Award-winning author and travel writer Kathy Witt is again a Special Guest Blogger. Enjoy her blog post about Universal Orlando Resort below.
“It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
Universal Orlando Resort (www.universalorlando.com) walks the Dumbledore talk.
Having already made magic with its Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter, the park keeps cranking up the enchantments. The latest? Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure—what Universal calls a “story coaster”—set in the Forbidden Forest and replete with ruins, dragon eggs and Skrewts.
Standing in line for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure following the passing of Robbie Coltrane might be a bittersweet experience for some Harry Potter fans. Wait times can clock in by as much as 185 or more minutes—plenty of time to remember the actor who brought such humanity to the role of the gentle giant. But this adventure is an unabashed tribute to Harry’s beloved friend—and it just might be the best ride you ever experience.
Located at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, Hagrid’s is a hair-raising three-minute hurtle traveling up to 50 miles an hour and featuring the first free-fall vertical drop in the USA. (Yep, that was your stomach that just dropped.) The ride shoots forward like a bat out of Azkaban, dips, spirals, accelerates, reverses, drops and revs up again . . . and again. Surely Hagrid himself is at the wheel.
There are three rides in this world—the other two being Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey—but each is a major attraction combining thrills and theatricality. Also in Hogsmeade: the Triwizard Spirit Rally and Frog Choir, which bring to life the music of the Harry Potter movies, and foodie fave Three Broomsticks.
Board the Hogwarts Express to reach Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. The train travels between Hogsmeade Station and King’s Cross Station (a Park-to-Park admission ticket is required) and guests are either treated to Harry meeting up with Ron and Hermione or tortured by Dementors, depending on the direction of the journey.
At Diagon Alley, swap Muggle currency for Gringotts with the goblins of Gringotts Money Exchange; step into movie history by boarding the Knight Bus—an actual prop vehicle used in the series’ third film, “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban”; and keep a wary eye out for Voldemort, Bellatrix and a gang of trolls on the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts rollercoaster ride. (The vault is inside the building with the giant fire-breathing dragon perched atop.)
In either land, visit Ollivanders to purchase a wand for the park’s interactives and to see a wand choose a wizard—who gets to keep it. (The lucky wizard chosen will save more than $50.)
Visiting the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter is like stepping into the book or movie—and a true bucket list adventure for fans, many of whom dress in their house robes and other such attire when visiting the parks.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort (www.universalorlando.com, click “Places to Stay) is one of eight Universal hotels, each offering free and convenient transportation to the parks and early park admission, among other benefits). With a gorgeous lobby overlooking the lagoon, the largest hotel pool on the campus and Strong Water Tavern, which serves up more than 100 types of rum along with tasty tapas, this Caribbean-inspired oasis casts a magic spell all its own.
The hotel has 1,000 rooms and suites, including Kids Suites with separate nautical-themed bedroom for the little ones, and four dining options, including the poolside Drhum Club Kantine, plus room service. The lavish tropical-themed pool area has sandy beach, hot tub, waterslide, firepit, children’s play area, cabanas (for rent) and more.
Guests can park their car and forget about it, traveling to the park by complimentary water taxi by way of Universal CityWalk, a shopping/dining/entertainment complex tucked between Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Those counting their steps can trek the walking paths to the parks.
For breakfast, lunch or dinner, head to the Leaky Caldron in Diagon Alley. It’s the restaurant come to life, complete with a patina of dinginess that befits its centuries of use. (It was built in the 1500s, after all). Amidst the glowing chandeliers, cubbyholes and old pictures askew on the walls, tuck into British fare such as Toad in the Hole, Bangers & Mash and a Ploughman’s feast of English cheese, crusty bread, salads and Scotch eggs—those deep-fried sausage snack sensations swaddling soft-boiled egg so beloved by the Brits. The only thing missing is Tom the Innkeeper.
Guests staying at one of Universal’s hotels will pass through Universal CityWalk to and from the parks. Take time to explore, catch a show, play miniature golf or test your skills at Universal’s new Great Movie Escape (www.universalorlando.com, click “Things to Do”), the first-ever escape room experience that features two rooms with interactive state-of-the-art missions, elaborate storytelling and intricately detailed sets.
Go head to head with Biff, the bully from “Back to the Future,” in Outatime or run for your life from an apex predator on the loose in Jurassic World: Escape. Inspired by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s blockbuster films, “Jurassic World” and “Back to the Future,” these missions are a fun group activity for all ages.
The Unofficial Universal Theme Parks Cookbook by Ashley Craft. The 240-page book includes 100 recipes from the world of Universal—from snacks to main dishes to desserts and drinks—including Fish and Chips from The Three Broomsticks and Pumpkin Juice from Hog’s Head.
Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes at Universal Studios Florida
In introducing the Love Potion recipe in her book, The Unofficial Universal Theme Parks Cookbook, Ashley Craft writes: “Love Potion, or ‘Amortentia,’ is a powerful agent of magic in the Harry Potter books and movies, as it causes the drinker to be intensely infatuated and obsessive. The scent of the potion morphs and changes to match whatever the subject loves best.” Hmm. Feeling emboldened? Craft cautions all to “enjoy in small quantities because the flavor is powerful.”
- 4 TBSP corn syrup
- 1 TBSP rose water
- 1 TBSP pure honey
Instructions Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Decant into four small vials or bottles and serve.
About Guest Blogger Kathy Witt
Award winning writer and author Kathy Witt is a member of SATW Society of American Travel Writers and the Authors Guild
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