Oh. My. Gosh! Florida in February was such a smart, smart thing to do. Firstly, it got us out of sub-zero temperatures and into warmth and (mostly) sunshine. Pure awesomeness, and great for the winter blahs (which always seem to really set in for me around about February).
Secondly? The lines? The lines in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that everybody told us were so ungodly long? Were not. We did not have to wait hours and hours just to get into the Harry Potter section of Islands of Adventure. We just walked right into Hogsmead and I got all verklempt. We did not have to wait hours and hours to ride any of the rides. In fact, I don’t think we ever even waited half an hour for any of the rides. And Ollivanders Wand Shop (seriously, A~ did tear up in line because she was so excited) (and it was our first stop on our first day) was maaayyyybe 20 minutes long, both times we went.
Thirdly? It was like vacationing in several foreign countries without the expense. Because? As citizens of the United States of America? We were a decided minority. Apparently there is some memo that goes out to the rest of the world that says:
Dear entire world that does not include the United States of America,
If you are considering visiting Orlando, Florida, USA for your vacation, you are advised to go In February when American children have their hind ends firmly planted in school. The lines will be shorter and you will have to deal with far fewer obnoxious Americans and their ill-bred children.
Or something like that.
It was very interesting spending several days at amusement parks populated by mostly non-Americans. With one notable exception, the people were more more polite and much less . . . LOUD than I’m used to at these types of venues. The one notable exception involved some European children (French, I think, though they never said a word around us) who deserved to be tripped as they ran and shoved and cut their way through a ride line (short though it was). When we got up to the gates to board the ride (Woody Woodpecker’s roller coaster, so not a biggie) I almost asked them where their parents were and if they knew how rude they were being, but then I realized they probably didn’t speak much, if any, English. Later I saw them walking with their parents who were muttering to each other in what I think was French. Given that I took four semesters of French in college, I should really know for sure, but they didn’t teach us muttered French, so I’m still a bit on the fence about it.
Anyway, aside from noticing that whenever someone was being loud and obnoxious they were usually Americans, I noticed a couple of other things:
1. In other parts of the world it is apparently okie dokie to wear spandex leggings (black leggings, brown leggings, shiny leggings, flat leggings, leggings with zippers at the ankles, leggings with stripes up the calves, you name it) with short, distinctly non-tunic shirts that do not cover one’s hind quarters. Furthermore, such fashion is worn either commando or with a thong. Believe me, I wasn’t staring. Some things you just can’t help but notice, and butt-hugging, crevasse-clutching spandex is one of those things.
2. On the up side, non-Americans seem to not be . . . umm . . . that is to say . . . well . . . I don’t think they eat at McDonalds and Dunkin’ Doughnuts as much as we do. And by “we” I mean Americans, not necessarily me and my family specifically. Now, I’m not saying the park was full of foreign super models or anything, because it really wasn’t. I’m just saying that if you put everybody in the park on a scale and figured out the average weight, it would be a much, much healthier weight than if you went to any one of the last three towns I’ve lived in and did the same thing. I’m making neither judgments nor assumptions about this, I’m just saying it made all the hiney-highlighting spandex a little easier to stomach.
Aside from noticing things, we learned a few things, too. And being the person I am, I will share these things with you now:
1. If you go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, make sure to ask one of the witches or wizards manning Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods about the castle tour. They don’t really advertise the fact that someone will take you on a tour of the castle but, if you notice an exit door in the castle that says “Roof Access” and think to yourself, “I want to go on the roof!” and reason that, since there is no sign saying “No Muggles Allowed” (seriously, that is their version of “Employees Only”), then it must be okay to go up on the roof, so you go out that door and quickly realize you are in what looks like an average parking garage or office building stairwell and is decidedly not all decorated up for public muggle consumption, and then go back in that door, through the line, on the ride and down to the gift shop where you purchase outrageously priced souvenirs and, while making the purchase, ask the witch behind the counter if you can go up on the roof because, after all, you drove from Canada South just to see this place so you want to make sure you see everything possible, she will probably ask you if you’ve taken the tour. Still with me? When you say, “No! Is there a tour apart from going through the line to get to the ride (which, by the way, winds through the castle and is totally amazing)? We would LOVE to go on the tour!” she will happily leave her cash register and all 3,000 people in line behind you to get you a tour guide. *SQUEE*
Portrait of The Fat Lady
2. The tour doesn’t show you much that you haven’t already seen while going through the line. It does take you up on a balcony over the Hall of Portraits that you don’t otherwise get to go on. More importantly, however, is the information the tour gives you. For instance, the Sword of Gryffindor in Dumbledore’s office? Is the actual sword from the movie. And the big dragon skeleton in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom? Is the one from the movie. And Dumbledore’s chair? You guessed it! From the movies!!!
Real Life Movie Prop!
3. At the end of the tour, any members of your party who are too short to ride the ride in the castle (Quinn) will get a certificate entitling them and their party (of up to five other people) to cut straight to the front of the line the next time they come back and the shorty is no longer too short. We may never go back, so I’ll probably just frame his certificate and hang it in his bedroom. You do not get the certificate if you do not go on the tour.
Who Would Not Want to Tour Every Inch of This?
(Keep your comments about me being a total nerd to yourself)
4. Frozen butterbeer is way better than the chilled butterbeer, and is so good I felt like I should have married it before I had my taste.
Sooo Good, I Felt a Litle Dirty Afterwards
5. Quinn loves roller coasters, and gleefully singsongs, “Wheee! Wheee!” as he is being hurled around by them. (Obviously he was only tall enough for a couple of milder ones).
It really was a great week. So, so glad we went in February. I have a fragillion other pictures with kids in them and will post some later (with a password) after I’ve had time to sort and edit. In the meantime, Midge has her 8th birthday coming up this spring, and we are all aflutter with planning a big Harry Potter party. She has read the first five books (on her own) and can’t wait to transform our house into her own personal Hogwarts.
Tewt the Newt, in the meantime, is getting tired of all the killing curses being flung about the house.