2011 New York City Marathon

So the New York City Marathon is this Sunday! The last time I ran the marathon was in 2011.

In 2010 I had continued with the New York Road Runners 9+1 program, but this time Cheryl did it with me! Cindy had the deferral option to run the race (since she had not the year before) but decided she was done with marathons.

Even though she hates driving at night, we convinced my mom to drop us off at Giants Stadium to get the busses to the start. It was nice having someone else with me. Luckily Cheryl and I also ended up in the same corral and wave start. Another year going over the top of the Verrazano-Narros Bridge! I had warned Cheryl about the cold the previous year (I was a pro now) so we got old coats to wear instead of just sweaters. We were a lot warmer!

2011 NYC Marathon

We also got new Dunkin Donuts hats. Being smart we wore them until we had to check our bags then put them in the checked bag so we didn’t have to hold them.

2011 NYC Marathon

Since Cheryl and I were both running the race and we are usually the direction ladies my mom, aunt and friend Marissa decided to just go to one view point near Central Park.

The race started off great. It was nice weather and not horribly cold, but cold enough. I had warned Cheryl of my disastrous Queensboro Bridge episode from the year before. Our plan was to walk the bridge while taking our mid-race Gu’s and then run the rest of the race. Welp that was a bad idea (2nd time around). Walking the bridge was good, but we didn’t have water. Not sure if it was the Gu, the lack of water or just general issues, but my stomach seized up as we got off the bridge. It was pretty horrible. Walking was ok, but running made me feel like I was going to vomit (yet I couldn’t). It was a horrible way to run and I was pretty miserable the rest of the race. No matter what I did I couldn’t shake the nauseous feeling. I kept telling Cheryl to go without me since this was her first marathon, but she said no. She wanted to finish it together.

2011 NYC Marathon

We did finish in 5:06:47…34 minutes off my time from the previous year :(

I felt bad making Cheryl go so slow, but she insisted it was fine.

2011 NYC Marathon

We even found my mom, aunt and friend Marissa. My 3rd marathon in the books! Even though it was a lot slower than I had wanted I finished and learned some lessons about mid-race fueling and practicing with the Gu’s I want to use during the race.

Good luck to everyone running Sunday!

2010 New York City Marathon

So in 2010 I ran my first New York City Marathon. Cindy had also qualified with the 9+1 program, but at the end decide she wasn’t prepared enough so she didn’t run. So it was all me and my lonesome!

I went to the marathon expo on Friday with Cheryl after work. I must say I have been to the Javits Center many times, but I loved being there surrounded by running stuff!

2010 NYC Marathon

I got (my still favorite) gloves with each of the boroughs on it. The night before I carbo-loaded with some pasta and went to bed early. The one good thing about the NYC Marathon is it is always the day we roll the clocks back. Living in New Jersey I had to get on the busses at Giants Stadium around 4:00am. Since we rolled the clocks back though it was like it was 5:00am. At least it’s something!

So Cheryl drove me to the busses and then I sat on the bus until we got to the start. It was dark when I got on the busses and just barely getting light out when I got there. Once there I had to walk to the start area and looked for my corral. Then the waiting began….

The marathon actually doesn’t start until 9:00am (wheelchairs start at 8:30am) and my wave didn’t start until close to 10:30am. That’s more than 4 hours of waiting! Luckily there was Dunkin Donuts

2010 NYC Marathon

They had bagels, coffee, and hot water for tea. They were also giving out hats which was helpful. I had dressed in layers of clothes I didn’t want anymore. I had heard since it’s cold you dress in layers than in the start corral you take them off and anything left there is donated to shelters in the city. I had not anticipated HOW COLD it was going to be though. My hands were freezing even with gloves. I saw a few people walking around in Snuggies (belted on) and I thought that was genius!

I only had one cup of coffee and had had a bagel with peanut butter at home. I drank a lot of hot water and tried to use the port potty before I had to go to the start corral. Finally it was time to line up. I walked around a little beforehand because I needed to warm up my body.

2010 NYC Marathon

The corrals are broken into different waves and sections. Luckily I was in one of the groups that goes over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and not under it. I heard under is the worst. I was so excited to finally be running that when we started I went out SO FAST! A lot of people did. I saw a few stumbles too of people trying to take pictures on the bridge while running. Careful!

