April 23, 2014

My Thoughts on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

By Hanako M. Ricks

HollywoodNews.com: I’ve spent the majority of the past three days in full geek mode, attending the Infinitus 2010 fan convention in Orlando, FL. One of the highlights of this weekend for me was my visit on Friday to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter park in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

By now, there have been so many reports about visits to the park that what I’m about to say will be nothing new: I was simply BLOWN. AWAY. There are simply no words to describe how I felt walking through that park and looking up to see Hogwarts right above my head. Incidentally, I happened to approach the WWoHP from the back side, not the Hogsmeade entrance (it’s my son’s fault, he wanted to go to Jurassic Park), so I didn’t get as overwhelmed at the complete sight as I thought I would, but people were still veering away from me as if I were crazy at my repeated exclaimations of “there it is, there it is, THERE IT IS!!!”

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER SLIDESHOW

I will say this right away: while I was in complete awe and very excited to see the whole park, I didn’t get much of a chance to thoroughly enjoy it. It was way too hot for my liking (temp-wise), which affected me physically, so I was only able to ride the rides once each. Also, the crowds were still a bit large, which made it impossible for me to visit Ollivander’s and some of the other shops. So I’m hoping for another visit within the next year, so that I can fully explore the park at my leisure. Aside from those minor things, here are some of my thoughts:

1) The attention to detail was, in a word, exceptional. Universal spared no expense, and the various details – even the minor ones – left this Potter fan as giddy as a six-year old. The article about Sirius Black’s capture in front of the Three Broomsticks really moved, and transported me back to the first time I saw Prisoner of Azkaban. The moving props in the storefronts were whimsical, enchanting, and any other magical word you can think to describe them.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER SLIDESHOW

2) The Three Broomsticks provided some unexpected entertainment. I’m not sure how many people have seen it, since I haven’t heard reports, but while eating I was treated to a sort of light effect on the upper wall, which gave the impression that a house-elf (and other magical creatures) were walking around the second floor of the Three Broomsticks. Hope he wasn’t cleaning, or Hermione will have something to say about that! The food was delicious and plentiful, at least the adult portions. I think the kid’s meals could have been a bit larger, but my kids enjoyed their meal, so no real complaints there. The ambiance was very relaxing, and made for a very pleasant dining experience.

3) The shops seemed to be spot on copies of their screen counterparts; unfortunately, I was only able to get into Zonko’s and Honeyduke’s, and even then couldn’t really browse much because of the large crowds. The stores really don’t leave much room for browsing, and are really cramped. I’m thinking that maybe Universal didn’t really understand the impact of what they were doing on Potter fans, who would swarm the park first chance we got. This oversight is probably the only complaint that I have about the park.

4) The “lines” for the Dragon’s Challenge and Forbidden Journey Rides: For any Potter fan who is not a fan of roller coasters – go through the lines anyway!!! They are rich with Potter “history”, and the attention to detail would impress even the lackluster fan. I was only able to ride one side of the Dragon’s Challenge, and I chose the Chinese Fireball; in my old age I guess I can’t take the rides like I used to, cause this one was fast and made me feel a bit wobbly. Or maybe it was the fact that I was exhausted and feeling ill from the heat. Whatever it was, that ride is not for the faint of heart. I couldn’t even muster up my Gryfffindor courage to get on the Hungarian Horntail side of it, although my daughters, who are 14 and 12, rode both sides a total of four times each. Showoffs.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER SLIDESHOW

The Flight of the Hippogriff ride was not as fast, but still fast enough for me to get butterflies. The fun prop for this ride was Buckbeak himself, greeting you right before your stomach is dropped out of the bottom. A very fun ride, not too bad for those who don’t like the more intense rides.

And the ultimate ride of them all: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The reports were very accurate in calling this the ultimate theme park ride; I can’t think of any that could compare. If you’ve even been to Universal and rode the Back to the Future 3D ride, think that – but about 10 times better and way more intense. I don’t even know how to put it into words and make it sound as awesome as it is: twists, turns, dragons, dementors, arachnids, Quidditch, Harry, Ron and Draco! You name it, it was probably there! A fully enjoyable and immersive experience that I would have repeated had time allowed. And the walk-through of the castle and all of its beloved artifacts from the movies is a Potter fan’s paradise. The only thing that could have made it better was to see Harry, Ron and Hermione in the flesh. Check out all the photos from my trip here:

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER SLIDESHOW

As part of my attendance at Infinitus’ “Night of a Thousand Wizards” event (we had access to the park from 11pm – 2am, after the official closing time), I was able to get through the line for Forbidden Journey without much of a wait. We also received free butterbeer (absolutely delicious) and samples of the many sweets offered in Hogsmeade, which are all deliciously divine. However, those of you with diabetes or other sugar-induced ailments may want to pick and choose what you eat very carefully; the sweets are delicious but very sweet.

This is just a little of what I experienced in the park; the feeling of fangirl completeness that I felt walking through the streets of Hogsmeade is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully put into words – it’s just too massive. I look forward to future visits where I will be able to experience the whole park (shops and such) in a way that I simply couldn’t this time. This series has meant so much to me personally that to see this world come to life in such a glorious way…well, as my favorite character Ron Weasley would say, it’s “bloody brilliant”.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER SLIDESHOW

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2 Comments

  • July 21, 2010 | Permalink |

    Thanks for the great report, Hanako. I did not even try to ride the two rollercoasters because the intensity of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was more than I could handle. That ride’s movements actually made me nauseated, and I wasn’t the only one.

    The shops were very much like what we see in the films, but I agree that they were much too small. I only missed the Owl Post and Ollivanders shops because of the long lines. I did manage to get into Honeydukes, Zonko’s, Dervish & Banges, and Filch’s Emporium. I’m glad that I had a lot of money saved up for Infinitus and the WWoHP visit, because the souvenirs at the theme park were rather expensive, especially the candy.

    It was nice meeting you at Infinitus. Best of luck with this blog!

  • September 15, 2010 | Permalink |

    My wife and I (in our late 50′s) are huge fans of the books and the movies. To avoid crowds, we planned our pilgrimage to Orlando so we would be there after the start of school in September. (And we went during the week, which really did the trick.) We got on every ride and into all the shops (including Olivander’s) with very little waiting. Your review is spot on. You feel like you are really THERE. Our first glimpse of Hogwarts left us speechless. (BTW, the butterbeer was great.) It is truly a magical experience. It was the best vacation of our lives. Can’t wait to go back.

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