Sunday, July 3, 2022

Invitation to Melt at Harry Potter World

 HALLIE EPHRON: As many of you know, I've read and reread the Harry Potter books (actually listened to the wonderful Jim Dale narrated audiobooks) over the past difficult year. So when my daughters asked if I wanted to fly to Orlando and visit Harry Potter World (at Universal Resort) with them and my two grandkids, and I was in. Big time! Feeling my clock ticking and all that. Now or never, as they say.

Never mind that I came home with Covid -- how can you NOT get it, standing in one of those humid underground lines waiting for an hour and a half to ride Hagrid's Motorbike (I rode in the sidecar while my daughter Molly manned the wheel).



Harry Potter world is not for the faint of heart or feeble of foot. This dragon atop one of the buildings in "Diagon Alley" belches flames down at you, once every quarter hour.


The lines are seriously long and springing for a pass to skip the line is SUPER expensive, even by come-on-it's-once-in-a-lifetime standards. Souvenirs abound - "wands" at $80 a pop (they do not work), and Hogwarts robes (yes people were wearing them in the 90-degree heat) are priced at about $150.

There is woefully little shade and very very few benches. No trams. And long distances (I clocked 8 miles in a day). So for anyone who's not up for serious sweat-walking, the only option is to rent a motorized wheelchair (aka "mobility scooters) @ $50/day. Which I'll be darned if I'll do. Maybe next time...

Bad enough finding myself lusting after and springing for $5 ICEEs. Which I'd have happily crawled into.


When Jerry and I used to take the kids to amusement parks, he did the round-and-round rides and I did the up-and-down rides. I'm happy to report that I STILL LOVE ROLLER COASTERS. And the two I went on at Harry Potter World were sublime. One had a bit where it went backwards -- WHEEEE! With lots of special effects along the way. Wait time for each: 1.5 hours. With fidgety grandchildren.

See Covid.


I love Harry Potter, so I did indeed love Harry Potter world. Not sorry I went, though I still have a Covid cough.

So is a theme park on your bucket list? Are you a fan of the round-and-round rides or the up-and-downs? And how long does it seem reasonable to wait for a truly thrilling ride in the sidecar of Hagrid's motorbike?

64 comments:

  1. How lovely that you were able to share such a wonderful time with your grandchildren . . . .

    We’re definitely amusement park fans; living in Los Angeles, we went to Disney and Knott’s Berry Farm a lot when the children were growing up . . . .
    Waiting ninety minutes for a ride seems a bit much, though . . . they ought to have some entertaining sort of thing going on for all the folks waiting in those lines!

    I’m definitely a round-and-round ride fan . . . I stay far away from those roller coasters, but I adore the carousel . . . .

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    1. Joan: Big fan of the carousel here. We have a carousel at Tilden Park in Berkeley. I'm not sure if it is still there, though.

      Diana

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    2. Hallie here: I have fond memories of riding the carousel when I was a kid. And the bumper cars. Are there still bumper cars?

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  2. HALLIE: Wonderful that you were able to spend time with your grands at Harry Potter World.

    That kind of place is not for me, though. I was never into amusement park rides as a kid. LONG, LONG lines in the Florida heat does not sound appealing at all now as an adult.

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    1. GRACE: Never liked long lines either. I always avoided long lines whenever I could.

      Diana

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    2. Hallie here: I'd only go with my kids and grands...

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    3. With you, Hallie. Kids and grandkids delight gives energy to keep waiting.

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    4. That’s me Elisabeth.

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  3. I think I'm all done with theme parks. I can't tolerate waiting in long lines and for the prices? No thanks. I grew up going to Disneyland at least once a year - my dad got affordable prices as a California schoolteacher - but it was smaller and easier to navigate. At that time, Knotts Berry Farm was for the boysenberry pies and the occasional panning for gold. Simple and low key.

    I do love a good roller coaster, but nothing that flips me upside down. So glad you got the time with the grands and very sorry about COVID. Did the littles get it too?

