Friday, August 28, 2015

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The whole time we were in Florida visiting Universal Studios, more specifically The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I had it in my mind that I wanted to write everything down fairly soon after. I wanted to do this not only because I want to remember every little detail, but also because I want to come back again with my future children and I tend to forget even my own tips and tricks really easily! Ever since I read the Harry Potter books, I've had a plan to raise my future family on these books that are so magical. We'll start by reading them, then we'll watch the movies, and then hopefully we can plan a family trip to Harry Potter World someday too! So here is a super long post on all things Harry Potter World!

Tickets: We purchased our tickets through They had a deal where the more days you went, the less expensive the tickets got per day. We bought tickets for three days. Now, Universal Studios has two separate parks - Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. In Universal Studios is where you'll find Diagon Alley and in Islands of Adventure you'll find Hogsmeade. With our three days we decided to go to both the parks once and then choose which one we wanted to visit again. We probably could have done everything in only two days but it was nice to have that third day to revisit our favorite rides and get one last butterbeer! We also probably would have appreciated four days so we could do both parks twice, but of course we couldn't have known that beforehand. Next time! Definitely consider getting a park to park pass. With regular tickets, you can't go from Universal Studios to Island of Adventure or vise versa in one day and a way to do that is on Hogwarts Express. I would have LOVED to go on the train, but we didn't realize that you need a park to park pass. Another 'next time', for sure!

Parking: We tried three different parking options. Day one - we parked at a business a little ways down from the park entrance and just walked in. This was nice because it was free but we were also pretty worried about our rental car throughout the day haha. Day two - we parked in the Universal Studios Park Parking which is pretty expensive ($17) but the proximity is pretty nice after a long day of being on foot! The peace of mind about our car was also nice. Day three - we payed ($11) for parking at a hotel just outside of Universal so it was a happy medium.

 I can't stress this enough. We were both wearing runners (for you fellow Canadians) or tennis shoes (for my American friends), but after a few hours our feet had had it.

Don't pay for a locker: There are lockers throughout the park (usually by the rides that you can't bring stuff on) that you can pay to use for the whole day or they are free to use while you ride.

Inside the Wiseacre Wizarding Equipment Shop. This detail! *swoon*

Take so many pictures!! I'm all about documenting things these days so we came prepared to take lots of pictures. I wanted everything recorded. Wait your turn to take pictures at the various photo ops throughout the parks and don't be afraid to hold up the line sometimes in order to get that perfect picture!

Me with my last frozen butterbeer and my Hermione wand!

Buy a wand! Just do it! You know you want to! There are interactive wands that you can purchase and use at designated places throughout Harry Potter World and things actually happen as you swish and flick your wand around and say the spell! Its the closest you'll get to feeling like an actual witch or wizard and it's so fun!!

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes

Download the Universal Studio App: This app is great for seeing how long the waits for the rides are. This way you can avoid the super long waits and take advantage of the shorter lines. Also, if you can, try to plan your trip sometime other than peak seasons. We were lucky enough that the week we went was the first week of school for most people so the parks were less busy than usual. With that being said, you don't need to go super early! So many websites and blogs said that in order to avoid the crowds, you should be at the gates to the parks a half hour before they open.... but people that stay at the actual Universal Resort Hotels get into the park an hour before the general public anyway so you'll still have to compete with them for a spot in line. We went really early our first day and we avoided a long line on just our first ride. After that, everyone else seemed to already be at the park and the lines were long for the remainder of the day. As a result of waking up super early and trying to get to the park before it opened, we burned out earlier too. Our other two park days we slept in a little bit, took our time getting there, and we lasted a lot longer!

Also, don't be afraid to use the single rider lines. The waits are usually significantly shorter so if you don't mind being split from your party while you ride then its definitely worth it! We used the single rider line a lot!

Don't forget to go check out Knockturn Alley which includes Borgin and Burkes!

Favorite Rides: We tried to go on every 'big' ride we could and we were pretty successful! Our favorite rides were *in no particular order* as follows...
Escape From Gringotts
Revenge of the Mummy - not a Harry Potter ride but we rode this one about 7 times because it was so good!
The Forbidden Journey - the ride where you go throughout Hogwarts Castle during your wait in line
Dragon Challenge
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
The Hulk
Men in Black
Olivander's Wand Choosing Experience - its a really cute show!
Disaster - this isn't a ride necessarily, more of a show type thing, but it was really entertaining!

We went on pretty much all the other rides and liked most of them but not enough of them to wait in line to do them again.

Waste of time rides/shows: Posieden's Fury, The Terminator show, and Twister are lame sauce. Just don't even bother haha

Extra things to bring: Water, snacks (you can bring food and drink into the park so take advantage of it), rain ponchos/umbrella, painkillers, one of those small fans that can hang around your neck, camera, extra phone battery charger, and extra spending money (you will want everything!!!).

Food/Drink: We ate at the parks all three days. We knew that it was going to be more expensive than outside the park options but we wanted the entire experience. In Hogsmeade we got our first butterbeers at The Hog's Head Pub and yes, butterbeer really is a dream, you guys! Worth going to Universal just to try it!

