Despite the countless times we have made the trek to Florida, we have never taken the time to head over to Universal Studios. Our days in the Sunshine State are reserved for one place and one place only–Walt Disney World. It isn’t so much that we hate on Universal, but that we love Disney so much we don’t want to spend time elsewhere. That finally changed when we made a trip several weeks back, unexpectedly, and for just a few days.
It wasn’t a full-on family vacation, but a spur-of-the-moment adventure. My husband had to travel to Orlando for work and we decided to make the best of it by meeting up with him halfway through the week for a little getaway. The thing is, we usually do Disney for 10 days at a time so there was no way we could do our normal vacation in just 5 days.
This had us rethinking our entire strategy and we decided to check out some places outside of the Mouse House. Now, don’t get me wrong, we spent a fair amount of time at our favorite haunts in Walt Disney World, but we ventured forth and tried a few new places, too. On the list was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.
Universal Studios as a whole doesn’t hold much appeal for my 13- and 11-year-old daughters. They simply have no interest in most of the park and are Disney fans through and through. The only thing that changed their minds was my youngest daughter’s current fascination with Harry Potter.
I’m pretty convinced she daily expects a letter from Hogwarts to show up via owl. It hasn’t happened yet, but she hasn’t given up hope. This had us all packing up one morning, hopping in the car, and heading to a day of wizarding fun. The girls were excited to see it all. I was excited to try butterbeer.
The experience did not disappoint. It truly did feel like we were stepping into another world and it was incredible. It is entirely possible that we stood there looking dumbstruck as we walked through the hidden brick wall to Diagon Alley.
We started right away with picking out wands and outfitting them in cloaks–Ravenclaw for both–and then wandered the shops. It was a wonderful day and it was fun to try something new and completely different from our usual adventures. We drank butterbeer, rode the Hogwart’s Express, and fought imaginary dragons on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It was everything the girls wanted and I got my butterbeer, so it was deemed a grand success.
Of all the wondrous shops we visited, treats we tasted, and rides we experienced, what made the biggest impression?
A phone booth.
There is an old-school red phone booth outside the entrance to Diagon Alley. Inside is a phone on which one can dial the Ministry of Magic. It plays a little recorded message for those who choose to give it a try, assuming kids these days even know how to use a rotary phone.
My daughter walked in, picked up the receiver and stared at it before turning back to me for help. She had no idea how it worked. The kid who can download music, troubleshoot computers, and totally pwn me at Xbox was flummoxed by a rotary phone. I walked in and demonstrated this wonder of the not-modern age and she smiled as the message played.
At the end of the day as we rode back to the hotel, we talked about our favorite moments. The rides were high on the list as were their carefully chosen wands. What did my youngest think? “That old-fashioned phone booth was freaky. Did you really have to stop to make phone calls like that?”
And thus my position as a very grown-up muggle was secured.