In my notes, I wrote two words – worth it. It’s sort of a reverse Visa commercial analysis. Let me lay out our day for you to help you understand just how worth it The Wizarding World of Harry Potter truly is….
9:30 AM: After vomiting for most of night, and contemplating whether to spend another day in our hotel room, we decided (with special thanks to the MIL for saying that she would take care of the remaining sick children for the day - just think about it for a minute) that Wednesday would be the day for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which, for our purposes, will at times be Harry Potter Land, and at times, HP Land, dependent on how lazy my fingers are at that particular moment).
10:15 AM: Unfortunately, everyone else at Orlando had the same idea. We arrive at the main parking gates to Universal Resort to discover that Islands of Adventure, the portion of the park where Harry Potter Land lives, is already at capacity for the day (what the wha?...). We pay our $15 parking fee on faith. We had already purchased our tickets (for Islands of Adventure only) and we will not be able to make a return trip. It's do or die.
10:35 AM: We leave the parking structure. It seriously was a twenty minute walk to get out.
10:45 AM-11:30 AM: Following the crowds, we attempt to find the gates to Islands of Adventure to see if there's a chance we may be able to get in (or in line). We first find our way to Universal Studios, which is not where we want to be, and after asking several theme park employees, who each gave an entirely different set of directions, we get to where the (currently empty) line for Islands of Adventure is forming. We are here to have fun, right?!
11:30 AM: As it turns out, even though we were right next to the entrance, the line actually forms just on the other side of that there rope (according to the surly security guard). Said rope will soon become the bane of our existence. We walk the half mile back to the "correct" place to join the roped-in area and find ourselves in the first forty or so people in line (mind you, this is just to get into the park itself - all we've accomplished so far is parking).
1:00: Yes, it's 1 PM. We are still standing here in a crowd of pushy, shoulder-to-shoulder adults acting like adolescents (and if we weren't sick enough already, this is the first warm day in our Florida visit, and wow, that sun is hot.). During our time in line, we've learned that not only is there another line altogether for the Harry Potter park, but it involves getting a return ticket for much later in the day. C and I debate the merits of sticking it out, and I learn that I should give myself some credit for the patience and optimism that I do possess. Sometimes I consider myself a cynic, but not in this crowd. I'm the freaking Jolly Green Giant compared to these people (well, I was smaller than most and just a little green that day, but you get my point). In the end, we give ourselves another half hour, and then we may have to throw in the towel (at this point, we really have no idea what kind of time frame we may be facing).
1:15: OM Goodness - we're going to get in....We move, without running, as directed, as fast as possible to Harry Potter Land. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. We get in line for our return ticket ASAP. It's 7:20 PM. Yes, you read that right.
1:15 - 6:30: So, what do two very ill people do for five hours in park full of food and dizzying rides? This is their story. There's a movie theater on the grounds, so we see Little Fockers. I know that it wasn't particularly well-reviewed, but I liked it. It was no more or no less than I expected. We also take care of most of our HP Land shopping in other stores around the park given that we have more than ample time to do so.
But mostly, we sit and stare at the castle in awe.
6:30: Our return time approaches…we creep ever closer to the entrance, and learn that you do not have to wait at the pre-entrance line (suckers!) and can find a seat much closer to the actual entrance line.
7:00: We find a seat near where the line, or cluster, has formed for return ticket holders (that would be us) and see a woman of no less than forty-five years of age tiptoe around a gate to Harry Potter Land and make a run for it (it was like Elizabeth Shue running for the US Embassy in The Saint; I kid you not!). From what we could tell, she successfully made it in, but security sure got tighter in the minutes that followed.
7:05: Awakened from a daze. “They’re calling our number!! C, he said 7:20! That’s our time! Come on….let’s go! It’s our time!”
And we lived happily ever after….
NO, I wouldn't leave you in the lurch like that. ;)
You walk in to HP Land to find yourself in Hogsmeade, next to the train platform. More importantly, there is the aforementioned Butterbeer stand ready and waiting to make everything about the wait better. We make a beeline for it. No sooner do we get in line than a waitress approaches us and tells us she can take our order and get us our beverages much faster. THINGS ARE LOOKING UP ALREADY!!
This is me.
This is me on Butterbeer.
It makes me so very happy (and no, there is no alcohol - I always wondered about that)! The flavor is a blend of marshmallow and butterscotch, and the beverage is available in frozen and draft varieties (left and right, respectively, above). Both have their attributes; the draft has a buttery bite and marshmallow-ness; the frozen is a bit like a butterscotch version of the Serendipity frozen hot chocolate.
Oh, and this is C with his Butterbeer mustache. He is so proud of himself for getting it just right.
Not everything is perfectly accurate in Hogsmeade, as I seem to remember Ollivanders being on Diagon Alley. But, some things are, like Zonko's is here, rather than Fred and George's Joke Shop, (the cashier hinted of things to come, however). It is really nice that we are here in winter, however, because the crispness in the air makes it all the more real (the village rooftops are snow-covered and there's a general wintery feel to the place).
The big highlight of the park (which, yes, involves yet another crowded line, but also a very nifty locker system) is the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Our favorite part of the ride, however, is the line itself.
There are close-up views of the Hogwarts castle to increase the anticipation factor...
And other exciting things to see (I've only posted one as to not ruin things for you)...
In addition to the aforementioned Butterbeers, we also delight in some Hogsmeade Village shopping and in a bottle of Pumpkin Juice. (I read the ingredients - apple juice and apricot puree are the two main components. Well, along with sugar. The pumpkin puree is just added to highlight the flavors. It's delicious.). We pick up some candy at Honeydukes (C was adamant that we need a Honeydukes candy jar in our house). Um, yeah, they are nasty. Don't buy them. After our purchases, it becomes clear that we are exhausted and it's time to head back to our hotel.
So, I've given you a tour and taken you through our experience. But, why is Harry Potter Land really worth all the aggravation? Because, for a few minutes, or an hour or so, we adults are transported to a place where we can be kids again. Where we can scream in delight, marvel with joy, and believe in fantasies. I'm fairly certain that is why C and I adored the books so much, and that is why I adored the park (I cannot wait to share these experiences with our son). I left in a state of childlike bliss (fueled solely on Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice, mind you).