2010 NYC Marathon

But seriously how awesome!

As I was freezing on Staten Island, my spectator crew was heading into the city. My mom, aunt, sister and my friend Cindy all decided to come cheer me on.

2010 NYC Marathon

They even made fun signs for me!

2010 NYC Marathon

So I was off on my 26.2 mile adventure. The crowds in New York are awesome so that helped me not focus on how far along I was. I saw my cheer squad in Brooklyn around mile 5. I was pretty stoked because I had started running with gloves, but I got really hot and took them off and was holding them. As I ran past I gave Cheryl my Dunkin Donuts hat and the gloves. Win!

2010 NYC Marathon

I was doing pretty well for a while. It was really nice weather and I made sure to stay hydrated. My downfall was the Queensboro Bridge. As I was running up it I kept thinking “almost at the top” but I really wasn’t. The whole bridge is about a mile….uphill. My calves were SCREAMING after a while and I had to stop and walk. I had not anticipated going uphill for that long. After that I had to alternate between running and walking. I even stopped to stretch, but my calves were very angry with me.

I knew the cheer squad was going to be around mile 24 near Central Park so I made sure to run as much as I could at the end.

2010 NYC Marathon

Cheryl even jumped in to take a picture of me!

Soon enough I was in the park and then out of the park running toward the finish. At the end I really had to push to finish. That last .2 is always so rough.

2010 NYC Marathon

Then I was crossing the finish line! I finished in 4:32:21 which was only 11 minutes slower than the DC Marathon I had run in April.

After was probably the worst part of the whole race though.

After running for 4 and a half hours they force you into a finish chute that WASN’T MOVING. I felt like I was slamming into people. All I wanted to do was walk, but I couldn’t. I almost started crying at one point I just wanted to get my stuff and leave. They wouldn’t let me go any other way either. It was all the way through with the thousands of other runners.

Finally I escaped with my stuff and found my cheer squad.

2010 NYC Marathon

The New York City Marathon is tough, I’m not going to lie. There are a lot of hills, but the fans cheering you on really help. Reading the signs, seeing the drunks along the street screaming for you saying how awesome you are. It was a good time!

2009 New York City Marathon

This Sunday is the New York City Marathon. It is one of the HUGE marathons that everyone has on their bucket list (I mean I assume). We will be running a 20 mile training run in the morning then heading into the city to Cheryl’s friends house to watch her coworker run.

In 2009 I was working my way through my 9+1 New York Road Runner requirements so that I could run the 2010 New York City Marathon. Even though I was doing my requirements, I still entered the lottery to run the 2009 marathon. Even though we didn’t get in my friend Cindy decided she wanted to run it. Her father has MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and she wanted to run it for him so she ran with the National MS Society. Since she would be running it alone Cheryl and I decided we were going to be the best spectators ever!

2009 NYC Marathon

We got up super early and headed to our first spectator point in Brooklyn (around mile 8). We got there early because we wanted to be right on the road. Luckily there was a cheer station right across from where we were planning to stand and they had some pom-pons, sunglasses and cowbells!

2009 NYC Marathon

We made t-shirts with a picture of Cindy and her dad on them and I made a sign the night before. I had a pair of red tights. I figured it would be helpful for her to see us, but not the smartest idea in November.

2009 NYC Marathon

Of course where we were standing there were no storefronts or porta-potties. I had to run 5 blocks to go to the bathroom. I wanted to make sure I got back in time to see the elites or Cindy!

2009 NYC Marathon

Finally the elites came flying through. It didn’t even look like their feet were touching the ground! This was the year that Meb won :)

2009 NYC Marathon

Then the rest of the runners started making their way past us. We weren’t really sure of Cindy’s pace so we were looking for her the whole time. After we finally saw her we headed to our next spectator point. This is where everything went downhill. The subways were PACKED and took a lot longer than we had expected. We also had signed up for runner tracking, but that didn’t work at all. We were waiting for her around mile 18, but realized we must have missed her because we were waiting wayyy too long. I started to get really cold. Luckily I packed a jacket and pants.

