My year end vacation this time around was again in Orlando, Florida. However this time, there was a new attraction waiting for us in Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was insane! If you are planning on visiting during any holiday period within the next year or so, be warned, it’s gonna be crazy packed with people. BUT it’s absolutely worth it to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and especially for Harry Potter fans.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located at the very back of Islands of Adventure, so walking left or right doesn’t matter although I personally think walking through Seuss Landing is shorter. If you are planning on visiting during peak periods, wake up as early as you can and head into the Wizarding World first before anything else. Once you are in, make sure you experience everything before leaving the area because getting back in is a real pain. There are two entrances into the Wizarding World: (1) through The Lost Continent via Seuss Landing, entering closest to Hogsmeade, and (2) through Jurassic Park via Marvel Super Hero Island and Toon Lagoon, entering closest to Hogwarts.
If you enter through entrance (2), you will probably find yourself caught in the line going into Hogwarts castle itself. Here you have two choices, you can walk through the castle just to have a look or you can stay for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride which to me is a MUST! If you choose not to ride the ride you can ask one of the Prefects if they can let you through. If you choose to ride the ride you will be asked to store your bags in lockers that you can rent for free for 20 minutes (but honestly the 3 times I was there, the line went on for more than 45 minutes so I don’t know how that works), otherwise if you have someone who doesn’t want to ride you can ask them to hold your stuff for you. As you wait in line for the ride, it brings you through the Hogwarts castle where you will be greeted by Dumbledore in his office, and then later by Harry, Ron and Hermione. My advice is to stay and listen to what they have to say because it is part of the storyline of the ride, plus it’s fun. Just step aside as to not hold up the line. You will also be greeted by animated portraits who are gossiping about the current affairs of the castle. These portraits are amazing, just like those in the movies. Then you will finally find yourself being seated for the ride. It runs continuously on a conveyor belt so move quickly. The seating is 4 to a bench, and sitting in the 2nd seat from the left (if you are facing the bench) will let you experience most of the wrath. The storyline of the ride is based on experiencing Harry’s first 3 years of school. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are planning to miss one of their classes and has invited you to come along. Hermione has ingeniously found a way to cast a flying charm on school benches that will bring you on the ride. Basically, the ride is a moving simulator where you will experience the ride in front of both screens and traditional 3D props. There are no steep drops but there are moments where you will be held in a position almost parallel to the ground. The ride is really more psychological rather than physical, but it is really state of the art and the technology is amazing. As you exit the castle, you will have a chance to purchase a photo of you during the ride as well as other souvenirs in Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods. Here you will be able to purchase house scarves with the house crests exclusive only to this store, so if you want those scarves you have to get them here. There are also a few other merchandises that are exclusive to this shop but you can always return to this shop without having to go through the ride again.
As you exit Filch’s Emporium, the next ride you will pass is Flight of the Hippogriff. This is an extremely mild rollercoaster suitable for all ages meeting the height limit.
As you make your way through to Hogsmeade, the first store you will come across is Ollivanders (there will probably be a long line outside so you won’t miss it). If you wait in line, you will experience a short “show” that depicts the wand selection process. Other shops in Hogsmeade include Three Broomsticks (Tavern food), Honeydukes, Zonko’s, and Dervish and Banges (merchandise store connected to Ollivanders). You will be able to find Hogwarts house robes here as well as Ollivanders wands. There are who categories of wands available for purchase: (1) character based wands (wands that are replicas of Harry Potter characters’ wands), and (2) original Ollivanders wands (a selection of non character based wands). Both categories of wands cost the same but original Ollivanders wands are exclusive to Dervish and Banges whilst character based wands are available in other Universal merchandise stores. Another thing you must try whilst you are in the Wizarding World is Butterbeer. You can purchase the drink from the Three Broomsticks or 2 other vendors in the Wizarding World. The beverage is absolutely delicious, reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch.
Lastly, there is a third ride in the Wizarding World – Dragon Challenge (formerly known as Duelling Dragons), twin suspended roller coasters that is supposed to represent two dragons fighting. You can choose to ride the Chinese Fireball (red) or the Hungarian Horntail (green). Personally I thought the Chinese Fireball was a marginally better ride although they are supposed to be the same.
Honestly, even those who are not exactly fans will be carried away by the magic that is the Wizarding World. Both my sister and my father who know little about Harry Potter found themselves wanting to be part of the whole Hogwarts house spirit. You will see people with house ties, scarves, robes, and other merchandises… it’s awesome. I chose Slytherin myself as did my younger sister, whilst my youngest sister chose Gryffindor, and my elder sister was given Ravenclaw by me. My father was oddly undecided between Gryffindor and Slytherin. It was extremely fun to play along with the staff at the Wizarding World and other muggle visitors.