Last month, my friend Lauren sent me a text in the midst of her studies for the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam (she is a civil engineer by profession) asking me if I would want to drink around the world at Epcot.
Usually, when the two of us try to plan something for the summer, we have the most difficult time coordinating our schedule. First we looked at a weekend in August, but that was a no-go, and within a matter of minutes, we both had a weekend available for the month of May. With less than thirty days, we were planning on drinking around the world at Epcot.
As Lauren continued studying for her exam, I looked into the details of our trip. I utilized hotel.com as a reference for finding our hotel, Google Flights as a tool book our flights, and did some good ol' fashioned Googling to read up on people's blogs before we decided to do one day at Disney World's Epcot and one day at Universal Studios/Island of Adventures - specifically for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We planned on spending the first day into Orlando at the pool and getting our base tan for the summer, flying in on a Thursday. The Friday would be a full day at Universal Studios/Island of Adventures, and the Saturday would be the grande finale of us drinking around the world at Epcot.
Our flight into Orlando was not an easy one. With two flight delays, we departed late, and then a thunderstorm led to our plane hovering the landing zone for about an hour. Following landing, we were unable to pull up to the gate due to lightning, and were stuck on the plane for an additional hour. Of course, once we walked through the gate of the airport, fire alarms was going off. We needed to get out of there! Instead of waiting for an Uber, we immediately went into a taxi and (regrettably) paid $70 to get to our hotel (we stayed at the Hilton Bonnet Creek, which was booked for a discounted price than what I found on hotel.com through AAA #notsponsored).
Thanks to the rain clouds, our day of hanging by the poolside and getting our base tan for the summer turned into drinking by the bar and enjoying Bucket of Beers for $30 (5 cans of any choice beers at Beech Bar)! Fortunately, there were no residual thunderstorms, so we laid in the lazy river with our beers while the rain tickled our faces, then headed over to the Happy Hour at one of the other hotel bars. Happy hour is a thing that I will gladly exploit whenever I am visiting a city that has no colonial restrictions on alcohol consumption like Boston. (Please bring happy hours to Boston!)
Lauren and I spent our first full day at Universal Studios and Island of Adventure. Getting the Park Hopper ticket with the fast pass is incredibly worth our time. We happened to be going on a Friday that was Florida Middle School Grad Bash - so the park was closing early to stay open for solely the middle schoolers. That being said, there were hoards of preteen angst walking around who didn't purchase the fast pass and were quickly filling up the lines for the rides. Could we have gotten away without a fast pass had it not been Middle School Grad Bash? Probably. But there's a reason I keep my day job, so we bought a fast pass and it essentially paid for itself. We waited no more than fifteen minutes max for rides - and that was for the Escape to Gringotts ride in Diagon Alley of Universal Studios (which we also had to climb a lot of stairs before we finally got to the ride).
We walked through Marvel Super Hero Island and Toon Lagoon and tried to go on the flume ride at Toon Lagoon - but there were technical difficulties. We passed Skull Island to head into Jurassic Park, where we bought our fast pass and went straight onto the ride. Once we realized the world was our oyster with this fast pass, we backtracked to the Kong ride and headed into Hogsmeade.
After taking a few pictures of the Hogwarts castle, we went inside for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and we got stuck on the ride!!! We were happily following Harry over the Quidditch field, when suddenly the screen froze and the ride stopped. We were seated at an angle hovering who knows what, when Lauren and I started laughing at how of course this would happen to us. "Do you think my phone is going to drop if I take it out of my pocket?"
So we did what most people would do in 2018: we posted our experience of us getting stuck on the ride on social media.
After some minutes, the ride started moving. We went from happily following Harry and hovering over the Quidditch field to being jolted over to claw marks on the walls and a Dementor in our face. HOW DID WE GET THERE?
We got off the ride and asked the attendant if we could go on it again due to the technical difficulties we experienced and missed half the plot of the ride. I won't spoil the plot of this ride, but let's just say one of Hagrid's beasts let loose.
Once we were done with the ride, we went to the Butterbeer cart outside of the Hogwarts castle and decided to share one.
Let's actually focus on the Butterbeer real quick. First of all, it is non-alcoholic Butterbeer. The Butterbeer can be found in various locations throughout The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - but the price is actually not the same! Lauren and I got our Butterbeer for $7.50 at the cart outside of Hogwarts, but when we went to eat food at Three Broomsticks in Diagon Alley, the Butterbeer was advertised as $6.99 there! That fifty-one cent difference, how dare they. It kind of tastes like a cream soda infused with Werther's caramel and melted ice cream swirled on top.
We jumped on the Hogwarts Express to head over to the Universal Park: in order to do this, you have to have the park hopper ticket. If you have an Express Pass, this also allows you to cut the line into Hogwarts Express.
Once we got to King's Cross, we headed into Diagon Alley, the rain started to pour and everyone went wild. We stuffed our backpacks into the lockers (the locker situation at Universal/Island of Adventures is a little stressful - it gets packed in those little locker hallways, gave me high school flashbacks...), and headed on into the ride at Gringotts. Like I mentioned earlier, it is like a little hike to get to the ride - there are elevator options if you cannot walk up the winding staircases after going down several levels through a "vaulted" elevator shaft. Everything looked so real at Gringotts - it was kind of scary!
We got food after the ride, and waited so long just to get food. This was a moment where I was spoiled by the fast pass... I wish that worked for the food line because we probably waited about forty minutes before being able to order, then another fifteen minutes before our food came out. We ordered the Cottage Pie (a savory combination of beef and vegetables in a potato crust served with a garden salad) and the Ploughman's Board - serves 2 (a feast of English cheese, crusty bread, field green salad, oven roasted tomatoes, cornichon pickles, apple & beet salad, branston pickle, and scotch eggs). I was glad to have non-fried or greasy food options because it didn't make me feel so disgusting to go back out in the heat with meat sweats or something. I could really care less for the apple & beet salad on the Ploughman's Board though: texture-wise - it was mush.
We wrapped up Universal by heading over to the last leg of rides (Men in Black, Revenge of the Mummy) and then we headed over to platform 9 3/4 to head back into Hogwarts and wrap up IofA with the water rides: Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls got us mildly soaked, but we were drenched from Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges. It started raining again, so it didn't matter how wet we were.
TLDR: We got stuck on the Harry Potter ride in Hogwarts Castle, Lauren wore a new pair of white Chuck Taylor's for the first time and bled all over the shoes at the end of the Universal, Butterbeer is very sweet.
Despite the rain, once again, we went back into the pool at our hotel and became with the hotel staff at the pool bar, and called it a relatively early night to prepare for our Saturday drinking around the world at Epcot.
I'll be dedicating my next post on how we drank around the world at Epcot. Spoiler alert: we did it.