Saturday, June 05, 2010

My journey into Hogwarts

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a huge Harry Potter nerd. I make no apologies for that and am not embarrassed one bit to admit I was GIDDY when I found out that Universal studios was using part of their park for Harry Potter.

Flash forward to this week. Even though it has not had its GRAND OPENING, they began letting people who had bought their hotel packages in for a couple of hours earlier this week. I was not one of those people but I kept hoping. Then they started letting the general public in (you had to buy a ticket to Islands of Adventure, of course, which I had already done).

Since I was staying in one of the Disney Resorts, I booked my transport over to Universal. We got picked up at 8:05 but with the other stops and people taking for.freakin.ever to get on the bus, it was a little after nine when we were let off the bus. Then I had haul tail to get to the park, exchange my ticket voucher for a ticket in, then sprint as fast as I could to the Potter area...still not knowing if I could get in.

Then I heard the magical words- Wizarding World is open until 10. We picked up the pace bc at that point it was 9:25. What I didn't know yet was that once you are in, you can stay, they just didn't let anyone else in after 10.

Walking in, the first thing you come to is the Hogwarts Express. Walking on through Hogsmead, all of the storefronts are decorated with great care. You can't go in every store, most are just for decoration, but there are several to see. And what's great- the receipts have the store names on them! I have some from Zonko's, Dervish & Bangs, Filch's someone on Twitter said- This is so surreal; like mixing fiction & reality.

Must sees & dos:
1. Stop by the Butterbeer cart and get a Frozen Butterbeer. It is a butterscotch-y flavored drink and is slushy. Also, pay the extra and get a keepsake mug (at least the first time) . Also, buy a Pumpkin juice for the bottle if for nothing else (it tastes a little like pumpkin pie and I am not a huge fan)
And take a picture of your first Butterbeer mustache!

2. Zonko's and Honeyduke's are connected on the inside. Go in and pick up a chocolate frog and many of the other Potter world goodies (canary cremes, Bertie Botts, etc) then walk through to the Pygmy Puffs. They are 12.95 and completely adorable. When you go to buy it, you have to name it first. Then they make you ring this huge bell and announce to the whole store the name of your puff. I named mine Lulu :)

3. Even if you don't want to buy a wand, go to Ollivander's show. It takes maybe 10 minutes. They let in about 25 people at a time. Ollivander chooses one or two people to see if a wand will chose them. He hands them a wand & tells them to make a bell ring once, then hands them another to do another task, then when handed the third wand the person is lit up,air blows around them, music swells (like what happens when Harry gets chosen by his wand). It's cool to watch. Then you proceed into the Owl Post & Dervish & Bangs where the wands, postcards, and other goodies are for sale. (If you want to skip the show, you can head straight into these shops.)
When you buy postcards they stamp them with the owl post postmark, but as far as I know, you can't mail them from there.

4. Go through the Hogwarts castle and ride the Forbidden Journey. (SPOILERISH) You take a walk through the greenhouses then the castle where you see the portraits moving and talking. When you step in to Dumbledore's office, he comes out to greet you and welcome you as muggles to the castle. (it's a video but it looks really good). You move on to the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom that Lockhart used in Chamber of Secrets where you hear people entering at the top of the stairs then Harry, Ron & Hermione come out from under the cloak and tell you essentially that if you don't move along you will be subjected to a History of Magic lesson from Prof Binns. Honestly, I was trying to take it all in that I missed most of what was said.
The Sorting Hat warns you about the ride (the regular same old dont ride if you're pregnant, ill etc but said in Sorting Hat rhyme) Then you get up to the ride itself. You sit four to a car side by side, separated by little walls. Your feet dangle and a harness comes down to strap you in. Then you are helped by Hermione & Floo powder out to the grounds of the castle. The ride itself is tamer than most roller coasters but you are still moved around, up & down, leaned back etc. as you "see" the grounds around you and follow Harry on his broom as he flies around. They way they projected this is amazing. It's part video and part animatronic (dragons, spiders, dementors, etc)
Go here to read an in depth review.
It was one of the coolest things I've ever done.
(cell phone pic- not the best quality) Dumbledore greeting us

Harry, Ron & Hermione
The Sorting Hat

When you finish the ride you end up at Filch's Emporium to buy even more stuff. Here I got a Hedwig puppet and a Gryffindor Potter shirt. You can also buy your picture from the Forbidden Journey ride, but like all of these types of photos, it is way overpriced.

Before you go through, you have to store all of your belongings in a locker. Even cameras unless they are thin enough to fit in the pocket behind you. We actually had to leave right before we got on the ride and put our camera up. We were escorted by a cast member so we were able to get right back on. It's free for the first hour and a half which was enough time for us to go through it. Since it wasn't at full capacity, I don't know how long it'll take to go through.

There are two other coasters that I was not able to ride. They shut those down soon after 10.

All of the workers in this section were dressed in Wizard robes or other school gear. You might also catch a quick show from the Durmstrang & Beauxbatons students.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not a huge area of the Islands of Adventure park but it is an absolute MUST for Potter fans. Admission to Wizarding World is included with your Islands of Adventure admission ticket (which is around $78). There are plenty of other things to do in the rest of the park.

I look forward to going back in November!

(more pictures are posted here)


Laurahtje said...

Can you get me a Pygmy Puff? I will send you money!!! I will work on some weird name for her. :P

I keep all my receipts from cool places too. We are both nerds! I have all of mine from London, Paris and Holland.

Did you see the TV special that talks about the park? It was on last night. I missed the part about the rollercoaster though. We were also watching New Moon on the long commercial breaks.

In the Chicago HP exhibit we were not allowed to bring in cameras or anything either. People still tried to take photos with their phones but they got yelled at.

sandi said...

i missed the NBC special! grrr I thought about it too late.

I am going to a conference in November that I just found out is going to be held at one of the Disney resorts!!! I plan to go by Universal again. If you haven't gone by then I'll get you a pygmy puff :)