So you are probably wondering if there is anything else other than Harry Potter going on at Universal. Well there is a ton! Firstly, I am a huge Jurassic Park fan so that ride was high on my list of priorities. You slowly start by riding through the ionic doors, then gently sail through jungle, dinosaurs, a destroyed Raptor enclosure before plummeting down a steep drop off! It’s not my video but it was the best one I could find that shows the full ride. That drop off is really steep!, and you get wet. Another reason why it’s not my video :).

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Another cool ride was Kong – Skull Island. We were told it was a kid friendly ride on a big RV and you didn’t even need your seat belt……hmmm, I think we all would have preferred one! This was another full on 4D ride complete with ‘real’ bug guts splattered in your face. There is a fight between Kong and a T-Rex where the truck you are traveling in gets thrown off a cliff. Ayrlie found it a little intense but Benjamin just loved it (after the initial freak out waiting moment).

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Now Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges are another story. We were thinking it would be like Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids. We love that ride and you don’t get too wet so we thought we would be good to go… how wrong we were!. It’s cool, so I’m in jeans, jumper, kids have their jumpers on. We take the first corner and bam! Full bucket of water straight on our heads! There are water cannons on top of the barge around the next corner and kids (and adults) are able to fire them at you as you float past and they are way to accurate for my liking. Tho the kids loved having their turn when we hopped off.  It went downhill from there and we came off looking like drowned rats! Completely soaked and very cold. It was a fantastic ride, but they need to give people some notice.

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There were a ton of meet and greet opportunities the favourite being Shaggy and Scooby. The Minion ride had been talked up on some of the blogs I had read and we were really looking forward to it. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to the expectations. It was rough, real rough. You were thrown around, bumped and bashed. We noticed a lot of the rides were this way. Although the 3D effects were something else, most rides were similar in their execution.

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With 54.5 hours, 58.9km of walking and countless rides/photos and experiences to remember, we can officially say we loved our time in Orlando!

 

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For those of you that don’t know (like I didn’t) Universal Studio’s is broken into two parks. Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. To ride The Hogwarts Express, you need a park to park ticket. That way you can visit both parks in the same day and ride between them as the experience is different each time. Firstly to go from Diagon Alley to Hogsmead, you need to head to King’s Cross Station where you will pass through the magic wall onto platform 9 3/4. (sorry my phone was not co-operating and was a bit fuzzy for the start of the video). The affects they have used here are really cool as from our side, it really looks like the kids are disappearing into the wall! From the other side (as you can see in the video) it looks normal so I really wish they video’d everyone walking through so you could buy it.

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Once you step through, you arrive at the platform. They have even nailed the details here with suitcases and Hedwig waiting on the slide for collection.

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You sit on the train and they close your cabin. Your window then comes to life with scenes of hagrid, countryside and finally Hogwarts. The door freezes when the Dementors turn up and when you come back the other way, the shadows of chocolate frogs, Harry, Hermonie and  Ron appear. Again, it’s done perfectly. At Hogsmeade you are greeted with snow capped buildings and the smell of Butterbear. This you can have hot or cold but since it was still a coolish day, we opted for the hot version. It is amazing! All butterscotchy with a cold marshmallowy foam on top, super moreish and I could have had 4 on the spot.

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After working our way around, completing spells we were lucky enough to be able to head inside the castle for a self guided tour. It was officially closed for maintenance, so we couldn’t do the ride but as it was a bit quiet they were letting  a few people in.  We were surprised at how big it is inside! I was thinking the size was more for show but it actually too 20 min to walk through and we were being rushed by the crowd. Again, the detail is amazing. My favourite was definitely the rooms with the moving and talking paintings. I really couldn’t tell you how they have done this! It fully looks just like any other painting, and then it moves, talks and people even walk out of frame. The projections of Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione and Ron in the hall are great and the kids were thrilled to actually see them, as if they were really alive and talking to them.

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After the tour we hit Flight of the Hippogriff, a roller coaster aimed more at the little ones. This was a big hit so we lined up and did it again…. and again, just for good measure. It’s a great way to see Hagrid’s house and of course the Hippogriff.

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After watching the frog choir and chatting with the hanging head on the night bus our day was done. Tomorrow, maybe we will see something other than Harry Potter… but I’m not holding my breath 🙂

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The day had finally arrived. The one that the kids and I have most been looking forward to. Harry Potter World! Another early morning to make sure we could get a spot for the escape from Gringotts ride. We were sprinkled with some more pixie dust when a staff member let us in at 8.15 instead of 9. (It was reserved for resort guests).

Diagon Alley is AMAZING! OMG! If you are a Harry Potter fan, then let me say, you need to visit here. You first walk through the brick wall, which has been opened already as unfortunately, here in the muggle world, we don’t have real opening brick walls. You are greeted with cobble stoned streets and towering crooked buildings. Every light fitting, ornate sign and shingle is an exact replica of the movies.

