Harry Potter World like a Lamdan

[Discover Jewish Florida will feature articles from visitors to the website, written based on their personal experiences that we feel are helpful to our viewership. You can also check out our other article on visiting Universal.  If you have tips about Florida for visitors or people looking to move, you can use the contact page or message (747) 214-8139 and learn more about writing for us.]

This article is solely meant for the Harry Potter fanatic. It is for the fan that reads the books, watches the movies, and believes that Harry Potter is something special. This article is not for someone that doesn’t know who Griphook the goblin is. Furthermore, the reader needs to have an appreciation of detail and be ready to experience Hogwarts as if he is a wizard. Too many people go to Disney World or Universal Studios and are oblivious to the magic that exists in these parks. If you belong to that group of people, you may as well stop reading and go to Six Flags.

Every trip to Universal Studios and/or Islands of Adventure is going to be a different experience, depending on the group that you are with. Obviously, family trips are going to be different than a vacation with the guys. Therefore, this article is meant to be a general guide to getting the most out of these parks, no matter who you are with. Now that we got this out of the way, we are about to begin our adventure into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or as I like to call it, Harry Potter World.

Before going to Harry Potter World, it is a must to buy the Hopper Ticket. The Hopper Ticket is a pass that allows you to experience Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure without paying for a ticket for each park. Just hop onto the Hogwarts Express to take a quick trip between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. You can purchase the tickets from Orlando Torah Center for a discounted price, but you need to make sure you have the tickets in hand the day before. Another important note, it generally takes 20-30 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the park entrance. So if the park opens at 9 AM, you need to be there around 8:15 to be sure that you can enter as soon as it opens. It is a great idea to take an Uber straight to Islands of Adventure.

Now, on to the parks… The following statement is the most important piece of the article so make sure to pay attention. It is בעצם ראוי to spend the whole day in Harry Potter World. Meaning, despite everything both parks have to offer it is well worthwhile to spend your entire day in Harry Potter World especially if it is your first visit. Aside from the unbelievable rides, the detail at Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and Diagon Alley takes a lot of time to soak in. You have to be a Lamdan to appreciate all the intricacies of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. After 120 years you will not only be asked why you haven’t seen the alps of the world but also if you have visited Harry Potter World.

Diagon Alley

Here is how to do Harry Potter World like a Lamdan.

1. Islands of Adventure is the עיקר part of Harry Potter World. That being said, Universal Studios is no joke. They both are amazing parks and are filled with things to do. The Lamdan’s first experience should be in Islands of Adventure in the village of Hogsmeade, because in the morning you will have the most energy and will be able to appreciate it the most. (This is a controversial opinion as Universal Studios has Diagon Alley, which in the Wizarding World, you would normally start your journey and then take Platform 9 ¾ to Hogwarts. But nevertheless, starting off in Islands of Adventure, then going to Universal Studios is the best route.)

2. Very important – Go straight to Harry Potter World when you enter Islands of Adventure. Do Not Pass Go and Do Not Collect $200. There is a big נסיון (test) to get sidetracked with all the different parts of Islands of Adventure. It may be tough to get the kids through Dr. Suess Land. The more time spent in these parts, means less time in Harry Potter World.

Don’t waste time at Seuss Landing (unless you have little kids)

3. Hogwarts – If there is a line with a wait time of an hour and a half, this ride is worth it for two reasons. First, this is one of the only places in the world that it is enjoyable to wait in line because of all the incredible detail there is in Hogwarts. Second, the ride will be the best ride you will ever experience. I have personally waited in line for around an hour with my family. My brother, who is not a Harry Potter fan, said it was the best ride he has ever been on.

Harry Potter Ride

4. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – For all the rollercoaster fans out there, take advantage of this ride. This is your chance to get in your roller coaster experience of the day (also check out the Rocket ride in Universal Studios if you have some extra time). Make sure to take a look at all of the stores in Hogsmeade including Ollivander’s Wand Shop. Before heading to Gringotts in Universal Studios, find a table outside the Three Broomsticks and enjoy your packed lunch while taking in the atmosphere of the hustle and bustle of Hogsmeade.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

5. Platform 9 ¾  – Take the Hogwarts Express to King Cross’s Station in Universal  Studios and enjoy the ride. Take note – Hogwarts Express may currently be closed. After arriving in the station, exit the train station and continue into Diagon Alley. It will be difficult to locate it since Muggles can’t see it (this is not a joke) and a map of Universal Studios is often needed.

