Hello, hello! I’ve missed you. This past week was one of the best of my life. Our family had an amazing trip to Universal Studios and Disney World. Though it was over too quickly – as always – we packed in as many experiences into four days as possible.
I took an exorbitant amount of pictures (surprising?) and can’t wait to share them with you. On the first morning of our adventure, we woke up bright and early to take the boat from our hotel to Universal Studios for an early entry into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
As we came around the final corner, the Universal globe came into sight. This was my first time visiting, so needless to say I was pretty excited. The park was quiet, and the weather was beautiful.
We entered through Islands of Adventure and made our way to the very back of the park, where Hogwarts castle greeted us. I know there are a lot of Harry Potter fans out there who will appreciate just how fast my heart was beating when I saw it. Pure joy is the best way to describe it.
As you can see, everyone made their way to the castle ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – first thing. At 8:00 in the morning, there was no line at all, but as the day goes on it can build to well over an hour or two, if not more. It was great to have the chance to walk around the castle and take in all the details without a huge crowd.
For example, Dumbledore’s office.
It came complete with a pensieve and a holographic Dumbledore speaking of the choice between doing what is right and what is easy. There was also a room full of talking portraits, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom – with a holographic Ron, Hermione and Harry speaking about the enchantment they were about to put on us – and a hello from The Fat Lady and the sorting hat.
The ride was incredible! It’s a simulation that takes you through the entire castle and Harry Potter experience. Hermione places a charm on your riding car so that you are able to “fly” with them. I don’t want to give away too many details because it’s best to go through the ride not knowing what to expect the first time, but let’s just say that you will feel like you are back in the movies.
After riding and re-riding a few times, we made our way to the Flight of the Hippogriff. This is a smaller roller coaster and though we enjoyed riding it once, it was so short and anti-climactic that we decided once was enough. We had a feeling that it was meant for a younger set of riders, which was confirmed when we arrived at the third and final ride inside Hogsmeade: The Dragon Challenge.
Oh my gosh, this was amazing. You definitely have to love roller coasters (and upside down twists) to enjoy it, but if you do I can promise that it will be one of the best you ever go on. Personally I thought it was the best – the ride was so smooth and the twists and turns did not jerk you around as so many other roller coasters can do. It felt like we were flying, dragon style. I can’t recommend this ride enough! We rode both the blue and the red tracks – Hungarian Horntail and Chinese Fireball, respectively – and found that the red was definitely better. I’m sure that’s a matter of personal opinion, but it was extra smooth with more exciting twists from our perspective!
On the way up to the ride, we passed the blue Ford Anglia.
After we finished our second trip on the roller coaster, we were starting to feel a little woozy – my stomach is not ironclad, I’m afraid – and decided to get in line for a visit to Ollivanders. We snapped a few pictures of the group while waiting.
The line was already quite long and the park wasn’t officially open yet! It’s a popular place.
Once inside, “Ollivander” chose a young wizard to come up and select his wand – though really, the wand chooses him, yes? He went through a series of tests until he came up with the right one, which was fun to watch. Then we were all escorted into the shop to select our own. I know they have to move people through quickly because of the long line, but I can imagine that the other young kids (or not so young, ahem) who were in there and didn’t get chosen might have been disappointed. Still, it was a cool experience!
We ended up at Dervish and Banges to look around at all the magical equipment for sale.
The attention to detail throughout the entire Harry Potter world was incredible – as to be expected, considering how intricate the movie set was for all the films. We passed by broomsticks of every shape, size and make…
…cauldrons and spellbooks…
…and a certain Monster Book of Monsters.
By the time we finished, it was nearing 11:00 and we were hungry for an early lunch. We decided to head over to Three Broomsticks, an experience I had been eagerly anticipating all morning.
I practically skipped through the doors. It was my first chance to try butterbeer!
Straight from the tap, even. Words do not do justice to my level of excitement.
The verdict? I thought it was dee-licious. Very sweet and certainly not something you chug like water, but it tasted a lot like a buttery cream soda and the foam was a lot of fun, too. Thumbs up.
We ordered the Great Feast Platter, which came with chicken, spare ribs, corn on the cob, broccoli, carrots and potatoes. They weren’t kidding about the feast, but it was perfect for our group.
The feast also came with a side salad that had fresh tomatoes and Italian dressing.
Mama Bender ordered the pumpkin juice. I didn’t like it nearly as much as the butterbeer, but it was still fun to try. It had some qualities of a pumpkin beer (without the alcohol, of course).
On our way out of Three Broomsticks, we passed through the Hog’s Head.
We found Extendable Ears and Sneakoscopes right away.
Eric found a cool hat (and Bobby photobombed his picture)!
Honeydukes was full of candies, both real and “magical.” I loved this pink staircase.
I can’t say enough about the experience of walking through every detail of the books (as seen through the lens of the movies). Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart. They are the books that made me fall in love with reading and expanded my imagination. I know an entire generation of Harry Potter fans can relate. Visiting Harry Potter world is an absolute must!
We’ve heard that they are planning to expand the park and create a Hogwarts Express train to ride back and forth between the two areas. All I have to say is: yes, please.
I have so much more to share, but don’t want to overwhelm this post with pictures! Plus, it’s much more fun to give each part of the trip the recap it deserves. I’ll be back soon with more. Until then…
Goodbye from Platform 9 3/4!
Are you a Harry Potter fan? What were you/would you be most excited to see?