Fun in the Florida sun, Wizarding World of Harry Potter & What I watched during my vacation

Hello everyone! So I’m kinda back from vacation though I haven’t blogged a single thing since I’m back, well except for this post. I’m hoping to start in the swing of things and write reviews again before I forget how, ahah. I have like five reviews I still have to write hopefully by end of the month. I literally had to write a note on my phone last night which movies I saw in the last three weeks that I haven’t reviewed yet:

  • The Water Diviner
  • The Woman in Gold
  • Far From the Madding Crowd
  • Felony
  • Paddington

We’ll see which one I’m in the mood to write next 🙂

Ok so, the Florida trip… well it was a blast!! We pretty much got to everything we set out to do, except for Disney’s Animal Kingdom as the forecast said it might rain that day. So here’s my recap:

Clearwater Beach

We kinda started late in the day and it was about an hour drive from our hotel in Tampa. By the time we got there it was mid afternoon and the place was packed!! We didn’t swim – I’m actually not a big ocean swimmer, if I want to swim I’d hit the pool – but we did walk around barefoot on the soft, white sand beach and dip our feet in the ocean to cool off.


Tarpon Springs

I’m so glad we managed to fit in this small Greek town about 40-min north of Clearwater. It’s such a picturesque little town with a small harbor. The town has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US and the historic downtown is lined with Greek restaurants/bars and shops. We had one of the best Greek food for dinner with one of the best views!

NASA Kennedy Space Center

On our way to Orlando from Tampa, we fit in a visit to the Kennedy Space Center. There wasn’t a crowd at all on Sunday so it was perfect.


The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

We took on a bus tour around the vast NASA facilities, including some of the rocket launch sites at Cape Canaveral. We didn’t get inside the VAB building though, just went around it. It didn’t seem THAT big but apparently you could fit three Empire State Buildings comfortably inside this, wow!

My favorite part is the new Atlantis exhibit. I think if you’re a space nut or someone who’s really into sci-fi would get a kick out of this one.

Universal Studios – Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Monday was Harry Potter day! We could see the Hogwarts Tower from our hotel window as Universal Studios is only about a mile away.

The place was packed and it was well worth getting the Park-to-Park tickets so we could get to both Harry Potter sites: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The latter is no doubt my favorite and it’s a bit cooler in there. We spent the most time at Diagon Alley and we had lunch at Leaky Cauldron in which was a rustic tavern like place with a kind of a communal seating area with long tables and benches.

One of the highlights was definitely riding the Hogwarts Express itself that takes us from Hogsmeade right to Diagon Alley!

I’m quite impressed with these two parks. Seems that they went to great lengths in creating a fun experience for HP fans and paid attention to the small details from the architecture, down to the food and beverage – those BUTTERBEER seems to be quite a hit! I especially love the architecture of Diagon Alley with all the shops. I’m not as huge a fan of HP to fully appreciate every detail but I still enjoyed them. The only disappointing thing for me was there’s nothing on Snape at all, not a single statue or even Snape-related souvenir item. Trust me, I actually asked a couple of people about that.

Second best part of the HP experience is the Escape from Gringotts ride. It’s my fave ride of the entire Universal Orlando, and we went to about five of them including the Transformers and Spiderman rides. The wait was the longest too, but the inside of the ride was beautifully decorated and as you entered the Gringotts Bank, there were lifelike goblins working at their stations and sometimes they look up from their papers to stare at people waiting in line. Creepy but fun!

If you’re ever in the Universal Walk area, make sure you stop by The Crowfish which is a fusion type bar/restaurant for their awesome sushi and burger fusion dishes. I actually had the delicious Bento box and my hubby had sushi w/ burger meat that’s absolutely smashing! Great ambience too, definitely our favorite restaurants from the entire trip!


Downtown Disney

On our last day in Orlando, we just spent our time in Downtown Disney. Now that we think about it, we really should’ve gone to Animal Kingdom instead as the rain was kind of sporadic anyway.

It’s kind of disheartening to see all the bastardization of the Star Wars paraphernalia. I mean, they basically added Mickey Mouse ears to most of the iconic SW characters. Needless to say, we didn’t buy anything at the plethora of Disney stores.

Vader and Leia w/ Mickey Mouse ears! My hubby’s not impressed.

Movies/TV Watched During Vacation

I only had time to watch stuff on the plane or when we’re bat at the hotel.

Nazi/Hitler documentary on American Heroes Channel

It’s a rather dark subject to watch during vacation but my hubby ended up watching a couple of hours worth of Hitler documentary, mostly concentrating on his youth and how he became the monster that he was. It’s more of a re-enactment documentary, not just talking heads. Interesting though that it’s in a channel called American Heroes (??)

The Rewrite


I saw this on the plane and mostly because I love Marisa Tomei. It actually turns out to be pretty good for a rom-com. I mean it’s kinda predictable but sweet, and it was rather fun seeing Hugh Grant poking fun at his previous roles as a Jane Austen hero. Not a bad rental if you like this kind of stuff.

