Harry Potter Land! (err, Universal Studios)

Day 1 and 2 HERE

Day 3: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure

So the next day was the one that I had been anticipating the most. Universal Studios... home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! We had a more relaxed start since the hotel was across the street from the park (vs. 20 minutes from Disney), and the shuttle didn't leave until 10 (vs. 7:30!). So we got to sleep in a little (first day we slept past six, actually), get ready, pack our bags and get completely set to flight out the next day, and eat some breakfast at the hotel. We ended up grabbing a cab over since even with our lazy start, we were rearing and ready to go before 9!

First was the Dr. Suess area.

It was cute and fun, though I have to say I was a little disappointed in how many rides she couldn't ride. I completely understand the 40 in to ride alone, and I understand the faster rides that you have to be 40 in to ride, period; but there were a few that weren't that fast or crazy and she still couldn't ride them.  ::shrugs::

After that we headed on to Hogsmede! Where I proceeded to completely geek out, like a complete fangirl.  :-)

Butterbeer! We got some the second we got in there!

The reflection made it impossible to capture Sirius's face...
so Trav caught these other wanted criminals...

It was everything I hoped it would be! Gwen and I were both so excited, and I seriously couldn't stop smiling the whole time.

Trav and I took advantage of the Child Swap rooms Universal has (you both walk up to the ride, then one parent heads with the child into the CS room, when the other parent is done, you switch... one of the rooms was playing the first HP!) for two rides in this area: the Dragon Challenge and the one inside Hogwarts (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey). Very fun.

Thankfully this area also had Gwen's favorite ride of the whole trip... Flight of the Hippogriff. It was a rollercoaster that she could actually ride! And ride it we did, probably 8 times that morning alone!

After that it was time to refuel, so we hit up the Three Broomsticks!

The food was really good.

After that it was more Flight of the Hippogriff.

Hands in the air in the front row! That's my girl!

We tore ourselves away for a bit after that, heading into the Jurassic Park area. Gwen loved this pterodactyl ride that rode you high in the air.

We continued on through the comic section and straight to the superheros!

Just in time to see them come out on their bikes!

Gwen was in awe, and definitely wanted to stop and say Hi. Cue one of my favorite pictures ever!


Trav and I took turns riding the Hulk ride here (o.m.g.), then rode the Storm ride with Gwen before heading back to HP for a few more spins on, you guessed it, the Flight of the Hippogriff. Lol.

We must have got on this thing 20 times, but I'm not complaining.

Then it was time to buy a few mementos, take one last look, then head down the park to make our dinner reservations.

Our reservations were at Emerils, and I have to say... it was really great. The staff was so sweet to Gwen, the food was amazing, and our kid, she was just the best.

Here's what I posted to facebook that night:

"Kid brag ahead: despite early mornings, late nights, long lines, humid days and being too short for a good amount of rides, Gwen has been amazing on this trip. And it all culminated in our dinner at Emeril's tonight, where she ate so nicely, and talked quietly (though quite excitedly) through our 5 course [Chef's tasting menu] meal. We were able to enjoy said meal, unrushed, and she kept us smiling. The ladies at the next table even told us that she was the best behaved child they'd seen eating out, ever! I am so lucky to have my sweet Gwen. She has really made this trip."

Yes, she had her grouchy moments this trip, yes she fussed some and talked back a few times, but she also was excited and sweet and so polite to everyone she met. She charmed the heck out of everyone from the steward on our first plane (who slipped her some chips and a fig bar), to the waitress at Friendly's the first night (who would swing by our table just to talk to Gwen), to ride attendants, and the waitress at Emeril's who Gwen called her "good friend." Even on the plane ride home (which thankfully was event-free!) she made friends with all the attendants (one of whom gave her some cookies), who she treated to Dora stickers and lots of stories. We were in the very back, so we had some time to kill between landing and deplaning, and she held court! I was so impressed by my grown up little girl!!

In the pilot's seat!

Its crazy to be back home, but we relaxed all afternoon to bring our energy back down to at home levels. In fact, we watched some Harry Potter and ate (some of) this bad boy:

Now its back to real life...
I took today off as well, just to come back down to earth and have some quiet time, but Trav and Gwen are at work/school today. Its crazy how fast the trip went, but it was so full of fun! I can't wait to go back!! We are already saying we have to since they are opening Diagon Alley this summer!

