Road Trippin’

“Because the greatest part of a road trip is not always the destination, it’s all the crazy moments that happen along the way.” 

As our time in Savannah came to an end, we discussed our next destination, the west coast. I always wanted to be a California girl- they’re undeniable; daisy dukes, bikinis on top. Okay, but seriously I have always wanted to visit the Golden State.

We had a couple of different options, L.A, Santa Barbara and San Francisco to name a few. We put in for all of them and then it was just a waiting game, a race to see who’d get back to us first. The winner, San Francisco!

We were elated. Big city livin’ in one of the most sought after destinations in the States, not to mention, FULL HOUSE.  It’s like I could see my childhood with the Tanner family flashing before me.

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So now, it was time to plan our road trip. That’s right. We were going to drive from New Jersey to San Francisco. We looked at a map and drew a line from New Jersey to San Francisco. Okay, we didn’t actually have a physical map because it’s not the 1900’s. What are we cavemen? We Google mapped our route from NJ to San Fran and we were actually pleasantly surprised with how many awesome cities were right along the route.

 

We planned our week long journey across the beautiful U.S.of A with stops in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and a TBD. We packed up the car and Nala, downloaded some podcasts and playlists for entertainment and went on our merry way.

First stop, Pittsburgh; home of the Steel men. Growing up, my dad was a Steelers fan so I was really excited to check out the Steel city. (Disclaimer: this is the ONLY Pittsburgh team that is cool.  Suck it, Crosby.)  Anyway, we stayed downtown and we absolutely loved the city. The stadium is right on the water and it’s as cool as it looks on TV.IMG_4288

We checked out an awesome little spot for dinner right downtown called Butcher and the Rye. The interior is awesome, and the food and the drinks were pretty spectacular.

Our next stop was Chi-town. The windy city. Bring on the deep dish pizza and the superstitions about baseball. Side note: I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little stitious. -Michael Scott – Me

Anyway, Chicago is another fantastic city (as long as it’s not winter). We checked out Millenium Park and ate some deep dish cheeseless- yes cheeseless- pizza at the famous Lou Malnati’s.  We also got a drink at The World Famous Billy-Goat Tavern. It was a really cool atmosphere and even though I’m not the biggest baseball fan, you have to appreciate the history.

From there we headed to Omaha, Nebraska. Now believe me, when we decided that Omaha was a stop on our trip, I had no clue what to expect. Heck, I really only knew the name of the city because of good ol’ Peyton. Omaha! Omaha! Hut! Hut!

Omaha had a cute little downtown area. Our favorite place was called Inside the Looking Glass, a Cigars and Spirits shop. Now I know you may be thinking–well, if the best part of Omaha is a cigar shop then it must be pretty lame, right? Don’t be fooled, there’s more to meet the eye here.

If you pull on a special vintage bottle of wine, Voila! A secret passage opens and you’ll enter the Wicked Rabbit–one of the coolest speakeasies that I’ve ever been too. It’s a twist on Alice and Wonderland and the atmosphere is really cool.

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After Omaha, we went on our way to Denver. Driving through Nebraska was so exciting. There were farms, and farms, and farms, and oh! I almost forgot to mention the farms! If it wasn’t for Pat Mcafee podcast and Mariah’s Sweet Sweet Fantasy baby, it would have been unbearable.

Denver was really cool though. The mountains were really as beautiful as they seem in pictures and they just make you feel so small- er smaller in my case. There are 958723482 breweries in Denver and we enjoyed them all. We also got to check out Red Rock which was certainly a bucket lister.

Salt Lake City was a little different than I expected, but we stayed in a really cool place right downtown. The backdrop of the mountains just makes everything so scenic here.

We also got to check out Arches National Park. And good gravy was this an experience. The park is absolutely breathtaking and pictures just don’t do it justice. It’s one of those things you have to see to really appreciate its beauty.

Okay, enough of the mushy stuff.  Our last stop was booked last minute because we didn’t want to drive another 8 hours on the day we had to move in. We found a quaint little town right over the California state line called, Colfax. It looked like something from the 1800’s, a small mining town. The people were friendly and the best part was our AirBnB host. She was the sweetest woman and she made us apple pancakes for breakfast.

