Flying solo at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and other Islands of Adventure snaps)

Walking into the office, I clutched the 652-page tome to my chest. Tears must have been streaming down my face because Mr. T immediately inquired, "What's wrong??" with a panicked look on his face. The expression soon dissolved into a smirk though when I choked out, "Dumbledore died!" and burst into sobs.

Yeah, I have that kind of relationship with the Harry Potter series.

I re-read the books and listen to them on CD in the car. My friends and I, we might have taken O.W.L.s, not comps last year. And the diss defense? Just a N.E.W.T., no big deal. (Well, actually a huge deal... the acronym "Nastily Exhausting Wizard Test" completely fits!)

When I found out that one of my annual academic conferences, the National Communication Association meetings, would be held in Orlando, all I could think was: HARRY POTTER WORLD!

And so I went. All by my lonesome. I meant to explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with a couple dear friends, but scheduling didn't work out. And it was AWESOME! (And you know how I feel about the over-use of that word.)
First glimpse of Hogsmeade. The overcast day belied Florida's lovely 70-degree weather.  
Squealed to see Hogwarts!
Inside Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, one of three Harry Potter rides. At first, I didn't realize that Harry Potter World was but a small section of Universal's "Islands of Adventure" theme park. And P.S. many of the portraits move and talk to you, naturally.
Dumbledore's pensieve. For the record, T refers to the Hogwarts headmaster as "Dumbledork." It goes without saying that T does not really understand my Potter obsession.
T and I enjoy watching the comedy show "Key and Peele." In their recent Halloween episode, they played a sketch about the ghetto version of Hogwarts where students have wand silencers, etc. (hi-larious, by the way). Among other things, I had to explain the Sorting Hat to T.  
In line for the Flight of the Hippogriff ride. The benefit of it being a Thursday in November? No waiting! 
Hagrid's House! The Flight of the Hippogriff is a blip of a roller coaster but man is it jerky! 
Traipsing through Hogwarts made me want to visit the real set in England

My only complaint was that the Harry Potter area was far too small for my liking! 
Looking out from Ollivander's wand shop.
Note to yourself: Ollivander's has a wand demonstration that is not marked on the park map. Basically 30 folks crowd into this teensy area and one or two lucky volunteers get to make magic happen. Yours truly cried when a Make-a-Wish kid and his sister were chosen. 
Wands. Somehow I found the strength to keep from buying one. Good news because my friend, Geeta, found me a fabulous wand making tutorial. 
The Monster Book of Monsters. Be ware. 
Owl, anyone?
Flying solo around the park was an intriguing experience. By and large I felt invisible to the families and couples around me. 
I admit feeling a few nerves (and a lot of nerve) riding the Dragon Challenge roller coaster by my lonesome. Wowza, is it intense! I sat in the front, of course.
It felt like the shops were miniaturized compared to others in the park and others I've visited in places like Disneyland. 
Although I contemplated it, I could not bring myself to buy the overpriced goodies. 
Although some of them would have made excellent White Elephant gifts! 
It bummed me out not to see Weesley Wizard Wheezes around! 
$10 chocolate frogs, anyone?
Pigmy puff!
The fantastic news? Universal is building a Harry Potter world in California that promises to be bigger and better than the original in Orlando. Woo!
I couldn't leave without trying butterbeer. I sampled the frozen variety which reminded me of a butterscotchy cream soda. Yum! 
Several of the big rides, including the Forbidden Journey, a flying simulator thing that combines CGI-images and regular mechanical animations (think giant spiders and dementors) require you to store your belongings in lockers prior to getting in line. Fine in theory, the lockers are controlled by computers and a fingerprint ID, and never seemed to work properly.
Need a quill and parchment?
Most of the shops in Hogmeade were false-front stores that reminded me of Disneyland's Main Street. 
I wanted more places to poke around, truth be told.
I enjoyed lunch at The Three Broomsticks where the fare included shepherd's pie, cornish pasties, and various other meat dishes.  
Inside The Three Broomsticks.
The seating capacity for this restaurant is 500 folks. Wow. 
The Hog's Head is a regular bar and looked pretty empty when I walked by. 
I wonder what Professor Sprout would say?
Fun meandering about. I loved to see little witches and wizards wandering in robes. I can't imagine many do that when it's summertime and horribly humid.
I couldn't forget being a grad student though so after riding all of the attractions and eating a scrumptious shepherd's pie lunch, I wrote for a bit in the shadow of Hogwart's. Hermione would be proud, I think.
I love the crooked chimneys!
Gratuitous shot of Hogwarts. Can you have too many? I don't think so.
It boggles me that the Hogwarts' Express was not a ride.
My friend Tim wants to make us customized patches for our graduation "robes." I've volunteered to make wands. 
The Forbidden Journey reminded me of the "Soarin' California" ride from California Adventure combined with some of the special effects of Disneyland's Indiana Jones. I rode it twice and felt queased both times, if I'm being honest. Something about the CGI makes me nauseous. 
Note: Single riders can bypass much of the line on this ride. 
I wish they'd open up more of Hogwarts for touring.
I couldn't bring myself to try pumpkin juice. I wish they had little samples. 
Golden snitch, anyone?
Other than the snow, this guy seemed to be the only Christmas decoration around in Hogsmeade. 
My second favorite part of Islands of Adventure was Seuss Landing. TOO CUTE! 
So what if I was the only grown up, sans kids, playing around Seuss Land? 
I concentrated my time in Harry Potter world, but walked four laps around the park. Cardio! 
Along with Harry Potter, the Islands of Adventure featured a cartoon land, Jurassic Park rides, and super heroes. 

Because I got queasy on the Harry Potter rides, I didn't try the Spiderman or Hulk coasters. Next time? 
Yes, yes, yes!
Seussian landscaping. Love. 
SO ready to decorate the Redden abode for Christmas.
To kill time, I took the Poseidon's Fury tour. WALKING tour. Be warned. This is not a feet resting ride. LAME. 
Might have stamped my foot when this ride appeared closed. Luckily not for long. 
The best part? Watching a little boy, aged 4 or 5, nearly bawling as he waited for the ride to start. The panic was etched on his beautiful little face but soon turned to utter joy once the carousel started rolling. So sweet!
Meanwhile, I felt all happy and goofy.
The cuteness.
Riding the carousel amidst job hunting and dissertating stress? Sheer brilliance. 
Feeling like someone's after me. 

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