Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Adorable Napalm and the Prisoners of Winding Lines (Vacation Part 3)

Well, folks, as with all good things, vacations (and vacation posts, thank God) must come to an end.

Day Three: Islands of Adventure (a.k.a. Harry Potter World)

Seriously, as far as anyone is concerned, it seems, the only thing of any importance at I.o.A. is Harry Potter, so, in a nutshell: rode through The Cat in the Hat, watched a baby dinosaur hatch at Jurassic Park, swung through New York with Spiderman, watched Sinbad sword fight (the sailor, not the comedian, but wouldn't that have been cool?), and seriously considered doing the Popeye rapids, but decided to stay dry instead. The End. There, you've got the high points. On to the Potter.

Now, I'm what you might call a Harry Potter virgin. I know a few characters and some minor plot points, but only what you'd glean from commercials. Never read a book or seen a movie. Ever. However, my little bro is a huge Potter-head, so I felt it necessary to go, hunt for souveniers, and bring back a full report for the kiddo.

So, here's the report, Curt. The rest of you can read it, too. You know, if you want.

First off, J.K. Rowling is brilliant. Having seen the world based on her vision, I can say with no doubt that the woman is a genius. I can also say that she is not a theme park designer. Yes, the buildings are gorgeous. It looks like Christmas in a teeny English village. Snow sparkles off the itty-bitty rooftops. Do you see a theme here? It's miniscule, and shoulder to shoulder people. The shops can only hold a few people at one time, so there are lines to get into them. Actually, I didn't even know there were shops until after we left, because the lines blended into the crowd. I just thought the town was made up of facades. Silly me.

Olivander's: No clue. I'm sorry. Line was several hours long. Bought a wand at another park souvenier shop. I got Hermione's, and it's really darn cute. Golden with carved leaves winding all around. For $28.95, it wasn't much more expensive than a t-shirt.

The lines for the rides were insane, so I skipped the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge rides and spent my line time on the Forbidden Journey ride inside Hogwarts. This line was only 90 minutes, as opposed to the 3 hours reported on some other sites. Lucky me. I will say, though, that Universal knows how to handle a line. It moved constantly, and the outside portion was dotted with fan misters to keep us cool. They kept us cool all the way through the wall the park employees had to remove to extend the line through Jurassic Park. Yep. It was a really long line.

(Side note to the parents of the lovely young lady in line behind me: I could only hear your daughter's end of the phone conversation, but unlike her, if you would like to drive me to Universal, pay for parking, and pay for admission for me and a couple of friends, I promise to not gripe when you want to take us all out to lunch at Wolfgang Puck's. Heck, I won't call you mentally-challenged, or anything. In fact, I'll even let you hang out with me. Honestly, if I'd talked to my parents like this child talked to hers, they'd have snatched me up out of that line so fast it would have made that ride look downright tame. Curt, remember that, and talk nice to Mom and Brent, if you know what's good for you.)

So, eventually we made it to Hogwarts. Oh. My. God. This place took my breath away, and that's hard to do. As for the ride, words don't do it justice. Let me just say that it's the most highly advanced ride I've ever been on, and easily the most fun. We seriously considered waiting through the line a second time to ride it again. Word to the wise: don't wear flip flops, and don't bring a bag, if you can help it. You can't take bags on the rides, so you have to stow them in a locker. The lockers are crammed into the train station (for Dragon Challenge) and in an alcove of Hogwarts (for Forbidden Journey). They're free while you ride, but if you go over you better be prepared to pay $3 (minimum) to get your stuff out. Also, they're locked and unlocked by fingerprint recognition, so remember exactly how you held your finger on the pad to sign in. If you're even slightly off, it won't recognize you. One more thing--please don't be "that person" who stands in front of the lockers to take pictures of, oh, say, a clock. It holds things up for everyone, and the lighting is so dim, the picture's probably not going to turn out anyway.

After the ride, I felt the need to try Butterbeer. 15 minutes later, I made it to the front, paid my $3.25 (didn't need an ugly, uber-tiny souvenier mug for twice the price and half the drink), and fell in love. It's like a butterscotch ginger ale with a whipped cream head. It looks just like a real beer, and tastes a whole lot better. The same can not be said for Pumpkin Juice, however. I mean, if you're in the park and looking for a lower calorie alternative to all the sugary sodas, it's a good deal. It's only 100 calories per 8 oz. serving, and 81% juice. Unfortunately, it tastes terrible. I mean, I love pumpkin. I mean, I really love pumpkin. I make pumpkin bread, have pumpkin cheesecake ice cream in the freezer, and take pumpkin Little Debbies to work with me. If it's pumpkin, I'm all over it. With that, I found this stuff mildly tolerable. That should tell you something. It's pumpkin and apple juice, spiked with cinnamon. At $6.25 a bottle, stay far away. I should have known something was up when it was the only kiosk in the entire area that didn't have a line. At all. Ew.

Honestly, though, for all my grumbling, this place is pure magic. Just wait until the novelty wears off some and the crowds settle before you talk Mom into taking you (or, for the non-Curtises, before planning your own trip). While we wait, I'm working on a recipe for Butterbeer. I've just about got it figured out, and as soon as I have it down, I'll post it right here for all of you to enjoy. Curt, I'm planning to bring it over for Halloween, so you can drink it out of your Hogwart's glass while we wait for trick-or-treaters.

Alrighty, all that's left of vacation is checking out and driving home, and those were largely uneventful, so I'll leave it here. Sorry, folks. Park's closed. Let the usual posting resume!

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