For months, Potterheads and theme park enthusiasts have been following the development of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter closely, as various construction photos and videos have been leaked and as rumors flew around like Golden Snitches. Universal employees and hotel guests got early sneak peeks a few weeks ago, and for the past couple of weeks, guests lucky enough to be present at Islands of Adventure were able to experience the WWoHP during its soft opening. I was one of those lucky guests!
As an Orlando resident and an avid Harry Potter fan who has been blogging about the WWoHP for months, I knew the soft openings were going on, I had a Universal Power Pass, and I knew that as of Friday, IoA was gonna be a mad house! As such, my sister and I ventured to WWoHP this past Tuesday for one of the most magical and memorable days of my life!
When I was 13, I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and I literally cried upon finishing it, because I knew I’d never be able to experience the magical world JK Rowling created. I’m glad that about 10 years later, I was proven wrong. Upon first entering the WWoHP and seeing the Hogwarts Express, I was mesmerized. For uber Potter fans, the WWoHP is truly a dream come true – I was perfectly content to walk the streets of Hogsmeade and marvel at all of the intricate details. The shops were amazingly accurate in their portrayals, and I loved seeing merchandise I had read about in the books brought to life. My favorite store was definitely Honeydukes!
Of course, one of the first things we did was try some Butterbeer, and surprisingly, it tasted almost jsut how I imagined it! Kind of like cream soda, with a hint of butterscotch and an almost cidery zing to it. Of course, I had to get the souvenir mug – $8.50 plus tax with refills for $3. The foam is added separately, and it almost has the consistency and flavor of thick whip cream, except it doesn’t melt or dissolve, and you get the Butterbeer mustache when you take a sip! I tried both the fozen and chilled – I liked the chilled better, but my sister liked the frozen. So far, it seems as though if you’re a fan of slushies and smoothies in general, then you’ll prefer and love the frozen version. It was bloody delicious!
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is by far one of the most technologically advanced attractions I’ve ever been on, and as a Potter fan, it was amazing and thrilling! The ride consists of a 4-seater bench, which moves on a conveyor belt apparatus (think Haunted Mansion), making for an accelerated and fast-moving queue line. The bench is attached to a robotic arm, which moves along a track, while swooping in various directions.
Please Note: The seats are a bit of a tight fit. They have tester seats located outside of Hogwarts Castle and again right before you get on the ride. Some guests, who I would certainly not consider overly large, have had some issues fitting in the seat, despite having no problems riding other rides at the Universal theme parks, like the Hulk or Dueling Dragons. Check out Banks Lee’s story.
The ride is a combination of simulated movement in front of a screen – think Spiderman and Simpsons – with the actors filling in for various Quidditch flying and Dragon escaping adventures. When you’re not looking at a screen, the arm is moving you through a series of real-world sets and scenes, full of spiders and dementors (yes, it was scary and yes, I screamed a lot). At one point, the arm rotates so that you are flat on your back, looking up, as the Whomping Willow flails about above you, with one large branch bearing down on you just as you jerk away.
The ride was quite long (apparently about 4 minutes, though it feels longer than that), and is definitely one of the more technologically advanced rides out there. I looked back at the car behind us, and it was like something out of the Terminator. *eeks*