Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Yes! We drove from Atlanta to Orlando, FL, to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!

Before our trip, we had considered going to Disney for a few days as well, but we eventually decided against it. I was worried that after driving all that way, we'd be kicking ourselves for not doing Disney when we were already all the way there.

But as we left Universal Studios after our MAGICAL experience at Harry Potter World, we didn't one bit kick ourselves about Disney. We felt extremely satisfied (except for the part where we wanted to stay and live in Hogsmeade).

Get ready for some serious gushing and details, because we ate it all up! Every. Little. Bit.




See, as our friends, family, and long-time readers know, we are BIG Harry Potter Fans. Just for fun, I'll see if I can come up with a list of 12 ways we have geeked out on Harry Potter.

1. We turned our house into Hogwarts. Yes, we did.
2. We attended the midnight release of book 7.
3. We have all dressed up as various Harry Potter characters/story parts. Yes, multiple times. (Mark - Dumbledore, Snape, and "He Who Must Not Be Named;" Stacy - McGonagall, Trelawney, and a Muggle; Thing 1 - Hermione, Luna Lovegood, and Weasleys' Wizard's Wheezes; Thing 2 - A Quidditch Field; And all of us have donned maroon and gold Gryffindor scarves and we've all wielded wands).
4. Thing 1 has won a Harry Potter Spelling Bee and a Harry Potter Trivia Contest.
5. Thing 2 has won a Harry Potter Costume Contest.
6. We own two sets of every book. And they are all well worn. One of Thing 1's proudest moments was when her copy of the first book fell apart into two chunks of book in her hands from so much use. She had me take a picture.
7. We own the entire audio collection of Jim Dale's reading of Harry Potter and listen frequently.
8. We own all the movies and several Harry Potter-themed games and toys (Clue, Uno, Legos, etc.).
9. We've all cried while reading, listening to and watching all the Harry Potter books/movies as well as the movie about J.K. Rowling's life.
10. We hosted a movie marathon at our house leading up to the final movie - we served butterbeer, pumpkin pasties, and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.
11. We've written J.K. Rowling.
12. We've played Quidditch in our backyard.

See? We just HAD to visit Harry Potter World. Thing 1, in particular, has been starry-eyed since learning of the existence of such a place.

It did not disappoint.

We didn't want to leave! We were awestruck. Here's what I texted a friend of ours about it after our visit:


Harry Potter World was so amazing that I kept crying on and off. It was incredible. You TRULY feel like you're there. And the Butterbeer was DELICIOUS! The attention to detail? ASTOUNDING. Hands down, THE BEST theme park EVER. None of us wants to leave. And the ride in the castle? Wow! Kate and I rode it 5 times. We ate Rock Cakes (also delicious!) at Honeyduke's, got goodies at Zonko's, and heard Moaning Myrtle in the bathrooms.We ate British food, Butterbeer, and Pumpkin Fizz (and chocolate trifle) at the Three Broomsticks.Got drinks at the Hog's Head. Went to Ollivander's twice - Kate got picked. Kids got wands and stuffed animals. We took pictures by the Hogwart's Express. Max's favorite ride is The Flight of the Hippogriff. All of it - just magical. So want to live in Hogsmeade. They play Harry Potter music and the rooves are covered in snow. So so beautiful.

Now, let's get to it with pictures and more description.

First of all (and I wish I had taken a picture of it), we have been saving coins in a big jar for years for just such an occasion. Thing 1 did her own, personal, smaller jar as well and saved up more for souvenirs. We took the jars to the bank and poured it into one of those big, counting machines and cashed in. It helped.

We went down for business in Atlanta and did a bunch of fun and wonderful things while there, but this little 2-day "side trip" was the true family vacation and highlight of our trip.

We debated for months where to stay and how to budget for this trip. When we left PA, we still did not know where we'd stay in Orlando. There are so many pros and cons to staying at the resort versus not and we were trying to make the best choice for our family/budget/situation. When we got to Atlanta, we still did not know where we'd stay in Orlando. We were concerned about the cost of the resort, even though it seemed like the best lodging choice for many reasons. Before leaving Atlanta, we made a decision (I know - we can really hem and haw). Mark booked us at the Portofino resort at Universal Studios (so it had an Italian Riviera theme).

This was good for several reasons -- 1. You get early park admission to Harry Potter World, which non-resort guests do not get, allowing you to book it there and enjoy for a bit before it gets too crowded (oh, and your room key also serves as an Express Pass!), and 2. They not only allow, but they welcome dogs to stay in the rooms (Scout got her own welcome bag of goodies and treats as well as her own welcome letter!). So, Scout was able to stay with us for the entire trip (since hotels as well as our condo in Atlanta all allowed her as well)! And I'll add a third - 3. it just seems more "real" to stay right on site like that. It was one of my favorite parts of our 2009 Disney trip to stay right on campus, so to speak, so I was excited to do it again.

We got up bright and early, ate in our room to save money (granola bars that we had brought), and no one minded the early hour at all, because we were getting in early to Harry Potter World! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!


Waiting for the Water Taxi

That's our resort behind us - gorgeous!

I think I was too giddy to think about getting pictures of us in line once we got to the park. We were talking to everyone around us -- all of us the lucky ones who got to go in a whole hour early and have the park to ourselves!

As soon as they opened the gates, our entire group made a mad dash for the very back of the park -- to Universal Studio's Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Welcome to Hogsmeade!
The sun was coming up over the park, as you can tell from our long shadows. And you can also tell that everyone was walking quickly, just cruising to get in there. I know we were! We had the kids run ahead for this picture. That's the Hogwarts Express behind them.


Hogwarts Express



I think my very favorite part of this place was simply BEING there -- I love the snow-covered buildings, how REAL it all seemed, and how much they made it truly feel like you were REALLY there. They pipe movie music through speakers all over the place, so as you walk in and stroll along the streets, you feel like you're there. And you just feel so HAPPY!

Hogwarts!!
Seeing the castle is such a thrill! Everything there looks so LIFE-LIKE! I was positively giddy. We were all smiling and looking around and taking it in the whole time. It felt amazing to be there.

Harry Potter World (as we call it) is not large. But we didn't care. It was wonderful. Magical. Delightful, Amazing. Happy. Beautiful. Aaaaghhhhhh, there aren't enough words to describe it. I read a lot about it online before going and the #1 "complaint" was that people only wish it were bigger. Everyone loves it there. How could you not?! J.K. Rowling had a say in every aspect of it -- and it showed.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in one of the two parks at Universal Studios. It is inside the "Islands of Adventure" park. And we were perfectly content to spend the majority of our day in that little corner of the park -- a little bit of heaven, I tell you!

RIDES

Let's talk rides first. There are only 3 rides in Harry Potter World. And, since we were there early, we knew to go to those right away since eventually there would be longer lines.

Positively giddy!
1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - this is the premier attraction at the park and was a favorite for two of us, dizzying and nauseating for one of us, and terrifying for one of us.

I wish I had known more about this ride before going on it -- specifically, I wish I had known it was scary in parts. Thing 1 and I absolutely LOVED it -- we rode it 5 times and would've gladly gone on it 5 more times. Mark rode it once and while he agrees it's a great ride, it set him off -- see, most of the Foley men have some kind of serious amusement park ride sensitivity to anything that spins (or seems to spin). He was pretty dizzy for the rest of our trip (a couple other rides -- Men in Black, Simpsons 4D, etc. didn't help matters). Thing 2 was terrified and keeps telling everyone, "That's the hardest I've ever cried in my life." Yeah, I felt AWFUL about that. I would never, ever, ever make my kid go on something that I knew would scare them. It's just that no one mentioned the scary aspect of the ride, since everyone focuses on how amazingly cool it is (and it really is!!).

So, there. I've done my duty -- please know that it's scary to some who are sensitive to dark, frightening scenes and rides. Once we were on the ride itself and I could see it was getting scary, I leaned over (we were all strapped in) to check on Thing 2, saw my terrified son closing his eyes and crying, and tried to yell out, "It's okay. I've got you!" while I reached over and rubbed his leg. It was rough. Like I said, in all my research (and I did a lot) -- no one mentioned that aspect, so I'm doing it now. Poor kid spent the rest of the trip asking every ride attendant, "Is this ride scary?" He was skeptical of every answer he received, but eventually found a favorite ride in the "Simpsons 4D ride" (also incredible ride -- also pushed Mark into severe dizziness). Thing 2 also has a favorite ride in Harry Potter World, too -- I'll get to that one next.

