Friday, July 15, 2016

Disney Day 5: Universal Studios

It may seem weird to title the post "Disney Day 5: Universal Studios, but that's what all the other posts are titled and I wanted to keep everything the same for documentation sake!

On our last full day in Orlando, we ventured over to Universal Studios.  I had been to Universal Studios back in the summer with Tom and his family, but this was my mom and sister’s first time visiting since the addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Basically, we viewed the trip to the park as going to “Harry Potter Land” and the other parts were just bonus!

We got to the park and bought tickets shortly after opening.  We decided since we only had one day at this park, as opposed to multiple days at Disney, to go ahead and get the Express Pass added to our tickets so that we could skip the regular lines.  Unfortunately, most of the Harry Potter rides don’t accept this, but it was great for the other rides that we were doing outside of the Harry Potter part.

Our first ride was Minion Mayhem.  When I was there back in the summer, the wait was constantly over two hours for this!  Needless to say, we didn’t ride it then.  However, since it was still early and February, the wait time in the regular line wasn’t that bad and with the express pass, we basically walked right on!  This was a cute, 4-D type ride…definitely not worth two hours or more of wait, but definitely fun to ride!

Mattie and me in line for Minion Mayhem
 The next ride we went on was Revenge of the Mummy.  Outside of the Harry Potter rides, this is my favorite ride at Universal!  When I was there with Tom, we rode it over and over again!  This time we settled for once, but it was great!

After this, we made our way into Diagon Alley.  I made sure to guide my mom and sister to the side that makes the sound of bricks being moved out of the way leading them in to the magical world.  Honestly, the first view when you emerge around the brick wall is just mesmerizing.  You are greeted with all of the wizarding shops and at the end of the alley, you see Gringotts Bank with the escaped dragon on top that breathes fire!

 We walked around to several shops and just tried to take in everything.  We decided to go ahead and get in line for Escape from Gringotts, and once again I was shocked that the wait time wasn’t bad.  A lot like Disney, they put so much into the details that when you are waiting in line, you just want to look at everything!

After going on the ride, we decided to grab an early lunch at the Leaky Cauldron.  Oh wow, the food was fantastic!  I had the fish and chips and my mouth is watering just thinking about it!  My sister and I both had a frozen butterbeer and my mom had a real beer (ha!).  Man, I wish I could go have another frozen butterbeer—soooo good!

Mattie and me at lunch
We got on the Hogwarts Express (which has a different storyline both ways) and rode over to Hogsmeade.  I love riding the Hogwarts Express and I know it is just a mode of transportation between the two parks, but I view it as it's own ride!!

Hogsmeade is absolutely adorable!  It looks JUST like it does in the movies.  I love all the little shops and especially Honeydukes candy shop.  Also to note, if you buy one of the interactive wands, there are places around both areas of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that you can "cast spells."  I had bought one last summer with Tom and took it back for this trip.  We had so much fun passing it around and pretending to be witches!

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the ride that is inside Hogwarts.  This is probably my favorite ride of the entire park!  Be careful though, don't ride it too many times in a row.  You can get really disoriented and feel like you have vertigo--at least Tom and I did when we rode it three times in a row!

Mattie and I both rode Dueling Dragons and we ended up in the front of the coaster.  It scared me half to death!

We walked around the rest of Islands of Adventure and then headed back to Hogsmeade to take the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley.  After another walk around and another round of frozen Butterbeer, we headed out of the park.

We stopped at Bubba Gumps on the way out for dinner and then headed back to the resort.  We were absolutely exhausted after so many days of going, going, going and needed to get packed up for the drive home.

The trip to Disney with my mom and sister is a trip that I am never going to forget and always treasure.  Now that Mattie and I are grown and moved out of my mom's house, I feel like the times we get to spend together like we used to are extremely limited.  It was so much fun to get to do something so unique together (running a race which we had never done before) in the most magical place!  We started trying to convince mom to start planning the next trip to Disney...but this time to include the guys!

If you have any questions about runDisney and our experience, please let me know!  If I don't know the answer (specifically for running the half marathon), I will ask my sister and let you know!

Previous Disney Recaps: Day 1Day 2Day 3—Part 1Day 3—Part2Day 4—Part 1, Day 4—Part 2

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Disney Day 4--Part 2: Hollywood Studios

It is a toss-up between Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios as to which park is my favorite.  Seriously, ask me on any given day and I could tell you either one—I love them both equally!  Well it just so happens that the day that we had ear-marked for Hollywood Studios turned out to be the day that our resort was having Magic Hours for there—which means it opened early for us!

Mattie in her super cute "Minnie" outfit and Glass Slipper Challenge medal!
After we rode the bus back to our room from Mattie’s half marathon, we all quickly changed into more park appropriate attire and drove over to Hollywood Studios.  Mattie and I literally RAN into the park and over to get a Fast Pass for Tower of Terror and then WALKED ON to Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster which NEVER happens.  After we got off of that ride, we used our fast pass for Tower of Terror and then rode Aerosmith again with our Fast Pass that we had pre-booked.

