Before we left on this summer adventure we asked the kids what places they would like to visit that are east of Utah. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) was at the top of almost everyone's list. We also wanted to visit Disney World but could not afford (money or time) to do both. We only had two days and heard that you need at least five days to really experience all of Disney World. So, after plenty of online research and talking to people about both options we decided to do both days at Universal.
We spent our first day at Islands of Adventure since that's where the WWoHP was located. We had purchased our tickets online and quickly printed them off at a kiosk just outside of the ticket lines, which was a great suggestion we had found online. It was great to avoid the ticket lines and get right into the park. We headed straight over to WWoHP and got a picture by the Hogwarts Express first thing.
This next picture is deceptive because that was for sure some magical snow on the roofs of the shops at Hogsmeade. I promise you it would have been melted because the humidity was so thick here that I felt like I was walking through water half of the time.
Allen rode on some crazy coasters with everyone but the smallest three while I took the little guys to check out the Owl Post and a few other fun little shops. Once we were all together again we headed for Hogwarts Castle to ride some enchanted benches on The Forbidden Journey. They have this cool thing at Universal called Child Swap. Some of the more popular rides feature Child Swap. You can all stay in line together, so the little kids get to experience some of the fun things you get to see as you make your way to the ride. Once you get to the boarding area you can leave the kids who are too small to ride in a room with one of the adults in your group. There is usually a kid-friendly movie playing there to keep them occupied. Once the group is done with their turn, they stay with the little kids while the adult who stayed back can take up to 3 people to enjoy the ride with them again. The best part for me was that the waiting adult and little people got to sit in an air-conditioned room to wait it out instead of on a hot bench in the sweltering humidity outside of the ride.
Here we are, winding our way through the Hogwarts Castle.
They had signs like this all over. Hilarious.
Little X's first ride was Flight of the Hippogriff. He was super fascinated with watching Buckbeak as we moved through the line.
Here's Hagrid's Hut, which we passed while in the line for Flight of the Hippogriff. You could hear his dog, Fang, barking inside. Little X kept looking back, wanting to see the dog.
Allen, Little X, Buckbeak and me (photobombing the shot in Allen's glasses)
The entire WWoHP could be seen in a matter of a few hours so at that point we split into two groups. Julia, All-a-Boy, Cowgirl and Princess went off on their own while Allen and I kept Hubba, Curly, Little O and X to find some more kid-friendly areas.
Here are the little boys in the stroller we rented. It was a lifesaver!
Where we spent a good 50% of our time - waiting in lines.
We found this great little splash pad and climbing area in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center where they were happy to run and climb and get wet without having to wait in any lines.
We met up at our locker around lunch time and snacked on trail mix, clementines and goldfish crackers before splitting up again. For a little while Allen took Hubba on some bigger rides and I got to hang out with my three littlest cuties. They were excited to meet the conductor for the Hogwarts Express.
We also discovered Seuss Landing, where so many of the books that my kids have read come to life. They enjoyed the Cat in the Hat ride but One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish was by far their favorite because it involved getting wet and having control over how your fish moved. We went on that ride at least a half dozen times (almost no line, hallelujah!) before meeting up with everyone again.
We stayed until closing time and then got some Del Taco for dinner where I had a hilarious conversation with the cashier. When I placed my order she looked out the window and asked, "You with a tour bus?" When I told her that no, the food was just for my family she asked, "Family reunion?" When I told her that I had 8 kids in the van she had to bring everyone up from the back to hear me say it. "This woman has eight kids, y'all. EIGHT. Right? You tell them." I explained that I actually have ten kids, but two were currently serving missions for our church and they all went crazy. "Just one husband for all them kids?" "What, you drive a bus around?" "Are you related to the Duggars?" and so on. Just then most of the kids came in to use the restroom and the workers had to tell me how beautiful each one of them was and say hello to them as they walked back out to the van. When they gave me my order she included a large plate filled with about twice as many cookies as I had ordered. "This is more than a dozen but girl, you deserve it!" They were all waving goodbye and continuing to comment on the size of my family as we left. It was awesome.
The next day we visited the other half of the theme park - Universal Studios. Unfortunately, Diagon Alley had not yet opened but we could see portions of it behind a large iron fence. The kids were excited to have a picture by the Night Bus.
Hubba begged to wear his swimsuit the second day and I think the other three younger kids wished they had, too - because they spent a large part of the day in the Curious George themed splash park.
I didn't take any other pictures here, but Allen did. This side of the park was great for younger kids, although there were still things that the littlest two couldn't do. There were some great 'rides' where you just sat in a theater-style room and a screen showed a movie but they were interactive and the seats moved and water sprayed on you and such. We waited forEVER to get on the Despicable Me minion ride and it was fun but not worth the ridiculous wait time.
The littler kids' favorite ride was E.T. because they got to ride on bikes and hear their names at the end. If you asked me, it was a little creepy, but I was just happy to be anywhere that there was air conditioning. Two days was perfect to experience everything. Overall the Universal experience was definitely worth it and a great memory for everyone.