Since we had heard so much about it and we had a rental car which made getting there a snap – and since we are big fans of the books and movies – we decided to actually leave Walt Disney World property today to see the Harry Potter attraction at Universal Islands of Adventure. We got there just as the park opened and we could already tell that since this was the Veteran’s Day holiday the park was going to be crowded.
Once we passed under the arch onto the main street of Hogsmeade, we were transported right into the world of Harry Potter. The first thing we encountered was the Hogwarts Express, with steam still coming out of its smokestack, having just delivered Hogwarts’ students for another school year. Walking down the cobbled street, I couldn’t stop taking photos of the shop fronts, the snow-covered rooftops and all the leaning chimneys. We passed Ollivander’s wand shop, Zonko’s Tricks and Jokes, the Hog’s Head Tavern and several other establishments. Then, as we rounded the corner, there was Hogwarts Castle towering over us. I can’t imagine they could have done a better job of recreating all of this.
The ride inside the castle, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, lifts and swoops and tilts you in every direction as you soar behind Harry and Hermione on their broomsticks, over the Quidditch field, past the Whomping Willow, fire-breathing dragons, and Death Eaters, and escape an encounter with He-Who-Shall-Not-Be Named himself. It all went by so fast and was so intense that I don’t have a very clear recollection of too many details, but it was amazing! I did enjoy the walk through the portrait gallery and Dumbledore’s study and other parts of the castle before we got on the ride. The theming everywhere is simply exquisite.
We didn’t ride the other rides in this attraction – it was just too crowded and the waits were already 60 minutes or more by 10:30 a.m., but we did spend time just drinking it all in – along with a Butter Beer, of course! It was fun seeing all the people who were enjoying this attraction dressed as Hogwarts students, witches and wizards. Once we’d seen enough, we bought some Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans in Honey Dukes and hightailed it out of there.
We didn’t feel like going on any of the other rides at Universal after that, so we left and went back to familiar territory and had lunch at the Kona Café in the Polynesian resort. We did some poking around in the gift shop there and picked up a Peter Pan Christmas ornament for me and some Mickey Mouse coffee for Rick. On our way out to the car, I tripped over the curb and fell ass over teakettle, but fortunately ended up just scraping my elbow a little. After that we decided to go back to our studio and take it easy for the rest of the afternoon because we had exciting plans for later that evening - we were going to meet my college roommate Lee for dinner at Raglan Road, the Irish Pub in Downtown Disney.
Lee was waiting when we arrived at the restaurant and we had a great visit while enjoying the musicians and dancers and the great food. Rick and Lee both had the Slow Ribs and I had a chicken pie. I forget what the ale I had was called, but it was good. Rick’s drink of choice tonight was the Arrogant Bastard Ale – an appropriate choice. ;-) It was wonderful seeing Lee again – it’s been a couple of years – and while we keep in touch through email and Facebook, there’s nothing like getting together in person. Just like old times!
After we said goodbye to Lee, we did something we'd never done before - we drove over to the Polynesian, grabbed a couple of lounge chairs on the beach and watched the Holiday Wishes fireworks. They have the music piped in and somehow even coordinate it with the fireworks. Such a different perspective from the other night when we watched from the Hub - and much less crowded! It was also great not to have to wait for hours for transportation away from the park. We'll definitely do this again.
All the photos from this trip are here on Flickr.