Kayaker Apostle Islands National Lakeshore via Flickr by Tim Wilson

3 Ways to Get Active in Wisconsin This Summer

Winter is finally over and it’s time to get active again! With state parks and natural areas featuring hundreds of hiking trails and bike paths, Wisconsin is a great place to explore the outdoors. However, without the limitations of a trail, there is so much more to discover. Leaving the trails behind can lead you to experiencing truly unique things and give you a view of nature that you’ve never seen before.

Ready to go beyond the basics? Here are three outdoor sports to get you off the beaten path.

Rock Climbing

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Image via Flickr by Brady Wieland

Rock climbing is a great way to get off the trails and immerse yourself in nature. You can go almost anywhere in the state and find climbing areas, but Devil’s Lake State Park is by far the most popular climbing spot with thousands of climbs for every skill level.

There are plenty of rock climbing gyms and climbing guides in Wisconsin to help you get started. Joining a gym is a great way to ease yourself into the sport and build your confidence if you’re not quite ready to scale a rock formation, while a climbing guide will help you jump right in and have you up a bluff in no time. Either way, you’ll be sure to meet new climbing buddies and make lasting memories.

Kayaking

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Image via Flickr by Tim Wilson

Wisconsin is bordered by Lake Superior and Lake Michigan and has more than 15,000 lakes and 43,000 miles of rivers, meaning there are plenty of places to go kayaking.

Water trails can take you to campsites that are otherwise inaccessible, making your camping trip an exclusive event. Lake Michigan and Lake Superior both feature water trails and several state parks and forests have marked water trails or water trails that are unmarked, but can be found on a map.

Don’t have your own kayak? The Travel Wisconsin website can help you find the perfect place to rent one. Buckhorn, Council Grounds, Devil’s Lake, Mirror Lake, and Perrot State Parks all offer adaptive kayak rentals so a disability won’t slow you down.

Scuba Diving

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Image via Flickr by Robert Hornung

Scuba diving is a pricy sport, but well worth the cost for a chance to visit the underwater world.

A quick online search can point you toward a scuba shop near you where you can sign up for lessons. A mixture of classroom work and practice in a pool will have you ready to hit the lake for your certification dives in just a few weekends.

Once you’re certified, all you need is some equipment and a dive buddy and you’re ready to explore the world below the water’s surface. If you’re not ready to buy your own gear, you can rent everything at your local scuba shop whenever you have a dive planned. You can find a dive buddy by having a friend take lessons with you, meeting someone in your scuba class, or just by hanging out at your dive shop.

There’s so much of Wisconsin that can’t be seen from a  hiking trail or bike path. There are plenty of sports that will help you immerse yourself in nature. Rock climbing, kayaking, and scuba diving are just a few ways to begin a life of adventure.

Holly Geraldson Bucket List Adventures Kauai Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash @jakobowens1

Planning a Trip to Kauai

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Hawaii is one of my favorite places to visit. I spent a semester in college living in Honolulu and my mom and I took a hiking trip to Maui and Lanai a few years ago. One of my biggest goals in life is to visit every island in Hawaii.

Hawaii is six hours from the west coast. Check out my carry-on packing list to make your flight a breeze.

Since I’ve already been to Oahu, Maui, and Lanai, that leaves three more major islands: Molokai, the Big Island, and Kauai.

A few months ago, I saw a video on Facebook about a sugar plantation irrigation system that had been made into a tube run on Kauai. Since then, Kauai has been at the top of my list of where I want to travel to next.

Follow me on Facebook to keep up with my adventures.

When I’ll Go

Kauai Garden Isle Waterfall Aerial photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash @jakobowens1

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Kauai, the Garden Isle, is the wettest of the Hawaiian Islands. This damp climate makes the island lush and beautiful, but it also makes some parts of the year better times to visit than others. Spring and fall are arguably the best times to visit, because it isn’t too wet and it isn’t too hot and there aren’t too many crowds, but I plan on visiting in winter. November through March is the rainy season on Kauai, but it’s also humpback whale migration season. I’ve never seen a whale in real life, so I’m excited to have to chance to spot some.

