Theme Park Review: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
A Muggle's Visit to Hogsmeade
For Harry Potter fans, a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the Islands of Adventure Theme Park at Universal Orlando Resort is an amazing experience. The recreation of Hogsmeade in a perpetual winter landscape is extraordinary in its attention to detail. You can finally visit some of the stores that you could only watch during a Harry Potter movie. If you get thirsty, enjoy a pint of butterbeer and finally taste what Harry, Hermione, and Ron were drinking. Afterwards stroll over to the three thrill rides that will make your stomach churn.
The best way to enter The Wizarding World is past The Lost Continent; upon entering the archway you will see Hogwarts Express and may be greeted by its earnest conductor. The sight immediately transports you and you are in Hogsmeade. Feel free to take a picture with the conductor in front of the Express, you'll have plenty of company. As you walk the cobble stone streets of Hogsmeade, you can see the store windows of Zonkos, Honeyduke's, Ollivander's, The Owl Post, and Dervish and Bangles. A part of me knows that all these stores are part of an extraordinary marketing effort to cash in on the Harry Potter books and movies by tempting me to buy all sorts of Harry Potter merchandising, but it is really a remarkable experience to walk in any of these stores and be made to feel like you are in that world. I can finally buy some of Bertie Bott's jelly beans and eat one and hope that I don't taste the flavor of ear wax. I can watch a wand pick its wizard with the help of the wand guy at Ollivander's. And there are muggles everywhere. To prevent boredom, some of the Hogwarts students have come down to entertain them by singing acapella and have brought their singing toads with them. After a brief prepping you'll enjoy some fine tunes.
Hogwarts Toad Choir
Harry Potter Thrill Rides
And of course you have to go on the thrill rides. The number one attraction is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and of course there are long lines, but once you enter the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry you will walk through many fine exhibits before you get to the ride: The Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom with Harry, Hermione, and Ron warning you of the dangers ahead of you, The Portrait Gallery where past wizards and witches converse among themselves, Dumbledore's office, the sorting Hat and so forth. For this ride, you'll have to store away any bags and other stuff that you're carrying into a free temporary locker. The ride itself is an exhilarating mix of virtual imagery, special effects and thrill ride technology. You feel as if you are flying through the air but you really aren't and the ride itself is very short. Now if you really want a stomach churning experience, you will want to ride the Dragon Challenge. In my younger days I remember this ride as the duel of fire and ice dragons and it has been revamped to be part of the Harry Potter theme park. This ride has you sit on a suspended chair, your feet dangling as you go through loops and swirls and hang upside down. For a more traditional and heart friendly but still thrill-filled roller coaster ride, the Flight of the Hippogriff is a lot of fun.
If you're hungry, have a fine meal at Three Broomsticks and enjoy some traditional and hearty English fare such as shepherd's pie, fish and chips and Cornish pasty. At the back of the restaurant, the Hog's Head Pub offers butterbeer and other select beers to quench your thirst. I will leave it up to you whether you will enjoy butterbeer.
You can spend your whole day at The Wizarding World, there's lots to explore if you decide to come visit this theme park and indulge all your Harry Potter imaginations.
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