Monday, May 7, 2012

Our Visit to Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Our family finally went to Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter this spring. It was a dream come true for this Potter maniac, and the kids enjoyed it, even though they're not big fans of fast rides. The best thing about the place was the authenticity of Hogwarts and the shopping areas which were faithfully recreated according to J. K. Rowling's specifications. If one could just ignore the blazing 90° Orlando sunshine it could almost be England.

The best:

The atmosphere of Hogwarts and the shops of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
We especially enjoyed buying candy at Honeydukes, and boy did we buy a lot (read more about our shopping experience in Hogsmeade). Some items were purchased as gift souvenirs for friends back home, but we consumed most of the treats ourselves. If only there was a spell for eliminating all those Chocolate Frog calories!

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
The 45-minute winding line into Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride was jam-packed with interesting vignettes to appreciate from the books and movies. The ride itself was pretty fun but everything goes by so fast you can't take it all in. And I can't believe my 80-year-old mother went on that ride with my sister and her family!

Butterbeer. All the reviews I had read about Wizarding World were RIGHT about the frozen butterbeer! Soooo good and refreshing after the 45-minute-standing-in-line-out-in-the-hot-sun for it. They could do with about 2-3 more butterbeer vendors in this place. Everyone in my family loved it. (My sister's family said it was too sweet for their taste.) If my local coffee shop sold this I might be getting one daily! We liked it so much I looked up this recipe to make it at home using a Cuisinart Soft Ice Cream maker to make it like a frozen slushie. Turned out delicious even though not exactly the same (home version is not as sweet).


The good:

Flight of the Hippogriff was a long wait for a short ride. At least it was good for younger kids, and you could see Hagrid's hut while waiting.

The Three Broomsticks for lunch.
A nice change from the typical theme park overpriced burger and fries. We tried the English food (shepherds pie and Cornish pasties), the ribs and the mac and cheese. I liked that these menu choices actually came with veggies, fruit or salad. And the service was efficient.  After ordering and getting your food, you don't have to wander around endlessly to find (or poach) a free table. Instead you are escorted to your seating by the staff there. Yay!

The free outdoor performances put on by the witches of Beauxbatons, the wizards of Durmstrang, and the Hogwarts chorus, complete with giant croaking toads.  Very cute and kid-friendly.

Hogwarts Chorus at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I was told by teenage nieces and nephews that the Dragon Challenge just okay. They were disappointed that they didn't even time the two dragon coasters so that they were "racing" each other, which was the point of the challenge, after all.

The ugly:

The close quarters of the stores, which on one hand have a small, intimate atmosphere, but on the other hand not good for hundreds of people going through.  This is especially magnified at Ollivander's Wand Shop which was the longest line we waited in, almost 90 minutes for the wand ceremony. On the first day of spring break (our 2nd day there), the whole park was just jammed. The upcoming expansion will be welcomed.

When Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens in Hollywood in a couple of years, we'll be right there!

Next Stop: Our Wizarding World Shopping Excursion