Where I’ll Stay

There are four major areas on Kauai to choose from: the North Shore, the South Shore, the West Side, and the East Coast, or Coconut Coast. The Guide of US: Hawaii website lists the pros and cons of each area.

The Coconut Coast sounds perfect for me. It has plenty to do, from learning about Hawaiian culture to trying out new activities, but it’s also a convenient spot if you want to explore the whole island.

The Coconut Coast has plenty of big hotels and resorts if that’s your thing. I like the charm of something a little smaller. Fern Grotto Inn in Kapaa looks adorable and has great reviews on Yelp. The plantation cottages are located along the Wailua River and have bikes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and beach gear for guests to borrow. There are no restaurants on the property and breakfast isn’t served, but each cottage has a full kitchen or kitchenette so you can feel a little less like you’re on vacation and a little more like Kauai is your home.

What I’ll Do

Tubing

That video of tubing down a sugar plantation’s irrigation system is what shot Kauai to the top of my list of places I want to go.  Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers zipline adventures as well as tubing. Their mission of providing eco-tourism activities means you can have fun without worrying about hurting the environment. Kauai Backcountry Adventures helped restore the plantation irrigation system that is used for their Mountain Tubing Adventure, so you can learn about the Kauaian history they’ve helped preserve as you float down the canals.

Hiking

If you love the outdoors, Kauai is the best island in Hawaii for you. There are hundreds of hiking trails on Kauai, so it’s easy to find a place to explore no matter your skill level.

Sleeping Giant Trail

The Sleeping Giant Trail, or Nounou Trail, on Nounou Mountain is only 2 miles to a picnic area, but it’s far from easy. There’s a 1,000 foot elevation gain and the trail can be hazardous, especially when it’s wet. From afar, you’ll be able to make out the sleeping giant who forms the mountain. Legend says the giant was tricked by villagers into eating rocks hidden in fish. He fell asleep after the meal and still hasn’t awoken. The trail switchbacks up the mountain to the giant’s chest, where you can stop for lunch and admire the breathtaking views of the island and the ocean.

Kalalau Trail

Kauai Na Pali Coast Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash @jakobowens1

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

The Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast State Wilderness Park is one of the most difficult and dangerous trails in Hawaii, but also one of the most rewarding. The 11 mile long trail has an 800 foot elevation gain and some of the most beautiful views in the world. The trail, originally built in the 1800s and rebuilt in the 1930s, begins begins at Haena State Park and winds through five valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach.

The first part of the trail is a 2 mile day hike to Hanakapiai Beach. Even though it’s only 2 miles, this part of the trail isn’t easy. It crosses the Hanakapiai River, which meets the ocean, causing dangerous currents. Swimming in the ocean or the river can be dangerous and plenty of people have drowned here.

Beyond Hanakapiai Valley, you must have an overnight camping permit. There are campsites at Hanakoa and Kalalau, and while it’s possible for experienced hikers to reach Kalalau in one day, it may be better to take your time and stop at Hanakoa overnight. Remember, you’ll be hiking along switchbacks into and out of valleys and along dangerous ridges while carrying heavy gear. Stay safe and enjoy the views.

NOTE: The Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, including the Kalalau Trail, are currently closed due to flood damage. The Milolii section of the park will be reopened soon, but most of the park will remain closed for at least three months until repairs can be done.

Kuilau Ridge Trail

If you’re looking for an easier trail, Kuilau Ridge beginning in the Keahua Arboretum may be right for you. The trail is just over 2 miles each way and an elevation gain of just under 500 feet. While it doesn’t have the spectacular views of other, more intense trails, it does have plenty of beautiful native and non-native plants to admire and birds and other wildlife to watch for, as well as views of Mt. Waialeale, arguably the wettest place on earth. A small wooden bridge marks the end of the Kuilau Ridge Trail, but you can continue on the marked path that becomes the Moalepe Trail.

