The air was filled with swishing wands as junior wizards wearing cloaks tried their hand at making it rain, or lighting candles with only their magic.
Well, that and the help of an electronic device (the wand) that when moved in proper sequence would make things happen – like real magic.
It was all quite magical, which is what The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, at Universal Orlando is supposed to be. As fans of the Harry Potter movies (thanks to my kids), my wife and I and a couple of friends recently visited the theme park to ride the rides, sample the food, and generally spend way too much money.
I mean, who knew a wand would cost that much?
I am not going to give a blow by blow the park – this is not a commercial. But trust me when I say that if you are a Harry Potter fan you will love the park. It is incredibly detailed and immersive.
But it is also very, very expensive. So, if you plan to go – especially if you are taking kids – start planning and saving now and possibly consider selling a kidney. And get the Express Pass. Yes, it is an added expense. But unless you want to spend most of your time standing in line it is worth the money.
This was my first trip to Orlando, and only my third trip to Florida. I am just not sold on the state. The humidity is extreme, the bugs were everywhere and Florida seems to be a mixture of swamps and strip malls … and bad traffic.
I’m sure the winters are lovely, but I am not convinced.
One of my favorite things about going to places like theme parks and airports is the people watching. There is a cross section of humanity is crowded spaces that we don’t see in our everyday lives.
At the park, I was struck by the clothing choices people make, especially young people – although the fanny pack generation seems to be going strong.
When you are facing a long day walking in hot, humid weather, you should consider your clothing choices carefully. Wear comfortable shoes, shorts and a shirt in a color like white.
But I saw a lot of people wearing all black – black shoes, black shorts or pants and a black shirt. Some even wore heals with these outfits. Can you imagine walking around all day in heals?
If you decide to wear all black and heals to walk round an amusement park in the Florida heat all day you deserve the blisters, heatstroke and disgusted glances.
As we were at the park in September on a Monday and Tuesday, there were very few American families in attendance. But there were plenty of families from other countries. We even sat next to a Russian couple on the Hogwarts Express. They were friendly enough, but as a child of the Cold War I still didn’t trust them.
During lunch on the first day, we sat in a restaurant near two families. The first were speaking what sounded like Spanish. A father, mother, and two daughters. All were engaged in conversation, laughing and generally enjoying each other’s company.
The other was an American family consisting of a dad, mom and two boys. All of them – yes all – were starting at their phones. They barely looked up to shovel food in their mouths.
Not a commentary on the American family in 2018, just an observation.
Overall, we had a great time. It is always nice to get a break from the everyday world we live in and visit a fantasy world. It is great to feel like a kid again.
Quite magical, actually.