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. :)
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!