Both girls had chocolate chip pancakes, since they'd had waffles for breakfast every day since Sunday. I had scrambled eggs, potatoes and sausage gravy, and Captain Crossword had an omelet. After breakfast we walked to the end of the parking lot and caught the shuttle to the park. The ride was about 5 minutes, and then we walked about a mile to get to security. After that we had to walk through the City Center section of the park, which does not require admission and is probably about another half mile long.
Finally we were in the park! I loved the Minion recruiting posters:
And then the Minions ride, which started at Gru's house:
Many more pictures after the jump!
We didn't do the Minions ride. Captain Crossword had downloaded Universal's app, and it said that the current shortest line was the Gringott's ride in the Wizarding World section of the main Universal park.
Just entering Diagon Alley was breathtaking. The first thing you see is the dragon chained atop Gringott's Bank:
We were about to get in line when we found out that we couldn't take anything on the ride that didn't fit in a pocket. The line for lockers was so long I was afraid it would double our wait, so I told the Captain to take the girls and I'd see them after the ride.
I had a lot of chances to look around Diagon Alley. The kiosk selling drinks was absolutely gorgeous and I treated myself to a bottle of Gilly Water (i.e. DHMO).
While waiting, I got to see Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees perform. Celestina opened with "Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love" of course!
Then I went to the Magical Menagerie and embracing the philosophy of You're Never Too Old for Plushies, I got myself a new friend, Fluffy.
Shortly afterward, Captain and the girls emerged from the ride, which they said was amazing, and we started walking around. There was next to no one in line at Ollivander's, so we headed for the door.
a charming wandmaker named Juan greeted us at the door.
Ollivander's is rather dim and mysterious and there are wand boxes everywhere!
Soon enough, we were ushered into the presence of the wandmaster.
He selected my nieces for his demonstration of how to choose a wand, and after Princess STEM killed a plant with magic and Princess Minnie nearly brought the
Despite looking around a bit in the shop, the girls decided to stick with the wands that chose them, so we bid farewell to Ollivander's.
After more wandering around (SO much to look at) we decided to take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure. The entrance replicates Platform 9 ¾ and it looks to people farther behind in line that you are disappearing into a brick wall. Sadly, we couldn't get a picture of the effect--it's easier to fool the eye than a camera!
The Express is really phenomenal--it's a ride both in the sense of a means of transport and in the sense of an amusement park ride. You ride six to a compartment, and when the doors are shut there are amazing scenes "outside" the train on the window, including the Knight Bus expanding and shrinking and popping out of impossible places, centaurs running in the forest, Mr. Weasley's flying car and so many others. On the translucent window to the corridor, there were shadows of characters from the books and movies, and you can hear their voices as they go through scenes from the movies.
The train lets out in Hogsmeade, a short walk from Hogwarts. Hogwarts is breathtaking.
We got in line for the Hogwarts ride. The line starts outside, then goes through a cellar with beautiful arches, then through Professor Sprout's greenhouse, then into the school itself.
I am an idiot who didn't get any pictures of the greenhouse. :-(
The ride itself was fantastic, aside from some heart-stopping giant 3-D spiders. I closed my eyes and waited until they were done spitting until I opened them. I have never felt so much as if I were actually flying. Afterwards, Captain Crossword wanted to try the Butterbeer, but all the lines were too long (unlike the books, Universal's Butter Beer is non-alcoholic). We walked around Jurassic Park, I had my first churro and fell in love, then we decided to skip the Dr. Seuss section, and headed back to the train and back to Diagon Alley.
When we got off the train, we stopped at the Knight Bus just outside of Diagon Alley with a cute driver and a not-cute talking head who made horrible, corny jokes.
Lots of jokes about how Fluffy had a "ruff" night and so on.
We went back in to Diagon Alley, and Captain Crossword got a Butter Beer from the much-shorter line there. It was very good, cream soda with caramel-flavored whipped cream on top. Then we went to the stage to watch a performance of Tales of Beadle the Bard, which was done with puppets. It was very good, but my knees couldn't cope with sitting on the ground and I didn't feel like standing, so I walked over towards the Leaky Cauldron, where I was meeting Jen and John of Cakewrecks and Epbot.
My first perch was on the steps of Flourish and Botts, where I sat beside a window full of Monster Books of Monsters.
They were all growling and flapping--so cute! A family came by and the little boy and girl looked in the window and the girl asked her dad if they were real. He said yes, and I told her not to get too close to the window. When the mom suggested they take a picture, she shrieked and ran to mom, yelling that she didn't want a picture with the monsters. Oops. #sorrynotsorry
I credit G of Nouveau Cheap for making sure I always look up. Thanks to that habit, I saw all kinds of neat things, like a steam kettle on a wall:
A rabbit in a top hat:
The bunny even waived her ears!
My late lunch with Jen and John was amazing. I felt super comfortable with both of them--after all, as John said, I know what their laundry room looks like! I had great fish and chips and the best lemonade I've had in years, but also some really comfortable, friendly conversation. I felt a little bad bailing on them after only a couple of hours, but it had been a long day and I was ready to take off my stinky sneakers and rest for a bit.
I had a quick shower at the hotel, then we all went to dinner in the diner and afterwards, Captain Crossword and the girls went for a swim while Mom and I lay in some lounge chairs and chatted. Once again, I was sound asleep by 10.