Saturday, January 10, 2015

Trip Report: Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando Resort by Carla Robles

To say we got lucky is an understatement. We picked the perfect day to go to Universal and Islands of Adventure. It rained practically the entire day, which in central Florida maybe normal but for two California girls in the depths of an epic drought it was a welcomed refreshing sight that clouds actually do stuff. I mean we were dressed in our Slitherin and Hogwarts alumni shirts. 

We maneuvered our way through Universal Studios straight to Diagon Alley and to say we had a nerdgasm is an understatement.

The brick wall at the entrance to Diagon Alley makes the same noises of movement that were present during the movies. 

The store fronts and ambiance felt like we were in the movie itself. A trip to Diagon Alley wouldn’t be complete without a Butterbeer, frozen or regular are just delicious and get one early because you will most likely want another one. 

Weaving through the various stores and experiences that were taken right out of a move set. We made our to Olivander’s Wand Shop, we opted out of the interactive wand experience and instead went into the adjacent store and looked through stacks and stacks of film character wand replicas and even collectable wand sets. We purchased the interactive wand (which costs a bit more) but it allows the holder to casts spells around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. We walked around casting spells, breaking glass, opening doors, made it rain and genuinely geeked out at what we were doing. Here, two grown women practically trampling over other (little) wizards to get to the spot to cast our spell and see what magic we could perform. Even though many stores were crowded due to the rain we still managed to get into see everything we wanted to see. Knockturn Alley is just as dark and mysterious as it was in the books and movie, although it’s less of a shopping center than it is a walk through attraction but be sure to look up as the ceiling has projections of the sky making you feel like you are still outside, albeit staying dry.

The dragon atop Gringotts Bank is breathtaking and to our surprise Gringotts only had a 20 minute wait. 

It may have been the one and only time that I was upset that the line wasn’t longer so that I could experience everything in the queue. 

The goblins are incredible and the elevator ride down to the “basement” was fun. The ride itself was great and you really feel like you are traveling through the mazes and underbelly of Gringotts Bank. 

Just a short walk outside the Diagon Alley in the London area of Universal which includes the Knight Bus (aka triple decker purple bus), Sirus Black’s house at 12 Grimmauld Place, and Kings Cross Station, which is modeled exactly as it’s London counterpart. 

Within King’s Cross station and Platform 9 ¾ you catch the Hogwarts Express. You will need to have the two park ticket option to ride, but there is a ticket booth at the station to purchase in the event that it wasn’t purchased beforehand. The train ride is amazing and we sat in our compartment, mouth agape at everything going on around us. We will say no more, other than YOU MUST TAKE THE TRAIN, BOTH WAYS!

As we left the train station to enter into Hogsmeade, it was like entering into the wintery wonderland of the movies, which was quite fitting with the continuous rain. Hogsmeade is significantly smaller than Diagon Alley but there is still much to see, the center piece being of course, Hogwarts Castle. 

Hogwarts is impressive, absolutely stunning and magical. Again we had the unpleasantness of not having the line be long enough to truly enjoy everything that the queue had to offer. At times, we found ourselves just staring at the talking portraits or at the Griffin door to Dumbledore’s office forgetting to move forward and holding up the line behind us. Finally we made our way to the Forbidden Journey attraction and to say that it is nothing short of spectacular is putting it mildly. This was the one attraction in both parks, that we had to ride twice. It’s really exciting that Universal California is getting the Forbidden Journey ride. All the employees at Hogwarts are dressed in their school robes, and divided into their respective houses. We learned they take an assessment to see which house they are put in, in a very Sorting Hat sort of way, the ride loader from Gryffindor made sure to let us know that Slytherin were not welcome.

We capped off the rest of the day visiting the other parts of Universal and Islands of Adventure, which thanks to the rain, we were able to get on and see everything we wanted toIf and when we make it back out to Florida we will definitely have to make it back over to Universal and Harry Potter’s universe because in the end this wasn’t an attempt by one theme park to simply one up Disney World, this was a straight reach back, with their glove, and slap the hell out of it.  

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