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RANDOM TIPS for UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE AND THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!

Here are some of my tips for Visiting Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure!

For more tips or just fun stuff about this magical place, check out my other blog posts, and YouTube videos on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hard Rock Hotel, and other fun stuff at the parks!

RANDOM TIP #1: BRING SHORT PEOPLE WITH YOU.  THEY’RE FUN! 🙂

…if you don’t have any of your own, borrow some! Be the bestest Aunt or Uncle alive!!!

…and they FORCE you to ride the Hulk and other fun stuff like that…

…they also enjoy all the small details of the place 🙂  and seeing their joy is priceless

AND, if they’re under 56″ tall, you can join them (one adult per kid under 56″) on Pterandon Flyers and see super cool sights like these from above!!!!!

Skull Island, Reign of KONG…I took this while riding Pterandon flyers with my nephew (note: you’re not really supposed to take pix from up there, but….)
Super fun play area in Jurassic Park that is best enjoyed with the little ones

RANDOM TIP # 2: Head from Universal to Islands of Adventure during the sunset….soooo pretty!

Absolutely EVERYTHING at Toothsome Chocolate Factory is DELICIOUS, even the Brussels Sprouts!!!! …AND if anyone in your party has a peanut (or other allergy) the chef comes to visit your table to discuss your options and it certainly feels good to know that he’s aware of the allergy! it STAYS PACKED here, though, and always on a wait. The best time to come is right when they open. if it’s just one or two people, try sitting at the bar and eating.

yes…the above picture deserves posting twice 🙂

RANDOM TIP #3: DO THE RAPTOR ENCOUNTER! It’s so cool and well worth the wait…and you can watch the raptor attack children while you wait, which is very entertaining!  The “trainer” is hilarious, AND if you hand them your phone they will take video AND pix for you!!!

By the way, I challenge you to come up with a better pose than this 😉

RANDOM TIP #4: RIDE THE MUMMY!

WHAT a FUN roller coaster!!!!! its so cool how it gives you little breaks and scary interactions in between the screaming fast roller coaster!  Even my 7 year old nephew loved it.  Also, the line is usually super short (a hidden gem?) and I didn’t know it at the time that this picture was taken, BUT NOW I know that after you are in the room where there’s fire-literally- on the ceiling, then you go down a drop, that’s where the pic is taken -to your right…so you can pose for it!

RANDOM TIP #5: Buy some reflective sunglasses.  I mean, you’re in Florida, you NEED sunglasses….then you can take much cooler pix than this one that I took while waiting in line for the Flight of the Hippogriff (….the kids LOVE this ride, so be prepared to ride it like 26,397 times!!!!)

RANDOM TIP #6: STAY AT THE HARD ROCK HOTEL! The Hard Rock Hotel is one of the 3 hotels that gives every member of the family Unlimited Express Passes for their entire stay (including the day that you arrive, and the day that you leave).  Those suckers are worth $89 per person per day.  It’s worth it. period.  THEN you can spend the day RIDING RIDES versus WAITING IN LINES!!!!

The pool is super awesome, has a fun slide, AND has speakers under water so you can hear music underwater while you swim.
Watching a Harry Potter movie at the pool is just one of the many, many, perks!
Speaking of perks…for a deposit–that you get back–you can have an electric guitar during your stay!
so when your niece becomes a famous musician, she can give you all the credit for getting that guitar and she’ll probably buy you a house to live in when you’re not on tour with her band 🙂
the kids LOVE it…..and, dude…you only live once, and those Express passes are GOLD. (side note: my nephew Sebastian wrote this in his cute little 7-year old handwriting and signed his sister’s name…I’m sure she would want ya’ll to know this… )

RANDOM TIP #7: Visit the Knight Bus. Just because….

RANDOM TIP #8: Get the short ones to dial 62442 (M-A-G-I-C …on an old school phone…you know you remember those!) in this phone booth to reach the Ministry of Magic

(Is Sebastian not the CUTEST little Harry Potter EVER?!?!?!??)

RANDOM TIP #8: Get an interactive wand.  LOADS of fun (…and sometimes frustration when the little muggles can’t get the spells!). this map comes with it, and if you go to Knockturn Alley you can hold the map under the blacklight at the entrance to illuminate all the spell locations. It’s a blast. trust me.

The blacklight highlights all the spell locations in the area on the right…you can just barely see it in this pic.

 

While you’re in Knockturn Alley, check out the Vanishing cabinet in Borgen & Burke’s. You can hear what’s inside it!

RANDOM TIP #9: **ALWAYS** buy a “park-to-park” pass so you can ride the Hogwarts Express back and forth from Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios and vice versa…it’s a different ride each way and its just a MUST.  If you don’t get this you lose major brownie points and coolness status, just saying….squib.

RANDOM TIP #10:  The Hogs Head Pub has beer.  This is an important fact. Riding the Flight of the Hippogriff 10,567 times will make you want to visit this establishment.

This is my sister. She needs this place after riding the Forbidden Journey ride 🙂 Look how happy she is.

This is inside the Hogs Head pub. that hog is an Animatronic. super cool. Dragon Scale beer is good.

This is the wizards version of Immodium AD. I’d probably need this if you could ever get me to eat the black pudding they have at the Leaky Cauldron. black pudding! do you know what that is? google it. I.can’t.even.