So that’s it. Our crazy adventure across the country. 3,000 miles, countless podcasts, and a few sing-a-longs later, we arrived at our new home, San Francisco.

I think that everyone should take part in a cross-country road trip. Not only is it scenic and soul soothing, but being confined in close quarters for hours at a time is also a wonderful way to see if you are really compatible with someone. If you can endure a cross country road trip without killing the other person you’re with, I’d say you found a keeper. Guess I found mine.

Sonoma; wine not?

Ah, wine. It’s honestly one of life’s greatest indulgences, in my not so humble opinion. So when I found out how close to wine country we’d be while living in San Francisco, I couldn’t help but get all giddy. Like a kid in a candy store or heck even me in a candy store, I get all wide-eyed and frivolous at the thought!

So far, we’ve been to a few different wineries around Sonoma, so that’s where I’ll be taking you today.

When my mom and sister came to visit a few weeks ago, we happened upon Chateau St.Jean Winery and boy did that quickly become a favorite. So much so, that we went back when my brother-in-law and his lady came for a visit. (Shoutout Sean and Laura!)

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Chateau St. Jean

 

The place itself is beautiful with rows of vines and greenery everywhere. And of course, there’s the chateau itself which is equally as beautiful. They have a little area outside with tables surrounded by flowers and even grapevines to just relax and enjoy.

Now to the good stuff, the real reason you go to a winery, un vino. The people working the tasting were knowledgeable and just delightful. We really enjoyed their Chardonnay (and considering I’m a red wine gal myself, that means a lot!) and their Eighty-five fifty-five red. Yum.

Another really nice thing about this winery is there were quite a few others located really close. I’m talking a 5-minute drive. We were able to check out 2 other wineries all within a mile of each other. Ah, wine country.

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VJB Winery

 

VJB winery was a quaint little family-owned winery down the road from St.Jean. It had a little patio area in the middle and it was great because you can get a bite to eat here too! We did a charcuterie board and a small pizza and it really hit the spot after wine tastings.

Alright, so I think this next one really takes the cake in terms of aesthetics. Matanzas Creek Winery is absolutely B-E-A-utiful! Not only is it a cute little winery nestled in the hills of Sonoma, but they also have a lavender garden. Yup.IMG_5089

The garden was alluring so obviously, I had to walk through it. (Oh, watch out for bees, they apparently love the stuff too. Who would have thought? Bees, flowers? DUH.)

Anyway, in addition to the garden where you can relax with a glass of their wine, (which is delicious by the way) they also have a lavender barn! In the barn they have all different goodies made with- you guessed it- their lavender. The woman who was working in there was great and really showed us all the different products and the process of making them. IMG_5092

Not really into the barn? (cough.weirdo.cough) That’s okay, because they have a bocce pit and a corn hole area where you can hangout too. Oh, and if you like chocolate, the lavender infused chocolates were Ah-mazing. No lie. Seriously. Get them.

Ah- so much wine, so little time. Those are just a couple places that quickly became favorites of ours but I’m sure I’ll be adding to the list before we head off to our next adventure. Stay tuned my friends.

Oh, Charleston, we love you.

Ahh, Chucktown. We struck gold when Ray’s work brought us to this lovely town while he did some training. We were residents of this charming city for over a week and we sure made the most of it.IMG_2541

There’s a lot history here, as is the case in a lot of southern cities. (Fun fact, it’s named after King Charles II.) There are also some pretty fabulous restaurants which we obviously had to check out and review as our obligation to contribute to society.

Some of the best food we ever had was at Leyla Fine Lebanese Cuisine. It’s a family owned place and they really provide wonderful customer service. The food was just phenomenal and I’ll definitely be stopping by next time I’m in town.

 

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Leyla

 

Looking for a quick bite? We really enjoyed this small Vietnamese place called Bon Banh Mi. They have fantastic sandwiches and really good tacos and it’s super affordable. Not to mention- they have happy hour every day with great beer and sandwich specials.