2009 NYC Marathon

We finally got the website working and realized Cindy was already in Central Park! It totally threw off our other spectator points. We raced to the park to meet her at the finish, but we could not find her. We waited…and waited…and waited. We were starting to get worried so I went backwards through the finish shoot to look for her. It was starting to get dark at this point and she wasn’t answering her phone. Finally she called us and we met up with her. She had cramped really bad at the end so she went to the medical tent and iced her knees and got a massage to uncramp. It took a lot longer than we had thought, but we found her and she finished.

2009 NYC Marathon

It was dark out by the time we left New York. We had literally been in the city ALL DAY. My outfit choice and the fact that I was running around outside all day took a toll on me the next day. I woke up with strep throat :(

It was definitely a learning experience for marathon watching!

25 days left!

It is officially 25 days until I run the Philadelphia Marathon! Gah these days are flying by!

I had wanted this to be a great PR race, but I am slowly feeling like that just won’t happen. I have been running, not as much as I want, but running nonetheless. I know I will finish the race, but finishing it in the time I wanted (4 hours) seems crazy at this point.

I guess it will all depend on how my 20 mile run goes this weekend. One thing that does happen after my long runs…I get HUNGRY. How do you balance running for 4 hours and eating healthy?

Starving

I did actually get off my ass and run at lunch today. I went early since I usually have a bunch of excuses the later it gets.

Running

5 miles done!

Boom

I am pretty excited to join Run Eat Repeat and her Pile on the Miles.

Pile on the Miles 2014

It’s a FREE online challenge. Every day you comment and “check-in” to keep yourself accountable by leaving a comment on her blog (which is one of my favorites FYI). When you comment that enters you in the daily prize drawing. How fun is that!?! I am excited because I have the marathon next month and after I tend to slack and the fact that right after is Thanksgiving…I need to be accountable.

Have a great day everyone!

Wisconsin Road Trip

This is seriously the month of road trips. Last weekend we went to Ohio for the Rutgers vs. Ohio State game.

This past weekend my mom, my sister and I loaded up the car and headed to Wisconsin. This trip was about family and love.

Tara's Prayer

I March my cousin Tara (who married my cousin Justin) was in a terrible car accident. I found out about it from my cousin Sarah (her sister-in-law). Originally I was told it was bad, but not horrible. Her two children were in the car with her and both of them were ok. I was relieved to hear that, but being so far away I told her to keep me updated on Tara. I wouldn’t find out until that night how bad it was.

The car was hit broadside by a tanker truck on a rural road in Wisconsin. Both vehicles were traveling about 50 miles per hour. Tara’s car was propelled into a field and she had to have a flight for life helicopter take her to the hospital. Tara suffered multiple injuries including, but not limited to, a scalp laceration, several fractured and broken vertebrae, two punctured lungs, a laceration on her liver, a broken sinus, fractured ribs and bruising everywhere. Due to the damage in Tara’s neck she was classified a C5 injury, functioning C6.  In lehmans terms, she was paralyzed from the chest down.  Tara has movement in her neck, shoulders and biceps but no movement in her triceps or hands.

Tara spent 3 months in a rehab facility in Colorado. She learned how to put in and remove her own contacts, how to do a lot of her own makeup and was feeding herself. Now, back at home with her family, Tara does everything herself. A lot of stuff she still can’t do. She can’t cook, because her body does not feel heat and her kitchen is not made to help her.

Which brings me to the reason we were headed to Wisconsin…..

My aunt and uncle, along with Tara’s parents, were working on a benefit to raise money to help them remodel their home and buy medical supplies for Tara. Because Cheryl and I have such awesome co-workers we were able to get a lot of donations and were able to put together 8 beauty baskets of products.

Wisconsin Road Trip

So on Thursday night we leaded up the car and headed out. We left around 6:00pm from New Jersey and were planning on driving through the night to be in Wisconsin the next morning. Cheryl drove first and we had dinner around 8:30pm in Bloomsburg, PA.

Wisconsin Road Trip

Driving at night has it’s pros and cons. It’s nice because there is barely any traffic, but lot of trucks flying past you in the dark. You also have to watch out for animals like deer on the road. Cheryl and I wound up switching off every 2-ish hours so we could alternate sleeping.

Wisconsin Road Trip

We got to Chicago around 5:30am and it was CRAZY! There was so much traffic and it was so early!

