the boy who lived [universal studios]

21 Jul

I still remember when we first met.

I was probably in second grade, and as an avid reader was perusing the many aisles of books in my elementary school library. As I scanned the multi-colored shelves, a glint of gold lettering caught my eye. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, the title read. It looked as good as any of the books I spent my time poring over, so I checked it out.

A few weeks later, in our class library session, the librarian pulled it out to recommend it to the class. Some years later, the book exploded with a popularity unlike any I’d ever seen. Some fourteen years later, I sat in tears as the curtain closed on the final installment of the movie series.

I could sit here and talk about the movie and the books coming to an end, but let’s be honest, everyone else has already done that. Did they cut some things that I wish they hadn’t? Yes. Did I love it anyways? Of course. And did I feel like some part of my childhood was coming to a close as I saw my favorite characters projected into the future with children of their own, and careers? Yes. But ultimately, the magical creations of J.K. Rowling will live on in the books and movies for more people to enjoy, & rather than bore you while I wax poetic about what a genius that woman is, I’ll just show you some pictures of my OWN trip to Hogwarts. :)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando

The humidity also gave me Hermione-hair… fitting, right?

I’m not the hugest fan of Universal Studios in general; it lacks the attention to detail and overall magical aura of its Disney counterparts. Their homage to Harry Potter, however, was rife with such detail and, as such, attracted zillions of people. Yes, zillions. Technical term. We were there right as the park opened and within 30 minutes the most popular ride already had a 45 minute wait. Of course, the line is actually vaguely entertaining as it takes you on a tour through Hogwarts, but still.

The dilapidated buildings and cobblestone streets all look perfectly straight out of the movies and books. Zonko’s is fantastic, with the shelves piled high with all sorts of useless but utterly amusing toys & tricks.

The adjoining Honeydukes is similarly colorful, and they do sell every-flavor beans & chocolate frogs.

However, it’s all rather small. There are only 3 rides, the main one being “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”, housed in the replica of Hogwarts castle.

But the admission to the park is totally worth the one ride; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever ridden. You’re basically attached to a robotic arm that swivels and takes you through scenes from the movies, sometimes in physical form and sometimes projected on a big screen. You actually feel like you’re darting through the castle on a broomstick; it’s absolutely incredible. As mentioned, the line is obscenely long (2 hours at its longest when we were there) but you can get on within 30 minutes on the single-rider line, though this does mean you miss the tour through Hogwarts.

I will say that the “storyline” of the ride is a little unclear; it basically just feels like you’re following Harry on some nameless journey going through a few of the scenes. But it’s all still fairly magical, so it’s forgiven.

My parents fail at focusing with my DSLR…

The other ride worth mentioning is the Dragon Challenge. It’s a moderately intense roller coaster where you’re hanging DOWN from the tracks rather than riding on them, which also lends itself to a feeling of flying. I really enjoyed it, though a lot of the views you see are just industrial buildings (which doesn’t really add to the aura much). Still worth riding. We didn’t even do the Hippogriff ride; it’s basically just there so the little kids have something they can ride and isn’t anything particularly special.

I did get a chance to try both pumpkin juice AND butterbeer; normally I’m not big on park food (not tasty, and exorbitantly expensive) but I was DYING to try both, so I did. :)

I loved both, and kind of want to try and make some form of Pumpkin Juice myself.

The Butterbeer tasted like a butterscotch candy in liquid form. Yum.

Overall, I loved the park, especially when it wasn’t overly crowded in the early morning (by afternoon there were lines to get into shops). Oh, and I guess there’s something cool at Ollivander’s wand shop but we were too lazy to wait in the line, so I’m not even sure what it is! I would say that I wish it were bigger; I think there’s a lot more room to expand and create all kinds of different rides and experiences and my head was spinning with new ideas as I left.

Recommendations: Get there early & go through a somewhat shortened version of the Forbidden Journey ride, then go back for seconds & thirds via the single-rider line :) And fork up the money for some pumpkin juice!

