Travel Diaries: Orlando 2014 - Universal Studios12/23/2014 04:37:00 AM
Finally back again to this amazing place! Last time I was here was in 2012 during my summer vacation (which is technically spring in the US). Back then my family only spent a week in Orlando so we only decided to visit Universal Studios-Islands of Adventure and not the Disney theme parks anymore due to time constraint.
For this post though, I'll be shedding some light on what happened when we revisited Universal Studios (Islands of Adventure deserves a separate post, you can read about it here). Because this place is now the new home of the extension of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWHP): Diagon Alley! When we got here, literally a week just passed when it was made open to the public, so lucky for me and my family, we got to be the few people who got to experience it first hand. I'm not much of a HP fan (don't kill me but I haven't read the books yet although I did watch all the movies growing up). I did still enjoy visiting this place and seeing the difference between the other HP area in the other theme park.
Everyone was talking about this place, I know. HP fans and theme park-lovers alike were abuzz about this place opening last July 8, and even the local Orlando news channels were doing specials and sneak peeks of this area alone. Knowing about this hype, my family decided to go to Universal Studios super early (like by 9am we're already at the entrance, no joke). As soon as we got inside, we brisk walked towards the back area of the park where Diagon Alley was. No one was going to any other area of the park. Everyone wanted to get a taste of this much talked about place!
The new WWHP area is right beside the old Fear Factor area. As soon as we got there, they had the whole area surrounded by barricades to ensure proper order (how crazy people can get with this place, I have no idea). Groups were asked to have just one representative to fall in line to get an entrance ticket (it's free of course) that states the time/schedule you can enter the area for crowd control. Since we were early, we picked the soonest possible time/schedule which was just 10 mins from when we got there. So while falling in line (the line was insanely long), we were able to get inside in 10 mins. Some people picked a later time like around lunch time to enter (not really advisable since it tends to rain in the afternoon during summer). It's all up to you to pick.
The whole area outside reminds me of how London was portrayed in the HP films. They even had the double decker bus here making sounds and serves as a photo-op spot for fans.
Tbh, you wouldn't even notice the entrance to Diagon Alley since it doesn't look like a door or whatever. We just noticed people going through a certain area while thinking "Is this were we should go inside?" the whole time till we discovered it really was the entrance to Diagon Alley, lol. As soon as you enter, you'll feel like you're transported into the actual Diagon Alley itself, no joke. The stores are there, and it literally feels like an alleyway.
And you'll see this big guy in the middle. You can't miss him, srsly.
There's a performance here from time to time. But when there ain't no show, people resort to chilling in this place since it's pretty shaded (protect yourself from the sun! D:)
The main reason why people go to this place? For this ride of course! We took photos of the area after falling in line for this ride. I mentioned getting to the entrance of Universal Studios by 9am right? Well, it took us 15 mins to enter, grab maps, and walk to the entrance of Diagon Alley, plus 10 mins for the ticket stub to enter this place. So by the time we got to enter the entrance of this ride was around 9:25am. It was like the efficiency of a SWAT team or something. There is no time to dawdle, it's serious business, lolol! My mom and I walked to the end of the line while my brother and dad deposited our bags in their lockers (it's required; no loose items and bags allowed for this ride). At that point the waiting time was supposedly 45 mins already, and that's already just from park opening. It took us around 3 and a half hours waiting in line to ride this thing, I swear I never waited for anything for so long in my life of going to theme parks.. Can you imagine the waiting time by the time the afternoon rolled in and everyone's awake enough to function going to a theme park for Diagon Alley hype?? I can't even @_@'
Used my cell phone to take photos of the inside of the place while waiting in line. At this point, we've been waiting for around 2 and a half hours already when we were able to get to the air conditioned part of the place.
Oh yeah, they move. Animatronics~
Hello. I'd like to open an account at Gringotts please? Yes, he talks too. Blinks, talks, and moves, lol.
