J got me tickets to Universal Studios for my birthday back in November so I could go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My birthday fell on a Thursday and since that’s a bank holiday, I took Friday off as well so I could have a nice long weekend. And then I spent it all on the couch, sick. J had even taken Thursday and Friday off as a surprise. Between the beginning of November and middle to end of February I had 4 long weekends, and I was sick for three of them. Plus with all the holiday stuff, we just hadn’t had a chance to use the tickets. But finally, FINALLY four months later I got to go, and it totally was worth the wait.
We went on Thursday and I told J I wanted to be on the road by 9am. It’s about an hour drive to Orlando, and thankfully my parents took Ciera home with them after the hockey game we all went to on Tuesday. So I didn’t have to worry about making a stop to drop her off for the night. We got to the park and the parking attendings made us go to the top of the garage. That was ok, because looking into Universal I could see the towers of Hogwarts rising up behind all the other rides. It was a little odd seeing this “old world” castle spearing up behind the twists, turns and loops of The Hulk. But at the same time, seeing it was surreal. I felt anticipation, I couldn’t wait to step into the pages of the books, see this magical world come to life.
We headed in and J asked where I wanted to go first. Islands of Adventure is set up in a big circle, so normally we work our way around and hit up each section and do the rides and shows we want to see as we go through those sections. However this time, no. No way. We headed straight for Hogsmead and Hogwarts, bypassing Dr. Suess Land (which is cute, but admittedly geared towards the younger kids) and the Lost Continent. My insides were wriggling with excitment and I had to refrain from jumping up and down and dancing in excitment. All I wanted to do was grab J’s hand and tug him forward while saying “C’mon! Hurry! Faster! We’re almost there!” I was good, I acted my age, mostly. I don’t remember, but there might have been some bouncing up and down. And I know my eyes were wide in wonder and excitement.
The first view of Hogsmead was spectacular. The work they put into the buildings is amazing. The roof tops all have sparkling m0unds of snow, but it really truly fit the whole concept. It didn’t even seem cheesy to be wearing shorts and a tank top while wandering through a snow capped village. We went into Zonko’s, which is TINY! There were wayyy too many people in there, and after a couple of “rows” I figured out that the products are the same no matter what row. They do sell Pygmy Puffs though. They’re all pink, no other colors. And they get named when people check out apparently. One clerk was telling us that Arnold is definitely one of the popular choices, although someone apparently named theirs using a variation of Justin Bieber, which the variation was pretty clever.
Zonko’s is connected to Honeydukes, and again, way too many people for that store. We looked around some and I decided that while I wanted candy, I would wait and come back for it. I didn’t want to eat it just then, and I didn’t want to be wandering around the park with it. So we left and headed over to the Dragon Challenge ride. This one isn’t new, it’s just re-purposed. In it’s pre-Wizarding World life it was known as the Dueling Dragons. There’s really not much different about it. The outside walk to get to the actual ride has banners and the Weasley’s car and on the inside there’s a cauldron or goblet or something that we wound past . The split for the two tracks was also re-named. Instead of fire and ice, it’s the Hungarian Horntail or the Chinese Fireball.
After the ride we headed to the Three Broomsticks for lunch and Butterbeer!! There was some English dishes, Shepard’s Pie and some other meat/potatoe/veggie/pastry dish. We got chicken, J did the roasted chicken and I did the salad. And the frozen Butterbeer. It definitely does taste like a lighter in flavor version of Cream Soda. We didn’t do the souvenir mug, that would have been $10!! We were happy with just the drink.
After lunch we went on the new, created just for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This ride was amazing! The first time we went on it we cheated and went in the single rider line. That line dumped us into the Gryffindor Common Room, complete with moving portraits! We then wound our way past the portrait of the Fat Lady (yep, she moved and talked too), down a hall where we saw the Sorting Hat and into the Room of Requirement where we boarded our “flying benches”.
I don’t think I can really give justice to the ride, it was spectacular. But definitely not for those who get motion sick very easily or even cannot stand to be jerked around a little bit in a seat. It was a cross between a movie and actual ride, and it was really difficult to tell exactly how much moving around in the castle the bench actually does. For all we know, it’s just a little 12×12 room. Okay, not really, there’s definitely more than just that space. It started in the Observatory, then went “outside” where we had to avoid a dragon. We got to see part of the Chamber of Secrets, the Forbidden Forest, the Quidditch Pitch and bunches of other stuff (trying not to “spoil” any of it here 😀 ).
After the ride was over we went back through on the Castle Tour. This let us see a portrait gallery, Dumbledore’s Office and the Defense Against The Dark Arts Classroom. We would have done the ride again, but the wait time at that moment was 90 minutes! So instead I got myself a souviner (a set of 4 tumblers, each in the different house colors with the crest on it for that house) and we headed off into the rest of Universal.
After hitting all the other rides we wanted to, we of course headed back to Hogsmead and Hogwarts. I still got the same excited feeling entering Hogsmead as I did earlier in the day. We rode the Dragon Challenge again (it was only a 5 minute wait!) and this time did the first row. For this coaster, the first row is HIGHLY recommended. The Forbidden Journey only had a 30 minute wait, and I wish I had brought my camera with when we went on it this time. The line snaked through one of the greenhouses, past a bunch of different statues, past the bird thing that guards the entry way to the headmasters office and I KNOW I’m forgetting what else we saw.
We finished the ride and got to look around Olivander’s; I didn’t get a wand. The replica’s of the characters were $31, so I’m sure the regular old ones they had were probably about $25. I didn’t feel like paying that much. I got a kick out of seeing the robes being sold at Filch’s. And then we headed back to Honeydukes for some candy!! They had Cauldron Cakes, Rock Cakes (the sales guy said they taste like scones), Pumpkin Pasties (looked like a pumpkin tart to me), Treacle Fudge, all kinds of other fudge. And of course Peppermint Imps, Chocolate Frogs, the tooth flossing candy, Lemon Sherberts, Bertie Botts, Peppermint Frogs, Pumpkin Juice, Chocoballs. And again, I know I’m forgetting some of what was there.
I knew I was going to spend some money on the food, and I was ok with it. Still slightly shocked at the actual sticker. But I got a chocolate frog, a chocolate wand, Chocoballs, a Cauldron Cake, some lemon sherbert, Pumpkin Juice and a few other things that J picked out. So far, I’ve had the Cauldron Cake and the Pumpkin Juice. The Cauldron Cake reminded me of a Hostess Cupcake, with Hostess actually tasting better. Not that the cake was bad, just not as good as Hostess. The Pumpkin Juice reminded me of a cider. So it was like a pumpkin cider that’s not too pumpkin-y with a lot of cinnamon. It’s definitely sweet but I’d buy it again. In fact, I’d go do that whole section of the park again. I think with some creativity, they could make it so that people happily spend the whole day in just Hogsmead and Hogwarts.