Islands of Adventure trip report – April 2014 (Hogsmeade Station looking good, Zonko’s looking sad & a heart-warming Seuss story)

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This past weekend we visited Islands of Adventure, and it turned out to be one of those days where everything was fantastic!

I enjoy sharing my IOA experiences each month with Orlando Informer readers. I am always anxious to see and photograph the ongoing progress with the construction of Hogsmeade Station for the new Hogwarts Express attraction in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.

This trip, the walkway between Lost Continent and the Wizarding World was open again.

Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.
Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.

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In Hogsmeade, I was sad to see Zonko’s Joke Shop permanently closed (as of March 11). A wall has been built separating its former space from Honeydukes.

Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.
Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.

But our grief didn’t last long, because…

We were lucky enough to capture some great photos of the almost-complete Hogsmeade Station from the Dragon Challenge coaster. If you look closely, you can see walkways and additional buildings being constructed in that area, which aren’t visible from the guest side of the construction fence.

Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.
Zooming in.
Zooming in.
Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.

We were excited about the progress of Hogsmeade Station as seen through the photographs, but believe it or not, it wasn’t the best part of this trip to Islands of Adventure – we will get to that in a moment.

Are you concerned about potential crowd levels during your visit to Universal Orlando Resort? OI has an incredible crowd calendar to help plan your vacation. The crowd levels were moderate at the park on this beautiful spring day, and the posted wait times were great: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was only 30 minutes; the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, just 25 minutes; the Incredible Hulk Coaster, 15 minutes; Jurassic Park River Adventure, 45 minutes; and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, only 30 minutes.

And these fantastic wait times still weren’t the best part.

Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.
Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.

Each month, I strive to convey how much fun guests can have when they visit IOA. My family took part in almost every attraction this visit:  we got soaked on Ripsaw Falls and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges in Toon Lagoon, flew with Harry and Ron on the Forbidden Journey in WWoHP, and rode Storm Force Accelatron in Marvel Super Hero Island. We also hopped on the Cat in the Hat (which is not spinning, apparently due to an incident earlier this month) – and it’s at Seuss Landing where we had the most magical experience.

My son, who has autism and cannot speak, really enjoys live shows, especially those with music. We were able to see the Frog Choir and the Triwizard Spirit Rally in Hogsmeade, which are some of his favorites, but the Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear show in Seuss Landing will remain in our memories for some time to come.

Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.
Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.

My son, although 19, loves the Dr. Seuss books and the PBS series. He reads a Dr. Seuss book each night before he goes to bed. My son expresses his joy by flapping his hands and loudly making happy sounds. Needles to say, you can’t miss us in a crowd.

After “Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear” was over, our son had his picture taken with the Grinch, and then we were approached by a Team Member. He asked us if we would wait about five minutes, because the cast wanted to meet our son backstage. We were thrilled and honored our son was given this awesome opportunity.

Behind the stage, all of the characters met our son (and us). To say he was ecstatic would probably be an understatement. He laughed and smiled and giggled the entire time. He hugged each character. When we told the cast how much our son loves Dr. Seuss and that he was the Cat in the Hat last Halloween, they hugged him again – especially the Cat. We posed for a few photos with the cast and profusely thanked them.

[youtube_video]mQ1qsCHASyY[/youtube_video]

It was an experience our son and we will never forget. The kindness and generosity exhibited by the Team Members and the cast of the show were overwhelming.

Could we ask for a more fantastic day spent at Islands of Adventure? I don’t think so. Our entire day was delightful, but the opportunity to meet the cast of “Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear” was the best part of our trip to Islands of Adventure and will be our favorite memory from IOA.

Islands of Adventure - April 2014.
Islands of Adventure – April 2014.

I hope you, too, can soon experience a fantastic day at Islands of Adventure and create lasting memories of your own.

To plan your next visit to Islands of Adventure, see the full walk-through in the OI Universal Center. Or you can catch up on all our trip reports.


Could you hear the party music from outside? We’re celebrating the OI Forums Grand Opening, and you could win one of three $100 Universal Orlando gift cards!Just five full days after officially opening, we’ve already got over 600 members who have posted more than 6,300 times – join us, jump in, get your questions answered, and make vacation planning almost as fun as the vacation!Oh yeah, and get a chance to win a $100 Universal gift card too. Start here


Universal Studios Florida trip report – photo gallery

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[sws_author_bio user=”MaureenDeal” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by Maureen” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]

Maureen Maureen is married with a teenage son who has autism. Since she and her family moved to Orlando in 2007, they have visited Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, or SeaWorld almost every weekend. Maureen recently created AutismAtTheParks.com to help vacationers who have a family member with a developmental disability to better navigate and enjoy the theme parks.

