February 2015 Trip Report – A Harry Potter Celebration – Day 2
I woke up and got ready in time for early entry to Universal Studios. I got to the lobby of the Royal Pacific about twenty minutes prior and together, with my folks, walked the rest of the way. Once in we transferred my dad to a wheelchair and jumped into the Gringott’s queue. I loved watching their reaction to the bank lobby. The huge space, gigantic chandeliers and of course the several animatronic gnomes strewed throughout the perimeters. Unfortunately something also quite often occurs while waiting for the Escape from Gringotts attraction, a ride delay due to the ride breaking down. We decided to try and wait it out and eventually it came upon 8:45am and I simply could not wait any longer. My mom assured me she could handle my dad in the wheelchair so I jumped the line and headed to the exit.
What could possibly be so important to abandon not only Gringotts but also the park? Picking up the credentials for the Social Media Meet Up event happening after the park closes. Off to the side of the park arches a little table was setup where you check in and to receive your meet up packet. Inside I found a park map, schedule for the weekends celebration events, a Harry Potter button, and most importantly a lanyard with your admission credential. I was able to pickup my guests packet as well.
I re-entered the park and worked my way right back to the Diagon Alley area to reconnect with my parents. I was happy to see the attraction was indeed running and seeing the parked scooters belonging to my folks assured me they didn’t abandon the line. Before to much longer I found them at the exit and I was excited to hear my mom enjoyed it and declared she would ride it again. I thought for sure that would be a one and done scenario but she surprised me with that. We took some time moving about Diagon Alley and the side streets soaking in the immersion.
They did have a couple of other rides left on their bucket list so we did exit the area and make our way to Transformers and then on to E.T. Unfortunately we did find we were about 20 minutes early as the entire Kid Zone area was not open until 10:00am. At this point I had to correct a little something when it became apparent my dad had never been on Minion Mayhem. My mother does not do well with that sort of simulator attraction so she went shopping as we enjoyed the Minion attraction. My dad enjoyed it and appreciated it’s humor. Once reunited it was E.T. or bust. Love that ride, love that queue. Hope it can avoid the demolition list forever.
We had our fun in the park and decided an early lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe was in order. The Hard Rock Cafe is a great place to eat, it has a nice variety, fun atmosphere, with a lot of music history. On this particular day I went with the local Legendary Burger. Apparently mac and cheese between a couple of burgers is brilliant because I loved it. Washing it down with a few Flat Tires only added to the brilliance. I will say this ultimately was a poor choice for lunch as the moment I ate it I could feel in my belly like it was led. It didn’t prevent me from my plans or anything but I now had no interest in eating anything… Ever again.
Before heading back to Cabana Bay, I said goodbye to my parents at the Royal Pacific Hotel. I had plans for the remainder of my day and they were flying back home first thing in the morning. Took a small rest at the room with that Legendary burger sitting strong in my stomach.
Back to the studios to hang out with some friends. I met up with Meg first to give her the social media meet up credentials. From here we went to the Harry Potter expo. There were a lot of picture opportunities as well as merchandise and the sort of things any fan would want to see. Proceeded to Diagon after because… Why wouldn’t you. Brandon got into the park later on and the group grew. So much fun just hanging out, drinking beers. Good times.
As it got near to check in time for the event we made plans to meet up with some of the others after. Check in was over by LaBamba and not knowing what was going on we were there early just in case. Turned out this was unnecessary but better to be safe than sorry. The opening ceremony was going on for the celebration over at the main stage. After checking to make sure it was ok, we went over and watched some of that unfold before getting back to LaBamba. Promptly at 6pm (which was also the park closing time) they began walking the group of us toward Diagon Alley. There appeared to be about 20 winners as the group appeared to be about 40 strong.
Diagon Alley is a marvel anytime, but in the evening with the lights its even more spectacular. The light and the shadows make it appear even more realistic and of course the fire from the dragon that much more noticeable. We began by taking group pictures outside of Gringotts Bank. Next we were brought into the grand bank lobby where Alan Gilmore, gave us a personalized tour. Alan, is the art directory of several of the films and visionary of the attraction Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts. Alan talked about his experiences in building the attraction and also stopped to answer any questions people might have along the way. He was gracious enough when the group was struggling to hear him to basically cut us in half to two smaller groups and give the presentation twice.
Once Alan answered all of our questions we were moved along deeper into the queue where we were introduced to the MinaLima team. They were a design team from the films who’s crown jewel was the Daily Prophet. I wish I could remember the names but they told funny stories and enlightened us on a lot of the obstacles they encountered in both the films and in Diagon Alley itself. Once all of our questions were answered the moved us along to actually ride the attraction.
The more I ride Gringotts the more I like it. I guess in particular if all of the effects are working naturally you are going to enjoy it more. This particular evening was spot on. Every effect, I am aware of at least, seemed to be working and it was a fantastic ending to the two presentations that were ahead of us. Once we exited the attraction we lined up for more pictures at which time the Phelps twins and Evy Lynch surprised us with a photo bomb. I did think Meg was about to lose it, and it was a lot of fun seeing her get a chance to talk to both of the twins. I was having so much fun watching Meg I hadn’t noticed Evy was even out there. At this point, the quest for a good selfie with Evy was on. The team tried to move the actors away as quickly as possible. They apparently had another function going on as well.
As things were winding down we were offered our choice of butterbeer out in the alley itself after which they escorted us from the park. It was a pretty amazing experience. If any one of those events were to happen you would call it a great day. Even as I reflect back I am still amazed at how fantastic that evening was.
We met back up with our friends and contemplated where to eat. I actually was still not very hungry from that early Legendary burger from the Hard Rock Cafe, but I knew I better get something. I suggested we go to the Kitchen after they described what they were sort of looking for. The Kitchen is a great restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel that hardly ever gets a mention. We were seated after only a few moments and we all sat down for a good wind down meal. I only got a wedge salad so nothing major to report here but I assure you the Kitchen is a fantastic place off the radar that is great quality for the price. You can be assured you will over pay everywhere you go in a resort like this, so you might as well get good food.
We all said our goodbye’s and I made my way back to the hotel to call it a night.