For today, my only plans are some yoga, unpacking, and relaxing! Oh, and cooking a good dinner for the fam. 


Birthday, Plane Travel, and Disney!

We're home, and getting settled back in. So time for me to overwhelm you with pictures! Stick with me, they are worth it.

Flashing back to the 16th and Gwen's actual birthday party:

We had a great low-key day. The girl loved having her Nonnie around, as well as GG, Casey, and Pat. She definitely enjoyed her ice cream cake.

Once all that was over, it was time to look forward to Disney! Which arrived quickly.

Our flight didn't leave until 1:30ish, so we could have a more relaxed morning. We headed out at 11am, and got through security in record time. We had a little bit of a rough start after that, since we boarded our plane only to have to deplane, switch gates, sit through a delay, then reboard due to a mechanical problem on the first plane. That was a little frustrating for all, but especially for a 4 year old who was exercising all of her patience and just wanted to see Micky Mouse already!

Thankfully the flight itself was smooth.

After we got to our hotel, got checked in and settled in, fixed the double booked room (hi random person, sorry we let ourselves in), we headed out to dinner with a girlfriend of mine from high school who now lives in Florida. It was great to see her, though too short thanks to plane delays and an early morning the next morning.

Disney Day 1: Chef Mickey

We were in a cab at 6:40 to make sure we were at Disney in plenty of time for our 7:15 reservations for Chef Mickey! It was NOT cheap, but it was a great breakfast, and a really great way for her to meet all of the main Mickey and friends characters. She was over the moon, and we avoided waiting in any long lines to meet any of those characters in the actual parks. 

She looks so grown up here!

After that we took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom!

Just a little excited about her first ride!
It was really nice to be able to sign up for the fast pass lines!

Though honestly the lines weren't too bad for most of the day. We mostly rode rides that she could ride too, though we did pick one or two rides each day that we would ride ourselves, taking advantage of the child swap passes (one parent rides, then when they are done, the other can use the child swap pass to speed up the fast pass line). We road Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain.

Trav was ticked by the "Mickey Milk"... it reminded him of the
"you can milk anything with a nipple" scene in Meet the Parents!
One of Gwen's favorite rides from the first day was It's a Small World. She LOVED the singing and all the colorful, dancing figurines.

Teacups, always a winner.

It was a great, though long day. So we were all ready when 5 o'clock rolled around to make our way to our hotel's shuttle bus pick up.

Riding the monorail.
It picked up from Epcot, so we got to see the famous "giant golf ball!"

We headed back to the hotel, ordered a pizza, swam until it arrived, then all headed to bed!

Disney Day 2: Animal Kingdom

Originally we just thought we'd do Magic Kingdom for two days, but after our first day, we realized that while we hadn't done it all, we'd done everything we "had" to do, and didn't think there was enough to keep us busy for a whole second day. So the next day we decided to hit up Animal Kingdom.

Sleepy girl...
I'm so glad! I forgot how in love with this park I am!

Monkey's playing overhead.

The whole place is just full of gorgeous buildings and amazing animals. And I absolutely LOVE the focus on conservation and their outspoken stance on poaching!!

"Mom, take a picture of me next to this tree doing rock and roll fingers!"
You got it, girl.
Gwen really enjoyed Raffiki's Island, and particularly the petting area.

This goat was digging Travis.

But hands down, everyone's favorite was the safari and nearby gorilla area.

The whole thing was gorgeous and surreal.

We decided to make our way towards DinoLand, but ended up behind the parade.

We started following it because it was heading in the same direction... we kept following it because:

girl was so psyched! Lol. She danced and cheered and pumped her arms while we literally walked in a giant circle around the whole park!

I did get to see my favorite tree again.

We finally headed to DinoLand after that, but really only had time for two rides before it was time to head out again.

Gwen enjoyed checking out her new figurines while we waited for the shuttle.

So one thing that worked nicely... Gwen got some birthday money from her Aunt and Uncle, and from her Nana and PopPop. We told her that she could buy one thing each day. So each day we had a list, and she would add things to her list as she saw them. She was pretty good though and each list was only 3 or 4 items long by the end of the day. She ended up getting figurines like this each day! A Toy Story set the first day, and the safari Mickey set and Lion King set the second day (you could buy two for the price of one). I'm so glad we did it that way. There were no tantrums about not getting toys, and she has been doing so much great pretend play with these things every single day. Real winners!

Okay, this is long enough for now, so tomorrow... Universal and the flight home!