Okay, so Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You walk up to the castle, go in, put your bags in a locker that knows you by your fingerprint, and begin to walk through Hogwarts! YOU GET TO WALK THROUGH HOGWARTS!! It bears repeating, because, well, YOU GET TO WALK THROUGH HOGWARTS!! I loved, loved, loved this -- it was thrilling! And to be fair, Thing 2 and Mark really loved it, too, and walked it at least one more time (though they didn't repeat the ride after the first time). I know now why they have 2 lines -- one for riders and one for spectators.

Half of the attraction itself is the walk through the castle; the other half is the ride itself. I loved both and the ride was my favorite ride EVER. You feel like you are actually walking through an old, enchanted castle. There was so much to see and enjoy that, to be honest, the first time we were there, I was sad the line was so short and moving so fast, because I wanted to take it all in (it's okay -- riding it 5 more times helped).

Herbology
There were just NO LINES. We were almost running through where there would normally be very long lines. Every worker we talked to said we came at the right time -- April had been crazy with Spring Breakers, but we were there when it slowed WAY down and was not that hot. It was wonderful!!

Mandrakes

After practically running through the outside parts of the castle, we were back inside, and there was so much to see!
House Points

Talking portraits!

Harry, Ron, and Hermione
This was in one of the classrooms and the three of them show up under the invisibility cloak, talk to us, make us laugh (Ron!), joke a bit, and try to talk us out of skipping class. In fact, it's fun to go on the ride again and again, because each time, every part is a little different. The first time, it was fun to see the three of them RIGHT THERE WITH US (I'm telling you -- I was beside myself with giddiness), but on a couple of our other times through, they made it snow inside using magic

It's snowing inside!


The Daily Prophet, complete with moving pictures!
Checking out all the cool things to see!

The Sorting Hat
Dumbledore in his office!
Thing 1 and I spent quite a bit of time in Dumbledore's office at one point on one of our many times through the castle. There was some kind of technical difficulty on the ride, so we waited for quite a while. Eventually we got out of line and exited but were able to cut the line later two more times for having waited during that time (they gave us the secret things to say!). 

You walk through all kinds of areas, including classrooms. It was pretty dark, but the flash helped me get pictures of some of the incredible detail everywhere.

By a window in one of the classrooms
Blackboard in a classroom


So, as you walk through the castle, completely enthralled by everything you see and hear, you hardly even notice that you're waiting in a line (though ours could hardly be called that anyway - it was just not crowded), and before you know it, you're at the ride itself.

You sit in a seat with a harness that comes down over you. The seats are side by side and designed for four people to ride together.

(Picture from Attractions Magazine)
You slowly move, facing outward all the time, and as it gets dark, Hermione tells you what to do, blows on some floo powder as you yell the word "observatory!" and you are whisked into parts of Hogwarts that you never thought you'd see. Suddenly you're following Harry and Ron who are amazed that, "They did it! They're flying!" and you do feel like you are soaring on a broomstick. It's magical!

It isn't a roller coaster -- it's a cross between Disney's Haunted House, various 4D rides and shows, and Soaring California, but with TONS of Harry Potter special touches. The ride proceeds to take you through the castle, the grounds, the forbidden forest, a Quidditch match, dungeons . . . you alternate between being in parts that are lifelike sets (with spiders, dementors, dragons) and other times when it feels SO REAL that you are zipping through the castle, over the lake, and under the stands of the Quidditch Pitch -- all because of huge, dome-shaped 4D screens that make it REALLY feel like you're flying.

At times, you're being chased by a dragon that Hagrid can't find, other times you're playing Quidditch (yes, I tried to grab the snitch). Every time we would whisk away from one part to another (from 4D screens to set-like parts "inside"), you were amazed and surprised. I'm not terribly afraid of spiders, so that didn't bother me. The dementors were creepy for sure. But the part where the whomping willow is RIGHT THERE and tries to beat you as large tree limbs come swinging toward you? THAT was crazy!

Except for how it totally terrified Thing 2, I absolutely LOVED this ride. It all felt so real -- I feel like I flew on a broomstick through Hogwarts with Harry Potter!!

As you get off the ride, after helping to save the day, you proceed into Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods -- an amazing gift shop with all sorts of Harry Potter goodness as well as fun things to see, like an enchanted chess board, various boxes with student's names on it (you know Filch has files and confiscated goods on those pesky students), and a working Maurader's Map. I love this place! Details EVERYWHERE!!


