Harry Potter World Orlando
Today you will be treated to my riveting, real and sometimes comical account of our one-day trip to Harry Potter World Orlando. If you have any memory of my Disneyworld post, then you know how I really feel about crowded theme parks. This adventure was pretty similar, except we had only one day to take it all in. It might take you one day to read it all, so settle in.
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You may remember me mentioning that my girls are huge Harry Potter fans. I cannot lie; I am also a fan. Once Pooh and Tigger started getting interested in the series of books, I couldn’t help but read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, just to see what all the hype is about. I’m currently on the 5th book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Pooh has finished them all (she’s almost done with our recently acquired copy of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and Tigger is ahead of me by one book.
I was 23 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out, and I could not be bothered to read it. I vaguely remember the movie being on while I was in the room once, but I had better things to do than to pay attention to that.
Don’t be like me. Read the whole set. At the age of 42, I’m realizing what I was missing all those years ago. These books are really, really good, y’all! And my kids? Yeah, they’re just complete HP geeks now. Pooh has decided she’s a Slytherin, and Tigger belongs to Griffindor house. Tiggs wants to marry Ron Weasley. Pooh saw Daniel Radcliffe in every face in London.
Harry Potter World Orlando Plans
Oh, London! Yes, the girls’ most anticipated destination in their Europe trip was definitely London, as they hoped to see Diagon Alley and King’s Cross Station! All their talk about Harry Potter leading up to their trip to Europe was what got me thinking about Harry Potter World Orlando. There’s a Harry Potter World London, as well, but I knew that was not on the itinerary for the Aunties. They did get to visit the famous Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross, and both of them purchased things to remember it by.
I did my research early, first making sure that Brother Bear and Sister Shell would let us crash at their place in Orlando on the way home from the Keys. Turns out they would already be here at Big Creek on those dates, so we agreed to house-swap! Awesome! On to tickets…
HOLY S@*#!!! I had no idea Universal Studios + Universal Islands of Adventure (you have to have park-to-park passes to get the whole Harry Potter experience) was MORE EXPENSIVE THAN DISNEYWORLD??? Sure, there are travel packages and deals, but for just one day at the two parks (which put together are not the size of Magic Kingdom alone), the price per person was staggering.
I hummed and hawed, scraped my toe in the sand a few times, then talked it over with Coach. Then I talked it over with Madre. I talked it over with Jimmie, Sister Shell, the dogs, anyone who would listen. I wanted to surprise my girls with this REALLY BADLY, and finally decided to save up and just do it. I mean, when would we be in the Orlando area again? It could be years! No plane fare, no lodging expenses, and the thought of only having to endure one day of a theme park won out. We were going to Harry Potter World Orlando!!
Then Madre made a jaw-dropping announcement. She wanted to foot the bill for the tickets. She’s like the best grandmother ever, guys. That sealed the deal, and we set about keeping the plans a secret from Pooh and Tigger. I let the Aunties in on it, which was good because it helped them hold their ground about not taking the girls to Harry Potter World London (It was 20 miles outside the city, so not really feasible anyway).
Once we had our girls safely back on U.S. soil and finished with all the hugging and smooching, we broke the news of our plans. They were in complete shock. I have them on video crying and blubbering and squealing, which is absolutely priceless. Auntie Anne admitted that it had been really hard to keep our secret on their trip once she saw what ruthless fans the girls really are, but she prevailed and stayed mum.
Harry Potter World Orlando
We arrived early (highly recommend), and paid our $20 to park so that we could walk the 872 miles into Universal Islands of Adventure. We were herded through security like cattle going to be branded. 99.9% of the people we saw had on some form of Harry Potter gear, which was my first clue as to what we were about to endure. Utter. Chaos.
Once we gained access to the park, Pooh was immediately calling a friend to say “we’re here, we’re here!!” Teenagers and those dang phones.
Naturally, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was all the way in the back of the park. We walked another 872 miles before we saw the first sign of anything Harry Potter related, which was the top of Hogwarts castle. Seeing that did not mean we were close.
We finally entered Hogsmeade. The girls (and I) were star struck. Coach was kind of clueless, but he was smiling and nodding anyway. We walked around aimlessly for a while, toured Honeydukes, and told the girls for the second time since entering the park that no, we could not buy chocolate frogs this early in the trip on a 99 degree day in Harry Potter Orlando, unless they wanted chocolate soup as a souvenir (we only had to tell them this 287 more times before we finally got some at the last gift shop in the park on the way out).
