Hello to Hogwarts

A visit to the newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter showed us a place better than we could have ever imagined.

Feel the Magic

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Meggysmum on January 25, 2011

The newest attraction at the Universal Studios Islands of Adventure is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Opening in 2010 this area is now the most popular in the whole of the Islands of Adventure.

We had very early entry due to buying our tickets through our Travel Company so we were parking in our car in the Universal Studios multi-story car park at 6.45 in the morning. Since it was our first morning this was absolutely fine as our body clocks were trying to convince us that is was virtually lunchtime. We were given a free gift of a Harry Potter emblazoned waterproof poncho which came in very handy later in the day for some water-rides and then we were escorted into the park.

It was only a couple of minutes before we saw our first glance of Hogwarts Castle perched on a rocky outcrop above the park. Walking into the Wizarding World of harry Potter was like walking onto the set of a Harry potter film set in Hogsmeade.

The Hogwarts Express stands expectantly at the station with trunks and cases ready for loading. Looking down the street there was fake sparkling snow on all the buildings which were all tall and lop-sided and looked wonderful.

My daughter and I needed to use the Restrooms so we were directed back into the street as they were located near the entrance to the Three Broomsticks. This was where the magic really started. Whilst in the toilet we were shouted at by Moaning Myrtle, this took us so much by surprise we were laughing hysterically by the time we left. I then asked a staff member who was dressed appropriately in Hogwarts uniform if it was OK for us to look around the area, he said that was no problem and that the rides would open early at 8.00 but that we were welcome to explore the area. We went and fetched the rest of our family and whilst everyone else waited patiently in the pub we had the whole of the Wizarding World of harry Potter to ourselves so we made the most of it.

The narrow street has shops on either side so we went and had a close look in the windows and it was brilliant to be able to take in all the tiniest details such as the screaming Mandrakes in the Herbology shop and the Golden Snitch in the window of Dervish and Banges. We also had some fantastic photo opportunities before the crowds arrived. We came back later in the day and it was so busy you could barely walk through the area so we felt quite privileged to have had the place to ourselves.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a brilliant addition to the Islands of Adventure. It is a truly wonderful recreation of the world of the J.K. Rowling novels and shouldn’t be missed by any Harry Potter fan. The only problem is the narrow streets and small shops give a wonderful atmosphere but also lead to severe problems with crowds so it is worth visiting early in the day before the crowds really build up.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
6000 Universal Boulevard
Orlando, Florida
(954) 558-1784

Wand, Cloaks and Chocolate Frogs!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Meggysmum on January 24, 2011

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter offers a great selection of shopping experiences.

Dervish and Banges: This shop contains lots of Harry Potter goodies including the Robes which were $99.99 (plus sales tax), at that price I was amazed how many people were walking around wearing them they must have more money than sense! They also sell scarfs, pins and a variety of Quiditch accesories, look carefully in the window to spot the Golden Snitch as it darts around. Dervish and Banges is directly connected to the next shop, Owl Post.

Owl Post: The details of the shops are worth having a look at. Looking up you can see all the owls waiting to deliver the Wizarding mail, mere Muggles are encouraged to buy postcards which you can have postmarked with Hogsmeade and can be posted in the box outside the Owl Post to deliver to friends at home. The Owl Post is also the place to buy a selction of wands to match any young magician.

HoneyDukes and Zonkos: On the other side of the street you can see the wildly colourful facades of Zonkos Joke Shop and Honeydukes Sweets. These two shops are joined inside and children are eagerly buying chocolate frogs and Bert Botts Everyflavour beans. On the day we visited it was the temperature was in the high 90s so I don’t imagine the chocolate was very recognisable as a frog by the time people got them home! The shops were actually very small and the goods were on very high shelves with narrow aisles so I would imagine they are very hard to negotiate for anyone with a mobility issue.

Many of the goods available in the shops in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are actually available to purchase at the main store at the entrance to Islands of Adventure where shopping is a much more peaceful and pleasant experience (but unfortunately not any cheaper!) as at a busy time the queues for the shops can exceed an hour.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
6000 Universal Boulevard
Orlando, Florida
(954) 558-1784

Riding Like Harry!

