Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

Day 1 in Orlando:

My mom and I left for Orlando very, very early on Thursday morning.  We were sleepy but very excited and chatted for most of the trip to the airport and the flight.  We got our rental car with no problem and then we were ready to head to Harry Potter World!!!

The drive to Universal Studios was very easy and we got very excited when we spotted the turrets of Hogwarts from the interstate!  When we parked, we quickly changed into some shorts because it was very hot and muggy down in Florida.  After some confusion at the entrance lines, we finally made it into Islands of Adventure and hightailed our way through all the Dr. Seuss rides, The Lost Continent, until finally...we could see the gates of Hogsmeade!

We were both starving so we decided the Three Broomsticks would be our first stop.  It was very well designed, but I was expecting it to be more sit-down restaurant and it turned out to be cafeteria style.  They had several things on the menu including shepherd's pie and cornish pasties that looked very good, but we decided to keep it simple and go with fish and chips...and butterbeer, of course!

Inside the Three Broomsticks

Butterbeer with fish & chips

Butterbeer is actually served hot, cold, and frozen, and we went with the cold version since it was so hot outside.  Well, we were a bit disappointed.  The butterbeer was not so tasty.  I have always imagined butterbeer as something like apple cider, but with a butterscotch flavor.  This butterbeer was carbonated, and they found a way to make a layer of foam on the top similar to beer, but the foam never went away and was just weird.  It was like...buttery soda with a thick layer of foam.  In all fairness, we were really thirsty and probably should have ordered waters along with our butterbeers.  Since they were all we had on an almost 90 degree day with our salty fried food, they just weren't satisfying.  We ended up dumping half of them out in the restroom sinks and keeping our souvenir cups.

After our meal, we wandered around the shops in Hogsmeade - Dervish & Banges, Honeydukes, and the Post Office.  These were full of some neat souvenirs, but the stores were TINY.  You literally could not move because people were packed inside them like sardines.  Also, everything was outrageously priced.  I was looking forward to having a chocolate frog, but there was no way I was paying $10.95 for one.

Finally, we decided we had to ride The Forbidden Journey, even though the sign said there was a 75 minute wait.  I had read lots about the ride, it was supposed to be state of the art and there was a lot of publicity about how the ride designers tried to make waiting in line part of the experience.  Well, the last 15 minutes of waiting was part of the experience - the first 75 minutes (yes, the wait ended up being 90 minutes) were just winding through endless lines that wrapped around the outside of the castle with nothing particularly special to look at.  Once you got inside the castle you got to see the cool holographic movies with the characters and see interesting rooms like Dumbledore's office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  We were very fed up but still excited when we finally got to the ride...and, thankfully, it was fantastic!!!

The premise of the ride is that Muggles are being allowed to tour Hogwarts for the very first time and a lecture by Professor Binns, the ghost teacher of History of Magic, is being offered.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione, not wanting the guests to be bored to tears, decide to sneak the guests out.  Hermione finds a way to enchant four-person benches so that they fly, allowing the Muggles to fly around the Quidditch field with Harry and Ron.  You board your bench, Hermione casts the spell, and you're off!  The ride is a combination of your typical virtual reality ride - you watch a movie screen and you're moved in ways that feel like you're falling, spinning around, etc., to mimic the movie - and actual real life!  One second you're watching a highly realistic virtual reality movie, and suddenly you spin around and you are actually in the Forbidden Forest and giant spiders are popping up in front of you!  A dragon head even pops out and blows steam in your face!  It was absolutely amazing and one of the most fun and well done rides I've ever been on!

Some scenes from Hogwarts...

Hourglasses showing house points inside Hogwarts

Hall of portraits inside Hogwarts

The Sorting Hat

Winged boars at the entrance to the castle



The Hogwarts Express

The flying Ford Anglia

After the long wait in line, we were exhausted and decided to check into our hotel, Disney's All Star Sports Resort.  It's one of the cheaper Disney hotels that was offering transportation to the race.  We were greeted in our room by a Mickey made from towels!  The hotel was really nice - small, but perfect for what we needed.  The beds were comfortable, the rooms were clean, and we really enjoyed our stay there.

We also got to enjoy this wonderful view as we drove into the Disney area...

Where dreams come true!

After showering and resting a bit, we headed to Panera Bread for an easy, healthy, and tasty dinner, and then browsed the outlets.  We were exhausted so it was a short trip before we were ready to head back to the hotel and crash for the night!

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