We got to Wisconsin around 7:30am (their time) which was around 8:30am here. Since I was out of vacation days I had told work I would be working from home (aka Wisconsin) so I signed online as soon as I got there. It was ok, my sister had to do the same thing and my family was running around getting ready for the benefit all day.

We went to the benefit around 6:00pm (it started at 5:00pm) and we had agreed to help them with whatever they needed. I was in charge of the cork pull.

Wisconsin Road Trip

It’s actually something I have never heard of before, but it’s pretty cool. You have a bunch of wine bottles (all different types and prices) with numbers on them. Then you number corks in a bucket and people pay $20 and pull a cork from the bucket. Whatever their cork says they get that bottle of wine. I got people to buy all but 6 of the 50 bottles. Success!

Wisconsin Road Trip

The benefit was at Tara’s dad’s country club. A lot of member were there showing support as well as a lot of my aunt and uncle’s friends. My aunt and uncle were the main ones getting donations for prizes. There was a raffle (like a tricky tray), a silent auction and a live auction. The prizes were great and they appreciated us bringing even more! My uncle used to work for Miller so there were a lot of beer related prizes.

Wisconsin Road Trip

FYI I won the grill :)

The event was a huge success. I can’t imagine how much hard work went into it and I was so glad my cousin Tara was able to stay for almost the entire event.

If you want to learn more about Tara’s story. Here is the website and video below.

The next day Cheryl and I decided we had to keep up with marathon training since we have been slacking. We looked for routes online and I found one around the Milwaukee River that looked popular so we headed there.

Wisconsin Road Trip

Well this running trail was actually a trail trail. Like in the woods….

Wisconsin Road Trip

Well I am not big on trail running, especially the falling and hurting myself possibility. So we headed back after 2 miles and drove down to Lake Michigan to run there.

Wisconsin Road Trip

At first the run was really nice. We weren’t right on the water at first and it was a beautiful day. The closer we got to the water though the windier it got. Running in wind resistance is tiring. Neither of us was feeling running. I kind of wanted to spend time with my family since we were there for such a short time. We headed back at 8 miles so we did around 10 total, but not the 18 we were supposed to do.

That night we went to dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousin. I love spending time with them when we see them since it’s not often.

The next morning we loaded up the car with beer, cheese and our benefit prizes and headed home. Literally in Wisconsin less than 2 days, but it was totally worth it.

Wisconsin Road Trip

We left Wisconsin around 6:30am and got home at 10:00pm. A whole day on the road. This is why teleportation needs to be invented….

Marathon Training

Oh the life of a busy person trying to train for a marathon….

Last Tuesday Cheryl and I ran a 14 miler at 4:00am before work. It was rough and I had to walk more than I wanted, but I got through it. This past weekend we were supposed to do 7 miles, but we were in a car driving to and from Ohio most of the weekend so that didn’t happen. I was supposed to do a 5 miler on Tuesday, but I went at lunch and could only get in 4 (slow) miles.

Treadmill Training

I wanted to try and do my 7 miler today outside but it is monsooning and I HATE running in the rain….oh well. I am going to try and do as many as possible at lunch, but I also have a lot of errands to run so we will see how it goes.

This weekend we have to do 18 miles. I WILL do it.
Even if I have to go super early or super late.

How do people train when they are busy? Any helpful hints?

Viva Las Vegas!

So I just got back my second batch of PhotoBin scanned slides.

It’s pretty difficult to see what is on old slides without straining your eyes and your neck. I sat on the floor of my room trying to categorize all the sides that I had. One thing about old slides…no instant gratification. When my parents took the photos they didn’t know if the image would be too dark, too light or blurry. There was no digital cameras to see the photo, rate it, and possibly retake it. It made for some interesting slides in the end.

In this batch there were a lot from my parents cross-country honeymoon. They visited the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Now the Grand Canyon has looked the same for pretty much ever. Las Vegas on the other hand has changed SO MUCH! I remember my dad telling us about the way it looked when we had gone our senior year of college, but now seeing the images it looks nothing like Vegas does now.

Las Vegas Strip in 1975

Vegas Strip 1975

Las Vegas Strip 2014

Vegas Strip 2014

I mean look at Ceasar’s Palace! It’s so tiny compared to what it looks like now.

