Wednesday, February 26, 2014

{adventures} Islands of Adventure (Wizarding World of Harry Potter), February 21, 2014

Again, I will begin with a bit of a warning. I have posted many photos from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was by far my favorite attraction of our vacation, and I became a bit obsessed with photographing everything in sight. It was honestly magical. If you are a fan of the Harry Potter stories, you must try to make the trip. (But wait until after the expansion is completed this summer!)

You can't use your Express Pass on the Harry Potter ride, so instead, guests who stay in one of the Universal Studios hotels have the opportunity to enter the park one hour early on one day of their choice. I was nervous about the ride itself, because the husband had heard that it was kind of intense, but I decided that I was just going to try to enjoy it. The queue is pretty amazing. All of the rooms of the castle are themed and there are video projections and moving portraits and all of the things that you would hope for from such an experience. We were actually upset that the line moved so fast! 

The ride itself is crazy and completely amazing. You are in a hanging seat, and at times you are nearly upside-down. There is full projection mixed with physical environment, which is the best of both worlds. I kept my eyes open for the whole thing. I knew that I definitely wanted to ride it again!

After spending forever inside of Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods (gift shop) marveling over all of the amazing pins, because seriously, there are so many amazing pins, we turned back into Hogsmeade. Next, we got in the long line at Ollivander's for the "wand chooses a wizard" demonstration. We had to wait for about half an hour, and later in the day the line was much much longer. It was so cute, and we had a great Ollivander, with a legit beard. You exit through the giftshop, as you do for everything everywhere, and we spent a good long while staring at all of the different wands, which they have for just about every character. (Is there an apostrophe on this signage? BECAUSE I DON'T THINK THAT THERE IS AND IT'S DRIVING ME MAD.)

Breakfast at The Three Broomsticks. Cafeteria-style seating, with about five options of pre-made breakfast meals. We both had the traditional English breakfast with coffee. It was about what you would expect, but the potatoes were particularly good. The opposite side of the interior is where The Hog's Head pub operates.

There are two other rides in the Harry Potter area of the park: a Hippogriff roller coaster, and the Dragon Challenge, which is another roller coaster that was actually already part of the park and which somehow needed to be incorporated into the Harry Potter stuff. After wandering around for a bit, we somehow ended up in the queue for this ride, which we had no intention of going on. As we made our way out, we found Mr. Weasley's car and Hagrid's house!

I don't even know how many photos I took of Hogwarts. Can't stop won't stop.

Back into Hogsmeade, we looked at all of the storefronts. Most of them cannot be entered, which is a big bummer, and one of the reasons why the expansion at Universal Studios is happening. Some of the musical instruments in the windows of Dominic Maestro's move around and play!

The Owl Post - another gift shop that is attached to the building that Ollivander's is in. ALL GIFT SHOP EVERYTHING.

Dogweed and Deathcap has a moving mandrake in the window!

More castle? Yup. Eventually, the husband was able to drag me out of Hogsmeade to check out the rest of the park. 

The Jurassic Park ride was closed for the day, but apparently it's a wet ride, so we probably would not have gone on it anyway. The next area was full of old-timey cartoons, and it kind of freaked me out. The rides in this area are wet rides, too, so we kept our distance.

You can stand on the bridge over this ride and pay 25 cents to operate cannons that will spray water at people as they ride by when you press a button. This feature is mostly used by teenage boys, and men in their late 40s who have been drinking since 10am.

The comic book area of the park is very 1990s, but it was still fun. There were a lot of places that sold comics and teeshirts, and sometimes people dressed as characters would appear to take photos with kids, which was quite cool. 

We rode the Spider-Man dark ride, and it was fun. Nothing amazing that we felt that we needed to do again, but you know. Cute. 

Here is the Hulk coaster. No thanks. 

At some point we also walked through the Dr. Suess area, and we rode on the Cat in the Hat ride, which was actually quite creepy. It reminded me a lot of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - you're in a car that rides the track and turns in circles a lot, and everything is animatronic, and there is strange music. I can't imagine a small child enjoying it. It was a bummer and a pain that we had to keep walking through the Dr. Suess area to get back to Harry Potter.

We got all the way to the front of the queue for the attraction at Atlantis, but we were told that the next "tour" would be in 45 minutes. I think this is a walking tour where things jump out at you and whatnot. I wasn't terribly disappointed to leave, because BUTTERBEER.

While the husband waited in line for our butterbeer (which is just as delightful as you would expect - a butterscotch flavored root beer, topped with a buttery and marshmallowy topping THAT BUBBLES), I waited in line at Honeydukes to purchase my chocolate frog. It's connected to Zonko's, which is rather small, so the line was crazy.

We walked around everything again, and did the Forbidden Journey again. The queue was slower this time, BUT NOT SLOW ENOUGH! There are so so many things to look at while you're walking through Hogwarts. You pass through Dumbledore's office, for one thing. So many instruments and books! The ride was just as fun the second time. I really can't wait to go back.

This was just funny. I mean.

We ended our day at the park with a couple of live shows in Hogsmeade. First, a group of a capella singers did some Hogwarts themed songs, which was pretty cute. Then, about 15 minutes later there was a pep rally of sorts for the Tri-Wizard Tournament (essentially, the same choreo that Durmstrang and Beauxbaton perform in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), which was a nice note to end on.

In summary, all of the Harry Potter things made me quite happy, and I can't wait to go back and see what the expansion will look like. We were exhausted at the end of the day, AND THEN we went downtown to watch the Knicks play the Magic, which, if you didn't hear, did not end well for my Knicks. Tomorrow, I will wrap up our amazing little vacation with our third day, back at Universal Studios.


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