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    1. Edith, my favorite ride at Disneyland was the Matterhorn! Once upon a time you could get in line and get on the ride and I have no memory of waiting for an hour. One of my other favorites was Pirates of the Caribbean. Yo-ho!

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    2. Hallie here: No upside-down-flipping for me, too. Nor straight up/straight down, thanks very much. Thumbs up for Pirates of the Caribbean.

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  4. Our daughter and grandkids adore Disneyland. You were one tough customer Hallie, and I'm glad you felt it was worth all of that. As for rides, I'll be on the Carousel with Joan!

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    1. Hallie here: Disneyland is kinder and gentler with more shade and benches and trams.

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  5. Hallie, I am also a huge Harry Potter fan. I've read the books several times and listened to most of the audiobooks.

    Irwin and I went together about 4 years ago in mid-January. Lines weren't too bad and we loved the rides, Quiddich and Hagrid 's motorbike and the bank vault, too. We were previewing a trip with our grandkids which was delayed for 4 years.

    Finally, last November we took Rachel's family with us to Orlando. After 3 days of walking about 8-10 miles a day in Disney, the morning we were heading to Universal, my back went out in the shower and I couldn't walk. Not a step. The kids went without me for both days and Irwin spent 2 days nursing me back to a slow plod. The crowds at the Potter rides was SO packed that Rachel bolted and they did everything at Universal except for Potter! Irony is the word that comes to mind!

    Feel better. Your adventure in Orlando reminds me of something my Freshman English prof said about Icarus. As he fell to earth was he saying, "I SAW THE SUN!" or "Sh**, the wax melted!" ?

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    1. Judy, isn't that the worst, to fall stricken on a trip, and especially one that costs an arm and a foot? I had two days in Tanzania where all I could do was sleep. I even had to pass on the tanzanite center, one of the two things I'd really wanted to do besides the safaris.

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    2. Karen, I didn't know that you missed activities while on your trip last year. It really is disappointing. But Rachel's family had a great time in Universal. My oldest grandson was 10 and he and his dad went on the super roller-coasters at Universal together and had a ball. We might have influenced them to stick it out at Potter World and honestly, they had a fabulous time without it. Also, Rachel thought some of the Potter groupies hanging out in robes were creepy and she didn't want the boys near them.

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    3. It was our first trip to Africa, in 2013, not last year. I think it was the malaria medication that made me sick the first time.

      Ew, that does sound creepy!

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    4. I was out for the count for a day on an Alaska cruise; again 2 days in China. Terribl-er when it's a day you need to catch a train or plane. I did feel HP world was worth the waits and heat and crowds, but barely

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  6. Sounds like you had a great time. i'm glad for you.

    Absolutely none of that would appeal to me (including the books, which I have not been able to get through), but in the spirit of "a lid for every pot," grab all the gusto you can!

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    1. Hallie here: Grabbing while I can!

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  7. What a great trip for you and the grands! On my list with my grandson when he's older.

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    1. Hallie here: Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  8. Oh, Hallie. Sorry about the Covid. Hope it improves soon.

    There was a theme park in Denver called Elitch's Gardens. Wooden cartoon statues stood at the gate of the scary rides. If you weren't as tall as it, then you could not go on those rides. I wasn't. That was OK. I liked the spun sugar and the flowers just fine. I have to really want something to stand in a long line. To date the only one I can remember surviving is the line to get into Monticello.

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  9. I am so sorry you came home with covid, Hallie! And for what it's worth, I share your undying love for the Harry Potter books and have spent many an hour listening to Jim Dale's amazing reading of them.

    My husband I and were just talking about amusement parks the other day. We both used to enjoy them in our youth, but the last time we went to one, with extended family, we both felt the bloom was off the rose of that activity for us. The thrill of the rides and the spectacle no longer outweighed the discomforts nor justified the prices. This might seem like a funny connection, but it felt the same way it did the last time we stuffed ourselves into a tiny allotted space (ostensibly our "seat") in Ohio Stadium with 104,000 others to watch an OSU football game. We came home that day vowing that we would only watch football games on tv.

