Monday, December 12, 2011

First trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure

Two weeks ago, my dad and I went to Universal Studios Orlando, and I got to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time.

First of all, it was an extremely slow day in the parks. Here's proof:
1 – Universal Studios has two parking garages; one of the parking garages was completely closed and not being used.
2 – We WALKED ON to rides all day long. There was literally no wait time for anything, even at 1-2pm. This includes Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It was awesome.

It was a very chilly day down here in Florida; it was in the upper 40's F when we go to the park in the morning. I was freezing so I was all bundled up in a sweat and coat and scarf. Later in the day it got up into the 70's and I ditched the sweater, but I kept the coat because I was still cold, plus the coat had pockets.

So, yes. We got there just after the park opened at 9am; the only line we waited in was the one to get our tickets. I was somewhat annoyed since I'd already paid for the tickets online, but since we go the Florida resident tickets, of course, they need to check our I.D.'s. Anyway, we got in the park and by this time I was hungry. I only ate a tiny bit of fruit before we left because I was anxious and it upsets my stomach. I'm always super nervous until I finally arrive at the parks. We stopped in the bakery and I got this yummy cream cheese croissant and some milk. It was so good.

Then we proceeded to Wizarding World. It felt like forever, going through Dr. Seuess land then the Lost Continent. Then I saw the entrance to Hogsmeade and I was literally like, "EEEEEEEEEE!!!!! IT'S HOGSMEADE!!!!" 

The Hogwarts Express

I could see the Hogwarts Express and I started walking faster to get to it. Entering Hogsmeade is completely magical; it's like walking right into the Harry Potters books and movies. It was a bit overwhelming. There's just SO MUCH to take in all at once. I snapped pictures of the train and shops as I made a beeline for the Hogwarts castle.


You can't quite see it at first, but as you get closer, you begin to see it looming over Hogsmeade. Then you turn a corner and... there it is-- Hogwarts.

It was magical. There's no other words to describe it.

Honestly, I felt like a little kid seeing Cinderella's castle for the first time over Disney World. I was there. I was at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It's breathtaking. I think I even forgot that I was in Florida for a little while.

So, we enter Hogwarts to ride the Forbidden Journey. I don't have any good pictures because I had to stash my things in the locker, and I never got the chance to come back just to tour the castle. I went through the entire line the first time, and it's amazing. I go through the dungeons, and the greenhouse, and the portraits hall, and Gryffindor common room, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. There's so much attention to detail.

Also, the hologram projection technology they use is amazing. When Harry, Hermione, and Ron appear from under the invisibility cloak in the DADA classroom... it's like they're REALLY there. It's so realistic.

As for the ride itself; it is honestly like nothing I have ever been on in my entire life. I can't even begin to describe it. It's like a roller coaster, mashed up with a simulation ride, but so much more than that. You sit in these 'benches' they're called I think, and there's speakers so that you can hear the soundtrack and story line. You ride along and then you're lifted up into the air. You're tilted all around and taken through different rooms and sets and screens; it really feels like you're flying. The technology behind it is brand new and cutting edge; I believe the mechanism is actually some kind of 'arm' type thing. I can't remember, though I have read up about it.

It's thrilling and a lot more awesome than any roller coaster I've been on. As soon as we got off, I road it again while my dad waited. I used the single rider line this time, because it cuts straight to the common room and right before you board. I'm sure I could have gotten on just as quickly taken the regular line.

If you want to ride Forbidden Journey more than once without waiting in a long line on the busier days; definitely use the single rider lines. The seats on the actual ride have these partitions between them so you can't see anyone else; it's like you're riding all by yourself anyway. So the single rider line is the best way to go. I've heard that on the busy days when Forbidden Journey has a 2 hour+ line, if you take the single riders line you can get on in 5-10 minutes.

The second go on Forbidden Journey did make me a little queasy, and I'm not prone to motion sickness. Afterwards I met up with my dad again, and we heading over to Dragon Challenge (formerly Dueling Dragons). We waited like 5 minutes for this ride because I wanted to sit in the front row- when I got on the ride I remembered the dragons no longer "duel" and there is no "near collision" because some punk kid had to throw stuff that ended up injuring people while on the ride, and thus ruined it for everyone. Oh well. I'd never been in the front row before (which would have been more exciting if there was the near collision with the other coaster, but whatever).

Of course, it also wasn't until I was about to get on the coaster that I realized... oh hey, it's 50 degrees out and the cold air is going to be whipping all over the place. Sure enough, I was a whole lot colder after I got off the ride.

The line for Dragon Challenge was redone with a Harry Potter theme; it's very cute. It's themed on the Triwizard Cup and they have all sorts of banners and signs like "Support Potter!" and "Go Diggory!" and signs for Fleur and Krum as well. Once you get to the inside part of the line, it is extremely dark; it's even harder to see because your eyes need time to adjust. I honestly couldn't hardly see a thing.

After Dragon Challenge, we explored the shops and bought lots of things. The shops are replicas of the ones we see in the movies... including the sizes.

This is my one complaint. The shops are way too small. I understand they wanted to keep the shops authentic, but it was extremely hard to move around in the shops and this was on a REALLY SLOW day. The shops barely fit 15-20 people inside them. It's extremely hard to browse through the merchandise, because you're constantly bumping into and trying to squeeze past people.

As such, if you have issues with crowds or small spaces, you definitely need to be ready to use any coping skills or self-soothing techniques.  I definitely had trouble.

