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Monday, March 14, 2011

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- review

A theme park review, you ask? Yes, this is a first. Over spring break, one of us FINALLY got to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida, located in the larger park, Universal Studios. Thanks, Dad.

-What was great: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This ride is a simulation of a flying tour through Hogwarts and many of its dangers. The surprise was that it was actually scary. It was the best simulation ride we have ever been on, bar none. We wish the castle had included a great hall and a few more rooms. Would it have been too much trouble to include more talking pictures and the headmaster’s office? The Hogsmeade village replica is picturesque and lovely. It’s a little odd to see the snow on the rooftops and be so immersed in the recreation, yet be baking in the hot Florida sun though. The castle is also pretty. There are lines to get in the stores, but they are half the fun. Take a big wad of cash and wait for 15 minutes. The lines look long, but they are fast.

The shops have some good stuff to buy (even though we went into three before I saw some copies of the actually Harry Potter BOOKS). The Owl Post is worth a look, especially if you like stationary. Go ahead and eat in The Three Broomsticks. It sells regular food, as well as famous Harry Potter beverages and ice cream. The park also includes The Hogs Head. Our favorite store was Dervish and Banges. It sold clothing, wallets, wands, and other paraphernalia. One of us is a proud owner of a $99 Gryffindor robe and the Elder Wand. Don’t judge. In Ollivanders, you can have a wand choose you, just like in the books and movies. Also, we would like to give a shout out to whatever efficiency expert trained the employees at this park and designed the protocols. The lines moved quickly, because every seat was filled. The employees were friendly, the park was clean, and it was run about as smoothly as any park we have ever seen.

What was good: The Dragon Challenge rollercoaster. It was just a regular rollercoaster. It could have been longer, in our opinions. But it was good. The other rollercoaster, Flight of the Hippogriff, is designed more for children, but we would still go on it, if you have time. There is a Hogwarts Express replica just inside the gates, but that is mostly there for photo ops.

What was disappointing: The joke shop, Zonko's. There wasn’t much there. Hardly any funny items, and it was really small. It didn’t deserve to wear the name. Honeydukes was mostly good for chocolate frogs and not much else, unless you are crazy for candy. It WAS a little too crowded, and it's also a little small. We hope Universal seriously considers expanding the Harry Potter portion of the park, if only to accomodate the milling crowds. There's a lot of opportunity here. The castle could be expanded as well. Move the extra rooms underground if you have to. The park portion definitely left us wanting more. More rides, more stores, more more more. Don't go expecting it to be a whole theme park, or even half of one. It's a section. But it's still awesome.

Tips: Don't do what we did. Skip work and go during a regular weekday, not during spring break or the holidays. We still got to do everything we wanted to do, but pushing aside the other cretins was a hassle. Unless you want to wait in line forever, choose the “single rider” option on the Forbidden Journey ride. Split up your party and jump on. It’s fun alone. You can’t really see your friends during the ride anyway. The frozen butterbeer is better than the regular version, in our opinions. Go with hardcore Harry Potter fans so that you can geek out together without shame, and also so that no one rushes you out of the Harry Potter part too soon so that they can go ride The Hulk or something.

Bottom line: This blogger would go back. And probably will. It's heaven for an HP fan.


  1. We went after it first opened last summer on a Saturday. Big mistake. It was a two and a half hour wait in the single rider line for the Forbidden Journey. Agree with your assessment; it was simply awesome.

    Never made it into some parts of the Experience due to incredibly long lines (Ollivanders had a longer wait than the Forbidden Journey).

    My favorite part of the Experience was The Three Broomsticks. Had fish and chips along with frozen butterbeer; simply decadent, and well worth the asking price.

    The dragon rollercoasters were a carryover of old rides; just rebadged for Harry Potter. Great rollercoasters, but nothing new.

    Glad you finally made it; it sounds like my reaction the first time I was at Gettysburg (a history buff's theme park if there ever was one).

  2. As much as we wanted to go during the opening weeks, we knew it would be pandemonium. We're glad to have waited.

    Might have been too young to really enjoy Gettysburg when we went. Maybe we're due for a trip.

  3. I'm super-duper jealous. I wanted to go last time we were in Orlando but we couldn't justify the $80/person. Maybe as a graduation present next summer.

    P.S. I am DVR'ing every single HP movie on the ABC Family marathon this weekend.

  4. One of us owns all the HP movies and has pre-ordered the last one. LOVE them. You can totally wait. The park is in good repair and will probably be less crowded once most people who want to go have been.

  5. I can't waaaaait to go to Universal! I'm kind of an HP junkie... and by "kinda" I mean, could recite the books verbatim. No worries, it's not contagious ;)

    I've heard your review from others... it's great, but small. Not worth a trip on its own. Problem is, when I'm in Orlando, it's a Disney vacation for me. I'd have to be there for a long time to take a day away from Disney. If there's anything more exciting than HP, it's Disney.

    Save your judging looks! :D

  6. We shunned Disney and only went to HP land. It was worth the trip to us. Universal has several big rollercoasters. Disney is big on the charm and merchandise, but low on the rollercoasters.