Other notable attractions at Universal are the E.T. ride in the main part of the park, and the whole Dr. Seuss section which was freaking adorable.

Yes, I AM four years old.

Thoughts on Universal Studios?
Who here is a Potter fan? :) I’m actually not a die-hard… read all the books at least once or twice, and LOVE them, but I’m not obsessive. I do think J. K. Rowling is ridiculously creative though; how she came up with all of those details is totally beyond me!


40 Responses to “the boy who lived [universal studios]”

  1. debbiecutieface July 21, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    I’m so jealous! I love Harry Potter!

  2. Katie July 21, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    Mike and I were talking about this last night and how we want to go! It looks great! We saw the HP movie last night, so thats why we thought of the Harry Potter Park at Universal !

    U look beautiful! Glad you are having fun!

  3. Tara July 21, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    This just made me soooo excited to go! 2 weeks!! Ahhhh i love harry potter. My mom and I were just discussing that she wants to buy a full set of the books for her future grandchildren. She’s afraid they won’t exist anymore because of kindles! That’s true motherly love there.

  4. katshealthcorner July 21, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    I LOVE HARRY POTTER!!! You are so lucky to go there! I WISH!

  5. cinnamonalicious July 21, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    I’m SO JEALOUS!! It’s been my absolute dream to go there for years!!

  6. hippierunner July 21, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    You are so cute! I would die if I were there, it looks AMAZING! I like Universal Studios Hollywood, since I like seeing the behind the scenes of movies etc. Wish the Harry Potter park were here, that would be sooo much closer!

  7. Thais July 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    I remember the day i first picked up harry potter. i needed a new book to read and i remember there being such a damn hype about it i decided WHY NOT. so i picked up the first year paperback. he was eleven years old. i was eleven years old. i was HOOKED. and i cannot believe 11 years later, the stories are done. the movies are made. and it’s coming to an end. TEARS

  8. fashionfitnessfoodie July 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    i really, really REALLY want to visit disney right now!

  9. Isabelle@cheesymiteapples July 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Butterbeers!! I love Harry Potter.
    Your so lucky to have this experience

  10. Amanda @ Running with Spoons July 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    I got the same kind of vibe from Universal Studios as you did… it was alright, but definitely didn’t hold a candle compared to Disneyland. But then again, what place can, really ;) It’s great that you enjoyed your time in HP land, though. I’m not really the biggest HP fan, but the books and movies are a nice little escape :)

  11. Jess July 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Love harry potter–that place looks SOOO good. disney obviously did a fantastic job!!

  12. Lindsay@LivingLindsay July 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    You totally made me want to go and visit now! Oh my goodness – I had no idea it was such a huge attraction!!

  13. Katy (The Singing Runner) July 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    I love Harry Potter world! So much fun, but so crowded!!!!

  14. Tessa @ Amazing Asset July 22, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    Gahh I am so so jealous, I want to go to this park quite badly! I am rather obsessed with HP as well, rereading the series every summer is the just the best :)

  15. kaceytorres July 22, 2011 at 7:06 am #

    love your pictures! i was able to go to harry potter world last summer and had a blast! and butterbeer is so delicious! i think my favorite part was the whipped cream! we need a recipe!

  16. megpinkgiggles July 22, 2011 at 7:51 am # I am so envious!

  17. sugarcoatedsisters July 23, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Ahhh I want to go there soooo badly! My sister, Lauren, would love it too. I want to convince my mom to take us there for her 25th birthday. We are such kids ;)

    – Nicole

  18. Kate (What Kate is Cooking) July 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    I am so jealous! I would looooove to go there! My friend went recently and loved it.

  19. Kelsey @ Snacking Squirrel July 24, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    hehe i love your Harry Potter drink!! These pictures are fantastic and really what better timing with the last of the movies! So fun, totally wish i was there too!!

    xoxo <3

  20. Ellie@fitforthesoul July 25, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    haha I think we all agree we want to try the punkin juice+butterbeer! What an interesting place indeed~

  21. Brittany July 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    So jealous, so jealous, SO JEALOUS!! I NEED to go here!!! I LOVE HP! My best friend and I have been talking about making a trip to visit this land soon. Great pics and descriptions, I cannot WAIT to go!!

