As the parent of a thirteen year-old Harry Potter fan (and an admitted fan myself) we couldn’t resist the urge to be one of the first through the gates of Universal’s newest attraction – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We got there early and stayed all day and got a first-hand account of what all the hype is about.
Was it worth it? Definitely – for a fan of either the books or the movies it allows the chance to walk through the world that Rowling’s has so vividly created.
Would I go again? Sure – but I would wait a few years until the crowds die down a bit and Universal has a chance to plant some trees in Hogsmeade!
The crowds were at times overwhelming which exacerbated and already sweltering day. We waited in line for over an hour just to enter the attraction and quickly discovered the day would involve more lines – even to enter the gift shop! The area is quite small which did not quite seem to accommodate the number of people wandering around. I am sure Universal conducted thorough research to establish the exact number that the attraction could accommodate at any given time (I heard 3000 was the magic number) but they were off by about 500 in my opinion! I would have rather waited longer in line to get in than to have been in such a confined area with so many people!
The owlery – a large covered pavilion adorned with realistic-looking owls (complete with owl poop!) is the only outdoor respite from the sun. It would be a lovely place for parents to while children walked around Hogsmeade – that is IF you can get a seat!
The crowds could have ruined the day if it weren’t for the fact that the place is just amazing! I can honestly say it lived up to our expectations. The buildings breathtaking in their realism – you feel like you are in fact right there inside the movie. The shops (once you wait to get inside) are exactly what you would have imagined them to be – Honeydukes, Zonko’s, Olivanders are all represented! There is an owl post where you can actually send a letter.
We had Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice (neither were delicious to us but worth trying) from authentic-looking street vendors complete with barrels! The Chocolate Frogs, sold in Honeydukes are huge! Buy one and share because it is just to hot to carry them around!
The Three Broomsticks Restaurant was a highlight. Once again, we waited a long time to get in there but once we were in, the food was delicious, especially for an amusement park, and the staff was super friendly! The menu boasts English fare from fish n’ chips to Shepherds Pie. Even our dessert, a lovely chocolate trifle, was delicious!
There are only three rides and I will save the best for last! I did not go on either of the roller coasters (not a fan) but my daughter loved the Dragon Challenge! The Flight of the Hippogriff seemed to be more of a family roller coaster which wasn’t her favorite but she did go on twice.
Last but most definitely not least, The Forbidden Journey was unlike any ride I have experienced before. It is part virtual reality, part motion ride, that took you, literally, through highlights of the Harry Potter movies. From Dementors to Dragons to a Quidditch Match – it would have been amazing if it weren’t that the scenes were from the beloved stories!
Getting to the ride was an adventure, too. Even though it was a 75 minute wait, it went fast as you walked through the herbology greenhouse, and then Hogwarts itself. To actually walk past the staircase to Dumbeldore’s office was almost surreal! I could not for the life of me figure out the exact technology used to create the moving pictures but could have stood and stared at them all day.
The Holograms of Dubmledore, Harry, Hermione, and Ron were so realistic, I saw a bit of disappointment in my nieces face when she realized it wasn’t, in fact, Daniel Radcliffe stopping by to see how we were enjoying our day!
All in all an amazing experience I am glad to have shared with my child and nieces. I didn’t think it possible, but I know my daughter has seemed to become even more of an HP fan after the visit! I am so glad we went and also glad I didn’t pay attention to my initial impulse to go on over to Disney after I saw the throng of people!