We decided to go ahead and hop on the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, and come back to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts later. We zoomed through the mile and half entrance and got right onto the train, no waiting! Once we disembarked on the other side, the chaos truly began. Old people, young people, men, women, smelly people, rude people, happy people, annoyed people, and some more people greeted us in Diagon Alley.
We visited Gringott’s currency exchange. We tried Pumpkin Juice. We had some Gilley Water. We got melted by a fire-breathing dragon. We toured through the pitch-darkness of Nocturn Alley. Pooh whined that she wished she hadn’t bought a wand in London (which I rolled my eyes at…I mean, who of her friends would have Dumbledore’s wand from London? Pffft…). Tigger purchased Hermoine’s wand, and the girls performed magic everywhere (the wands are interactive and make things happen in the park). I sat on a bench in the shade holding all of their purchases while Coach rode a crazy ride with them (I’m not a thrill-seeker anymore). It was amazing (and anxiety inducing).
We made our way back to King’s Cross to go back over to Islands of Adventure, and did not have the same luck as before. We stood in line FOR.EVER. Meanwhile, it started to rain. Yay.
Off To Hogwarts
If you’ve made it this far, you’ll get to laugh at me. After a refreshing round of butter beer (must try), we decided to ride the Hogwarts roller coaster (thankfully, the really scary ride that made me want to puke just looking at it closed due to the weather). I even decided to be brave and join the fun. We secured our belongings in a locker and got in line, where we stayed for the next hour. It was a great line, though, with a tour of all things Hogwarts. The talking, moving portraits were super-cool, as was the classroom and Dumbledore’s office.
We kept seeing these signs warning us that one should not attempt this ride if one has a fear of heights. My stomach started a slow, low rumble at the first warning, and began to pick up its pace as we went along, until it was literally doing somersaults in my body. I started to sweat, and not from the heat. Then we finally got to the ride itself, and I observed that I would be sitting in a small cage with my legs hanging down from the seat. Nope. NOT GONNA HAPPEN. NOT IN MY LIFETIME.
Yes, friends, I bowed out. To make matters worse, my entire family bowed out with me. We stood in line for over an hour to do nothing but walk right back out. I felt so ashamed. Coach, Pooh and Tigger reassured me that it was just fine, and I argued that they should have carried on, gone on the ride…I’d be fine! Too late. We were back at our locker in no time, pushing and shoving our way through the crowds to get to all of our stuff. I was never so happy to breathe fresh air in my life.
Some things I learned at Harry Potter World Orlando:
- There are people who still like The Simpsons. This was news to me. That section of Universal Studios was hopping!
- Strangers will make fun of you if you don’t ride the kiddie train in Seuss Landing due to your fear of heights. Thanks, stranger-man. The trip wouldn’t have been complete without your input.
- The locker caves in the Harry Potter attractions are smelly, nasty places. Ick.
- Harry Potter fans are so dedicated that they will wear Hogswarts robes and Griffindor knee socks in 100-degree weather with 90% humidity.
- The second you walk outside of Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, the price of water drops by at least 40%.
- One cup of butter beer is enough for 4 people.
- As should have been confirmed by our trip to Disney, theme park walking traffic does not work like cars on a road. People walk in every direction on the right, left, and in the middle. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to change this practice, so I will give up…for now.
We pulled 10 hours at Harry Potter World Orlando. We did not visit another single attraction in either of the two parks, other than to have a ($90) meal of hamburgers and fries, and about 30 minutes in the Dr. Seuss section. We left sweaty, broke, and weary. The girls finally got their chocolate frogs (which,sadly, melted anyway in TheMiniVanWithAPlan after the a/c died somewhere before Atlanta). We survived the 872-mile walk back to the parking garage, and took advantage of the moving sidewalks that we scurried past on the way in. After stopping off for a meal (and a tall drink for Mommy), we made it back to Brother Bear’s house, showered, and snuggled into Brother Bear’s beds. At 5:30 the next morning, we departed Orlando for our 14-hour drive home, losing our air conditioning with 5 hours left to go.
I’m still exhausted, and that was three weeks ago.
Harry Potter World Orlando? Priceless.