The other day when I told you all about our trip to Disney World, I neglected to mention our side trip to Universal Studios. Our purpose for going there was to see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but you can't very well spend $85 to see one small section of an amusement park, so we bought tickets to see all of Universal—Islands of Adventure and the Studios park.
I'm not a roller coaster rider, so we didn't want to spend all day at Islands. We went there first just to see Harry Potter, which is one section of the place, like Jurassic Park and Dr. Seuss land are sections. Harry Potter World is off in the corner, and either we took a wrong turn, or you literally have to walk through the weird world of Dr. Seuss to get there. It's basically Diagon Alley with a roller coaster, a small Hippogriff ride and Hogwarts at the end.
Along the alley, there are some shops you can go into, like the wand shop and the candy shop. The candy shop is connected to the toy shop, and they are both small and cramped, and we spent $10 on a chocolate frog. The wand shop includes a show where a kid is chosen and is matched with a wand, but you can skip the show and just go into the shop. There is a line either way, though, because the place is small, and if they didn't control the crowds, you wouldn't be able to see your feet in there. The thing is, you can buy these wands at any of the Universal gift shops, so you would really only go in here for the experience of seeing it.
We had lunch at Three Broomsticks, which has great meals like shepherd's pie and pasties, so you aren't stuck with a crappy hotdog or old chicken sandwich, and they sell butter beer. We ordered butter beer with our lunch because how can you not, but it was so sweet, we could each only drink about a third of it.
The main attraction here is Hogwarts, and you can't miss it. The castle is huge and at the end of the road, and it houses Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, seriously the most fascinating park ride I've ever experienced. Let me just say, though, that it's initially also the most disorganized. You get whipped around a bit on this ride, so they don't allow bags or anything that doesn't fit in your pockets, so you have to store everything in little lockers just inside the castle area. It's a mad house trying to find one in these claustrophobic chambers, but once you store your stuff, you get back in line and catch your breath. We waited about an hour, and the line snaked through the green house and then into the castle. Inside the castle, you shuffle through the Hall of Portraits, and you wander through Dumbledore's Office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Once at the ride, you are harnessed into a tight seat, and off you go. I won't give anything away, but the ride really amazing. Afterward, though, you have to go back into the dark chambers and retrieve your bags. That's unfortunate.
Here is Hagrid's house, which you can't go into, but you can see from one of the lines—I think from the Hippogriff ride line, which you shouldn't bother with. The Hippogriff ride is about two minutes long and hardly worth the trouble:
This is Eustacia hamming it up with the train engineer;
We really enjoyed the World of Harry Potter and would love to go back for the Hogwarts experience, but make sure you want to spend all day at a Universal park, because this one portion only takes about two or three hours to see.