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Florida, Day 4: Harry Potter, Archaeology Gone Bad and Seuss Madness


All I wanted to do was sleep, just a wee bit more. Another forty winks; is that too much to ask? But for the first time in our decades of marriage PJ was up Very Early and bouncing off the walls to get going. Harry Potter beckoned, and she couldn’t wait a moment longer. She even declined the offer of breakfast, one of my usually successful delaying tactics. The best I could do was have her make some coffee in the tiny machine in the room while I got ready to go.

We were in the park just after opening and racing to the back of the property. The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter was our goal, and we were running like we were in some sort of race or something. First the Port of Entry, where our pre-purchased tickets got us a head start; then through Seuss Landing, with all it’s odd shapes and bright colors; on to the Lost Continent, where desert sands and fallen giants await; and finally to the arch that marks Harry Potter’s realm.

Then we slowed down. Or at least I did. I wanted to get some photos in the early morning light while PJ gawked decided what to do first. The line looked short for the Dragon Challenge ride, so we went there first.

It only took about twenty minutes to get to the immediate loading area for the red dragon (Fire; the other is Ice). Paula Jo wanted to ride in the front four, so she chose that lane. It’s sometimes slower, because a lot of folks often choose that, but it wasn’t bad at the moment. (I wasn’t riding; bum shoulder, don’tcha know. So I took the official photos.) We chatted with a young fellow who had ridden several times, getting all the nitty-gritty details on what to expect.

Soon they were on the ride and I was directed towards the Child Swap area. It made we wonder: Do some parents take their brood on these rides in hopes they can swap out a few? Maybe get upgrades? Sure looks tempting, I bet. But I digress…

Dragon Bones

PJ was back in a few minutes, hair all windblown, a permanent-looking wraparound smile on her mug. She proclaimed loudly that the ride was an awesome start to the day. I think the ride left her ears ringing or something.

We moved on to Hogwarts, an impressive structure on a mountaintop. I think maybe this is the most imposing building I’ve seen on a theme park lot. Massive, dark, brooding even in bright daylight. The entrance between two columns topped with flying tuskers is foreboding. Even more menacing was the wait time to get on the ride: A solid 105 minutes. In we went, though, to stand in line and slowly trudge forward with the thousands of others who wanted to experience Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the best new theme park ride of 2010 (and still going strong, apparently).

TridentIt was hot and getting hotter. Several places along the winding path, fans with sprayers teased us all with moments of relative cool. Once the line got all the way to the back lot, though, it was simply achingly hot with no shade. Fortunately that part of the congasnake didn’t last long, or they would have had multiple heat stroke victims to deal with. Up through the greenhouse we trudged, seeking any sort of relief from the scorching humidity.

Just as we were about to reach the inviting sanctuary of the castle’s back entrance, disaster struck: The ride broke.

I’ll give Universal this: they didn’t take that long to get things rolling again. Once we were inside for good, lots of interesting things caught our eye. Statues, the score-keeping machine for Quidditch, talking wall pictures, appearances by Harry himself (with Hermione and Ron, of course) and more. Even the sorting hat spoke to us. Dumbledore’s keep was just as we imagined. The big dragon skeleton was a dramatic touch. Oh so many things to see! Good thing, too, as we still weren’t near the ride platform.

Finally we arrived at the loading station! PJ was diverted to a different line and I was directed once again to the area of the child swap. (More children to choose from, this time.) I waited and waited. No PJ came out. Ten minutes, fifteen; still no spouse. I began to worry. Had Snape zapped her? Maybe a dragon ate her? Or could she have figured out how to go around and around without anybody noticing? (I heard a rumor that a cloak of invisibility was missing. How would they know? How can you see it in the first place? Inquiring minds want to know!)

Finally I gave up and decided she’d gotten past me through some other exit. I headed downstairs to the gift shop to wait. Nobody gets out unless they go through the gift shop; it’s a rule, you know. So I waited there. And waited. I thought of calling her, only to realize I had both phones. Bad Planning.

I was about to ask security to start looking for her (I’d already checked the lost and found and Magical Repository for Misplaced Spouses; none there caught my eye, although there was this one woman who claimed she’d been there for several weeks) when she magically appeared in the back of the gift shop. Did I mention that there’s magic in Hogwarts?

Meat Pie

We grumbled at each other over the Bad Planning (see above), then we smiled and moved on to find some lunch. The Three Broomsticks was close by, so we ducked in there. First things first, we went through the drinks line. I ordered a pint of Guinness and PJ asked for a butterbeer, frozen. I nearly had a heart attack when I was informed that both taps (both taps!) of Guinness had mysteriously gone dry. But in less than a minute they house elves in the back had the beguiling Irish brew flowing again. I let my heart rate come back down from scientific notation size and grabbed the mug with both hands.

Wandering around through the packed dining area, we finally snagged a small table and sat. Paula Jo took her magical money token and went to get food while I guarded the equipment and drinks. I astutely concluded that the best way to guard the Guinness was inside my paunch, so I proceeded to make it so. (I didn’t do that with Alacrity; she had to get her own brew.) PJ had mistakenly left her butterbeer, so I snitched some swigs tasted a couple of tiny samples. Very interesting stuff! As she said, it tastes like cream soda combined with Butter Rum LifeSavers. Even frozen it had a bit of a fizz.

Our tray of food arrived and we dug in. Paula Jo had thoughtfully purchased the cottage pie for me, and had pasties for her meal. Not bad for mass-produced food, although the pasties were a bit dry. We ate slowly (the cool air was hard to consider leaving behind) and relaxed. At the end we took a few photos of the large antler sets on the walls, then we headed back out into the Florida sauna.

By walking through Honeydukes (very interesting candies) and Zonko’s (the Weasley twins’ favorite store, full of pranks and toys) we avoided some of the scorch, but soon we were back to the entrance to Potterland. (Or is it Potterworld?) We were beginning to wilt, so we decided to quit the park for a while, get a nap and some water, and come back once the sun was not so intense. To exit, though, we had to go back through the Lost Continent, and we chose to visit Poseidon’s Temple and see what that was all about.

Game Scoring

I won’t give away the story, but basically it’s a tale of woe, an archeological expedition gone bad in a realm of minor gods and spiteful villains. Water, fire, evil spells and a fight to the death. Not your usual, boring dig in the desert! Plenty of ham acting too; I liked it. (And it was cool inside.) As we left the show we stopped by Mythos and made a reservation for 7:30 P.M. (It’s always good to make reservations early at theme park restaurants.)

After that we found ourselves inside the wacky visions of Dr. Seuss. This place is mostly for the under-10 crowd, but we enjoyed the visual effects and the inordinate happiness all around. The kids were mostly oblivious to the drastic weather conditions, although a couple were expressing their displeasure with being tired. (Ah, the joys of parenting.) We shopped a bit, mainly to get into the shade, and found some nice shirts to consider for purchase later in the day.

Then we hiked, slowly and tenaciously, back through the Port of Entry and on to the parking garage. It had been a good, long morning and mid-day in the Islands, and we were ready for a nice, cool siesta…

Enjoy the (Sun-Soaked Imagination) Heat!


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