After Savannah it was time to head to Universal Orlando (yay!). The last time we were there, they were still constructing the new Harry Potter section, so we only caught a glimpse of it from behind fences. We also timed this visit to meet up with Gray and Cindy again during their van-based travels through the south.
Since our drive would take us through Jacksonville, we decided to stop there for a couple of days to take Opie and Max back to their favorite dog park. Just like before, they had a great time. Opie played fetch for three hours straight, with just a couple of forced breaks by us to go for walks through the woods. Max doesn’t have energy to play any more, but he still loves being in the water, so he waded into the lake quite a few times to stay cool and drink the water. We’ll definitely come back to visit any time we’re in the Jacksonville area.
In Orlando, we stayed at another beautiful park. This one, Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake, was run by the City of Orlando. Huge campsites, a very short walk to the lake (where Opie and Max dipped in the water of course), and plenty of places to walk the dogs made this another great place for us. We really like the state/county/city park campgrounds that we’ve stayed at!
Since we’re Florida residents now, we were able to take advantage of the resident discount for Universal, and got a good deal on our two-park two-day tickets. We spent the first day at Islands of Adventure, riding some old favorites like the Dueling Dragons (now integrated into the Harry Potter world) and Hulk, as well as checking out all the new things at the Harry Potter section. The artistry and attention to detail Universal put into the Harry Potter attractions is very impressive and immersive. Well done indeed! Best of all, the park wasn’t crowded at all, so even the newest attractions had only a 10-minute wait. The weather looked gloomy all day, but fortunately the heavy rain held off until we headed inside for lunch—great timing! Perhaps it’s a sign of getting older, but the “motion simulator” rides seem to affect us more and more. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in particular made us a little queasy and knocked Kathie out of the running for any more dizzying rides that day.
For our second day we spent most of our time at Universal Studios, again checking out old favorites and the new Harry Potter attractions. Both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios have new Harry Potter sections, so you need to visit both parks to see it all (very clever of them!). In fact, the Hogwarts Express train will take you from the Harry Potter section in one park to the Harry Potter section in the other park, so to really see it all you need a “park to park” pass that lets you travel between parks on the same day. They really know how to get you to upgrade your ticket! We took the train to Islands Of Adventure for a short time to revisit a couple of rides that Kathie missed out on the previous day.
Both days were lots of fun, and a nice change from our usual destinations. Plus, any amusement park visit where the lines are only 10 minutes long makes the visit so much more enjoyable! We can now check this off our list and not return for a few more years. We have so many other theme parks to visit though!