Wow, neither one of these are super flattering pictures of me, but I had to include them!

I have said it before and I will say it again, having the Photopass is great for when you want good group pictures.  Not only could we scan our wristbands on rides to get the pictures, we could also get any photographer in the park to take our pictures.

After those rides, we went to have breakfast at Hollywood and Vine—which turned out to be a character breakfast for younger children with all of the Disney Junior characters.  We had no idea that we were ending up there!  To be honest, the only reason I knew who any of the characters were was because I work at a pediatrician’s office and they are on the stickers we have.  Needless to say, the food was great {very similar to Chef Mickey’s—buffet style with the signature Mickey waffles} but we bypassed the characters so that all of the toddlers could enjoy the meet and greet time!

After breakfast, we walked around the park to let our food digest and saw a few shows {Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast—both wonderful!}.  We also rode The Great Movie Ride which is actually one of my favorites—probably because I LOVE old movies!  After that, Mattie and I used our Fast Pass for Tower of Terror and loved every second of getting to ride it twice!

Later in the day, we grabbed some snacks and then walked over to The Muppets in 3D.  The last time I was at Hollywood Studios this was closed, so it was so much fun getting to do it again!

For dinner, we ate at 50’s Prime Time Diner.  This was probably my second favorite dinner we had while at Disney World {only second behind our meal at Magic Kingdom purely because we were in Cinderella’s Castle!}.  Their food is comfort food to the extreme and I loved every single bite!

As soon as we walked out of dinner, the fireworks began!  Now, the fireworks at Magic Kingdom are classic and wonderful, but the fireworks at Hollywood Studios are set to Star Wars!  I think there was some kind of show going on to coordinate with the fireworks {???} but we were too far away to see if there was.  But—the fireworks were mesmerizing!  They were perfectly timed to coordinate with the music and truly magical!  I was so glad we left dinner when we did so that we didn’t miss them!

As sad as I was to leave the park, we had such a full wonderful day there!  I have to say, the few rides that are there are wonderful but the shows are out of this world great!  We could have easily spent another day at Disney parks and maybe done a half day at Hollywood Studios and half day at Magic Kingdom just to hit the rides we love a second or third time!

Up Next: Universal Studios

Previous Disney Recaps: Day 1Day 2Day 3—Part 1Day 3—Part2, Day 4—Part 1

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Disney Day 4--Part 1: runDisney Half Marathon {Spectator's POV}

Just like the previous day, we woke up extra early {3:45!!} to get ready and out the door to catch the bus over to Epcot to drop Mattie off to line up for the half marathon.  Mattie wore her new Sparkleskirt that was red with white polka dots so she looked like Minnie Mouse!

Mattie before her race
We got to the parking lot of Epcot a little around 4:30 and hung out with Mattie until it was time for her to line up at her corral.  Around that time, the monorail was opening for service to the Magic Kingdom.  Mom and I were kind of flying blind on how to best see Mattie and we decided a few months before the race to register for the chEAR squad to get reserved viewing areas around the race course.  I knew the one place that I wanted to see her on the course was when she came running through Cinderella’s Castle.  So after sending Mattie off to her corral, we hopped on the monorail and set off for the Magic Kingdom.

Mattie and Me before her race
From the monorail, we could already see the runners starting off and knew we had to be super quick in getting to our destination because Mattie was in one of the first corrals.  We were one of the first people to arrive in that area {I guess most went to a different viewing area first} and we grabbed coffees {which Disney has down to a science for the race—they were already pre-poured in souvenir mugs} and settled in to wait for Mattie.  One of my biggest recommendations if you are a spectator is to register for the live race updates.  We knew what mile marker the castle was at and we could guess based on Mattie’s first mile time and 5k time, around when to start looking for her, because after you see 12 Minnie Mouses run past you, they all look alike!

How pretty is the castle lit up for the race?!  We were so stinking close and there was hardly anyone there yet, so it was like we had the park to ourselves!
After we caught her big smile as she ran through the castle and past us, we high-tailed it back to the monorail to get to the grandstand at the finish line.  It was really neat because as soon as we got off of the monorail, the first place women’s finisher was crossing the finish line.  We settled into seats and waited for Mattie to run past us.  It was fun to watch all of the runners run past and celebrate with the Disney characters.

Photographer Fail: Mattie running through the castle.  I totally forgot to put my camera in action mode and this is all I got!
We cheered and screamed when Mattie ran past and quickly scrambled out of our seats to find her at the finishers’ area.  After she received her medals {two since she completed the Glass Slipper Challenge—running the 10k and the half marathon} and her swag bags, we headed over to the buses to take us back to our resort.  It was time to get ready to head to Hollywood Studios!!

Getting closer to the finish line!
Mattie crossing the finish line!
Mattie with her medals--minus the 10k one back in the room!

Up next: Hollywood Studios

Previous Disney Recaps: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3—Part 1, Day 3—Part2

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