Thursday, March 21, 2019

Casting Spells

We traveled on the next day and set up camp in Ocala at the StageStop campground. Our first day there we went to Ikea and walked through the entire store. Its so large and we enjoy looking at everything. We had coffee there and with our IKEA shopper's card, it was free!

I have wanted to visit Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I am such a big fan of the books. Fantasy and fiction, but what an imagination it took to turn out such a fabulous story.

So Wednesday was the day! We made one wrong turn, thanks to our Rand McNally GPS, but made it easily. The park opens at 9 and we were there by 9:20. I had thought we would have traffic jams and horrific crowds, but nothing like that materialized getting into the park. Later in the day, the spring break crowds were evident and it was hard to get into some shops.

We spent the day walking around. . . over five miles altogether! Wow. It was quite the workout. There are three things to remember about these parks. . . . rides, restaurants and shoppes. We didn't opt for any rides because all of them had disclaimers for people with heart problems or back problems. Haha. Course we knew that was the case and there were only a couple I would have liked to try, but I don't want to risk injuring my now "totally fixed" back. Terry was never one for carnival type rides, so he wasn't even interested. But it was fun to just take in the sets of the town of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. One of the first things we saw was the "Night Bus."It even had the talking head! We started at Diagon Alley. They are actually two parks in separate areas of Universal, so to see them both, you must purchase a "park to park" pass, which is almost a "double" park pass. Clever, eh? I know it was overpriced and a terrible expense, but I really wanted to go, so. . . . Parts of the area were dark, just like in the movie. It was really all pretty cool. There was a dragon. . . remember the dragon that guarded the vault at Gringotts? He was freed by Harry, Hermione, and Ron and sits atop the bank roof and spews fire out of his mouth periodically. You can hear it start to rumble and then it blows! Hah! There is quite a bit of heat from it, too. He is animated and moves as well.

We eventually got hungry and stepped into the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. Since it was an "English" establishment, we had English food. We had the Ploughman's Platter for two, which included salad, a Scotch egg, beet and apple salad, and bread and cheese. It was quite tasty. We had brought water with us. If you ever go, you are allowed a 20 oz. bottle of water to bring in. Do it, because water is the same price as other drinks and expensive.

The shops all had souvenirs of primarily the same stuff. You could buy wands, capes, etc., to outfit yourself as a bonafide Potter-ite. But that stuff was ALL expensive. A lot of kids were there on spring break and wearing their capes and carrying their wands. You could buy "interactive" wands which did some things when directed at specific displays. But they only worked there on those displays.

We later boarded the Hogwarts Locomotive for the journey over to Hogsmeade. You had to pass through a turnstyle and show your badge and your fingerprint. When we first entered the park, our ticket was scanned and then matched to our fingerprint, so whenever that was needed again, everything had to match. It would discourage anyone from stealing someone's ticket, because some options would not be available without the matching fingerprint.

While on the train, a landscape passed by the windows and shadows passed the door simulating real characters from the Harry Potter movies. It was as if you were on the Hogwarts train going to the castle. Once off the train, we walked out into Hogsmeade to more shops and restaurants. They were all similar in nature to the shops at Diagon Alley, but the architecture was a bit different. The Three Broomsticks was in this area. We did walk up to the "castle" which had a shop at the base of it. The castle itself incorporated a ride, so there wasn't really anything to see other than that. I'm sure the rides were pretty cool, but we weren't interested in them. We walked all around the different themed areas after we finished with Hogsmeade. There were areas named for various cartoon characters and most were geared for small children, but we did take in a snack of dippin' dots and stopped for tea once. After we made that complete circle, we were back in Hogsmeade and we boarded the train for the return trip to Diagon Alley.

Once off the train again, we exited Diagon Alley and walked the area around the other theme parks in this section. There were Transformers, Back to the Future, and Mardi Gras and several others based on movies. It was a lot of fun and we were pretty tired. We left the park around 5:30 p.m. so I think we got our walk in for the day.

Great day for the two of us! (I am having problems getting the pictures to this post, so check back again for updated pix!)

Till next time. . .


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