Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Bradshaws Take on Fabulous Florida! (cont.)

Sunrise over the Atlantic, as seen from the 20th floor
The next morning, we took our time waking up, having breakfast, getting ready, and packing. Then, we picked up our rental car at the handy Hertz desk in the lobby of Cabana Bay. After checking out, we loaded into the car and drove a little over an hour to lovely Daytona Beach! When planning our trip, we'd decided that after three full days at theme parks, we'd be in need of a bit of decompression. Daytona Beach is one of the closest beaches to Orlando, so it was an easy choice!

By the time we arrived, we were jonesing for lunch, so we stopped at Ocean Deck, where we feasted on fried shrimp with a lovely ocean view. You can sit in or outside, and the restaurant is right on the beach! Portions are generous, the shrimp was delicious, and prices are reasonable. Clay loved that his meal came in a frisbee he could keep!

This boy loves the ocean.
After lunch, we headed to our condo. We'd booked a one bedroom (with a fold-out couch for Clay) with an ocean-facing balcony at Ocean Walk. This development was lovely, and so convenient! First of all, it's right on the beach. Take the elevator down to the lobby, walk out through the pool area, and you're right there. Secondly, it has oodles of pools - one with a fun water slide, another one sans slide, a big splash pad for the smaller set, a lazy river, plus two indoor pools and two outdoor spas. Third, it's also on a really nice boardwalk. You can stroll down past a shopping/dining area that's connected to the development, markers about the area's racing history, other resorts, and then a small amusement park area with a couple of rides.

In addition, the resort's pool area has "take a toy, leave a toy" for beach and pool paraphernalia, a small bar, and plenty of free beach towels for resort guests. Not only that, they have small indoor putt putt course and arcade. Needless to say, Clay was in heaven.

The water slide at Ocean Walk!
That first day in Daytona Beach, Clay and I spent an overcast afternoon on the beach. Clay loves the ocean, and so do I. After a relaxing afternoon with the waves, we walked next door to the shopping and dining development and had happy hour appetizers (chicken tenders, spinach/artichoke dip, and some sweetly spicy  shrimp) and drinks at Mai Tais bar and restaurant. They had a beautiful outdoor seating area with a view of the ocean. Tuckered out from a long day, we headed back to the condo and snuggled into bed!

Because of the time change, Clay and I were awake at sunrise the next morning. We wrapped blankets around ourselves and watched the sun peep up over the ocean from our balcony, then returned to bed to cuddle. When we got hungry for breakfast, we decided to try out some local spots. We first tried the Starlite Diner, which is right across the street from our development. Sadly, it had been ravaged by Hurricane Matthew a few weeks before. I think it will be a long time before it re-opens. Then, we tried Donnie's Donuts. Ditto, though that building did look like it was in better shape. We settled for IHOP, where I chose the nutella and banana crepes, and Clay got waffles.

The boardwalk at sunset
Sated, it was time for more fun in the sun. They day was bright, so we hit the beach and the pools! Clay and I played in the lazy river, frolicked in the waves, and took turns whooshing down the water slide! (It really was fun, even if I WAS one of the only adults enjoying it!) After a morning of play, we all walked down the beach to eat a late lunch at Crabby Joe's. I had their yummy crab cake sandwich with onion rings! (This place was so convenient. It sits out on a pier over the water and offers great views. The food is good and not too pricey. They also have great cocktails!)

After resting a bit at the hotel, we decided to catch a movie in the theatre next door to Ocean Walk. We reserved fully reclining seats for Marvel's Dr. Strange. Very cushy! We enjoyed the movie and headed back to the condo for showers and bed.

The next morning, after another glorious sunrise, we decided to get in the car and find a real, local breakfast. We ended up at Dancing Avocado Kitchen, which became a fast favorite! First of all, the place has this fun, quirky vibe. It's decorated with kitsch (There was a shark head with a sombrero on it hanging on the wall.) and TONS of personality. Secondly, the menu is varied, and the food is GOOD. I had the mushroom swiss omelette with breakfast potatoes and toast, and it was filling and fabulous! Clay chose the chocolate chip pancakes. Service is sweet and friendly, and the restaurant is in this really cute downtown area with other shops and attractions, across the street from a green space.