Ceasars Palace

The city of lights!

Vegas Night 1975

O-H-I-O!

The crazy weekends continue!

This past weekend my friends and I drove to Columbus, Ohio. Why you ask? Well Rutgers was playing Ohio State and as a forever band geek I HAD to see the Ohio State Marching Band perform. So we all piled into 3 cars from all over NJ and headed west.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

We had the most people in our car #funcar

Ohio Road Trip 2014

We also assumed we would see AMAZING fall foliage (like in the Catskills) but it was lacking a little. We all met up in PA at Waffle House so we could even the cars out. We were all fine staying in the same car because I mean #funcar

Ohio Road Trip 2014

My friend Kristen went on a rant about her hatred of Pumpkin Spice Lattes aka my favorite part of the fall. So the #funcar stopped for the best fall drinks ever and bombarded her with pictures. I mean seriously who hates PSL!?! Not this girl!

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Before we knew it we were (briefly) in West Virginia.

The drive is around 8 hours, but with stops and traffic it took us about 10 hours to get there. We arrived at the Red Roof Inn Plus around 6pm. Once everyone else had arrived we headed out to a local favorite Thurman’s Cafe. With a group of 13 we knew we would have to wait, but luckily we had a bar to wait at.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Thurman’s Cafe was on Man vs. Food for their Thurminator burger. I wasn’t in a burger mood so I got fried pickles and grilled cheese, but man that burger looked good.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

We had an early night since we had a LONG day the next day.

We got up around 8:30am and headed out to the hotel parking lot. I didn’t really want to tailgate in the parking lot, but my friends insisted so we did. Luckily there was an Ohio State store right by us so we could buy buckeyes!

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Peanut butter and chocolate goodness. I wish I had gotten extra to bring home with me.

Now the reason I was there was to see the Ohio State Marching Band. Our high school band based our high-step marking and elaborate drills off of schools like Ohio State and Iowa. I wanted to make sure I was in the stadium before pre-game to see their famous Script Ohio (my high school did script CHS). We left the lot about 2 hours before kickoff and walking down to the stadium I was so mad I hadn’t insisted on tailgating closer to the game.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

The crowds and the atmosphere was amazing. I mean their stadium holds 107,000 people! We were talking to Ohio State fans as we were heading in and everyone was so nice.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Of course we went into the stadium an hour early because someone said that was when pre-game was. We hiked up to pretty much the top of the stands to our seats and then were told that the band only goes off 20 minutes before the game. Oh well!

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Finally the band came on and made a block R for Rutgers being welcomed into the Big 10. We were pretty disappointed they didn’t do script Ohio, but someone said they were doing it at halftime since it was homecoming.

The game was a little depressing. Rutgers was loosing pretty bad once halftime rolled around.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

The band did a classic rock routine. It was so cool to see them perform in person! Here is the video of the performance.

At the end they did DOUBLE script Ohio! So cool!!

After the 3rd Rutgers was still loosing horribly and it started to rain and it was freezing. We called it and walked over to the bar area. We tried to get into a cool local bar, but since the game was still on it was packed. We wound up in Buffalo Wild Wings which was also packed. I eventually got a table for us and we got to warm up and relax. Rutgers wound up loosing 17-56, but it was a good effort for their first game against OSU. After we headed back over to the local bar, Out R Inn and it was so fun!

Ohio Road Trip 2014

It definitely would have been my kind of car in college. Stacey and I went on an adventure that night and got back around 2:30am. What a long day, but it was a blast!

The next day we packed up and headed to brunch for our friend Kristen’s birthday. We tried to go to a brewery, but didn’t realize the Columbus Marathon was going on so places were crowded. We eventually found a place that was just opening so we got a table quickly and the food was awesome.

After that we headed to the North Market to stop at Jeni’s and get ice cream. Cheryl’s boss had sent her some once (she went to Ohio State) and we had to get it before we left. I got buttercup pumpkin with amaretti cookies and sweet cream biscuits and peach jam. I think we are going to order some to have shipped.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

At the market I was looking at a beer store and they had Sweetwater! I love the Georgia craft beer, but you really can’t get it north of Georgia. I was jumping like a little kid when I saw it!

