Monday, April 25, 2011

I [heart] Harry Potter OR How writing about a trip took on a life of it's own

Note: I started the post intending to just write about my trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Somehow, it turned into an epic about my love of HP.  Sorry if I bore you – you can skip to the review at the bottom.

If you've ever met me (which, let's face it, everyone who is reading this has), then you know how big of a Harry Potter fan I am.  I'm so vocal about my love that it's sometimes strange to those around me.  Case in point: the time I bought this Hold Steady shirt and commented to the Merch guy that it was like a mashup of my two favorite things: The Hold Steady and Harry Potter.  The Merch guy wasted no time in telling me it was meant to be an Elvis reference.  Whatever, dude.

I was a little late for the Harry Potter game, inasmuch as I hadn't read any of the books when the first film came out in 2001.  This isn't really surprising because I had just graduated from high school and, at the time, HP was mostly marketed towards younger kids in the States (one of my sisters, who is 6 years younger than me, was reading them at the time, so I didn't think much of investigating them and I had been busy doing the angry-high-school-punk-rock-thing for those 4 years between the first book and the first movie).  But my Dad had this conference at a Century Theater nearby and he invited me and Bear to go with him, as there was going to be private screening of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone afterwards.  I went along for the company (my Dad is amazing) and because there was breakfast, but I wasn't that interested in the film.  In the end I was blown away. 

Two things happened that day after the movies.  First, I bought my '99 Honda Civic (that I would eventually christened Narcissa after the HP character), and secondly, I took that first drive in my new car down the Barnes & Noble and bought the first 4 HP books – everything that had been released at the time.  I was hooked.  I think my sisters and I saw Sorcerer's Stone like 5 times in theaters (a record only topped by our seeing Fellowship of the Ring at least 7 times in theaters – and yes, I do realize that is 21+ hours of my life, thankyouverymuch.  It was worth it). 

So, anyway, I'm a huge fan and have been for 10 years now and I've spent countless hours discussing theories and characters and listening to the audio books...*  So, imagine my excitement when I heard that they were going to be adding a section called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Universal Studios, FL.  And then imagine my disappointment when I watched all of my other friends who are Potter fans go experience the magic without me.  When I found that I was going to be on the East Coast for my Cousin's wedding, I figured, why not just pop down to Orlando?  So I did.  And Boyfriend flew out to meet me for 2 amazing days in...

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!! 
So, was it everything I hoped and dreamed it would be?  I don't know...

The most impressive part of the whole thing is the area itself.  It really feels like walking into Hogsmeade, walking into a different country all together, with all the storefront windows.  There are all these little details everywhere.  Every time I walked by a shop, I noticed something new.  Though, it was strange to see this town in perpetual winter being swarmed by people in shorts and tee-shirts!  Walking into a real-life version of Honeydukes (where I bought Ton Tongue Toffee, Fizzing Whizzbees, Chocolate Frogs, and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans), Zonko's (where they sell You-No-Poo), and Ollivander's was like a dream.  And it is worth the wait to see Ollivander help someone pick out their first wand – or rather, have someone's first wand pick them? And, of course, we tried the Butterbeer.**

Boyfriend and I also had early admission so we high-tailed it straight for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey because we heard that the line could take hours.  But, because it was so early, we  pretty much walked on. Usually this wouldn't be something to complain about, but, seeing as half of the appeal of this ride is that the line is a walk through Hogwarts, it would have been nice to see everything more slowly.  And here's some slightly embarrassing honesty – I found this ride horrifying. Seriously.  I had to cover my eyes for a good portion of it (spiders, you know).  I can't imagine what the average kid that would think, as it's basically all the scary parts of the books rolled into one disorienting ride.

On the other hand, I LOVED the Dragon Challenge ride (which Boyfriend and I were calling Dueling Dragons, and unbeknown to us, that was it's pre-Wizarding World name). Not only was it just a fun ride, but seeing the other "dragon" fly under and around you is pretty awesome.  Also, if anyone asks, Chinese Fireball > Hungarian Horntail.  

One thing I found a little strange is that there almost no reference to anything past Goblet of Fire... And, as Boyfriend pointed out, there are no mascots like at Disneyland, though they did have a Hogwarts Choir and a Tri-Wizard rally, but damn, how awesome would it be to see Hagrid walking around?!  The section is also pretty small with just 3 rides, the shops, and the Three Broomsticks/Hog's Head.  We didn't need two full days to do everything, but we majorly lucked out and, according to employees there, both days we were there were very quiet – I guess on busy days they limit who can enter that section.

 We also had a lot of fun at the rest of the park – Islands of Adventure is more ride oriented than regular Universal Studios, apparently.  The Hulk and Spiderman rides in the Marvel section were awesome.  Boyfriend finally got to go on the Jurassic Park ride, which I had been on like 13 years ago and had remembered it much scarier than it actually is (I also realized that I had never seen the film Jurassic Park because, as I explained to Boyfriend, I was a 10-year-old girl when it came out and thus did not care).  The Lost Continent section featuring Poseidon's Fury was a big hit with me, and Boyfriend successfully kept the teasing to a minimum through Seuss Landing, which kinda scares the crap out of me (his artwork makes me very uncomfortable, but that's a different story).  We mainly just had fun being on vacation.

So here is my final verdict: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an awesome, but small section of a park and I am glad that I went.  It really is worth seeing if you're anything of a fan, but you probably don't need to base an entire trip around going.  In the future, I'd probably plan a trip to Magic Kingdom and save one day to head back to Wizarding World...  All and all, I did have a blast, but I'm also anxious to see if/how they continue to develop this section of the park.

*Fun fact: all of my devices (laptop, iphone, ipod, etc.) are all named after HP characters, and mostly from the Most Noble & Most Ancient House of Black. Also, my new car is called Kingsley.

**I didn't like Butterbeer that much, but I got the cold one, not the frozen one as was recommended. Personally, liked the one that my Cousin Kate and I made with Butterschnapps better... 

[all photos by endlessmeg or boyfriend


  1. amaziiing!! I think they should add a gringotts ride based on the last book. no? yes? YES.

  2. I would totally ride a Gringotts ride. The way I envision a ride like that would be similar to how I always thought that scene in Aladdin when he is escaping the cave of wonders would make an awesome ride.