6. Diagon Alley – Walking into Diagon Alley is an experience like no other. It literally is an exact replica of Diagon Alley in the movies, and yes, the Dragon does spit out real fire. After taking it all in, head towards Gringotts.

Diagon Alley

7. Gringotts – Gringotts is similar to Hogwarts in terms of its attention to detail and the ride is also incredible. The goblins employed by the bank may bite, literally. There are goblins that roam around the bank so be careful. “For those who take but do not earn must pay dearly in their turn. So if you seek beneath our floors a treasure that was never yours, thief, you have been warned, beware of finding than treasure there.”

Enjoy the day in Harry Potter World! Take pictures, videos and whatever you else you need to remember your trip! Send regards to Moaning Myrtle and everyone else you happen to bump into. To end with a word of warning, they do not accept Muggle money in Harry Potter World so you need to exchange for wizard gold before entering. Good luck and Hatzlacha Raba!

The Guide To Shabbos in South Florida

From South Beach to West Palm Beach, options for the discerning Shomer Shabbos traveller have exploded. If you’re taking a vacation or even considering a move to Florida and want to check out the scene, you fortunately have plenty of options for a Shabbat stay.

For starters, there is always tried and true Chabad. Each Chabad in South Florida is a little different than the next so it’s important to do a little research before you go. Some Chabads will offer full meals for Shabbat guests, while others offer just a kiddush. For example, the Chabad of Lincoln Road provides Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch, while the Chabad in Surfside, at the shul of Bal Harbor (click here to see nearby hotels), hosts a kiddush which could conceivably be considered a lunch – depending on your appetite. Virtually any Chabad will help you find a place for Shabbos though, so it’s definitely worth a phone call and an inquiry. 

If you want to take a step up from the communal meal scene, another great alternative is to find your own place to stay and then reserve your meals at local restaurants. Many restaurants in South Florida offer prepaid meals for Shabbos. Simply pay online and eat in the restaurant; it’s as simple as that. In the Miami Beach area, 41 Miami in Tower 41, Kikar Tel Aviv in the Carriage Club all offer that service. Moving north a bit, Mendel’s Backyard Barbecue and Kosh, both in Surfside, are hot spots for Shabbat dining, as well as Meat Bar in Bay Harbour. King David Cuisine in Bal Harbour also offers pre-ordered dining and is particularly famous for their Sushi at Pokado.

Taken from greatkosherrestaurants.com

If you are traveling during the season, which generally runs from November to April, you can also take advantage of hotels that offer kosher foods on site. You must reserve these meals in advance – don’t expect to check in at the front desk and order the kosher meals in the lobby on a Friday – but they definitely make a stay in the south a bit easier. In Sunny Isles, The Trump International and Marco Polo Resorts both have Shabbos meals as an option. As well, the renovated Holiday Inn on Miami Beach. The Kosher Hotel in the Altair Building in Bay Harbour is set to become a hot destination. A high-end New York kosher restaurant (sorry, but the name is super-secret right now) is planning on opening on site and while there is no room service yet, the hotel boasts a private pool with separate swimming hours for men and women. 

Other hotels, though not providing Shabbat meals per se, are “Shabbat Friendly.” The Grand Beach Hotel in Miami Beach offers regular keys instead of the electronic ones and the staff at the Acqualina Resort in Aventura seems to have been trained in the art of “taking a Shabbos hint,” escorting Shabbat observant guests in the elevators and to their rooms to open doors with a simple, “I think I will go up to my room” comment.

If you don’t need a hotel, are just crashing at Bubbie and Zaydie’s condo, and you just don’t want to cook, there are plenty of take-out places to choose from that will supply a whole Shabbat for you. Top picks are definitely in Hollywood, with a large selection of counter take-out at KC Marketplace, Sylvia’s, Aroma, and The Grove

Times have definitely changed since the days of packing cold cuts and challah and hiding a crockpot in your suitcase. The South Florida scene is ready for anything, and one of those things, clearly, is making Shabbos happen. 

