Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Location: Orlando, FL - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Since we're in Spring break mode, I will publish here a post I had on an older blog of mine which is  no longer active. Nothing like a week in the middle of March to take a trip to Orlando... Enjoy!

Hogwarts castle is a MUST see attraction.
Usually, theme parks are not my first choice of travel. I'm not a big fan of roller coasters and prefer to see archaeological or historical places than man-made vomiting inducing steel monsters. But this time, Harry Potter won and I was convinced to take a magical journey to Hogwarts. Not to be missed.

The attraction, which is inside the "Islands of Adventure" Theme Park, was opened a few summers ago and is by far the most popular attraction at Universal resort world. So much so, that the "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" opens one hour earlier than the rest of the park for you, if you stay in one of the three hotels inside Universal resort. There are no "express" pass to skip the line and get to Hogwarts castle though, and even during spring break (mid March), the line is up to a wait of 2 to 3 hours during the day. But if you get up early and get there before 8 am, you can still get to the castle to a 10 minute wait - basically the shortest you can find. It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk around inside the castle to get to the ride's entrace - and most guests forget that this exploration of the castle is also a big part of the attraction. Walk slowly, watch and look at the walls, at the ceiling, and take photos. It's really amazing! You can see picture frames talking to you, for example, and experience magic from Harry and his friends, like snow falling from the ceiling in one of the rooms.

Inside Hogwarts castle
The ride itself is spectacular, and lasts about 10 minutes - but it feels like it's never ending, because it's so intense! You're flying with Harry while competing in one of their Quidditch games and running from competitors, from dragons and from Dementors. Scream!!! Try to go more than once if you can tolerate the line again... it's even more impressive the second time around.

Explore the town of Hogsmeade, where you can buy delicious butter beer (be ready for a long line at either one of the two Butter Beer carts), have breakfast at "The Three Broomsticks", and enjoy lunch at the "Hog's Head" pub. Don't forget to stop by "Honeydukes Sweetshop", where you can buy the original Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (it's really every favor, I had to spit out a few of them - ear wax and vomit were disgusting - yucky!) and the famous chocolate frogs, among other sweet delights.
Delicious butter beer!

And no, I didn't ride the monster dragon roller coaster, but ventured in the smaller version - "The Flight of the Hippogriff" - a couple of times, which was not so stomach churning, but thrilling enough for my taste.

Enjoy the park and don't forget to buy your own wand for a unique souvenir (expect to spend, though)!  Expecto Patronum!

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