Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Adventures in the USA part 4 - Universal Resort Florida

On Days 4 and 6 in Florida, we were off by taxi to Universal Orlando Resort (missing Ally Sheehan and Jen Converso's visit there by just 12 days).  Our main reason for going to the two theme parks there (Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure) was because of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas based on Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, but we also went to visit plenty of other rides and shows.  This post will combine my top 5 things to see overall at both parks as well as a recipe!

Me getting a photo alongside a stunning Marilyn Monroe impersonator.

Top 5

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (Diagon Alley at Universal Studios) - this was an indoor 3D mini-rollercoaster that did leave me squealing a little bit (I'm not a rollercoaster fan).  Bill Weasley is your guide as you journey through Gringotts Bank following the story of Harry, Ron and Hermione's visit to the bank in The Deathly Hallows where Hermione impersonates Bellatrix Lestrange in an attempt to enter Bellatrix's volt.  At times, it felt like your rollercoaster cabin would stop for a bit of the story, but then you'd speed off in the direction and because it was dark, you didn't know where you were going and it was a bit weird.
    The depiction of London at the entrance to Diagon Alley.

    The Knight Bus

The exterior of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes

The fire-breathing dragon above Gringotts Bank

The entrance to Knockturn Alley

Inside Gringotts Bank

  • Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees (Diagon Alley at Universal Studios) - I saw this mini-show for the group who are famous throughout the wizarding world in the Diagon Alley area while drinking butterbeer.  I'd describe the group's style as uplifting, energetic, glamorous and similar to Diana Ross and The Supremes.
  • Celestina Warbeck (far left) and the Banshees with a guest.

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure)

  • A snowman in Hogsmeade
    The Hogwarts Express!
    Dawn French portraying the lady who guards the door to the Gryffindor common room.
    The entrance to Hogsmeade

    Snow (fake) covering the roofs of Hogsmeade.

    Inside Hogsmeade

  • Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges (Islands of Adventure) - my experience of this ride was a bit like my experience at Kali River Rapids at the Animal Kingdom.  It was a water ride, and I got absolutely SOAKED!  I was also the only one in my family to go on this ride as my brother wanted to go on The Incredible Hulk Coaster, and our parents didn't really want to go on either ride.  Therefore, I was in the raft with a group of strangers (they were nice though).  The girl next to me thought it was a good idea to wear a poncho on the ride to stop her from getting too wet.  Well, by the end of the ride, she, like me, was also soaked to her T-shirt.  It took a LONG TIME after getting off this ride for my T-shirt, shorts, socks and trainers to dry out - I had to take off my socks and wring out the excess water for them to even be vaguely wearable for the rest of the day.  In any case, it was a fun ride.
  • Poseidon's Fury (Islands of Adventure)

One well-known treat to be found at both the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort and at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter is butterbeer, a sweet soft drink that was served in the series at the Three Broomsticks Inn and at The Hog's Head in Hogsmeade and also known to be sold at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley.  In the film and book series, butterbeer is known to have a very slight alcohol content, but the versions sold at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and in London are both non-alcoholic and are sold either cold or frozen as a slush drink.  After having a cup of butterbeer on both days at the parks, I was left wanting to be able to recreate the taste at home.  After looking around for vegan-friendly homemade butterbeer recipes, the easiest-looking one I could find was actually on the PETA website.  This recipe contained vegan margarine (such as Pure), but I'm omitting this because I just tried this recipe with Pure and there ended up being a little blob of it at the bottom of the glass when I was done and it just tasted gross.

Ingredients (serves 1)

2 small scoops of vegan-friendly vanilla ice cream
2 dashes of cinnamon
1 dash of nutmeg
1 pinch of ginger
cold apple juice
additional cinnamon


  1. Place all the ingredients, except the apple juice and additional cinnamon, in a glass.
  2. Pour the apple juice over the ice cream and spices.
  3. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon and serve immediately.

Butterbeer in Diagon Alley

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