September 1, 2018: A Journey Back to School

By Alexis Peralta

Central Florida Slug Club All Aboard the Hogwarts Express Event

Going back to Hogwarts is always an exciting time, but this year Kings Cross was really a sight to see! I’m amazed the wizarding world didn’t end up in the muggle papers because we were coming in droves all dressed up and ready for the train! Usually students dress in civvies and wait to robe right before arriving at Hogwarts, but today was a special celebration.

For such an occasion, professors from years past were in attendance; including Gilderoy Lockhart, Mad-Eye Moody, and even to most students and staffs disgruntlement, Dolores Umbridge. Of course Dumbledore came to show his support, he even magically seemed to be in different robes throughout the morning, changing as fast as you could spot him. Gryffindors, who always need their ego stroked, had ample support from their Head of House Professor McGonagall and even the Fat Lady was seen strolling through portraits nearby. Rita Skeeter was present, of course, to report on the possible break of The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy (she let me borrow her Quick-Quotes Quill for this article though!).

Central Florida Slug Club All Aboard the Hogwarts Express Event

Houses took group pictures before boarding the train, and I have NEVER seen so many students entering Kings Cross at the same time! There were at least 44 Gryffindor, 38 Hufflepuff, 49 Ravenclaw, and 46 Slytherin (plus 2 because of course Logan and I missed the picture off dueling in Diagon Alley-don’t tell Snape). Finally, after class pictures, the floating yellow flag beacon was raised and we all followed it drifting into the station. The muggle attendants were definitely surprised by the group entering all together (looking quite mad I bet), but they smiled, let us scan our ticket, and we passed through.

I love King’s Cross. There is always this beauty in the rush of the travelers, the excitement of the students walking by, the old brick on the wall that’s seen so many wizards and muggles alike rush past. Nearing platform 9 ¾ you could feel the heightened anxiety of first years! It was so funny watching two of them in front of us run head first into the column! Way to not bring attention to yourselves first-years, scoff. Logan and I casually leaned against and fell through effortlessly, emerging on the other side where we truly belong!

Central Florida Slug Club All Aboard the Hogwarts Express Meetup

It was a spectacular view! Hundreds of students, parents, and professors all in queue for the train. For the event, the trolley lady made a special appearance and was already on the platform offering sweets and treats before the train arrived (I waited until on board to honor tradition and get my favorite, a Pumpkin Pasty!) Eleven O’clock came nearer and we all hurried to our positions to load up. Then we could see it rolling in, the Hogwarts Express, it always takes my breath away. Call me a sap but I always get goosebumps when I see it coming, knowing that it brings the joy of another school year.

We got on the train, found a compartment that only had 4 other people in it (lucky!) and settled in for the ride. Something was truly extra special this year, the camaraderie seemed so genuine and everyone was happy to be returning to their second home: Hogwarts.

Central Florida Slug Club All Aboard the Hogwarts Express Meetup

By Alexis Peralta

Intrahouse Rivalry?

All Aboard the Hogwarts Express for the 2015-16 School Year!

Another September 1st has come and gone. As you may know, September 1st is the day that young witches and wizards throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland gather at Kings Cross in London to hop on board the Hogwarts Express for the new school year. While many of us are well beyond our Hogwarts years, every year on September 1st we still don our Hogwarts uniforms, gather at Platform 9 3/4s at 11am, sing the school song, and think fondly back to our school days.

Slug Club at Kings Cross

Slug Club members outside of Kings Cross on September 1st, 2015

September 1st is always a magical day. We see old friends again…   Seeing Old Friends Again

And make some new ones…

Lauren and Carla Magical Law Enforcement Squad

Rehash old rivalries…

Intrahouse Rivalry?

And rekindle those old school romances.

Hogwarts Romance

Eventually, we made our way back to Hogwarts for old times’ sakes.

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In the famous words of Albus Dumbledore: “Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! […] I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you.”

Now time for the feast!

Cornfundo!