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    1. Hallie here: Those stadium seats are especially vexing when you can SEE other fans in skybox seats getting waited on ...

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  10. Hallie, you look so happy in these photos! The best part of that place must be walking around in your own imagination come to life.

    My youngest was six or seven when the first HP book came out, and we starting reading them in turn. Having a kid to share them with is much more fun, and if we'd been able to go to a theme park for Potter World then we would have.

    At $80 for a wand you'd expect at least a little working spell, right? Maybe to turn water into coffee or words to appear on paper.

    We didn't go to amusement parks much when I was a kid, just once every summer when my mom's company had their annual picnic, and occasionally with high school friends or school groups. No one could ever talk me into the roller coaster, which looking back was very tame compared to today's versions. My level of thrill tolerance is pretty low. Think the slow-moving It's a Small World boat ride, minus the hideously annoying theme song. That's my speed.

    Raising kids for 35 years, and having a grandboy, means I've stood in lines for rides for many cumulative months of my life. I'm happy to pass on more.

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    1. Also: boo, hiss to catching Covid. I hope the cough goes away soon.

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    2. Hallie here: Cough is pretty much gone here... I used to work for Digital and they had an annual picnic too ... at Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire - pure bliss you could ride that rollercoaster as many times as you liked with a 10-minute wait each time.

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    3. Karen, even Small Word with its theme song has its saving grace. A friend who did not drive and I qualified for the second elimination for a game show the day before the World Science Fiction Convention in 1984. I had to white-knuckle it from Anaheim to Burbank on the I-5 with giant trucks speeding past our compact rental. We were then eliminated by a very snippy producer. By the time we got back, we'd missed most of our planned day at Disneyland, and snafus at convention registration only made the day worse. I told my friends I'd meet them later, and went directly to Small World where I sang along with the puppets for at least three circuits, until I felt calm enough to engage in human conversation.

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  11. Celia here - what a shame to come me home with COVID, I wish my magic wand, yes I do have one, could magic the cough away from you. I also love Harry Potter; the stories, the movies all of it. That said I was excited when the World of opened but I hate rides. Doesn’t matter which way they go, I feel unbalanced and sick. But the cost and queuing torture really horrifies me. Still the chance to do it with the G’kids is gold and I wish you all the joy you can gather into your life.

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    1. Hallie here: Exactly: Going w grandkids, PURE GOLD.

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  12. Oh dear, I am so sorry that you caught COVID. Though I am very happy that you got to see your grandchildren. Hope that you feel better soon. Regarding Harry Potter, I loved the books. Ironically, I did not like the book at first until my nine year old relative convinced me to give the books another try. Now I love the books and plan to do a reread in August. I would prefer the Warner Bros. Harry Potter in England to the HP stuff at the Universal Studios for many reasons.

    Regarding Amusement Parks, I love Amusement Parks, especially Disneyland. I also liked the new California Adventures. The Disney World and Epcot Center were a big disappointment for me. Perhaps I expected more? However, I am NOT a fan of crowds. I like to take the train around the park so that I can see which parts of Disneyland are crowded and avoid these areas. LOL. For my birthday one year, my Mom took my cousin and me to Disneyland. We met my grandfather there and we celebrated my birthday. It was wonderful. No long lines for the Alice in the Tea Cup rides. More of a Carousel fan than a roller coaster fan. Yes, I once tried the roller coaster and once is enough! LOL

    And once I was at Disneyland when there were a series of accidents at amusement parks. I was riding in the It's A Small World boat when I saw a young child trying to put their hand in the water. I told their mother that it was not safe to do that. She told them to keep their hands inside!

    Someone mentioned Knott's Berry Farm. I remember the berry jams and the donkey rides. I thought it was Don Knott's farm. (LOL). I was a child and I remembered him in Disney movies.