If you’re looking for a fun night hangout, check out Fuel. It’s an old gas station turned bar with a bocce pit in the back the perfect combination for a good time.

In the morning (or anytime really, I’m not judging) head over to Kudu Coffee and Craft Beer. They have a quaint little courtyard where you can sit and enjoy your coffee or brew of choice.

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Kudu Brews

 

Anyway, be sure to walk around downtown and check out the waterfront. There are tons of shops on King Street if you’re feeling a little shopping spree. Oh, and you have to get some chicken and waffles for breakfast. HAVE TO.

Savannah pt. 3; Thirsty?

There are a ton of watering holes in Savannah but these are definite faves.

The Alley Cat

This place is my favorite cocktail bar in Savannah. It’s a bit hidden down an alley which is part of the allure, but my favorite part of this place is the menu. It’s a newspaper. That’s right, a good old-fashioned black and white newspaper. They have a TON of options and throughout the newspaper, you’ll find a bunch of fun little stories all usually pertaining to alcohol.

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Kids today will never know that elation we felt when we opened our lunch boxes to find a fruit roll up or a Rice Krispie treat waiting for us.  So while they munch on their organic gluten-free sweet potato chips, we can indulge our inner child with an adult beverage with some of our favorite childhood treats! This place has hundreds of fun and funky martinis including Snickers bar, Rice Krispie, and Fruit roll-up.

Rocko’s Lounge

This place has pretty cool. It has more of a 70’s vibe and there’s an old-school photo booth that you have to take pictures in obviously. The drinks are pretty affordable and they often have live music.

Abe’s on Lincoln

So there’s always that one dive bar that you just have to check out and Abe’s is it. Bring a pen, and be sure you add your own picture of Abe to the collection that covers the bar!

Artillery

Another nice cocktail spot. The atmosphere here is really cool, and like most of Savannah, it has history. (Yes, it actually was an old artillery, you’re brilliant.) Anyway, they have little buttons at each table for you to push and the server will come take your order. Pretty nifty; not to mention the drinks are fabulous.

Rocks on the Roof

So the drinks aren’t anything super spectacular but with a view like that, they don’t have to be.

 

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Rocks on the Roof 

 

Savannah pt. 2: Food for days

Food, food, and more food

Savannah is home to around 700 restaurants and we really made it our business to try a variety of different places while we were there. Seriously, I’m not saying that as a hyperbole either. We literally have been to about 40 different restaurants. Don’t judge me. Anyway, there is something for everyone; Check it.

Cotton and Rye

Cotton and Rye is a little ways from downtown Savannah and certainly one of our favorite spots to go. It’s unpretentious and more of a hipster-esq dining experience. The cocktails are great and the food is delicious too. And my go-to food of choice here?  A burger. Look I know, a burger doesn’t sound like “the thing to get” but trust me when I say it was one of the best burgers we’ve had. This is a pretty big deal for me too because if I’m being honest I am not one to eat a lot of red meat, but this burger made the cut and it was just fabulous. They ground their own meat and cure their bacon in house and it really comes together so nicely. Not to mention- you get a whopping pile of fries with the burger. Seriously, SO MANY FRIES.

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Three words. Lavender mocha latte. This place is a must especially for breakfast/brunch while you’re in Savannah. It’s a chic little farm-to-table place that has it all. The Lavender mocha latte is the signature drink here and it is just fabulous. They even have little sprigs of lavender in it! If that’s not your thing then their brunch menu is sure to tickle your fancy. They have everything from avocado toast and brioche french toast with fresh berries, to homemade buttermilk biscuits and gravy with sausage. De-licious.

Tequila’s Town

Okay, if you’re in the mood for authentic Mexican tacos then this is your place. The pastor is a personal favorite of mine and they do not disappoint. OH, and during happy hour there are $2 margaritas! Yup.

