Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Florida Trip: Part 2 (Harry Potter overload)

        On our last day of vacation, Tim, Owen, and I went to my favorite theme park: Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. I have been several times, once in high school and a couple times in college. But the reason we really wanted to go to this park was because of the new (relatively) Wizarding World of Harry Potter section. It opened last year, I think. Tim and I are both hardcore Harry Potter fans and we can't wait until Owen is old enough that we can share the books and movies with him. I read the first book about a year after it was published, when I was a freshman in high school. After that I eagerly awaited the publication of all the rest of the series and can remember reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix out loud with my friend Haley on the way to the beach and finishing up the final book in the backyard of my college roomate's house after getting home from my summer internship in Atlanta. I have seen all the movies at least once and made butterbeer cupcakes and have my own Gryffindor scarf. So... needless to say, I wanted to check out this section of the theme park first. And while we have a few pictures from others areas of the park and rode several rides from those sections, I am not going to focus on that here. 
        We went to the Harry Potter section of the park first thing when we got there in the morning to help beat the crowds. It was easily the most crowded section of the park the entire day, but thankfully since we went in late September, the park wasn't too busy. The Harry Potter section is designed to look like the town of Hogsmeade where the students hang out in the books. Other than a million tourists, the town looks so realistic right down to the fake snow. All the park employees dress authentically too and it must be killer to have to wear robes in the Florida heat. 
The entrance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter features this sign.

     Upon entering Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts Express train and station are on the right. 

The town of Hogsmeade features several stores from the books, both ones you can enter and ones that are just a shop front. The shops that you can enter are Ollivander's Wand Shop, Honeyduke's candy store, Zonko's, Hogshead tavern, the Owl Post, and Dervish and Banges.

    Here's another look at Hogsmeade from the opposite side of town. 

The fake chimneys even smoke. 

Ollivander's wand shop had a long line of people waiting to get inside so we decided to wait the 30-40 minutes it took us to get inside to find out what it was about. It turned out to be a very short show, which was cute, but not worth waiting that long for in my opinion. Plus, you can have access to everything after the show by entering in through the Owl Post Office or Dervish and Banges. 

The first thing we did when we entered that section of the park was ride the Dragon Challenge ride, which used to be the Dueling Dragons roller coaster in The Lost Continent section of the park. Because Tim and I were there with Owen, we had to take turns riding the roller coaster. But it luckily they have a great parent swap program. You can go through the line as a family and then one parent waits with the kid(s) in a special room at the end of the line and then when the first parent finishes the ride, they just switch and the second parent typically gets on the ride immediately. 
Waiting in lines for the rides is actually kind-of fun because you get to see all sorts of little extras, like this car, which is designed to look like the car that Harry and Ron stole and crashed when they were hit by the Whomping Willow. 

Hagrid's hut was also along the line to the Dragon Challenge roller coaster.

The Hogwart's was so realistic and huge! It is the location of the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.

It is gigantic!
Before entering the castle, we had to leave Owen's stroller in the pram parking section. Hee hee. British slang humor.

The wait for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride takes you through the classrooms and corridors of Hogwarts. The line moved really quickly which was great, but I also feel like I probably missed a lot of little details because of it. This section was the greenhouse where herbology classes take place. 

Do you see the baby Mandrake?

You are greeted by this guy when you enter the castle. 

The people in the paintings move and talk just like in the books and movies. 

Dumbledore's office features the headmaster himself on screen, though it's hard to see him in this picture.

The sorting hat tells students which house they belong in: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw.

Above the ride are the floating candles from the dining room at Hogwarts. The attraction was a dizzying ride through and above the castle grounds.

The Marauder's Map shows where people are on the school grounds.

Outside of Hogwarts and in several of the stores, you can buy wands belonging to most of the characters in the book. 

Tim tested out Dumbledore's wand.

After the ride we went to the Hogshead Tavern to try butterbeer.

Butterbeer, though hot in the books, is served two ways at the park: slushy form (frozen) and on ice (cold). After trying both, I think I prefer the frozen one, which is a bit sweeter. It is so refreshing in the Florida heat. Also, I am not one of those "Oh, that's too sweet" people. To me, there is no such thing.

Butterbeer mustache.

Butterbeer tastes like a butterscotch soda with a caramel whipped topping almost the consistency of marshmallow fluff.

Owen liked it too! After taking his first sip he said, "Mmmm..."

We visited Honeyduke's to check out some of the authentic candies from the books, including chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Exploding Bon Bons, and Ton-Tongue Toffee. 

So colorful!

We bought a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. In the books, the jelly beans feature regular flavors like candyfloss and cherry and disgusting flavors like earwax, vomit, and earthworm. In real life, they do too. I found out the hard way. Vomit literally tastes like vomit.

We also bought a couple chocolate frogs. These were not as literal as the every flavour beans. Thank goodness.

Each chocolate frog includes a Famous Witches and Wizards collector's card just like in the books. This one features Salazar Slytherin. 

We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks. I highly recommend it if you want to try out some foods from the books and if you're not in the mood for burgers and fries. The lines seem like they will be long, but there are several people taking orders at the end and the place is big enough to seat a large number of people. 

The menu featured typical English fare like shepherd's pie, fish and chips, and cornish pasties.

Tim ordered Fish and Chips while I had the Shepherd's Pie and a salad. Both were delicious. To drink, I had a pumpkin fizz (so yummy). It is a carbonated version of the pumpkin juice the park sells and I've heard it is less sweet than the straight juice. I loved it because it was the perfect amount of pumpkin flavor and sweetness with pumpkin pie spices. I have every intention of trying out several copycat recipes online to try and replicate it. Tim had butterbeer again. We also ordered an apple cider to share with Owen.

Owen loved both of our meals.

The view from our seat inside the restaurant.

The frog choir performed outside Hogwarts.

Owen enjoyed exploring Hogsmeade too.

He made friends with everyone he saw. They were mainly European tourists.

And had a generally great time for a toddler at a theme park for six hours. 

      At the end of the day, we figured we had explored the majority of the Harry Potter section, which was our only goal of the day. We missed out on one ride (Flight of the Hippogriff) because we didn't feel like waiting in the line for it, but in hindsight, I wish we had if only to say we'd done it and to see what little details were placed along the line for it. It is advertised as a more family-friendly coaster. So if you're a Harry Potter fan, I highly recommend visiting the theme park to have an authentic Harry Potter experience. And while you're there, try all the foods. Not one thing was bad. Well, except the vomit jelly bean. But overall, it was a blast!


  1. Great pictures! My favorite has to be you and Owen walking. His little arms swinging are adorable. Let's just face it anything he does is adorable! I am so glad you had a great time on your trip and so glad ya'll were able to do a lot!

  2. oh my god!!! i am so incredibly jealous. This would honestly fulfill my childhood dream! Great pictures, this just makes me look forward to the day when I do finally go!

    Samantha (Nail Art Couture)
    Come by to enter my International Giveaway for NYX Palette, Travalo, and Del Sol Color Changing Polish!