I was able to take a break for a day and go visit snowwolfmystic and go to Harry Potter World in the Universal Islands of Adventure park. We've been talking about this since before the park opened, so we finally got to have our geeky adventure! Lots of pics to show you guys.
We picked the PERFECT day to go. It was a Wednesday, no school holidays in sight, plus the weatherman had predicted a 60% chance of rain. The way we figured it, the Harry Potter part of the park is very small, we could do it all in a couple of hours, if we were just able to see that before we got rained out we will have felt the trip was worth it. But yanno..it didn't rain once, and there were NO LINES.
Look how un-crowded this photo of the Hogwarts Express is!
First we went to ride the "main attraction" which was the Forbidden Journey ride.
It was inside Hogwarts. I wished so hard that they had merch of the flying boars but alas, they did not :( Have a photo though!
Universal's queue designs kick the pants off of Disney. The detail was amazing! Unfortunately the castle was so dark inside (actually pretty authentic to the movies) we couldn't get very many pictures, but just trust me when I say it was a total HP geek's dream. All the little intricacies from the movies to look at while you wait. We didn't even get to see half of it though because, like I said, no lines! We were breezing past everything XD
The paintings move and talk to each other :)
As for the ride itself, this is the first time in a long time I was actually "scared" on a ride, and not just like "Oh hey I'm screaming on a rollercoaster and its going fast" scared, but more like "really good haunted house" scared. It's part virtual reality and part set, so its kind of like if you combine Soaring Over California/Star Tours with the King Kong part of the Universal Studio Tour. Your car feels like you're floating and one minute theres a screen of Harry Potter taking you flying through the grounds at Hogwarts, and the next minute there's a giant animatronic dragon breathing hot steam on you just inches from your face. There's dementors *nnnnngh these scared me* and SPIDERS *NNNNNNGH DOUBLY SCARED*, definitely a little bit too perilous for most "children", so for those thinking that the park is just for kids, you are sorely mistaken! We got to ride this 3 times with a 10 minute wait whereas most people wait for 3 hours to ride it once :3
After that we went on Flight of the Hippogryph which is a relatively tame "family" coaster not unlike Thunder Mountain Railroad. It was just cute!
Buckbeak was NOT signing autographs unfortunately...
Next up was the Dragon Challenge coaster which was a repurposed dragon themed coaster that they've re-themed into the Tri-Wizard tournament.
They're two separate tracks that twist and turn around each other, making it seem like you're going to hit the other car with your feet (your feet dangle). REALLY fun.
We rode this one 5 times...for science. You see, we heard that the red coaster was faster and more intense, so we rode both the red coaster front and back, and the blue coaster front and back, and then once more in a random place on the red coaster. Red wins! In order of intensity, for us anyways, from most intense to least intense it goes Red Front, Red Back, Blue Back, Blue Front...In case you were wondering :)
And this is the point where we realized we did all of the rides in less than 2 hours. BEST. DAY. EVER! We rode them all again and again throughout the day, but up next on our "to do" list was BUTTERBEER! Butterbeer, for the curious, appears to be some sort of cream soda with half whipped whipped cream flavored like butterscotch floating on top. The frozen version is the same, just with frozen cream soda like a slurpee.
We enjoyed our butterbeers while we waited in line to go into Ollivander's wand shop. Yes there is a line to go into a store, but what happens is once you enter the wand shop its like you're entering the world of Harry Potter. All of the staff are in character, and in your group (they only let in about 12 people at a time), they pick one person to go through the whole wand picking experience just like the movie. They try out their wands and stuff is flinging off the shelves, they choose the right wand and lights shine and wind blows and magical music plays. It was a lot of fun!
Unfortunately after the "show" we were filtered into the world's most expensive HP gift shop. I had wanted so badly to get a scarf, but at $34, I could just make my own :P I did, however, get myself a Gryffindor pin. JK Rowling is likely rolling in the dough just from the merch at this place, good lord it's more expensive than Disney! We also went into Honeydukes and got our families some goodies. I got my stepsisters some Every Flavour Beans (which was fun watching them eat) and snowwolfmystic got her parents some chocolate frogs, which even came with a collectible trading card!
We got lunch at the Three Broomsticks
As far as theme park restaurants go, this one is worth eating at. The food is actually really good, and though it's expensive, you get a LOT of food. We got the Shepherd's Pie meal, a chocolate trifle (which was omg, way sweet, we shared it and we didn't even finish half of it), some butterbeer (Snow couldn't resist) and I got some apple cider.
I will say something else about our experience, is that the staff was amazing all throughout this portion of the park. You could tell they liked their jobs and really were getting into it. This made the overall experience even more magical. And all the people who were in this portion of the park were major HP fans. We'd be in line somewhere and people would go "You're a Gryffindor? ME TOO! What's your favorite book? I thought this ride could have used more Voldemort, etc. etc." It was like everyone was just as excited and giddy and giggly as we were :D It was like what I imagine a Potter-con would be like, but with rides.
Since we had done everything in the Harry Potter section of the park, we ventured to other places. We rode the Hulk coaster twice which was, oh my god...amazing. It is a very very good coaster that launches you up the hill before dropping, and then you go through a tunnel of fog.
There was also some ride called Dr. Doom's Fearfall, which didn't actually fall. It's one of those tower/freefall looking rides, and everything mentions the "fall" part, but what really happens is you sit in the car and it shoots you up at a moderate speed and then FLOATS back down. It is ridiculous, and not worth it.
We stayed away from the acid trip that was Dr. Seuss World, neither of us really dig that, but if you're into it, it's like walking through Dr. Seuss' brain.
We did go through the Jurassic Park themed part, although we didn't ride the ride. I've been on it before, and while yes it is fun, we weren't really keen on the threat of getting wet. But we did find these really nifty hats!
We kept walking through this section of the park right before HP World that was Lost Continent/Atlantis themed and we thought, wow, what a great set design! Surely there must be something awesome in there! We asked a staff member what it was and she said it was a walking tour of Atlantis. HECK YES SIGN US UP!
Anything with a man-armed sea gryphon has to be awesome right?
When we got in there, it was some actor acting like he and someone named "The Professor" had stumbled upon a temple where Neptune and some other dude duked it out, and now we've angered them and oh no they're going to fight again. We went into one room stood around and watched this actor do his thing, then we walked into another room and stood around, watched this actor talk to himself, then walked into ANOTHER room and watched him talk to himself AND some projections of Neptune in some epic battle armor WITH pyrotechnics.
It was horrible.
They could totally have used that beautiful set design for something not so lame XD But ah well.
We cheered ourselves up with this camel eating ice cream
And there you have it!