Around 1:00pm we started our trip back. We had some Google Maps issues which made our trip a little longer than expected, but it was still fun.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

We stopped at McDonald’s and I got yelled at for going in the play place and we got dinner at Steak ‘n Shake (after getting lost).

We finally got home around 11:30pm.

It was such a fun adventure with my friends. I love road trips and I cannot wait to do it again!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Day 2

So yesterday I took you on a tour of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. After we visited Diagon Alley we spent the rest of the day in Universal Studios Florida until it closed at 5:00pm. We were heading to Downtown Disney to shop and have dinner so we wanted to have time to change and rest a little…after all this was vacation!

The following day we slept in a little longer. We didn’t wake up until 7:00am. Our plan was to go to Universal Studios Florida at 8:00am (when the park opened to the public) and take the Hogwarts Express train over to Islands of Adventure and Hogsmeade. Unfortunately when we got to the King’s Cross station they told us the train didn’t start running until 9:00am.

So in the meantime we headed back into Diagon Alley. There were a few places I hadn’t really had time to check out the day before. One being the tavern. We stopped in for some frozen butterbeer for breakfast.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

I loved the huge tankards on the wall with all the drinks. If it had been later in the day I definitely would have gotten a beer, but the butterbeer was tasty.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

At 8:30am we decided to head out and see if there was a line for the train. The day before when it was really crowded I didn’t see the sign above the entrance to Diagon Alley. Wayfaring Wizards Welcomed!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The line for the train was all the way out into the street when we got there, but it moved pretty fast. You have to go through the main turnstile at the front of the station. This is where they check your tickets. You have to have a park hopper ticket to ride the train to the other park. After that there were cute little tidbits all over the station. I especially liked the Magic billboard like they had in the movie. There were a lot of suitcases and trunks all over as well.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

Because the line outside takes longer with them checking tickets the inside line was moving really fast. I felt like I was on a ride. People were whipping around the turnstiles. It was actually pretty hysterical to be a part of. We finally came to a stop near the end where the stairs are. Once you get upstairs you come around a corner and see people disappearing between platforms 9 and 10!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

I was obsessed with this. If the lines weren’t so crazy I would have loved to have Cheryl take a picture of me disappearing!

After that we were on Platform 9 3/4!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

Hedwig and all of Harry’s things were waiting for the train as well. An employee broke us up into groups of 8 for each train car. We actually only had 5 people. As we were getting into our station area the train pulled up and we were ushered on.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

The cars are only on one side of the train, with a hallway connecting 3 cabins per car. I of course got a seat right next to the window!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

I was so excited I was seriously like a little kid. I even bought a chocolate frog for my first train ride! FYI those things are GIANT chocolate frogs and delicious.

Soon the train started to move the the window screen started taking us through London and towards Hogwarts. The screen was really cool. It showed a lot of different scenes, but it was hard to take pictures of. We left London and then saw Hagrid flying his motorcycle through the countryside and then we were going past the Forbidden Forest and into the station.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

Also when the train starts the doors to the cabin close. On the outside it shows students walking in the halls (again Hermione’s voice was so bad) and also dementors! Good thing I had my chocolate frog! (Nerd alert)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

The train ride was great, but pretty short. It had to have maybe been 2-3 minutes and I am pretty sure the train moves SUPER slow. There are hydraulics in the seat that make them bounce up and down so it seems like it is going fast.

Once we got off we had to take a picture!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

Now we were in Hogsmeade! I had previously been to Hogsmeade, so I didn’t need to do too much looking around.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

The one noticeable thing about this trip to Hogsmeade was it being a lot less crowded. I think because Diagon Alley is so new people want to get there first thing to ride the new ride. I was totally fine with that because the castle ride (the forbidden journey) is my favorite.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

As we walked up it said it was only a 30 minute wait! We got in line and I noticed a few differences. They now had lockers for you to put your bags in before getting in line AND they had a single rides line which was definitely not there the first time. The line was so much shorter!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

We made our easy through the castle grounds and then the castle itself. Honestly the 30 minute wait was mainly due to people stopping to take pictures in line. The ride was once again fabulous. I must say I still like it better than the new ride. I love feeling like I am flying!

