The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure is probably the most popular attraction in the entire world for the time being and considering how popular the franchise has been, it probably deserves this distinction. While it’s not it’s own theme park and belongs to the rest of Islands of Adventure, it’s still a decent sized area that provides the experience of a lifetime for fans of the popular book and movie series.
I made my first trip to Universal’s Islands of Adventure last weekend with my goal of visiting this modern theme park marvel. My girl friend and I arrived at the park around 10-ish. Parking was nice and getting in was easy as well. I had previously purchased our tickets online and conveniently printed them out. Once we got in through the park gates we started heading towards the attraction. We could see the tip-top of Hogwarts castle in the distance not long after entering Islands of Adventure. The attraction itself is located in the back center of the park. Once we got closer there was a line to get into the attraction itself. People were visiting from all over the world to see it. I saw people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and heard so many different languages spoken around me.
The park was packed but it didn’t take too long to get into the park itself, say about 10 to 15 minutes. Upon entering the main entrance we arrived between Hogwarts, the legendary castle and Hogsmeade, the village from the fictional world. Hogwarts Castle is nowhere nearly as large as it appears to be in the movies. In fact, there’s now way a person of any size could fit into the tiniest of towers that sit atop it. Despite this, it’s still a splendid site to behold, especially the way it seems to have a commanding presence over Hogsmeade, the lovely village that appears fresh from a light snow despite the blistering heat of an Orlando summer.
We decided to go on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey first. Despite the crowds waiting in line for the attraction it only took about 45 minutes and waiting in line itself was definitely part of the experience. Along the way visitors travel through narrow halls aligned with statues of legendary Potter folklore. There’s also the talking frames and don’t forget the ever so clever sorting hat. Once getting closer towards boarding the ride itself you’ll see Dumbledore’s office and his image projected standing there and talking to you in a very interactive way.
Then it’s on to another room where you’ll be greeted by Harry, Hermione, and Ron in a similar fashion as the previous room. There had been much controversy over the fact that heavier people can’t fit on the ride. I had even read somewhere that one fellow used the fact that he was too large to fit as motivation to diet until he could ride it. Waiting in line I did see one guy get turned away for being too big to fit. However, there are a couple riding platforms at the entrance so if you’re worried about not being able to fit you can test yourself before having to go through with the wait. If you’ve ever ridden the Spiderman ride at Islands of Adventure, this ride is done in similar fashion, except for the fact that you’re hanging instead of being in a cart and you don’t have 3D glasses. The ride uses part digital screen elements to simulate a flying on a broom experience for the visitor. One moment you’ll be hanging there, moving back in forth in front of a screen during a quidditch game then the next you’ll be thrust at high speeds through the castle interior experiencing actual tangible objects in the distance that only help to enhance the experience. You’ll have to evade the dementors and once you come to the conclusion of the ride you’ll receive a standing ovation from Dumbledore himself and the students of Hogwarts. I’d never before been on a ride quite like it. It’s definitely the highlight of the wizarding world. The ride itself is probably about 5 minutes long but don’t be disappointed because it’s amazing!
After getting off the ride we decided to head to Flight of the Hippogriff. It’s a small roller coaster and the wait only took about 15 minutes. While waiting in line, visitors are treated to a replica of Hagrid’s home. The ride itself goes by really quickly but it’s also pretty fun. After this we decided to go visit Hogsmeade. Before we did so we noticed people gathered around people dressed up as Hogwarts students holding frogs and humming some of the most well-known tunes from the franchise. We stopped and watched the performance and the performers did a great job! After the performance we made our way to some of the shops. For the time being there is a wait to get into the shops but it wasn’t a long wait. The interior of the shops are quite small. We went to Honeydukes, the candy shop where we bought a chocolate frog then went to Dervish and Banges where we looked at some of the interesting toys on sale. After leaving those shops we were ready to get our butterbeer! Despide beer being in it’s name, it’s non-alcoholic and that’s probably best considering the franchise caters to such a large amount of people under the age of 21. We got the butterbeer and it was surprisingly splendid. The top is covered by a thick foam that kind of resembles a bit of a butter scotch taste while the liquid itself tastes more like a light cola. It’s definitely something you need to try if you go!
The next place we went was Ollivanders, the famous wand shop. We waited in another line that lasted about 10 minutes. In Ollivanders the user can browse through the wands of many of the famous characters. They’re really well made replicas and can be purchased for around 35 dollars a piece. I thought Hermione’s was probably the coolest. After this we went and saw the Hogwarts Express replica. We did not, however go on Dueling Dragons. Overall it was a great experience and worth all the hype!
Here’s are some of the photos of the wands I took in Olivander’s: