Monday, December 23, 2013

Living Like Harry Potter at Universal Studios

On Monday we prepared ourselves for a different type of magic… the magic of wizards at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Although neither John nor I are crazy Harry fanatics (I’ve read half the books and John has seen the movies), we’ve both wanted to visit the park for quite some time.

Harry Potter World is located inside the Universal Studios theme park known as Islands of Adventure.
When we arrived we were met with large crowds and long lines.  We overheard a funny conversation as we walked through the turnstiles.  A mom said to the gate attendant, “We’ve got two grandparents with us who aren’t going to ride the rides, they don’t need tickets, do they?”  Seriously lady?  In that case, I’m not going to be riding the rides either.

Once inside it was quite the journey to find the wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter.  First, we walked though the Marvel themed section of the park.

Then we passed through the Comic Strip section of the park.  The comics featured are from the olden days, and most I’ve never heard of.

I did recognize Popeye.  John and I spent some time exploring his ship.  We especially enjoyed shooting water at the guests sailing past below.

The next island was based on the Jurassic Park movies.  We visited a cool dinosaur museum.  We even got to watch a baby dinosaur hatch from an egg!

[Lydia was getting owned at dinosaur trivia by this little Asian kid.]

Finally, after shuffling our way though the crowd on the Lost Continent, we made it to Harry Potter!

Unfortunately, the wizarding world was also packed.  People were smashed together like sardines.  We tried looking through some shops, I was hoping for some magic candies, but there were so many people we couldn’t even see the shelves.  We made a quick exit and headed towards the ride titled Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  We’d heard many great things about this ride, but apparently many others had too.  The wait was over two hours long!

At this point, we decided we needed a new strategy.  We knew from our past experience at Disney, that the crowds slowly diminish as the day wears on.  As such, we made the decision to leave Harry behind, explore the land of Dr. Seuss and return later in the day.

Although Seuss landing was crowded, it was manageable.  Our first stop was The Cat in the Hat ride.  We loaded into the seats meant to look like couches and were sent on a journey though the book.  Of course we met the cat, the wise goldfish, and many other crazy Dr. Seuss characters.

Outside the ride we ran in to some characters from Whoville.  They even had funny noses like in the movie, but we weren’t quick enough to snap a picture.  We also stopped by the restaurant known as McGurks.  It reminded us of the bar by the same name in Soulard.

[Lydia made an eccentric friend outside of McGurks. The stranger from a strange land insisted Lydia take multiple pictures of her in different odd poses. It was pretty hilarious.]

Later in the day we also took a whirl around the Dr. Seuss theme of carousel.

Finally, it was time to return to Harry Potter World.  Although, it was still very far from empty, it was somewhat easier to get around.  Our first stop was the Three Broomsticks restaurant to sample the ever-popular Butterbeer. [If I do say so myself, this was a genius move on our part. There were lines outside for Butterbeer that I overheard were 30 minutes long. In the restaurant it took about 3.] We also tried Pumpkin juice and the Harry Potter beer known as Hog’s Head Brew.

It was all absolutely fantastic!  I could drink Butterbeer everyday.  Unfortunately, the recipe is under tight security and the only place in the world to buy Butterbeer is Universal Studios.  Bummer bro!

While waiting in line to make our purchase, we overhead a bit of interesting Butterbeer trivia.  J.K. Rowling has the Butterbeer under copyright and therefore it always has to be made true to the recipe.  For example, it cannot be served without the white cream on top.  They also won’t add alcohol to the Butterbeer.  You can’t even order a shot and Butterbeer separately (we tried.)

After slurping down our delightful drinks, we headed back towards Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  The line was still two hours log, but we decided to stick it out this time.

Eventually, about an hour and a half into it, the line became pretty exciting as we entered the Hogwarts castle.  Snaking through the line we were first entertained by a hall of talking portraits.  Next, we walked through Dumbledore’s office where he spoke to us from his desk.  Finally, Harry, Ron, and Hermione met us in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  The characters were somehow projected onto the wall in a way that made them look totally real.  It was definitely the coolest line I’ve ever waited in.

[One small part of the whole experience that was pretty awful was the locker room at about the midpoint of the ride's line. It was sort of like the locker room at the United Nations. The system was set up to associate your fingerprint with your locker so you could retrieve your stuff later. People forgot which finger they had used to get their locker. They forgot which locker was theirs. They waited in long lines leading up to the locker computer only to discover there were no vacant lockers, and were then forced to wait until someone else retrieved their stuff. They held up the whole process in many different languages. It was an absolute madhouse.]

The ride itself was even better!  We were loaded into roller coaster like seats with safety bars over our shoulders.  Then Harry, Ron, and Hermonie led us on a crazy adventure complete with fire-breathing dragons, talking trees, and flying broomsticks.  It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and therefore quite difficult to describe.  The ride was able to simulate flying by moving our seats while simultaneously displaying images on a screen in front of us.  The screens were seamlessly mixed with 3D animatronics of spiders, dragons, and trees. Although the wait was long, it was totally worth it!

Another surreal experience happened in the wand shop.  We were led in the door with about twenty other people. Once inside, one lucky audience member was selected for the wand demonstration.  The wizard on duty provided her with a series of wands to try.  The first two wands didn’t work out so well – the first led to crash of thunder and a bolt of lightening and the second caused a stack of wands to fall high up on the shelves – but the third wand was perfect.  The lady said the charm “Lumos” and light appeared.  The wand chose her!

We were then led out of the wand demonstration room, and given the opportunity to buy one for ourselves.

[The couple of candies we bought were really cool. They were chocolate with pop rocks inside, so they "whizzed" and "exploded" while you ate them. I thought it was a very creative try at magical candy.]

After a second round of Butterbeer, we decided to call it a successful day of magic!

No comments:

Post a Comment