    On my bucket list: Tivoli in Copenhagen, Denmark. I would love to visit Tivoli once the pandemic is over.

    Hope I am not late to the party here.

    Diana

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    1. Hallie here: Warner Bros. Harry Potter in England???? Is there such a thing? Revising my bucket list... And all parts of Scandinavia are on my list, too. Knotts Berry Farm was a big whiff to me... nothing to do except buy jam.

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    2. Hallie, yes, there is a Warners Bros. Harry Potter near London. My third cousin visited "platform 9 3/4" when she was working in London for the summer. They have an Instagram account: wbtourlondon and they have a blue check next to the account. Tickets must be purchased in advance, Adult is about 50 pounds. Child is about 40 pounds. Family is about 159 pounds, IMHO, I think it is worth the cost.
      Diana

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  13. I'm so sorry you caught COVID, Hallie. I know so many who have had it while traveling; many stories of isolating in different parts of the country and world (including a friend who had to isolate during her son's wedding). I loved the Harry Potter books and my son was a huge fan, who stood in line when each book was released and read them over and over, often out loud to me. The experience at Disney World sounds horrible to me and NOT a good time, except for the part about spending time with the grand kids. I hope you are completely well very soon.

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    1. Hallie here: You can understand why people feeling a little sick are reluctant to self-test before getting on the plane home... who among us can afford to "isolate" for even 5 days in a hotel room?

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  14. Sorry about the covid but at least you had a fabulous time! There was a time my granddaughter dearly would have love to go to that park and I would have loved to take her, but her mother would not allow it. Now she has just graduated from school and has other things on her mind. I made her a Harry Potter scarf which is as close as she got to a souvenir.

    Really, those prices and wait times are truly outrageous and yet people put up with them. Hate the idea that if you pay a billion dollars extra you don't have the long waits.

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  15. I'm no longer an amusement park person. It's too crowded and waiting on line for more than 15 minutes is not worth it for me. Glad you enjoyed the time with your family. Sorry you got Covid.

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    1. Hallie here: I completely get it, Dru.

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  16. Hallie! Proud of you taking on the park in a time of COVID and Florida's suffocating spring weather! So sorry that you came home with COVID!

    I grew up going to Palisades Amusement Park (Swings all day and after dark!). A friend of my dad's had a concession and we had get into park free chits. I loved all the rides, roller coaster, bumper cars, round up, etc. but my very favorite was the Bullet - also called the Roll-O-Plane. It was an inversion ride. So much fun.

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    1. Hallie here: INVERSION RIDE? Aaaagh. I went to Palisades Park once - it closed just after I finished college. Loved it.

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  17. Ah, roller coasters, my favorite ever rides. Ferris Wheels terrify me and things that go around bore me, but I never met a roller coaster I didn’t like

    Big however: I can hurt myself brushing my teeth these days, so my days of daredevil doings are done.

    But I am envious of you, Hallie, COVID to the contrary not withstanding. Hoping you’re well on the mend by now. I have a vague feeling I knew about this?

    Much love

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    1. Hallie here: Ann once again we are soulmates. I AM on the mend. Completely. And my grands did not catch it, though one of my daughters did. And I probably posted about it on Facebook in my covid haze.

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    2. Ann, I am laughing out loud at your mention of injury while tooth brushing. See above how a shower last November put me in bed for 2 days while our tickets to Universal Orlando went unused. Laughing now but not then.

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    3. Ann, I did hurt my back brushing my teeth. Just over 30 years ago when flexibility was not an issue and bones were younger … touch wood it has never happened again. Thank you for this memory. Take good care. Elisabeth

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    4. I rolled my ankle getting into the shower, blew it out, tri- malleolar fracture. 10 weeks non weight bearing. Now I am dreadfully careful with my hygienic pursuits, never mind carnival rides!