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28 Comments on "Islands of Adventure trip report – April 2014 (Hogsmeade Station looking good, Zonko’s looking sad & a heart-warming Seuss story)"

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Amanda Gibbins
Guest

Great read and fantastic video so glad your son got to enjoys the characters in a private setting xxx

Regina Garry Russo
Guest

That was GREAT!!!

David Maxwell
Guest

This is a real heart warmer . I have an uncle with MS and my mum has problems with her mobility and chronoc asthma and my younger brother has sacral agenisis . We are all going in june this year there are 13 of us travelling from scotland . Would u have any ideas on who would be best to email about disabled access . Just we have never dealt with this kind of thing before . Any help would be greatly appreciated . And i hope ur son has many more happy and fun filled trips to IOA

Stuart Nielsen
Guest

Great blog Maureen!

Matt Peters
Guest

This was awesome to read! Thanks so much for sharing and it was really awesome of those team members to do this.

Carol Jakes
Guest

My fave park in the whole world!!!

Lou Lou Priddle
Guest

Donna Hart x

julie y
Guest

Wow!!! That was so cool! And it looks like you all had a brilliant time!!

Kristen DC
Guest

This is such a heat-warming story! I’m so glad your family, and your son especially, got to experience this. How great are those team members?!
On a side note, do you, or does anyone know what they’re going to replace Zonkos with?

Maureen Deal
Guest

Kristen DC   The Team Members were awesome. My understanding is they are just going to expand Honeydukes into the Zonko’s space.

OrlandoInformer
Guest

Kristen DC Universal announced they’re just expanding Honeydukes, although once upon a time there were rumors of a new indoor photo op.

OrlandoInformer
Guest

Maureen Deal We answered at the same time 🙂

MikeFrom502
Guest

Great Photos!  would be awesome if we had a Like Option on them!  Keep up the good work!

Suzy Stockwin
Guest

Lovely 😉 xx

David Maxwell
Guest

Thanks Marc

Rebecca Morgan
Guest

Glad we went in Zonko’s for the last time in Feb. love HP world

bev13
Guest

Is the Dr. Seuss show new?  We haven’t been to Universal Orlando since January 2012 and I don’t remember seeing a sign for it at that time.  My 21 year old daughter has autism and is mostly non-verbal (we understand some words). I think she would enjoy this show as well.  She really enjoys the Barney show at Studios but it would be great entertainment for her in IOA.  I wish Universal Orlando would add a few more rides/attractions for younger kids because those are the ones that work best for my daughter.

OrlandoInformer
Guest

bev13  The show has been at IOA for at least the last four years (since I’ve been covering Universal intensely). It can be tough to spot, however, because the stage is basically hidden behind Cat in the Hat and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish in Seuss Landing. However, the times are always printed in the in-park guidemap.

Here’s a link to the exact location: http://goo.gl/maps/aV3Mp. It will help to switch the map to Satellite View and zoom way in.

Bob Rumpke
Guest

We’ll be at the parks in Feb. with our grown Autistic son and can’t wait. He loves all the rides but can’t stand in long lines. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a GAC for him.

Stacy
Guest

What a beautiful story!!! I am a special educator who works with students who have autism and this made me so happy I cried! So touching! best wishes always

Stacy

DragoHarley
Guest

I am crying so hard. This story really touched me. What a beautiful family. Such a magical experience in the park. You are so kind to have shared it with us all.

TyMiller
Guest

I cried, I cheered, I don’t feel weard! ( But I do feel very glad you and your son were so blessed with that wonderful gift. Thank you for shareing.)

CaptainAction
Guest

Wow, so happy for you and your family. So happy for you guys and so proud of the Universal castmembers for being so cool and giving you all a great memory. Thank you for sharing a sweet blessing with us.

Kristen DC
Guest

OrlandoInformer Kristen DC Thank you for the info!

Kristen DC
Guest

Maureen Deal Kristen DC Thank you for the info!

CaptainAction
Guest

As many times as we have been to Universal and love it, we have never seen this show! We have had our pictures taken with these characters but we thought it was just a photo op.
I don’t know where the sign for this show is but it must not be too well positioned.
We will see this show the next time we get to Universal.

CaptainAction
Guest
Hey David, if you go to the search box near the top of the Orlando Informer site and enter special needs, several great stories are listed there. They seem very helpful and list lots of hints and things to avoid when traveling with guests who have special needs. Also, if you are able, please look into staying on site at one of the Universal resorts. The boats handle folks with special needs very well and make it easy to get around, skip lines, and enjoy early mornings before most guests are allowed in. Buying one Universal Annual Pass gets the… Read more »
dianapantz
Guest

i worked in the autism community for a few years and this story made my heart so huge! 
thanks so much for sharing!

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