The Ordinary Pub

This place is great and we frequently found ourselves here. It’s more traditional pub-like food and atmosphere and they often have live music. They have a fantastic- I mean fan-flipping-tastic chicken and waffle gyro, I highly recommend it! They also have these massive moscow mule cups to share (or not, I’m not judging) and bottomless mimosas for $10 every day. You’re welcome.

Flying Monk Noodle Bar

 

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Pho-real.

 

This place is Pho-real. (I know, I know.) But seriously this place has some pretty great pho. We also really liked the Master Shifu noodle dish (yup, just like Kung Fu Panda, which may or may not be the reason I originally tried it.)  and the Succulent Pig Plate. This place is a must for anyone looking for your noodle fix, or just trying to ease your hangover.

 

Pie Society

On the odd chance that it’s rainy or not a sunny, beautiful, warm day in Savannah (I know it’s very unlikely) Pie Society is the perfect place for comfort food. It’s a traditional British pie shop and they have the best pot pies around! The steak and ale is my personal favorite but the chicken and thyme and the steak and mushroom are close seconds!

The Public Kitchen

I love this place for its modern simplicity. Does that make sense? The atmosphere is very nice and they have one of the best chicken salad sandwiches I’ve ever had! My husband was also a huge fan of their Savannah Red Rice. Definitely worth checking out!

Now, I honestly could go on for another 3 pages of places to eat that are all really delicious. Instead, I’ll list the rest and you can check them out yourself. (Didn’t think I’d do ALL the work did you?)

The Pink House– for the fancy evening

The Sandfly– Three words- B-B-Q

Rancho Alegre Cuban Restaurant – fantastic Cuban food (and great live music)

Treylor Park- Avacado fries to fulfill your avocado fetish

Sly’s- mini burgers of all sorts

Georgia On My Mind- Savannah, Georgia Pt. 1

Oh Savannah- In a nutshell  —Part 1 of 3 Being a Jersey girl, I’m used to the hustle and bustle of the Northeast. I grew up 20 minutes from the city of Brotherly Love and 45 minutes from the shore. We get all four seasons in Jersey, from those scorching hot July BBQ days to […]

Being a Jersey girl, I’m used to the hustle and bustle of the Northeast. I grew up 20 minutes from the city of Brotherly Love and 45 minutes from the shore. We get all four seasons in Jersey, from those scorching hot July BBQ days to frigid 10 feet of snow-can’t-leave-your-house, I just want to cuddle my dog, days.  So when my husband was offered a job in Savannah during the winter months, there were no ifs, ands, or buts, about it– we were going.

And I hate to be all cliche about it, but from the moment we arrived, we fell in love with the place. I mean- how could you not?  Savannah Georgia is one of the most beautiful places in the south, and that’s not just my humble ole’ opinion. Savannah is on numerous lists like “the most beautiful places in the U.S.” and  “best cities in America” and the like. Be sure to check out all the little squares throughout the city, each one is unique and idyllic in its own way. A personal favorite is Forsythe park and obviously, you have to go to Chippewa Square because it’s where Forest Gump sat on that famous bench. Ya never know what you’re gonna git.IMG_2572

In addition, not only is Savannah beautiful, but it’s kind of got it goin’ on. I mean it’s like the beautiful popular girl who’s also really smart and unfailingly kind. I know–unfair right?

There is an immense amount of history in Savannah, literally almost around every corner. From underground tunnels under the city that pirates would use to do their dirty work to the endless amount of ghost stories that’ll give your goosebumps goosebumps. (Savannah also made a list for the most haunted city in America. BOO!) With that being said, checking out the famous Bonaventure Cemetery and Colonial Park Cemetery are a must when here. They even have some walking tours at night if you’re brave enough!

 

And to top it off there are also over 700 restaurants in Savannah. Getting to live here for four months was a privilege and we are definitely keeping this on the list of places we may settle down when it’s time.

Anyway, with that being said, I decided to break up this post into three parts. This was just the gist of Savannah–just the bare bones, the tip of the iceberg, or whatever metaphor tickles your fancy.

