• All Toll Roads Lead To Miami

    Welcome to Little Havana! Miami street art!

    Welcome to Little Havana! Miami street art!

    When I planned my Florida escapade it was for the sole purpose of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! But after I realized how much time I had, I decided to explore what else the Sunshine Stae had to offer. Without a full minute’s thought, the first answer was Miami!!! So what if it was 3.5 hours away from where I was staying… so what if I could only be in the city for about 6 hours? It would be worth it right? RIGHT? Yes… and no.

    NO

    1. The 3.5 hour drive turned in to a 5 hour drive because of the terrible rain. And YES! It was my idea to power through the rain, but who knew it would be so scary?

    A quick glance of that crazy Floriday rain!

    A quick glance of that crazy Floriday rain!

    2. TOLL ROADS! TOLL ROADS! TOLL ROADS!!! Goodness gracious. Be prepared to pay at least $15 EACH WAY when driving from Orlando to Miami. Be prepared to pay toll roads in general when in south Florida. It was stupid how many there were and some even need exact change!! AHHHH! Be warned!
    3. If you’re not going for the party scene… arriving in the evening can be kinda underwhelming.. womp womp…actually arriving late in the evening was a bummer regardless because I didn’ even get t see the beach. *SIGH*

    YES

    1. I can say I’ve been to Miami and experienced Little Havana. (And see some of Calle Ocho street art.)
    2. Some of the food at Versaille’s Restaurant was underwhelming, but their Cuban Coffee (colada) and flan delivered!

    Cuban Flan and Cuban Coffee aka Colada from Versailles Restaurant.

    Cuban Flan and Cuban Coffee aka Colada from Versailles Restaurant.

    3. I love looking at pretty houses and Miami and South Beach have a bunch of those!
    4. Even though I wasn’t there to party, it was a Friday night and you can totally get a feel for the vibe of the city! It’s definitely enough to make you want to give it another chance.
    5. I got to use my (limited) Spanish skills in Little Havana and felt totally local and boss.

    So overall… I have no opinion on Miami and that’s rare for me to say. I didn’t experience it long it enough to love it, hate it, or judge it. I think given more time and maybe better conditions (both weather and mental preparation of toll roads), I would have a clearer idea of what Miami is and what it has to offer.

    So tell me! Am I missing out on the Miami madness? Or did I dodge a bullet?

  • Harry Potter and The Theme Park That Took All Of My Money

    Hogwart's Castle within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    Hogwart’s Castle within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    So. It finally happened for me. I finally… went… to.. THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!!!!! Words can’t truly sum up the emotion this created for me. In life, the top two things I love are, 2. London and 1. Harry Potter. Needless to say, The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter had me bursting at the seams with joy. In a nutshell, I ran the whole way from the entrance of Universal Studios until the entrance of Harry Potter World (except for 10 minutes I had to wait before the park actually opened). Once I was actually in front of the Islands of Adventure entrance… I broke down. From huge smile to crying face in 2 seconds flat. I was. just. so. damn. happy.

    Part of Hogsmeade

    Part of Hogsmeade

    So now, about the park. If you love Harry Potter, it’s a Godsend, If you don’t like Harry Potter, you will.High five to Universal because both areas, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, look damn near identical to the movies. The buildings have that magical charm and Hogwarts Castle, takes my breath away.

    Just like most theme parks, the rides inside of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter can get LONG. But that’s ok! As long as you hit up The Forbidden Journey first thing in the morning, you only need to wait maybe 20 minutes. (I did, at least.) The Forbidden Journey is located inside of the Hogwarts Castle and they do a fine job of bringing to life some of my favorite aspects of Hogwarts. That would be.. the talking painting, the Fat Lady, the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, the defense against the dark arts classroom, and the entrance to The Room of Requirements, to name a few.

    The entrance to Dumbledore's office.

    The entrance to Dumbledore’s office.

    So the ride is a 4D ride.. you’re in a little ‘carriage” that follows a giant screen. Think Disney Haunted Mansion, except faster and with a screen in front of you. I personally loved it, but be warned, some get motion sickness. I just so happen to love roller coasters, so it worked out for me. If you love it, be sure to ride it again! I went 4 times.

    The Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge are both within the Hogsmeade park, and they’re great! Especially Dragon Challenge. But the other ultra popular Harry Potter Ride is Escape From Gringotts on the Universal side. Similar to The Forbidden Journey in both experience and wait time, this was my second favorite line to wait in. You can see the goblins working and snap some pictures of the inside of Gringotts, aka one of the safest places in the Wizarding World. The true highlight of this ride though, is the dragon on the OUTSIDE of the building that breathes fire every few minutes. Talk about realistic right?

    The dragon of Gringotts

    The dragon of Gringotts

    Now, I talked about the items that come with your admission ticket, but that’s not the only thing you die hard Harry Potter fans will send your money on. The souvenirs are top notch. Each shop has something different to offer. There’s candy at Honeydukes, quidditch must haves from the Quidditch Supply Store, things that make you giggle from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a wand from Ollivander’s,  and dark magic items from Borgin and Burke. I bought something from every store! (Not to mention food… which I will have to talk about in a completely different post.)

    Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley

    Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley

    So needless to say, bring all the money $$$ because this park does a damn good job of making you spend it, and it will take it happily. In fairness though, it’s worth every penny for the Potterheads out there who want to bring home as much magic as possible. 🙂

    The best way to really understand what I’m talking about is to see an experience everything first hand and I HIGHLY suggest you do so. Don’t wait 5 years like I did! But when you finally make it to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, let me give you some pro tips.

    1. As mentioned, get to The Forbidden Journey ASAP. Do this also for Escape From Gringotts (Preferably go at least two days so you can prioritize appropriately.)
    2. Travel light throughout the park, save souvenirs for the last day because you will HAVE to put your personal items inside of lockers before you get on a ride. Kinda annoying, but rules are rules.
    3. The line for the Hogwart’s Express, which connects Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley can get crazy long. You will be tempted to just walk to each park, but DON’T! It’s not just a train to and from, it’s an experience. So just like the popular rides above, do this early or really late, so you can ride it both ways.

      Just got off the Hogwarts Express.

      Just got off the Hogwarts Express.

    4. I know I just said don’t walk… BUT if you do, be sure to stop next to the entrance of the Hogwart’s Express on the Universal side. Even if you don’t walk, just come out of Diagon Alley and do this…. Go visit 12 Grimmauld Place. You may see Sirius Black! Or at least you’ll see the Knight Bus.

      12 Grimmauld Place.

      12 Grimmauld Place.

    5. Knockturn Alley isn’t meant to be easy to find and most tourists actually can’t find it. For Orlando, it’s at a dead end in the park with the smallest sign that will point you in the right direction. Take the time to find it. When you get there, it’s like another new world. When I went, there were only 5 other tourists in the dark area. It was also storming with lighting which added to the creepy effect of Knockturn Alley, You may also see something Draco fixed….

      The Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes.

    6. As mentioned with the storm, don’t let the rain scare you! Most people leave because of the rain and this is the best time to tough it out at the park. Buy a poncho, and keep at it. The crowds will thin, but you’re fun will only increase! Besides, nothing feels more like London, than a rainy night. 🙂

    I know this post was a tad long… but like mentioned in the start, I love Harry Potter… and now you all know a snippet of what I mean by that. Stay tuned for more information about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the amazing food it has to offer. Tell me, have you been to this park? What did you think?