Don’t forget to dress appropriately and bring food and lots of water for your hike. Before any hike, you should always check the weather and let someone know where you’re going and what time you plan to be back.

Snorkeling & Diving

Honu Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Kauai Hawaii Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash @tentides

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

If you’ve never been snorkeling before, Lydgate Park is a safe and fun place to practice your skills. However, it’s very popular and there isn’t much to see besides fish. If you’re a more confident snorkeler, Nualolo Kai on the Na Pali coast is an incredible place with so much to see. The beach is protected by a barrier reef featuring lots of healthy coral as well as plenty of fish. You may even see some monk seals lounging on the beach. Not all tours go to Naulolo Kai, so be sure to book with one that does. If you’re looking for an adventure beyond just snorkeling, Kauai Sea Tours’ Na Pali Coast Snorkel Raft Adventure will take you into sea caves and under waterfalls as you learn about some of Kauai’s history and legends.

If you have your scuba certification, Kauai has lots to see under water. Since Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, its reefs have had more time to develop than the other islands, giving it rich biodiversity. Humpback whales, spotted eagle rays, and manta rays can be seen in the winter, and there are plenty of tropical fish and sharks to see. What I’m most excited about, however, are the honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtle. My mom and I saw a few when we were snorkeling on Maui, but other tourists quickly chased them off before we could really admire them or get some pictures. Remember, wildlife should be enjoyed from afar and not interfered with!

There are plenty of dive shops on Kauai to help you get in the water. PADI‘s Find A Dive Shop search makes it really easy to find a Five Star Dive Center or Resort wherever you go. Seasport Divers caters to all skill levels, whether you’ve been diving for years or are just dipping your toes into the water. They even have different charter trips for divers of different skill levels. If you have plenty of experience, you can head out on the morning trip, but if you’re new to diving or less confident in your skills, the afternoon trip is for you. On Tuesdays and Fridays, Seasport Divers also offers a trip for experienced divers to Niihau, the Forbidden Island, which is privately owned and off-limits to most people. If you’re not yet certified or, like me, haven’t been diving in a while, you’ll still be able to get a few dives in after some lessons in the pool. You can even get the ultimate souvenir by completing your Open Water certification in Kauai!

Whale Watching

Humpback Whale Breaching Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash @amyjoyhumphries

Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash

Winter is whale watching season on Kauai. The kohola, or humpback whales, spend December through May in Hawaii’s warm waters breeding and giving birth to calves. While there are plenty of vantage points to see the whales from the shore, a tour or charter boat can get you up close (but not too close!) to these playful giants. Blue Dolphin Kauai‘s whale watching tours also offer hydrophones, so you can hear the whales talking as well as seeing them play.

surfing

Surfer Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash @rymagsino

Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

Even though I’ve been to Hawaii a few times, I’ve never tried surfing. I’m used to calm lake waters, so the idea of intentionally going out into the waves seems scary. However, just because something is scary, doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, and I always like to challenge myself and try new things.

There are a lot of places that offer surfing lessons all over the island, but some of the best reviews I’ve seen are for Learn to Surf on the East Shore. Lessons last an hour and a half and kids as young as 5 can participate, so this is a great way to spend the morning having fun with your family.

You can surf the Great Lakes! Read my article about lake surfing here.

kayaking

Kayaking is an amazing way to experience Kauai, but it isn’t for everyone. If you’re prepared for a challenging adventure, Kayak Kauai has several options for ocean tours. Spend a few hours, a day, or several days exploring Kauai’s beautiful coastline from the water. Be aware that tours can change or be canceled due to weather. The one-day tour of the Na Pali coast is not offered in fall or winter.

If you’re not quite up to kayaking in the ocean, Kayak Kauai also offers a tour on the Wailua River to Wailua Falls. This kayaking and hiking tour is much more relaxing than the ocean kayaking tours, making it perfect if you’re looking for a less strenuous adventure.

NOTE: As mentioned with the Kalalau Trail above, flooding has altered access to many areas on Kauai, which affects some of these tours. Always check the website for any tour you plan on booking or call the company to get the latest information on any tour changes.

Don’t forget to pack…

Sunscreen

 

Badger Balm Sunscreen is reef safe, so you know coral will be as safe from you as you are from the sun when you hit the beach. Most sunscreens contain oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, or 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, all of which damage coral reefs. Always check the ingredients before purchasing sunscreen to be sure you’re doing your part to protect our environment.

A cute swimsuit

 

Any time there’s a beach, a cute swimsuit is important. Whether you’re playing in the water or laying on the sand reading some trashy romance novel with Fabio on the cover, you want to look good.

This adorable one piece from Eomenie has adjustable straps, so there are several different options for how to wear it. I love switching it up, so this suit is great for when you want to pack light, but have a new look every day.

I love halter tops, so this beautyin bikini caught my eye when I was searching for swimsuits. It comes in several different floral patterns, but the one constant is the adorable striped top.

Can you tell I like stripes? This Cupshe bandeau one piece is so cute! You can wear it strapless or with the removable halter if you’re like me and need a little extra support.

Water shoes

If you’re going tubing, you’re going to need water shoes. These ALEADER water shoes are actually pretty cute, which is not something you expect from water shoes. They’re also sturdy, so they can hold up to any adventure you take them on.

An Underwater Camera

 

There’s so much to see beneath the surface in Kauai and you should have a camera that can capture it all. The camera I use right now is a GoPro, which is great for when you want to focus on the experience and worry about what you got on film later. If you’re looking for more control of your images and footage, a SeaLife camera is a great option that has plenty of add-ons so you can customize your camera for your exact needs.

What does your dream vacation look like? Let me know where you’d go and what you’d do in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Travel Diaries Lake Washington Arboretum Waterfront Trail Header Image

Walking the Lake Washington Arboretum Waterfront Trail

Recently I took a trip to Seattle to visit my friend Steven. He’s lived there for a little while now, and while spring isn’t the best time to get outside and do things, he was excited to show me around.

Sign at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA Trail along Lake Washington

One of the first places he took me is the Washington Park Arboretum, which is super pretty. My favorite part of the trip was the Arboretum Waterfront Trail along the edge of Lake Washington.

Map and information about the Arboretum Waterfront Trail near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The trail is a 1/2 mile long. Most of it is pretty muddy and the parts that aren’t are floating walkways that allow you to walk across the water from Foster Island to Marsh Island.

Steven walking along the muddy Arboretum Waterfront Trail in the marsh along Lake Washington near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The Arboretum Waterfront Trail is in the largest wetland in Seattle, hence all the mud. The floating walkways give beautiful views of Lake Washington, but a lot of the trail is actually in the marshes on the lake’s edge. Willow and birch trees hide the lake from view in these areas, but there’s still plenty to see. If you watch carefully, you may spot some dragonflies, marsh wrens, or even a turtle.

Sign showing prohibited activities on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail along Lake Washington near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The marsh is a fragile environment, so bikes, runners, and dogs are not allowed.

Since the trail is all mud and floating walkways, it’s not accessible for wheelchairs or strollers and you should be prepared to get a little dirty.

Holly standing on the steps of the raised observation platform overlooking Lake Washington on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

There is a raised observation platform on Foster Island as well as several other platforms on Marsh Island, but they don’t look very well maintained. Steven assured me that the observation platform was *probably* safe, but the wood looked like it would give way at any moment, so I didn’t want to risk going all the way up to the platform. Even getting on the steps was tricky, since there was a mud pit in front of the platform and the bottom step was missing.

A bench in the marsh on Marsh Island in Lake Washington on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The benches along the trail looked just as dilapidated and unsafe as the platforms.