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  18. I was thrilled with the idea of the Harry Potter park, but would not do well trying to stand in line that long in that heat. My 'grouch-o-meter' would soar! So glad that you enjoyed it with your daughters and grandkids, but sorry to hear about the Covid. I've heard getting rid of the cough takes longer than expected. Feel better soon! And treasure those memories!

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    1. Hallie here: Yes, weeks extra after negative test to tamp down the cough. Most unpleasant.

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  19. Not for me, thanks. Not the lines nor the heat and especially not those rides. Yikes! Glad you enjoyed the trip and so sorry about Covid.

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  20. Rhys: I had been longing to go to Harry Potter World but the one in LA where the weather is not brutal. I’m a wimp about roller coasters but I love rides with special effects. However,,, I no longer do crowds or long lines! So maybe on a Monday in February? And I’m so sorry the cough is lingering, Hallie. My daughter and son in law both just got over Covid and Clare is still so tired! Not fun

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  21. Hank Phillippi RyanJuly 3, 2022 at 10:47 AM

    I absolutely love rides, and would absolutely go on any of them. Love love love. When we went to whatever it was theme park in Florida, I was always astonished at how cleverly they managed the lines, so you never really saw how long they were. I think “how long would I wait“ is so situational… I mean, we’ve waited an hour for a restaurant table back in the before times. So… I don’t know. The thing that I always thought was how amazing it was that nobody was cranky in those lines, at least in my experience. And everyone always looks so happy!
    And isn’t “exit through the gift shop” so ubiquitous that it’s a cliché? I think we told the youngsters that they each had… Some amount of money, I forget. And that they could have whatever they wanted for that amount of money whenever they wanted. But when it was done it was done. That seemed to work.
    I remember I bought Minnie Mouse ears.

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    1. I SO want to see you in your Minnie Mouse ears, Hank. Of course you love the rides! You are so brave!

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  22. As a kid, I would go to carnivals and I went to Lincoln Park when that was still open (but after watching the roller coaster sway back and forth, I never went back on that one. I enjoyed those rare visits. When I was older I went to the amusement park in Agawam (before it was bought and became a Six Flags) with friends. That was fun too.

    But these days, I really don't have any desire to visit a theme park at all. First off, as you found out, it is a Covid lined petri dish. And the lines, who has the patience for that anymore? And as a confirmed fat ass, who wants to be out in the heat like that?

    I'm not really planning on going to any big crowd types of places if I can avoid it. I was thinking about going to Fan Expo Boston in mid-August because they had booked Nathan Fillion as a celebrity guest. Wasn't crazy about the idea of going but any chance you have to meet Captain Tightpants (Firefly reference) on the East Coast, you have to take it. But turns out he cancelled already so I'm back to definitely not going.

    If I'm not really willing to risk a convention 45 minutes away from me, I sure as heck am not willing to shell out money I should be using to pay bills to head off to Hell's Armpit (Florida).

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    1. Too bad about Nathan Fillion. I loved Firefly. Also enjoyed him in Castle and currently in The Rookie.

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  23. I love Harry Potter. Maybe post covid, and post knee surgery, I'd go to the one in LA. Texas heat and humidity is bad enough, so Orlando does not appeal. As for rides, I have vertigo, so no up-and-downs or round-and-rounds for me. I'd do the theme rides, though! Would love Hagrid's motorcycle!

    I grew up going to Six Flags in Dallas, when it was almost all themed rides, and it was really fun. Now it's mostly amusement park type rides, I think.

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    1. My boys worked at Six Flags during their high school summers. Good pay and good fun. And those air conditioners up in the trees! Only in Texas

