I recently had the good fortune to visit Universal Islands of Adventure while I was in Florida. What a hoot! I spent the whole day in awe. We arrived early and had the time to walk around the park twice. Since it was already busy when we arrived we went straight to the new Harry Potter exhibit. We walked down the street in Hogsmead, past the train and train station, potion shops, The Three Broomsticks and the Hogs Head pubs, the Owl Post, and even Ollivander’s wand shop. I wanted to go in the wand shop and watch a magic wand pick it’s owner, but the line was too long. So we went straight to Hogswart, Harry Potter’s school. There was a line of muggles (people without magical powers) that led all the way down the hill into the town and out the gate to the bridge near Jurassic Park. However, we soon discovered there were two lines, one without bags and one with. If you carried a bag you had to put it in a locker before you went in the school. That was the long line. A word to the wise if you ever go…There are other lockers in Hogsmead. Put your bags in a locker first and then go to Hogwarts. Once we were in the bag-less line we were inside the school in about ten minutes.
The school was fun to walk through but the real experience was in the simulated ride. It swoops you out and over the school, through the trees, and onto the Quidditch court. You can almost reach out and grab a snitch as you follow Harry Potter and Malfoy up and down and around the court. It feels like you’re actually in the game. The ride also takes you through the forest and the caves and you meet lots of creepy stuff like giant spiders and death-eaters. I have to admit there were a few times when I closed my eyes.
We stopped at The Three Broomsticks for a lunch of fish and chips and a glass of butterbeer. We also had some pumpkin juice. I liked it although it tasted a little sweet for me. The butterbeer is a non-alcoholic butterscotch drink. It has a foam that they add to the top so it looks like real beer. The foam was delicious…so was the butterbeer.
I didn’t get a chance to ride the dragon or the hippogriff but after we covered the rest of the park we returned to Hogsmead. It was about an hour and a half from closing time and the streets were nearly empty. I went straight to Hogwarts and rode through the castle again. This time I never closed my eyes once! It was so, so…magigal. I felt like a kid playing in a magic land. There was still a wait of about fifteen minutes at the wand shop, but well worth the wait. Ollivander, the wand shop owner, looked like the real deal.
If you’re ever in Florida and have the chance go to Universal Island of Adventure and even if you don’t want to ride on anything, go to Hogsmead and enjoy the architecture and the magic it has to offer.
The whole day was fun and the other exhibits were worth seeing as well. My second favorite area was Dr. Seuss. Just look at that carousel…yes, the magic spell from Hogsmead continued to transform me into a child all the way through the park.