Small Stones – January 24 – Catching up from vacation

Hogwarts at a distance

Hogwarts at a distance

Universal Islands of Adventure. We lucked out choosing to go to Orlando at this time of year. Small crowds, short waits, comfortable temperatures (low 70s). I can’t imagine how miserable it would be at the height of summer crowds and summer heat. Oy.

Ride of the Day: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I am a Harry Potter fan, so naturally this would be a favorite, but I was surprised how good it was. The designers went to a lot of effort to amuse those in line as they snake through Hogwarts. We actually went so fast that we were wishing for some lines so that we could look at the displays and listen to the talking paintings and other things along the route. The ride itself was excellent. These simulations really make you feel like you are flying. I’d love to see the inner workings and figure out how they do it. How much does the seat actually move? We had to do this ride twice!

Runner up: The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man – Another 3D ride. You feel like you really are falling from the top of the skyscrapers down to street level. We did this one twice too!

Other fun…

  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster – This was a really twisty turny roller coaster. My husband wouldn’t try it—and I have to admit, it took my stomach a while to recover.
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls – This has to be one of the original rides at Universal. Do they even show Dudley Do-Right on TV anymore? The cheese factor is high, but if you like to get wet, this is a fun one. Or you can stand on the bridge and watch everyone else get wet…
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure – The cheese factor is high on this ride too. So-so animatronics, but a nice splash. Took a couple hours to dry off in the mild weather—would be great in the hot summer.
  • Flight of the Hippogriff – A family friendly rollercoaster in Harry Potter land, this was actually pretty good, but the 45-second ride did not merit the 45-minute wait.

I was disappointed the Dragon Challenge was closed for maintenance. Two rollercoasters flying past each other at high speeds. Looked fun–and scary!

All in all, it was worth a day at each Universal park in the off season, but I’m not sure I would ever visit during busy season.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot–when you visit Hogsmeade, be sure to try the Butterbeer!


For the mindfulness challenge at Writing Our Way Home. (Another large stone…)



Small Stones – January 23 – Catching up from vacation

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. The Morse Museum has an expansive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany works—stained glass windows, Tiffany lampshades, blown glass, jewelry, etc. It is well worth a couple hours’ visit if you are in Orlando.

I found the Daffodil Terrace from his home, Laurelton Hall, intriguing. It is an 18’x32′ terrace with eight marble columns, each topped with glass daffodils embedded in concrete. A display showed the evolution of how the daffodil flowers were made, first a single piece of yellow glass, then a more detailed single piece of yellow glass, then individual pieces of glass for each of the petals, carefully placed in the concrete.

More subtle than some of Tiffany’s other work (see the Chapel for magnificence), but lovely, lovely.


For the mindfulness challenge at Writing Our Way Home.

Small Stones – January 21 – Catching up from vacation

Orlando, Florida. This was a last-minute vacation, so we didn’t have a lot of planning time, but we did narrow it down to three possible attractions to visit: Universal Orlando, Kennedy Space Center, and Seaworld. When we read a bit more and realized Universal had two parks, we decided to spend two days there.

Now, my husband and I are museum-y kind of folks—we’re the boring aunt and uncle who take kids educational places. But I was excited to visit Universal for some real “fun”—thrills rather than thinking. I’d been to Disney and Epcot years before and found them a little too child-oriented. Universal seemed designed for adults as well.

As we walked from the parking garage to the park entrance, I had a strange feeling of déjà vu. Wait a minute! I’ve been here before! What?!?

I recognized that little stand between the parking garage exit and the walkway to the parks. Didn’t we buy a disposable camera there? And, hey, Spider Man! Somebody went on that ride. And we ate at that Mexican restaurant, didn’t we? Whoa. When was I here? Who was I with?

A picture of my sister came into my head. Her? And me? We wouldn’t have come here alone. Who did we bring? One of our little cousins? Maybe several years ago when we were here for a wedding?

I asked my sister and my cousin, and neither one of them could remember going together. It’s still a mystery…will have to keep asking…

But for now, my assessment of the rides we took at Universal Studios–from best to worst.

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – This 3D simulation was so good I decided I need to see the movie!
  • The Simpsons Ride – Another 3D simulation that is very entertaining. LOL.
  • Revenge of the Mummy – The mummy special effects were cheesy, but who doesn’t like a rollercoaster in the dark?
  • Shrek – A 3D movie with “4D” effects like getting sprayed with water when the dragon sneezes. Eh.
  • Men In Black Alien Attack – A shoot-‘em-up ride. Suffice it to say, I’m not very good at video games.
  • Terminator 2 in 3D – Live action, special effects and 3D film just didn’t work together.
  • Twister – Bad 80’s animatronics. Lame-o award.

Note: I didn’t get to ride on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit rollercoaster, which I am guessing would be at the top of my list. It looked scary! There are plenty of other kids rides as well–just not of interest to us.

Watch for Day 2 at Universal Islands of Adventure…


For the mindfulness challenge at Writing Our Way Home. (This is kind of a large stone, no?)