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08 Apr 2019
A Dream Come True - Part 2: A Trip on the Hogwarts Express

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I recently took the trip of a lifetime to Orlando, Florida, where I spent 3 days enjoying the sights and delights that Universal Studios has to offer.  Being that I'm a huge Harry Potter fan I spent most of my days skulking around Knockturn Alley and taking part in all that their magical wizarding world has to offer.  I have to admit, that with all the technological advances of our day and age, magic does seem more real than imaginary anymore.

If you happen to find your way to Florida, and you believe in magic as much as I do, you must treat yourself to the park-to-park admission.  What this allows you to do is go from one park to the next whenever you like.  Universal has 3 parks in total - two movie themed and one water park.  Personally, I'm glad we skipped the water park as it was cold and rainy during my stay, and that only added to the atmosphere of Diagon Alley and allowed us more time to explore Harry's magical world.  Now, here's the reason for the park to park splurge; you get to ride the Hogwart's Express.  This is the most incredible way to travel!  You feel like you have stepped right into the movie - and here's the thing - the ride is different each way.  

If you begin your ride in the Universal Studios park you will be transported to the London tubes and experience the thrill that Harry and his friends must have felt on their very first adventure to Hogwarts. 

There are trolley cars filled with hooting owls and luggage, signs for London adventures, and the most spectacular effect - a view of those in front of you literally disappearing through the wall in front of them.

The ride itself is so fun.  You and 5 other guests are escorted to your train car by conductors.  Once the ride begins you are treated to a view of the English countryside complete with rolling hills, magical mansions, and a flying car.  Shadowy figures pass outside your door making you feel like you are eavesdropping on Harry, Ron and Hermione's next secret plot.  When you reach the station, Hagrid is there to greet you, with his friendly, booming call of "First Years over here...First Years".   As you exit you get your first view of Hogsmeade, and beyond that the towering visage of Hogwarts.

Sadly, there must be strong magical spells protecting Hogwarts, because my phone battery decided to poop out both times we visited.  You will have to take my word for it.

Hogwarts is pretty darn spectacular.  The talking portraits alone are worth the trip, but you'll also be greeted by realistic holograms of all the major characters, and scenic recreations of Dumbledore's secret study and Professor Sprout's greenhouses.  

The ride back from Islands of Adventure (where you find Hogwarts) is a completely different and worthwhile ride.  Here you will be treated to a Dementor attack that allows Harry to show off his Expectopatronus spell.

One last thing I want to share about my adventure.  There are 6 different types of butterbeer, and you must try them all.  However, let me give you a warning, Butterbeer is very rich, very filling, and meant to be shared.  Honestly, I'm not sure how anyone can finish off an entire version of any of these by themselves.  The best way to experience them is to share them with friends. 

#1.  Regular butterbeer- a soda like drink with this amazing butterscotch froth on top.

#2.  Butterbeer ice cream - a vanilla soft serve ice cream with butterscotch ribbons winding all the way through.

#3.  Butterbeer Potted cream - which is basically an ultra-smooth pudding served in this adorable mini glass mason jar.  

#4. Frozen Butterbeer - being that it was 60 degrees and rainy each day, I decided to pass on this one, but from what I could gather, it is a slushee with that incredible butterscotch foam on top

#5. Butter Fudge - sadly I missed this one.  The candy shop was so crowded that we couldn't get to the counter, and thus I didn't even learn of this fudge's existence until I got home and compared my experience with other Universal fans.

#6.  Hot Butterbeer - By and far my favorite.  It's like hot vanilla chocolate.  It's so smooth, so rich, so warm (remember that it was 60 degrees and rainy)....mmmmmmm I could go for one now.  

So that's my experience in a nutshell.  

What can I say, other than I'm totally restoked to visit my wizarding friends again?  It's time to pull out the books and re-read them one by one, followed by a movie binge, followed by the audio version binge, followed by....hmmmmmm...maybe a comparison trip to LA's Universal Studios?  I'd better start working on my apparating skills.