6 Florida Adventures That Are Just A Drive Away!

Adapted from Camp Lisa Travels:

Camp Lisa is a travel consulting firm, not a travel agency. She wants you to have the best time on your trips. She will help you take your travels to the next level by helping you step out of your comfort zone and think outside the box. She will help you organize yourself in order to maximize your experience.By hiring her, you are getting the tried & true, cream of the crop of activity options. Her service is to eliminate the overwhelming “too many options” with too little direction.

She puts in the time and effort so you don’t have to and this is her passion. You can visit her on her website at camplisatravels.com.  You can also visit her on Instagram and on Facebook . This article is taken from places listed on Camp Lisa Travels blog.  Check out her recommended tours to make the most out of your time in Florida.

[Click here to join the Discover Jewish Florida Whatsapp group to see our updates and latest blog posts or message (747) 214-8139.]

 1. Key Biscayne (40 min away)

Once you cross the Rickenbacker Causeway onto Key Biscayne, you are transported both physically and mentally. The views on both sides are spectacular and so relaxing with a small town feel, you’ll forget how close to home you really are. The beaches here are powdery white, and the kite surfing is great. There are 3 separate parks on this one small strip of land, each distinct from the other. Park your car just off the Rickenbacker and dip your feet into Virginia Key Beach Park’s clear waters, up close to the incredible mangroves. Here you can rent paddle boats or SUP boards. Then head to Crandon Park and explore the many trails by bike, or rent a kayak or SUP board. Last but not least, visit the Cape Florida Lighthouse, built in 1825, located in Bill Baggs State Park. If you’re in the mood to stay dry, the 163 acre Bear Cut Preserve offers great easy hikes with the chance to see a reef made from a fossilized 6000 year old black mangrove forest on the Fossil Reef Overlook. Peek into the water at this thriving intertidal zone to spot some resilient little creatures. To have this part of your next Florida adventure package visit  camplisatravels.com

2. Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakewood (3.5 hours)

Add on an unforgettable adventure to your next Tampa or Orlando theme park trip with a stop over at Safari Wilderness Ranch! Conveniently located between Orlando and Tampa, it has been open for unique tours since 2012. Choose from special safari tours offered on open Jeeps, kayaks or even ATVs. They have over 500 animals on property— including some whose names I just cannot pronounce—coming from 4 continents. We saw zebras, barsingas, ostriches, lemurs, warthogs, ankole cattle, among others. We were able to feed llamas (even a baby one), livingstone eland, and water buffalo. It was such a cool experience and I cannot recommend it enough— let them know Camp Lisa sent you. I know you’ll thank me later! To have this part of your next Florida adventure package visit  camplisatravels.com

3. Biscayne National Park (1 hour away)

We are lucky in Southern Florida to have direct access to 3 national parks. The Everglades get all the fame, Dry Tortugas gets all the glory, which leaves Biscayne National Park. Just an hour outside of Miami, this park is one of Florida’s best kept secrets.Pick from all the wonderful activities they offer including kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and the boat ride to Boca Chita Key is a must. With a beautiful beach, clear waters, and dried coral pieces which look like seashells, this island is one not to be missed- and the lighthouse is just the icing on the cake. 50 percent (or more) of Miami locals don’t even know this park exists, but now you’re in the know so don’t miss it! To have this part of your next Florida adventure package visit  camplisatravels.com

4. Theater of the Sea at Islamador (about 2 hours away)

Theater of the Sea located in Islamorada, is a great place to get up close and personal with marine animals, especially dolphins. This place really makes you feel like you are stepping into the animals’ habitat rather than an aquarium or zoo. There is a spectacular dolphin show, dolphin encounters, parrots, sea lions, and reptiles to see and interact with. They can even do experiences for children as young as 4 years old! To have this part of your next Florida adventure package visit  camplisatravels.com

