Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Universal Studios Islands of Adventure - Orlando Florida USA

First off, if you’ve come here looking for Harry Potter Jewelry then please click here for unique handmade items or alternatively click here for the official Universal Studios Store.  

Our time throughout our second day in Universal Studios Islands of Adventure was in the most part dedicated to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and we were practically at the park gates that morning when it opened to avoid the crowds.  The whole area has been spectacularly designed to take you right into the movie and the magic of the storytelling that Kate and I along with most of the world enjoy so much.  If you can get over the sheer amount of people that are there (I’ve always been slightly bothered by crowds) then it is the closest you will ever get to being in the places described in the novels and portrayed on the big screen.  You can admire and even enter Hogwarts’ passageways, classrooms and corridors.  In the town you can visit the shops of Hogsmeade, the resident restaurant is modelled on the Three Broomsticks and you can have a pint of Butterbeer or something stronger in the Hog’s Head.

Hogwarts school definitely grabs your attention

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter by night

At the entrance once the crowds died down

As we were amateurs at this theme park malarkey and we hadn’t done our homework, we rode Dragon Challenge first which was an existing rollercoaster that had been rebranded for the introduction of Harry Potter instead of going to the brand new ride which was soon to amass ridiculous queues.  The ride we chose had two rollercoasters which we rode consecutively at our immense self-satisfaction, little knowing that this was probably the easiest ride to get onto in the park for the whole day.  The ride we should have gone on first and the new award winning attraction was the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.  Even by the time we recovered our stuff from the themed lockers by the Hogwarts express there was a 90 minute queue… oops.

Kate and the Hogwarts Express

Kate in Hogsmeade

There was nothing for it but to hit the shops and enjoy everything else that the place had to offer.  Dervish and Banges shop was really good fun and had everything you could imagine for sale relevant to start your term at Hogwarts.  It was pretty cramped but that didn’t stop us from fighting our way round to browse all the really cool stuff on offer and even try on a Gryffindor prefect gown and scarf (I think the Sorting Hat would put me in Gryffindor.  We didn’t need any Spectrespecs, Omnioculars or Quidditch equipment at this time so we made our way out.  Getting back onto the street we even saw an owl post facility where you could leave letters to be sent with the Hogwarts own mailing system and pick up your owl post, hopefully not a howler though!

Kate in Dervish and Banges

Animatronic Biting Book

Pick up your copy today!

All your Quidditch supplies are here too

Student of the year

The Owl Post

Making sure the letter will arrive on time

Our next wizarding challenge was to get into Ollivander’s wand shop.  We weren’t sure what to expect and neither did anyone else I suspect but queue we did.  In total it must have been for around 45 minutes but we didn’t mind too much as we chatted to some nice people whilst we waited.  They weren’t letting many people in at a time and this was for the better as when we got in the wand shop it was small and the atmosphere was spot on; a dark, wonky and quirky little room stacked from floor to ceiling with boxes of all types of wands ready to find their owners.  Ollivander was ready to receive his customers and various magical wand related mishaps happened before a little girl had her correct want find her (I think it was elm with unicorn hair retailing at $29.99).  We weren’t in there long and before we knew it we were back amongst the muggles. 

Ollivander's Wand Shop

This is where the magic happens

We stopped briefly in the Three Broomsticks to have a look around the impressive pub which must have proved a sanctuary for many a weary parent and wizard folk alike.  It had the warm homely smell of shepard’s pie throughout and this was down to them selling English pub classics such as this, fish and chips, Cornish pasties and beer.

Bartender serving up some well needed refreshment

Inside The Three Broomsticks

Kate outside The Three Broomsticks

It wasn’t time for us to have a brew so we crossed the street to head into Zonko’s, the amazing joke shop to fulfil all the students’ mischievous endeavours!  I thought about purchasing an extendable ear to listen in on secret conversations but there is nothing I don’t know that I want to hear.  Likewise we didn’t need a Sneakoscope, Screaming Yo-Yo, Boxing Telescope, Fanged Flyer or anything of that nature although they were all available for purchase.  There were edible nasties such as Fainting Fancies, Fever Fudge, Nosebleed Nougat and good old U-No-Poo.

These will help get you out of lessons

For those hard to reach conversations

You've heard of You Know Who...

