Sunday, January 15, 2012

Universal Studios - the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - @UOrNews

universal studios florida

Now that the holiday season has passed, I have some time to write about the fun we had at Universal Studios, Orlando.

From the first moment that we told the boys that we would be going, they couldn't stop thinking about two things: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and trying ButterBeer.

They were so excited when we got to the park.  Although it was a busy, touristy time of year, the lines moved quickly and efficiently.  Every employee that we dealt with, from the time we stepped out of the car, until we left to go home was helpful, cheerful, and seemed sincerely committed to helping us have the best experience possible.  I'm a big fan of fantastic customer service, and Universal Studios theme Park gets a five star rating from me.

Once we were inside the gates, both Boy One and Boy Two could barely stand to wait another minute.  They needed to get to Hogwarts, or they were going to burst!  We could see where it was, across the water, and we quickly navigated our way across the park.  If you could have seen my boys faces as we got closer.. it really is an impressive sight!

Hogwarts Castle

We crossed over the bridge, and it really felt like we were plopped onto the set of a Harry Potter movie!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Castle was to our left, and Hogsmeade was to the right.  As you can imagine, we had two boys who turned left without even hesitating.

Hogwarts - The Forbidden Journey
Hogwarts - The Forbidden Journey
If you decide to visit Hogwarts, be aware - it is, without a doubt, the most popular area in the park.  The wait to get into the Forbidden Journey (the attraction inside the school) can be quite lengthy.  If you are better at a long wait while the day is new, it's a great first start.  Some children might do better if they have already experienced some exciting activities, and then wind down a bit as they wait on the line to get in.

I wish I had spent more time inside Hogwarts.  As we walked through, there were props from the movies, and so many things to see.  The attention to detail was fantastic.  Take your time and enjoy the show.

Boy One went on the ride, Boy Two declined.  We took advantage of the "Child Swap" area so that we could facilitate this.  This is where one parent and any non-riding children wait, when the parent who is on the ride disembarks, they switch places without having to wait on the line again.

Some need to know facts:  There are a few semi scary moments during the ride, where things pop out at the passengers, and there is a 48 inch height requirement.  The ride is a bit of a bumpy one, and all loose articles must be secured in the free lockers available.  You'll "fly" with Harry and his friends.  There are twists, turns, and a visual show, almost all of the senses are engaged.

Once we were back outside we got to see the Hogwart's Express:

Hogwarts Express
Hogwarts Express
The Flight of the Hippogriff was fun, and we rode this several times.  It's a rollercoaster, and has some dips and turns, but it is pretty tame as far as rollercoasters go, and definitely kid friendly.  There is a 36 inch height requirement, so most children who want to will be able to ride.

Don't forget to look around, there is a great view of the village, and the ride took us around the pumpkin patch and right past Hagrid's Hut.

Flight of the Hippogriff

Finally, we decided to have some ButterBeer.  It comes in a cold, or Frozen form.  We tried both.  It is sweet, like butterscotch and butter cookies.  I think we all preferred the Frozen version, but the cold has more of the thick, creamy foam on top, which was fun, and left a "mustache" on our faces.


You can see the foamy top here, as Boy Two has his first taste.


We spent some extra dollars and got the souvenir mugs.  I'm glad we did.  they are used every day and are a fun reminder of the great time we had.

Here I am enjoying a frozen mugful:


Hogsmeade has all of the shops you would want to visit.  Olivander's also has an exhibit, where one lucky guest is chosen to participate.


Below is a picture of the boys with the Frog Choir.  Some of the Hogwarts students and their singing frogs come out and perform a few times each day, and then stay for a short photo session.

Hogwarts Students

We stopped into Honeydukes,and being the consummate tourists for the day, bought some chocolate frogs, and some Bertie Bott's every Flavour Beans.


Next door is Zonko's Joke Shop.  Fever fudge, Screaming Yo-Yos, Nosebleed Nougat and Extendable ears are just a few of the fun jokes and sweets you'll find inside.


Dervish and Banges has a large selection of magical, wizardry items, and Fitch's Emporium is the place to find Hogwarts uniforms, Quidditch clothing, house banners, and other uniquely Harry Potter gifts.

We did not ride the Dragon Challenge, which is a high speed, intertwining rollercoaster.  It looked like a lot of fun, and the boys meet the 54 inch height requirement, but we were content to stick to the Flight of the Hippogriff this time.  The Dragon Challenge is another ride where loose articles must be stowed in the lockers provided.

There is a Tavern, The Three Broomsticks, located in this area of the park.  It serves English fare, such  as Shepherd's Pie, Fish and Chips or Turkey legs, buffetria style.

We had so much fun, but it's back to the Muggle life for now,