Friday, September 18, 2015

Orlando (Day 3): Diagon Alley and Hollywood Studios

Our third day in Orlando started out at Universal again, but this time, when we got in early over at Islands of Adventure, we went to the Hogwarts Express station in Hogsmeade and immediately caught the train over to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. By the time we had walked back to Hogsmeade and gotten in line for the train, they opened up the turnstiles and started letting us go through to the train. This was probably around 8:15am. So, we ended up in Diagon Alley bright and early at 8:20am. 

We went out into the (empty) streets of London first. Not many people had chosen to leave Hogsmeade first thing, so we were literally two of only a very few people over here. It was weird...and wonderful!

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Obviously there was no line to talk to Stan Shunpike and the shrunken heads, so I took my turn.

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See? No one!

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We quickly popped through the brick wall and into Diagon Alley. 

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The workers were standing around chatting. All the doors to the shops were open and they were ready for business. We still couldn't get over the fact that no one was over here.

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An empty Diagon Alley...during the day!!!

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I was so excited about the fact that I could get photos without many people in them that we did that for a solid 20 minutes or more. For me, it was SO much fun. 

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The longer we were there, a few people trickled in...probably as each new train arrived from Hogsmeade...Universal Studios was not open to the public yet, so only those with early entry over at Islands of Adventure could get in here. 

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Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour was looking inviting...even this early in the morning!

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Carkitt Market was totally empty. The people that were coming in were going straight to the Gringott's ride.

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So, we wandered around a bit in here and took the time to look at all the windows, signs, etc. There were definitely things I hadn't noticed on my previous visits to Diagon Alley...even the one two days before! That's the thing about the Wizarding World. I'm convinced you will see something new each time if you look!

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We did go ahead and ride the Gringotts ride again at this point. Even after waiting this long to get in line, we still practically walked right on. 

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The Museum of Muggle Curiosities is one of the things I hadn't noticed before!

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After riding the ride and taking as many photos as we could of a still-empty Diagon Alley, we decided to have some Butterbeer Ice 9am! Why not? That's what vacations are for! And it was some of the best ice cream I've ever had. I'm big on texture and this was the creamiest and smoothest ice cream. I loved it!

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I don't know why, but I had not bothered to take a photo of Ollivander's earlier when no one was about. This was as good as I could get now that the park was officially open and more people were back here. Oh, and we went inside and bought ourselves wands! I got Hermione's wand and mom got Professor McGonagall's wand. 

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We did go back into Knockturn Alley too. It's really hard to get good photos back here because it's so dark and I didn't have a tripod. It's a really cool area though...even literally. It's covered and therefore much cooler than outside on Diagon Alley. 

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Borgin and Burkes is an actual store filled with Dark Arts merchandise and paraphernalia. It's actually quite neat to look around in there. Once your eyes adjust to the darkness, there are a lot of things to find. 

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Even though it's not a big area, it's really well-themed, just like the rest of Diagon Alley. This time, without kids, we took the time to look around at all of the signs, nooks, and crannies of Knockturn Alley. 

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Flourish and Blotts is one of my favorite stores because...books! Too bad it's just a store-front and not a real store. But the windows are fantastic. This is where you'll see some more of Gilderoy Lockhart's books. 

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I'm not a fan of Puking Pastilles, really, but you have to admit that Weasley's Wizard Wheezes is the most colorful and fun store...including their window displays. 

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The Quiddich store has some really cool merchandise. We bought a few shirts and things in here. Plus, the Firebolt is in their window!

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Before we left Diagon Alley, we had one more thing left to at the Leaky Cauldron. We had waited for breakfast to end at 10:30 and then we were going to have a very early lunch. But, they extended breakfast until 11! We really wanted to order off of the lunch menu, so we went back out to look around some more. 

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Finally at 11, they started serving lunch so we got in line. We didn't have to wait at all.

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It is such a cool place to have a meal. It's just so exactly like the movies and books. 

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The food is quite good too. I got the bangers and mash this time and was so pleasantly surprised by the whole dish. It was really filling and had great flavor. 

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Mom ordered what I had gotten on my last visit...the cottage pie. I didn't have a taste this time, but I remembered it from my lasts visit. It's a great dish.

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One last farewell to the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley and the Wizarding World. We had explored our heart's out over the last couple of days and it was time to go experience a different kind of magic...

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We found ourselves with an extra afternoon, having nothing else we just had to do at Universal. So, we went back to our hotel and caught a taxi over to the Beach Club Resort at Disney World. We are thinking about staying there for our trip with the boys next May so I wanted to have a look around. From what we saw, we would love staying there. Then we took a boat over to Hollywood Studios where we intended to spend the rest of our day. It was so fun to be spontaneous!

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The first thing we did was get on the Great Movie Ride. This is another one I remember from childhood and I enjoyed it. 

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I remember Gertie too...although she was closed at the time. What is with all the ice cream places being closed!?

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It's a good thing we had packed our little ponchos because it did start raining on us. It wasn't bad at this point and let up after a quick shower. 

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Right after it stopped, we headed over to the Tower of Terror to see if the line was too long. 

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Maybe it was because of the rain, but the line was only 15 minutes so we hopped in it. When Logan looked at this photo below, he said, "they really need to dust!" Haha!

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We spent a good bit of time shopping too...especially since it was still raining on and off. 

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We made our way over to the other side of the park and rode Star Tours. 

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Every time I see C3PO now, I think of the boys' name for him...the Golden Guy!

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I forgot that this was a 3D ride...and also that it would make me a little motion sick if it lasted much longer! Yikes!

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By this point, it was late afternoon and we were hungry since our lunch was fairly early. We decided to try our luck at getting into eat at the Sci-Fi Diner. We obviously didn't have advanced dining reservations since we didn't know we'd be here today. Fortunately, they were able to seat us after only a 10 minute wait. 

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And man, was this place cool! I didn't have any expectations...we just sort of walked up and asked if there was availability. I had no idea what kind of restaurant this even was. And I was blown away by the theme and atmosphere. I decided right then that we'd have to bring Casey and and boys back next year on our trip.

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The tables are inside the cars, which is awesome. And you get to watch the movie screen the whole time. 

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And the burger and shakes were really great! This burger was the house special...topped with BBQ pulled pork. Really, really good. My chocolate shake is definitely something I'll get again when I'm back. Overall, I loved this place! What a happy accident that we had our dinner here!

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With no plans, we walked back to the Pixar area to see if there was even a slim possibility that we could ride Toy Story Mania without waiting 2 hours. Well, as I expected...nope. It was a 95 minute wait, which we decided was not worth it. We'll be back next year...with fast passes. 

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But, the last time I'd been to Hollywood Studios, they didn't even have this area, so it was fun to look around at all the Toy Story stuff. 

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There were even green army men walking around. The park was not very busy on this day, but there were quite a few people back here. A popular area!

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This was another happy accident...meeting Sorcerer Mickey. We happened upon his meet and greet and just decided to get in line. That's it. 

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We walked back through the Pixar area on our way back to the front of the park. You can see that the clouds are gathering for another downpour. We wanted to go back to some of the shops near the front and buy a few things before we left. 

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While we were shopping, it started pouring. Hard. We took shelter while we were shopping, but eventually we had to step out and head out of the park. We took a very windy and wet tram ride out to the parking lot where we caught a taxi back to our Universal resort. This was such a fun, unexpected day...starting with enjoying a practically empty Diagon Alley and ending with a trip to Hollywood Studios that was completely unplanned!

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