Gotta hand it to Universal — put two amazing amusement parks right the fuck next to each and basically dare a bitch to only pay for entrance to one. HOW WOULD YOU EVEN DECIDE?! How they really get you is that the Harry Potter attractions are actually split up between the two, and you can’t ride the Hogwarts Express unless you get the park-to-park option.
WELL PLAYED, UNIVERSAL.
Since it wasn’t Chooch’s birthday anymore, we were back on our normal Whatever Erin Wants schedule, so as soon as we rushed through the gates of Universal, I declared that we had to find Harry Potter World ASAP because I figured it was going to be insanely crowded and we needed to GET THERE.
“OK, but this Shrek thing only has a 5 minute wait and it’s right here, so why don’t we do that first?” Henry suggested and Chooch, forgetting that it wasn’t his birthday anymore, jumped on this and ran inside the Shrek building.
So we ended up sitting through some Shrek 4D theater experience thing and OK it was pretty cool, god, whatever. But it was taking away Harry Potter time and I was in A HURRY. Have you seen me when I’m in a hurry? It’s not pretty. Or relaxing.
Universal has a great app that will give you step-by-step directions to every attraction, so I utilized that much to Henry’s chagrin — he can’t handle anyone else being in charge of directions.
The app dropped us off right smack in the middle of London. I got really excited for a second because there was a record store but it turned out to just be a facade. That made me think about all the Harry Potter characters and what kind of music they would have listened to (thoughts?!), which would have been prevalent if I had written those books (thank god I didn’t).
I bet for sure Snape would have done some heavy Joy Division spinning.
We slipped between some cracks in a brick wall RIGHT INTO DIAGON ALLEY.
And that’s when I started crying. It just hit me so hard, the sounds of the people and the majestic music and the whimsical* storefronts – so many stimuli! It was like we weren’t even in an amusement park anymore because it was so sequestered from the rest of the park, literally tucked away, and everything had changed right down to the ground we were walking on. This was by far the most crowded section of Universal, but the happiness of being there overruled any type of social anxiety or misanthropic tendencies that might normally arise among crowds.
*IDGAF if you hate that word. It was 100% applicable to this place.
Before stopping for a butter beer or any other obligatory nonsense, I needed to get to Gringotts. The wait time was only 15 minutes!
Some witch at the entrance told me she liked my Cure shirt and I shouted “THANKS!!!” like she had just given me a life-saving organ.
(This just made me picture an actual organ, the instrument kind, dressed up as a life guard at the beach, saving people from Jaws.)
(I don’t get enough sleep.)
Everyone at Universal is so motherfucking nice and instead of making me want to vomit, it enlarged my heart! MY HEART WAS REALLY FAT AND BLOATED AT UNIVERSAL. It’s back to being black and dessicated now that I’m back in Pittsburgh, but it was nice while it lasted.
We pretty much just breezed through the entire queue because the line never really stopped moving. Each part of it was literally like being inside Gringotts though. Universal makes waiting in line so much less painful than most parks. There’s always something going on, something to look at, something that you didn’t see the last time you were in line. I mean, I imagine that if I had been there on a super busy day in July when the line spilled out of Gringotts and into Diagon Alley, my tune would be a lot different.
I honestly just typed and deleted about 87 different sentences in a futile attempt to illustrate with words how motherfucking boss the Escape from Gringotts is. I’ve been on rides before that share the same premise, the whole $D extra-sensory experience, but this is some next level shit. I was at first concerned that it wasn’t going to be a true “ride” but more of one of those moving theater type gigs, and thank god that wasn’t the case. It had all the best elements of a dark ride, a coaster, and the 4D theatrics and special effects, all perfectly packaged with JK Rowling’s stamp of approval.
It was a game changer. How can I ride anything else now? The trolley needs to step up its game or I’m probably going to have to quit my job.
This ride was so good that everyone applauded when the ride ended.