5. Solomons Castle In Ona (3 hours away)

Solomon’s Castle is a real life castle in the last place you’d ever think to find a castle! Howard Solomon, the castle’s creator, was well known for making beautiful things from once discarded items. He built the whole structure, standing 3 stories tall, and entirely covered in shiny aluminum (printing plates), without blueprints. He then completed the look with stained glass windows. There’s even a kitschy restaurant–The Boat in the Moat– that tops the whole thing off. Visit this quirky, centrally located stop for a little whimsy and adventure into the imagination.  To have this part of your next Florida adventure package visit  camplisatravels.com

6. Devil’s Den In Williston (5 hours away)

About 30 minutes outside of the University of Florida lies Devil’s Den, a prehistoric sinkhole where you can scuba dive or snorkel into crystal clear, shark and gator-free, blue waters. It is definitely one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. It is one of Florida’s 700 springs (yes, Florida has that many natural springs). Devil’s Den was named by original settlers to the area that saw steam rising from the ground (the waters below were warmer than the winter air). Right now, due to social distancing policies, Devil’s Den is limiting the number of people they allow in at one time, so you get to enjoy it without overcrowding. To have this part of your next Florida adventure package visit  camplisatravels.com

How far are you willing to drive before it becomes an overnight destination? At what point does it become a road trip?  We hope these fun spots inspire you to pack your favorite snacks, gather the people you like most and hit the road!!! Is this still a bit too overwhelming? Piecing small cute places together is “Camp Lisa’s” specialty. Customizing the stops along the way or creating an itinerary just for you is what Camp Lisa’s all about.

Top 10 Chol Hamoed Activities In South Florida

It’s Chol Hamoed and that means it’s time to take some trips, do something fun, and create memories. If you’re in South Florida, there is definitely not a lack of activities.   So pack up your portable sukkah or grab some matzah as we bring you the top South Florida Chol Hamoed activities:

[Click here to join our Whatsapp group and see our updates or message (747) 214-8139.]

1. Lion Country Safari: Okay, we know. It’s a bit dated. But in terms of a full day, this is where it’s at. Drive-through Safari, petting zoo, activities. You can use one of their 15 seater vans (you might even get one with air conditioning) or your own car to drive through. It has actually been named top 10 safari park in the United States.  There is also an awesome splash pad and rides in a separate section of the park. It’s out near West Palm, but it places you right near Boca making it a perfect place to spend the day and then stop for food in one of the many restaurants in Boca that have a Sukkah or are open for Pesach. Fun fact: if it’s a rainy day, you’ll probably see more animals on the safari.  

Lion Country Safari Splashpad

2.  Science Museums:While you can’t spend an entire day at these places, it will definitely fill up most of the day, and trust me, there’s a lot to do. Again, depending on which ones you choose, the science museums keep you close to food sources and succahs so that you can finish your morning with a late lunch under the schach. The Frost Science Museum, which is in Miami and the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science (obviously, in Fort Lauderdale) are both hands-on museums that will inspire the mind and your kid’s creativity. Make sure you check out what the current exhibit is, but even the permanent exhibits are worth the admission price. The Fort Lauderdale Museum also has the Imax theater which is a great way to finish the afternoon, and the Frost Museum has the planetarium. If you want to travel up to West Palm, the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is a great choice! Right next door is the Palm Beach Art Museum, but more than that, your science museum admission ticket gives you a discount to the Palm Beach Zoo. Choose any one of these and turn your Chol Hamoed into something educational.

Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery

3.  The Children’s Museum: The Miami Children’s Museum is a great place for the younger set, but definitely not an all-day trip. It’s a hands-on fun-fest where kids can dress up, immerse themselves in pretend play, and even check out what a cruise ship is like. Make sure to check out what the latest exhibit is, but even the permanent ones are enough to fill a few hours of air-conditioned entertainment for your little ones.  If you are near Boca and looking for an indoor play area, check out La-La Land.  It has indoor fun for ages up to around 12

miami children’s museum

4. The Van Gogh Exhibit: This indoor light show may be a bit pricey for a large group but is quite an experience. The immersive show takes participants into some of Vincent Van Gogh’s famous paintings. Literally. The visuals are jaw dropping and inspiring, and at the very least, provides incredible opportunities for some awesome pics. Advance tickets are required and can be purchased online.