The Owlery
As soon as I entered the shops, my anxiety shot up to about a 7 on a scale of 10 and I felt my chest get tight. Zonko's/Honeydukes was definitely the hardest shop for me to be in. It seemed to be constantly packed, and I frequently got dizzy while inside the shop. I did my best to stay in the present though; I was focused on trying to find the merchandise I wanted to buy. It didn't get so bad that it triggered my need to escape, but it almost did. The other shops weren't so bad because the crowds seemed to ebb and flow; I assume with when people came out of Ollivander's. I just remember for a moment there'd only be a few people in the shop and then a minute later it would be packed and impossible to move again. Also, Devish and Banges/The Owelry seemed to have a lot more exits available, so it's easier to get out of them if you need to escape.

The shops are just far too small in my opinion; I'm pretty sure this has to be bad for business and is turning people away. I imagine on a crowded day, this probably would have been what sent me into a panic attack.

After that,  I got some Butterbeer and we sat out on the patio behind The Hog's Head. I tried it cold, because I figured that's closer to what it's like in the books. I kind of wish you could get it hot, but I've never heard of anything hot being served on draft, so...


It's sweet, but not sickeningly sweet like I was sort of expecting. It's butterscotchy and sweet. It wasn't bad. I liked it; I was fine with just having the one. I got the souvenir mug, which is ridiculously priced, but whatever.  Of course, no one told me that with the souvenir mug you could get like .75 cent sodas and stuff; we could've saved money because my dad was getting soda with every meal. (I don't drink soda, but I kept having to buy water because I was an idiot and left my water bottle in the car.)

We then decided to leave Wizarding World for a little while. We road Cat in the Hat- which I didn't care for cause I was never a Dr. Seuss fan. Then we headed over to ride the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. It was 1 in the afternoon and we walked right onto the ride. No wait whatsoever. We couldn't get over how awesome this way. Next we road Spiderman. We then got lunch before heading over to Universal Studios. We skipped Toon land because it's all water rides and it was too cold for that; we also skipped Jurassic Park because I hate that ride and area; the movie terrified me when I was a kid.

We picked up all the things I got in Harry Potter land and took them back to our car- this was when we discovered one of the parking garages was closed and not being used. I kept laughing about it, we picked the best day ever to go to the parks. Dropped off our things at the car- where I, again, forgot my water bottles- then heading over to Universal Studios.

Rip Ride Rockit Coastet zooming through
a building in New York

We walked on to Rip Ride Rocket, which is an awesome roller coaster. The ascent at the very beginning is completely vertical. It feels so crazy. The ride itself is awesome, and it's cool how you can pick the music you want to play.

I'm apparently getting old. I kept getting headaches after every single roller coaster. I used to ride these things without being phased, not it does take a little bit out of me. Boooo. I'm only 23!!

New York area in Universal Studios Orlando
Anyway. We were both a little dizzy after Rip Ride Rockit so we took our time. We wandered around New York and took lots of pictures there. It's my dad's favorite part of the park; he kept going on about how he'd love to just sit on some steps with a beer and listen to music and stuff. I think it makes him a bit nostalgic too, because he grew up in the North East, and he says it looks just like it.

We rode The Mummy next; another walk on. I hated the line for the mummy though. It kept twisting and turning and was making me dizzy. I guess it's not so bad on days when it's busy and you actually have to wait in line, so you're not walking through it very fast. The ride was awesome. I'm not a fan of The Mummy or anything, but the ride was thrilling and generally awesome. I love coasters that are in the dark

The Blues Brothers
at Universal Studios Orlando
We caught the Blues Brother's show and watched for a few minutes. Then I got bored and wanted to move on. It was a good thing we did, because we were able to catch the Beetlejuice Show. We would have missed it otherwise, and I'm sure my dad would have been disappointed. He's a huge fan.

The show was really funny; there was a ton of pop culture references, so obviously the show will be a bit different every time you see it. I took a ton of pictures, I guess because I was sitting down and bored and could just hold the shutter down and take like 10 pics in a row.

I don't have a lot of pictures of Wizarding World; I never got the chance to just tour the castle and take photos. I think I was too caught up in the EXPERIENCE to stop take pictures.

After that, we road Disaster. Then we decided to skip the rest of the park; there was nothing we really wanted to do- and I was dying to go back to Wizarding World.

On our way back, finding something to eat was a pain. The places we wanted to eat at were closed, but we didn't know until we got to them; I started getting annoyed and frustrated, because we kept passing places that WERE open, in favor of wanting to go to the "better" restaurants like Mythos. In the end we had to settle for a burger and fries which weren't very good, but we were starving.

Then we went to Wizarding World and I road Forbidden Journey one more time. It was getting dark by then; Hogsmeade is even prettier at night- the "snow" on the buildings begins to look REAL. I bought some more stuff and then we started to leave because the park was closing. We got some frozen Butterbeer on the way out- which is really good; it's all slushie like.

We headed home after that; we were both exhausted. It was a long day, but it was fun. Yay! I got lots of cool things, and awesome Christmas presents for my bff. 


  1. I love reading about other people going to Wizarding World! I went to Universal a lot as a kid, and my husband and I went on our honeymoon when they were first starting construction. We first got to go around Halloween, and I loved it. I got into Harry Potter later than everyone else, but I was completely smitten and running around like a little kid. I'm prone to motion sickness, so I took some anti-nausea meds that I took when I was pregnant before we went, and thankfully I was fine. My husband is not at all the type to get motion sickness, and Forbidden Journey gave him a headache.

    I loaded up on chocolate frogs and pumpkin juice just to say that I did. The husband makes a fabulous pumpkin juice for me now! I'm thinking about buying a glass stein and etching it since the butterbeer souvenir mugs are kind of meh.

    We've been planning on going back: we were both sick on our anniversary, or we would've gone then. Plus we have a two year old, and there's only so long we can keep her happy at Universal, even if we run over to Seuss Landing several times. I've been promised house robes for my gift! :D

  2. Oh, I forgot to mention that I completely feel you on dealing with the tiny shops. It's intentional, I know, but I start getting panicky.