on Facebook

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Muggle's Adventure at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Two weeks ago, I headed to Orlando on an epic journey to visit Harry Potter at Universal Islands of Adventure. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been open for about three months but the fans keep flooding in. We arrived, via the free shuttle from the hotel, at 9am right when the park opened yet I still had to speed walk past throngs of muggles in the 90 degree Florida humidity. But it was worth it.

By the time we reached the Harry Potter section of the park (it's at the very back) we only had to wait 25 minutes for the Forbidden Journey ride. It is the ride you most definitely go to first!!! The line can get up to three hours long.

The ride begins with a walking route through Hogwarts Castle and the many classrooms from the books. There was the potions room, the hallways filled with moving pictures, and finally the Defense of the Dark Arts classroom where I was greeted by Ron, Harry and Hermione. Universal is super tricky because they make the rooms dark enough that it is IMPOSSIBLE to take good pictures. You can only get the full effect by seeing it for yourself. It is also ideal for there to be a little bit longer of a line because then you aren't rushed through all the rooms. I had to skip to catch up with the person in front of me because I was trying to take so many pictures.

The journey through Hogwarts ends at the motion ride. You are strapped into a cart with sixteen other people. I recommend holding your flip flops so they don't fly off! The ride was absolutely amazing. You would transition from real life objects like spiders falling from the ceiling to video capture of you playing Quidditch and flying from Dementors. They did a great job of really capturing all the best scenes from the movies. The spiders scared the crap out of me and are conveniently when they take the picture of you so I looked terrible...

Like all good theme park rides you are then spit out into the merchandise area where you can purchase anything from scarfs and mugs to brooms and T-shirts. They also conveniently make it pour down rain outside so you are forced to hang out inside (prompting you to buy more stuff). But we could not be stopped since we wanted to avoid the lines (nothing shortens rides like rain does). So we ran out into the downpour towards the Dueling Dragon ride. Upon approach they told us all outdoor rides in the entire park were shutdown due to "lighting in the area." We waited for about 30 minutes and nothing seemed to change so we decided we'd have an early lunch at the Three Broomsticks.

I have never seen a better run theme park restaurant (or really any restaurant for that matter). You start of in a line that feeds into eight different registers. As each person finishes ordering a register frees up and the next person in line walks forward, just like the post office. Let's say you order at Register #8. The employee will then hand you a receipt and direct you to Line #8 for the kitchen. You stand in this line and are given your food, just like McDonald's. Lastly, you take your plates and stand in a third line for a hostess to seat you. It sounds like a lot of standing in line but the whole process took about 15 minutes because it really streamlined everything.

We sat down to eat, happy to be out of the rain. Collectively we got the shepherd's pie and rotisserie-smoked chicken. We also got a Butterbeer. Yes, Butterbeer actually exists!! It essentially tastes like very effervescent cream soda with a thick layer of sugary foam on top similar to a rootbeer float. There isn't any beer in it obviously (it's a family park people) but it was a little disconcerting seeing seven-year-olds wandering around drinking out of beer mugs!

Lunch was actually pretty decent and not terribly expensive. It also wasted just enough time that the rain had let up enough for us to walk straight onto the Dueling Dragon ride -no line. The ride also separates you into a separate area if you want to ride in the first row of the rollercoaster. Hell yes! The ride was absolutely awesome. You definitely go upside down and around and down and all the while rain drops were pelleting my face. I looked like a drowned rat in the ride photo at the end. It was awesome!!

From there we ran over to Ollivander's Wand Shop to get in line for the interactive wand experience. In my opinion, they've done a shitty job of explaining the wand experience. I came to the WW of Harry Potter thinking that if I waited in line I would definitely get to watch as a wand picked me. Instead, as soon as we get in line the lady informs us that 30 people are allowed into the experience at a time and only one person is chosen by the wand-maker to actually participate with the wands. Everyone else has to watch. That immediately annoyed me because they are obviously going to chose the cutest kid in the group not a 25-year-old! Either way this was the last "ride" in WWofHP so we decided to check it out anyway.

After waiting in line for an hour, I looked ahead and saw a family of four sneak into the line about three groups in front of us. Oh. Hell. No. I dropped a not so subtle hint to the oblivious people behind the family who hadn't seen them cut. This group spent the next 30 minutes passive-aggressively talking about the family and "cutters." Ah... I'm am an evil instigator.

When we finally reached the front of the line, we were cut off at the very front thanks to the family of four. I said something to the employee who mans the door. We got to talking about I mentioned how I was really excited about Ollivander's, about how it was my biggest reason for coming to Universal, and that I was bummed that they always pick kids. She nodded apologetically and was really nice.

She then slipped inside for a few minutes right before letting the next 30 of us into a tiny tiny room that is about 10 feet across but goes up about 30 feet into rafters filled with wand boxes. The light ray coming in from the windows were filled with magical particles of dust. You immediately fill like you've stepped back in time. I was so enchanted that I didn't even see the wand-make standing on the stairs until he asked me my name. ASK ME MY NAME!! NO WAY! I WAS CHOSEN! YESSSSSSS!

If you didn't yet pick up on my excitement.... turns out the employee from outside had hooked me up. Here is how it played out. The wand-maker asked me to come over to his desk and then he took out to two wands. He spoke about the elements that made up each wand and then handed me the first one. I turned and yelled "Aquamente" at a pot of flowers on a shelf. They wilted and died..oops. The wand-maker then handed me the next wand and the room filled with a golden light when I touched it. My eyes grew wide and I reverted back to being five years old. Clearly this wand was the right wand! He then placed the wand back in its box and handed it to me.

We were all then ushered out into the main wand shop area (where everyone else could buy wands). So cool!! If you are interested, the wands are about $30 bucks each and you can either get replicas of the character wands from the movie or they have special Ollivander wands that coincide with specific birthdays that you can purchase.

On our way out of WWofHP we stopped in Honeydukes and Zonko's and then went out into the rest of the park to experience the Hulk rollercoaster and Spiderman 3D adventure. They were lame.

Overall the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was an amazing experience. As soon as you step into Hogsmeade, you feel like you have been transported to a strange, yet familiar place. The buildings, messaging, and even the outfits worn by the staff embody the magic of the books. In fact it is so well-done it makes the rest of the park look really shabby by comparison. I would definitely suggest visiting if you are a fan of the series, or even if you're not.

I leave you with one final piece of advice. Don't bother waiting in line for Dervish and Banges because the shop right by the exit has all the same stuff minus the MASSIVE line.

No comments:

Post a Comment