Frozen (rewatch)

I can’t help rewatching this one on the plane ride back. It just always puts me in a good mood. Funny but Let It Go is actually my least fave song of the whole movie! Olaf’s In Summer song however, never fails to put a smile on my face!

SHOWTIME’s Penny Dreadful Season 2 (2 episodes)


I don’t know which episodes they are but since I’ve read a few articles/reviews on the show (yes because of Timothy Dalton’s involvement), I pretty much knew what the show is about. Boy is it ever terrifying, I don’t think I could watch this alone in my basement without my hubby in the room. The violence is really quite brutal and the satanic stuff is REALLY creepy, but the production design is top notch. Seriously they threw money at this show like nobody’s business, they certainly don’t skimp on the set, costumes, ambience, etc.


Hope I didn’t bore you with my recap folks… So how’s your week been, seen anything good lately?

48 thoughts on “Fun in the Florida sun, Wizarding World of Harry Potter & What I watched during my vacation

  1. Tom

    Not a boring post at all Ruth! Always fun to see updated pics from Universal Studios, reminds me of the few times I got to go down there and visit friends who were studying in Orlando. That was back in 2005/06/07, so well before HP World had been developed. We were always going into Islands of Adventure and we must have ridden that Hulk roller coaster a dozen times a day. Haha. Not very good for your head, I’m sure, but man those were some good times. Every time I see pics from that place I get nostalgic.

    1. Hi Tom! They certainly have made a ton of updates since you came. I’ve actually only been to the Universal in CA and the only reason I went to the Orlando one is because of the HP theme parks. I didn’t see the Hulk roller coaster, but I’m a bit too old for rides, ahah. The few rides we took were fun though, esp the Gringotts one.

  2. I haven’t been down to Florida before. Looks like you had a fun time seeing all the attractions. I would love to try that ButterBeer and hop aboard the Hogwart Express lol. Penny Dreadful is a show I’ve been meaning to give a chance, the way you describe sounds like my kind of show haha.

    1. Hi Eddie! You live here in the States right? Hope one day you get to visit Universal in Orlando. My hubby likes the ButterBeer but it’s way too sweet for me. The Hogwarts Express is awesome though, they really made the experience just perfect for HP fans.

      Ahah I think you’d love Penny Dreadful. I think the satanic stuff is what I dislike most, but overall the story is very intriguing.

            1. I didn’t realize Van city is the slang for Vancouver until you mentioned this. I thought it was an actually city called Van, mwahaha. I LOVE Vancouver, we should meet up when I visit there again, and you should come visit MN. We have similar weather 😀

    1. Thanks Cindy! I’m actually not that fond of such hot & humid weather but I suppose it’s to be expected in FL. It’s definitely a much-needed break for both of us 🙂

  3. it’s been more than a decade since I went to Florida. It’s been 20 years since I last went to Disney World and Orlando. Wow… it’s been that long. I would love to go to the Harry Potter world although I’m not fond of the drivers in Florida, especially in Miami.

    1. Hi Steven! Oh you’re so right about the drivers in FL. They’re horrible!! We noticed that when we drove from Orlando – Tampa, they’re so rude compared to MN drivers. The HP parks are awesome though, definitely made with HP fans in mind.

  4. Wow this really makes me nostalgic about Florida. I had some great family holidays there but haven’t been for about 17 or 18 years. I bet the theme parks have changed massively (certainly no Harry Potter when I last went!). Looks like you had a great time.

    1. Hi Stu! I’ve only been to the Universal Studios in CA but yeah seems that there are always new stuff every few years but the HP parks are a massive addition and they did a wonderful job! If you’re a fan of HP or even just a casual observer, I think you’d enjoy them.

      1. Last time I went there I remember they had a Back To The Future ride and I think they’d just brought in a Terminator-related ride too. This must have been about 98 or 99!

        1. Oh I actually forgot about the Terminator ride! We almost went there but forgot somehow and we had been so tired by that time. We did go to the SpiderMan one though, that was fun. Not sure how long that ride’s been there.

  5. abbiosbiston

    I am SO jealous of your trip to HP World! I am been to the Warner Brother’s Studio tour but it doesn’t have rides 😦

    1. Hi Abbi! Hope you get to visit there soon. The ride was fun but it’s more of the experience of being in HP world that’s more memorable. They did an awesome job!

  6. Looks like you guys had a fun time down in FL, I’ve only been to Miami but maybe I’ll visit this area the next time I go there. Florida somehow is not a state I want to visit often, probably because it’s too humid down there and I hate feeling sweaty all the time. LOL.

    Besides MAD MAX, I haven’t seen anything new lately. Just been playing around with my Atmos set up at home, I actually watched JAWS on Bluray, I bought the disc months ago but totally forgot to watch it. I haven’t seen the movie in years and I think I like it better now that I saw it in HD format, the look and sound is spectacular on Blu. I always thought the film is one of the most overrated in history, I might have to change my mind now that I’ve watched it again and really got what the film’s really about. Of course Spielberg’s direction was incredible, he’s only 27 years old at the time but you can tell he’s a great talent with only his second feature film.