Chocolate making!
After breakfast, we browsed in the magic shop a few doors down, buying Clay a beginner magician's kit with some rope tricks and other illusions in it. Then, we strolled into the Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory, where we got a short, free tour on how they make delicious small-batch chocolates. (They showed us where they make taffy and brittle, how they create chocolate covered cherries, and pointed out the vats of melted chocolate. We even got to see the moving belt on which hand-placed pretzels get enrobed in chocolate, cooled, and collected! Fun!) The tour ended with free samples, and the candy was delicious!

After our tour, we got back in the car and returned to the resort. We walked up and down the beach and played with Clay's free frisbee a little bit! (For a klutz, I thought I did remarkably well!) Then, we got a special visitor! Hubs' little brother, Steven, drove into Daytona Beach to see us! He lives a little over and hour away, and it had been AGES since we'd seen him! It was so good to see his sweet face and catch up with him! Late that afternoon, we all walked back down to Crabby Joe's, where we ordered drinks and big steamer buckets of crab, corn, and potatoes. Seriously yum, and the company was fabulous! We finished up at around 5 p.m., when the pier closed, and watched the little amusement park at that end of the boardwalk spring to life as the sun started going down.

Steven stayed and chatted with us for a while back at the condo, and then I took Clay to the indoor putt putt course so Steven and hubs could catch up a little. Then, it was time for him to go home, and time for us to hit the showers and the hay.

It's hard to beat steamer buckets at Crabby Joe's!
The next morning, we took our time waking up and getting packed. Then, it was off to the Dancing Avocado Kitchen for one more delicious breakfast before making our way back to Orlando. The Hertz agent at Cabana Bay had convinced that it was more economical to return our car there and catch a cab to the airport. Since we were still a bit early, we played games in the arcade for an hour or two before setting off for the airport. Two flights later, we were home!

On this family trip to Florida, we planned for a good balance of go-go-go excitement and relaxation. I really enjoyed Universal Studios Orlando, and Ocean Walk in Daytona Beach couldn't be beat! I can't wait for our next trip!

The Bradshaws Take on Fabulous Florida! (cont.)

Ready for adventure!
On Day 2 at Universal Studios, we were again up and at 'em for early park entry. After breakfast at Bayliner Diner, we hopped the shuttle and got to the park gates before the line got very long. On the way in (and to Diagon Alley), we noticed that Despicable Me Minion Mayhem was already open. We stopped for a no-wait ride. It was so cute! It's more of a 3-D show with moving theatre seats and some additional effects than a ride, but we loved it!

After enjoying this ride, we made our way to Diagon Alley, where we caught a no-wait performance of the wand-choosing ceremony at Ollivander's. Then, we went into the wand shop and let Clay pick out an interactive wand. Ollivander's sells two types of wands - non-interactive ($25) and interactive ($50). The interactive wands can be used to make magic within the parks. Clay picked out one similar to Dumbledore's wand from the movies, and we were off to make magic! This is so fun! The wands come with maps to where you can cast spells in both Harry Potter parks. Over the course of that day and the next, we worked every spell marked. Clay made feathers levitate, opened up boxes full of chocolate frogs in shop windows, and had big fun exploring the dark corners of Knockturn Alley. (At one spell station, an eye appears in a door when you cast your spell. If you then try to OPEN the door, a blast of air shoots out at you! A fun surprise!)

After doing a good bit of magic, we realized the rest of the park was opening up. We backtracked to Revenge of the Mummy, checked our wand in a free locker, and rode it twice, back to back, with no wait. This ended up being one of my favorite rides in the park! So old school and fun! Fire on the ceiling, mummies that jump out at you, and plenty of spills and chills! While we were in the area, we also rode Transformers: The Ride-3D with almost no wait. I really liked this one. It's more in the vein of Escape from Gringotts in that it combines some motion, 3-D, and other effects to create a full experience.

Watching a baby raptor hatch at the Jurassic
Discovery Center.
We decided to take the Hogwarts Express again to the other park. This time, there was almost no wait (YAY!), so we were quickly on our way. Also, because there was no line this time, we got the chance to film and take pictures of ourselves "disappearing" into Platform 9 3/4. This is a really cool effect!

Once we got to Islands of Adventure (the other park), we practiced our magic a bit. We next checked out the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, where we heard all about how they care for their baby triceratops, explored what fossils lie beneath the rock wall, looked through the eyes (and roared through the vocal chords) of dinos, and watched a baby raptor hatching.

