Right off the bat, Diagon Alley was impressive. The facade is breathtaking, and the triple-decker Knight Bus outside has a chatty shrunken head to entertain guests. Inside you feel like you’ve literally entered the world of Harry Potter. You can’t see the rest park once you’re inside and you walk through streets filled with recognizable establishments.
The kids wanted to get a wand as fast as possible. They had heard about it before our trip and saw kids waving their wands around Diagon Alley as soon as we entered. Rather than waiting to go to Ollivanders, the kids stopped at Wands by Gregorovitch instead. It took a while to get the magical moves just right (we only bought one for them to share, it was a little pricey) but they had fun trying to figure it out. Just about every shop from the Potter universe was here, but we needed to head to Gringotts since the wait time for the ride would be long. Before entering, we watched the dragon above exhale its fiery breath.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts was worth the wait. True to form, it also had an entertaining inside queue. Waiting in line in Gringotts we watched the goblins work at their stations, walked past vaults, and looked at newspapers with moving pictures just like the movies. They take your photo before you head into an office like room. There you get to virtually meet the rarely seen Bill Weasley (Brother of Ron. This actor is now famous for the role of General Hux) before taking an elevator ride down to the carts. That’s about 10 minutes of show before you even get on the ride! The ride is another moving car that takes you from scene to scene, but it’s so entertaining that you don’t care that we’ve done something like this already at Transformers and Spiderman. This one feels more like a roller coaster. At the end of the exciting ride, we checked out our photo taken in queue. We liked it so much we bought that one too.
We continued our exploration of Diagon alley with some butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s and a walk down Knockturn Alley. Reluctantly, we left to finish what we could in the rest of the park.
KJ – Universal was amazing. We went to Diagon Alley it was awesome, even though I did not have a very extensive knowledge of Harry Potter at the time.
CT – And now you’re on the fourth book, and you now know way more about Harry Potter than me. The thing that I remember the most was Diagon Alley because I had a really fun time there.
KJ- They had a dragon on top of the Gringotts ride that breathes real fire.
CT – I remember getting ice cream and then almost having it melt from the fire breathing stone dragon statue. I don’t know if they actually froze a dragon into stone…
KJ – No, it’s supposed to look like the actual dragons that guard Gringotts.
CT- Oh yeah I remember seeing the dragon in the ride. And the ride was pretty fun too.
KJ – It’s like being the movie, it’s really cool. I remember most the Gringotts mine cart experience. It’s not like having Hagrid behind you, but it’s like being in one of those carts. It’s actually kind of funny. We definitely had fun with the wands. There were lots of Leviosa jokes.
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem had a painfully long wait in a rather uninteresting queue, but the two preshow rooms and the 3-D adventure were lots of fun. We spent the rest of the time doing more classic attractions like Disaster! The Motion Picture, Twister (featuring some old school effects that reminded me of the early days of Universal Studios Hollywood), and ET Adventure. We caught a showing of Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Review. The short rock musical was near to my heart because it was one of the live shows I worked on in my Universal Studios Hollywood days. The show was a little different than the Hollywood one, but we still loved it. I will miss it once it closes since it’s slated for its final demise in 2016.
After taking the traditional photo in front of the hanging Jaws shark, now located in the San Francisco wharf, we decided to head to City Walk for a quick dinner then take our tired, hot, sweaty selves back to the hotel. The kids can’t wait to come back again. I also want to take them to Islands of Adventure too.
KJ – The Simpson ride was definitely an experience.
CT – Oh yeah that was weird because I don’t understand anything about The Simpsons. I didn’t know what the heck was going on.
KJ – I had a very vague knowledge, just enough to know the character’s names and what they do.
KJ – The Minions ride. That was fun, the wait though…
CT – Oh yeah that was fun. It was a really long wait, but it was worth it.
KJ – Good thing we waited, could have been a two-hour wait if we hadn’t gone then.
CT – Since the wait was so long, I probably wouldn’t have gone on if it wasn’t Minions. I wanted to go because it was Minions.
After another day of family and pool time, we got back on the road for Georgia. I stopped for gas at an exit that sported a sign directing you to Jimmy Carter’s Boyhood home. We were just outside of Cordele, GA. I found myself staring off into space while waiting for the pump to finish. Then I noticed it. Well, I’ll be, it’s that rocket we passed on the way down! KJ looked it up on her phone, and it turned out to be a retired Titan 1 nuclear mission that was purchased and positioned here in 1969. We had gotten on the road rather late in Orlando, so that was about all we saw of the Confederate Missile. We got back on the road.
After the sun had gone down, we were on the back roads to Conyers when a terrifyingly intense thunder and lightning storm started. The lightning was beautiful and frightening at the same time. I think Georgia showed us the most spectacular lightning I’ve even seen since my summer in Santa Fe. KJ described the storm as being like buckets being thrown onto our car with gigantic bolts of lighting. The rest of the week we would be treated to some spectacular thunder and lightning as we spent more time exploring around the Atlanta area. We still had many more miles to add to our adventure.
Next up: Part 4 – Georgia