After the castle ride Cheryl and I jumped in the 5 minute line for the Flight of the Hippogriffs. It is one of only 3 actual roller coasters at Universal. Last time we rode red so this time we went blue and it was a rush. After though I realized all I had eaten was half a chocolate frog and frozen butterbeer and my stomach was a little mad at me. We grabbed some croissants and headed into Islands of Adventure to check out the other rides.

It only took a few hours for us to do all the other rides in Islands of Adventure. Around noon we were hungry so we figured why not eat at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

I got the fish and chips (again) because they are just so delicious! I also got a beer because I mean vacation.

After lunch we walked around to a few of the shops in Hogsmeade. I must say when they first built Hogsmeade it was understandable to have an Ollivander’s there since they wanted a place for people to buy wands. Now though it seems silly since there is also one in Diagon Alley (where it belongs). They also made this park interactive like they did with Diagon Alley so it was cool to see some of the stuff move when kids waved their wands at it.

After looking around Cheryl and I decided we wanted to go on the castle ride one more time. This time we did single rider and my mom waited for us outside. The girls in the car with us (yes we got to go together) were super annoying though. They had their hands and feet sticking straight out the whole ride. Hello! Other people are on this ride too!

Anyway after that ride we figured why not take the Hogwarts Express back. I had heard that the experience is different in each direction.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

This time we left Hogwarts and had Fred and George follow us with fireworks. Then heading back to London we saw the Knight Bus driving crazy through the streets.

After we got back to Diagon Alley my mom decided to head back to the hotel. Cheryl and I decided to go on the Escape from Gringotts ride one last time. The line was a lot shorter, but we randomly had to stop because of the ride breaking down again. It was around 3:00pm at this point and I guess the later it is in the day they don’t do ride photos anymore because that part was empty. It was still fun!

I am a big Harry Potter fan, but really that’s the only reason I go to Universal. I mean the Marvel section was cool and the Hulk roller coaster was awesome, but it’s not enough. I mean can someone build a Doctor Who park for me?

I don’t foresee myself going back to Universal any time soon unless they extend the Harry Potter section some more. It really seems like it is their biggest money maker in the park and I can see why! It’s so fun going and feeling like a kid, but being around a lot of other adults that share the same love for this awesome book/movie series.

Mischief Managed!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Day 1

Over the weekend I visited Universal Orlando and mainly the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

In 2010 I visited the Hogsmeade section in Islands of Adventure because that was the first part that was built. My new trip brought me back because they extended into Universal Studios Florida with a Diagon Alley section. When we booked this trip we told the booking person on the phone the reason we were coming and he told us about the Harry Potter package. It included a welcome package and breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron. We told him to sign us up!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

How cute is our owl post! We got this box when we arrived with a stuffed owl and welcome letter. We also had Harry Potter room keys and tickets for breakfast. On Friday we headed to the parks early, but not crack of dawn early.

After wandering around for a little we decided to head over to Diagon Alley. To get there you walk past King’s Cross station!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

There are a few other store fronts outside as well as the Knight Bus.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Sadly you couldn’t go IN the Knight Bus. You can stand on the back stoop and look in and you can also talk to the conductors. I called the conductor Stan, but his name was Paul. Ernie the driver was there though and we talked to them for a little bit. I thought it was cool that Ernie is a part of the conversation and asks you questions and cracks jokes.

Next we decided to head into Diagon Alley. You go what looks like an alley and then there is the entrance! There is a speaker playing brick moving noises as you enter too.

Right inside is Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Just like in the movie the Weasley takes his hat on and off and a rabbit appears and disappears.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The inside of the store is pretty cool. There are a few floors (but you can’t go up) stacked with boxes. The detail they put into these stores is incredible. There is even an Umbridge on a tightrope! You can buy extendable ears, pygmy puffs, nosebleed nougat, chocolate frogs and a bunch of other cool things.

Attached right next door is Quality Quidditch Supplies. I really liked all the shirts and quid ditch stuff.

Across from Weasley’s is the Leaky Cauldron. Our reservation wasn’t until 9:00am, but we were starving so we went in to see if we could make it earlier. Luckily we did! The times really don’t mean anything and after we went in the line got really long.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The inside was really cool. I loved all the pictures on the walls and the staircases and rooms. Even upstairs, where you can’t go, they have whole bedrooms set up!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

It was so rustic and exactly how I imagined in the books (and mostly like the movies). I got the full English breakfast. It was pretty tasty, but not as good as the breakfast I got in London.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

They even had a giant leaky cauldron!

