Tag Archives: Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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.

Me and the Squash in Hogsmeade

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.

Some of the pictures in the castle

Statue of Salazar Slytherin

Counters for the House Cup

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.

Full view of Hogwart's Castle

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.

View from the top of the Hippogriff

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!

Close up of Hogwart's Tower

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!

View in the Waiting Line

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!


The Benefits of an On-Site Hotel at Universal

Good morning everyone!

Some of this is going to sound like a commercial; I apologize in advance, but when something is enjoyable, it doesn’t make any sense to try to find something negative to say!

As you know, Mark and I took a trip to Orlando last weekend. Mark and I hadn’t been to a theme park in a lot of years (since Kayla was 4) and we were a little unsure how he would do with the walking and the standing in line given his rheumatoid arthritis, which is one reason we wanted to take this trip with just the two of us – if we ended up only being able to stay in a park for one or two hours, we wouldn’t have to worry about disappointing our daughter.  There were about 500 other reasons to have some time for just the two of us, so that wasn’t the only reason, but it was one.

Picture from our Porch the Other Day;It has nothing to do with anything I am writing about but it is pretty!

Then, as I was going through our options for a hotel room, I started looking at the three Loew’s  hotels that are “on-site” Universal Studio hotels – the Portofino, the Royal Pacific and the Hard Rock.  They are not cheap, but by staying at the Royal Pacific, we picked up a lot of extras that were worth their “wait”  in gold.  (You’ll understand and be able to groan at the pun later.)

The most important of those benefits was the fact that every guest at one of those three hotels has automatic “Fast Pass” entry to every ride that has one, which basically is every ride except for Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey.  Granted it was January, with Fast Pass, we hardly had to wait in line at all (okay, go ahead and groan now); often we were able to walk right onto the ride as soon as we got up to it.  (The lines at Universal are astounding labyrinths; as we walked through them we tried to imagine what it would be like to have to wait if all of the labyrinth was full and came to the conclusion that it would not be fun.)  For those of you who, like me, have stood in line somewhere like Disneyworld or Universal for over 45 minutes to an hour for a ride, you can just imagine the feeling of soaring into the ride immediately!  I would have felt a little bad about it if the Fast Pass option wasn’t available to everyone if they choose, but if you are not staying at the hotels, you can buy Fast Pass privileges.  It costs $87 per person per day on top of the entrance fee, which is already over $80 for a single park, single day admission.  (In other words, it ain’t cheap.)

Hogwarts at Universal

Even though the Harry Potter ride does not have a Fast Pass entrance (yet, anyhow), staying at one of the three Universal Hotels also allows you to enter Islands of Adventure one hour early to go down to Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, so instead of waiting over 60 minutes to ride the Forbidden Journey, we had a wait time of about 10 minutes.  The second day, Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey was one of the only two rides we decided to ride twice.  We waited 60 minutes in line for the ride that day, and easily came to the conclusion that the Fast Pass and early entry was what had made the trip possible.  The other ride we rode twice was the Spiderman ride.  It is one of the best rides in both parks!  Since Spiderman has a Fast Pass entry, it only took about five minutes each time to go through.

Hogsmeade at Universal

Another benefit of staying at an on-site hotel at Universal is proximity and transportation.  We were only a ten minute walk away from CityWalk and the entrance to both parks, and if we didn’t feel like walking, there was a water taxi that would carry us to and from the hotel along a canal Universal has constructed.  The hotel or the parks, I’m not sure which, also provide shuttle buses if you prefer.

We walked along the hotel path several times; it is a well-designed route, with landscaping that has a pan-Asian flair, including stands of bamboo and small stone statues hidden around, and lots of flowering plants, some of which were still flowering even in mid-January.  We tried the water taxi too; it was basically just a ride in a boat but the drivers were very friendly and after all of the hours we had spent walking, being able to sit down was fantastic!

The Water Taxi Pulling Up At CityWalk

Another benefit was the ease with which we picked up our tickets.  There is an automated “Will Call” Kiosk that you go to in the lobby, swipe the credit card/debit card you used to make your payments originally with, and out pop your tickets for your entire stay.

Staying “on the park” really made a difference in how much we enjoyed our short stay.  Hopefully, you will get the chance to do so soon!

Have a great weekend everyone!