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Meggysmum on January 24, 2011

One of the highlights that we had heard mention of before our holiday was the new ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This was the first place we headed once the rides were operational as queues of up to 2 hours are not uncommon for this attraction and I hate queues! The harnesses for the ride have proved a problem for people "of an alternative body shape" so there is a trial seat by the entrance to test if you will fit in. The ride is housed underneath the Hogwarts Castle construction and inside you feel as if you are actually inside the Wizarding School. First of all you walk through the herbology area, past the greenhouses and then into the castle. The portraits move and talk as you walk along the corridors, clever projection filming means that you are greeted by Dumbledore as you enter his office, you see the Gryffindor Common Room and you meet Hermione and Ron in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. The attention to detail is amazing and would certainly make queuing a little less of an ordeal. All visitors are welcome to walk through the castle and then can exit without going on the ride if they prefer.

The ride itself is very impressive. It is basically a simulator but each back of four seats is moved on an electronic arm so it becomes impossible to tell which way you are facing as you join Harry and his friends on a broomstick chase across the Hogwarts grounds and into the Forbidden Forest where you come face to face with the giant spider, Aragog. I am a bit of an arachnophobia but these are so obviously fake spiders they didn’t bother me at all but I imagine some younger children may be scared. I would think that people who suffer with motion sickness would have trouble on this ride as it is quite disorientating but personally I loved it, as did the rest of my family.

The only problem with the ride is that you are not allowed to take any bags on at all and they also suggest you empty your pockets as well because of objects falling out. We use bumbags in the parks (I know, a huge fashion faux pas and I wouldn’t be seen dead anywhere else with one) but even these weren’t allowed. The lockers are free for a limited time and are opened with fingerprint recognition, the problem we had was that the queue was longer than the locker time had anticipated (it is changed depending on the business of the ride) so we couldn’t open the locker as it was asking for money and of course all our money was inside the locker! I managed to get a member of staff to open the locker and I refused to pay as I pointed out that it was not our fault that the estimated time was wrong. They weren’t happy but they let us off.

The next ride we ventured onto was the Flight of the Hippogriff which was originally called the Flying Unicorn and has been re-themed to tie in with Harry Potter. It is a quick but jerky roller-coaster which whizzes you past Hagrids Hut with its pumpkin patch, the Hippogriff waiting for your bow and then at the top you can see the whole of Hogsmeade stretched out below you.

The other big ride in the area is the Dragon Challenge which used to be the Duelling Dragons. This is a fantastic, double, inverted coaster. The Chinese Fireball and the Hungarian Horntail chase each other around the trouble tracks. It is worth riding both "dragons" as they are completely different coasters and they are both thrilling, even for real white-knuckle enthusiasts.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
6000 Universal Boulevard
Orlando, Florida
(954) 558-1784

Even Wizards have to Eat!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Meggysmum on January 26, 2011

Walking around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will certainly mean that you will require some refreshments.

The Three Broomsticks offers English favourites on its menu such as Shepherds Pie and Fish and Chips. We had our free breakfast here which was quite poor so we didn’t try any of the main meals but I have since heard that they are fine. They also offered a range of desserts.

At the back of the Three Broomsticks is the HogsHead pub where they serve wines, spirits and imported beers as well as Pumpkin Juice.

Everywhere you look people are carrying cups of Butterbeer and seemed to be enjoying it so we bought ourselves some. In the winter they serve it warm but in the summer you can buy it chilled or frozen (like a slushy). My personal thought was that it was revolting, it was like a very sweet, slightly fizzy, butterscotch and between the four of us we couldn’t even get through one glassful, it must have been so full of sugar I imagine there would be children bouncing off the walls with a sugar high later in the day!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
6000 Universal Boulevard
Orlando, Florida
(954) 558-1784

An Adventure Not To Be Missed

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Meggysmum on October 9, 2009

Islands of Adventure is the newest Theme Park in the Orlando area and it is certainly worth a visit. The design is fantastic and each separate "island" is themed magnificently to really submerge you in the theme-park experience. The "islands" are actually simply areas they are not separated by water but they do all have their own characteristics and rides. Visiting in October the lines are not unbearable but for high season it is possible to buy Universal Express passes that allow you to go to the front of the queues.

