|The Wizarding World of Harry Potter »|
The wait is over, Wizarding World of Harry Potter is now open at Islands of Adventure in Universal Studios Orlando and we were there. Our journey started very early in the morning, took us through a long, hot four hour wait but when we did get in it was all so worth it. Estimates were that over 5,000 people were vying for entrance to the grand opening of the Wizarding World and some people didn’t get in, the crowds were that large.
Walking under the archway into Hogsmeade truly transports you into the mind of J.K. Rowling and the World of Harry Potter. The snow covered buildings of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Express replica were just the start of how authentic this place truly is.
The main ride in the Wizarding World is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The ride is set in Hogwarts Castle and it is so amazing. If you’ve read the books it’s just like you’ve imagined. As you’re walking up to the castle you’re greeted by Hogwarts ‘students’ who welcome we ‘Muggles’ to their school.
When you first walk into the castle you pass the four cylinders of house jewels that determine who wins the house cup but before you even get into the castle you walk through a greenhouse while you’re waiting in line that ends with a flowerbed of Mandrakes, it’s very cool. When you get into the castle you go through several places you’ve seen from the books and movies. There’s the Hall of Portraits where you’ll get to hear a conversation between the founders but you’ll have to listen closely its kind of hard to hear. You’ll pass the Sorting Hat, on your way to Dumbledore’s office where he says hello and directs you to the Defense against the dark arts room. Here is where you first see Harry, Ron and Hermione who invite you to skive off the boring History of Magic class and go with them to a Quidditch Match. Hermione enchants the benches you are sitting on and off you go. On your way to the Quidditch pitch you get attacked by a dragon that’s gotten loose from Hagrid and run into some dementors but don’t worry Harry comes to the rescue performing the Patronus charm and after a quick duck into the castle you finally get to the pitch where you’re just in time to join the game. As you fly through the pitch you see Ron save a goal and then you follow Harry as he goes after the golden snitch with Draco Malfoy hot on his heals. Of course you and Harry capture the snitch and you are transported back to the castle where you are greeted by cheering Gryffindors and Dumbledore bids you farewell. This ride awesome, it twists and turns, it is visually stimulating, and has some steep drops on the screen in front of you as well as dramatic climbs. It’s a great ride but please pay attention to the ride restrictions and warnings, we don’t want anyone to end up in the hospital wing with Madame Pomfrey.
You exit the ride and find yourself in Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods. This is the place where you’ll find all things Hogwarts Jersey’s and t-shirts, mugs and house emblems on key chains, magnets and by themselves, stuffed Hedwig’s, three headed dogs and Crookshanks as well as replicas of the Marauders Map and you can buy your own Sorting Hat. The shop is very small and was very crowded all day. Now I know this was opening day and the crowd was thick but even so there wasn’t a lot of room to move around in there, still go in and see it. Just outside and across from Hogwarts Castle is another ride – Flight of the Hippogriff.
The Flight of the Hippogriff is a ‘kiddie coaster’; it isn’t as intense or wild as the Dragon Challenge. While you’re waiting in line you pass by Hagrid’s hut where you’ll hear Fang, his beloved boarhound, barking to get out and greet the crowd and just as you’re getting close to boarding you pass a clump of twigs and leaves where, if you look closely you be able to see Buckbeak, all safe and sound contently resting in his nest. As you board the ride Hagrid tells you to be sure and bow to Buckbeak, Hippogriffs are very proud you know. Then you get your chance as you pass right by Buckbeak’s nest where you are encouraged to bow and he bows back. The ride is somewhat sedate but great for kids.
The last ride of the three is the Dragon’s Challenge. This ride is base on Harry’s experience in the first task of the Triwizard Tournament and is wild and crazy. Guests get to choose between 2 different dragons, the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail, to ride and as you wait you get to see the Tri-Wizard cup, the Golden eggs and banners from the different schools among other things. Part of the wait has you in the tent where the champions are kept before they go out to face the dragons, it’s really great.
Periodically throughout the day there are different performers from Harry Potter’s world that show up to entertain the crowd. First is the frog choir, it’s made up of several performers and their frogs who sing songs you’ll recognize from the movies. Then the men from Durmstrang perform a staff show based how they entered the Great Hall in the movie. Likewise the lovely ladies of Beauxbatons perform a similar ‘ribbon dance’ from the movie, both groups are very entertaining and you can take pictures with them after the show.
The shops are extremely authentic as well; Ollivanders seemed to be one of the most popular, there was a three hour wait to get in. You don’t just get to buy a wand, in there you actually get to experience the wand choosing you, it’s an awesome experience just ask Emma Watson. The Owlery where you rest up is covered and has benches and when you look up to the rafters there are automated owls moving and hooting. The Owl Post is where you can send a letter to anywhere and it’ll be post marked ‘Hogsmeade’, how cool is that? Just beside the Owlery is Dervish and Banges, which had up to a two hour line just to get in. Dervish and Banges is where you’ll fine all your Quidditch needs including a broom. Brooms sell for $250.00 and even so, during the ‘soft’ openings the store sold out of them and they had to restock. They also have uniforms and all things dragon.
When you go into Zonko’s joke shop be sure to look up, you’ll see a replica of the dragon firework that chased Professor Umbridge out of the Great Hall, extendable ears, pigmy puffs and other assorted games and gags all available for purchase. Connected to Zonko’s is Honeydukes. On the far wall you’ll see a display of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans, find cauldron cakes, candy wands and even chocolate frogs WITH cards in them. Needless to say it was packed in there too, one could hardly move and the lines to pay were very long. All the candy jars and sweet treats were a feast for the eyes you could spend an hour just looking at it all and trying to decide what sweet to buy.
Another crowd favorite was the Three Broomsticks, we didn’t even try to get in because the wait to dine was up to three hours. The pub itself looks just as you’d imagine tho’ very warm and rustic. If you’d like a place to sit and have some alcoholic refreshment, the Hogs Head serves beer, wine, mixed drinks and even two special drinks; Hog’s Head Brew and White Rat Whiskey and again is very rustic and looks exactly as you’d expect it to from the books and movies.
I personally couldn’t wait to taste Butterbeer and Pumpkin juice. The line for the Butterbeer was 45 minutes long and there was only one place to get it, so I waited. While I was waiting for the Butterbeer my companion went and bought us Pumpkin Juice, it was very cold and refreshing on an extremely hot day. But what did it taste like? Glad you asked, Pumpkin Juice is light and sweet, it tastes like a mix of Apple and Pumpkin juices with a lot more of a pumpkin flavor. It’s no wonder it was on the table at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Butterbeer is just as fabulous, it’s a blend of cream soda, without the fizz, and butterscotch, it’s a little thicker than Pumpkin Juice, but not too thick, they added a foam head on top of it which makes it even more delicious. I could drink it all day long, it comes frozen or chilled and you can get it in a souvenir mug, which I did.
|The Wizarding World of Harry Potter »|
If you’re any kind of Potter Fan at all, you have to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter where you’ll meet all sorts of ‘Potterheads’ just like you. We met a few kids when we first got there who were all dressed up in robs and had wands, they were very enthusiastic fans. Later in the day we met a guy who had tattoos of both the Gryffindor Emblem and Deathly Hallows symbol and a girl who had drawn the Dark Mark on her arm herself. Fans we talked too loved the authenticity of Hogsmeade and all the shops as well as the details in the rides. At the end of the day we were hot and tired but very happy to have been there. It truly was an awesome experience one, I’m sure I’ll repeat several times over this summer, so I’ll see you there.
Originally Published on June 19th, 2010