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It’s very authentic. Directly in front is Gringotts Bank and perched on top, is the fire breathing dragon. Once inside, you walk the impressive hall, lined with goblins. Hard at work, only pausing to give passers-by disgusted looks. You then walk the passageways, deep underground until you are greeted with a cavernous opening, complete with stalagmites. Ayrlie was rightly freaked out by now but we were being reassured by the young girl behind us that there is only one big drop and that’s right at the beginning. Nothing could prepare us though for just how thrilling the ride ended up being!. There was no way I was able to record it with my phone (as I wanted to) because you were so fully immersed in the moment. You plummeted down the track, screaming most of the way before stopping at Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort. You are identified as being an intruder and blasted off by Voldemort into another tunnel of turns and drops. The trolls grab the carriage and you go tumbling off a cliff. By now, your truly can’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s not as the special effects are like nothing you have ever seen!.   Finally, Harry, Hermione and Ron guide you out of the bank through collapsing walls and exploding bridges.  Mark exclaims it’s the best ride he has ever been on. He isn’t easily impressed so that’s saying something.

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After pulling ourselves back together, we head out into the sunshine on Diagon Alley and into the heat of the Dragon. Every so often you will hear a rumble, and feel the sidewalk move slightly underfoot. Then you feel the heat from the fire breathing dragon on top of the bank. The video doesn’t do it justice. It’s really impressive and everyone stops to witness it.

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Next up is the all-important interactive wants. You can’t be a wizard and witch at Diagon Alley without a wand. So we head to the only place to get one… Ollivanders. You step inside the dusty shop, stacked to the ceiling with wand boxes. We first witnessed a wand choose a wizard before the kids searched for their own.  Scattered throughout both Diagon Alley and Hogsmead are interactive stations where you can ‘wave your wand, recite the spell and watch as the magic unfolds’ (quote from Universal). Which is exactly what happens! You can make feathers float, umbrellas rain and turn on water fountains. It kept the kids entertained for hours.

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After purchasing some chocolate frogs from Honeydukes, checking out the jokes at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and having lunch at the Leaky Cauldron (unfortunately not the best) we headed over to King’s Cross Station to platform 9 3/4 to catch The Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade.

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But that is a post for tomorrow…

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Animal Kingdom
We have decided that it’s definitely worth getting to the parks early as it’s way less crowded and we can get in a good 4-5 rides before the masses arrive.. The same was today. We first headed to the Kali river rapids but it was closed till 10 so we went to the dinosaur ride. It’s a car 4×4 ride with animations  which was super fun. We did that twice in a row before finally getting my Micky photo, along with a few others.

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Then it was to the rapids! Awesome! Didn’t get too wet thank goodness so we rode that twice too. We are lucky this is a fairly quiet week as the wait time is only about ten min. After some lunch and a few bits and pieces we made a run for the Lion King stage show. I’ve heard it’s not to be missed. As we were running for the entrance a staff member asked if we were going to the show. He then escorted us through a side door, and right to the front row! *pixie dust* 😍 we couldn’t believe it…. until we realized we would probably have to do something for those front row seats! We were right and 2 min in, Mark had to stand up and give his best Wart Hog noise 😂! Kids were on the floor laughing as that was now the call for our whole seating section! The show was unbelievable and was performed only cm away from us. The kids were then picked to dance around with the dancers and play some instruments during the finale.  If you ever get a chance to go to Animal Kingdom, don’t miss this performance. It’s the best we have ever seen.

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MummynmephotographyAfter another ride on the rapids we did the Kilimanjaro Safari and saw some white rhino, cheetah and elephants. Ayrlie particularly loved the giraffes.

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On the way to the tree of life show we stopped in at ‘A Bugs Life’. It’s like a 4d movie with smellivision and feelivision! Complete with stink bombs and acid attacks. The special effects are beyond anything we have in Australia. We then went to watch the Flights of Wonder bird show. It was a comedy/fact/educational show about birds (obviously) and Benjamin was picked to be in one of the acts. He had to go head to head in a maths off with a talking Parrot. They were both given a sum and the first to answer won. It was so funny as the bird was super fast and Benjamin was not impressed he was getting beaten by a Parrot!. It was slightly rigged tho as whenever the presenter said the word three (the code word) the bird replied instantly with the number four. Benjamin was a good sport when he found out he was set up and he and the Parrot had a good laugh about it.

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The tree of life is this truly massive tree, right in the middle of the park. had carvings, light and image projections on the trunk of the tree that made it look like it had come to life. Something quite magical.

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Epcot
Ayrlie loves frozen, and the only way to see frozen at Epcot is to get there before everyone else that want s to see it! There is a boat ride as well as the meet and greet. So we did what every other crazy family does with a frozen fan and got up at the crack of dawn to get there in the hopes of riding/greeting without waiting hours in line! We were lucky enough to hit the jackpot and have the park fully open at 8.10am! We were able to walk right on the ride (which really was great) and then only wait 6-7 min for the meet and greet. One little girl super happy!

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Our first fast pass was for the test track so we headed there next for some high speed racing! At its fastest point it hits 60 miles per hour (95km) so the G-Force is pretty strong. As you can see by Ayrlie’s face… no, you cant see. Because she is buried in my arm with her eyes closed hehe. She did like it and wanted to do it again as it was really fun.

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After visiting Nemo and turtle time with Crush (An interactive chat with chat which was really funny) we decided to call it a day and head home early. After the late night and massive days it was greatly received all round. We stopped of at Denny’s for our third visit! The food isn’t gourmet but it’s yummy and fairly in expensive. Best bit is I can get pancakes for dinner and that ok 😂. Tomorrow is another big day as we are headed to Animal kingdom.

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