After breakfast we decided to walk around a little more. The first thing you see walking into Diagon Alley is Gringotts with the giant dragon on top. It is really amazing (and even cooler since my cousin did the iron work on it). Every 15 or 30 minutes it breathes fire! It is definitely startling at first, but after the initial shock it is so cool to see!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Some other stores along the main street (that are just fronts and not accessible) are Flourish & Blotts, The Daily Prophet, Fillibuster’s Fireworks shop, Spindlewarps, Eeylops Owl Emporium.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon AlleyThe details they put into this section is amazing. They have interactive displays like the Monster Book of Monters in cages and even Self-Knitting Needles. It was so cool to walk around and soak it all in.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

There is a new Ollivander’s shop. They have one in Hogsmeade (even though it belongs in Diagon Alley) and you can now buy regular wands or inter actives wands.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Another awesome shop was Madam Malkin’s. Inside they had really nice sweaters and clothing to buy. You can also get robes in there. They also have a talking mirror that comments on your clothes and some costumes from the movies.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Once you get to Gringott’s you can go right, which has a bunch of shops (you can buy Gringott’s bank notes) and a stage where there are daily performances.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Left with bring you down past the bathrooms and to Knockturn Alley.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

I was a big fan of the Knockturn Alley section. It was dark, they had wanted posters on the walls (with moving pictures) and the store Borgin & Burkes. The store had cool merchandise and displays and the vanishing cabinet (when you got close) chirped like there was a bird inside.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Really I think the only thing missing in Knockturn Alley was the dark mark randomly appearing in the sky. It’s definitely possible since it is so dark and would be so freaking cool.

After we wandered for a little we figured it was finally time to brave the line for the new Escape from Gringotts Ride. As we were walking over we noticed that employees were letting people know the ride was down. This happened the last time when we were in Hogsmeade, so we figured we would tough it out. We had to put our stuff in lockers (which are free) so we headed over and Cheryl got in line. As we were walking to the line people started cheering. I guess the ride was working again.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The line looks a lot more ominous than it actually was. It was moving pretty consistently the entire time we were outside. There was also a lot of cool posters to read to keep you busy.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Then about a half hour into the wait we were inside!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The inside was so cool! I loved all the chandeliers and the goblins were so realistic. They were all keeping busy while we waited in line and sometimes even looked up and stared at you.

Unfortunately as we got closer to the end of the bank the line stopped moving. We waited for a good 20 minutes for it to start again.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Then we were down in the vaults. These are not the huge high security vaults, but the door was so intricate. Again the line stopped moving. Cheryl even had enough time to leave and use the bathroom and come back before we moved again.

At the end of the hallway was an employee telling you a number to go to. They have little areas to take your picture before you ride.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Then we were headed down another long hallway. This one had tables with the Daily Prophet (complete with moving pictures) and portraits of famous goblins. We stopped and waited again! This was the longest wait of them all, but there was no way I was getting out of line. We were so close!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Or so we thought….after being split into two groups you head into a room with an office. Then a video plays of a goblin and Bill Wesley. Even though Bill was barely in the movies, he is the main character in the new ride. After their little talk about the bank and going down into the vaults you are sent to another room to wait for the elevator. Once inside the elevator it moves and creaks like you are going really far down underground. As the doors open you are confronted with another line (of people getting their 3-D glasses) and then a line up a staircase to the ride.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

I didn’t find out until later that the reason there are 2 lines here is because one is a single-riders line. Wonder how long they had to wait?

The ride itself was awesome. Definitely more roller coaster than some of the other 3-D rides in the park. The only thing that annoyed me was Hermione’s voice is not Emma Watson. Not sure why she wouldn’t have let them use her voice, but it is really noticeable and kind of put me off.

Even so the ride was a thumbs up!

After the ride we headed outside again and had some butter beer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. I really liked it because I devoured it before I took a picture! Fail.

Then we headed out into the park to do some other rides, but don’t worry. We went back again the next day!