Do you have a Harry Potter fanatic? I have two of them in my life. My oldest daughter grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione, they were her escape. So it was just natural that my youngest son, who is the bookend to my oldest daughter, would love them just as much.
We have always been big on reading and getting our kids to push themselves past what they think they can do. So two summers ago, when my son was getting ready to turn 11 we made a deal for summer reading. The reading assignment included reading all 7 Harry Potter books before July 15, and we would go to Universal Studios for his 11th birthday.
As soon as the deal was set my son started on his quest to read all 7 books. He read every day and loved each book a little more than the next. By July 15th, he had read and even reread all of the books.
The date arrived for us to fly to Orlando for his birthday gift.
We surprised him by having his oldest sister join us. He was so excited, when we arrived at Loews Portofino Resort for his birthday, they told him Happy Birthday and they were so excited for him to be there.
We checked into our Club Level room and headed straight to the parks. Mason had his shirt on that said “I solemnly swear I am 11 today”, his sister and I had shirts that said “Mom of Future Wizard and Sister of Future Wizard”. He was so excited.
He had never been to Universal Studios, so there was so much to see. Everyone told him Happy Birthday! We went straight to Harry Potter Diagon Alley. He loved the Dragon on the top of Gringotts Bank.
He wanted a wand for his birthday and we went to Ollivanders’ Wand Shop. Just beyond the door to the Wand Shop there stood an opening, and when you walked in two attendants from the Wand shop were there to greet you. Of course they asked Mason about his shirt, and about what Hogwarts house he was in. He talked their ear off for some time. Then they lead us back a corridor to Ollivanders’ private shop.
He was chosen to be in the show and have his wand choose him. He was so excited. They talked about him being his 11th birthday, and how important it was for the wand to choose the wizard. He went through some simple spells to help him find the right wand. Once the wand had chosen him, we purchased it and he began going from place to place to use his wand. He loved that sometimes it made flowers grow, sometimes it made water run, there were so many things to do with his new wand. It was definitely worth the additional $10 for the wand that allowed you to do all the special magical activities. These are located both in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure.
We stopped and visited with the Wizard in front of the Leaky Cauldron before going in for lunch. Fish and Chips for all. It was very good (and I really don’t care for fish). After lunch we rode Escape from Gringotts which arguably could be the best ride in all of Universal. It was amazing and he had so much fun. After we finished exploring Weasleys Joke shop and the Quidditch shop, we almost stopped for some Ice Cream at Florean Fortescue’s. Instead, we decided to go through Platform 9 ¾ and head to Hogwarts and Hogsmeade at Island of Adventures.
The Hogwarts Express is a real albeit short train ride. The presentation or ride varies depending on which direction the train is going. You must have a park to park ticket to ride this ride. You are given entrance to Islands of Adventure before you board the train.
We spent the rest of the day enjoying Hogwarts Castle. The Forbidden Journey is an amazing ride that will leave you a bit disoriented at some points. I always suggest some motion sickness meds the morning you are going to ride, just in case. We rode Hagrid’s Hut and had fun seeing the Forbidden Forest. The laser show on Hogwarts Castle makes the perfect ending to an amazing day.
We took the Water Taxi back to the resort and went to our room. When we opened the door, there on the table was a mylar Happy Birthday Balloon attached to a Cupcake and a bag of peanut M&M’s. My son was so excited he almost missed the envelope below.
His entire birthday was made with that envelope, you would think the whole day had never happened.
He opened the envelope to find his Hogwarts acceptance letter and his school supply list. He was so excited and wanted to run back to the park to collect everything he would need for school. This was a treat we never expected, however it was amazing and over the top. Universal will go above and beyond to make your birthday’s special.
So if you are a Harry Potter, Minion or Shrek fan, you want to be sure to let them know so they can make their day as special as possible for your little one.
Thanks to Embrace the Journey Travel Planner, Angel Waite, for writing this blog post for us. You can learn more about Angel here.