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Hello Disney friends. Grab a coffee, tea or drink of choice because this is going to be a long one… 

I have to go backwards with this story before I go forward. Now most everyone knows about Facebook even if you’re not on it. After some enticing, I hopped on and do not regret it for one second. I happily reconnected with some dear friends. One friend I am just delighted to have rekindled a friendship with is Bridgette. We went to grade school together and have some treasured memories. Like many of us, we lost touch…well we didn’t lose it, we didn’t work hard enough to keep it some would say. Thankfully, we picked up where we left off. 

Fast forward to our preparations for our visit to Florida and Disney World. We planned for our families to meet for dinner at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney – love it there. During our dinner, Bridgette insisted we visit her amazing place of employment…GATORLAND!!!! After the vivid descriptions of all Gatorland has to offer, we were there! 

Of course we were so excited to get to Gatorland. After a minor motor home glitch in the morning, we made it to Gatorland a little later than we had hoped but that was fine because we have several things to look forward to. There are some great shows there and one we really enjoyed was Gator Wrestlin’. This show kept your attention and dropped some jaws. 

Very cool show!


Here’s the part where I share a secret…I HATE SPIDERS!!!!!! I could care less that I am bigger than they are – no matter…loathe them. Well, maybe not Charlotte. Everybody loves Charlotte. So, as Bridgette peered around the post at this other “fun for me” show, she had no idea I would be so lucky as to be chosen to hold…bum, bum, bum, dramatic music…a tarantula. Yay me! Please laugh and enjoy the fear and discomfort on my face. Seriously, do your family a favor, have a seat at the Upclose Encounters show. These guys are a riot. 

Lord help me!

No!!! I do not want to say hello to your furry friend!


Well, now I’d say it wasn’t that bad and I showed the kids you must face your fears. Doesn’t that sound so convincing and role model parent-like. Cait and Jake did indeed seem fearless as they posed for an all too cute picture souvenir from Gatorland…this place leaves no stone unturned. 

This is how ya do it mom!


 We were amazed at how friendly the birds are. Jake and Cait were feeding the gators – another enjoyable thing to do – and of course the birds wanted in on the yummy treats. Jake was just hysterical over these feathered friends. They would come right up to you to snack on some hot dogs. I took the picture below without the use of any zoom. You should get the idea now. 

Feed me!


The petting zoo is great for the kids as is the train ride. We truly had a blast and could not thank Bridgette enough for showing us such a wonderful day. There’s so much to do there and we ran out of time to do a few things. I never told Bridgette, but tears were shed by the kids because we didn’t fit everything in. The mom in me didn’t want her to feel bad as she went above and beyond so I told the kids we’ll certainly be back again, dry your eyes and be thankful for what we did get to do and see. We love you Bridgette! Gatorland loves you too!

Here are some other pictures for you to enjoy. 

Sometimes the alligators became water taxis for the birds.


They all wanted to be by the warm water spicket.


These are known as leucistic — not albino — gators, which means their pigment is white.

Until next time…Melissa

A Look At The Wizarding World of Harry Potter..Hagrid’s Hut Posted on Wed, Apr 07, 2010 @ 06:35 AM at Orlando Discount tiks blog

Take a Look at a couple of stuff at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter The Following courtesy of Orlando Attractions Magazine An authentic replica from the Harry Potter films, guests will pass by Hagrid’s Hut on their way to the Flight of the Hippogriff family-friendly roller coaster. Just before they board, Hagrid instructs guests on how to properly approach and fly on a Hippogriff. Hagrid’s Hut will be seen as part of a feature about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice this Sunday, April 4. The Ellen DeGeneres Show aired a video today from within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It offers the best look yet into the new land. You’ll see inside many of the stores, inside Hogwarts and a bit of the Flight of the Hippogriff ride. Still haven’t got your Universal Studios Orlando Tickets or a Vacation Package to visit Harry Potter and The Wizarding World opening June 18th?