    1. Hi Ted, oh I’m with you that I wouldn’t want to live in FL. It’s way too hot & humid there plus the drivers are just horrible. It made me appreciate MN drivers more now.

      Well as you know I really enjoyed Gravity in 3D. I’m curious about Jaws, I bet it looks great. Crazy to think that was Spielberg’s second feature film!

      1. Yeah I could never live down there in FL, it’s too muggy and I’ve heard people are just too rude. I know I’ve complained about MN’s winter many times but it’s still one of the best places to live in States. The only other place I’d move to is San Francisco but of course it’s way too expensive there.

        Oh yeah JAWS looks great on Bluray, I watched the restoration process and they really went overboard by cleaning the original film negatives and enhanced the sound for Bluray, Spielberg was really impressed with the transfer. I think I may have mentioned this story already but apparently some famous actress at the time was pissed that Spielberg wouldn’t cast her in the film and went up to him during a premiere party and told him that he would never make it in Hollywood. Of course the film became a big hit and launched his career, people tried to get him to name that actress but being who he is, he never say who it was. I always suspect it was Faye Dunaway, she’s very famous at that time and she’d never worked with Spielberg.

        1. PrairieGirl

          Hey Ted, long time no me! Your climate assements are correct, that’s exactly why I want to move to FL ASAP 😀
          You and Flixy can stay here in my alma mater Minnesota, But you both must promise to visit me in FL when I move there (yes, it’s my dream, really,) in spite of the weather. Wow, Jaws, I lived through the cinema showings in the ’70s. Talk about hype, You’re so correct! Jaws took the prize back then.
          Stay cool,

          1. PrairieGirl

            Btw, I lived in the SFO Bay Area for three years, the people there are snotty and snobbish too. Unfortunately you only feel their wrath when living there, not just visiting. Buyer (and mover) be ware! But the lure of either the West or East coast beckons…

    1. Hi Fernando! Hey at least you live pretty close to the theme parks in Anaheim 🙂 Did you hear about a comic-con type event that Disney is doing there? I’d love to go to that!

      1. Yes, that’s true 🙂 I’m also close to Universal Studios Hollywood, so I’ll be able to go to Wizarding World once it opens there!

        Ah, yes! D23. It’s been going on for a few years now. I really want to go as well

          1. Oh no, I meant the con’s been going on for a few years now. I’ve yet to visit but really want to. However, I might be going to Disneyland in June for my birthday!

  7. Some great photos Ruth! Nice to see two Aussie films in that list.

    I’d love to hear what you thought of Felony. I thought Tom Wilkinson was awesome…. he is British right? Cos in Felony he sounds just as yobbo Aussie as the rest of the cast!!!

    I vote you review Felony first!! 😛

    1. Hi Jordan! I’ve just posted my review of Far from the Madding Crowd but yeah, I might review Felony next. Wilkinson is a Brit indeed, I wasn’t sure how good his Aussie accent was as I’m not from there but good to hear you think he pulled it off! I think both him and Joel Edgerton were very good!

      1. He sounded just as yobbo as I do. he was perfect, I had to look him up to find out that he was British. Surely he was raised here or lived here for a while, it sounded so natural; I have never heard an actor from abroad pull off such a pitch perfect Aussie accent. All of the attempts I have heard have been awwwwwwful (Robert Dwny Jnr in NBK anyone????)

        1. Hi Jordan! I guess we shouldn’t be surprised Wilkinson pulled off the Aussie accent, he’s such a tremendous actor. It also seems so effortless.

  8. PrairieGirl

    Bored? Are you kidding! Any FL vacay travelogue is music to my ears 😍. This is exactly what I wanted… I was looking forward to seeing and hearing about your annual romantic getaway… How many wedding anniversary years now? I’m afraid to guess but is it more than 10? And about that retweet, go girl go!
    Glad you’re back, work is (much) less interesting without you (big grin)
    Lots of love,

    1. Hi Becky, sorry for the late reply! You should just move to FL, seems that you like heat more than I do 🙂 Yes, it’s been 12 years, hard to believe we’ve been married that long but I guess that’s a good thing 😀

  9. It’s always awesome hearing about vacay stories – more so seeing photos 😀

    I tried Penny Dreadful, way back when. It absolutely bored me to tears. I was hoping for so much more! Sad sad 😦

    1. Hi Jaina! Penny Dreadful boring? Hmmm, maybe that’s the case w/ season 1 but the two episodes I saw were pretty exciting IMHO.

  10. Sorry we missed each other but it looks like you guys had a great trip. As a Potter buff, I can go to WWoHP and never get bored. It’s funny that you mention there isn’t any Snape stuff in the park. Maybe it has to do with licensing certain characters? Now that I think of it there isn’t many character-centered merchandise in the parks except a few appearances here and there. 😀

    1. Hi Katy, sorry I missed your comment. So you’re just in Orlando too recently? Very cool! Yeah maybe that’s the case though I thought that JK Rowling had a hand in designing the park so I’d think she has the rights to all of the characters. In any case it was a fun time!

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