Good morning everyone!
As some of you may recall, Mark and I went to Universal Studios for a parents only excursion in January, while Mom and Kayla spent a weekend together doing other things. Today seemed like a good day to tell you about the newest area in the most recently built of the two parks at Universal Studios, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Islands of Adventure.
Because we were staying at a Universal Hotel, we got to enter Islands of Adventure one hour early so we could go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This section consists of a replica of Hogsmeade and, further up the path, a replica of Hogwarts. There are three rides in this section: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the Hippogriff, which is a (comparatively mild) roller coaster, and Dueling Dragons, which is a much more extreme roller coaster. When we entered the park, we, along with 500 to 700 other people hurried through the park to get to the Harry Potter section.
We started with the Forbidden Journey ride. The entrance to it is fascinating, with all kinds of things laid out along the path to distract you from the fact that you will be waiting over an hour for this ride, but because of early entrance, we hurried through most of that to reach the ride fairly quickly. We did notice that the outside waiting area is designed to look like the greenhouse, and as you go through the castle you see statues of each of the Gryffindor founders, Dumbledore’s office, one large classroom, and a lot of talking, moving pictures that argued back and forth about various subjects.
The ride is a combined motion/film experience, which means the ride moves some, and Universal uses a lot of film effects also to make you feel like you are moving. To be honest, the ride was about 15 – 30 seconds too long for someone who hasn’t taken Dramamine recently and has an empty stomach. It was toss and go for the last few seconds of the ride as to whether I was going to have motion sickness, and Mark was even closer than I was. Except for that, the ride was a lot of fun, with multiple swoops and dives as we rode on an “enchanted bench” to reach the Quidditch pitch.
We needed to rest for a minute when we finished that ride, and while Mark went outside, I went through the gift shop at the end of the ride to pick out various souvenirs for Kayla – at that store, she acquired a Hedwig puppet. (For those who haven’t read the book, Hedwig is a snowy white owl.) I also discovered that the shops at Universal sell Dramamine – you have to ask the clerk, and they keep them out of sight, but they have them, so I picked up a couple of packs to arm us for the rest of the day. I would have loved to have bought Kayla a set of Wizard Robes, but at over $100 a robe, they were just too much.
After I finally came out of the souvenir shop, we walked over to the Hippogriff roller coaster, which was not too rough of a ride, but exciting none the less. It also had some super views of the park when you reached a crest on the roller coaster.
We then walked through Hogsmeade. There was a line to enter one shop; I asked the attendant what that line was for, and he told me it was for Ollivander’s wand selection shop. We didn’t go in there, because the wait was already at 45 minutes. However, we still were able to purchase a wand for Kayla, because the general store next door to Ollivander’s has the same wands for purchase. The wait at Ollivander’s is because Universal has a wand selection experience for its younger guests that want wands. For those familiar with the books and/or the movie, I gather the experience is similar to that Harry had in the movie, with a meeting with Ollivander, etc.
There is a restaurant in this section called (what else?) The Three Broomsticks, and Universal has come up with its own version of Butterbeer, which it sells at The Three Broomsticks and a couple of outdoor snack stands in the Harry Potter section, also. Even the restrooms come complete with the voice of Moaning Myrtle!
Because we went to the section as part of Early Entry, and because it was winter and not high summer, we were able to complete everything we wanted to do there the first day within about one hour or less. To give you some idea of the difference early entry alone makes, we went back the next day to ride the Forbidden Journey one more time, and ended up waiting in line for over an hour. I shudder to think of what the line’s length would be in mid-summer!
Still, we had a lot of fun, and I am excited thinking about the time when we go back and take Kayla with us!
Have a great day everyone!