Today’s guest post is from Megan, a 16 year old who knows Harry Potter as well or better than JK Rowling herself. As excited as Megan was to go to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, she was also a bit worried that it wouldn’t live up to her expectations. Here are her thoughts on WWoHP:
I first started reading the Harry Potter series in first grade, just after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released. I went to the midnight release parties for the final three books and stayed up all night to read them. I’ve seen all the movies and read the books a million times over. Now, as I am starting eleventh grade, they are still my favorite books. I have grown up with Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and the entire Weasley family. I know all the details in all the books. I have extremely detailed, over-developed pictures in my head of Hogwarts castle, Hogsmeade village, and the Hogwarts Express. Needless to say, I had high expectations for the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The morning started around 7, much earlier than I like to wake up in the summer, when we got ready to leave our room at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort for a night at Loews Portofino Bay Resort at Universal. We checked in at the resort and got to Islands of Adventure around 8:40—just in time to get back to the Wizarding World for early entry. Early Entry was a great resort benefit, especially since we were there for the Wizarding World’s opening week. At regular opening, there was a 4 hour wait just to get into the Harry Potter section of the park. We cut across a couple islands and arrived at the entrance to the Wizarding World.
We walked into the beautiful, snow-capped village of Hogsmeade, where we could see the Hogwarts Express pulled into station and landmarks like the Three Broomsticks that readers have been imagining since the beginning of the series. The Hog’s Head Pub and Zonko’s Joke Shop are also there, as well as a new, second location of Ollivander’s wand shop. Throughout the village there are stands selling all types of wizarding necessities: wands, brooms, and cool, frothy butterbeer.
After entering the Wizarding World, we headed to its headlining attraction: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The queue area for this attraction is almost as good as the ride; Hogwarts is holding an open house for muggles (non-magical people), and you are on a tour of the castle. On your tour you go through the Herbology greenhouses, various classrooms, and hallways in which some of the portraits may start moving and talking in their frames. The effects in the castle are fantastic; it’s impossible to tell which portraits will move and which will not, and the oil paintings are beautiful. I will not divulge much about the ride except a quick warning. If you get motion sick, take Dramamine before you ride; the Forbidden Journey is an absolute don’t-miss, but it’s much more enjoyable if you don’t feel like hurling.
After we rode the Forbidden Journey, we made a short walk over to Flight of the Hippogriff, a small, fairly gentle coaster with a cute theme, based on Harry and Hermione’s rides on Buckbeak in the third book. It’s faster than I expected, but the track is similar to Goofy’s Barnstormer at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The rest of the family went to ride Dragon Challenge while I recovered from my Forbidden Journey motion sickness (Really, be prepared and take the Dramamine before you ride!). Dragon Challenge is based on the first event of the Triwizard Tournament, when Harry has to capture an egg from a particularly volatile dragon. There are two tracks for the coaster, each a little different. Supposedly, the blue track is better than the red track, but if you get a chance, try both and compare them.
After hitting all three attractions in the Wizarding World, we stopped at a stand for butterbeer. Cold and sweet, butterbeer is the Coca Cola of the magical world; it is a butterscotch-flavored soda with a thick, foamy head like a beer, available regular or frozen. Though rich, it is a decadent way to cool off on a hot day.
Butterbeer in hand, we wandered around Hogsmeade and the area surrounding Hogwarts Castle. The attention to detail in the Wizarding World is truly incredible—a step up over everything else in Universal and even areas of Disney (Am I going to be excommunicated as a heretic for saying that?). As a rabidly obsessed and picky Harry Potter fan, I don’t do this often, but I give the Wizarding World of Harry Potter my stamp of approval.