Hubs and I needed to sit a spell, so we let Clay loose in Camp Jurassic. He LOVED this place, but came out dripping wet!! It was about 11 a.m., so we grabbed lunch al fresco (and in the sunshine) at Thunder Falls Terrace (OUT of the splash zone). I'd heard that this place was really yummy and served real food. It didn't disappoint! We had delicious ribs, chicken, corn on the cob, and salad.

Ok, so maybe we got a *little* wet in
Camp Jurassic . . . 
Clay was still pretty damp, so we took him to one of the people dryers near Ripsaw Falls to dry him out. (I didn't want wet socks and shoes leading to blistered and painful feet.) Full of good food and nice and dry, we popped back over to Hogsmeade to catch the Hogwarts frog choir performance and walked out of the park through Seuss Landing, riding the Caro-Seuss-el and snapping goofy pictures. We were pretty pooped that night, so we didn't return to the park. We stayed in, had lunch at Bayliner Diner, and walked around the resort.

On our last day at Universal, we started by riding Gringotts again, with almost no wait! (Now that we had our wand, we had to check it in one of the free lockers. Just know that you can't take the wand on some of the more fast-paced rides.) Once we'd done that, we explored Diagon Alley and bit more and then backtracked to the front of the park to ride Shrek 4-D. (This one was really fun! Similar to the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction.) While Clay and I did that, hubs rode Rip Ride Rockit twice, with no wait. (Clay was *just* tall enough for this one, but it looked too scary for him. So, we went to Shrek while hubs got in the very short single rider line.)

After that, we crode The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman Ride in 3-D! We hadn't spent much time in the Marvel Super Hero Island part of the park, and Clay loved this ride. Very similar to the Transformers ride - some motion, video, and special effects to create the illusion that you're fighting bad guys all around the city. The wait time, too, was really cute and entertaining, as you wind through the newspaper offices and get your assignment from J.J. Jameson.

Lunching at Three Broomsticks!
The whole time we'd been at Universal, we'd been trying to ride Skull Island: Reign of Kong. But there was always a 60-90 minute wait. A quick check of the app showed the wait time at 25 minutes, so we went over and got in line. The line moved really quickly, and we were very close to the end of it when the line just stopped moving. A voice came over the loudspeaker that the ride was having a malfunction. (Sad face.) They shut it down, giving all of us express passes to come back when it opened later in the day. It never did, so we missed this one. (Shoot.)

By this time, we were getting hungry for lunch. We popped over to Three Broomsticks for fish and chips, cottage pies, chicken tenders, and butterbeers. Afterwards, I sneaked into Honeydukes and bought Christmas candies! They will deliver purchases to your on-property hotel or hold them for you at the front of the park so you don't have to lug them around all day.

Then, we chatted a bit with the Mystic Fountain and headed in to The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show, which features live action stunts, fire and water effects, and really corny comedy. (The more groan-worthy the jokes, the better Clay likes them! I'm rolling my eyes, and Clay is typically laughing like a mad man! Heh.) This was a fun way to cool our heels for a bit. The stunts are cool to see, and you get a little wet if you sit in the splash zone! (Note: Poseidon's Fury, another show, was closed for renovations during our visit. Visiting any park during off or shoulder season usually means that some rides/attractions will be closed for maintenance or repairs. The trade-off is lower prices and less crowds.)

Taking aim at Bilge Rat Barges riders from The Olive
We explored Seuss Landing, where we rode Cat in the Hat and the Seuss Trolley. (These rides are for the smaller set. But Clay loved Dr. Seuss when he was little, and I am trying to hang onto his baby years! Don't judge me!)

Still going strong, we popped back to the super hero side of the park. Brian wanted to ride The Incredible Hulk Coaster. While he did that, Clay and I rode Storm Force Accelatron twice (no waits at all!) and got pics with Wolverine!!  Then, we met back up and explored the nearby play area  Me Ship, The Olive, gleefully spraying folks riding on Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges ride with those handy water cannons!

Winding down for the day, we stopped by Reign of Kong again to see if was re-opened. No dice. So, we used our express passes to ride Forbidden Journey again, and then took the Hogwarts Express BACK to Diagon Alley. (We hadn't done this so far, and I recommend it! The show is different each way, so you get a new experience!) Back on the other side of the park, we walked out slowly, saying goodbye to Universal!