Save This Trail sign from Seattle Parks and Recreation for the Arboretum Waterfront Trail along Lake Washington near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

At the end of the trail is a sign from Seattle Parks and Recreation asking for help in preserving and improving the trail. If you’ve used the Arboretum Waterfront Trail, be sure to take the survey about how often you go, your favorite activities, and how to improve the trail, or email garrett.farrell@seattle.gov with how you would like to see the trail preserved or improved.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter via Flickr by Diana Kelly

What’s on My Bucket List? Harry Potter World

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Like most 20-something year olds, I love Harry Potter. I love the magic and adventure of the books and movies, and I especially love that the Wizarding World has become so popular that I really can immerse myself in it.

Thanks to Pottermore, I know my Hogwarts House:

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My patronus:

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I am not happy about this.

What kind of wand I would have:

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I know, it’s disappointing that it’s not made of Holly.

And my Ilvermorny House:

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For several years, Pottermore was the best way to immerse myself in the Wizarding World. But that’s all changed now. Now there is Harry Potter World.

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Image via Flickr by Diana Kelly

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter initially opened Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 2010 and was expanded to Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida in 2014, but rumors of a Harry Potter theme park had been swirling since the early 2000s, when I was still in high school. By the time the park opened, I was ready for it.

Getting there was more of a problem. I was a broke college kid in Wisconsin. Flying to Florida and spending thousands of dollars on a hotel, theme park tickets, souvenirs, and more wasn’t with in my budget.

Another Wizarding World opened at Universal Studios Japan in 2014 and another at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2016. Still, I haven’t had the opportunity to go to any of them.

I’ve spent the years I’ve been dreaming of visiting Harry Potter World coming up with a plan for the perfect trip.

The Plan

My birthday is a few months away and I would love to spend it in Harry Potter World.

The two parks at Univeral Orlando Resort are the original Wizarding World, the biggest, and from what I’ve heard, the best, so obviously I’m going there. In addition to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, Universal Orlando Resort also has a third park, Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park, so even if I get bored with Harry Potter World, there’s still plenty to experience.

Diagon Alley

If you want the full Wizarding World experience, you may want to make Gringott’s Money Exchange your first stop in Diagon Alley. Here you can exchange your muggle money for Gringott’s bank notes that can be spent in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as well as a few other places throughout Universal Orlando.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Ollivanders Wand

Getting a wand will be my first priority once I land in Orlando. It is possible to order your wand beforehand so you can already have it when you arrive, but I want to get the full experience. I’m heading straight to Ollivanders to get an interactive wand so I can cast spells.

Pottermore told me I would have a wand made of cypress wood, but Harry Potter World doesn’t have a cypress wood wand (not even a replica of Remus Lupin’s wand). I’ll have to settle for either a Holly wand, because that is me, or a Vine wand, because that is the wood corresponding with my birthday.

In addition to the Ollivanders in Diagon Alley, there is a smaller one in Hogsmeade. One commenter on the Hogsmeade Ollivanders page on Universal Orlando’s website says that the wand-choosing ceremony is slightly different in Hogsmeade than in Diagon Alley, so it may be worth it to go see both.

Another option for getting your wand that may be less crowded than Ollivanders is Wands by Gregorovitch. The now-defunct forums at the Orlando Informer suggest that you may be missing out on a branded wand box and bag by making your purchase from Gregorovitch instead of Ollivander, but the posts are from 2014, so things may have changed now.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Escape from Gringotts via Flickr by Theme Park Tourist

Image via Flickr by Theme Park Tourist

Once I have my wand, it’s time for a ride. The only real ride in Diagon Alley is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. According to the Orlando Informer, Escape from Gringotts is all special effects and hardly any roller coaster, which is disappointing. I think it will still be worth a ride to experience a different kind of theme park ride, though.

After escaping from Gringotts, it will be time for more shopping! Luckily, one thing that Harry Potter World is not lacking is places to buy souvenirs.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment storefront

Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment is the gift shop for Escape from Gringotts, so that’s an easy place to start. Even though they’re pretty much just paperweights, I kind of want a divination ball or a prophecy orb.