I believe that file belonged to Seamus Finnegan. And look at all the confiscated goodies behind the cages up there!

Skele-gro!
 Obviously on our first ride, I quickly moved to the side with Thing 2 to make sure he was okay and from then on, all was well, and we went on more rides, visited shops, and had wonderful refreshments!

Thing 2 admires the Marauder's Map


We really enjoyed checking out Filch's Emporium and seeing all the neat stuff there. Oh, if money were no object . . . 

2. Flight of the Hippogriff - this ride is Thing 2's favorite ride at Harry Potter World!


This picture is from much later in the day. We rode this ride multiple times and Mark got a picture of us on it here. Thing 2 rode this ride a whopping NINE times. He and I rode together a bunch while Thing 1 went on Dragon Challenge -- he and I laughed and screamed and really enjoyed doing this together. I was especially happy to see him enjoying himself so much after having been so scared on the Forbidden Journey ride.

As you walk up to get in "line" (we were able to use the Express Pass for this one, but passing the line almost felt wrong because it was already so short!), you pass Hagrid's Hut!

I just LOVE them!!
Buckbeak is also to the side of the ride, but I didn't get a picture of him since I was busy whipping around the roller coaster. I did talk to him every time I went by, though, because WHY NOT?

3. Dragon Challenge - I don't know how many times Thing 1 rode this ride, but I do know that Mark, Thing 2, and I did not ride it at all. She is the adventuresome one in our family when it comes to those kinds of rides. She got to the front of so many lines because she's not only willing, but LOVES to do the single rider option.

Thing 1
Walking up to the ride, you can see the blue Ford Anglia crashed into a tree. So cool! I love it here. Have I mentioned that yet?



Walking Thing 1 up to the ride

Gorgeous day!

Just wanted to share this picture really quickly. On one of the several times that Thing 1 and I rode the Forbidden Journey, Mark took Thing 2 to Zonko's and got this picture of him checking out "the constipation sensation that's sweeping the nation!"

U-No-Poo

SHOPS

I do not even know where to begin. There were shops you could enter and some just for show, but all of them were awe inspiring. We loved being there so much!!

Dervish and Banges

The Monster Book of Monsters

The book growls, lunges, and bites!

The Quibbler!

Going into Honeyduke's

Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Bean

At Zonko's!

Outside of Zonko's
Being in Zonko's and Honeyduke's was just delightful. Here, I have a brief video -- such a happy place!

video


INCREDIBLE detail in every shop -- look closely in the windows . . . . And just look at those Cauldrons!! I love it here!!

Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment and Potages Cauldrons
Love the Owl Post!



Outside of Ollivander's

Quidditch Stuff!
I took another video to show you how amazing these shop windows were -- aaaaahhhhhh, amazing!!

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All the character's wands!

Chocolate Frogs

Extendable Ears

Wizard Chess

Dervish and Banges - back entrance

You can see down the alley!



AN ACTUAL HOWLER!!

Enchanted Brooms!

Jewelry and Pretty Things
Ooh, ooh. My FAVORITE shop window had this adorable mandrake - I even loved the sound it made:

video



BUTTERBEER!!

Bertie Bott's

Stepping into Zonko's

SHOWS

There are only a couple of shows in Hogsmeade. One involves singing frogs and the other includes members of the visiting schools from book 4's Goblet of Fire competition -- Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. The show was lovely and we took a picture with them.


It wasn't cold. It was perfect. But I put my jacket on Thing 1, worried she'd get a sunburn on her shoulders.


FOOD

Oh, the food! And by food, I mean beverages. Oh, the beverages! Oh, the BUTTERBEER!! Where to begin? They serve two kinds of butterbeer -- frozen and regular. Most people like the frozen one best -- and it really is DELICIOUS -- but I personally like the regular, cold one even better. We also tried Pumpkin Fizz and Pumpkin Juice -- both yummy!

Even though there are a couple of Butterbeer/Pumpkin Juice kiosks in the middle of the park, always with a line of patrons, we had read online to proceed to the Hog's Head where we could get it on tap (and cheaper!). Plus, um, hello! We got to go to the Hog's Head! No brainer.



Trying Butterbeer!

