Saturday, February 26, 2011


Here’s a riddle for you: how many adults does it take to corral 4 children at a theme park? Answer: at least 3, but you’d be better off with 8.

In a moment of rational, responsible parenting, we pulled our oldest 3 children out of school, coerced a friend into joining us, and headed for Florida. Thankfully, the weather was typical of past years: 75 was the low, 81 the high. Ahhh, Florida.

I have some advice for you so you can pull the same stunt.

  1. When you visit Hogsmede at Universal Studios and have a butterbeer, which you really should do as soon as possible, I have one recommendation. Drink the butterbeer AFTER you visit the castle. Because if you do it before, even if you’ve taken a Dramamine and you haven’t been sick at all on your other 6 days at Florida’s theme park heaven, you will feel each little bubble of that yummy butterbeer creeping its way back up. And that is not a pleasant feeling. It drowns out the feeling of the poison spiders spitting at you, the whomping willow pounding you, and your bench free-falling through the cave. Can’t tell you what else happens in the ride because at that point, I closed my eyes and began to chant “Don’t throw up. Don’t throw up. Don’t throw up.”
  2. February: great time to visit Disney. President’s Day weekend/Daytona 500 weekend: stupid time to visit Florida.
  3. Hotel with a kitchen: great idea. Relying on the twice per day shuttle service to get you to the theme parks and back: stupid idea.
  4. Pulling your kids out of elementary school to have an unforgettable family vacation: brilliant. Having 2 of those children get the flu on the day we get home: not such good timing.
  5. You really, really need to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. It’s perfect, down to the ice hanging from the buildings and the mildew on the ceilings. Drink a butterbeer, take a picture by the Hogwarts Express, and eat a pasty at the restaurant. But wait a few years. Because even in February, Universal Studios is poorly arranged and lousy at crowd control and planning. You have to stand in line to get a ticket to have a return time to even set foot in Hogsmede. And that doesn’t get you on the rides, in the one bathroom in the area or into Honeydukes with Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Jellybean (with flavors like earthworm, rotten egg and undies, among others). Those all have lines of their own. And skip Olivander’s. It’s a 2 hour wait, in some cases, and the show doesn’t last 10 minutes. You watch one kid get a wand, and that’s it.

Or, if you don’t want to wait until 5 years after the movies have been released on DVD, be at the entrance to Universal half an hour before opening. You, and every other person eager enough to wake up early, will rush to the back of the park. Drop your bags in a safe place and head straight for the castle. It’s amazing and worth a wait, but there’s a separate line for those with no bags, and it goes much faster. And once you’re inside the castle, linger. Ron makes it snow in the Dark Arts classroom, Dumbledore talks to you in his office, the portraits confer, and it’s worth the lines even if you’re not going on the ride at the end (most people I saw didn’t go on the amazing but puke-inducing ride).

Oh, and if you do go to Universal, send me a Pumpkin Juice. I was so busy downing butterbeers that I didn’t have room for Pumpkin Juice.