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  • Mark Smith


After a summer of hard work, Robin and I were ready to go have some fun. The Plan:

First Stop - Universal Studios in Orlando.

Next, get behind the wheel and drive 5-1/2 hours to reach Marathon, Florida in the very heart of the keys.

One should not visit southern Florida without visiting the everglades, so that is what we did.

After that we headed home with a flight out of Mi­ami.

I put together a park and hotel package, which included a “meet and greet” van shuttle to the hotel (nice). We also spent a little extra money and got passes that al­lowed us to skip regular lines, and go into the Harry Pot­ter themes an hour early. Maybe younger couples / families would want more, but for us the 2-day park pass with a 3rd day free was more than enough to see everything we wanted to see. We stayed at Lowes Royal Pacific. Lowes is a beautiful hotel — for once our room view actually looked like the brochure!

We hit the park just as it opened, and headed straight for the Harry Potter stuff. ‘How much is going to be fluff and hype?’, I wondered. Well, the cynic was replaced by the kid in me as soon as we entered Diagon Alley.

The adults wound their way through shops and ca­fes, the young kids ran around in robes and gift shop wands. Everywhere you went there were smiles. It was good to see so many people from all over the world having fun.

The dragon on top of Gringotts belches out a 20 foot tongue of flame. You can feel the heat on your face.

True, the buildings are facade, but what wonderful work! There is de­tail everywhere you look.

Robin fit right in. Now that’s a cool place to have your first cup of coffee!

The awesome castle pulls you in, and the rides satisfy your need for adventure.

On "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" you take a wild broom ride inside the castle. I didn't think they could pull off a realistic broom ride, but they did.

Gringotts, is also a 3-D ride. It takes you through the underbelly of the bank vaults, ending by making an escape on the back of a dragon.

Universal still has some old favorites like the in­credible Hulk coaster, and the rip ride rocket coaster.

Robin was brave enough to go on both of these monster coasters with me. Be­low—the Hulk. Whew! The train accelerates to 40 mph in approximately two sec­onds before speeding through seven inversions. Top Speed—67mph


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