Since I’m a writer, I’m really looking forward to visiting Scribbulus. I adore notebooks, journals, and pens, so I’m excited to see what I can pick up here.

Being a wizard means looking the part, so of course I’m going to go to Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions and Borgin & Burkes for all my clothes and accessories. At Madam Malkin’s you can even buy Hermione’s Yule Ball dress!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Quality Quidditch Supplies storefront

I don’t really like sports, but everybody needs some quidditch gear, so I’ll stop by Quality Quidditch Supplies to get a golden snitch. There are a few options for your snitch, but I like this flappy one that sits on a pedestal.

At the Magical Menagerie, I’m definitely going to adopt a pygmy puff. I don’t really have a use for one, but I want to experience the adoption ceremony.

You can also get a pygmy puff at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, along with a lot of other magical toys and candies. The Skiving Snackboxes don’t really make you sick and the UO Fan Guide says they’re not super high quality candy and they cost $39.95, which is kind of expensive, but I still want one.

I’m saving Sugarplum’s Sweetshop for last, since I have a weakness for candy and I know I’ll overspend there. I’m going to get the Peppermint Toads and Chocolate Frogs and maybe even some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, but what I really, really want from Sugarplum’s is a Sugar Plum Apple, which the UO Fan Guide says is the shop’s signature snack.

Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees and a puppet show of The Tales of Beedle the Bard are performed throughout the day on a stage in the Carkitt Market section of Diagon Alley. Neither is performed at a regular interval, but I found a schedule of Universal’s live performances so you’ll know when to head over to the stage. Certain performances also have an ASL interpreter.

It’s going to be hot and humid in Florida during my birthday, but there are plenty of places in Diagon Alley to get a drink or some food and cool down. Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment, The Fountain of Fair Fortune, and The Hopping Pot all offer a variety of magical drinks. You can also get cornish pasties or butterbeer ice cream at The Hopping Pot.

The only real place to eat in Diagon Alley is the Leaky Cauldron. They have a breakfast menu as well as lunch and dinner food. A lot of it is traditional British food, but there are a few things that are more familiar to Americans, especially on the breakfast menu (pancakes!).

For dessert, Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour offers pretty much any flavor of ice cream you could want. They have my favorite flavors, banana and pistachio, but I’ll probably try something more unusual while I’m there. Chocolate chili or clotted cream could be interesting flavors to try.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Platform 9 and Three Quarters King's Cross Station Hogwarts Express

Once I’ve seen and done everything there is to see and do in Diagon Alley, I’m going straight to King’s Cross Station to board the Hogwarts Express for Hogsmeade. To ride the Hogwarts Express, you need a Park-To-Park Ticket since Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios Florida and Hogmeade is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Hogsmeade

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade

At the other end of the Hogwarts Express is Hogsmeade Station. Theme Park Tourist says that the ride from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade is different than the ride from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley, so I’m definitely going to be riding the Hogwarts Express in each direction at least once.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is supposed to be the best ride in Harry Potter World, so I’m heading straight there. Like pretty much everything else in Harry Potter World, even just waiting in line is part of the experience. You get to explore several different rooms in Hogwarts Castle before you get to the end to board the ride. The Orlando Informer says the ride itself is super scary and well-worth the wait in line. Since you go every which way except upside-down, you may want to stay away if you’re prone to motion sickness.

For little kids, Flight of the Hippogriff is much more tame than the Forbidden Journey. I am not a little kid, but I will definitely be riding this to see an animatronic Buckbeak.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Monster Book of Monsters

There are a few gift shops in Hogsmeade, but not nearly as many as Diagon Alley. Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and Dervish and Banges are the places to go for anything you forgot to get in Diagon Alley. Dervish and Banges also sells The Monster Book of Monsters if you want a souvenir that will take off a few fingers.