As we were leaving, we noticed that the E.T. Adventure ride had no wait time! We walked right in, and I'm so glad we did. I LOVED this ride. You sit on old-school bikes, and tears nearly sprang to my eyes when we rode out over the city all lit up at night, crossing the moon along with Elliot and E.T. (This made me think of the Peter Pan ride at Disney World. A very powerful illusion.) This story was one from my generation, and the ride hit me right where I live.

To sum up our adventure in Universal Studios, I'd say that the Harry Potter parts of each park are both wonderful, especially when you can experience them at low-crowd times. Other favorites included Revenge of the Mummy and Ripsaw Falls. Looking back, I don't know if staying on property was worth it for us on this trip, because (as I mentioned before) the WHOLE PARK doesn't really open early. Perhaps if we'd stayed at one of the pricier properties (which include express passes), this would have been a more valuable benefit. (But, Lord, it does rankle to pay extra for an express pass at Universal when Disney provides fast passes for popular rides for FREE, letting you maximize your time in the park. When I compare Universal to Disney in this regard, there's no contest. Disney has come up with a better way to control crowd flow in its parks. Which is genius, really, because the time you spend standing in line isn't revenue-generating time. You aren't browsing the gift shop or getting an ice cream or otherwise spending any dollars. It's smart for the park to minimize your wait time as a customer.)

That night, after dinner at Bayliner Diner, it was sitting around the fire pit and taking a dip in the sauna before packing up for the next part of our adventure - Daytona Beach!

More to come . . .

The Bradshaws Take on Fabulous Florida!

During the past year or so, little man has read all of the original Harry Potter books. He'd read a book, then watch the movie. Then read the next book, then watch the next movie. And when he was done, he also read Tales of Beadle the Bard, which is the book of wizarding fairy tales that Dumbledore bequeaths to Hermione. He loved the fantastical, magical world of Harry Potter.

So, hubs and I decided to enchant him a bit further with a trip to Universal Studios Orlando, which features two Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks. A quick consult of the park's crowd calendar told us that early November was a low-crowd time to visit, and our friendly hive mind on Facebook let us know that three full days at the park would allow us to take a "deep dive." Off we went!

We decided to stay at one of the park's official properties. We chose Cabana Bay because it offered good value, featured a free (and frequent) shuttle both to and from the parks, and allowed us to access at least one park per day early. (More on this later.)

We flew through Atlanta and arrived at Cabana Bay shortly after lunch on a Saturday. We'd decided not to visit the parks that first day, opting instead to settle into our hotel and relax after our flights. This was a really good decision! First of all, our hotel - Cabana Bay is a HUGE property. It offers a variety of rooms in different styles (traditional, suite-style, rooms with kitchens, etc.), and they are clustered around two large, beautiful outdoor activity areas. In one area, there's a lovely pool, a lazy river, a spa, a small bar, a small splash pad, and a large sandy beach area with lounge chairs and games. There are also two fire pits in this area. In the other area, there's a really large pool with a fun water slide, a larger splash pad, a spa, a bar, a green lawn where evening movies are shown using a projector, and a fire pit or two. We really enjoyed spending time in both of these areas during our time at the resort. The pools are amazing!

The aesthetic of the hotel is mid-century modern, and it is beautifully executed throughout the property. Cheerful colors, Eames-style chairs, modern light fixtures, and palm trees reaching skyward in the lobby.

The goblins at Gringotts regard interlopers
rather severely.
We arrived shortly before our room was ready. First things first - I traded our park ticket vouchers for actual tickets at the guest services desk. That done, we checked our bags and stopped for lunch at Bayliner Diner, the big cafeteria-style eatery at the property. We LOVED this place and ended up eating there often. You can choose several different lines: salad bar, pre-packaged to-go foods, grill (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.), pizzas and sandwiches, and then more "real food choices" (think meat and three). You could also pick up desserts, snacks, s'more kits (for use at the on-property fire pits) and more.

You got your food FAST, it was very reasonably priced, there were plenty of healthy options, and it was delicious! Perfect for families and large groups! By the time we finished lunch, our room was ready. We picked up our bags at the front desk and checked in.

