Friday, March 20, 2015

The Happiest Place on Earth

Friday, March 20, 2015 with 13 comments
…is maybe not the happiest place on Earth, at least not for my particular family. But I'll get to that. ;0)

This is my first week back after vacation, and it's been rough, man. I need a vacation to recover from my vacation! But I wanted to share a little of what we did before I start forgetting the details. I'm including some pictures, too, which you may have already seen if you follow me on Instagram, but I haven't had a chance to upload the pictures from my good camera yet so I couldn't share any of those. :(

When my older sister Kat found out we were going to Universal Studios, she wanted in. She figured this was going to be her only chance to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as she has no kids of her own and no Potterheads as friends. (I know!) So, while we drove the 16+ hour drive to Florida, she met us there after a quick plane trip.

Since we were driving, we took it easy on the way down (over?) to Florida, and made a few stops along the way before stopping for a couple nights in Pensacola. I'd read somewhere that Pensacola Beach is rumored to have the whitest sand in the world, and my goodness, it was definitely pretty. Much more picturesque than my last visit to a beach, that's for sure.

It wasn't very warm yet in Pensacola, only in the mid-60s, so it was a little too chilly to play in the ocean for long. And even though the hotel had a heated pool, the heater wasn't working while we were there, so that wasn't gonna happen. But that's okay because Katie had a blast playing in the sand and splashing around in the Gulf for a bit. We spent some time building sand castles and Katie buried herself in the sand and made volcanoes in the sand. We've only been to the ocean once before, when Katie was four, but I think she was even more fascinated by it this time around. She just stood there as the waves crashed to shore and stared out at it, entranced. I'm sure I got a shot of that on my other camera. :)

We left Pensacola on Monday morning and had to pick up Auntie Kat from the airport as soon as we got into Orlando, so we didn't have much time to explore when we got there. But we were less than two miles form Universal Studios, so we could see it from our hotel room, which was kind of awesome. I'm not going to lie…the biggest draw for us at this amusement park was definitely the Harry Potter-related attractions. We could not wait to get there and get our wands and drink our first butter beer.

We spent our first day at Universal mostly exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, visiting Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and casting spells using our interactive wands. Katie got totally outfitted as Hermione, complete with her wand, and we rode the Hogwart's Express between the two parks, which was fun but a tad disappointing. For some reason, I had it in my head that I'd see majestic hills and travel over bridges like they do in the movies. It was entertaining, though, especially considering my unreal expectations. :P

Katie and Kat both also really enjoyed Seuss Landing, too, both being fans of the silly books. Fun Fact: Kat's birthday was actually on March 2nd, which also happens to be Dr. Seuss's birthday. :) Jerrod's favorite part of the park was probably Superhero World or whatever it was called. He doesn't really like rides, but he enjoyed the Transformers and Spiderman 4D rides quite a bit.

Which was another reason I was glad Kat was on the trip with us…she likes roller coasters as much as I do. We rode the Dragon Challenge twice in a row because we lucked out and there was, like, ZERO line either time. Plus, the fact that you get to pick either a Chinese Fireball dragon or a Hungarian Horntail meant we had to try out both. I think the Fireball was better, but that might be because I rode it first and in the very front. Kat said she thought they were the same. *shrugs*

Our second day at Universal was pretty much dedicated to rides. We rode every ride we could fit in plus some that just had really short lines and ended up being pretty fun anyway. Kat and I also rode The Hulk, which was even more intense than the hanging Dragon Challenge. Kat and I both agreed there was no way we were riding that one twice in a row, lol. No clank-clank-clank up to the top for that ride…it just shoots you outta there! So freaking exhilarating!

When we asked Katie which park she wanted to go to first, she picked "Harry Potter", and so that's what we did since this was technically her birthday trip. (It was sooo nice how everyone -- and I mean everyone -- told her happy birthday when they saw her pin. :D) Which meant that left Disney World's Magic Kingdom for our last full day in Orlando.

Here's the thing. We didn't hate it. It's just…when you come from the awesome that was Universal Studios and go to Disney, where people were less courteous, much pushier, less friendly and there were generally just more people, it's a bit of a disappointment. The wait times for rides there were double or triple what they were at Universal. And the big kicker: they don't serve alcoholic beverages in Magic Kingdom. I don't know why we were so surprised at that, but since Universal did, I guess we kind of just expected that Disney would. Not that we have to have beer to have a good time, but we were on vacation and we were cabbing it all the way.

Once we got past our initial disappointment, though, we had a good time. We rode the rides we could tolerate to wait for. No Seven Dwarves Runaway Mine Train, though…that line never got down to less than an hour-and-a-half wait. We kept forgetting to set up our Express Pass rides, and by the time we remembered, that one was full-up. :(

Disney is mostly about the kiddos, though, so we let Katie navigate for the most part. She wanted to ride the teacups every time we passed them. We flew around in Dumbo. We saw Ariel under the sea. And I had to basically tell Kat the story because she's never seen The Little Mermaid.

