After Viva Las Vegas (catch up here), we flew down to Orlando, Florida. When planning this trip, I knew I wanted to head down to the southern part of the USA and one of the things Matt really wanted to do was go to Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios.
We had 4 nights booked for Orlando, staying at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort which is one of the Universal Hotels. Since our primary reason for being in Orlando was to go to Universal, it made sense to stay in one of their hotels so that transport to and from the park was easy and free of charge. Plus, guest who stay at Cabana Bay got early entry into Wizarding World which was a awesome perk.
When we arrived at the hotel, I fell in love instantly! The whole thing was 1950s themed and every little corner had something wonderful to look at or fabulous 1950s inspired furniture. It reminded me of a mash up of Mad Men and The Jetsons!
The hotel had a food court type area called the Bayliner Diner which had 4 or 5 different food outlets but you paid for everything in one place and then dined in big communal area.
It was quite a good concept for such a family orientated hotel and the single checkout process made things much easier when Matt and I felt like different things for dinner. Plus, the decor was super cute and they had big screen TV’s playing old movie clips and cartoons.
Since we had 3 full days in Orlando and a 2-day pass to Universal Studios, we used the first day to relax and enjoy the hotel. Every day since we had arrived in the USA had been super busy so it was nice to not have any major plans and just do what we felt like.
First up, we went for a late breakfast at the Starbucks in the hotel since we’d missed the breakfast menu at the Diner. I can’t tell you how happy I was to discover Starbuck have oatmeal- it’s one of my favourite things for breakfast and I really needed something ‘normal’ that wasn’t holiday food. Thank you Starbucks!
After exploring the hotel a little more, we spent a couple of hours by the pool during the afternoon, getting frozen cocktails at the bar. The pool was the perfect temperature, nice and refreshing in the hot, humid Orlando weather. I got out a little earlier than Matt and ended up snoozing poolside for a hour or so… just lovely!
That evening, we went for a drink at the bar inside called ‘The Swizzle Lounge’, played some games at the arcade, went for dinner and then tried to have a early night in preparation for Wizarding World the next day.
We both fell asleep ok but woke up at midnight and couldn’t get back to sleep for a couple of hours which was very frustrating as we wanted to have lots of energy when we woke up! I think it was a combination of being in a different time zone and sleeping too much during the day- thankfully some awful reality TV helped lull us back to sleep!
We were up very early and a little bleary eyed from our restless night but we wanted to be ready and waiting when the gates opened early at 8am for Cabana Bay guests. We caught the adorable Cabana Bay bus to Universal which takes less than ten minutes and it reminded me so much of the Magic School Bus from my childhood!
We headed straight to Diagon Alley, mostly following the crowd. We knew we were close when we passed Kings Cross and soon found ourselves walking through the brick wall just like in the books.
What greeted us really was magical. It looked just like the movies- cobblestone roads, rickety storefronts and Universal staff were dressed up as witches and wizards! Knowing that the lines for rides would get long quickly, we headed straight for the Gringotts and had hardly any time to wait. The only theme park I’ve been to in the last 15 years was Disneyland 3 years ago and Disney rides are rather tame… so the sophisticated, cleverness of special effects inside the ride and the feeling of flying really impressed me!
After we’d done that ride, we spent a couple of hours wandering around Diagon Alley, trying to make sure we looked at everything. Matt wanted to buy a wand from Olivanders (he was a bit sad he didn’t get picked to have a wand choosen him, but of course they picked a kid) and we tried Butterbeer.
Can’t say I was a big fan, the froth on top was tasty but the rest of it I didn’t like. It has a slight fizziness to it and I hate fizzy drinks so I think I probably should have tried the frozen Butterbeer as then it wouldn’t have had the fizz factor at least.
Once we felt like we had seen everything in Diagon Alley (and to be honest, most of it is just gift shops which was mildly disappointing, the only ‘ride’ was Gringotts), we made our way to Kings Cross to catch the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade. This is in the other side of the Universal Studios so you have to have a Park-to-Park pass to be able to go on the Hogwarts Express.
This was probably my favourite part of the whole Wizarding World experience. As we made our way to platform 9 3/4, it felt like a real London train station and once again I was impressed with the cleverness of how they brought the running through the brick wall to life.
The Hogwarts Express rolled into the station with steam and everything- I have a love for vintage steam trains so it was very exciting! We were guided to our compartment which was decorated simply but just how you’d imagine it, with some dimly lit lamps.
Once the train started moving, we watched our journey from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade via Hogwarts out the window in a projection show.. it was really fun!
The station at Hogsmeade was even cooler and more vintage looking than Diagon Alley too!
Hogsmeade itself was magical with it’s snow capped buildings and Hogwarts high in the background. We decided to do the roller coaster straight away before it got too busy and after the maze that it is to get to the front of the line, we got to jump right on. It was a pretty terrifying roller coaster, Matt went back on for a second time but I felt I might get a bit too nauseous if I went again so soon.
Next up… wandering through Hogsmeade and then the Hogwarts ride! It was similar in format to Gringotts but I enjoyed it more as it was like you were riding a broomstick! It was so much fun!
The rest of the day was spent between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, finding lunch and having a quick look around the rest of Universal Studios to see what things we’d want to do the following day.
We were pretty knackered by mid-afternoon so we went back to the hotel and hung out by the pool (without napping to ensure we slept well that night!)
We had bought two day tickets thinking that we would need it to see and do everything at Wizarding World but we felt like we had done it all the day before so whilst we went back to Diagon Alley for a little extra look around and used the Hogwarts Express to get between park (since it’s so freaking fun!) the majority of the day was spent in the general Universal Studios area.
We got there early morning and within the first 2 hours or so had done the Transformers, Mummy, Rock It (I didn’t have the guts to go on the Rock It Roller Coaster, that drop looked way too intense so I watched Matt do it) and Men in Black rides. Then we headed over to the other side of the park where we spent the rest of the day.
After having a meal at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at City Walk, we headed back to the hotel. Later in the afternoon, a huge electrical storm rolled in! It was amazing to watch, of course we get storms in New Zealand but the big electrical thunderstorms aren’t quite as spectacular.
Time to leave Orlando and head for St Augustine! I was sad to leave our amazing temporary 50s home but excited for the next stop. We picked up our car and before heading out of town, visited a couple of vintage stores that I’d heard about thanks to some of my followers on Instagram.
First up was Orlando Vintage which had a amazing collection! Prices were quite high compared to what I was used to but it was fun to look around nonetheless. I was very tempted by a floral vintage hat with gorgeous wee berries on it but it was one of those pieces that I just wasn’t sure what I would wear it with- plus getting it home without damaging it would have been a nightmare!
Next up we drove 5 minutes down the road to Deja Vu Vintage. This was another great shop with amazing prices and the owner was so sweet! I bought a brooch and bangle which I was very happy with!
Our last vintage stop before driving to St Augustine was The Lovely Boutique Market. This wasn’t too far from Deja Vu Vintage, maybe 10-15 minutes and it was a store with multiple different sellers but not all of them vintage. I didn’t find anything for myself but Matt bought a really cool Hawaiian shirt and a cheese cutter hat.
That’s it for Orlando! In the next chapter of Miss VV Around The World, I cover our 5 night road trip between St Augustine, Savannah and Pensacola <3 Catch up on our first stop, Las Vegas, here.
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Categories: Miss VV Around The World