The last thing I take before the ride officially starts. Oh btw, this ride is like a mini coaster set indoors. You'll be seeing a lot of familiar HP faces in this ride. If you have a heart condition, well, I wouldn't really advice riding this, since the first part is a huge... um, surprise. It's really fun though! My only complaint (aside for the waiting for hours to ride this) is that after the ride ended, we didn't move for a good 5 mins. Literally the ride just stopped and we were stuck there for 5 whole mins. It wasn't smooth like the other rides. Obviously when you're one of the people who get to experience these things first, you get to experience a few bugs and kinks that they still need to work on. But 5 mins of being stuck in a ride? C'mon now. The kid in front of us was scared that we won't be able to get out. @_@ It was kind of a mood-breaker, being stuck there. The energy built up from the whole ride was drained pretty quickly in the 5 mins of idle nothingness.
Hopefully they got to fix the bugs by now since it's supposedly been broken in by park goers for months already.
Here's a trivia. Did you know that during the opening weekend of Diagon Alley, the longest time people waited to ride this Gringotts ride was a good 7-9 hours? And I thought I was waiting so long already, lol! I ain't that crazy :))
Gift shops are always here to greet you when you get off a ride.
I was more into the interior and decor than the merch actually, lol.
I did want their S4 cases.
School bag tags. Makes me think that thieves wouldn't really care what's in your bag, but would probably care more about getting your bag's tag if you have this, lolol.
Though I'm not an HP fan, I did take the sorting hat test over at Pottermore and got myself into Ravenclaw. What about you? Which house do you belong to? :)
If you don't have a pottermore account and would like to take a quiz similar to it, you can try clicking this link to find out which house you belong to for yourself.
If they sold planners like these, I'd get one for myself, haha!
There's this one shop near the bathroom where you can find a lot of plushies and other goods in store.
Oh yeah, this snake moves too. And hisses.
I honestly wanted this chess set.
Another perk you can experience when in Diagon Alley is trying out spells yourself. Certain areas like this lets you participate in casting spells and seeing what happens when you do it right. All you need is a wand (people line up for those over at the Ollivanders wand shop located in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade), say the right spell and do the motions properly, and voila! Different locations, different spells, different motions, different results!
There are a few places in Diagon Alley where you can buy some grub to snack on.
When my mom saw this, she was all "Can you call Dobby? I need him to help me do some household chores, lol."
Cooling "potions and elixirs" help a lot during the summer.
You can see this guy in 3 angles when in the area.
This is one of the best things you can get to fully experience being in Diagon Alley. You can get butterbeer easier here than in the stall in Hogsmeade since they have a store you can go in to buy butterbeer in Diagon Alley. They come in either just the butterbeer, or with ice cream (which costs more of course). You can also pick between drinking in this souvenir cup (again, it costs more) or in the usual plastic cup.
We got it in the usual cup and without the ice cream to fully taste the flavor of the drink~ BUTTERBEER EVERYDAY PLEASE.
The second thing you need to try when in Diagon Alley is their soft serve ice cream, which imo is THE BEST ICE CREAM EVER. My mom loved it so much, she finished both my ice cream and my brother's @_@
Hello sir! About my account in Gringotts.... \(^.^')
Can't get enough of this! This guy started breathing fire by 9:30am and does so every 10 mins. Although by noon they stopped making him breathe fire probably because it's too hot at high noon already for people to feel the heat from the fire, OR they ran out of gas from breathing too much fire every 10 mins, haha!
Exiting Diagon Alley is like exiting an actual alley. Only prettier.
See? Like a normal building. Nothing to see here~
Enter here and you get to ride the train to Hogsmeade!
After all the hubub with Diagon Alley, we scurried off to another ride we missed last time we were here.
Hello Optimus Prime! This ride opened a year ago so when we visited recently, it was the first time we got to ride it. Expectations are high with this one! Look at the waiting time though, 60 mins, lolol. When we got out of Gringotts, the waiting time was at 145 mins and they even had to stop people from entering till after lunch to let the crowd disperse, dear Lord.
Again, I didn't get to take much photos inside since I was too engrossed with the stuff they show on the screens. They really do keep your attention over at what they show. All I can say is that they keep you very much entertained while waiting. I was pressing every button they had on the walls, lol! They even showed briefly the stats of each Autobot and Decepticon on the screen like a video game.
Tbh, I enjoyed this ride way more than the Escape from Gringotts. If you experienced riding the Spider-man 3D ride in Islands of Adventure, this is just like that only better.
And the merch here ain't no joke either.
