Just had to let you all know we got to go to Diagon Alley the day
before it officially opened and didn't have to do the 5 am insanity.
It was awesome.
When we went to Hogsmeade on July 7, we bought Luke a wand right away,
and the girl helping him told us that the Hogwarts Express train was
running and Diagon Alley was open. Unofficially, and the ride
Gringotts wasn't running, but we could go on over.
It was just word of mouth so it was busy but less so than Hogsmeade.
We got right into Olivanders, the wand shop and did the wand ceremony
experience, which can often be hours and hours of waiting.
We spent about 4 hours there and saw all the shops and sights. It's
totally immersive, just like being in Diagon Alley. Incredible.
July 8 we got up early and went to Hogsmeade at 8 am for early park
entry for hotel guests (hour before general admission). It was crazy
busy. We did the castle and rode the ride (which terrified Luke, no
more rides for him). We didn't last long--very sunny and very crowded.
We headed back to the hotel around 12:30.
Luke and Mark went swimming in the hotel pool, which was huge, and
Sophie and I took naps. Later Mark and I took turns going back to the
parks and rode a few rides ourselves. I rode a couple of roller
coasters which was fun.
Yesterday we did Diagon Alley at 7 am (hotel early park admission) and
got in line for Gringotts by 7:30. This ride has been plagued by
breakdowns and it suffered a few yesterday morning. When we got in
line we were in for a 210 min wait. We had 2 breakdowns added to that.
We finally rode it at 11:10.
That sounds like a long wait, and it was, but we talked and laughed
and were never in the sun and there are amazing things to look at
along the line that are part of the story (once you get into
Gringotts--which was after we'd been waiting about 2 hours).
I'd prepared to wait. I'd brought snacks and water. I bought more
water when we broke down the first time. I took Luke and myself to the
bathroom when we broke down the second time. Since Luke didn't ride,
we did child swap (one parent rides while other parent sits with the
kid in a waiting room) and he earned money for waiting it out, which
yes is bribery but it kept him happy and it made us happy.
Was it worth it? Omg. Yes. Best ride ever. We aren't amusement park
people. But we are movie people. And we love Harry Potter. And this
ride is like being inside of a movie. I seriously was tearing up at
the end, it was so incredibly beautiful and astounding what the
engineers have created with this ride. It's a roller coaster that is
on a turn table that's inside a 3D (really, 4D because there are heat
and wind and water affects) holographic movie.
And the energy of every person on the ride was joyful and happy
because you were only there if you were a hard core fan. Applause
every time a train left and every time a train arrived. It was a once
in a lifetime experience. Except for Sophie, who got to ride it twice
since we do child swap and she rides with each parent. Lucky girl.
Luke in the child swap room was happy because they had a movie reel
playing of the two movie scenes of HP in Gringotts. And we'd all been
wanting to watch HP movies since we got to Universal, and he was the
first one of us to get to.
We stayed in DA for a few more hours to revisit a few shops again,
making sure the kids did everything they wanted and not rushing them
out. We may never come back, or if we do it will be years, so we wrung
out every drop. They did it all and we left.
We rode the Simpsons ride, ate at Mel's Diner, left in the sprinkling
rain, walked back to the hotel, got our luggage, an drove to the Gulf.
Now we're at Clearwater Beach, getting ready to go relax on the calm
shore of the gulf (I'm waiting for my turn in the shower).
Much different here from the Atlantic. This is our first time in
Clearwater and we don't yet know our way around so we have a lot of
exploring to do. Hopefully we'll find a lot of shells.