Every month, I make a list of 10 things to smile about, a great reminder of all the good that’s happened. This month, I could easily make a list of 100 for just the 6 days that we spent at the Family Forward Retreat, put on by Mom It Forward at Universal Studios Orlando. But, I’ll try to keep it down to just 10. For now.
On our first night of Family Forward, we had a luau in Jurassic Park and then were able to ride the Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade over to Diagon Alley, the newest area in Universal Studios Orlando(it just opened in July).
Getting to ride Escape from Gringotts without a big line. It’s the newest ride and we were able to go on it twice! My three boys all loved it: my 9 year old is a Harry Potter FANATIC so he loved seeing the scene from the last book come to life from a different perspective. My 6 year old is a daredevil and just loved all the twists and turns and frights. AGAIN, I want to do it AGAIN! Plus, you got to see the goblins working in the bank and the fire-breathing dragon on top of Gringotts.
In Ollivanders, there’s a wand choosing ceremony where one child gets picked to test out different wands until the right wand chooses the wizard. I literally teared up when it was my Harry Potter-loving oldest who was selected and had to blindly snap (flash-off because that’s the rule) photos and hope that one came out because I couldn’t see clearly through the emotion.
Our little Gryffindors, outfitted in Madam Malkin’s. She showed them the proper way ensure the correct fit of your robes. We were traveling with one of The Soccer Moms families, which is why you’ll see some extra kids in some of my photos. Even the adults tried on our robes. I tried on Ravenclaw robes because that would definitely be my house. Of course we sampled Butterbeer and some other pretty fantastic drinks and desserts while we were in Diagon Alley.
The Knight Bus outside of Diagon Alley: the driving head(Dre Head) was super interactive. Here’s my favorite exchange:
Dre Head: What’s your name?
My 6y/o: Mason.
Dre Head: And you’re free???
My husband: A FREE MASON!
Dre Head: It’s like you’re in my head, mon!
Spending a day as a family, at Lowes Portofino Bay hotel, crafting with DohVinci, chatting with pilots from Southwest, making lunch with Barilla, and having a close(almost too close) encounter with a croc with Animal Jam. This pic sums up my family: all the boys in soccer gear, mom being the only girl in the group.
Getting Minion hugs! We were able to get pictures with the Minions, Transformers, the Simpsons, Scooby, Shrek, and more. Afterwards, we learned a dance to “Happy” that we went out into the park and performed, flash mob style.
A VIP Minion Mayhem experience. Meredith with Universal Studios was tweeting out some clues to her whereabouts during our time in the parks and the first family to find her would get a surprise. We dashed to her at the Minion Mayhem ride, a favorite of my boys, and were granted front of the line treatment and a little extra treat at the end of the ride.
The interactive wands in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The wand that chose my son is one of the new wands to the parks that actually can cast spells in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. You have to find the designated spots and follow the instructions to move your wand in the pictured way and say the correct spell in order for it to work. Sometimes it took a little wand training to get it just right. The boys could have spent all day just doing this.
And of course, what made this so special was all the family time. We traveled in a group of 10 and got used to counting 6 heads everywhere we went to be sure we had all the kids with us. Here we are at dinner at Vivo Italian, one of the newest restaurants on Universal’s Citywalk.
To see more about Family Forward, be sure you’re following along in the days to come(because yes, there’s much more to do there than Harry Potter and Minion themed activities- those just happened to be some of our biggest WOW moments). Also, check out my instagram to see more photos. You can also check out my advice for families traveling to Universal Studios Orlando.
Thanks to Universal Orlando and all the sponsors of the Family Forward Retreat put on by Mom It Forward, my family was able to attend this event at a discounted rate. However, all opinions and magical fun are my own.