Inside Zonko's

Some items on offer in Zonko's

Next we headed into Hogsmead’s legendary sweetshop, Honeydukes.  True to form the shelves had all sorts of weird and wonderful sweets and chocolate.  You can’t help but love the chocolate frogs (each with their own collectable wizard card) and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans if you’re willing to spin the wheel and risk getting some crazy flavor like snot or… chewing gum that has been stuck to the bottom of the desk for generations.  There were freshly made Cauldron Cakes and a few muggle classics too. 

Chocolate Frog and Wizard Card

Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean
Cauldron Cakes for sale inside Honeydukes

Feeling quite at home in Honeydukes

We stopped for a necessary and refreshing Butter Beer before heading to the main attraction which now had queues down to forty minutes or so.  After leaving our things in the lockers we headed inside Hogwarts to experience the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.  The queuing for the ride was amazing in itself and actually moved a little quicker than we would have liked!  This was because as we progressed through the castle we got to see lots of really cool Hogwarts locations beginning with Dumbledore’s office.  The portraits hung from the wall would often come alive and have a chat with each other and the muggles in the queue which was a really cool idea and helped pass the time.  

Pumpkin Juice was also for sale

Opting for a refreshing Butter Beer

Mmmm yummy!

The moving and talking portraits

The Defence against the Dark Arts classroom was my favourite room as you got to watch Harry, Ron and Hermione appear on a balcony from under an invisibility cloak whilst things judder in their cages below.  They want to sneak everybody into the room of requirement from where we will go to see a Quidditch game or something along those lines but before we move on, Ron messes up a magic trick and accidentally causes it to SNOW! It was really cool and totally unexpected so if you haven’t been yet, you probably shouldn’t read that last sentence or try your best to wipe it from your memory.  As we reached the last corridor we could see the end of the queue boarding the ride but before we reached it we took heed of a final warning from the Sorting Hat about a loose dragon…

The gang snuck before Ron accidentally made it snow with his wand

Take heed of the Sorting Hat or he'll get ya

We boarded a bench that was enchanted by Hermione in the Room of Requirement so that we muggles could make it to the Quidditch match.  We were soon off the ground and whizzing around up and over the walls to a projected screen where we began flying over the sports field getting hassled by Malfoy and also spotting Hagrid who tells us again something about this lost dragon.  Would you know it but soon after this a Hungarian Horntail Dragon (widely known as the most vicious of all dragons) is swiftly on our tail so we made a rapid diversion into the Forbidden Forest where a large animatronic dragon is waiting and actually breathes fire at us.  The Whomping Willow was absolutely amazing and I thought it would give me a good whack in the face but it was narrowly avoided.  Aragog the spider and his extended family pay a visit before the Dementors get involved for a thrilling end to the chase.

Inside one of the shops in Hogsmeade a quill was writing by itself

A self-stirring cauldron

It was easily the best and most varied ride I had ever been on and I felt suitably sick after the Butter Beer.  They managed to cram as much Harry Potter as possible into the whole ride and there were some really clever tricks, awesome animatronics, special effects along with great sets combined to form this spellbinding experience!  We exited through the giftshop or ‘Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods’.  If I had thought that I had seen everything there was to buy then I was wrong as they had everything to set up the Harry Potter fanatic with everything they could ever need from Gryffindor shirts to the Nimbus Broom and Wizarding Chess. 

The crowds were pretty insane during peak hours
Taken as it started to get dark over the Wizarding World

We stuck around after it got dark and this really added another dimension to the experience.  I was surprised that practically all members of the public had left the park, there was barely a soul about and we were free to really enjoy the amazing set that had been built.  This is when we took most of our best photos and really got to enjoy just hanging out and taking time to appreciate everything. 

Dogweed and Deathcap by night, there was something squeeling in there!

Honeydukes by night

The Dragon Challenge Rollercoaster

We both thoroughly enjoyed the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and we are grateful for the commercial nature of the Books and Films for enabling this world to exist.  Whilst we only spent cash on a shared Butter Beer there was many a child walking round the park in the gown of their house, wand in hand which made this all possible.  I’m sure that had we not been on a budget trip we may well have left with a few souvenirs in hand too but as it stands I am content with my memories of an exciting and wonderful experience.

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