When Universal opened up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter inside their Islands of Adventures theme park, I certainly wished I could go one day, but given the fact that I'm a cheapskate and have only been to Florida a handful of times, I didn't believe I'd be going anytime soon. Molly mentioned going at some point, but she too didn't have a determined time. For this trip I was trying to keep our expenses low so I didn't think a 2-day theme park ticket would qualify. But I brought it up one day with Molly and all she had to say was "yaaaaaaa!!!" So to the Wizarding World we went. We actually went to all of Islands of Adventures and Universal Studios, but this part is solely dedicated to Harry Potter, the boy who lived.
|entrance to Hogsmeade|
There are technically two entrances to the Wizarding World, one on each end, but due to crowds in the morning hours because everyone wants to see Harry Potter first, they shuffle visitors in through the main entrance of Hogsmeade. The first thing you see, besides the snow covered roofs of Hogsmeade, is the scarlet steam engine, the Hogwarts Express. Here, photo-ops are available with the lovely conductor.
|all aboard the Hogwarts Express|
To your left you'll find Honeydukes and Zonko's. One sad note is that they are actually connected inside so they essentially function as one shop. Although not authentic to the books, I see why they did it and a perk we discovered is that instead of waiting in the much longer lines of Honeydukes, you can purchase your treats on the Zonko's side in half the time. I recommend purchasing a Cauldron Cake.
|welcome to Honeydukes|
|Zonko's joke shop|
We decided to lunch at the Three Broomsticks and chose the most unideal time to dine. Not only was it prime lunch hour but it had started to rain which drove everyone inside. We waiting in line for probably half an hour, longer than some rides. When you get close to the registers, they have a massive display case of all the meal offerings. Examples include turkey legs, mixed green salad with chicken and a full family platter. You place your order then move to a number along this long counter where you pick up your food. Once you've got everything you wait to be seated. Although they've got a very smooth process going, this is the one area where I could see people getting angry. If you have to wait a bit for a table, not only are standing there holding your food and drinks but said food is getting cold. Molly and I both got butterbeer (not frozen and not overpriced) which had an interesting flavor. Neither of us loved it but the caramel cream stuff on top was quite delicious.
|the Three Broomsticks|
Next door to the Three Broomsticks is the Hog's Head which serves no food, only beverages for the 21+ crowd. Across from the dining area is the entrance to Dragon's Challenge, a covered picnic table area as well as Dervish and Banges and the Owl Post. As with Honeydukes and Zonkos, Dervish and the Owl Post are also connected inside. On our first day there was a 20 minute wait to get in so we opted to wait until the next day. When we finally did go inside it was really cool. Not only was the merchandise great to look at and geek out over (Triwizard Cup, Book of Monsters, Quibbler) but all the decorations and merchandise not for purchase in the level above such as broomsticks, books and other wizarding necessities were great fun to look at.
|a sample of the Dervish and Banges merchandise|
|inside the Owl Post|
|magical quills inside Scrivenshafts|
|the Weasley's Ford Anglia|
On the far side of Hogsmeade you'll discover Hogwarts Castle sitting atop a grand hill. Nearby is the performance area of the Frog Chorus and Durmstrang/Beauxbatons dancers as well as Hagrid's Hut and Flight of the Hippogriff. Flight of the Hippogriff is a small coaster for younger children but it is really fun. We enjoyed it a lot and rode it 3 or 4 times as there was no wait. Although Hogsmeade was crowded everyone seemed to be on the Forbidden Journey or waiting for Ollivander's. The view at the top of Flight of the Hippogriff is a great one of the castle.
Finally, the most anticipated ride of them all, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This ride was having issues the days we were there because we kept hearing things about it being shut down but we lucked out and it was mostly running smoothly for us. Our wait the first time began on the bridge leading into Jurassic Park (the other entrance to the Wizarding World) and it took about an hour or so to complete the ride. We learned quickly that having bags was becoming a pain because you had to put them in lockers for all the cool rides. And if you didn't have any bags you could skip the line waiting for them and just go right into the ride line. The queue leads you through all sorts of places in Hogwarts: the dungeons, the greenhouse, Dumbledore's Office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and a few other rooms. I won't spoil what happens in all the rooms but its all really magical.
The ride itself was sooooo amazing. I had no idea what to expect and it was just so, so cool! Because of the wait we only went on the ride once on Day 1, but the next day we did it twice more. Upon returning to it, since we'd already ridden with each other the first time, we opted for the very short wait of the singles line. GREAT DECISION MAKING! The ride seats 4 at a time so when they have groups that don't fill out the ride, they take from the singles line. And sometimes they have to take pairs so on our second round through the singles line we did get to sit together. You don't get to walk through any of the cool castle stuff but the wait is only 10-15 min. In my opinion, totally worth it.
|view from Flight of the Hippogriff|