A review of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
My family and I recently visited Central Florida for the 10th time. We own a villa on Westhaven. This time my husband, eldest daughter Lindsey, her boyfriend James and myself were joined for a few days by our American friends from Pennsylvania Rick, Kelly and their 14 year old son Alex. Alex and I had a play date of long standing – to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
at Islands of Adventure
. We were all looking forward to going as both Lindsey and I have read all the books and everyone has seen the films – Rick and Alex had had a Harry Potter
film marathon in preparation for the visit to get Rick up to speed and we’d looked at info on the web. Plus we’d see the castle under construction on our last visit 18 months previously.
People said we should get there early and not go on a weekend as locals with Annual Passes tend to go then and it makes Islands of Adventure extra busy. So we decided to go on a Monday while American children were still in school. We were a little dismayed to learn that the park was opening at 8.00am as we have a 30 minute drive from the villa and you need to allow time to walk through City Walk to the park. So we decided that we had to be on the road by 6.45am. It wasn’t too bad as we were still waking early having not fully adjusted to American time and it was nice and cool.
We arrived at the rope at 7.40am and were quite surprised that people were going in – we found out that Universal hotel guests can enter the park at 7.00am. However, the crowd was not very big and we were walked around the park by staff at about 7.50 to the entrance to the HP section. We were told not to run but we have to confess to speed walking along with everyone else!!
We joined the queue for The Forbidden Journey
. All bags etc need to be placed in a locker prior to joining the queue. Be advised to do this ride first as it gets really really busy – also if you buy a wand ($30) this will not fit in the locker and you can’t take it on the ride. The queue winds around the greenhouse and then into the castle. There was no queue once we were inside which meant that we walked through quite fast which was a pity as there was was so much to see – the attention to detail is brilliant. I wanted to stop and look at the portraits and there’s a hologram presentation with Harry
which is really good plus Dumbledore who tells you what’s happening too. The ride itself is a very clever simulator. You sit on a bench type seat with overhead restraints which divide you from the 3 others on your bench so you can’t see each other. It’s not a typical simulator pod thing like The Simpsons or Star Tours or even Spiderman. The bench is attached to an arm so it can swing and tilt as you fly after Harry and the others on your adventure. If you really don’t like queueing, you could do the ride by joining the single rider line as you don’t see your friends when riding anyway and the single rider line moves very fast. You meet many characters from the film on the journey including Malfoy, Hagrid, the dragon, the dementors and the spiders!! We all really enjoyed it and thought it was very clever. I am prone to motion sickness and it did make me feel a little dizzy but definitely worth it!
We then queued for Olivanders Wand Shop – this was another 45 minute wait. We sent Nigel, Rick and Kelly off to get butter beer from the carts – this took about 30 minutes and we fund out from the people behind us in the queue that it’s a lot quicker to get it in The Hogs Head Pub. Butter beer comes in 2 varieties – soda and slush. The soda is very very sweet and clear with a head on it. The slush is more creamy with a head on it. It’s kind of butterscotchy. We all preferred the slush and really enjoyed it. If you buy a souvenir cup then you can use this later for any soda for 79c – you can also take it to Universal (as we did the next day) with the same deal which we thought was good value.
There is a 5 minute presentation in Olivanders which is fun. Lindsey was picked to be the young wizard shopping for a wand – much to her surprise as she’s 23!! Won’t tell you any more as it will spoil it. You then go into the shop which is fun as they have an owl post section. There’s a marauder map and a very vicious book that bites! From here we went across the street to the sweet shop. The chocolate frogs are enormous and very good. There are the different flavoured beans and lots of other goodies. The queue to pay at the till was enormous but we found another till at the back to the shop (end furthest away from the castle) with no queue. The joke shop is also fun with the sneakascope and the extending ear!! We then left the shops and headed over to the Howarts Express for a photo with the very friendly guard. It was about 10.15am at this point and we caught the clock tower chiming the quarter hour which is fun to see.
Then it was off to do Dragon Challenge
. This was formerly Duelling Dragons which has a new name and has had a slight makeover. Short queue. It does a couple of 360o turns, corkscrews etc and 2 coasters race each other – good fun. It’s worth having a look at the Ford Anglia and Hagrid’s cottage at the end of the ride.
Can’t report on the Hypogriff coaster as it’s more for weenies which we are not. Again it’s a remake of a coaster that was there already with a new hypogriffe front put on it.
As we were leaving through Jurassic Park – the only way into the HP section – we were told that if we wished to return we would need a card with a time slot on it. The queue to go into the section was huge, the queue for The Forbidden Journey
was over 2 hours and over an hour for Olivanders. Would I queue 2 hours for Forbidden Journey – guess I would have because that was the purpose of us going to I of A but would I have been pleased – no, would it have been worth it – personally I don’t think any ride is worth a 2 hour wait.
So to sum up here are my tips:
1. Arrive at park before opening time (currently opening at 8.00am) Allow time to park car and walk through City Walk to park.
2. Ride the Forbidden Journey first – don’t forget you have to put all bags etc into a locker.
3. Queue for Ollivanders Wand Shop next. Send someone to get Butter beer -it’s quicker to get it from the Hogshead Pub than from the carts.If you buy a souvenir cup you can have this refilled as many times as you wish with regular sodas both in I of A and in Universal on any day you are there.
4. In sweet shop don’t pay at front till (nearest castle entrance) in a huge queue – there are 2 more tills at the rear of the shop.
5. Have photo in front of Hogwarts Express with friendly guard.
6. Watch clock tower on quarters past and to the hour!!
7. Go to Dragons and Hyppogrif (Latter is for children and young at heart)
8. Look at queue for Forbidden Journey which will probably be around 2 hours and breathe a sigh of relief that you are not in it.
9. Leave HP section of park, resist any urge to return later unless in the evening!!!