I will just lay it out right now. I am a complete and total freak for anything related to Harry Potter even though I'm a mere muggle ("non-magical folk" as Hagrid says). I have all the books signed (American and British first editions). I have the first two scripts signed by cast members. I even have the books JK Rowling dedicated to her father for Father's Day. So it's no surprise that a visit to Universal Studio's Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando was definitely on MY bucket list!
On the first day, we boarded the little water taxi that took us to the entrance of the park. I loved seeing the giant, rotating globe with "Universal" scrawled across the front, but I kept my eyes on the prize as we darted through the sets depicting Beverly Hills complete with Schwab's Pharmacy, a faux front from the Beverly Wilshire and an "I Love Lucy" museum and a New York set that featured Delancy Street, Little Italy and the original Macy's facade.
We raced through the Kid Zone (featuring the E.T. ride--we helped him save his home planet), Seuss Landing with The Cat and the Hat and Marvel Super Hero Island with The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and then there it was.... DIAGON ALLEY.....the street of my dreams, where my imagination soared with the books and now here it was in all its glory. When we passed through the jagged brick wall that Hagrid tapped, tapped, tapped to usher Harry into the Wizarding World, I knew I was home. It was all I'd hoped for and more. Once you entered, you were totally immersed in all things Harry Potter. You could even hear Moaning Myrtle in the restrooms!
We saw charming stores displaying owls, we had a Butter Beer at the Leaky Cauldron, bought candy at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and visited a store selling Hogwarts uniforms. There was a block long line to get into Ollivander's, the famous wand shop depicted in the books. The interactive wand ($44.95) was a hot item and a genius idea. It came with a map offering spots to weave spells for extra visual delights.
The multi-dimensional 3-D ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott's, was definitely not just for kids. As a matter of fact, it was such a thrill ride that we were pretty shook up afterwards. Chuck said he was lucky he hadn't eaten lunch yet. As an example, a disclaimer suggested that people with prosthetic limbs should "secure or remove them" before boarding! Yikes! I won't give it away, but if you a thrill seeker, this ride is definitely for YOU!
I saw kids walking around in 85 degree heat in woolen robes with Hogwarts emblazoned on their lapels. Everyone wanted to be a wizard. It was too adorable for words.
The Hogwarts Express connected the two parks (and yes, there IS a Platform 9 3/4!) Amid the steam, happy Potterphiles boarded the train to Hogsmeade. Enroute we glimpsed Hagrid, Harry, Ron and the Weasley twins flying along waving from their broomsticks. The little cabin darkened as Dementers' shadows passed by our door....and when the candy cart was silhouetted there, we could even see the chocolate frogs jumping onto the door frame.
When we arrived at Hogsmeade, it was another visual sensation. All of the quirky buildings with bent chimneys were snowcapped and you could see even more delightful shops all recognizable from the books and films.
Kids and adults were busily snapping up souvenirs and we were no exception. A photography studio offered guests the opportunity to become "one with the film." Chuck and I donned Hogwarts' robes and then acted out 12 scenes against a green screen that was then made into a DVD. It is the memory of a lifetime and well worth $69.95! (See our fun 2 minute video HERE).
There wasn't a false note in either park-- the Harry Potter franchise is safe and sound at Universal! So, if you're a fan of the series, this experience is a MUST!
If only my wand could cast us back there again! :-)
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