Wednesday, 20 April 2016

USA (Orlando) Itinerary Day 6 - Universal Studios Orlando, Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express

Second day of Universal Studios Orlando! We tried to wake up early today too but we really could not drag ourselves out of bed before dawn after an entire day of walking around Universal Studios yesterday. We granted ourselves a little more time today and only reached the Universal Studio's car park at sunrise after grabbing breakfast at Walmart. I know this sounds ridiculous, like somehow being at the park at the crack of dawn was considered "late", but the crowd was really formidable. In fact, by the time we reached the entrance to Diagon Alley, there was a long queue of like 50 people waiting to enter Diagon Alley! What sorcery is this. The wait for the Gringotts ride was almost an hour even though it was only the morning! To sum it all up, if you intend to take the Harry Potter rides, be prepared to drag your ass there as early as possible or be prepared to queue for a very long time. 

Walmart. Still dark outside but dawn was creeping up on us. The Walmart was huge. If there is one thing I love so much about Florida (aside from the warmer weather and sunny days) is the sprawling grounds with large squat buildings, huge car parks, and a complete absence of skyscrapers. Coming from land scarce Singapore, it was so refreshing to see so much land, large squat buildings, and car parks that could spread out to the size of two soccer fields. 

Sunrise from the car park at Universal Studios.


The dragon on top of the Gringotts spits fire at random times of the day. Or at least I think it was random since there did not seem to be a particular schedule to witness the fire-spitting. Zg did some research and read that the dragon would growl for a few moments before spitting fire. So when the growls started, we dashed out and planted ourselves beneath the dragon for this shot. Perfect!

The Gringotts ride itself was amazing and I actually liked it better than the Forbidden Journey ride. The wait for the ride was incredibly long and the queue took us through the opulent main lobby where we watched the goblins working hard behind the counters. After a few more turns, we reached the mine carts and boarded one. It really felt like I was zooming around inside Gringotts and being part of all the action. So exciting!

Had butter beer ice cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour and picked the souvenir cup so that I could bring it home. 

We also bought some souvenir coins from the Gringotts Exchange where we changed our muggle money for Gringotts coins.

Aside from the Owl Post which really amused me, the other highlight of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter had to be Hogwarts Express. We liked it so much that we took it so many times from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley and back to Hogsmeade. You should do it both ways because the image you see from the "windows" differs depending on the direction of travel!

Another interesting part of Diagon Alley was Knockturn Alley which, true to its dark nature, was dark, gloomy and chilly throughout the day despite the bright sunshine outside. There were also more "magical spells" in Diagon Alley as compared to Hogsmeade and interesting potions sold on the stands. 

I love both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and would strongly recommend the park-to-park tickets so that you could hop on and experience the Hogwarts Express. If I really had to pick one favourite, I would pick Diagon Alley because of the intricate details of Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, Gringotts and all the other shops and stands. Hogsmeade was beautiful and delightful as well, but Diagon Alley was the one which stole my heart.

Going around the wall from Diagon Alley, we emerge in London where the Knight Bus was. 

On the second day in Universal Studios, we went back to Avanti Resort for a rest in the afternoon before heading back to Universal Studios for the nighttime parades. We tried to swim in the resort's pool but it was overrun with kids so we gave up and decided to rest on the deck chairs instead. After some lazing around, we drove to the Orlando Premium Outlet for a quick walk before driving back to Universal Studios. The parade was underwhelming (Disney certainly does better parades and shows!) but Diagon Alley at night with a fire-spitting dragon was amazing. 

The rides in Universal Studios were world-class and I loved every moment in both parks. Very glad that we were blessed with great weather, clear blue skies and warm sun on both days at Universal Studios!

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