I’ll probably be out of chocolate frogs by the time I get to Hogsmeade because I have no self-control. Luckily, Honeydukes sells pretty much the same things as Sugarplum’s Sweetshop, so I can easily get more of every candy.

The Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head are the only places in Hogsmeade to get food or drinks. The Three Broomsticks has a breakfast menu and a lunch and dinner menu. The breakfast menu is very similar to the one at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, with a few differences. The lunch and dinner menu is much less British than at the Leaky Cauldron, which I find a lot more appealing. If you need another drink once you’re done eating, just head to the back of the Three Broomsticks, where you’ll find the Hog’s Head bar.

No vacation is complete until you’ve sent postcards to friends and family. At the Owl Post, you can mail your postcards and letters complete with a special Hogsmeade postmark. I’m definitely going to be sending a postcard to my friend Steven, even though he is a filthy Gryffindor.

Like Celestina Warbeck and The Tales of Beedle the Bard in Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade has a few live performances that happen at irregular times. The Frog Choir and the Triwizard Spirit Rally perform at various times throughout the day and certain performances have ASL interpreters, so be sure to check the schedule to make sure you don’t miss either one.

Another show that doesn’t happen every day is The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle, a light show that I’ve only heard is spectacular. The schedule looks like it does happen most nights, but not every single one, so I’m definitely going to be planning a day around seeing it.

What a Hufflepuff Wears


My phone is the most important part of me, so obviously I have to make sure it looks good. This minimalist Hufflepuff phone case is so cute and doesn’t have a design that will be ruined by a popsocket, making it the perfect case for any Hufflepuff.

I got a popsocket a few months ago and now I can’t live my life without one. This Hufflepuff popsocket is absolutely adorable and I need it to survive my trip to Harry Potter World without losing my phone.

If you know anything about me, you know that I love to be comfortable on a plane. I still love to look cute, though, even when traveling. This raglan tshirt looks so comfortable and cozy, I can’t wait to fall asleep in it on the plane ride! I’m not usually a leggings-as-pants kind of girl, but I’ll make an exception for a plane. This shirt will be so cute with some plain black leggings and a pair of slip on shoes.

Speaking of shoes…

These Converse sneakers are my absolute favorite shoes ever. These are kids shoes, but I have tiny feet, so they’re perfect for me. If you wear anything below a women’s size 8, you can probably fit into children’s sizes too. I love this particular style of Converse because the laces are elastic and the backs are velcro, so they’re easy to take on and off quickly at airport security. In fact, I never even use the velcro, they’re so easy to slide on and off. They’re easy to run in too, if you’re late for a connecting flight.

A jacket is a must-have on a plane, and this Quidditch jacket is absolutely the one to bring on a Harry Potter World trip. Pockets are important on any trip to keep your ID, boarding pass, phone, and headphones handy so you don’t have to dig through your backpack all the time. Since the rest of my plane outfit is devoid of pockets, this jacket will be my savior.

This jacket also comes in Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Slytherin colors for those of you who aren’t so just and loyal.


Like the one above, this raglan tshirt looks super comfortable. Even though it’s a 3/4 sleeve shirt, the thin, burnout fabric won’t heat me up in the Florida sun. Throw on some shorts and the Converse above and I’ll be ready for a long day exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

You can also get this shirt in Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Gryffindor House Crests.

I don’t usually like short-sleeve tshirts, but this one is actually really cute. It looks super comfortable and I love the fit of it.

It’s also available in GryffindorRavenclaw, and Slytherin versions.

This Hufflepuff bracelet set set is absolutely adorable. Wearing all of the bracelets at once can get a little bulky, but it would look great with the short-sleeve tshirt above.

It also comes in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin colors.
Chokers are my jam right now, so I was super excited to see this one with interchangeable House pendants. It will look amazing with an LBD for a night out at Bice Ristorante.

This A-line cocktail dresswill be super cute to wear out on my birthday, especially with the choker above. I’m so excited to be able to dress up and celebrate my birthday at Harry Potter World!

