It has been common knowledge around here that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I don’t actually remember where I first heard about the books or what first got me started reading them, I only remember that I started becoming a fan when I was pregnant with Trysten. Zach and I used to sit out on our front porch together, he would read me Harry Potter drink wine and have a cigar while I rocked on our porch swing. We were only 20-years-old at the time so I remember feeling like I was straddling two completely different worlds: the young adult in me loved the books for myself-the sense of adventure, etc and the soon to be mom in me loved them for the child I was about to have.
Since then, the books and the movies have only meant more and more to me. Trysten started reading them in 1st grade and just yesterday completed his 4th time through the series. He and I bond over all things Potter. In him I see the reader I have always been, able to pick out every nuance and subtlety within the pages. I love that his favorite books also happen to be mine, but even more than that I love that he sees the themes of friendship, loyalty, bravery, sacrifice and love. He totally understands why I have “Expecto Patronum” tattooed on my arm, which is a pretty cool thing to share with my eldest.
Tariku is on the 5th book and has also started really loving it, though it’s hard to tell if he loves them for what they are or if he just loves staying up a little later watching the movie once he’s completed the book (that’s a household rule-have to read the book before watching any movie based off a book). 😉 He doesn’t pour as much into reading as Trysten and I do so often he’s a little lost with the movies as well or can’t predict what’s about to happen. Nevertheless, I perhaps see more of Harry’s characteristics in him more than anyone else in my family.
Dailah is also almost done with the first book and is really enjoying the whole thing. She, too, doesn’t have the memory of an elephant such as Trysten and myself but gets by with her avid imagination. I can see that above all else is what she loves about the series-it requires a stellar imagination.
Tomas and Binyam have yet to be interested in reading the series, but after visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that has changed!
All of this to say, I am obsessed with all things Potter. When my mom and I were talking about what we were going to see in Florida, I told her there was no way I could go to Florida and not have, at least, Trysten and me go to Potter World. After some discussion, Zach and I realized we would doubtfully ever get to go back so we might as well have everyone experience it whether or not they were
crying with joy at the thought excited.
We chose to get the 1 day pass just for Islands of Adventure so we didn’t see anything in the regular Universal Studios park. Right when we got there I put the petal to the metal on my motorized scooter towards The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. *goosebumps, shudder, tears*
Now would be a great time to tell you that if you’re a fan of the series, you will not be disappointed in the Wizarding World. I read that JK Rowling was very specific about the World looking exactly as it does in the movies and perfectly described in her books and I believe it! Moaning Myrtle was in the bathrooms, there were newspapers with moving characters and of course these: butterbeer and pumpkin juice (both REALLY delicious!)
We went to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride first. “Ride” is not even what it should be called, “experience” is more accurate. We didn’t wait on any lines here either but if we had, the stuff shown while waiting for this experience was amazing. This experience actually takes place in Hogwarts, truth be told I got a little teary eyed walking into the castle.
Right away you walk through Professor Sprout’s greenhouse before entering the castle. Look for many of the plants mentioned in the series including the mandrakes! After that, into Hogwarts you go! You’ll recognize much of the little things within the castle, including the Mirror of Erised, Potions classroom, Sorting Hat, Triwizard cup and the house points.
After walking through some of the castle, you find Dumbledore’s office with a projection of Dumbledore just above his desk. Make sure you point out the pensieve to your kids, only thing missing was Fawkes the Phoenix.
Then you move on the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione greet you. They let you know you’ll be able to fly through the castle undetected, etc because Hermione (of course) has figured out a way.
As far as the actual ride goes, it was amazing. I have pretty terrible motion sickness so for the parts that were simulating riding on a broom I had to close my eyes (I was legit getting “the puke sweats” as I call them). The ride goes from broom simulation to real life action (in the castle) at one point bringing you face to face with dementors where I enjoyed hearing many a Klipsch kid yelling, “Expecto Patronum” and saving us all! 🙂
We did ride this twice and simply cannot be missed if you’re able to go to Universal Studios.
Next we were off to the Flight of the Hippogriff which is really mild and fun for all ages, keep your eyes peeled for Hagrid’s Hut and Buckbeak himself!