How cute is this dress??!
I couldn't stop looking at this.
Taking it old school!
After going through the Transformers gift shop, we walked nearby to the Monster Cafe for a late lunch. This place is pretty cool in a vintage horror archive kinda way.
Their food was so good though! We were too hungry to take a photo of what we ate, so I took a photo of what they offered instead, lol.
Crossed the road to get to the other ride we didn't get to experience back in 2012. The Despicable Me ride wasn't opened when we were here last May 2012. Unfortunately for us, it opened the month after we left already, so lol, we lined up for this as well while happily being entertained by the minions on screen. This ride was set between the first and second film, so no evil minions are seen yet in this ride.
They did, however, update their merchandise! I bought my minion, Dave "Fillet" Minion, here as my 20th bday gift from my parents (lol wth I'm such a kid).
You can get this lab coat and dress up as the professor for Halloween, hahaha!
I kinda wanted the evil minion so Dave can have a playmate at home.
It's so PINK!
There's a big area where you pass through after exiting the ride that connects to the gift shop, and when we were there, we were able to catch one of the minions (these minions should really start wearing name tags) for a photo-op, teehee~
It's so fluffy!!
These two look so cute together~
If catching Beauty and the Beast is our tradition when in Disney's Hollywood Studios, watching Beetlejuice is a family tradition when in Universal Studios. My mom loves watching this, we always have to fit it into our schedule whenever we're in this theme park.
Comparing their show from 2 years ago, I'm glad they added a few stuff to it.
Like the Phantom(-ess) of the Opera, lol what.
And of course, they retained the original set of characters. This time, Ol' Dracula doesn't have to steal Frankie's Bride from Frankie since Dracula and Wolfboy have the two new ladies to flirt with, lol. Their voices though? Top notch. And I love how Dracula makes his cape move.
Gosh. MIB is one ride I love going back to. Though I didn't get to take photos of the inside anymore since we kept walking (the line wasn't long since Diagon Alley took most of the crowd for now) and we had to deposit our bags into their lockers as well (ride requirements). I didn't get to take photos of their gift shop as well since we were walking back to get ready to see the parade at 3pm.
But if you want a fun ride with a little competition, this is definitely your place to play! Shooting aliens and earning the highest number of points? That's my kind of ride!
There's a Starbucks in the theme park, I know right?
I didn't get to try the turkey legs since my family was still full from lunch. But next time I know Kenny will make me try one since he loves munching on these whenever he goes to theme parks, haha!
Oh there's Tim!
Vector, you snob, lol.
Patrick is so big.
Spongebob always reminds me of Kenny since he loved watching the show so much.
They got Squidward's snarl right too, haha! So cute!
Candy colored costumes. I loved the costumes of the dancers too! So pretty~
Hop was popular too
They even had Baby Jaguar at the back of the jeep! It was such a cute parade.
After the parade, we went back to Krustyland.
While lining up for the ride, my family and I were watching those playing the mini games to win giant plushies of the Simpsons characters. Those games were hard!
I did want these Duff beer pillows.
Touristy photo of the ride!
Itchy and Scratchy plushies! They had so much merch that I wanted to take home! ;___;
New kiddie ride that wasn't there 2 years ago! Gosh so many things have been added to this area since the last time I was here!
The Simpsons gift store!
My dad and brother made me take photos of them with this dude, haha!
So. Many. Duff. Stuff.
Ugh. Too cute!
Because comic books are forever welcome in any planet.
Oh yeah, we had so much fun riding the Transformers ride, we rode it again later that night. Before entering the ride though, my brother saw Megatron having a photo op near by, so we ran towards him and had our photos taken, lololol.
After the ride, though while we were on our way out, I saw Bumblebee having a photo op, so we ran again to have another photo, trololol, #noshame No flash since the flash kills the awesomeness of them bots.
Last but not the least, we went back to Diagon Alley to catch it at night (which gives you a totally different feel). It was much colder at night since the sun is gone and one of the secret alleyways's air conditioner was blasting intensely that you can feel the chill even when you're walking outside. Silly me, not bringing my other lens, but oh well! I got this shot and I'm okay with it, haha!
Here's a video I posted on my Instagram on how it looked like at night, with a little bonus~
Till my next post!