Hogwarts and Syfy: Adventures in Orlando, Part 1

I usually cover my travel posts on my author website, but this is a very geeky story, so I think it fits right here. I mean, it’s about Syfy and Harry Potter, both very wonderfully nerdy topics.

I’ve been invited to the Syfy Digital Press Tour in previous years, but I’ve never been able to go. This year, however, the stars aligned just so and I RSVP’d to my invite almost immediately.

This year’s tour was at Universal Studios in Orlando. Yeah, there was no way I was missing out on that. I spoke with my T-Lounge editor, made sure I could cover at least part of the tour there and quickly booked my flight (thank you, Southwest rewards points), hotel and shuttle from the airport.

I arrived in Orlando after two flights, one that took me to Houston and another that took me to Orlando. Yes, I know that makes ZERO sense, but I didn’t care. I arrived at the airport, where the shuttle awaited me and we walked from luggage carousel to luggage carousel searching for my flight’s luggage (the displays kept changing the number of the carousel). Once my luggage was in hand, though, I finally fled the airport and was shuttled to my hotel.

The Cabana Bay Beach resort is awesome. It’s this lovely retro themed building that I absolutely loved. As I booked so late, I ended up with a suite (and at $130/night, it was a steal). I was in theme park hotel heaven:

Cabana Bay Beach Resort Suite

After a yummy dinner in the hotel’s food court, I got a drink at the pool bar and soaked in the hot tub for awhile, calling it an early night because I booked tickets to Universal’s Islands of Adventure the next day. Yes, I was going to Hogwarts.

So I did, I went to Hogwarts, but not before I rode a few thrill rides based on superheroes like Hulk, Spiderman and Doctor Doom (okay, not a superhero, a villain, but you get the gist). The Hulk coaster was intense, but I loved it (it’s nice to know that at my age, I’ve still got that thrill seeking quality), but the Doom freefall thing was disappointing (I prefer Disney’s Tower of Terror).

But once I got to the Hogsmeade section of the park, I was blown away.

The Harry Potter stuff at Universal Studios puts Disney to shame. And I’m a Disney fanatic, so please know that I don’t say that lightly. It is truly the most magical thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s like stepping into the movie and actually being there.


I won’t lie. Tears came to my eyes when I looked upon the beauty of Hogsmeade and Hogswart Castle.

I also almost cried when I tasted butterbeer for the first time because it was SO good. I had three that day.

I decided to ride the Forbidden Journey ride inside the castle. Unfortunately, said ride doesn’t sync up well with the film and my eyes and body got confused and I got queasy towards the end. Fortunately, I didn’t hurl, but after, I did sit down for awhile until I felt better. Fortunately, butterbeer is great for an upset stomach.

At that point, I was hungry, so I had lunch at the Three Broomsticks. I had pasties, which were tiny (and that was a slight disappointment because I’ve had bigger pasties in London). By then, I was feeling better, so I just walked around Hogsmeade and gawked at everything. Wish I had bought the camera which was top rated from Gear Hungry I had been looking at, but my phone was behaving so I got some good pictures.

Of course, then it was getting hot, so I thought I’d hit a water ride and head back to the hotel. I had to change clothes anyway for a dinner that night. I rode the Jurassic Park ride, which I could’ve sworn I’ve been on before, although I’ve only been to the other park before Islands of Adventure was built. But I got soaked, and it felt good.

So I went back to the hotel and changed. We had dinner at Antojito’s at CityWalk that night with executives from the Syfy Network. This included all the food you could ever imagine wanting to eat and free drinks. Lots and lots of free drinks. I met a lot of incredibly nice people, ended up buddying up with a few other lovely ladies, also reporters, and we all got good and liquored up.

But the evening wasn’t over. We went bowling (at the Cabana Bay, which has an alley) with the cast of Ascension. This includes Tricia Helfer, who is not only a better bowler than me, but also can make a pair of bowling shoes look elegant. I’m a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, so meeting her was a treat. But what did we talk about? We swapped cat stories. I kid you not. I meet Number Six, and we talked about our cats.

I love cat people.

Our bowling team was led by Al Sapienza, who Sopranos fans might remember as Mikey. He was so excited about the series and couldn’t stop talking about it. He also really liked to bowl and kept us going until nearly midnight (even though we journalists had a breakfast event at 8 a.m.)! But he was a great guy, so I got a photo with him.

With Al Sapienza from Ascension

But the Syfy Digital Press Tour was just getting started. So, stay tuned for Part 2…

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