The Van Gogh Exhibit

5. Everglades National Park: Have you really been to South Florida if you haven’t seen an alligator? Going on an airboat ride is as South Florida as you can get and there are multiple places to pick up one of these sweet rides. You can probably even score a Groupon. It’s a great way to spend your time outdoors and learn a little about the Florida ecosystem. Make sure to bring sunscreen and bug spray though!

Everglades National Park

6. Wynwood Walls: This is a bit more relaxed and is actually more like a great place to take great pictures, but Wynwood Walls is a draw for tourists everywhere. If you’re travelling with kids,invest in the Graffitti experience and paint some graffiti art for an activity by the walls.  You can also go close by to create your own chocolate delicacy at Ben B Coco (Certified under the ORB)- getting some shehakol treats that won’t leave you worrying about a sukkah. 

wynwood walls

7. Am Yam Kosher Boat Tours: This is the only kosher boat rental in Miami Dade and Broward. Rent the Amyam for a day on the intracoastal, the sandbar, or any private place you want to go with your family. The boat fits 10 people and includes an air-conditioned cabin, a kitchen, and a professional captain so you can relax and explore the waters. Best part: they’ll find you a secluded area to swim so you don’t have to worry about all the crowds.

Am Yam Kosher Boat Tours

8. Xtreme Action Park: Located in Fort Lauderdale, this indoor park has something for everyone: Go Carts, Laser Tag, Escape Rooms, Bowling, Arcades, a Ropes Course. Every time I have gone there I find something new. Perfect for a rainy day or even a ridiculously hot day when you need some air conditioning and coffee.

Extreme Action Park

9. Tigertail Aquatics and Bass Pro Shop: Heading out to Bass Pro Shops in Dania Beach, right near Hollywood, may sound kind of lame, but trust me. This shop is ridiculous. Between the taxidermy, the fish tanks, and the shooting range, it’s an experience just walking in. And older folks can fire some actual guns at the range on the second floor. Though not an all day experience, it is just across from Tigertail Aquatics where kids and adults can participate in a range of water activities including an aquatic obstacle course. Check it out and book a reservation. 

Tigertail Aquatics

10. Zoo Miami/ Palm Beach Zoo: If the Everglades is too adventurous for you, definitely head over to either of these top-rated zoos and spend the day marveling at animals you don’t see in your backyard at home. Don’t miss feeding the giraffes!

Zoo Miami

[Editor’s Note]  If you are heading up north towards Tampa, there is a new community in Tampa Bay Area. They are half hour from Busch Gardens, Tampa Zoo, Aquarium, and many attractions.  The address is 16303 Little Garden Drive, Wimauma Florida 33598. They also have a small grocery with kosher products. They can be reached at (813) 400-3453.

Chol Hamoed shouldn’t stress you out. With the activities available, you are sure to create fantastic memories for your family. Chag Sameach and enjoy!  


7 Tips for the Frum Harry Potter Fan Visiting Universal

As a Harry Potter fan, I’ve been to the Universal parks many times, and as a frum Jew, experiencing it comes with some challenges. However, with some advance planning, anyone can have a magical day at the park.

There is a lot to do at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios without even going into the Wizarding World, but getting through them is a much larger subject for another day. For now, since 7 is an important number in the Harry Potter universe, here are the top 7 tips for having a magical experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

   1.Stay on site. Universal Studios has four hotels on site and staying at one comes with the added benefit of scoring an Express Pass for you and everyone in your party. While there are a few exceptions, an Express Pass puts you at the front of the line for most rides. They usually cost anywhere from $50 to $100 extra per ticket (depending on the season) so while booking the local Holiday Inn may be cheaper, the perk of getting the Express Pass pays off – especially if you’re travelling during peak season or with little kids. It’s a game changer for your park experience.  

   2. Eat breakfast in your hotel. Many of the hotels have places to purchase cereal and milk, though you can also pick that up at the local Publix or Winn Dixie. If you are staying on-site at the Loews Portofino Bay, a hotel fashioned after the village of Portofino in Italy, make sure to check out the harbor piazza. You can grab a quick Starbucks, pretend you’re in Italy for a half hour, and then jump on the shuttle to the parks. It definitely sets the mood for the day and will get you off to a good start.