Get your kids some robes. not Slytherin though. are you sure? yes. anything but Slytherin.
Random fun fact: Luna is one of my FAVORITE characters.
as a side note, THIS is how a Harry Potter book should look…

AND LASTLY….have fun and STAY SILLY!!!!  (or stay, silly)

Costa Rica Weekend Trip

In the interest of saving vacation time for upcoming trip to France/Switzerland, we decided to take advantage of the Presidents Day Weekend Holiday to hop on down to Costa Rica!  We were also saving money for the bigger upcoming trip, so we tried to make things fairly budget friendly.

One of the many things that we wanted to check out in Costa Rica was the mountain biking possibilities (well, my husband did…I had a broken arm from a snowboarding injury, so I couldn’t partake).  We also wanted to check out Dominical and other regions Costa Rica, but Dominical is a ~3.5 hour drive from San Jose airport, and we didn’t want to spend too much of our short trip on the road, SO we chose to fly into Liberia to check out the Las Catalinas trails near Pura Vida Ride.

We arrived at the Liberia airport around 8PM Friday and rented a car.  One thing we learned is to NEXT TIME rent a 4WD vehicle.  The roads are pretty bumpy as you can see from some of my videos!

Driving in Costa Rica video

(PRO TIPS: Rent 4WD, and ALSO be prepared for extra fees when renting.  The website may say rentals are as inexpensive as $20 a day, but when you get there about $60-$70 a day fees get tacked on)

In a short ~22 minutes, we were at the M&M beach house in Playa del Coco; ~$50 a night, with a great breakfast included.  The place was adorable, but no AC, or hot water.  This didn’t bug me, as it cooled off at night and there were fans in the room, and there is no need a hot shower because the high was ~90°F, so cool was just fine!

 

The breakfast included all-you-can eat eggs, beans and rice, and plantains, as well as delicious fresh fruit, bread and coffee, and all the eating areas were outdoors.  It was really lovely to look at the beach and brand new skate park while we ate!  My husband’s only complaint were the roosters that started crowing quite early in the AM.  They didn’t really bother me, as I use earbuds, but anyways, I would recommend a room on the North-Eastern side from the building, further away from the Roosters!

On Saturday, we went to Las Catalinas so that Dave could rent a bike from Pura Vida Ride (great place!), while I laid out in the sun and ate gelato and walked around the GORGEOUS neighborhood there.

Dave said that the trails there are nice, with some good climbing and beautiful views, although not very technical.  He thought that they were comparable to our Tsali trails back home in North Carolina.

Also-I HIGHLY recommend the restaurant there!  “Limonada” was absolutely delicious and the service EXCELLENT!

Afterwards, we just went back to Playa del Coco to watch a gorgeous sunset and look for some howler monkeys.

Playa del Coco is more of a local beach (versus the Las Catalinas “resort-like” beach), and was PACKED, but cool, and definitely gave one a real flavor for the Costa Rican Lifestyle!

By this time, I realized that the terrain in this region wasn’t what I had imagined of Costa Rica.  Disclaimer, we didn’t see EVERY part of this region in the short time, but, from what I saw It wasn’t a rain forest, or lush tropical area, but a fairly dryer area instead..Don’t get me wrong, it was still a very warm climate with banana and cashew trees, and many trees in some areas, but  there were even cacti flourishing here and there (definitely not something that would thrive in the rain forest i’m thinking!). So I must say that if you are looking for a more lush/rainforest like vacation, I wouldn’t expect it in the region that we went to, with the exception of around the rivers/waterfalls,etc.  Having said that, it was still a nice, WARM, fun beach/waterfall adventure!

On Sunday we drove to Diamante Eco-Adventure Park, right by Riu Guanacaste, which was VERY, VERY nice.  They had an AMAAAAZING zip-line there that I was very tempted to do, but having just gotten my cast taken off and still in the early stages of physical therapy, I played it safe.  It looked like the biggest, longest, fastest zip-line I’ve ever seen though- it.was.WOW!!!  Instead, we checked out the amazing wildlife refuge, which was totally worth the $38 admission price!  The animals on the refuge *were* mostly animals found in Costa Rica, however not in the region of Costa Rica that we were in.

As a side note: If you want a break from the budget-friendly style trip, I was told that you can purchase a full day pass to Riu Guanacaste ,which is right next door to the Eco-Adventure park, for $70 to enjoy their 5 all-inclusive restaurants, pool, and resort beach.  The day pass must be purchased in advance.

Sunday afternoon, we drove to the remote, isolated Playa Penca which was absolutely lovely, with white sand and much less people on the beach.  On the way, we missed the turn though, and ended up in a really nice neighborhood near Playa Hermosa that had tons of monkeys up in the trees!!!

Note: if you see people standing around looking up, maybe taking pictures, STOP!!!; that means MONKEYS!!!  The howler monkeys seem to stay up high in the trees, though, and don’t come down to interact and hug you 🙁

On Monday, we had to be at the airport at noon, so we spent the morning at Catarata Llanos del Cortes, a super waterfall, which is about 30 minutes or so from the Liberia airport.  It was very pretty, a great swimming hole, and there was a great steep rocky hike to get to the top of the waterfall, where we saw MORE MONKEYS!!! 🙂

For a quick weekend trip, we got to see a lot!  Now I can’t wait to go back and see the Rainforests and southern part of the country!!! This trip is already in the works!

(Had to add the pic of Dave’s favorite animals-teehee!)