My Date with Harry Potter in Universal Orlando

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade, June 20, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando opened on Friday and today I spent about four hours in the attraction. Was it worth the drive? I’m still mulling that over but initially, I’m saying “yes.” Here are my quick thoughts about my experience.

I arrived too early. I thought arriving right around the time the park opened would grant me quicker access into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter but it didn’t. I arrived around 9:45 (park opens at 9 a.m.) and looking at the map, I walked to the right and followed the signs to Harry Potter. When I arrived, me and others were told it was the exit to the Wizarding World and had to go back and walk past the Hulk Coaster where I stood in line for about 45 minutes.

Around noon, I noticed there wasn’t a line to enter the attraction. Hmm, perhaps I should have enjoyed other attractions in Islands of Adventure and then headed over to the Wizarding World.

Inside Hogwarts Waiting for Harry Potter Forbidden Journey Ride
Inside Hogwarts Waiting for Harry Potter Forbidden Journey Ride

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Unsure where everything was, I thought I was being smart by going straight for the Harry Potter and Forbidden Journey Ride, which is located immediately to the left after entering the Wizarding World. It was a 90-minute wait (the sign read 120-minutes) with about half of it in the blazing Florida sun. But, the line moved relatively quickly moving into a greenhouse (not the best place to be in 90 degree temps) then inside. It was very entertaining seeing the paintings move – just as they do in the Potter movies, seeing Professor Dumbledore, then Harry, Ron and Hermione  (all appeared thanks to technology), and the interior of Hogwarts Castle.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Wand Chooses Girl
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Wand Chooses Girl - June 20, 2010

With high ceilings, stone walls, and tools of the wizarding trade, I really felt as though I was inside the castle as depicted in the Harry Potter books and movie. Honestly, I wish there was more time to enjoy the scenery.

As for the Forbidden Journey – “wow!” The technology is amazing but it’s a little too “dark”. I mean, there was some scary stuff and I’m 40-years-old! Spiders spit (I wondered why the ride cart was wet when I boarded and later found out why), a dragon chased us and the Dementors are really FRIGHTENING! But, there were “happy” moments – such as coming along on a quidditch match and I felt triumphant when Harry saved me from the Dementors. I’m prone to motion sickness, especially when watching shaky cinematography, and felt a little bit queasy, but thankfully, I didn’t puke on anyone.

The ride dumps in Filtch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and although I would have loved to look around, it was soooo crowded I just wanted out.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hogsmeade
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hogsmeade - June 20, 2010

There are three rides in the Wizarding World, the other two, Flight of the Hippogriff (a relatively easy-going coaster) and Dragon Challenge (thrilling coaster) had short wait times, about 15 minutes.

What I Should Have Done to Make the Most of My Visit
Rather than ride Forbidden Journey first, I should have stood in line for Ollivanders (the wand shop), then Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes for a selection of sweets. Because I didn’t do these first, I didn’t get into any of them and didn’t make it into Three Broomsticks, the counter service restaurant. The lines were crazy long, didn’t seem to move and I really couldn’t tell where one began.

Pouring Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Pouring Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - June 20, 2010

Does Butterbeer Live Up to the Hype?
One thing I noticed, just about everyone was drinking Butterbeer. Could it really be that tasty? OMG! Yes! I stood in line about 20 minutes at an outdoor cart and for just under $2.50, was given a cup of Butterbeer which tasted like slightly flat root beer (or maybe sarsaparilla) and topped with a caramel whipped topping. It tasted just as I imagined it would when I read the books.

Another beverage I tried was the pumpkin spice juice. It tasted like cold spiced apple cider. Yummy, but expensive at $6 + change for a bottle. Although the little plastic  pumpkin on top was cute.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Frog Choir and Fans
Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Frog Choir and Fans - June 20, 2010

Prefects and Singing Frogs
“Excuse us, we’re prefects coming through,” a young man shouted with a hint of assertiveness in his voice. A troupe of young men in brown and ladies in powder blue dresses marched passed. These kids had attitude and they entertained the masses periodically with the Triwizard Spirit Rally. The Frog Choir made appearances when the Spirit Rally retired. Hogwarts students carried large frogs on pillows and proceeded to sing. This was a fab way to pass the time in line for Forbidden Journey. All posed for photos with fans.

Dedicated Potter Fans
Another observation were the dedicated fans. Many tweens and teens were dressed in wizard garb (and they were not Universal’s staff). Others wore customized T-shirts with slogans related to Harry Potter, such as “Hogwarts Hottie” and “Muggle Clan.” I saw some teens crying with excitement upon entering Hogsmeade. Seriously.

Good stuff, unfortunately I didn’t snap any photos of the customized T-shirts (or crying teens) but, I do have additional photos from the day over on Flickr.

Indeed, I felt as though I was in Hogsmeade and Universal has done a terrific job in meeting expectations of Potter fans. Visiting alone was okay but I would have really liked someone to share the magical experience. Can’t wait to return when I can enjoy the entire Wizarding World.

Orlando Things To Do



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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