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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal

Having read the Harry Potter series right before visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Islands of Adventure I was really excited; but sadly, the Wizarding World was missing some magic.  

Visually, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was fabulous.  Great care was taken to make you feel like you were in Hogsmead and walking to Hogwarts.  There were no wide expansive walkways like you would find in an amusement park, Hogsmead was tight and cramped like you might find in a real British town.  The shop windows exhibited items Harry might have seen walking in Hogsmead, or items you would recognize from the books.  It was a nice tribute to the books.  Annoying, but great, was the screaming mandrake and Moaning Myrtle as you entered the ladies room.  

The Three Brooksticks is the restaurant for this area of the park and it had a unique menu, not your typical amusement park fare, but British Pub fare.  I was a bit skeptical when I saw the menu but the chicken was tasty, and the grilled potatoes were mouth watering.  The best fast food I've had at an amusement park.  

The Forbidden Journey was a great ride, but this was where I started to notice problems. The locker area was really crowded and we were there for park opening on a relatively quiet day.  I can't begin to imagine what that place would be like on a busy day.  But once we went through the queue, which was FABULOUS, I noticed more issues.  There are two ways through the queue, one for people riding the ride the other for people who want to walk through.  However, they do not advertise the walk through so everyone was trying to take pictures as they walked through the queue, I spent more time waiting for people to take pictures then for the actual line to move.  The staff there occasionally yelled for people to keep moving, which didn't add to the ambiance, nor did they inform people that they could walk through after the ride.  The ride was pretty cool, a cross between Spiderman and Soarin, but with a Harry Potter theme. Though I have to say, some of the stuff in it I didn't remember from the books or movies, hmmm.

Flight of the Hippogriff was a nice kids roller coaster; but, the only special thing about it was that you could see Hagrid's Hut from it.  I didn't ride Dragon Challenge (formerly known as Dueling Dragons) because my brain was scrambled from when I had rode Hulk earlier in the day.  
Yes, the Butterbeer was good
One issue I have with the whole Islands of Adventure Park is that the rides are very intense. My friend has back problems and rode 1 ride the whole day - The Cat In the Hat and even that was overly intense for a children's ride.  If you have any physical restrictions keeping you from rides then you need to know you may not be able to ride ANY rides at this park.  

Ollivanders was one of the best experiences I had at the park.  Ollivander chose a wizarding aged child and a wand chooses them.  I'll let you see the show yourself, but the girl who was chosen genuinely seemed to have a great time.  Of course if you don't want to wait an hour for that you can just go into the store from the other entrance.  

I saw 2 shows while there, one was the Triwizard Spirit Rally featuring the wizards of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.  This show was pretty good, a reenactment of there entrance during Goblet of Fire.  But the Frog Choir was plain old weird!  I would have left but I was sitting in the front. 

The staff assigned to the area were hit and miss.  Some were great, like the Hogwarts Express conductor, I saw him a couple times and he was always in character.  But other people acted like it was just a job, that took away from the atmosphere.  This was the biggest disappointment since it really took away from the experience.  

The shops were very busy (especially Filch's Emporium), small and lacking in merchandise. If you just wanted T-shirts, a broom, a snitch or a stuffed something or other (I'm a fan of Fluffy) then you were fine.  Outside of that, the merchandise was a little weak.  You could by from a decent selection of wands, but even that seemed a little limited.  Forget any jewelry type of stuff or cell phone cases.  I had seen a lot of things on the WB website, a lot of it was not available at the park.  Actually, you could buy the same exact stuff at the airport or the shop at City Walk.  

For those planning a trip I think visiting this area of the park would be best either early or late in the day, mid day seems to get most crowded.  

I would like to mention that I did write a letter to Universal with my thoughts about what was good and bad.  Mike called me 3 times, he really wanted to speak to me personally about my letter and let me know that it was being passed on.  Whether things will change, I don't know, but Mike seemed to really care about what I said.  

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