Universal Orlando has been a huge attraction for years and has managed to be highly competitive with Disney World and other top rated attractions. What has always set it apart is its ability to be very creative. The magical world of Harry Potter offered this resort another challenge to dazzle tourists with never before seen rides, attractions and a chance to touch the reality of a world created from fantasy. After all, that is what made Harry Potter a worldwide phenomenon.
The author J.K. Rowling, enticed millions to read of a world of escape. Where ordinary didn’t exist. It was world where even a simple letter from your mother could carry a magical thrashing of sort. Everything was different and unique. Sadly, the Universal Orlando Resort missed this entire concept and instead showed fans that it was a budget that ruled over the magic of Harry Potter.
First, let’s start with your stay at the Universal Orlando Resort on-site hotels. One of the amenities of staying at these hotels, which are not cheap, compared to other hotels in the Orlando area is the use of your room key as a “fast pass.,” For the privilege of staying at one of the Loews hotels your key will allow you fast access, through a different line entrance, onto rides, which will greatly reduce your wait time. However, this does not apply to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Upon making your reservation, no where does the customer service rep tell you this. So be prepared to wait along with everyone else. Wait times can be as long as 2 hours, even for the shops. The only benefit is that you can enter the park one hour earlier than regular patrons. However, still expect a wait.
Second, is the layout. Since this attraction has a worldwide global appeal it would be expected that the location would be significantly large. Instead, the streets are narrow and the attraction area is very small. I was disappointed to say the least that I could collect sweat from every part of the globe. Now, it would be understandable that since the attraction is fairly new that there would be many people, however, compared to traffic flow in the rest of the park the layout should have been larger, even if it didn’t fit exactly with the movie. Even movies have limited seating. Dr. Seuss’s “Seuss Landing” has excellent traffic flow and is still able to maintain the feel of the books along with Jurassic Park.
Third, let’s discuss the rides. This is where the most disappointment is for a theme park with the reputation of incredible rides like Spider-Man, Men In Black, Revenge of the Mummy and more. Harry Potter is where Universal Orlando lost creativity and went with a recession minded budget. Having been to this theme park resort for many years, I know the rides. Two rides, in Island of Adventures, which I had enjoyed were “Dueling Dragons,” two upside down racing roller coasters and “The Unicorn,” another roller coaster but less thrilling. Well in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, these rides now exist as “Dragon Challenge” and “Flight of the Hippogriff.” They are the same rides with different names! How, un-magical is that! I actually was shocked when I realized what management at Islands of Adventure had done. This was far from being “magical.” So if you have been to Universal before don’t expect what the brochure tells you, “You’re PART of the most exhilarating entertainment ever CREATED.” Hardly, a house painted from blue to white is still the same house. It hasn’t been created. The only new ride is “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” which lacks the kind of interaction of The Mummy and Spider-Man and is rather boring compared to what one would expect.
Finally, the shops and the food. The shops, are again a huge disappointment. I waited for 30 minutes, to get into the candy shop. Yes, I know that is ridiculous. However, even more ridiculous is that I walked in expecting, “magical candy I have never seen or had before.” I got red licorice. Yep, plain old red licorice I could pick up anywhere. The best item to have if you do go to The Harry Potter Wizarding World attraction is the Butter Beer. A sweet drink that has a combination of taste between butterscotch and Carmel. Very tasty for $8.50 if you want to keep a souvenir plastic cup. The shops have very similar merchandise compared to others in the park. The food, nothing special.
Based on how creative J.K Rowling was with her stories of a boy and a world millions fell in love with, I am rather surprised she gave the go ahead to the lack luster of this attempt to bedazzle and satisfy her fans. If you are returning to Universal just to see Harry Potter, then don’t bother. Instead ,do it for all the other rides that made Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida one of the top attractions to visit in the world.