At the bar
Outside the Hog's Head was a wanted poster for Sirius Black with the question, "Have You Seen This Wizard?" The picture of Sirius Black moved! He looked like a madman. Dun-dun-DUN!

Sirius Black is on the loose!
Oh, and if it looks like we're drinking Butterbeer in every other picture, it's because we pretty much were! The irony is that when we eat out, we always order water, both for health reasons and on principle -- soda is expensive when you're out! We don't usually buy slushies and slurpees and bottled/canned sodas and drinks. But butterbeer? Yes, yes, YES! It's a must buy! It's delicious, it's BUTTERBEER, and it's only available in ONE PLACE ON EARTH. I mean, we've made replicas at home, but the stuff in the park is divine.

It was creamy, sweet - but not too sweet, butterscotch-y, fizzy, delicious . . . you should visit there just to try it. Really.

So where else did we get food? Well, we made sure to eat lunch at where else? THE THREE BROOMSTICKS!! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh, here I sit over a month later and I'm still so excited that we were THERE!

Outside The Three Broomsticks

Ready for a British Lunch!


And again, there were NO LINES!! We feasted on all kinds of British fare and shared everything -- chicken and ribs, roasted potatoes, salad, corn on the cob, fish and chips, Cornish pasties, chocolate trifle, and of course, more butterbeer (frozen and regular) and pumpkin juice!


More Butterbeer!

Yep! More Butterbeer!

See The Three Broomsticks? DETAILS!

The entrance to The Three Broomsticks
It was all delicious, and even tastier because we were actually THERE. There, in that magical Harry Potter place. There, where little magic touches entertained us around the walls (shadows of magical creatures and self-cleaning items and owls . . . ). Just lovely!

So, where else did we get food? Well, later we got some treats at Honeyduke's! We got rock cakes. And though they're usually hard, stale, and dry when Hagrid makes them, they are delicious, moist, and perfectly not-too-sweet-yet-also-cinnamon-y, mmmm-mmm good. We sat outside like vagabonds and ate on the street outside of The Three Broomsticks.

Mmmm. Rock Cakes!

OLLIVANDER'S WAND SHOP

Since there were essentially no lines, we really got to see everything at least twice, if not 5 or 9 times or more. I don't know how many times we walked in and out of Zonko's and Honeyduke's or walked up and down the streets and alleys.

When you look online at tips for visiting the park, they warn you to avoid the long line at Ollivander's Wand Shop, because people get in the line thinking it's a ride, wait for hours, and find out it's a very cute act inside of Ollivander's shop, but very small (only maybe 15-20 people get in at a time) and the odds of getting chosen are very slim.

Well, being that it wasn't crowded, we saw the very cute act twice -- once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The Ollivanders were different each time, but the biggest difference is that Thing 1 got chosen the second time!!!!! We were SO thrilled. She is SUCH a big Harry Potter fan that it just felt right that she be selected. We felt so lucky! She ate it all up and grinned the WHOLE time.


Ollivander worked VERY hard to find just the right wand for Thing 1. After all, the wizard doesn't choose the wand. It is the wand that chooses the wizard! He had her test various wands until he found the right one for her.


The first couple of wands didn't work out so well -- the magic got a bit wonky. Where she was supposed to make the ladder move, the drawers opened and closed instead.

Where she was supposed to use magic to light the room, well . . .

video


There were a couple of instances like that, but then . . . light dawned, music played, wind blew -- the proper wand had been found and it selected her!


This video quality isn't great and you can't hear it well, but here is her wand choosing her:

video


It was SUPER cool. Afterward, they let you into a shop where you can buy all kinds of wands. They have TONS of them, including ones based on birthdays and signs. And, even cooler than that, they had wands from just about every Harry Potter character, good and evil characters alike. The wands are pricey, so we just looked around in wonder. They were amazing! Our kids have some cheap, workable wands at home that they use a lot in their frequent pretend games of Harry Potter. It was SO cool to be there, though!

Ha! Fooled you. And we surprised the kids, too. They didn't even ask for wands (these kids are just NOT kids who have the "gimmies") and were sure we wouldn't buy wands because of the price, but we surprised them and told them each to choose a wand. We should've videoed the expression on their faces. Worth. Every. Penny.



MORE DETAILS

I can't say enough how much I loved the exquisite attention to detail that was exhibited all over the park.



