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We flew out of Washington and got into Orlando around noon. Got our rental car (new Mazda 3!) and headed towards our first amusement park(s), Universal Studios Florida. 20 minutes and 3 tolls later we checked in to the Fairfield Inn and Suites not far from the parks. We dropped the bags and immediately walked over to maximize our time there. We had a bite to eat at a pizza place in City Walk, a complex just outside the parks with a number of restaurants, entertainment, and shops. We hit the parks, opting to go to the Universal Studios park first.

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Once inside we made our way to the very back, to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Just outside we got our picture taken with the knight bus conductor and shrunken head “driver”. The head kept making fun of our selfie stick.

Amy:” Selfie time!”

Head:” what are you doing with that stick?”

Amy:” Take selfie, silly.”

Head:” with a stick.”

Amy:” Done, thanks!”

Head:” wait, you already took a picture? I am not ready…”

(FYI Selfie sticks were still allowed at Universal, unlike Disney.)

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Diagon Alley itself was extremely immersive and had every little detail in the book brought to life. Ollivanders Wands, Quality Quidditch Supplies,  Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions, the Leaky Cauldron, Gringotts Bank,  and many, many, more were all there and had both things to look at and items for sale.

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We had heard about “interactive wands” so our first stop was Ollivanders. There you could go through the “wand-choosing-the-wizard” show (like the books describe). We then got to pick our wands. We ended up getting ours based on our birth month. Amy’s, the largest available, had a snake and skeleton on the end of it, make of alder, 14”. Daryl’s was smaller, and just looked like a piece of wood. (Yea, Amy’s was better….)

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The interactive wands have a special reflective tip that are read by sensors at specific locations around the Harry Potter land’s at the park. The added complexity is that the sensor requires a certain motion to be performed by the wand in order to active its “action”. You are given a map and there are also special tiles on the ground in front of each of these spell locations. They direct/show you what wand motion is required. If done correctly, then you will have “executed” the spell and you will see the result.

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Sorry, you can tell Daryl is writing this post. He is just trying to be technical when describing waving a plastic stick around at random things along with a bunch of kids.

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We then made our way through the various shops, soaking it all in. We stopped in order to perform the spells along the way, of course. We also tried our first “butter-beer”. Amy found it quite sweet but Daryl loved it. We tried a frozen one first. Imagine a cream slush with a butterscotch-like foam on top.

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We then jumped on the Hogwarts express in order to get over to the other park, Islands of Adventure.

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There we toured around Hogsmeade, the nearby town the students of Hogwarts would visit. We had dinner at the Three Broomsticks, a tavern where Daryl had fish and chips and Amy had the shepherd’s pie.

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We toured around a little more before heading back to the hotel.

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To be continue…

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