Harry Potter and the Wizarding Worlds at Universal Studios, 2017 Report
Sunday, December 3, 2017
By Tony Wootson
(Introduction) Back on the second weekend in July of this year I attended a family reunion. It was a Pace-Wootson affair, (which is my father's
side of the family) and took place down in Clermont, Florida.
(Background) I have some really fond memories visiting relatives down in Clermont as a kid. At the time, the area was filled mainly
with orange trees. I remember going up in a TALL tower and looking at all of the surrounding orange trees blanketing the area
in vibrant greenery.
I also remember swimming in a large lake, found at the bottom of a steep hill where some relatives lived. I swam with my two
brothers along with my Dad.
It had been many, MANY years since I last visited Clermont. I was really looking forward to this vacationing trip.
I also had an ulterior motive for wanting to take this trip. Universal Studios is located around 30 minutes away and with their
recent additions of two Harry Potter Wizarding Worlds at two of their theme parks, I was planning on visiting.
(Our drive down, along with our arrival) At 2:00 in the early morning on the Thursday before the reunion I was up, getting ready for our 15 hour, 1,000 mile drive
from Philadelphia to Clermont. A short time later my father and I were on the road, traveling down South, along I-95.
Dad ended up driving the first 4 or 5 hours, (while I tried to catch up on some sleep, to no avail). At somewhere around
7 or 7:30, I took over. (We were in Virginia). I ended up driving straight through, the rest of the way.
We arrived at somewhere around 6 in the evening. After getting lost several times with my most efficient Map Quest directions,
I finally found my way to the hotel where we were staying for the weekend.
(Friday through Sunday's activities at the Reunion) Registration took place on Friday, with a home-cooked dinner at a small, recreational building.
On Saturday the family was out at the park on Lake Minneola, for an elongated lunch. In addition to a dining area set up
inside an air-conditioned building, we also had a pavilion reserved, which was right on the lake.
Some of the children were swimming in the lake and others were playing at a small water park.
Two relatives who live down in Clermont had their boats out and were taking relatives for a boat ride on the lake.
A really good time was had by all in attendance.
For the Sunday of the reunion the family worshipped at church. (There is actually a Wootson Church, started by a relative,
where we were at).
Directly afterwards the family got together at a local community center for a late lunch/early dinner. After the scheduled program,
we parted, making our way back to the hotel.
(Monday - The Best Western Hotel and Resort in Orlando) On the Monday after the reunion Dad and I checked out and headed over to Orlando. I had obtained information for a AAA branch in
Orlando and we made our way there. I was able to get a GREAT, reduced hotel rate (for The Best Western Hotel and Resort in Orlando).
It's located 5 minutes away from Universal. In addition, using my AAA membership I was able to get reduced rate tickets for the theme parks.
(A Bit of a Universal Catch) One of the Great things about The Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter is that there are actually two of them: Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
Another really kewl thing about the Harry Potter experience at Universal is that the Hogwarts Express (train) connects both Harry Potter
worlds together, (with its own unique experience).
The not-sooooo-great thing about this is that the two Harry Potter worlds are located in two different theme parks,
(Universal Studios and Universal's Islands of Adventure). In order to visit both, along with riding the Hogwarts Express,
you have to purchase a 2-park ticket. (Oh, well, it is what it is...)
Since I thought that it would be too much trying to cram the full Harry Potter experience into one day, I decided to purchase
a 2-park ticket for 2 days.
After picking up the tickets we made our way over to The Best Western. Since it was already mid-day, I decided to wait until
Tuesday to start my adventure. We went out to grab a bite to eat and then returned for the day.