I got home on Saturday (late) afternoon after an amazing five days and nights in Orlando, Florida. As if I hadn’t talked about it enough BEFORE going, I feel like I have about a million things to say now that it’s all over. Which, by the way? I can’t believe it’s already all over. But, such is the way vacations go, and I truly had an amazing time with one of my best friends.
I did something fun & special on each of my five days there, so I’m going to try and break it up into two or three posts throughout the next week!
First off, and maybe most importantly, was my experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. That place was the ultimate *reason* that I’ve been wanting to go to Orlando for the last couple years, it’s on my Life List, and I couldn’t wait to write my very own post about my time at the WWOHP to join all of the amazing ones I read online before leaving.
We headed to WWOHP on our second day in Orlando, because our first was the day that we flew in so we just wanted to explore. We woke up around 7am and caught the 8:30am shuttle from our hotel straight to Universal. We had no idea what to expect, but we knew the park opened at 9am so we thought we had done it properly. Turns out we had to wait in a MASSIVE line to get our tickets, and then another MASSIVE line to scan our tickets to actually get in to Islands of Adventure (the park where WWOHP is). There were a LOT more people than we had anticipated, but we quickly found out we chose Mardi Gras weekend and we might have to put up with ridiculous crowds for the whole trip. Luckily this was not the case, it was mostly just or our first day, and the park was well enough organized that it didn’t drive me TOO crazy.
We basically headed straight through the different worlds of Islands of Adventure to get straight to Harry Potter. I was SO excited- the minute we walked in I spotted Hogwarts and nearly had a panic attack! But we walked all the way there, through the Hogsmeade entrance, and explored the shops/took pictures for a good hour before doing anything else.
Everything is SO well done, I was more impressed than I even thought I could be. Each shop window was decorated as I had imagined, there was music playing throughout the whole park, all the employees were dressed up, the buildings and the ambiance made me truly feel like I had stepped into a Harry Potter book or movie.
After we felt like we had walked around long enough, we decided to look at what rides the park offered- there are three:
1. The Flight of the Hippogriff: a somewhat high-speed rollercoaster
2. The Dragon Challenge: an upside down, cork-screw, high-paced rollercoaster
3. The Forbidden Journey: some kind of mysterious ride INSIDE Hogwarts
I’m *really* not a roller-coaster person, and besides we knew that we REALLY wanted to experience Hogwarts, so we got ourselves our very first Butterbeer of the trip and settled ourselves into a 2 hour line-up into the castle. It was actually the longest, most winding line I’ve EVER been in and no picture could ever possibly compare. I know it was about 4 hours worse when the park first opened, but it’s important to know I am not a wait-in-line-person. Turns out that with a butterbeer and a castle walk to look forward to, time FLEW by. Once again, everything was so incredibly well decorated and orchestrated, and the line moved incredibly quickly so you were never stuck in one spot.
I would highly recommend getting a drink to wait in this line, especially if you’re a) going during peak season or b) a really busy time. Either way, you’re going to wait in line for this ride and it was really nice to have something to sip on that was so delicious. The glass that we have in the pictures above was an extra price, but we decided to go all out because you got cheaper refills on a bunch of drinks once you were done. Although we didn’t take advantage of that, it’s good for a lot of people- I just wanted the souvenir of my first butterbeer!
The castle ride was, in one word, unbelievable. I’m not even sure I could explain how I was feeling as I experienced it for the very first time. We were lucky enough to go through it THREE times during our stay (we learned that a good way to get on rides was to go to WWOHP as the sun set, that’s when people are leaving and lines are all under 30 minutes)… But honestly, for our first ride, two hours was SO worth it. Not to mention that halfway through the line-up you get to go inside the castle and they have tons of things set-up for you to see inside. I *wish* I could have taken pictures, but they ask you to stow your belongings in lockers beforehand.
**SPOILER** it’s basically a 3D (4D?) ride through Hogwarts. You’re flying, you’re playing Quidditch, you’re zooming in and out of the castle, you’re meeting dementors/the whomping willow/characters from the movie. As I flew down the Quidditch pitch in the MOST realistic and seamless 3D ride I’ve ever been on, I couldn’t help but tear up. It was like my life from age 11 until now, all summed up in two minutes. Everything you wanted to do as a child as you secretly waited for your very own Hogwarts letter.
Although we left WWOHP for a few hours that day to explore the rest of Islands of Adventure, we returned just in time for a late lunch at the three Broomsticks around 2:30pm, followed by some souvenir shopping before we headed home. We had great service there as well & were really impressed with the prices and the system they had in place to get you seated with your food.
We also decided to wait in line to experience Ollivander’s after lunch. At first we really didn’t want to wait an hour for a 5 minute show, but the two of us realized that we were at WWOHP and we didn’t know when we’d make it back. So we waited and once again, the line went really quickly. It wasn’t anything AMAZING, but we did get to see the inside of the wand shop. Also, in my true geeky nature, I went up to Ollivander (when I was supposed to be leaving) and I introduced myself & asked for a picture!
We ended our first day at Islands of Adventure soon after meeting Ollivander. We returned to WWOHP two days later around dinner time and we were able to go through the castle in 20 minutes, and we also got on the Flight of the Hippogriff in about 5 minutes because there weren’t many people around. We enjoyed our second Butterbeer on our way out of the park just after 7PM.
Our final day in Florida (February 24th) we decided at the last minute to go back ONE last time to experience WWOHP at sunset. We headed over there around 5:30pm and didn’t leave until they started to close up at 8:30PM. On our final visit we did the castle ride ONE LAST TIME and honestly? It never got old. I still smiled like a complete lunatic as I flew through the world I’ve read about for the last decade of my life.
We ended our trip with our third (and sadly, final) butterbeer, sitting on a random ledge in the middle of Hogsmeade. We just sat around and enjoyed the park that had become our most visited place during our vacation. It was all around such an amazing experience, I am 100% going back once they expand the park- which I have no doubt they will do. It’s constantly the busiest world in the ENTIRE theme park, and certainly the most modern and well done. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, I was extremely happy with everything I experienced there. Through all the chaos and activity, the employees remained in great moods and were always super helpful, and the quality of our experience never diminished because it was too busy or overwhelming. Of course it would have been nice on our first day to not have been stuck with almost no walking space, but it really is just part of the excitement of the Wizarding World!
*All pictures and opinions in this post are my own, if you’d like to use any of the images please link back here, thanks!
Have you ever been to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, or Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What was your experience like?!