  22. Ma Ma Megan July 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    i LOVE that they sell pumpkin juice. haha I need to go here, I am harry potter obsessed :)

  23. Rach @ This Italian Family July 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Oh my goodness, I would LOVE to go to this! It all sounds so amazing! Glad you got to enjoy it all, girl! I grew up reading Harry Potter so I’ve always loved the books. I was 10 when the first one came out in 1997 so I literally grew up with Harry and Ron and Hermione. :) Good stuff!

  24. Jayme @ Runner-n-Spice July 29, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    I want to go there soo badly! I’m very jealous!!

  25. thebeautynotebooks July 30, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Love the photos! I have fond memories of reading Harry Potter :)

  26. pawsitivelife July 31, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Ahhh Harry Potter. I started on book four and then went back to read 1-3. Then whenever a new book came out i re read all the books. crazy potter fan! I actually have a serious crush on professor snape….shhhhhh!

  27. Kelsey @ Snacking Squirrel August 1, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    zZZZ-omg! Honeydukes candy <3 hehe
    Harry Potter has the best stage sets and scenes- and in my opinion, the best ever made! Universal studios went over the top to bring a lot of that alive for the visitors- it looks fabulous! <3


  28. Ashley August 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    i am ob.sessed. i think it’s because i truly grew up with the books, and they are absolutely my “comfort reads”. if i’m down, bored, nostalgic, whatever, i just crack one open and bliss out. i don’t really own any of the merchandise, but know all the books front to back and back to front! i wanted to go to universal to see that, but now i’m not sure it’s worth the 1,000 mile trip! i also have an absolutely rockin recipe for butterbeer…maybe it needs to go up on my blog! it’s warm and fizzy and crazy good.

  29. Rachel T August 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    going to HP world is very high up on my bucket list. and i won’t lie- i’m a HUGE potter fan. i’m still depressed that it’s somewhat over- yet i haven’t given up hope there’ll be more. not gonna lie again, i teared up a bit at the beginning of this post. harry, ron, hermione, and all the hogwarts crew (well obviously not slytherin) have been such good friends

  30. Alexandra (Veggin' Out in the Kitchen) August 3, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    I’m definitely a Harry Potter fan!! So jealous you got to go to HP land! ;) My best friend went there this summer too. Everyone got to go but me ;) Haha, at least I get to see all the amazing pictures :D

    And you looks absolutely gorgeous in all your pictures! Especially that last one – too cute! :)

    Hope you’re doing well girl!

    <3 <3

  31. BrittFit August 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    i’m sooooo jealous!!!! looks like a blast:)

  32. IHeartVegetables August 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Aw that looks like a fun day!!! I’m not super into harry potter, but I did like the books back in the day :) my roommate is obsessed!

  33. peacebeme August 15, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    I am a major Harry Potter fan! JK Rowling is an amazing creative genius. I get so annoyed trying to explain that to people who have never read the books and think I am just a dork!

  34. Alexa @ Simple Eats August 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I am insanely jealous. I bet the two hours is completely worth it! Awesome post, girl!

  35. blackbookkitchendiaries August 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    wow! it looks like you had a ton of fun! so happy for you. i cant wait to go there myself someday. thanks for sharing..cheers!!

  36. Matt @ The Athlete's Plate August 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    You know I love me some HP :)

  37. Little Miss Fitness August 27, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    I love Harry Potter. :) My husband and I checked out the Wizarding World this spring and were in love with Butter Beer and Hogsmede. So fun!

    I have to admit, I could go for a Harry Potter marathon this lazy Saturday afternoon. :)

  38. Erin August 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Hi! Just came across your blog and enjoyed this post. I just visited the Wizarding World this summer and loved it too…looked like you enjoyed yourself. Have a great sunday!

  39. GetSkinnyGoVegan September 9, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Don’t even know the Harry Potter stories, but this looks like a blast!

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