2015.12.26 Universal and EPCOT

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Today was another day to divide and conquer with our group.  Stephanie, Mallory, Marissa and I are going back for a second day at Universal Studios.  KK, PK, Scott, Erin and Grandma Mary are headed to EPCOT for the day, and Miles is spending the day at the house monitoring the soccer games and bowl games.  This day has something for everyone.

The Universal team decided to make a tactical change to our arrival time after being first in line two days ago.  There was no need to be there that early.  So we modified our departure time so that we could arrive closer to the gate opening at 8:00.  Mission accomplished.  We got in line at 7:45 and 5 minutes later the gates were open.

In line behind a couple hundred people today.

In line behind a couple hundred people today.

We made a beeline for the Escape from Gringotts ride in Diagon Alley.  As usual, we went to the Single Riders line, and we walked directly to the front of the line, and they seated all four of us together.  In fact, when the ride took off, the entire row ahead of us was empty.  Success!

Throughout two days ago and today, we have relied heavily on the Single Rider line at Universal.  This has allowed us to spend the most minimal amount of time in lines, and more time enjoying rides.  The only downside is that we don’t get to sit together on the rides (most of the time), but we will take that trade-off any day.

Mallory disappearing through the wall at Platform 9 ¾

Mallory disappearing through the wall at Platform 9 ¾

After Gringotts, we walked immediately onto the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade. Once there, we enjoyed another round of Butterbeer at Three Witches, watched a short show at Olivanders wand shop, and then rode the Forbidden Journey.  By that time, we had seen everything we felt needed to be seen in Harry Potter world.

Mallory and Marissa enjoying a Butterbeer in front of Hogwarts

Mallory and Marissa enjoying a Butterbeer in front of Hogwarts

We had a handful of other rides in the park that we wanted to visit and we set out to cross them off the list.

The Jurassic Park River Adventure is a water ride, as evidenced by everyone in the second row wearing ponchos.

The Jurassic Park River Adventure is a water ride, as evidenced by everyone in the second row wearing ponchos.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the two Harry Potter parks at Universal.  But the rest of the park has been “ok” and nothing to brag about.  Stephanie has noted several times that the park hasn’t been dirty, but it also has not been “Disney clean” either.  But I will say that the staff everywhere we have been has been great.  An employee at the Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster put us in the Express Lane because we didn’t want to wait 60 minutes in the Single Rider line.  An unbelievable act of kindness that was very cool.

Also, as we were leaving the park, we stopped to take a selfie in front of the Universal globe.  While we were setting up, an employee walked up and asked to take the picture for us.  Turns out it was the same young lady that scanned our tickets as we entered the park this morning.  (She said she didn’t remember us.)  Good job hiring great people, Universal!

A Successful Day at Universal

A Successful Day at Universal

Mallory had a craving for sushi, and she found us a cheap place a few miles from the park called Sushiology.  It was a hole in the wall, located in a strip mall, and it was fantastic.  Thanks for finding that gem, Mallory.

Sushiology

Sushiology

While we at Universal, and the rest of the game was at EPCOT, Miles stayed at the house.  KK expressed concern about him last night and asked him to provide regular updates on his status.  Miles obliged and let us know throughout the day that he was alive and well.  I don’t think Miles had any remorse with his decision to stay home.

“Mission Control” as Miles calls it.

“Mission Control” as Miles calls it.

The EPCOT gang got to the park early as well.  KK says that the park was not very busy, especially on the rides.  One ride they were on, Mission: Space, can hold about 40 people and he said there were just 4 of them on the ride.

KK and PK at EPCOT

KK and PK at EPCOT

While EPCOT claims to be about the future, this phone bank says otherwise.

While EPCOT claims to be about the future, this phone bank says otherwise.

Today was Grandma Mary’s first time to visit Walt Disney World, so she got to sport a “First Time Visitor” button all day.  Congratulations Grandma Mary!

Determining the next stop

Determining the next stop

The main focus of the trip to EPCOT was the Candlelight Processional, which is the story of Christmas as told by a celebrity narrator, and accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and choir.  Today’s narrator was Edward James Olmos, who is best known for his work in Miami Vice.  The reports were very positive about this event.  There is no doubt that the group was glad they attended.

Candlelight Processional

Candlelight Processional

Candlelight Processional

Candlelight Processional

Back in our neighborhood, there are some great Florida Christmas decorations.  Most notably, the palm trees with tinsel hanging from them, and the Christmas gator.  We did get a good picture of the gator.

Christmas Gator that lights up at night.

Christmas Gator that lights up at night.

Today was our last full day with Miles and Mallory, as we must turn them over to the Union Band tomorrow afternoon when they are scheduled to arrive in Orlando.  Thankful that we have got to spend 5 days plus most of tomorrow with them!

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