We'd chosen a traditional room. Nothing fancy, just two double beds and a bath. The room offered plenty of storage and mirrors for getting ready in the mornings (smart).

After we'd rested a bit, we headed out to the pools! Clay donned his suit, grabbed his swim goggles, and off we went. We first tried the pool on the lazy river side of the development. The side we sat on is zero-grade entry, and Clay happily played with the other kids in the pool for an hour or two. Then, the two of us played some beach games for a while. (Giant versions of Connect Four! What fun!) After that, we checked out the other pool. Clay loved the water slide! Not too scary, but plenty of thrills and spills for a 9-year-old! After an afternoon of fun in the sun, it was back to the hotel room to freshen up for dinner.

We went to Universal's CityWalk shopping/dining/entertainment development to take a look around and rustle up our evening meal. We hopped the free shuttle to CityWalk right outside the hotel, and within 10 minutes, we were going through the quick security check. The buses let you off in front of escalators and stairs. Up those, you go through security, then take two moving walkways to CityWalk.

There's so much to see at CityWalk, especially when it's all lit up at night! They have tons of restaurants and shops, a movie theatre, and some entertainment venues. We walked around a bit, then popped into Emeril's for dinner. Even though we didn't have reservations, because this restaurant is at a higher price point than most of the offerings in CityWalk, we were able to be seated quickly. I had a specialty pasta with a glass of red wine, hubs had lobster bisque and salad with a cocktail, and Clay had chicken tenders. We had great service, and the food was delicious. After dinner, it was back to the hotel for bed!

The next morning, we were up and at 'em early. Guests at Universal Orlando properties get early admission (1-hour early) to one park of the resort's choosing each day, and we didn't want to miss it! (All three days we were there, we got into Universal Studios, where the Diagon Alley portion of the Harry Potter theme park is, one hour early.) We had a big, delicious breakfast at Byliner Diner, which opens at 7 a.m. Then, we caught the shuttle to CityWalk/the parks at 7:45. A little after 8 a.m., we were in the mid-sized line to get into the park.

A word about the early-entry benefit - Though Universal may say the park opens early, it really doesn't. In reality, most of the park is still closed when it "opens" to on-property guests at 8 a.m. The only thing that REALLY opens early is the Harry Potter portion of the park. So, of course, all of the on-property guests pack in there. I thought this completely defeated the purpose of the "benefit" of having extra time in the park. If the WHOLE park (Revenge of the Mummy, the Simpsons, ET Adventure, Transformers, etc.) really HAD BEEN open early, at 8 a.m., this "benefit" would have helped me as an on-property guest. But most of that other stuff didn't open until 9 a.m., or sometimes 10 a.m.! So, in reality, the whole exercise kind-of defeated the purpose. We were in the park early, but it wasn't any less crowded, because we were all in the only part of the park that was actually open early.

The fire-breathing dragon atop Gringotts is soooo cool!
Anyway, we got in and headed straight for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. The theming in this part of the park is intense. You walk through a passageway in a brick wall on a "normal" London street (You can dial MAGIC in the red telephone booth just outside to hear a message from the Ministry of Magic.), and suddenly, the wondrous alley is revealed to you. (Very dramatic.)

Once we caught our breath, we got in a pretty short line to ride Escape from Gringotts, which we loved! While you're in line, you get to see the Gringotts lobby, where the goblins are going about their work. Some of the paintings talk to you, and as you wend your way through the areas leading to the vaults, you see shadows and hear conversations through the office windows. Then, you watch a short film that sets up the journey, take the elevators "down" to where you board the carts, pick up your "safety glasses," and board.

This amazing ride combines true motion, 3-D video, and other effects to send you down through the Gringotts vaults. You meet up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione; narrowly escape being toasted by dragon fire; and flee the killing spells of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange. We loved this ride and rode it twice during our visit!

After escaping Gringotts, we explored Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. In Borgin and Burkes, we heard a bird tweeting in the vanishing cabinet. The mirror in Madame Malikin's told us we looked fabulous! Nagini spoke parseltongue to us in the glass case behind the magical menagerie, and we caught a performance by Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees on the park's stage. We also checked out the Knight Bus, where you can have a chat with the driver and the shrunken head!

