Tuesday, October 12, 2010

potter watch: part I

ok all, as promised, here's where i talk all about my trip last week to the wizarding world of harry potter.  if you are even a slight fan of the books or the movies, i think you will enjoy this.  if not, i hope this inspires you to pick up the books, because this world is just incredible.  absolutely incredible. 

 {hogwarts castle}

i'm planning on this reading a little like a review, a little like show-and-tell, and a little bit of advice for those who want to go.  i'm going to break it into chunks, so as not to be too overwhelming, over the next few tuesdays ("potter watch tuesdays"), so it'll be like a mini-series!  hehe.  

so let's dive in...

where to stay

the wizarding world of harry potter is located inside of universal's islands of adventure theme park, so if that's your main focus, stay closer to to universal.  the where (as in what hotel chain) largely depends on your price range.  we used the universal orlando vacations website to create our own package (number of days, niceness of hotel, etc.), and it all worked out beautifully.  we were about 2 miles from universal, and about 15 from disney, which made going to disney a struggle, but we were only going for the day, so we dealt with the large cab fare.

when to go

since orlando is a well-oiled machine when it comes to getting people to the parks, the when to go is more important than the when.  if at all possible, DO NOT GO IN THE SUMMER.  we heard and read horror stories of 3+ hour lines just get into the shops and the rides and shoulder-to-shoulder traffic through the village.  we dealt with none of that.  the most we waited was 60 minutes for harry potter and the forbidden journey (the ride inside the castle) on day one, and that was middle of the afternoon, height of the craziness.

early park admission

which brings me to my second piece of advice: either pay the upgrade or get a package that offers early park admission.  both days we were in line 20 minutes before 8 (park opened to the masses at 9, 8 for the early park people) and that made us one of the first 50 people or so into the park.


with that extra hour, on day one, we headed straight to ollivander's wand shop since we'd heard that line got ridiculous.  we were the second group of the day to go in (they let about 10 people in every 10 minutes - you can see why the line gets long).  more on the ollivander's experience on another potter watch tuesday. 

on day two, we headed straight for the castle and were able to walk straight onto the forbidden journey ride back-to-back!



the castle is perfect.  the outside is identical to the one from the movies, because - surprise, surprise - the movies' set designer designed the park as well!  as i said above, the harry potter and the forbidden journey ride is located inside the castle.  as you wind your way through the line, which starts in the greenhouses (complete with potted mandrakes!)...

...you enter the castle and go from room-to-room, spotting all sorts of hogwarts treasures along the way, like:

the mirror of erised

the house points counter

hallways with actual moving (and talking!) pictures 

the entrance to dumbledore's office

the inside of dumbledore's office

 the sword of gryffindor

dumbledore's pensieve

 the potions classroom

the sorting hat

the great hall candles

the defense against the dark arts classroom
the gryffindor common room

the ride itself is pretty incredible.  you're strapped in, feet dangling, and through a mixture of video (made specially for the ride with the movies' actors) and live-effects, you feel like you're flying on a broomstick with harry and ron around the castle grounds,

being chased by a dragon,

spit on (ew) by aragog and his spider friends,

and hunted by dementors!  i don't know if it's just because i'm not 13 anymore or what, but i was dizzy after it, and when conor and i rode it back-to-back on day 2?  we both had to sit for a couple of minutes to feel back to normal.  lol.  we're either getting older than we think, or this ride is just that good at messing with you!

the ride dumps into "filch's emporium," aka a very lovely store.  with oh so many special touches on display...
 {the marauder's map!  complete with moving footsteps}

so that's it for hogwarts and one of the three rides in the wizarding world.

next potter watch: the flight of the hippogriff, hagrid's hut, and the trizard tournament's dragon challenge.

xo. di.  

p.s. if you'd like to hear less or more about something in these potter watches, or if you have more detailed questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me!

p.p.s. i am getting absolutely nothing in exchange for these reviews.  this is all because i want to share this magical place with you all!  

*images from my personal collection


  1. So is the Forbidden Journey ride like Soarin' at Epcot? Is it one of those where you're put in the seat, it lifts you up, and the "ride" is you watching a giant movie screen while the seats tilt and move around??

    I can't wait to see it in December!!

  2. I don't know a thing about Harry Potter, but lovely pictures! Looks like you had a great time :)

  3. misslivviebelle, it's actually not quite like that - you are actually moving through an indoor ride, although it's hard to tell how much movement because of the use of video (where the seats tilt and move around to give you the effect of flying), and live action props (like the dragon and spiders), where you're physically moving past these things, your seat still tilting around for maximum effect! so, i'd say it's half like "soarin'" and half like...well i don't know, it's kind of unique! you'll just have to wait and see what i mean :)

  4. Oh wow!! I need to plan a trip here! I love Harry Potter!!


thanks so much for the note! i love reading your comments. xo. di.

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