Monthly Archives: March 2017

Day 2, Part 2: Islands of Adventure

After getting off Hogwarts Express at Hogsmeade in the Islands of Adventure park, we were like two little kids – I just can’t get over how amazing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is! 

After exploring some of the stores we hit all the rides in this section – Flight of the Hippogriff, Dragon Challenge, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Flight is a family-friendly coaster, so it ended up being a bit anti-climactic. The Forbidden Journey is AWESOME though. Boyfriend and I agreed that it was probably our favorite ride of the day. We had a lengthy wait, but like Gringotts, there’s so much to see and explore that having a wait is kind of a good thing. We even got snowed on in Hogwarts!

Boyfriend didn’t realize Dragon Challenge has two different coasters, so we ended up just riding the red coaster…on this trip 😉.

The Forbidden Journey is in Hogwarts! How impressive is this building?!?

After a frozen butterbeer break, we crossed over the bridge into the Jurassic Park area. We played around in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center and then jumped on board the Jurassic Park River Adventure. I didn’t get as wet as I expected, but I was still jealous of the little girl beside me in a poncho. 

I also apparently stopped taking pictures at this point. 

We passed by Kong because of the long line and ended up at Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, which I wasn’t excited about (I hate walking around with wet pants!). We had a lengthy wait PLUS the ride broke down for a while (seriously, what the heck?), and yes, I ended up walking around in soggy shorts. Gross. 

I perked up after a 3-D ride on The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, a low-key and calm ride as the oldest people on The Cat and the Hat ride, and then an adrenaline rush on The Incredible Hulk Coaster, which may have been second on my favorite ride list. The whole park probably heard me scream from that initial blast-off!

Before returning to Kong we grabbed dinner at the Three Broomsticks. I had my second frozen butterbeer and the chicken and ribs combo. The chicken was ok, but the ribs were pretty good! Boyfriend had the fish and chips. 

Frozen butterbeer is a must!

We finally made it to Skull Island: Reign of Kong. This was definitely our longest wait since the ride is new, which was fine until we entered the main waiting area. In this room there’s a tribal woman(?) who talks to/chants/threatens(?) everyone, and after hearing that at least five times, I was over it. But the ride was enjoyable, especially because it was dark and made the initial safari ride outside with the torches eery. 
What did we learn? 1) It might be better to stay at one of the Universal affiliated hotels that offer a free unlimited express pass with your stay. We were really hating on those people who were skipping to the head of the line. 2) Butterbeer should be a food group. 3) Even with my scheduled plans it wasn’t possible to do everything at both parks, but next time we have a better idea of rides we’re ok skipping. 

Where’d we go on day 3? Check back to find out!

Day 2, Part 1: Universal Studios

Based on my crowd calendar research, Wednesday was supposed to be a low-crowd day at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. That wasn’t quite accurate. October must be a prime vacation time for Europeans?

Anyway. It was crowded, and we had a blast nevertheless. During October, Universal has Halloween Horror Nights which looks terrifying. They actually just released the dates for 2017, so if you’re into that thing, you can start planning! American Horror Story will be one theme according to their website. Since that was going on while we were there, Universal was closing early which is why we chose to do that park first. We arrived right before the park opened and made a beeline for the Despicable Me ride since it’s at the front of the park. Boyfriend loved that one. 

Shrek wasn’t working, and we passed by it several times to check throughout the day with no luck. The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit rollercoaster was supposed to be next; I wasn’t able to get up the nerve for that one and when I had finally decided to be brave, it was also having technical problems. This gal doesn’t get on things that fling her through the air if she knows it hasn’t been working, so we had to cross that off our list, too. I felt guilty but also super relieved! 

I made a quick pose with Bumblebee on our way to the Transformers ride (that line also went quickly). Boyfriend really likes Transformers but didn’t seem to enjoy the ride as much as I did. It’s been years since I’ve been to Universal; I loved how the rides now have a combo of 3-D with actual movement (the website describes them as 3-D/4-D experiences, but rather than being in a seat the car moves through the building to different screens – do I sound old being in awe of this?).

My favorite ride, other than Harry Potter, was Revenge of the Mummy. It’s a little intense (in an exciting way! – think fire and drops), and when our cart came back to the loading station there was an old woman in a wheelchair waiting in line (insert wide-eyed emoji). I’ll admit I was a little concerned…

Our next stop was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley! This area is hidden behind a brick wall, and if we hadn’t seen people walking through the narrow entry, we would’ve walked right on by. 

Despite being a book nerd, I resisted the Harry Potter mania when it first happened, but boyfriend made me watch all the movies before our trip (and I’m so glad I did!). Be sure to take some time to walk through the shops and find the hidden alleys…and definitely watch out for random spurts of water from people testing out their wizard wands. 

The Escape from Gringotts was such a fun ride! We didn’t have a terrible wait (30 minutes?), but the building/atmosphere is so amazingly impressive that waiting in line actually provides opportunities to take everything in and snap a few pictures! I was too busy looking to get pictures, but I can’t imagine that pictures do justice to actually being there. 

Lunchtime! I probably looked at the menus for every restaurant/food spot multiple times (this is no surprise to those who know me well). Unfortunately, I don’t think Universal has the same level of dining as Disney parks. We ended up splitting a burger and fries at Krusty Burger in The Simpsons area. It was fine, but I really can’t remember anything about it. 

HOWEVER, ya see that little building behind me in the picture above? Lard Lad Donuts is where the magic happens – the donut sundae (cue the angel choir).

