Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Romance in Diagon Alley

This post is quite a bit delayed. I've been very busy lately and haven't had a spare moment to update the blog in some time. But I still wanted to tell you all about our anniversary adventures at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Being the nerds that we are, Nathan and I had been wanting to check out the new Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando. He, especially, is quite Harry Potter obsessed. But being Orlando residents, we also hate tourists and are not fans of the extreme heat the summer brings. So we agreed when the new park portion opened over the summer that we would wait a few months for the excitement to die down and the weather to cool off.

In November we celebrated our one-year anniversary. This seemed like the perfect time. So we planned a little stay-cation, booked a hotel out near the parks for a few nights and got our 3-day passes to Universal. We were beyond excited!

Saturday - Day 1

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning and headed out to the parks, wanting to be there as soon as it opened. Upon entering Universal we headed straight for Diagon Alley (obviously). But we noticed there was a barricade up and they weren't letting people to the back of the park (our destination). Apparently it was only open for the early entry guests staying on site. But a park employee noticed Nathan's military I.D. and we were granted access. Boss!

The entrance to Diagon Alley is a series of several overlapping brick walls to give it the illusion of one solid wall you have to walk through. The Knight Bus is parked out front. Pretty cool!


Diagon Alley is, in one word, AMAZING. It looks and feels exactly as I imagined when I read the books. There is a fire-breathing dragon residing atop the Gringotts, the centerpiece of the attraction. And the shops are quite amusing. I noticed they had moved many of the shops that had been in Hogsmeade over to this section of the park.

Gringotts Bank. You can exchange your muggle money for Gringotts notes!
And there is so much to interact with! We joined the countless children in purchasing an interactive wand, and proceeded to venture around the park casting spells on random objects (yes, certain objects actually respond to your spells!).

We ate lunch at The Leaky Cauldron. To do so had always been a dream of Nathan's. The food was pretty good. Especially for theme park food. Traditional English fare. I had a fisherman's pie that was quite delicious.

Lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. I promise he was more excited than he looks in this photo. ;)
The rest of the afternoon brought more adventuring. We rode Escape from Gringotts, which was awesome. And then we decided to take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade. Kudos to Universal. This way of getting between Universal and Islands of Adventure is a nice touch!

All aboard the Hogwarts Express!
We spent a little time in Hogsmeade. Both of us had been there before so it wasn't anything new. We enjoyed a cup of butterbeer and got some sweets at Honeydukes. I do hope they add more shops. Since moving many of the shops over to Diagon Alley, I found Hogsmeade a bit lacking. There isn't nearly as much to do.

We rounded out the evening with dinner at Hard Rock Cafe in CityWalk, and a movie (Interstellar) at the theater there. If you haven't seen Interstellar you should. The end.

Enjoying dinner at Hard Rock Cafe

Sunday - Day Two

After breakfast we headed straight for Diagon Alley and, once again, spent the majority of the day there. We enjoyed some ice cream Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor. I had the Lavender Earl Grey ice cream and it was delish!

We didn't stay as long at the park on Sunday because it was our anniversary and we had plans for a nice evening. We had dinner at BICE at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. It was a very nice romantic evening. After our meal the waiter asked us if we had ever tried Grappa, an Italian after-dinner wine. Neither of us had and, me being a wine lover, I was curious. They brought us a glass. It was pretty much clear liquid. Before I even took a sip I could smell it. It smelled like hairspray. And then I took a sip. Yep, it pretty much tasted how I would imagine hairspray to taste. We had one glass between the two of us and we could even finish it. That's some STRONG alcohol. I'll stick with my after-dinner coffee.

A glass of Grappa at BICE at the Loews Portofino Bay
We left BICE and decided to head over to CityWalk. The aftertaste of the Grappa still lingering in our mouths, we needed another drink. A better tasting drink. So we decided to stop off at Fat Tuesday for a few "adult" slushies, after which we would explore some of the clubs around CityWalk. Being an Orlando native, I generally avoid the touristy clubs like the plague, so I'd never been to any clubs on that side of town, and was excited to try them out. But, after a round of slushies and some good conversation, we were too tired and not in the club mindset. Plus everything looked dead (it was a Sunday night). So we headed back to the hotel room for the evening.

Monday - Day 3

This was essentially a free day at the parks. Nathan was able to get a deal on the tickets where we could get a 3-day 2-park pass for the same price as a 2-day 2-park. So, we figured, what the heck. And once again we made our way over to Diagon Alley for a few more hours of magic, revisiting our steps from the previous two days.

Around noon we left the parks to check out of the hotel and make our way back to the "locals" side of town. We enjoyed a couples massage at a spa on Park Ave in Winter Park (complete with champagne and chocolate) in the afternoon.

As we were heading back to my apartment Nathan had the brilliant idea to call our local Fresh Market store and ask them to whip us up a Brie en Croute, which is one of our favorite treats. If you have never tried The Fresh Market's Brie en Croute I highly recommend it. Sometimes they have them ready to go, packaged in the cheese section. To be safe, you can call and ask them to make you one. All you have to do is pop it in the oven for a few minutes and presto! Delicious baked Brie glory. We spent the rest of our evening nomming down on the Brie and watching movies.

It was a perfect anniversary spent with my best friend. I can't think of anything that would have made it better. And I can't wait to see what adventures this new year will bring.

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