Jurassic Park is lit up beautifully at night!
The rest of the park opening by this time, we popped out of Harry Potter to ride the Men in Black Alien Attack ride (really fun, and similar to the Toy Story ride at Disney). I enjoyed this ride, but as half of it broke down while we were waiting in line (thus halving the number of riders they could accommodate), we waited in line too long for it. We followed that up with The Simpsons Ride (a 3-D affair that I really disliked - not much real movement, closed-in space with no air) and Kang and Kodo's Twirl 'n' Hurl (think Disney's Dumbo ride, but with a different theme, and there was zero wait).

By this time, we were getting hungry for lunch. We headed back to Diagon Alley and bellied up to meals at The Leaky Cauldron. We had cottage pies and butterbeers! Butterbeer is very sweet (almost like a dessert) and very good. We found that you could get waters, then get one butterbeer for everyone to share, and it was usually plenty. Our tummies full, we headed for the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade.

Whew. This line was loooooong, much longer than I expected during low season. We must have just hit it at the absolute wrong time. We waited more than half an hour before boarding, which *I* think is entirely too long. And unlike other park attractions, there's nothing to keep you entertained while you wait. We finally got on the train, which takes you from Diagon Alley (in the Universal Studios park) to Hogsmeade (in the Islands of Adventure Park). It's a short, comfortable ride during which you see the shadows of Ron, Harry, and Hermione (and hear them talking) in the train car, watch London go by out the window, and narrowly miss an encounter with a dementor. Pretty soon, you're pulling into the station in Hogsmeade, which is also wonderfully themed!

We looked around a bit, but we didn't spend too much time in Hogsmeade that first day, as it was crowded. We had other plans! We headed for the Jurassic Park River Adventure. We'd seen on the park's app that lines were really short for it, and we were ready to get wet! (In general, we found the official theme park app very helpful. It's just a little bit behind on wait times. So, for example, the app might say that wait times for an attraction are 15 minutes, but there are in actuality about 20 minutes. It was often about 5 minutes off, but not usually more inaccurate than that.) This ride was so much fun! It's not really scary, but you're always waiting to find out when you'll get soaked! We all loved it! (A note - At the end of the ride, as you're beginning to pass under a bridge, guests standing on the bridge above have the opportunity to soak you. Watch out!)
Soaked but thrilled on Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls!

After this ride, since we were wet anyway, we decided to check out Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls. There was no wait, so in we went! At first, Clay was a little nervous about the big drop at the end, but he loved it! We were completely soaked by this time, so we decided to head back to the hotel room for a break and to dry off.

On our way, we made a pit stop at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium for a snack. Clay and I split one of the eatery's HUGE sundaes. Delicious! A note - We saw families coming here and getting a sundae or a milkshake for each person. These things are expensive - $10-$13 each. And because they are so big, most folks would eat about a third of it and leave the rest. Don't make this mistake! Plan to share, and you'll waste less money and ice cream!

After a break (and drying out) at the hotel for a bit, it was time for more fun! We came back to the park that night at around 5 p.m., and the park closed at 7 p.m. As the parks were emptying out, we headed back to Hogsmeade to catch the attractions that had been crowded earlier in the day. First, we rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was really fun! The wait in line was really short, but for this ride, the line is really part of the attraction. You are walking through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You see the big towers of jewels that measure how each house is doing on points towards the house cup. Harry, Ron, and Hermione explain the world of the ride to you. The fat lady admits you (grudgingly) into the Gryffyndor common room, and you visit Dumbledore in his office, where you can see the pensieve. You even get to see the sorting hat, and it talks to you!
As you wait in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden
Journey, the sorting hat talks to you!

Once you get on the ride, in many ways, it's similar to the Gringotts ride. It combines video, real motion, and other effects to zoom you all around Hogwarts, encountering dementors, visiting the Chamber of Secrets, and participating in a Quidditch match. So fun! When we finished this ride, we went right onto Flight of the Hippogriff (no line), which is a smaller, not-too-scary roller coaster.

We still had time before the park closed, so Clay and Brian rode Pteranodon Flyers. As this brief, two-person ride is really geared towards the smaller set, they only allow an adult on if they are flying with a child. While they went through the ride, I cooled my heels and explored the Camp Jurassic play area a bit, making a mental note to return here before we left Universal.

After a looooong day, it was back to the hotel for a little grub at Bayliner Diner and a soft bed!

More to come . . .