Posted in North America, Travels, United States

Harry Potter-Crazy at Universal Orlando

Time for a special Friday edition of Tripping in Sarcasm. What makes it special, you ask? Well, I forgot what day it was, so you get to read about a new adventure on a Friday instead of a Thursday. Today I bring you a review of my first time at Universal Studios Orlando and my long-awaited visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (AKA Harry Potter Land).

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All aboard the Hogwarts Express

First thing to know about Universal Studios Orlando (especially if you’re used to the California one) is that it’s actually two parks (there’s also a third water park). I totally recommend getting the park hopper pass, especially if you’re a die-hard Harry Potter fan. Even though I wouldn’t consider myself “die-hard,” I really liked the series. I spent most of my time at Harry Potter land since a majority of the non-Harry Potter rides are also duplicated at Universal Hollywood, where I go pretty often. Harry Potter Land is split between the main Universal Studios Orlando park and Universal’s Islands of Adventure park. A real Hogwarts Express train connects the two — there’s even a “wall” that you walk through to get to Platform 9 3/4.

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Walking through the wall

Those are random people. The “wall” itself looks like a regular doorway when you walk through it, but it looks like you’re walking through a wall in this view. If you want a picture of yourself walking through the wall, have someone lag behind and take it for you. But don’t hold up the line.

Anyways, we started in the main Universal Studios park and quickly found our way to the train station. This was before I realized that Harry Potter Land was divided between two parks — more about that later. The cars of the train are set up exactly how they look in the movie, and your “window” is actually a screen that plays a video that makes it seem like you’re actually on your way to Hogwarts, complete with the voices of various movie characters (including the core three) and shadows that make it seem like the characters are moving back and forth in front of your door.

You get off the train in Hogsmeade Village. Again, set up to look just like the movie. We first went on the “Dragon Challenge” ride, which is basically two coasters that run at the same time. I surprised myself by going on it, since I get pretty bad motion sickness and can barely tolerate Space Mountain. Just FYI — you need to take everything out of your pockets. They will stop you from going on the ride if they notice something in your pockets. The ride was a lot of fun, so if you have a good stomach and lack vertigo, I would recommend it. It was also really cold the morning we went, so my eyes watered as I whipped to and fro in the wind, and the Bestie flipped out because she thought I was crying. It’s nice to know that she loves me.

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Hogwarts

The next stop was Ollivander’s Wand shop. There’s two ways to go about this — you can wait in the line in front or just enter the shop through a side entrance. If you’ve never been there, take the time and wait out front to see the show (just my opinion). (SPOILER ALERT: The show is basically a reenactment of the movie scene where Harry first picks his wand, or where the wand picks Harry, whatever. Whoever the actor was that plays Ollivander in the store looks and acts exactly like the actor from the movie. He chooses someone from the audience to be the one who gets the wand, and it’s cute to see it happen in real life with the special effects and everything. This 8-year-old girl was chosen from the crowd. My 27-year-old Bestie was extremely bitter about not being chosen.). Going in through the side entrance bypasses the show and takes you directly into the shop where you can buy wands along with other merchandise (but they do sell wands in other stores).

Our next step was to try the Hogwarts ride in the castle. My cousin had told me that this was the best ride in the park, so I was very excited for it. It turned out to just be okay for me. It’s one of those rides with a screen in front and you’re strapped into a seat that moves and “flies” along with the current scene. The dragon blew its nasty breath into my face at one point. I was not amused.

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Gringotts Bank

After an hour or so of Hogsmeade, the Bestie’s brother and I explored a little bit while the Bestie and her cousin rode some of the more intense roller coasters around the park that I know I would have yakked on. I ended up needing a bathroom at one point, so I wandered around the Universal Studios park looking for one. I turned a corner that I expected to lead into a hallway with a bathroom like at the mall. It wasn’t. I found myself in Diagon Alley and I immediately lost my mind (and forgot I needed to pee). Diagon Alley was my favorite side to Harry Potter Land, and again, made to look just like in the movie. I ended up walking through the exit, so I missed the actual entrance that plays the sound of the bricks unravelling to unveil the entrance to the alley like in the movie, but it was still magical all the same. Tons of stores (they mostly sold similar things) and another wand store. It was outside one of these stores that I found a little girl waving her wand at a drinking fountain, thereby activating it, and also, thereby teaching me about the interactive wands. They are in no way cheap, but I didn’t care because I wanted to do magic like that little girl, so I bought one. You also have the option of buying a regular wand that doesn’t do tricks (and is cheaper), but, again, I wanted to do magic. You can buy the wands of the different movie characters, or pick from a few generic wands. Hermione Granger was always my favorite (because she’s real smart AND she punched Draco Malfoy in the face), so I bought her wand. It’s really pretty too. The interactive wands also come with a map of the designated areas where you can perform “magic,” and simple instructions as to how to say each spell and how to wave your wand. I dragged the Bestie’s little brother around as I made lights turn on and off, flushed a toilet, and activated a number of fountains, all with the wave of my wand. In case you’re wondering, there is a ride in Diagon Alley — the Gringotts Bank ride. Basically you sit in one of those mine carts and escape the bank just like in the movie. That was my favorite ride of all — try it out.

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Hot Butterbeer

No trip to Harry Potter Land would be complete without trying Butterbeer! I tried both the hot and cold versions (didn’t know about the frozen version until after my visit, plus it was really cold the day I went). The hot was definitely my favorite, but make your own decision and try all options. The cold version reminded me of a root beer, while the hot version was more of a butterscotch drink. Either way, it was delicious, and I would like to figure out how to make my own at home.

BTW, as with all sugary drinks, hot Butterbeer is über-sticky. The Bestie knocked her drink off the counter (which is why we can’t have nice things), tried desperately to catch it in a cartoon-y manner, and resulted in it spilling all down my leg and into my sock. It felt as gross as it sounds. My ankle was sticky through the rest of the day. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, she did help me clean the sticky from my clothes. Her brother and her cousin weren’t much help — they just watched us laugh and scream at each other afterwards.

If you made it all the way to the end of this post — congrats, and thank you for reading. Any questions about visiting Harry Potter Land? Feel free to let me know below. Keep in mind that I’ve only been once, so I’m no expert, but I’d love to help if I can.

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