Wait, you’re doing it wrong!

Potterwatch 2014: One Year Later

by Megan Stump

Several years ago there was a rumor that more Harry Potter was coming to Universal Studios Florida. I had fallen in love with Hogsmeade immediately after seeing the tip of Hogwarts from across the lagoon in IoA, so needless to say, I was very excited. We learned about some fun details at the Harry Potter Celebration. Finally June 9, 2014 the construction walls came down. Read More

Upcoming Meetups

We have a number of fun meetups coming up soon! Want to be one of the first to know about any upcoming meetups? Join our Facebook or Meetup.com groups! (You’ll need to be a member in order to RSVP to any of the events listed below.)

April 29th – “Kill the Spare” Bowling Meetup – RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.com
Come join us at Kings Bowling on I-Drive for our second “Kill the Spare” Bowling Meet-up!

May 4th – Second Annual Battle of Hogwarts Laser Tag RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.com
“It’s time to choose your side and either fight to protect Hogwarts, Harry Potter, and the future of the wizarding world as you know it, or fight to rid the wizarding world of the mudbloods and blood traitors who only serve as a disgrace to our community. You-Know-Who and his followers will storm the castle on May 4th in an event that will forever be known as “The Battle of Hogwarts.””

May 5th – S.P.E.W. MeetingRSVP on Facebook
Interested in community service and activism? Join our S.P.E.W. group, a Harry Potter Alliance chapter! We’ll talk about our current Accio Books campaign, plan for Esther Day, and more! Make sure to join our S.P.E.W group here.

May 24th – Group Photo at MISTI-con – RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.com
For those of us attending MISTI-con in May, let’s meet up at the ball just after it begins to get a group picture! (If you’re unfamiliar with MISTI-con – it’s an amazing Harry Potter conference taking place over Memorial Day weekend this year. You can get more information at http://www.misti-con.org/)

May 30th – May Book Club: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.com
For book club meeting we will be reading the fourth book in the Harry Potter series: The Goblet of Fire. Join us at the George & Dragon for book discussion and trivia! This is the last day to turn in all the books you collected for Accio Books. Be sure to get them to us today or you are stuck with them for another year!!

June 6th – Abracadabra Ice CreamRSVP on Facebook or Meetup.com
“Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory is one of the hottest new liquid nitrogen ice cream concepts in the country. They use liquid nitrogen to freeze your very own ice cream creation within seconds. With temperatures reaching -328 degrees below 0 they are able to flash freeze the ice cream right before your eyes. Every witch and wizard loves the quick little magic show as “Magic Clouds” flow across the counter top creating an exciting experience for everyone, including the most curmudgeonly Potions professor. Come and create your own flavor of ice cream or try one of Abracadabra’s suggestions. You are welcome to bring any (and I mean ANY) ingredients to put in your own concoction! (Slughorn’s favorite is pineapple.)” **Rescheduled from May 16th**

June 12th – Harry Potter Game Night – RSVPs are CLOSED but you can join the waiting list on Facebook!
Join us at Liam Mason’s apartment for a great big Potter bash. Liam will be providing HP Scene it, HP Clue, and Quidditch Beer Pong . The HoH’s will bring Cards Against Muggles! Feel free to bring another HP themed game if you have one.

September 1st – Train Ride to HogwartsRSVP on Facebook (Open to the Public!) or on Meetup.com
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment that you can purchase in Diagon Alley prior to your departure.

Term begins on September 1. Please arrive at King’s Cross station at 10:00am* to cross through Platform 9 3/4 and board the Hogwarts Express at 11:00am.

Join the Central Florida Slug Club as we travel from King’s Cross station to Hogsmeade for the start of term. School uniform is strongly encouraged but not mandatory. Once off the train we will head to Hogwarts to get a class photo. We will follow up with lunch at the Three Broomsticks.