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  24. Hallie, I love this post today. I took my daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters to Universal Orlando Harry Potter World at the beginning of the summer 2017. We had so much fun. I had arranged everything through my local AAA, including plane, hotel, and park tickets. I even pre-arranged the time for us to have our photo session in the robes and with wands. Did you do that? The pictures are great from it. The hotel we stayed at, Loew's Sapphire Falls, had early entry into the parks, so that was helpful. I eagerly anticipated the 3-D rides, as I thought they would be easy on me, since I'm not a roller coaster fan. Well, I was wrong. Those rides were full on stomach dropping for me. The only outside ride I tried was the Flight of the Hippograff, which made me sick at my stomach for sure. Now, this doesn't mean that I didn't have lots of fun on the rides. I did, as the 3-D rides were amazing. And, of course, the kids and my daughter and son-in-law loved it all, as they are fans of roller coasters, especially my son-in-law and younger granddaughter. My daughter and son-in-law went on the Dragon Challenge, but younger granddaughter was big enough and older granddaughter decided to skip it. The Hogwart's Express train ride was a big hit, too. And, stopping in Honeydukes for a pumpkin cake and chocolate frogs. Gringot's was fabulous, along with its ride, and the Castle was exciting. Ollivander's Wand Shop was where I spent way too much money, but it was fun that Izzy got picked to be an apprentice and had a wand chosen for her (one that you had to pay for, as nothing is free there). Of course, the dragon spewing fire was a big hit. It's amazing just how many pictures one can take of that.

    My daughter's family is going back to Harry Potter World for their school fall break this year. The older granddaughter is out on her own now, working and living her own life, so she won't be going. My younger granddaughter will be 13 when they go, and their other "daughter," whom they've taken in and who will also be 13 at the time of the trip will be going. My daughter asked me if I'd like to go with them again, but this time it would mean my husband/her father would go, too. I think husband and I have agreed that we are happy to let them enjoy it on their own. You wouldn't think five years would make that much of a difference, but from 63 to 68, I'm now dealing with a knee surgery I just had and will eventually need it on the other knee, too (not knee replacement, but arthroscopic knee repair surgery). My days of theme parks might be over, although I might still want to do a Busch Garden's Halloween one again.

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    1. The above comments were from me, Kathy Reel. I once again forgot to make sure it wasn't on anonymous.

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  25. Hallie, you certainly earned a zillion grandmother brownie points on that trip. Your post took me back to when I was a an editor for a monthly magazine in L.A. Each month, after we put an issue to bed, a few of us on the the staff would take off early and go to Disneyland. Didn't matter how many times we rode our favorite rides, it was always a celebration. Harry Potter hadn't been created yet, but admission was reasonable, and being there on a weekday, off-season, made it a pleasure, for sure.

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  26. Glad you had such a fun time. Hope you are completely recovered quickly.

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  27. I took myself to Harry Potter while husband was at a boring conference. Mid October, I was in and out of everything I wanted to do and see by 2 pm. Perfect, though I know my grown kids would have enjoyed it as well. Sorry about Covid and the crowds.

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  28. I love rollercoasters, too, Hallie! And the Hooligans and I loved Harry Potter World. We went in 2011 and the line was 1.5 hours then, too.

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  29. I have not been to any theme parks since moving to Georgia 6 years ago... but when we lived in Florida Disney World was a 1 hour and 40 drive away and Universal just a little further. Dad would buy us Florida Resident passes every other year for Christmas, usually for WDW but a few times for other parks. First rule: DO NOT GO IN SUMMER. Ignore this if you truly have no other time to go but honestly the weather and crowds are brutal then. Late winter, spring and fall are when we went. If you know someone familiar with the parks ask them to help you with some planning. If you're going for multiple days, stay on property and plan a rest day in the middle of the trip. Try to go on weekdays if possible. I really loved the HP areas at Universal. My family has not read the books, only seen some of the movies, and they were still really impressed.

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  30. Hi Hallie!!
    I also listened to the Jim Dale audiobooks (many many hours of them). This was after years of refusing to read something I thought I would hate. I was hooked, and I loved Universal!! When you aren’t with grandkids the trick is to get in the single rider line—no wait. My favorite was the broomstick ride, but I don’t recall the motorbike so I’d better go back.
    The best was laughing at myself when even using the phone app I could not find the entrance to Diagon Alley 😂.
    I’m so glad you had that experience (minus the Covid).
    xoxo

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