naturally) and all around enjoying our time there.
We had such a blast just the four of us and eventually made our way around the rest of the park.
My dad, Jenn, and I single rider lined most of the coasters (my mom’s not a huge fan) and had a blast in the parks. We took fun pictures and explored things that were different or the same from the last time we were there about 12 years before! Also, since it was between Christmas and New Years, the parade floats were still on display in the park!
One of our favorites was CityWalk since Jenn and I were much younger last time we were there. We ate at Margaritaville (a serious favorite) and the NASCAR Sports Grille (which has since closed).
Although most of our trip was focused on Universal and Harry Potter World, we did spend one day at Walt Disney World at Hollywood Studios and Epcot. These are the two favorite parks of my family and we had such a blast exploring them both on our one day Disney trip. We started at Hollywood Studios and enjoyed our favorite rides: Tower of Terror, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, The Great Movie Ride, Muppets 3-D, and, of course, the Studio Backlot Tour. A highlight of this was that it was the last time we were able to experience the Studio Backlot Tour and Jenn got to be a part of the show!
After a quick lunch at Pizza Planet we headed to EPCOT to enjoy the rest of our day before meeting up with my aunt, uncle, and cousins for dinner celebrating my cousin’s birthday (they were on a Disney vacation while we were on our Universal vacation). We decided on a quick trip around the world after exploring Future World and the pavilions.
Our goal was to drink around the world with a quick stop in Mexico for nachos (my sister’s favorite) and then meet up with my cousins at Downtown Disney for dinner. This did not go as planned. We ended up meeting up with my cousins as we entered the World Showcase and, as they are much younger, we had to search each country to complete the littles’ passports.
It was nice that we got to enjoy more of the day with them, but since it took much longer to explore the World Showcase we needed to eat dinner in the park and with no reservations and a party of 10 with some small children we ended up eating at the America Pavilion – not normally a first choice for my food loving family.
My dad and uncle did sneak off to get brats in Germany (a fact that we were pretty jealous of) but otherwise we had pretty typical park food which is like a sin in the World Showcase.
My aunt also bought me champagne in France as a toast to celebrate my graduation which was great 🙂
We ended our voyage in Mexico with Jenn’s favorite – nachos – and some top shelf tequila shots from my aunt. It was an overall great time!
While we were in Orlando, Rutgers was playing a bowl game and my dad, Jenn, and I got to go to that which was exciting, even if Rutgers didn’t win.
At the last day of our trip I had to grab timed entry passes to get into Harry Potter World since we didn’t arrive early enough to get right in. When the time came, the rest of my family wasn’t feeling the walk back into the park (especially since this was only months before my dad’s knee surgery so they were pretty sore) so I ran back in by myself to stand in the line for Ollivander’s and it was so worth it to get my wand!
We then met back at Margaritaville for one last drink 😉
The trip was such a fun time, especially since we got to visit the parks with my parents as adults and experience it differently than we would have as kids.
Our Favorites: Hands down our favorite part of this trip was Harry Potter World. It turned us into children again experiencing the magic that this park offers and really getting to become a wizard 🙂
Food: I loved eating at the Three Broomsticks and really enjoyed frozen Butterbeer. We also had such an awesome experience at Margaritaville (this trip was our first time) because of the atmosphere, food, and drinks, that we try to go anytime we see one (like last week in the airport)!
Haul: By the end of this trip I brought home chocolate frogs (some for my friends as well), Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, a Hufflepuff t-shirt to show my house pride, Hermione’s purse from the movie (my big splurge item), a Hogwarts crest ornament, Minnie Ears, and my last day run back trip to Ollivander’s by myself best souvenir of my wand!
Additionally, I got this pin to remember the trip by (even if we couldn’t ride the Hogwarts Express yet):