Part 2 is going to focus solely on the food in Savannah because there are too many spectacular places to eat to not get its own post. And finally, Part 3 will be about all the fantastic places to quench your thirst, for all you drinkers out there. Stay tuned.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Oh. Em. Goodness. I don’t really know where to start with this one and I’m literally smiling and getting all giddy just thinking about this post. For my Christmas gift this year, my husband really hit it out of the park and took me to Universal Studios– more specifically, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (Side note: Not sure how he’ll ever manage to beat this gift. He set the bar too high now. His problem.)

Now, if you know me, you know how much of a Harry Potter nerd I am, and if you don’t know me, well the cat’s out of the bag. Harry Potter has held a special place in my heart since I was 10 years old when I read the first book for the very first time. (signal nostalgic music and flashback to a little tomboy in her ADIDAS swishy outfit, sitting in her room for hours on end reading Harry Potter.) Yup, that’s where it all started.

Since that moment, I was hooked so you can imagine my elation when I finally made it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this year. As soon as I found out we were going, I started my research. I read blog after blog to get all the “insider” tips and tricks. I knew we only had one full day there so I had to plan out every magical moment.

I made a game plan that’s basically a compilation of everything I read, so I guess you could call it the “The Ultimate One-Day Plan to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” I go into pretty serious detail below, but if you’re lazy and just not into all the magical details, and don’t feel like reading about all the super fun I had then there’s a simplified list at the end of this post. (Muggles- ‘eye roll’)

The Ultimate One-Day Plan to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Obviously, I barely slept the night before, just like a little kid on Christmas morning- er- or me on Christmas morning. But lack of sleep had zero chance of dampening my spirits;  neither did some damp weather. Stupid drizzle.

We got to Universal Studios right when it opened, and we went right to the Wizarding World. Sorry, Indiana Jones and Shrek. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Diagon Alley First!

Now you have two options, go to Diagon Alley first, or go to Hogsmeade. I recommend Diagon Alley first, but do what you want, I’m only an expert. As you walk around you’ll notice what looks like the muggle town of London. You’ll see the infamous Kings Cross Station (I’ll come back to this later) and you’ll see quaint homes lined up in a row. You’ll also see Stan the driver of the Night bus- go have a chat; he is just as sassy as he was in the movie.

Some secret magical fun

Now, in muggle London, there are two secret magical things to be on the lookout for. One is Kreacher the house elf. If you’re looking closely at the townhomes, you can see Kreacher in the second story window of 12 Grimmauld Place. He pops out from behind the window every few minutes so you have to look carefully.

The other magical fun is in the red phone booth. This is an entrance to the ministry of magic and if you go inside and dial “MAGIC,” you actually get to talk to the Ministry of Magic. Woo!

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Impatiently waiting for my turn.

 

Ollivander’s Wand Shop

Okay, now for the real deal. You walk through the brick wall… And voila! You’re in DIAGON ALLEY! I actually started to tear up at this point, because I was in such awe of the details that the creators included. They really outdid themselves and it’s as if you’re in the movie. Now once you catch your breath, you hurry on your way to your first stop, Ollivander’s Wand Shop. There is usually a line but if you go there first thing, you should be in and out before you can say “wingardium leviosa.”

This part was seriously cool. They take you into the shop in groups and they go through the whole wand process. After all, the wand chooses the wizard. Seriously though, it’s really cool and if you’re lucky enough you’ll be the chosen one.

After the process, you end up in the shop where you can purchase a wand. Now, if you’re going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter,  you buy a wand. I’m not sure why this is even an option. Any real witch or wizard would agree. Now there are two types of wands, interactive and regular. If you’re getting a wand, obviously you get an interactive one. TRUST ME. It’s worth it.

Once your wand finds you and you pay for it, you have to go try out your wand. Open the map it came with and find a spot around Diagon Alley. The map tells you how to move your wand and which spell to say, and it is one of the coolest feelings to really make some magic happen.

Escape from Gringotts

After you get a few spells under your belt, move on to the coolest ride there, Escape from Gringotts.This line can get pretty long later in the day so that’s why we did it next. Now, they have free lockers there that you have to put all your things in so as much as you hate to depart from your new wand, it’ll be kept safe until you’re done the ride. As you walk through the bank you’ll have flashbacks to the movie and it’s quite mesmerizing. This was our favorite ride, we did it twice, no big deal.