I *loved* visiting the Owl Post -- packages and owls everywhere . . . and even howlers! You can buy postcards there and get them postmarked with the Owl Post Hogsmeade mark! HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!?

The Owlery
 Here we are at the Owl Post, getting our postcards postmarked. The worker there was crazy nice -- super sweet, super perky, and very helpful.




Outside of Ollivander's


LOVED walking down the streets and hearing the Harry Potter music movie piped into the air -- made me feel so happy!! Here's a view of the streets of Hogsmeade:

video



Over the ATM machine!

In front of the castle and on the bridge

Glorious!


Back at the Hog's Head for more Butterbeer!

Mark is wet in that picture from a wet ride we went on in a different part of the park. You see, we stayed and stayed in Hogsmeade a LONG time (because we didn't want to leave) and then we figured we should see what else there was in the Islands of Adventure park, so we went around the rest of the park for a bit -- Mark checked on Scout and then met us. We enjoyed a few rides, but our hearts and feet were taking us back to Hogsmeade, where we walked around, rode rides, and stayed until after closing time. We just sat there by the Hogwarts Express, not wanting to leave.

Pathetic? Maybe. But we didn't care.

And is that the happiest Hogwarts Express Conductor you've ever seen?? He was super jolly and made us all laugh. MAGICAL, I tell you!!

In front of the Hogwarts Express


Just look at that detail! Those are the "public conveniences" - the British have such a lovely way of saying "toilets." I love the word "loo," too.

Best part of the bathrooms? Moaning Myrtle is there! You hear her the whole time. I couldn't suppress the grin on  my face at that. I loved it! One of my favorite "little touches" at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I love that J.K. Rowling had a hand in every detail and every drink recipe. That made it all the more special. I also love the signs and windows and logos/swinging item for every shop there.

I loved the snow-covered rooves, which must by why I took a bunch of pictures of them. I love how some of the chimneys are crooked.


This is the video that I took to try to capture how I felt there. Walking the streets and hearing that music? It made me weepy. Magical, magical. Watch and see:


video




I think at this point, we were just hanging out. Just BEING there. We were done and tired and hungry, but we didn't want to drag ourselves out of Hogsmeade. It was so wonderful to visit there. We had two sets of tickets to visit each of the two parks at Universal Studios, but even though we'd seen every inch of Harry Potter World, we seriously considered ditching the second park and using our tickets to return to Hogsmeade again the next day. It was that amazing.



There are LOTS of tourists there from England and LOTS from Brazil. We asked the workers there and they said that those seem to be the two most-represented countries by visitors to the park. Isn't it interesting (and kind of funny) that Brits leave their home country -- in which Harry Potter is set -- to visit the U.S. just to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? I saw some UK families online that visit several times a year!! Man, Europeans know how to holiday.

Mark with some loot

Here's the deal. I am frugal, almost to a fault sometimes. I have a hard time spending money on myself and just in general. I worry about finances and stress out when we spend money. And we do not usually let ourselves get expensive souvenirs. We have a tradition of getting a Christmas ornament at the different places we visit, and even those are usually key chains, because they're generally so much cheaper than actual ornaments but can serve as tree trimming just as well.

This was one time that I can recall where I purposely threw caution to the wind and let loose. I mean, we weren't foolish or irresponsible. But we let ourselves splurge. It was probably equivalent to what most families do anyway, but for us it was a big deal and I have to say that I'm pretty proud of myself. I don't usually enjoy spending money, but we let ourselves enjoy this and the kids got to choose some pretty special souvenirs. And it was special, probably because we don't usually do that, but also because it was Harry Potter World and we are total Harry Potter geeks -- and that is special to us.

On the way to Orlando, we played the license plate game on each of the 3 "legs" it took to get there. We paid the kids .25 for every license plate they found (.50 for Hawaii or Alaska or Canadian provinces). By the time they got to Florida, they'd each earned $25. On top of that we got wands, stuffed animals (our kids are BIG stuffed animal fans and play with them all the time!), t-shirts, fun trinkets, and more. And I don't one bit regret it. Not even a smidge!

We loved it and we highly recommend it to anyone who is a Harry Potter fan. It's like Comic-Con for Harry Potter geeks. It's wonderful. It's amazing. And it's purely magical!