butterbeer, Express Pass, Fantasyland, FastPass, Forbidden Journey, Hogwarts, Islands of Adventure, magic, Magic Kingdom, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, Theme Park, Themed Entertainment, Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, Wizarding World of Harry Potter
If you are giggling right now, then I know you catch the reference in my article’s title this week ;-). Ordinarily, I select some sort of theme to write about in regards to a theme park itself or attraction. But this week, I thought I would take a lighter approach to my weekly article on themed entertainment and write about my experiences this past weekend. Most weekends, you can find me in the parks of Central/West Central Florida. Living within a short driving distance of the parks, I generally do a lot of park hopping. What is park hopping, you ask? It’s when you spend a few hours in different parks throughout the day. Essentially, hopping from one to the other. Since I live here, I don’t feel as if I need to spend a significant amount of time in any one park. Honestly, I find that sometimes you can get just as much accomplished in a few hours in the evening than in an entire day. Anyway. I had a few notable experiences that I just wanted to share. Anytime something extra special happens to me while I am in a park, I refer to it as magic. Partially because having worked at Walt Disney World for a few years, I often referred to extra special actions throughout the day as “making magic.” But, magic in the parks is not limited to just Disney, but they all have a certain magic.
Steamy hot summers are just part and parcel to living in central and south Florida. Living here, you figure out ways to still enjoy the parks while not falling down dead from heat stroke. Haha. From knowing which snacks or beverages are the most refreshing to alternating between indoor and outdoor attractions or simply visiting a store between rides. Sometimes a combination of the aforementioned works out the best.
Saturday afternoon, following flying around on a bench and helping Harry defeat dementors and such on Forbidden Journey in Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure, I was definitely in the mood for something refreshing prior to boarding the Hogwarts Express to Kings Cross Station at Universal Studios. My friend Nelson and I were walking past the Butterbeer cart near Dragon Challenge when I decide to get a frozen butterbeer. Often, the line is really long and I just assume wait until the slower seasons but the line wasn’t too bad this time. After about 5mins of waiting, I was ready to place my order when Nelson asks if his Universal team member discount applies to the cart. Much like with the annual passholder discounts, his too was only applicable at indoor locations. The young lady suggested that we go inside Three Broomsticks to the bar and order one there.
Taking her advice, Nelson and I walked over to the former Enchanted Oak restaurant, now the Three Broomsticks, and head to the bar. Didn’t take long to notice that the line for the bar wrapped completely around the room. I commented that we were better off in the outside line and no discount. Back outside we went. Walking past that same cart again, the line was even longer than before, so I decided that butterbeer wasn’t all that important. Or was it? I proceeded to wait in the line again for my refreshing frozen butterbeer. Having to wait 10 minutes this time, I anxiously awaited the frozen beverage delight! Not to my surprise, it was the same citizen of Hogsmeade that I encountered earlier. She was just as pleasant as she was before, which is difficult to do on a blistering hot day. We both exchanged a few giggles because it was obviously that she knew that I had returned to her cart because the line was too long inside. After she poured my butterbeer with marshmallowy froth from the taps, I handed her my card and she replied “no charge.” WOW! How incredibly thoughtful. The last thing I expect is to get anything complimentary in the parks. This incredibly unexpected magical encounter in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter certainly helped to brighten my day and make my friend Nelson a little jealous. Haha.
The magic did not stop at WWoHP, but I experienced some more magic later on Saturday evening. After finishing up at Universal, and making a stop at SeaWorld for a couple hours, my friends and I headed over to Magic Kingdom to meet up with a couple more folks. While on the monorail, the couple of friends that we were meeting starting booking FastPasses and relaying to us which ones the selected. This whole process would’ve been a lot easier had we all been linked on the MyDisneyExperience app. Sometimes, I forget to add people or neglect mentioning to them to add me. Moving along. After some adding, cancelling, and searching, it was apparent that everyone grabbed the last slots except me. Thankfully the lines were fairly short–even for a non summer day. Perks of going in the evening. So, I wasn’t too worried. I imagined that someone in our group would wait in standby with me as as to not ride alone. However, riding alone is something I do quite often, so nothing new there. Out of our group of five, only two were able to snatch up FPs (by was of a re-addmittance card) for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train earlier in the evening. Unfortunately, that meant that three of us had to wait in standby.
After riding It’s a Small World and the iconic Tea Cups (note: the trick to not getting sick is to spin your tea cup in the same direction as the platform) we all decided to get some ice cream. While across from Mine Train, Jason thought about asking the greeter at the attraction if he would add the three of us to his re-add. If you are familiar with how strict FP and re-add policies have become, you know that this may as well be a fool’s errand. Jason told us to start walking to our next stop which was Splash Mountain and he’d catch up. As we began walking across Fantasyland, and commenting how Jason’s quest was not going to pan out well, we did not get past the carousel when he came up to us and told us that we had been added! So, now all five of us could go through the FastPass line. Sweet! And I thought getting my free butterbeer was as magical as it was going to get on Saturday. Experiencing some them park magic in Fantasyland, how apropos!
Whether I experience extra special magic in the parks or not, I will always enjoy going. There is just something so uniquely experiential in the ability to casually enjoy the parks at my leisure. However, it is times like the ones I have mentioned that even surprise even me! In addition to the encounters I highlighted in this article, I also experienced receiving express passes from Universal Guest Relations after leaving a compliment for the Hogsmeade merchant and getting accommodated in the FP queue at Space Mountain. So, four magical experiences in one day in the parks!