By Mitch Stacy, Associated Press

The ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the heart of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a new environment at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida that will bring the world of Harry Potter novels and movies to life. The new ride combines a new storyline with spectacular new technology so effectively that guests will be immersed in the experience. Film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and others shot a piece of film just for the ride. (Associated Press)

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will open to Muggles for the first time June 18. The Three Broomsticks Inn, Honeydukes sweets and all the other quirky shops in Hogsmeade village will open then, too.

That’s the day the non-wizarding public will be allowed to step into Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the much-anticipated new attraction that brings to life the weird, wonderful realm of the famous boy wizard.

All those Potterphiles who’ve been waiting for the day they could peer into the Gryffindor House common room, soar on Harry’s broomstick or quaff a butter beer in the Hog’s Head pub will not be disappointed.

The theme park attraction was created with the close collaboration of the set designers from the Potter movies, as well as with input from author J.K. Rowling, who first conjured the world in her imagination.

The scope and attention to detail are stunning, from the bizarre bric-a-brac displayed in headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s office, to the boxes of magic wands stacked in the window at Ollivander’s wand shop. (Located in Diagon Alley in the books, the shop was moved to Hogsmeade in Florida, with Rowling’s OK.)

“This is so authentic to what I experienced on the films that I find it hard to tell them apart,” said Alan Gilmore, who helped design sets for three of the Harry Potter movies before joining the attraction’s creative team. “I’m a stickler for detail, and I really haven’t let go of these guys until it was perfect.”

Not only that, but team members working on the park made a series of trips to Scotland to consult with the hands-on Rowling. She signed off on everything, from what would be displayed in the Hogsmeade shop windows to the recipes for the butter beer and pumpkin juice served in the restaurant at the Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head. Both libations, are absolutely delicious.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is within Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, so there’s no extra charge to step from The Lost Continent section right onto the cobblestones of Hogsmeade village, with its steep, snow-covered roofs, grimy crooked chimneys and menacing doorways. The Hogwarts Express locomotive belches steam at the train station nearby. Fans of the movies will recognize this place right away.

The ancient, foreboding castle that is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry looms over the village, drawing visitors inside to the centerpiece of the attraction, a ride combining 360-degree filming techniques and sophisticated robotics to create the illusion of a magic flight with Harry and his wizarding pals Ron and Hermione.

Believe it or not, standing in line for the ride — called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey — is half the fun. The queue snakes through the castle’s dungeon, up to the greenhouse (complete with potted mandrakes) and through a corridor to the soaring portrait gallery, where the quirky characters from Hogwarts’ past talk to each other and move from painting to painting.

From there, visitors move into Dumbledore’s office, where the headmaster welcomes Muggles — non-wizarding folks — to the castle for the first time. Dumbledore is on screen, but the illusion magically puts him right him right there in the room.

Next it’s the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, where Harry, Ron and Hermione — the movie actors appearing on-screen — intercept the group and invite everyone along for an adventure with them. The Gryffindor House common room is one of the last stops before the ride, which includes an encounter with the Whomping Willow, a narrow escape from a dragon attack and a Quidditch match.

The queue and ride are supposed to be an hour-long experience, but long lines may extend the wait time.

In addition to the Forbidden Journey ride, two outdoor roller coasters at the 20-acre Harry Potter attraction are there for adrenaline junkies who need a fix. Of course, the shops in Hogsmeade will provide ample retail opportunities for witches and wizards of all ages.

Universal announced the June 18 grand opening date, but the attraction will be open beginning May 28 for park guests who buy a special Harry Potter travel package. Some of those early dates may already be sold out. Those packages are still available via Universal’s Web site, (www.universalorlando.com/harrypotter).

Today in memory of Dawn we are doing a tribute to her before the first Believe show at each of our three SeaWorld parks. This has been an extremely difficult time for the entire Shamu family. We believe that Dawn would want our work with these whales, that she loved so much, to continue. So with that in mind, we dedicate our shows this weekend to our dear friend