I know, I know, I have totally slacked on my blogging and I have promised this review for quite a while now. Can I tell you I fell off my broomstick and have been in the health wing while healing?? No?? Dang. And here I thought you might actually believe me.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure (wow, now THAT is a mouthful), is one of the best “themed” part of any theme park I have seen in a long time. It was so amazing that I knew I would need to talk about it all by itself. So, if you flashback to my post about what to see at IOA (or just go back and re-read it), you will remember that after passing through the Lost Continent, you come upon the Hosgsmeade arch. The thing that throws me is that, everything is covered in snow. In May. In Florida. Something is seriously off here.
Anyway, once you get in, it is almost too much for your senses to take in. ESPECIALLY if you have read all of the books and seen all the movies. It sometimes felt like stills from the movie come to life, and others like pages of the book leapt out of my imagination and onto the street in front of me.
The shops catch your eyes, but you cannot miss the giant, red train that is off to the left. Yup! It is the Hogwart’s Express, just like in the movie, coming out of a tunnel and sitting right next to Hogsmeade Station, which doubles as lockers for the Dragon Challenge roller coaster. And across from the station are shops. Lots and Lots of shops, right out of the movie. There is Zonko’s, where you can purchase an extendable ear if you wish, Dervish and Bangs, where you can get Quidditch gear, and of course, Honeyduke’s where you can get your Bernie Botts’ Every Flavor Beans and, my personal favorite, a chocolate frog. And trust me, the frog is worth the price as it is SOLID milk chocolate!! As a glutard, I have to admit to being bad and not checking to see if there was flour involved in the process anywhere, but..solid, chocolate, frog! And a Wizard card!). Plus, there is an Ollivander’s, where small groups are allowed in and one lucky person gets to be fitted with a wand. BUT, if you really, REALLY want a wand, they are available for purchase from SEVERAL locations around WWoHP.
The Dueling Dragons ride has been re-named and re-themed to the Dragon Challenge. Straight out of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it is your very own Tri-Wizard Tournament! Actually, it seems like that is the period the entire area is themed after, if you go by the performance I saw (more later). Anywho, the bad of this is that they no longer launch the dragons at the same time so that you almost feel like you are going to bump feet with someone in the other dragon. BUT, it is themed to Goblet of Fire!!! So, the queue line outside are all flags cheering on the participants, then you pass the car that flew into the whomping willow sitting calmly next to a fir tree (yeah, it bothered me a bit as well). And then you get to enter the castle! First thing you see is the goblet in the champions tent. I admit, I tried to put my name in. As you continue on, the mermaid egg clues are behind glass. More dark tunnels and then you are asked to choose between the Chinese Fireball and the Hungarian Horntail. Then whee, inverted rollercoaster time!
You finish this, there are more stops, there is a cart with butterbeer and pumpkin juice, both yum!!!! Get the frozen butter beer though, it is yummier. It tastes like liquid butterscotch with a hint of shortbread, while the pumpkin juice is available bottled (so you can do like I did and take it home), and tastes, literally, like liquid pumpkin pie. So. Friggin. Good!!! However, I would not drink it until AFTER you have gone into Hogwarts and ridden the ride as many times as you want. For the ride is kind of violent in its motions, and even my battle-hardened stomach turned a bit, causing me to become a not-so-lovely shade of green. And behind THAT is the Three Broomsticks, a great place to kick back, eat, drink, and get out of the Florida sun.
So, you continue through town, with many a shop window to look in and explore, heading toward the castle that looms over everything…the castle that you are super excited to get in, for, if you are like me, you secretly wanted to be enrolled there.
Outside, you may catch a show featuring the lovely lasses from Beauxbottoms or the strapping strongmen from Durmstrang
But, in all honestly, the real reason you are here lies ahead. HOGWARTS!! You have the option to go single rider, which will shoot you to the head of the queue, and then you can go back and get a castle tour, which will show you everything in the queue EXCEPT the greenhouse, or you can wait in line. When I was there, the wait was about 45 minutes, but I have heard that it can be longer than 90 minutes!! I could not get great pictures inside the castle, so I am not going to put many in here, so forgive me that, and continue to use your imagination like you did with the books.
First off, you have the dungeons, and the potions class. Listen carefully, you may hear a professor speaking. Then you continue out into the greenhouse, where you snake through a traditional queue line, with some odds and ends to look at, like these guys:
Eventually you work your way back into the castle, past the founder statue, past the statue that hides the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, past other images discussed in the books, into a gallery full of photos where some are talking and moving and…YAY! You find yourself in Dumbledore’s office!! The pensieve is there, along with a wall full of other treasures, then there is Dumbledore! He talks a bit and then on to the next space…the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, which is AWESOME!!!!! So much to see in here, then Ron, Harry, and Hermione show up. You wander a bit more, pass the Fat Lady, and you are in the Griffyndor common room. I freely admit to checking the fireplace for Sirius Black’s head to pop up, and was disappointed when it did not. You continue through the castle until you find the hat that EVERYONE wants to have on their head at least once, the Sorting Hat!
And then the ride. The ride is technically called “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.” But honestly, I think everyone just calls it “Harry Potter.” The whole premise is that you are on a broomstick following Harry and the gang on an adventure in and around the castle, in a Quidditch match, into the Forbidden Forest, and encountering all sorts of beasties from the movie. The ride vehicle is a “bench” that seats 5 people, with a shoulder harness to keep you in place. This is NOT a roller coaster, but my stomach sure felt like I was on one as the ride vehicle dipped, dropped, spun, and even had me flat on my back. And, like any good theme park ride, you exit into a gift shop.
You could easily spend the entire day in this one section of the park, and it was really, most magical.
Next time will be sooner!