By leaving the friendly confines of the Disney grounds, this meant we had to find our own transportation, meals and anything else today. We caught a taxi to the park and suffered through the ticket line to get our passes, then hit the park. After you walk past all of the themed restaurants, theaters and 10am margarita stands the first thing you see is the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster towering above the walkway. We entertained ourselves with the screams of grown men and women before hitting the Marvel Comics themed area of the park. This was a bit of a surprise and guilty pleasure for me, I had completely forgotten that all this Marvel stuff existed at Universal so the kids had to indulge me as I wandered into the gift shops and got our pictures taken with Spider-Man and the other costumed characters wandering about. A cashier at one shop foolishly offered me 10% off if I could name all the characters on a t-shirt of his choosing. I crushed his little quiz and took my discount. If only he knew the Galactus levels of comic book geekery he was messing with! Unfortunately Cam was too short to go on the Spider-Man Daily Bugle ride so we did a little more shopping and then moved on. As much as I loved the Marvel stuff, my first impression of Universal was "expensive."
The comic strip portion of the park wasn't all that great and was really just in our way, then we trudged through the Jurassic Park area since once again Bean was too short to ride anything but the Pterodactyl ride and it was an hour wait. No thanks! Thankfully Harry Potter and Hogsmeade awaited us after walking past a few dozen dino-themed eateries and gift shops.
The reproduction of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, at least on the outside, is outstanding. It's truly amazing to behold just how cool this looks as you're walking up to it. Unfortunately, once you get into the park there's not much too it. Hogsmeade is lined with stores from the Harry Potter universe and you can browse places such as Honeydukes, Dervish and Bangles, Olivander's Wand Shop and Zonko's. Olivander's is really neat. After a lengthy wait to get into the store, they put on a ten minute "wizard choosing" where a child is selected at random and they go through an act similar to the movie where a wand chooses the lucky kid. After that you're smartly ushered into the shop to buy a replica wand of your very own. Did I mention this place was expensive?
Outside of the shops about all there is left of Hogsmeade is the Three Broomsticks restaurant. We decided to make our pit stop here and ordered some semi-authentic Harry Potter fare. I do have to say the butter beer and pumpkin juice was very tasty. Cori wants to go back just for the butter beer. Like everything else at Universal the lunch was again, very expensive. We ate and drank our fill and moved along to see what wonders Hogwarts held for us.
Unfortunately, Hogwarts turned out to be a bit of a bust. For as beautiful and imposing the place is from the outside, all they have on the inside is a kid of indoor rollercoaster that once again Cam was too short for, and a gift shop with more expensive goodies inside. I had expected at least a bit of exploring or set pieces to be available but that was it. Thankfully we were able to ride the little Hippogriff rollercoaster outside Hagrid's shack, somehow Camryn was tall enough to ride this one but not much else. It moved fairly fast and had some great drops and turns, and being her first rollercoaster I wasn't sure what to expect, but pretty much the instant the cart stopped she looked at me and said "let's ride again Daddy!" So we did! After wearing this ride out we were again disappointed by the Dragon Challenge's height requirements and decided to bid Harry Potter farewell and make our way out of the park.
On our way out we passed by the Poseidon's Fury attraction and since it had virtually no wait time we headed in. The attendant gave Bean a look and warned me that it was "dark, noisy and scary" inside and I told her that she'd love it then. The "ride", if you want to call it that, was ok, they set it up pretty well with actors and neat sets, but the super cheesy 80's special affects in the big finale kinda ruined it for us, with Cori giving it a big eyeroll. At that point we figured our our day at Universal was done. We ended up catching a few little rides at the Dr. Seuss portion of the park and then made our way home. It had been over 90 degrees all day and we were a little worn out.
After naps and showers we settled on dinner here at the hotel and all decided on an evening in to recharge for another big day tomorrow. I think we'll give Disney Hollywood Studios a shot before we head to the very fancy 1900 Park Fair restaurant for Cori's birthday dinner with a cast of Disney Characters. She's really excited for this and I hope she enjoys it, she really deserves something special for being such an awesome kid.
The kids are snoring and it's probably time I join them. Maybe after I read a chapter or two. Hey, I'm still on Colorado time, the night is young!