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Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Whether you approve of the Harry Potter books and films or not, the most talked about theme park is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  If considering a trip to Universal Studios Orlando, read on to find what to know before you go. 

Some praise the Harry Potter series as following in the tradition of The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia depicting an inspiring allegory of good versus evil. Others are quick to point out that all three sensationalize wizardry and magic.  As Focus on the Family has stated, the valuable lessons contained in the books are overshadowed by witchcraft that is clearly denounced in the Bible.

So what is one to do when planning a trip to Orlando, Florida?  Are we to avoid The Wizarding World as well as Disney’s Magic Kingdom and it’s Cinderella story witchcraft? 

An option is to know what to expect in order to steer clear of offensive attractions and to know how to speak to your family about your decisions. 

Getting There

Getting there is much easier than running into a wall in order to board the Hogwarts Express.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located in the back right corner of Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando.  So for those wanting to flush Potter, as you travel the park to the right, the last area before entering The Wizarding World is the Last Continent, the last attraction of which will be The Eight Voyage of Sinbad (though if you check our Islands of Adventure review you’ll find reasons to stop at Seuss Landing.  Traveling to the left of the park, you may go as far as Jurassic Park after which lies the bridge to Hogsmeade. 

If you’re planning to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter there are a couple things you’ll need to know: it gets crowded early and people are crazy to get to The Wizarding World fast.  While there is an entire park to see, for the foreseeable future, Islands of Adventure visitors line up early to get to The Wizarding World.  And when the gates open, there is a mad dash to the back right.  If you have small children, have hold of their hand, carry them, or have them in a stroller.  Seriously, people run to get to the rides.  

Want to be one of the first into the park? Stay at a Universal resort and (as of this writing) you’ll be able to enter the park an hour before the general public.   

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

The busiest attraction, and attraction with the most potential for controversy, is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  Located at the back of The Wizarding World is the Universal version of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  The entrance to the ride takes visitors into Hogwarts where the line to get onto the ride is part of the attraction.  You’ll be greeted by a high tech holograms of Dumbledore in his office then of Harry, Ron, and Hermione within the Defense of the Dark Arts classroom.  Other special effects straight from the movies include a gallery of talking portraits and copies of the animated newspaper The Daily Prophet.  Like it or not, Hogwarts is an impressive structure, a medieval alternative to Cinderella’s castle with mind blowing attention to detail and features that bring the experience to life. 

The ride itself is a robocoaster, essentially a robotic arm attached to a track.  The technology allows twists, turns, and drops while flowing through real sets and virtual imagery of the interior and exterior of Hogwarts. The use of video to simulate segments of the ride provide a sense of speed beyond actual speed. 

What to know before you ride:

  • Riders must be at least 48” tall
  • No purses, backpacks, etc. are allowed; lockers are available near the entrance
  • There is no Universal Express lane and the line will get long, 45 minutes to an hour    
  • Motion sick warning: half of my family became motion sick from this ride and refuse to ride it again, oddly, the half that felt sick are the ones who love roller coasters

 When riding this ride for the second time, I was in constant prayer, for a number of reasons not least of which was concern regarding motion sickness.  I fervently prayed that riders would be protected from the enemy and motion sickness.  Sure enough at a time I felt I would hurl, the ride stopped in its tracks.  We hung in place for about a minute which allowed me to catch my breath while my breath was virtually sucked from me by a Dementor.  I smiled, reminded that the one true God, Creator of the universe, has complete control over everything. 

 

 Other Rides within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

There are 3 traditional roller coasters that operate at 2 attractions. Visitors will pass by recognized props from the books and movies, such as Hagrid’s hut.  These props are used as landscape features with these rides otherwise being fairly typical for a theme park. 

  • Flight of the Hippogriff:  a family roller coaster with 36” height minimum
  • Dragon Challenge: our family’s favorite ride is the Dragon Challenge featuring two, high speed, dueling roller coasters with 54” height minimum

For thrill seekers who have no interest in Harry Potter, slip into the Dragon Challenge which is near the entrance to The Wizarding World, ride a few times, then head back out.

Attractions within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Like the Hogwarts castle, Hogsmeade is an architectural wonder that sets high the bar for all theme park attractions of the future. 

First a couple places to consider bypassing:

  • Olivander’s is the maker (that is seller) of fine (fake) wands.  Beyond the magical aspect, this shop is small and perhaps the most densely packed place in all of Orlando. 
  • Zonko’s is a shop for novelty items, jokes, and toys.  To me, a Harry Potter version of Spencer gifts that is best avoided if for no other reason than the claustrophobia you’ll have by the time you get out of the shop. 

Next a couple of worthwhile stops whether a fan or foe of Harry Potter:

  • Three Broomsticks just may be the best theme park meal you’ll find.  They serve up hearty meals of fish and chips, turkey legs, baked chicken, and fresh vegetables.  The interior mimics that of the movie set which has a medieval tavern feel. We encourage an early lunch, by 11am, in order to miss the lunch crowd.

 

  • Hog’s Head Pub is one of the few stops that sell Butterbeer.  This beer is no beer.  Instead it has the mouth-feel of a crème soda with the flavor of butterscotch. Butterbeer comes in a regular and frozen variety.  I was shocked by just how good this beverage is and a bit surprised it’s not on grocery store shelves. 

Lastly, a note on the Owl Post, the spot for buying a postcard and having it stamped with a Hogsmeade postmark.  In our experience, the postmark placed on a glossy postcard will be totally smeared by the time it arrives at its destination. If your goal is to have a souvenir postmark, place it on a matte paper finish or put your postcard somewhere that it will not smudge. 

Bottom-line:  If you like thrill rides, you’ll love Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and the two high speed roller coasters within the Dragon Challenge.  If you don’t like Harry Potter there’s still plenty to do within Islands of Adventure without stepping into The Wizarding World.

For additional information, current ticket prices, and park hours visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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