--Marvel Super Heroes—

The most eye-catching, awe-inspiring ride as you approach Islands of Adventure is the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster, the huge green frame towers over you as you enter the island. This is a real white-knuckle ride that should not be missed, the speed of acceleration is breath-taking and the whole ride with all its twists and turns is one to be experienced again and again. Universal operate the "child-sway" system here so if you have children too small to ride the adults can all have a go without having to stand inline again. Dr.Dooms Fearfall is a ride suitable only for those with a head for heights. You are strapped in around a tower and shot up into the air. The views across the flat Florida countryside are wonderful, as long as you are brave enough to open your eyes! The other great attraction in this area is the simulator ride that is The Amazing Adventure of Superman, the effects are brilliant, you feel like you are falling from tower blocks or being attacked by the enemies, this is a 3D adventure so you will have to wear those trendy glasses to get the full effects.

There are a couple of smaller attractions but time should be spent just walking around and appreciating the recreations of the marvel comic skylines. Lockers are available here that you must use if you are intending on riding the Hulk as you cannot take any bags on at all.

--Toon Lagoon—

This area recreates the cartoon adventure of Popeye. There is an adventure playground with water features set around the boat. Several of the rides will get you very wet. Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls is a log-flume ride with a heart-stopping drop that literally sends you through the surface of the water. People standing on the bridge watching will also get their fair share of water too. If you are not wet enough after this then head to the Bilge-rat barges, this raft ride will guarantee everyone gets soaked. This is not a ride where you may get a little wet, if you are not wearing the waterproof capes you will be thoroughly drenched. Great fun but don’t ride before the weather has heated up.

The general area has lots of photo opportunities with cannons and speech bubbles that you can pose with.

--Jurassic Park—

Anyone that enjoys the films will love this area. You walk through the majestic gates with the theme tune playing and you feel that you could be in the film. The lush planting and footprints on the path all add to the general atmosphere. The Jurassic Park River Ride takes you through the science centre but there has been a Dinosaur escape to be prepared for anything. The Pteranadon Flyers are a gentle ariel ride, they are quite pleasant but the queue gets so long it is really not worth waiting for.

A Dinosaur bone-yard is the setting for an unbelievably exciting play area that children will love but unfortunately there is not a lot of seating for tired parents, you just have to perch a bit of rock while you wait. The visitors centre is a recreation of the centre from the film and there are interactive exhibits and sometimes a baby triceratops is on hand to be stroked and petted.

--The Lost Continent—

This area is probably the weakest and some of it will be incorporated and re-themed as part of the new Harry Potter area that will open in 2010. One of the best rides of the park is here. Duelling Dragons is a suspended coaster, tow coasters run on opposing tracks at the same time and you get the impression whilst riding that you are almost touching. This is an exhilarating ride but the walk through the castle to get to it seems never ending, if you want to ride again when you get off keep your eyes open for the "ride again" sign. If it is not too busy they open a shortcut from the exit to the queue so that you do not have to trail all through the castle again. Poseidon’s Fury is a walkthrough, guide led attraction. It mainly consists of special effects but some positions allow very little viewing and it is rather predictable and uninspiring.

--Seuss Landing—

Fans of the Dr Seuss books will love this brightly coloured area where everything is just like the books. Caro-Seuss-el is a traditional style carousel but the children (and adults!) get to ride characters from the books. 1fish/2fish is a light hearted ride based around the verse; if you follow it correctly you don’t get wet but as it gets faster there is bound to be water heading your way. The sky ride trolley takes you around the area but lines build up quickly which is a shame because it would particularly appeal to young children. The Cat-in-the-Hat is often wondering around in the area for children to meet.

Each area is unique. Each part has its own styled restaurants and shops that offer a more unusual selection than you will normally find at theme parks. As usual for Orlando the whole park is spotlessly clean and the staff are all cheery and helpful. Due to the layout of this park there does seem to be a lot of walking involved so it would be wise to have strollers for younger children.

This is an "all-action" park, there are not many places to sit and relax and there are no shows or parades to give a little respite from rides. The colours and settings are magnificent but it is also a very tiring park but definitely one that shouldn’t be missed.
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Orlando Resort
Orlando, Florida


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