Dragon On! Dragon Off!
We had such a great weekend! First of all, our best friends from Colorado were in Florida for a visit (woohoo!) AND they wanted to go to Universal which we haven't been to in at least 15 years! (woohoo again!) Which means, of course, we get to spend time with some of our very favourite people in a very fum place (woohoo for a 3rd time!)
We drove up Thursday evening after Tim finished work. Normally it would be a 2 1/2 hour drive, door to door, from our house to the hotel. But traffic was a bear. By the time we finally arrived we were tired and starving. So once we checked in we headed out on foot to find food. We found it at Miller Ale House. Decent food and very good service, what else could we ask for? Well a nice after dinner walk. The humidity is backing off now and the temperatures are slowly lowering a bit so it was an absolutely lovely evening constitutional.
Tim and I marveled over how much the area has changed since we last visited. The hotel we stayed in the last time we went to Universal didn't even exist anymore. And there wasn't much except that hotel in the area. Oh may be Burger King and a gas station, but not much else. Now it's hotel upon hotel, restaurant upon restaurant, gas station and shops galore and of course traffic commensurate with such tremendous growth.
We were up and ready to roll early, met our friends and took the shuttle over to Universal which in and of itself was another big surprise. As I recall, and it is certainly possible that I am not recalling correctly, 15 years ago, Universal was a severely abbreviated version of City Walk and one park. One. Now it's an enormous City Walk and Two Huge Parks! Our friends decided to focus on just Universal Studios since they were only going to be able to visit just the one day. Tim bought us annual passes (with the resident discount of course) so we can come back any time we like ;)
I'm always a little overwhelmed when we go to a big state fair, or an amusement park or any event that has a lot of immediate stimulus. I'm trying to look everywhere at one time so I depend upon others to shove me in the proper direction. The first direction I was pointed toward was the Fast and Furious Ride. There was no wait at all. We walked right in. The lead in was great. Amazingly detailed to look like warehouses and garages and, as far as Tim was concerned, the best part was it was air conditioned wait space! Just before getting on the actual ride, I noticed this posted on the wall:
Just missing that final "S". Love it ;)
The second thing we did was Harry Potter World. Now I will admit that oddly, I have not read any of the books. Not a single solitary one. Which is strange and I'm not sure why that is so. BUT Tim and I did see the movies. All of them. And enjoyed them tremendously. So we were tickled to finally visit this part of the park. AND we were not disappointed one bit. There was so much to see and do. Butterbeer, magic shops, marionette shows, dragons and of course, wizard robes and magic wands everywhere.
One of the things about Universal and Disney that I always admire is their attention to detail when they create their alternate realities. For visitors it's a total immersion experience. You really can forget, for just a little while, the real world outside.
There were a lot of roller-coaster type rides and virtual reality sorts of things. Since I am already a "dizzy chick", avoid 'round and 'round rides like the plague. Also not good with whoopsadaisy rides which would be roller coastery type things. Soooo I was the designated holder of people's stuff. Which is absoluely fine with me. They go on their crazyrides and I get to meander through the little shops and people watch which is always the very best show in town. There were a lot of the adrenaline rides actually. I think I got photos of maybe three?
We got to see a parade too. It wasn't on purpose. They were on another exciting ride and I was patiently waiting and this time I decided to just sit and relax. Our friends son Kane waited with me and we passed the time just chatting and enjoying ourselves. While we were talking, some Universal people came by and started setting up a barrier and requesting that people stand back, please. By the time the rest of our party joined us, the parade started and we had perfect seats for it! YAY! Let's see there were dancing Minions and Sponge Bob and gosh, I don't even remember who else. But they surely could shake their booties :)
Eventually we took time out to eat and wandered into the nearby, Monster Cafe for some pretty good food. Which is a big difference from Disney. We have learned that nowadays at Disney, it is so madly crowded and busy that you absolutely have to make reservations, and well ahead of time, at a restaurant if you want to eat something other than kiosk food. And believe me, you DO want to eat something other than kiosk food. It was such a nice treat to just walk in and sit down and eat when we were hungry instead of having to decide where we will be at a certain time and make reservations, on line, and hope that the system is working correctly this time. (But that's another story)
I don't know if perhaps it was just the time of year that we visited or maybe Universal is just less well attended than Disney but I have to tell you, while I have no grumble with "The Mouse" it was such a pleasure to have fun without being shoulder to shoulder with strangers every moment of the visit. The longest line wait was 25 minutes and most were less than 15. That alone was a treat. The shops were not so madly crushed that I couldn't move around which does happen at Disney. Universal was a hit with us, across the board.
Of course, all good things eventually must come to an end and so the time came when we headed back to the hotel to sit around the pool eating cookies (of course I brought cookies! that should not even be a question) and talking and laughing and just enjoying each other's company.
Here you go: Tim being goofy and me looking kind of tired, here, probably just from having so darned much fun!
We really did have a wonderful time. And of course part of the credit goes to Universal because it was a wonderful place. But mostly it's because we got to spend time, once again, with Paul, Marsha and Kane. We just love these guys:
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.