Myself and the kiddos ended up checking out the rest of Potter World while Zach, my mom and dad tried the Dragon Challenge. They really loved it but did mention it’s pretty intense.
We decided to tour the rest of Islands of Adventure
while we let my stomach settle to see what was about. First going to Seuss Landing.
Suess Landing was really great, most of my babes were a bit old for the rides and attractions but Dailah, Bean and Tomas actually got excited to see the characters.
We ended up riding The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, One Fish Two Fish and The Cat in the Hat. All of them were just fine, a bit boring but if you have kids any younger than ours make sure you check them out.
Trysten is also a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series (I read them and enjoyed them as well but, let’s just say, Rick Riordan is no JK Rowling) so we went by Poseidon’s Fury but didn’t take any of the rest of the tours of The Lost Continent.
Next on to Toon lagoon where we rode Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. Super fun! We got drenched, so mind your Ps and Qs before going on this one!
Marvel Super Hero Island is THE place for the thrill seeker! And by “thrill seeker” I mean “Zach, mom and dad”. 🙂 Everyone but the littles and myself (they were too small, I just didn’t feel like throwing up that day) rode Doctor Doom’s Fearfall and loved it enough to ride it right after. The thrill seekers rode The Incredible Hulk Coaster, managed to live through it and tell great tales about its awesomeness afterwards so if that’s your thing-by all means!
Everyone rode The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and even though I got the puke sweats on that one too, I have to say it’s incredible. The technology is just out of this world! Everything is so well done that it feels like a complete 4-D experience. Even our littles loved how real it felt!
Even if you don’t like rides, the atmosphere on Marvel Island is really cool. There are characters everywhere! If I were a comic book fan at all I would’ve been completely jonesing when 8 of the characters came from their various stations to hop on their motorcycles and zoom out of the park-super cool!
After eating a picnic lunch back in the car we returned once more for Harry Potter world. First making a pit stop at Jurassic Park.
Our longest wait for a ride anywhere the whole week was in Jurassic Park for the Pterandon Flyers. We waited 45 minutes for this 80 second ride. The ride is actually specifically for children so if you don’t have a child with you they will not let you go at all. It was fun but please, please skip it if there’s anything resembling a line. Definitely not worth it. Though I must say for me, I enjoyed a little break in the action and also watching these two who behave so similarly it’s creepy.
Jurassic Park River Adventure was enjoyed by all, particularly because you don’t get nearly as wet as you think you’ll get! Even if this one says there’s a line I’d wait it out-over 20 people can fit on a boat and there are lots of boats going at any given time.
Finally, we returned
home back to Potter.
If you’re going to do family pictures and all of that, take them on the backside of Hogsmeade (coming from Jurassic Park) there were a lot fewer people and better views of Hogwarts!
My parents promised the kiddos a wand so we waited in line at Olivander’s. Let me break for a moment and tell you that you really have to do this, even if you don’t plan on getting a wand. They escorted about 20 of us into the shop…
Tariku was chosen to come forward (squeal!). I have video of what happened next but it’s not wanting to upload. Regardless, if you’ve seen the first movie when Harry’s wand is chosen the same thing happens in the shop. Tariku’s wand chose him “for protection, creativity and self-discipline.” Olivander went on to say, “Clearly, your loyalty is much admired among your friends.” I. was. crying. Tariku was beaming, it was such a cool moment!!! Seriously, whether you’re fans or not check out Olivander’s! After that we were all shuffled in to the next part of the shop that houses all of the wands both character wands and wands that might pick you for other reasons.
All of our kids (and my dad!) chose wands that were perfectly matched for them.
As hard as it was to leave The Wizarding World, we had to do so as the park closed at 7pm. I ended up purchasing a few things in the gift shop, because, of course.
I must say this: Universal was so cool! If there’s any way for you to make it there please do yourself a favor and go! It was really interesting to me how different a feel Universal was from Disney. Say what you want about Disney, but they sure know how to have their brand permeate throughout their parks. Every “cast member” is happy, loving and patient everywhere you go which was not really the case with Universal. Universal felt grittier and a bit darker but it is also marketed towards a slightly different audience (20-40 years).
I must also say there is a very good chance upon retirement I force Zach and myself to move to Florida so I can work at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-I think I would make a most excellent Professor McGonagall don’t you?