December 5th – Portkey to Magic’s Yule Ball – RSVP on Facebook
Join us as we venture to St. Petersburg, Florida and invade our sister group’s Yule Ball. Tampa Bay’s Portkey to Magic has worked out a hotel discount for us; check the Facebook event for details. Ball tickets need to be purchased in advance – only 100 tickets will be sold!

A Celebration of Harry Potter 2015: Felix Felicis

For the second year in a row, I attended A Celebration of Harry Potter 2015 at Universal Orlando with the Central Florida Slug Club, the largest active adult Harry Potter fan club in the Southeastern United States, and one of the largest in the country.  While last year was memorable, this year was epic!  Everything went right for me.  It was unreal.  I don’t know who slipped Felix Felicis potion into my morning orange juice, but God bless them.   Luck was on my side.  Here are my luckiest moments of this magical weekend. Continue Reading…

Universal Orlando’s Harry Potter Celebration Social Media Meet-Up

Wow. Say that five times fast! (Celebration Social Media Meet-Up, Celebration Social Media M…)

I’ve had many people ask me how I was chosen for such an event. Universal Orlando posted on their blog this contest, which required you to tweet them with, “I wish to enter my vault! #HPCelebration.” Having the worst luck in the world when it comes to contests, I sent my tweet, but wasn’t holding my breath for anything. I didn’t notice there were additional ways to enter through Facebook and Instagram until it was waaaaay too late. But guess what?! I was one of the few selected and was told I could bring a guest with me! Slytherin HoH Heather was happy to join in, thus making this a pureblood privilege event.

Read More

A Celebration of Harry Potter Recap

Universal Orlando hosted its second annual Harry Potter Celebration over the weekend. We heard announcements over the summer that they were bringing the Celebration back, and were now offering a special annual passholder vacation package. Every passholder I know wouldn’t be caught dead purchasing a vacation package that included tickets to the theme parks, since we already get unlimited entry for the year, so when I saw that they were offering less expensive packages for those who already have theme park tickets, I knew I wanted to purchase one. The packages went on sale in August and sold out the first day, but I got one.

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Read More

It’s Real To Us: Diagon Alley Preview

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It’s been a busy and emotional week for members of the Central Florida Slug Club.  Many of our members have been apart of the much talked about #POTTERWATCH movement, patiently (and not so patiently) waiting for a chance to preview the new Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Since opening July 3rd in preview mode, 44 of the Slug Club members have already visited numerous times, getting familiarized with the new area and taking in all that it has to offer before the muggles invade by the thousands on grand opening day, July 8th!

The general consensus of the group is complete adoration!  We applaud the folks at Universal for staying true to the magical and cozy feeling of the Wizarding World as depicted in the book and the movies.  We were all truly moved with emotions when we first laid eyes on Diagon Alley.

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Here are the things we absolutely love:

1.  Total immersion – Once you pass into London and beyond the brick wall entry way you are truly transported into another realm.  There were times we forgot we were actually inside Universal Studios and exiting to London was a bit of a shock.  We got the feeling that perhaps we should put away our wands or else the ‘Muggles’ (non-wizarding folk) will find out.   It became just that real for us.
2.  Butter Beer soft serve – It’s divine. We also really appreciated the variety of other ice cream flavors offered just as they were described in the book.
3.  Knockturn Alley – This area was loved by all, not just the Slytherins in the club.  It’s covered, it’s air-conditioned, and it’s just freakin’ cool to walk around in the dark.
4.  Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees – WOW! This show is amazing.  None of us were expecting it to take the direction of a jazzy/speakeasy  vibe and we were enamored after the very first show. (Soundtrack please!!!)
5.  Interactive Wands – We’re grown-ups with wands that actually work.  We couldn’t be happier!
6.  Booze on the Hogwarts Express – The train is just perfect! We appreciate being able to journey as Hogwarts alum on the Hogwarts Express with our adult beverages.  We appreciate being able to buy them in line even more!
7.  Interactive Gringott’s Goblin – Such a cool feature to have the Goblin answer your questions.
8.  Potions Elixers – It’s such fun and they really do taste good.
9.  Gringott’s Dragon – She’s just marvelous.   The roar is the absolute best.  We never tire of watching it or taking pictures of it.
10.  Architecture – The detail of every little nook and cranny didn’t go unnoticed by our group!  We are devoted fans who have seen the movies more times than anyone could count.  Nailed it!
11.  Fwooper and the kneazle in Menagerie – Kudos for really bringing the Fantastical Beasts to life.
12.  Sirius’ motor bike – Very cool and one of the elements we actually hadn’t seen any spoilers about.  It really was a surprise to most of us.
13.  Butter Beer Bar – We just want to stand inside and inhale that celestial smell all day.
14.  Sticky Toffee Pudding – This dessert at the Leaky Cauldron is amazeballs!
15.  The look and feel of the Leaky Cauldron – It’s great for large groups like ours or for a cozy meal by yourself.  It just feels right.