The Price

Spending almost a week at exploring all three Universal Orlando Resort theme parks will cost me $1,100.38, not including airfare, most meals, and most souvenirs.

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Universal’s Aventura Hotel

Universal’s Aventura Hotel has views of all three Univeral parks, so there’s the potential to get a room overlooking Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. It opens in August 2018, so I will be one of the first people to stay in the hotel.

The hotel has shuttles to all three parks and there are also walking paths connecting the hotel to the parks if you don’t feel like waiting for a shuttle.

3-Park Unlimited Ticket

The 3-Park Unlimited Ticket includes admission to all three parks for my entire stay as well as admission to a few venues on Universal CityWalk.

Early Park Admission

Early Park Admission gets me into Harry Potter World and Volcano Bay an hour before the park officially opens.

The Flight

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These are Google’s flight results at the beginning of May. The flight will probably not end up being more than $300. Hopefully I’ll be able to book a direct flight and not have to deal with a layover.

The Food

Unfortunately, since the Aventura Hotel won’t be open until August, there isn’t any information about the prices at the various hotel restaurants. I’m going to try not to spend more than $50 a day on food.

The Souvenirs

My wand will cost $50 since I’m getting the interactive one. I’m going to try not to spend more than $200 on souvenirs (and candy!) in Harry Potter World. This will be hard since everything is so cool and so expensive, but bringing a small bag instead of a giant suitcase should help since I won’t be able to pack everything to take home.

The Total Cost

The trip package will cost me $1,100.38, the flight will be at most $300 (hopefully), the food will be around $300, and I shouldn’t let myself spend more than $200 on souvenirs. That makes the total estimated cost for my trip . I’ll round up a little bit and say that the whole trip should cost me around $2,000.

How to Prevent and Remove a Tick

Ticks are gross, but they are a fact of life if you spend any amount of time in the woods. Knowing how to remove them is super important.

There are three kinds of ticks found in Wisconsin. The Deer Tick and Wood Tick are very common and the Lone Star Tick is very rare, but is sometimes seen in the southern part of the state.

The most common concern for a tick bite is the risk of contracting Lyme Disease. My mom and both of my dogs have Lyme Disease and it’s very common in my area to get it.

Lyme Disease is carried by Deer Ticks. Other types of ticks carry other diseases, but with any type of tick, if you remove it right away (within 24 hours is what I’ve always heard), you’re usually fine. If you develop flu symptoms, go to a doctor right away.

Tick Prevention

Ticks don’t usually jump, so the most common way to get one on you is by brushing a plant that it’s crawling on. Avoiding trees and tall grass is a great way to avoid ticks.

Wearing clothing that provides full coverage is also a great way to prevent ticks. My mom tucks her pants legs into her socks when she goes hiking or does work on her farm to avoid having ticks get on her ankles and crawl up her pant legs. Wearing yoga pants or any other type of clothing too tight for ticks to crawl under is another way to prevent ticks from getting on you. If they can’t get to your skin, they can’t bite you.

If you do get one on you, they don’t always bite you right away, so if you feel one crawling on you, you can just pick it off and kill it or throw it away if it hasn’t bitten you yet.

Removing Ticks

To remove a tick, use a tweezers and grab it as close to your skin as possible to make sure to get its head. I like to use pointy tweezers for this. The Revlon Mini Tweezer Set is great for sticking in your backpack and using to remove ticks. It’s also super cheap on Amazon.

 

The pointy ends make it super easy to get as close as possible to the skin to make sure you’ve gotten as much of the tick as possible.

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Remove it gently so you don’t hurt yourself or accidentally leave parts of it in your skin.

Wash the wound and your hands (and the tweezer!) with soap and water and use alcohol to help prevent getting an infection.

I’ll update this post with more pictures if (when?) I get bitten again or find a tick on Rascal or Moky or Kreacher that hasn’t gotten engorged yet.