You know that feeling when you find the Holy Grail of food and the crowd parts while everybody stares at you with admiration and jealousy? Yeah, that happened. You need a donut sundae. If you’re with somebody who doesn’t want a donut sundae, get one anyway (and maybe get rid of that person because who needs that kind of negativity??).

After our donut delight, we opted to separate for The Simpsons ride and both got in the single rider line to cut down our wait. If you don’t mind doing that you can get through some of the longer lines a little quicker. We followed that with Men In Black Alien Attack (I get super competitive at shooter rides) and ended up waiting at the end because the ride broke (that seemed to be a theme for the day?) and then E.T. Adventure, which is cute but extremely outdated. I’ll be anxious to see how much longer that one lasts. If you’re short on time and have rides that are high on your must-do list, I recommend leaving this one out. 

At this point we were ready to take the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure. The line for the train took quite a while, and it probably would’ve taken a lot less time to just walk, but we had to ride it at least once!

Although we missed/skipped a couple rides and didn’t go to any shows, it was a successful 1/2 day at Universal. Stay tuned for Part 2 at Islands of Adventure, ya muggles! 

Epcot and the new Frozen ride 

One of my main goals whenever I travel is to get up early so no time is wasted. Disney parks frequently open their gates before the official opening time (Epcot opened about 15 minutes early), so if you’re there as soon as they open you can race to one of the rides that gets busy before the line gets out of control. 

I wasn’t able to get a Fastpass for the new Frozen ride, and the lines are often crazy long for it (when it opened in the summer I saw on the Disney app up to a four hour wait time…no thank you). However, I can speedwalk like nobody’s business, and I had no shame in racing tiny children to the line. We got there in time for a 30 minute wait, which wasn’t bad, and the line wrapped around several buildings not long after we got there. 

Once you get inside the waiting isn’t too horrible because it’s decorated like Arandelle, so it’s fun to look around. The ride is also cute and enjoyable. The animatronics are extremely impressive, there’s a surprise backward surge, and be prepared to get a little wet at the bottom of the drop!

Boyfriend hadn’t seen the movie, but he wanted to ride it again later that night. Since we were staying at a Disney resort (Port Orleans – Riverside), we got to enjoy extra magic hours that night and found an even shorter line for a second trip through Frozen!

Living with the Land ride

In between the food and wine sampling (see previous post for details on that) we managed to get on every ride. I was excited to introduce boyfriend to several rides he’d never been on such as Living with the Land, Journey into Imagination with Figment (how do you miss out on Figment?!), and the Gran Fiesta boat ride in Mexico. 

And don’t forget the fireworks show, Illuminations!

I know a lot of adults think it’s weird to go to Disney without kids, but we had so much fun, and we’ve already started talking about our next Disney trip…

Epcot Food and Wine Festival – October 2016

I thought this Disney trip would never arrive, and now I feel like it’s been so long since I went (because it has been)! I spent the entire summer planning – where will we eat, what will we ride, which park should we visit on each day – and I definitely think that thorough planning paid off.

Hurricane Matthew hit our part of North Carolina the weekend before we left. I felt incredibly guilty going on a fun trip knowing so many people had lost everything. It ended up being a good for us though since we didn’t have power for most of the week. 

We drove down on Monday, October 10, stopped at FishBones in Orlando (per boyfriend’s request), and finally made it to our room at Port Orleans Riverside. 

On Tuesday we visited Epcot for the International Food and Wine Festival (official Disney info at that link). We didn’t plan our trip during the festival on purpose, but I was so pumped that they coincided because I LOVE FOOD.

I had done some heavy research (I get slightly obsessed with planning) on the festival – what food and drink would be offered and prices – but it ended up being fun just walking around and eating whatever we were in the mood for. 

Be sure to get a stamp book to remember the dishes and drinks you try from each country! 

Clockwise: Sparkling Pineapple Wine, Mai Tai, and Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayo

 I think the food and drinks above from the Hawai’i kiosk were my favorite sampling. 

Buttered Chicken with Micro Cilantro and Naan Bread

Boyfriend still talks about the chicken (pictured above) from the Africa outpost. 

Frozen Szarlota (apple pie and vodka) from Poland. Amazing.

Spicy Sushi Roll (tuna and salmon with Kazan volcano sauce) and a Pineapple Breeze Sake Cocktail

I got annoyed that boyfriend wanted sushi (my argument was he could get that anywhere), but I also didn’t want to be bossy, so sushi it was. I didn’t try this because I don’t do raw fish; I don’t think he was blown away though. The blue sake on the other hand? Yum. 

I went a little Moroccan-crazy. The spicy hummus fries and chocolate baklava were delicious; the sangria was meh. 

I didn’t get an up-close pic of Canada’s beer cheese soup, and you may need a magnifying glass to see that baby-size apple ice wine. I’m glad I tried it, but for $8, one time is enough for me. 

Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi from Poland – delicious!

Our final snack of the night was this Nitro Truffle. It’s frozen and boyfriend had a difficult time chopping off pieces (and earned my stank eye when he sent a huge chunk flying into the grass 😑). 

I didn’t get a picture of the Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes from Belgium, the Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp from Australia, or the Beef Empanada from Patagonia, but they were all delicious. 

Trying all the food and drinks definitely adds up money-wise. We bought Disney gift cards from Target (hello 5% Red card discount!) and it was sad to see how quickly the money went, but we had a blast and would definitely do it again!

If you’ve been to the Food and Wine Festival what would you recommend? What were your favorite drinks or snacks?