   3. Pack your lunch, plan to eat out for dinner. There are an assortment of restaurants in the Orlando area to have a sit-down dinner at the end of a long day which is a much better option than cold cuts in your hotel room. And while there are numerous kosher snacks and ice cream available throughout the park, the kosher real food pickings are slim. Packing a lunch will save you time in the park or you can order from the pre-packaged kosher food caterers (which you can order 72 hours in advance at select restaurants in the park). In The Wizarding World in particular, you’ll mainly find the kinds of food you’d expect in Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley, which sounds amazing for a Harry Potter fan, but isn’t so great for a kosher fan. Butterbeer, the drink of choice among wizards, as of this writing, is definitely not kosher. And with the exception of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, none of the candies in Honeydukes are kosher either. Sometimes you can convince the guy behind the counter to sell you the Butterbeer mug without the actual Butterbeer and that way at least you can get a souvenir. And maybe make your own drink when you get home. Chalav Yisroel and everything. 

   4. Buy a park hopper. Both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios have different experiences and you’re going to want both. Plus, the train ride on the Hogwarts Express is only accessible to Park Hoppers (and is a different experience coming and going between the parks). Both parks offer shopping, including a wand experience at Olivanders Wand Shop, but the tone in each is different. Islands of Adventure is home to Hogsmeade, where the snow topped village awaits and Moaning Myrtle haunts the bathroom (definitely check that out). Rides there include The Forbidden Forest, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure. All three are not to be missed. The lines themselves are immersive so make sure to look around as you make your way to the front of the queue. The Forbidden Forest is the ride through the castle and  as anyone who has waited to get to Hogwarts knows, the chance to walk through the castle and ride a broomstick on the Quidditch pitch is worth the wait. Flight of the Hippogriff is a fun coaster akin to Big Thunder Mountain in Disney. Definitely not high thrills, but a fun ride for younger kids. The new ride, Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, is probably one of the best rides in the Wizarding World. Don’t let anyone tell you about it before you go on, and definitely choose the driver’s seat on the bike.

From Hogsmeade station, take the Hogwarts express to Diagon Alley in Universal Studios. There is only one Harry Potter ride there: Escape from Gringotts. It’s a ride that’s part simulator, part roller coaster, taking you face to face with some of the best villains in the series. Make sure you stop at the money exchange on your way out and get some wizarding cash! The rest of the area is really for the true fans. It’s as close to Diagon Alley as you will ever get. The storefronts seem to have literally burst out of the books and movies – from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes to the Quality Quidditch Supplies, you can find everything you need for the discerning wizard. Don’t miss peeking down Knockturn Alley and looking around Borgin and Burkes for some relics from both the novels and the movies. And make sure you find the phone booth just outside Diagon Alley where you can call the Ministry of Magic!

   5. Daven Mincha at Hogwarts. Every theme park has its meeting point, and Universal is no exception. During the high season it is usually easy to find a mincha minyan right in front of the Hogwarts castle near the Forbidden Journey ride. You can always find that one hocker corralling anyone with a kippah for a minyan.

   6. Buy a wand. You can purchase “enchanted” wands that interact with various windows and items throughout the wizarding world. It allows you to cast spells and watch the magic, or that havoc, that ensues. Definitely a must for younger Harry Potter fans and a great way to see all the smaller details of the park that you may have overlooked.

   7. Choose your souvenirs wisely. Most items are theme-park priced. Meaning, you’ll need a few galleons in your pocket to get something decent. Hogwarts robes run about $100 and most character wands (not enchanted) cost around $35. The Butterbeer mug, if you can get it, is probably the cheapest item in both parks. But there is definitely something for everyone – from notebooks and stationary, to gag gifts, t-shirts and keychains. 

No matter what, for the true Harry Potter fan, just walking through Diagon Alley and running through the wall at Kings Cross Station to get onto the Hogwarts Express is enough to have a complete day – even if you are skipping the Butterbeer. And with so much to do outside the Wizarding World, a day at Universal is one of the top recommendations for a theme park choice in the Orlando area. Good luck and have a magical time!