Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Experience the World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios



After living in Florida for three years, we finally had the chance to visit Universal Studios this past February.
  
While we were excited about all the rides and events, the main thing we wanted to see was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Everyone except the little one has read the books and watched the movies multiple times, and we were all eager to experience the magic for ourselves.  We were absolutely blown away!

The village was perfect.  From the minute we arrived, we felt like we were transported from a Florida theme park to a little old English village.  The sights and sounds were amazing!


The Hogwarts Express train was beautiful!  Universal is actually working on expanding the Wizarding World, and putting in a working Hogwarts express that travels back and forth between Universal’s two parks.  In order to ride it, guests will have to have a park to park ticket, but it promises to be an incredible journey.  There will be moving pictures in the windows so that it really seems as if you are moving through the English country side, with a bit of Harry Potter magic thrown in.
 

One of the best parts of the village was Ollivander’s, the wizarding wand shop.  Guests can choose to just visit the store portion, or they can choose to watch as the shop owner helps a muggle child selected from the audience find their perfect wand.  There is a queue for this right outside the shop, but if you get there first thing in the morning, you really shouldn’t have to wait very long.  My daughter was lucky enough to be chosen to participate our first day there, and our son was chosen the next day!  It was a spectacular experience!  The wandmaker handed her several wands to try, and each one had a bit of magic.  A couple misfired, causing shelves to break and drawers to shoot out.  The wandmaker repairs these things with a flick of his wand, and then finds the perfect wand for the guest.  We were very impressed with this aspect, because he explains why he picked that particular wand, and with both of our kids, he actually was dead on in some of their unique character traits.  This was definitely one of the most magical moments we had in the Wizarding World.
 

Outside of the shops, the characters interacted with the guests.  Here, our little guy got to “pet” an owl puppet.  The characters were fantastic, asking the bigger kids about their Hogwarts letters, how they liked the village, what they thought of the professors, and in general, really playing the part of a witch or wizard in this magical world.


The Three Broomsticks was definitely a great experience.  While the food wasn’t spectacular, it was filling.  They also were able to make gluten free pancakes for my two with celiac disease, so that was a definite bonus.  Again, the characters were fantastic.  Inside the shop, they added plenty of special touches, like having chairs that moved on their own.  Be sure to taste the pumpkin juice when you visit!

No trip to the Wizarding World would be complete without Butterbeer!  It was super, tasting a bit like root beer or cream soda, but a bit sweeter. 


The Weasley Family Car was fun to see.  It is the actual car from the movie!

Hogwarts was perfect.  There are three lines for The Forbidden Journey: one for both a castle tour and the ride, one for just the tour of the castle, and the single rider line.  We did both the ride and the tour by itself.  The two lines are very similar, but the tour alone gives the visitor more time to really enjoy all the little details, and they also pass through a larger portrait hall.  Doing the tour alone gives the visitor an opportunity to slow down so they don’t miss anything, while the ride line, you really don’t feel like you can stop until you get caught in the traffic jam line.  One of the best areas of this attraction is the talking portraits.  Be sure to take your time as you go through here!  The conversations are very interesting.  This room is different for the castle tour guests than the rider guests.  There are two conversations going on, so be sure to take your time through here!  When you go through the rider line, you will, unfortunately, move through too quickly to really enjoy the conversation.  As you tour the castle, you also go through a greenhouse, Dumbledore’s office, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts class, where you will meet Ron, Harry, and Hermione.  They will tell you of the secret journey they’d like you to join them on, which, if you’re in the ride line, you will get to experience.  After that, you will see the Gryffindor common room (with the Fat Lady, of course),  The Daily Prophet, and the famed Sorting Hat.  The Sorting Hat does speak, and is quite fun to watch.  After this, the castle tour guests will exit, and the riders will be ready for their adventure. 
 
A word of caution for the ride – even if you have read the books and watched the movies, some of the images may be too intense for more sensitive guests.  The dementors and the spiders are both very creepy.  I had one tween who was absolutely fine on the ride, but the other was very upset at the end of it, and took quite a while to regain composure. However, for those that are not sensitive to dramatic and disturbing images, the ride is absolutely amazing, and not one you want to miss.
 
All in all, I must say that the Wizarding World more than lived up to our expectations, and we hope we’re able to go back after they finish the expansion project!  We can’t wait to help you plan your journey!


Kristy

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