Friday, October 10, 2014

Third Time's the Charm

As I promised in last week's post about Macky arriving in the City and watching The Script, I'm sharing a little bit about the magical week we spent in Orlando, Florida. We actually decided to go on vacation together as sort of a third honeymoon*, since we were reunited after nearly one year apart. With a little help from our family and friends, plans were made and tickets were booked. Finally, on the 25th of September, we were off on our little adventure!

DAY ONE


We ate a little bit in the airport (and I had a coffee, because how the heck else was I supposed to stay awake so early?), before boarding our JetBlue flight. (Random, but I wanted to say that I really like my JetBlue flights. I always have enough legroom, and it's always on time and orderly.) After a couple of hours, we received a warm (literally) welcome from Orlando!

dubbed our rental car Sparky

It was seriously a breeze to get from the airport to the hotel (Marriott's Harbour Lake), and checking in was super fast too. Once we'd gotten our keys, we grabbed our things and went to check out our room for the week. I'd stayed in this hotel years ago as a child, but had forgotten how comfortable and homey it is! I loved that it felt like our own little apartment in Orlando, and that we had all the kitchen and laundry facilities at our fingertips.


We spent that first day stocking up on groceries and other essentials. Basically, it was a nice, relaxed way to ease into vacation mode! We savored each minute we had together, indulging in long-winded conversations that ranged from serious to fun, until we turned in for the night.

DAY TWO

The next morning, we were up bright and early - and off to Universal Studios! Macky and I were both really excited, as we were going to go to the place where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was. The car ride went by real quick, and before we knew it, we were walking into the park together!

Comic Alley || The Incredible Hulk || Jurassic Park

We rode The Incredible Hulk Coaster (a favorite for me!), and wandered a bit through Comic Alley and Jurassic Park. And then, finally, it was time to enter Hogsmeade to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It was honestly one of the best things ever to see Macky's reaction to the park, as it captured all the joy and excitement of seeing a place we'd only read about in the books come to life so wonderfully. (He cried, by the way.) 

We spent a few minutes just drinking in the whole Hogsmeade atmosphere, before I steered Macky towards the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. As you wait in line for it, you walk through Hogwarts and it's a magical experience! I love that Macky was really overwhelmed with joy over every little detail the way I was on my first visit. (And even on my third, it was still pretty dang magical!)


We then ventured over to Dragon Challenge for a fun, thrilling roller coaster ride (I love roller coasters, by the way!), before we decided to break for lunch. I'd never before eaten at The Three Broomsticks, and Macky said that we definitely should! It's a cozy little place, with an efficient staff who works to seat guests during busy hours. We had Butterbeer (because how could you not? I had two!), shepherd's pie, fish and chips and a chocolaty dessert. The meal was real comfort food, and we both enjoyed the reprieve.


After lunch, we wandered Hogsmeade a little more before we went over to Hogsmeade Station to hop on the Hogwarts Express! (In case you weren't already aware, the Hogwarts Express transports visitors from Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios Hollywood, so you'll need a Park Hopper ticket to do this.) This is one of the newest attractions, and I thought I would die with joy as we watched the Hogwarts Express pull up to the station. The ride isn't just a way to move from park to park; it's also a magical experience for any Harry Potter fan.


The train deposits riders at King's Cross. Macky and I both marveled at how they really patterned it after a London train station! Plus, the people who work there are great at being in character (AKA muggles). (If, for instance, you happen to be carrying a wand, they offer to get rid of the twig for you! I loved it, and it definitely prompted a lot of smiles.)

It started pouring then, but we didn't let the rain stop us from exploring! We wandered around looking for Diagon Alley, until we finally found it (with a few helpful hints). It's seriously a jaw-dropping experience just to walk in because everything about it just brings another part of the Harry Potter universe to life so, so well.

We wandered around the area, popping into various shops (like Quality Quidditch Supplies, the Magical Menagerie, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment). Honestly, it was just so overwhelming to be surrounded by all these detailed places + things that we both were in a pretty decent daze.

Other fun parts of Diagon Alley: Gringotts (where you can ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts), Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor (I enjoyed my apple crumble ice cream!), Ollivanders (where I got a new wand!) and The Leaky Cauldron (where we went for an early dinner + some Butterbeer).

proud owner of a new wand!

After eating, we hopped back onto the Hogwarts Express and wandered one last time through Hogsmeade before we headed for home. We were both kind of relaxed about leaving The Wizarding World of Harry Potter early, as we knew we were going to get one more chance to visit before we flew back to New York!

DAY FOUR

We took a day off to just hang out and catch up and really spend time together, but the day after that, we went off to Epcot! It'd been years (legitimately more than a decade) since I'd last visited any Walt Disney World park, so I didn't quite know what to expect. But Epcot wound up being really fun!

I adored the pins + cards!
I obviously needed my Minnie ears. 