We had time to relax when we got back to the hotel after Disney, so we had some pool time and played some board games, but we had to get Kat to the airport early the next day and head back to Texas ourselves, so we called it an earlier night than we had the rest of the week. :) We were going to stop and grab a hotel in whatever city we were in when we got too tired to go any further on our way back, but we got a fire lit under our asses to get back to our own beds, so we ended up driving straight home.

We didn't get here until 4am, at which point we immediately crashed. But it was worth it. The hotel beds weren't bad, but they didn't compare to that expensive ass bed we bought at the fair last year. :P And we made it without incident, so there's that. :)

I feel like there was so much more I wanted to tell you about our trip, but as I said, I'm still recuperating from our travels. I may do a second part to this post with more details and more pictures after I get them all uploaded to my computer. Just depends. ;0)

If you've never been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I suggest you add it to your Bucket List if you've enjoyed any part of the franchise. It's such an immersive experience, like you're truly walking the streets of Diagon Alley. I can't wait to go back, and I hope they just keep adding to the attraction so I can experience more of Harry's world.

April's taking the same trip in May, and I can't wait to compare stories and pictures with her. I really wish we could've worked it out so we'd be there at the same time. :( Regardless, we had a great time and I'm sure April and her family will love the new additions since they were last there. :)

Happy reading & safe travels! :D


  1. Your trip looks fun but exhausting! I've never been to either place but we plan on it when Bren gets older. Great pics even w/out your expensive camera.

    1. It was SO fun. But definitely exhausting. Still, I can't wait to do it again. :) And thanks!

  2. I live in FL and have taken family members to both parks over the years. While the kids love Disney to see their favorite characters we always have more fun at Universal.

    I find easier to get around, less crowded, more prepared for lines, cooler (the misters and shaded areas) and everyone is nicer.

    Glad you had a good time.

    We went to Jacksonville beach for ONE night and I still haven't recovered lol

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    1. I definitely agree...Universal is just set up better, all the way around. Even though it wasn't even that warm yet, those misters and fans in the shaded areas were wonderful. And while Katie loved Disney, she said she enjoyed Universal even more, especially since we had more time to explore it. takes awhile to recover these days. My kid never showed a decline in energy but us grown-ups were dying. We're ready for another trip, though, lol.

      Thanks for stopping by! :D

  3. I can't remember the last time I was at Disney World. It's been years. I'm just so much more attracted to Universal Studios, so that's where we always go. The Hulk is by far my favorite ride. I do love the dueling dragons (or whatever it is called now), too, and Spiderman. Did you go on the Men In Black ride? That one is one of my favorites. I'm sorry that Disney was such a disappointment (and that the weather wasn't that nice for your day on the beach), but it does sound like you guys had a good vacation all around. It is always exhausting when you go all out for vacation, though, which makes going back to work so hard!

    1. Okay, good. I'm glad I'm not the only one who prefers Universal. :) And is The Hulk not awesome?!? We didn't make it to the Men in Black ride. I actually kind of forgot about it since it's kind of over there between The Simpsons and Diagon Alley. Maybe one day. :) I really do hope to go back again when Katie's a little older…it made for such a fun, if tiring, vacation.

  4. I'm so glad you guys had a great time. I know what you mean about Disney, It's super crowded and then lines are horrible. We booked a bunch of our fast passes already. We aren't too keen on having to be any one place at any certain time, but we will make an effort for the rides we really want to go on.

    I so badly wish we had been down there at the same time. That would have been the best thing ever.

    And that last photo, I think is my favorite photo ever. You two are adorable. Love it! :)

  5. Looks like a fun trip! I loved Disney as a kid and never noticed the stressful parts but when I went to Disneyland a couple years ago as an adult I really noticed that like you said people are pushy and rude and its very chaotic. I can understand why you want a vacation to recover! P.S Im really jealous of your Harry Potter adventures!! <3 Bee @ Bee Reads Books

  6. Aww this looked like a great trip. My son is 3 and just starting to watch a few of the Harry Potter movies so I'm like we have to get there before it turns into something else! Thank goodness hubs is down. Lol. Hooray fr a successful trip, when did it become so hard to travel? Oh right it always was. Can't wait to hear the rest!

  7. Aww, it looks so perfect! If I ever decide to go across the pond to America again, I have to go there! :D

    Cucie @ Cucie reads

  8. LOVED the WWHP. I felt like I'd walked into the movie and that was such a fantastic feeling. And I agree that US is much less crowded, which is really nice. To me, there's still something special about Disney, but since we've always traveled there during the worst possible times (during school vacations) I never feel like I get the best experience.
    Glad you had a great trip!
    Jen at YA Romantics

  9. So jealous! I can't wait to go to the Harry Potter park! I'm hoping to save money for the big ALA annual convention in 2016 since it will be in Orlando, and just go then. I want to try a Butter beer so bad!! Glad you had a fun time.

  10. I love harry potter world! I have been about 6 times and I am still discovering new details every time I visit. I'm glad you had a good time!

    Michelle @ Book Briefs


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