Since we had the park-to-park option, we were able to take the Hogwart’s Express to Hogsmeade, which is located in Islands of Adventure. The whole experience was literally like we actually in a train station and I was so fucking giddy.
Behind that smirk is a jug of chuckles with the cork ready to pop off.
ALL KINDS OF SHIT HAPPENS WHILE YOU’RE TRAVELING TO HOGSMEADE. Even Henry was excited. We sat in a compartment with a super WASPy family and if the kids weren’t called Muffy, Buffy, and Tad, I’d be super shocked, but I didn’t even hate them because HOGWARTS EXPRESS CURES HATE.
Over in Hogsmeade, there are THREE rides:
The Dragon Challenge, which is a fucking amazing coaster that Henry was too scared to go on, so just Chooch and I went on and the wait time was only 5 minutes! We spent more time power-walking through the super dark, cavernous queue trying to find where the line even started. It was part of the fun, to be honest. There are two coasters to choose from and each is a completely different ride! We rode the blue dragon first. I screamed the whole time and Chooch was so embarrassed. (I’m kind of afraid of coasters lately, OK??? I still ride them though!)
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was similar in concept to Gringotts but amazing all in of itself. No loose articles are permitted on this ride, but the guy at the entrance said that as long as Chooch’s big-ass motherwhomping refillable Universal cup would fit in Henry’s pocket, we didn’t need to get a locker. So Henry grudgingly shoved it it in his pocket, but then during the ride, he realized that the ride was jerking us around enough that the contents of the cup were sloshing around and spilling onto the guy next to him and now I’m here at work typing this and making strangulated faces as I try to hold back my laughter because every day I wind up laughing alone at my desk and can’t today be the day that I sit here like a basic person!? Henry was so fucking pissed about this.
Like Gringotts, everything about standing in line was glorious and the ride was fucking phenomenal. I actually cried, it was so great. I guess this what some people feel like when they go to church.
Or hold a baby.
Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a kid coaster. The most exciting part of this ride was when we were standing in line near the front and Chooch dropped his big-ass motherwhomping refillable Universal cup for the 87th time because brother just can’t listen when we say “STOP JUGGLING THE CUP, BROTHER” and so it rolled into the line next to us, where some man snatched it and started screaming, “SIR! SIR! YOU DROPPED YOUR CUP!” to a man who was about to get onto the ride, so then a ride attendant came over and took the cup and was going to give it to Wrong Man while I’m yelling, “NO! IT’S NOT HIS CUP!” and then some broad next to us, an EYE WITNESS, also started frantically screaming, “THAT’S NOT HIS CUP!!!” way louder than I was and people were really starting to pay attention now because WHAT IS TO BECOME OF THIS DUMB BOY’S UNIVERSAL BEVERAGE RECEPTABLE!?
When the ride attendant tried to hand it to Wrong Man, Wrong Man was like, “Bitch, why you tryna give me some jerk kid’s germs?” and that’s when Ride Attendant’s ears were finally opened to our anguished cries and so he returned it to Chooch, and Henry quickly snatched it right off him and gave him that “LOOK WHAT YOU CAUSED” glare that I grew up looking at from basically everyone in my family except for my Pappap because my Pappap was the greatest man in the world.
Anyway, we all got a good hyuk out of that one and then went about our business of standing in line.
The second highlight was when Henry had to ride with a TEENAGE GIRL and Chooch and I were cooing the entire time about how Henry was on a date with some underaged bitch and it was hilarious to no one but us, and certainly not Henry.
That ride was kind of just OK though. Henry was pissed because the wait was 30 minutes, hahaha.
Before we left the park that day, we swung by Honeydukes so Chooch would finally stop crying about how we’re shitty parents for not buying him a chocolate frog to eat in the 95 degree heat. I bought Exploding Bon-Bons and pumpkin juice and now I wish I could go back and buy everything else, too.
LE SIGH. Writing this is depressing.