We were able to explore the Future World area, where we tried Mission: Space (not for the weak of heart!), visited Timon, Pumbaa and Simba at The Circle of Life and dipped in to say hi to Nemo and friends at The Seas with Nemo & Friends


We actually also came just in time for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, which involves food + drinks from all over the world being on offer at various booths located in the World Showcase. It's a lot of fun to pick up a "passport" and eat and drink your way around the world! Though we didn't get to try every single thing, it's definitely something we enjoyed and would do again in the future!

clockwise, L-R: Scotland, China, Australia, Hawaii, Africa
Even though we'd eaten a lot, we stopped by Tutto Italia to satisfy our craving for some Italian food. It's a nice restaurant, and the food and service were great too! They gave us a free chocolate cake after noticing the Happily Ever After buttons we were both wearing.


What I like best about World Showcase is that it succeeds in making people who visit feel like they've traveled all over the world. It's seriously cool how each place involved has its own details + architecture + cultural displays! I can't wait to visit again someday and do some more traveling around the showcase.


DAY FIVE

The next day, we were off to another Walt Disney World park - Magic Kingdom! I was really, really, really looking forward to seeing this park, as I grew up on all the Disney movies and I have a particular soft spot for the Disney Princesses.

We took the ferry over to the park, and wandered around a little bit. (I bought another pair of Minnie Mouse ears, because that's just how I roll apparently.) 


Finally, when the time was right, we made our way over to Be Our Guest to join the line that was forming! Be Our Guest is one of the newer restaurants at the park, inspired by Beauty and the Beast. The exterior boasts an impressive coat of arms, a few gargoyle statues and a beautiful doorway with a stained glass window atop it.


Once we were allowed inside, I seriously felt like I'd stepped into the movie! We ate in the Ballroom, but visitors are allowed to visit the West Wing and the Rose Gallery too. Seriously, if you loved Beauty and the Beast, this restaurant will be a must on your visit!

(Also, there's a cupcake with green icing in one of the collages. It was my favorite! It's got the "grey stuff" in it and it's really delicious.)


After lunch, we wandered around Fantasyland. It's seriously one of the happiest places on earth, as around every corner, you find something to excite you or make you smile! I truly enjoyed seeing all the tiny details that go into making the park feel so authentic and magical, and it was a bonus to catch the parade too.


DAY SIX

On our last day, we returned to Universal Studios one more time to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! While the rest of the park is seriously fun, as Potterheads, we really made it a point to spend as much time as possible there and to really take in the entire experience. We bought more souvenirs (Macky got his wand!) + practiced our magic + had some more Butterbeer.

(FYI - Some of the wands they sell are now interactive. There are certain spots where you can stand, say a spell and move your wand and it will make things happen!)

people heading into Platform 9 3/4

We made our way to Mythos for lunch. It's a restaurant inspired by mythology, with stunning architecture. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the food we had was absolutely delicious!


Our visit ended with one last Butterbeer before we had to say goodbye! Honestly, we weren't all too sad since we do intend to visit again... and soon. But seriously, if you're a Potterhead, you most definitely have to visit this park and experience everything for yourself!


Honestly, this trip to Orlando is definitely one of my favorites we've taken together! We were able to experience the magic of these parks - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogsmeade + Diagon Alley), Epcot and Magic Kingdom - together, which has always been one of our dreams since we first started dating 9 years (technically 8.10 years) ago. But, best of all, it was a chance to spend time together, just us two, and that's always a good thing.

So, there you have it, a chronicle of all our adventures in Orlando! If you've been to the parks, or intend on visiting, feel free to let me know in the comments. I'm happy to gush about these places, or even offer recommendations too! Here's to hoping the universe conspires to bring me back to Orlando sooner rather than later...

* In case you were wondering, we have been on two other honeymoons. I might post about them someday. Who knows?

8 comments:

  1. Alexa, I am so happy you had so much fun! I had fun following your posts on Instagram. I've still only read the first Harry Potter book, but I feel like I need to read all the others and go visit the park! It looks stunning! And that Beauty and the Beast restaurant would be so much fun to visit. I love Beauty and the Beast! So glad you had fun. :) I'm so jealous!

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  2. So happy to hear you guys had such a magical experience down here in my neck of the woods. Your timing for visiting Disney World couldn't have been better...fall is simply the best!

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  3. Awwww....looks like you guys had so much fun! What a wonderful way to re-connect after being apart for so long. Loved all of your photos, especially from your visit to Be Our Guest! It was one of the highlights from our Disney trip last month. Plus, the food was SOOOO good!

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  4. PS - I had the Grey Stuff Cupcake as well. I've heard it's just a cookies and cream cupcake but I think to think it's the real deal! ;-)

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  5. I bought this one on Estelle's recommendation too!! I'm happy to hear you liked it as well! Can't wait to read it. :D

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  6. I've seen this one everywhere lately, mostly praise. The only thing that's kept me from starting it is the length! But it sounds really good!! I'll have to make time for it. Thanks for the review, Alexa!

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  7. OMG! I love that I can see how much of a blast you two had just by looking at these pictures! You guys deserved this amazing vacation after being apart for that long. <3

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  8. MEEEP! So much awesome! I hate you guys a little bit, lol. <3 Just kidding. BUT SO JEALOUS. Looks like so much fun :D Glad you guys had an awesome time. <3 thank you so much for sharing about it :)

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