Universal Studios, Pre-Sharknado

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I love theme parks. I love them hard. “Visit every theme park on the planet” is maybe not my number one goal in life, but it is surely in the top five. I recently went on a trip with Will to Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, and I can safely say that my vacation goal of “go on every ride at the theme park” was met and, in some cases, met repeatedly.

There was a ton of stuff to see at the two parks–a lot of which I got to relive during last week’s premiere of sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated Sharknado 3: OH HELL NO–but my three main points of interest, as they are in life, boiled down to: Harry Potter, The Simpsons, and Jurassic Park.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

This was the big draw. We’d heard nothing but good things (a large percentage of which were about the butterbeer) and I wanted to see it for myself and go on all the whimsical rides and maybe even answer the age-old question: does a trip to Harry Potter land reinvigorate an author’s love for writing, or remind one of the depressing impossibility of ever growing to such levels of superfandom? The answer: both.

(Our other goal–and yes, I’m aware of the toxic levels of selfishness here–was to enjoy the park while it was still just the two of us and we didn’t have any small humans running afoul of a Death Eater and potentially getting transfigured into ferrets.)

Because we are sticklers for realism, we did the parks in the order that Harry himself did, starting at Diagon Alley.

Which was amazing. They really got it right. No detail was overlooked. Ollivander’s was immense, Knockturn Alley was creepy, the Leaky Cauldron was delicious, the dragon atop Gringotts breathed real fire, and the butterbeer was as good as everyone said it was.

IMG_20150519_123059Not pictured: the subsequent sugar coma

From there, we hopped on the Hogwarts express. No one believes me when I tell them this, but the train was actually one of the coolest rides–it’s not wild or thrilling like any of the others, but I thought the special effects were unbelievably cool. Let’s put it this way: of the six people in our compartment, one of which was a five-year-old, I was the one letting out the most delighted squeals.

20150519_140546Hey, Hedwig. ‘Sup.

We then arrived in Hogsmeade, booked it up to Hogwarts, and went on the crazy Quidditch ride therein. I loved it. Will loved it…the first time. Will’s stomach was not as enthused the second time.

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Springfield

It only takes me a couple of minutes in any given conversation for me to bust out with a Simpsons reference. It is as essential to my vocabulary as the word “the”. So I was pretty groin-grabbingly (see?) excited to tour the Simpsons area of the park.

The Simpsons ride, I’ll admit, is pretty crappy. It’s a motion simulator and the technology is a bit dated, the footage was grainy, and it just wasn’t up to par with the other rides in the park. But the replicas of landmarks in Springfield were fantastic.

And of course, I had to drink a Flaming Moe’s.

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Jurassic Park

Anyone who’s read HELLHOLE knows: I love me some dinosaurs. There aren’t many rides in the Jurassic Park area, but there is one log flume-y type thing with some sad, not-always-functional animatronics.

The best part were these little guys fighting over a dead employee’s shirt.

20150520_103031“GIVE IT UP, LARRY.”

Actually, my favorite part of the Jurassic Park area was the visitor’s center, which was designed to look exactly like the one in the movie. Inside you could learn more about dinosaurs, play dinosaur-themed games, and even get yourself made into a dinosaur, an exercise that shall produce nightmare fuel for decades to come.

20150520_111053“I’m an abomination!”

There were loads of other fun stuff, but if I talked about everything we’d be here forever. If you crave more, check out my Tumblr page for more photos, or just watch Sharknado 3. I’ll leave you as I always do, with a dog in a tuxedo.

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