We ate lunch at The Three Broomsticks. Parker got the smoked turkey leg meal and I got the rotisserie chicken platter. We shared the Pumpkin Fizz drink which was surprisingly really good! They give you SO much food that we probably could have shared one of the meals and been fine. Both days that we went to Diagon Alley we ate at The Leaky Cauldron. 

Our first time at The Leaky Cauldron Parker got bangers and mash and I got fish and chips. I was a little disappointed in my fish... it was SUPER greasy, but the chips were great haha It was also too much food for me to finish yet again. 

Fishy Green Ale. I almost liked this more than butterbeer. Keyword being almost!

We ended up going back to Diagon Alley so we ate at The Leaky Cauldron again. Parker got a chicken sandwich of some sort and I got good old macaroni and cheese and fries from the kids menu. But we both loved our food this time and the child portion was the perfect size for me!

We tried normal butterbeer and the frozen butterbeer. We would have tried the hot version ,but it was just too hot outside to even consider it. I would have liked to try the butterbeer ice cream too but we, unfortunately, didn't get that chance.

Last but not least, take your time! Its such a magical adventure with so many incredible details so don't try to speed through everything! Make it last because believe me, it'll be over before you know it! And get one more butterbeer. It's always worth it too!

Until next time, Universal!

Monday, August 10, 2015


I-O!! Surprise! It's the post you've all been waiting for. After much prayer, fasting, research, and pondering, Parker and I came to the decision that we should move our family to Ohio for medical school.
But lets start from the beginning of this adventure, shall we?

July 25th, 2014: Parker's MCAT Test. It was the day that we had been anticipating for so long. Parker had put in many so hours of studying for this test that was essentially going to determine our future and doomsday had finally arrived. His exact words after he took the exam were, "That was the hardest test I've ever taken." And then the month of waiting for results began.

August 25, 2014 (no idea if this date is accurate but it's the format I chose for this post so we're goin' with it): We got his results and they were lower than we expected. (They were still great scores though!! Hopefully he doesn't kill me for posting this.... idk if he actually reads my blog anyway). Because of the results we had to apply to some different schools than we had originally planned. If Parker had scored as high as he consistently was on his practice tests then we would have applied to a whole different set of medical schools. It was pretty obvious to us that Heavenly Father had a specific plan for us and that we needed to figure out what that was.

August - September 2014: Researching schools. Writing essays. Making comparison spreadsheets. Sending in applications. Parker applied to several schools all over the United States. Probably about 20. And then we waited some more...

October - February: Interviews! Parker interviewed at 4 schools. University of Utah in October. Marshall University in November. UC Irvine in January. And Northeast Ohio Medical School (Neomed for short) in February. At first I was hoping, hoping, hoping for Utah. It was familiar. We both have family in the area. And Parker's parents are moving to Montana next year so we would be able to see both of our families whenever we went North. It just seemed like the perfect school. But on that particular interview day, Parker just wasn't feeling it. Utah just wasn't his school.. Marshall LOVED Parker. They pretty much accepted him on the spot even though they technically couldn't do that. It's the school from the moving 'We Are Marshall' located in West Virginia. It's about a 45 minute drive to his parent's current home from the school so Marshall was definitely a strong contender as it was close to his family. I went with Parker to the Irvine interview and we spent the weekend in California. The whole time I was the one who just wasn't feeling it.. but I so wanted to feel it! It's 20 minutes from Disneyland AND the beach for heaven sakes! But I couldn't deny the feelings I was having while we were in Cali.. It just wasn't the place for us. Lastly, came Neomed. It's located in a small town called Rootstown and its about 45 minutes from Cleveland and 15 minutes from Akron/Canton area. Parker called me excitedly after this interview and said, "They're building a Chipotle here in the next year. I really like this school!" That was the first interview that Parker had been excited about so it seemed like it could be the school for us! Then there was more waiting after the interviews to find out whether or not he got accepted, wait-listed, or denied.

Don't know the dates anymore: Parker got on the wait-list at both UC Irvine and Neomed. He got accepted at Marshall. And didn't get into Utah. Then we waited some more to see if he would get accepted off of the wait-list of Irvine and Neomed. He obviously got accepted at Neomed :)

After waiting for what seems like forever we finally know where we are going to spend the next 4 years of our lives. Although this process has been long and has tested our patience, we know that Rootstown is where Heavenly Father wants us to be for the next little while. As tough as it will be to be so far from our families (because Parker's family is moving in January), I really am excited to begin this new adventure! I'm excited for the chance to start fresh, to rely more on Parker and Heavenly Father and to grow closer to them as I know I will through this experience.

Also, to make driving out to Ohio on Friday not seem like such impending doom, Parker (bless his heart) booked a trip to Universal Studios, specifically Harry Potter World, for me the week before he starts school. Husband of the year award goes to him, obvs!

I designed the graphics in this post. This little guy ^^ was for a gift for some high school graduates this year. We printed it, put it with a cute pair of sunglasses, and tied it together with some ribbon. I thought it was appropriate for this post too :)

Wish us luck with our new adventure!!