We loved many things, but there are a few things that the club would love to see addressed.   With the grand opening looming just hours away, we know they won’t be in place for tomorrow. Hopefully Universal will take heed to some of them in order to make for an even more enjoyable experience for their guests.

1.  More seating throughout Diagon Alley – There are a few benches and the tables in front of the Hopping Pot, but it would be nice to see more seating in the Carkitt Market area where it’s covered to enjoy the show or sip on your elixir or eat your ice cream from Florean’s.

2.  Covered seating for Hopping Pot – The bar area has a good number of tables but they are exposed to the elements.  It’s no good enjoying a beer when it’s raining on your head or when the sun is beating down on you.  We love the covered seating behind the Three Broomsticks.  Take a page out of that book and perhaps add some umbrellas.
3.  Seedy bar in Knockturn Alley – We think Knockturn Alley needs a bar, perhaps serving Firewhisky or some other more naughty concoctions.  We’ve even got a name suggestion, The Spiny Serpent.
4.  Specialty diet options- Many of our club members are vegetarians, vegans,or have health related conditions. It was very difficult for some to find options  at The Leaky Cauldron that they too could enjoy.  There were a few, but not nearly enough.   It would be nice to note the gluten free menu items as well to make it esier for guests to decipher.
5.  Covered waiting area for ice cream – We just can’t see the line for Florean Fortescue’s ever being short enough to not extend outside.  It’s so good!  It’s no fun to be rained on while waiting in line.   We wish that there could be awning extended there to cover the line.
6.  Wand customization – We think it would be very cool to be able to select the core and the material for the wand and perhaps allow some sort of customization, something like Build-a-Bear.
7.  It rained for several days during the soft opening period and the slick stones of the alley did not bode well in the rain.  Even London was extra slick.  We hope Universal can sand the surfaces to help prevent some of the slip and falls we’ve already seen.  Warning signs about the slippery conditions would also be really helpful so guests will take extra caution.
8.  Last but definitely not least, more merchandise!  We know it sounds crazy because the bulk of Diagon Alley is already comprised of stores.   However, we didn’t find the selection of merchandise in several of the stores to be that much different than what can be found in other areas of the park.

We want to give Universal even more of our money, so here’s how they can get it:

  • Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees soundtrack for purchase and posters for sale
  • More witchy merchandise in Madam Malkins, witch hats other than McGonagalls. Many things were on display that we inquired about and were told it was only for display but true fans would love to be able to purchase them.
  • The quidditch store needs more quidditch gear, i.e. quidditch robes, HolyHead Harpies t-shirt, and more house representation other than Gryffindor.   We understand Gryffindor is the most common house, but perhaps having the option to order merchandise right there on site for a different house would be a great feature to offer.
  • Star charts for sale in Wiseacres

Many members of the Slug Club are fortunate enough to live locally and have annual passes so we will continue to be frequent inhabitants of both wizarding worlds.  The last few days have truly been magical.  Now off to rest, before the big grand opening tomorrow!

Submitted by Slug Club member Lauren Gay, http://www.outdoorsydiva.com