I've been back in the States for several weeks now, trying to sort out my life, get some jobs, earn money and will my way back onto European soil. Aside from the stress and anxiety that can accompany any massive transition, I am also trying to do my best to enjoy the wonderful opportunities and experiences I currently have access to. First on the list? An American-style road trip from Connecticut to Florida. Why? To visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
As most people, from friends to family to distant acquaintance know, I have a great love of all things glimmering, magical and full of fantasy. I am also wildly obsessed with Harry Potter. So when I realized that I would have to come home to New York for a few months to sort out my visa, it seemed like the perfect time to head South and experience the decadent theme park. I recruited one of my sisters who also hearts sweet sweet HP and we plotted our adventure. Since she isn't a fan of flying in planes and I am no longer a fan of driving cars, we made a pact to road trip there and back, with her primarily at the wheel.
We left on a Tuesday evening with the grand intention of driving the 16 or so hours it would take us to get to Orlando pretty much straight. And aside from a few rest stops, a lot of rain, and an hour of sleep amidst the teamster parking, we did just that. We managed to arrive at the quirky Cabana Bay Hotel at around 3pm, fairly exhausted but excited to begin our magical flight of fancy. The hotel has a retro 60s theme so it was right up our alley in terms of nuanced absurdity. Sadly, it was still raining throughout the day so we couldn't take advantage of the pools and waterslide dominating the back of the hotel. We were, however, able to get the lay of the land and plan our course of action for the following day.
Universal Studios is of course a large theme park with several different pieces. Our hotel was on Universal property which gave us a few perks, including the fact that we were within a 15-minute walk to the City Walk, a public space adjoining the parks. We took some time to explore the hotel inside and out, then make the journey to the City Walk for dinner. We hunkered down at a sports bar-style restaurant and finally had a relatively decent meal. While I had the high hopes of indulging in a post-dinner digestif before heading to bed, my sister finally got her way and convinced me to call it a night once we got back to our room. The fact that a 16-hour drive had finally caught up with me was admittedly the deciding vote.
I can't say that the road part of our trip was notably exciting other than some Harry Potter quiz time and a lot of show tunes, but it was all worth it for what would follow the next day. The most important perk of staying on Universal property was that we would be able to enter the Studios an hour before public admission in order to head right over to Harry Potter World. As we discovered over the next couple of days, that one hour would make a world of difference in seeing all there was to be seen. Our early night was by far the best antidote for exhaustion so that we could get up bright eyed and bushy tailed for our first day of daring dreams.