We haven't been traveling as much lately as we usually do, so it was nice last week to finally get back down to Orlando again. I've missed everything about the area - the sights, the sounds, the people - so I really enjoyed being able to experience all of those things again. And this trip, we had some new things to enjoy as well.
After putting the trip off several times, we finally managed to lock in our dates and make all the arrangements. We stayed on premises at the Universal Resort for the first time, and really liked it. We were at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, which reminded me a bit of the Polynesian at Disney World. It was relaxing and the room was nice. We definitely plan to stay there again. From our room, it was a short walk over to Citywalk, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The walk was very pleasant, along a winding path by the water. There was a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks living along the path and it was fun to watch them (and listen to them) as we walked along.
Caradorn and I had visited Universal before, but this was The Kidd's first visit. We all liked Citywalk, and The Kidd especially enjoyed Margaritaville. After we planned the trip, we discovered that Weird Al Yankovic was going to be performing at Citywalk at Hard Rock Live while we were there. We are big Weird Al fans but hadn't yet managed to see him in person so we decided to go and I'm so glad we did! His show was great, especially at the end when the 501st joined him onstage for "The Saga Begins" and "Yoda". I knew he had a very versatile voice, but I hadn't really realized how good he actually is. He does have a very nice voice, and he has a surprisingly large range.
Though Caradorn and I had visited the parks before, we had not ridden most of the rides. This time we rode almost everything. Spiderman was one of our favorites. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit was also great - I especially love that you choose what song to hear during your ride, and I'm anxious to ride again to choose different songs. For my first ride I chose "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys. Knowing how much I love Rock Band you might assume that's why I chose the song, but you'd be wrong. I actually just chose it because I always want to drive a car over a cliff when I hear that song thanks to "Star Trek", and I figured hearing it on the rollercoaster was the next best thing, and probably safer.
One of The Kidd's favorite rides turned out to be Men in Black: Alien Attack. We ended up spending a huge chunk of our last day there riding that over and over and over again just so he could try to get a higher score. We did take a short break to see one of our favorite performers, Blondie, in a show about movie makeup (We were a little disappointed by that - we had hoped he'd be the over-the-top character who is stabbed and sadly he was the "normal" guy instead. He was still very funny, though, and since he doesn't appear there often we were just glad to catch him there at all!), but after that we trooped right back over to MiB again.
Of course the main reason for our trip was so we could experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and we weren't disappointed. The theming in that area is amazing. It is small, and a bit cramped, but then that fits the despcriptions from the books. The books were fresh on my mind because I started rereading them just before the trip, and I couldn't find anything that didn't look the way the books said it should. The details were great. Honeydukes (the candy store in Hogsmeade), Zonkos (the joke shop) and the Three Broomsticks carried lots of things mentioned in the books. Plus there were other neat shops and so much merchandise that I just couldn't decide what to buy. . . though I did end up choosing a few things. :) We tried Cauldron Cakes and Pumpkin Tarts, Pumpkin Juice, Butterbeer (normal and frozen), Peppermint Humbugs, Hogshead Ale, Honeydukes chocolate, Trifle, Strawberry Peanutbutter ice cream and so many other things . . . and loved it all. The new ride, "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Jouney", was amazing. Walking through Hogwarts castle to get to the ride was the first time I ever wished a line would move more slowly - there was so much to see! "Flight of the Hippogriff" was cute, and Buckbeak was impressive. I wasn't quite as impressed by the show at Ollivander's as I thought I would be, but that could be because I wasn't a huge fan of the Wand Keeper that day. The show was very short but cute. I'm sure I would enjoy Ollivander's much more if a former Adventurer had been our Wizard. Face it, I'd be enthralled by a dramatic reading of the phone book if Snoopy was the one doing the reading, so if he'd been our Wizard I would never have wanted to leave Ollivander's! ;)
And I discovered a new love of rollercoasters. I've always enjoyed them before, but this trip I just couldn't get enough of them. We rode the Dragon Challenge (formerly Dueling Dragons) and it think it was my favorite thing we did on the whole trip. The Ice side (which I think is now the Hungarian Horntail) is my second favorite rollercoaster, after the Manta at Seaworld. We rode it many times, and went back in on our last morning to ride one last time, and I was so sorry to leave. I just wanted to keep riding! Swooping around on the Dragon was the best- and happiest - I've felt in a long time. Maybe I've turned into an adrenaline junkie!
We did manage to carve out a little time to go over the Disney World. We wanted to get in one last ride on Star Tours since it will be closed for renovations during our next few trips. We also caught the Main Street Electrical Parade and Summer Nightastic Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, and (of course) rushed through Epcot as well. No trip would be complete without a visit to Japan! And as always, we had to swing through Innoventions, Italy and the UK to catch shows by some of our favorite former Adventurers. We bought a few Vinymations and got almost all the ones we wanted, including the Colonel from the Adventurers Club. And on our last night we went back to Pirates Cove for a quick round of miniature golf, as we do on almost every trip.
The trip was almost perfect, except that it was too short. It always surprises me how quickly the time flies by when we're on vacation. There were several things we didn't have time to get to this trip, and I had several friends in town I had intended to see but somehow our paths never crossed. (Even when we were in the same park, in one case. Sorry I missed you, J!). But we are already planning our next trip, so we have that to look forward to. We have WDW and Universal annual passes, and we'll be getting Seaworld ones in a couple of months, so I imagine we'll be back several times over the next year. Our family trips are always very different than the ones Caradorn and I take together, so I'm also anxious to plan an adults-only visit before too long. But for now, with school starting back again and so much going on here, we'll have our hands full for a bit. I'm sure the time will fly by and we'll be heading to points Southward (and to Congaloosh) in no time. I can't wait!