The Leaky Cauldron, that’s in London

Once you’ve escaped from Gringotts, hopefully in one piece, it’s time for a snack and some famous butterbeer at the Leaky Cauldron. It was my first real butterbeer, and I have to say HOLY MOLY, it’s delicious. Think cream soda meets caramel creams. Yup. As you sip your butter beer, you’ll feel like you’re right there with Ron and Hermione and that’s because they actually have pieces from the movie set there!. (Catch a picture of the infamous WANTED poster for Sirius Black.)

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Butterbeer at The Leaky Cauldron

 

Explore some more!

Next up, explore, explore, explore. You have to check out Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes for some practical jokes, and try on a robe at Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions so the mirror can tell you how you look. (Don’t worry she’s usually pretty nice, at least she was to me.)

Catch a show

Alright, I was a little skeptical about this but I’m so so glad we got to see this. Throughout the day, I believe it’s on the hour, there are short performances of the Tales of Beedle the Bard. (If you check the schedule online it will usually keep you updated.) Anyway, while we were there, we ended up seeing two performances, my favorite being The Tale of the Three Brothers. It was amazing and I highly recommend trying to see this one!

Knockturn Alley

Now for you naughty witches and wizards, be sure to check out Knockturn Alley. There you’ll find Borgin and Burkes and the vanishing cabinet. (If you listen closely you can hear a bird chirping in there. Creepy.) Also, if you want a little extra magic, place your spell map under the black light, and the shapes of the spells that are written in invisible ink will appear. Sneaky, sneaky.

Time to get to the Platform

Once you’re done galavanting around Diagon Alley, head to Kings Cross to platform 9 ¾ . (If you ask an attendant they’ll tell you there’s no such thing.) Remember to walk right through the wall between platforms 9 and 10 and don’t hesitate! Seriously though, have someone in your group stay back a little when you’re almost there because there’s a super cool photo opportunity to walk through the platform. 

Now the train is just another fantastic experience. You’ll hear the trolley lady come by and may even get a visit from the dementors. Watch out! (Also, try to take the train both ways because there are different surroundings for each way. It’s dope.)

Hogsmeade

Once you step off the train in Hogsmeade you’ll need another minute to catch your breath because the castle is just, “ Holy Cow.” At Hogsmeade, you have a little wiggle room to do your own thing but basically, I’d get the ride out of the way.

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Hogsmeade

 

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Head over to this ride. CAUTION: if you get motion sickness easily, you may want to skip this one. It’s fun, but afterward, quite a few people said they felt a little woozy.

The Three Broomsticks and Hog’s Head Tavern

Once you’ve kept your lunch down and completed the forbidden journey, you have to check out The Three Broomsticks for some traditional English fare. Then head to The Hog’s Head Tavern for a pint of their special beer made especially for the Wizarding World. Mm. ( There’s also more butterbeer for you underage wizards.)

Owl Post

Okay, this is pretty cool. If you go here you can actually send letters or postcards from here that’ll be stamped by the Owl Post in Hogsmeade. WHATTTT.

Honeydukes

One of the last stops before our day was done was at Honeydukes. We picked up a classic Chocolate Frog, and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Jelly Beans for the ride home.

So there you have it. If you only have one day at the Wizarding World, it can be done and it can be done more than one way.–but my way is the best. Just sayin.

The Lazy Muggle’s Guide for One Day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

  1. Diagon Alley
  2. Ollivander’s Wand Shop
  3. Play with your wand
  4. Escape from Gringotts
  5. The Leaky Cauldron
  6. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes
  7. Madam Malkin’s Robes
  8. Catch a show of Tales of Beedle the Bard
  9. Knockturn Alley
  10. Catch the train on platform 9 ¾ to Hogsmead
  11. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  12. Three Broomsticks
  13. Hogs Head
  14. Owl Post
  15. Honeydukes