Wizarding World of Harry Potter
From engaging in a Quidditch match, to enjoying a meal at Three Broomsticks, or taking in the sights and sounds of Hogsmeade. You can enjoy all these and more at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has certainly raised Universal’s stature in the theme park arena in recent years – no longer seen as second-rated to Disney Theme Parks, it has captured the minds and imaginations of individuals across the world who have grown up with the Harry Potter franchise.
If you only have time for one theme park in Orlando, make it Universal’s Islands of Adventure and head straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter once park doors open. To head there in the quickest time possible, take the route via Seuss’s landing and you would be there no time. Be warned though – I had used this technique, but alas, everyone was heading in the same direction and I had to wait for an hour before I was able to enjoy the mega attraction of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. If you are not up for waiting, I would advise you to return later in the day, say two hours before closing time, as the crowd would have died down and waiting time would be reduced significantly to 15 minutes. But this requires an enormous tolerance to resist the temptation to have an opportunity to battle dementors and more.
Universal has clearly outdone itself with the excellent theming present in Hogsmeade. Staying true to the story, you would be able to experience the many magical shops that line up the lane – though it is to be cautioned that these shops are done up so attractively that it entices one to simply spend moolahs there! Many of the window displays are highly interactive – and you would be able to experience mandrakes screaming at a supposed plant shop, or even books that come alive! Even within the restrooms, you can hear moaning myrtles while taking a pee.
Ollivander’s Wand Shop
The experience at Ollivander’s Wand Shop was highly surreal. A small group of 15-25 guests would be ushered into Ollivander’s, and a lucky young guest would be selected to choose his or her first wand. Without revealing too much, the show would bring you through hysterical performances of how a kid uses his or her wand for the first time, causing all sorts of mishaps to occur in Ollivander’s, before finally finding the right wand! Do not be afraid of the long queue – each show tends to be about 5-10 minutes long, and can accommodate many people.
Food & Beverage
At Three Broomsticks itself, I was able to enjoy Rotisserie Smoked Chicken Platter (about US$12-$13), that came with roasted corn and roasted potatoes. While the food is nothing to rave about, you have to give credits for Universal’s effort at creating an atmosphere through the music and ambience. However, I would not recommend this restaurant if you would have to queue for it – simply for the fact that you can probably get cheaper and better food elsewhere, even within the rest of the theme park.
As for the much sought after Butterbeer, I must say that it is simply awesome. Obviously, it is a non-alcoholic drink so as to cater to even children. But this does not mean that Butterbeer is any less noteworthy. It comes in two versions – original or frosted (which is essentially ice-blended). Even though a cup of frosted Butterbeer costs more, I would say that it is my personal favourite. It comes with a sweet vanilla aftertaste!
This is highly similar to the concept of Battlestar Galactica at Universal Studios Singapore. Guests are able to choose between two roller coasters – Chinese or Hungarian Dragon. Unfortunately, both roller coasters lack the thrill of height that Battlestar Galactica presents, and you would be facing similar corkscrew movements. Nevertheless, the presentation is highly interactive within the queue area, as you would be able to see Hagrid’s hut and other stuffs along the way!
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Much have been said about Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (HPFJ), but to be really honest, it had surpassed all my expectations. When I first ride Transformers at Universal Studios Singapore, I had thought to myself that this was the ride to beat. Unfortunately, at that point, I have yet to experience HPFJ – and what an immersive experience it was. The presentation of Hogwarts Castle itself is remarkable – within the queue area, you would experience Hogwarts’ Greenhouse, a believable Gallery of Portraits that feature the Fat Lady and even the four founders of Hogwarts, Dumbledore’s Office and Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Do not rush through the queue area – or else you would miss the many props that have been beautifully selected and designed for this attraction!
On the ride itself, I would like to warn that it is not for the faint-hearted. During my visit, there was someone who had actually puked on the seat after the ride, causing the ride to temporarily cease operations so that they can conduct a clean-up. The ride is an entirely immersive experience – imagine Transformers meet Harry Potter. Same technologies have been used on this ride, but you would accompany the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermonie on a Quidditch escapade that had gone awry. On this journey, you would come face to face with dementors, and believe me, the ride goes through a fast-paced motion to ensure your safety from the dementors!
The text and photography do not do justice to the ride, so all I can say now is if you have the opportunity, do get on this journey! Or pray that the ride comes to a theme park near you (hopefully to Singapore too!).
Here is a YouTube video that I had shot of my experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: