Harry Potter World, Part II… HOGWARTS

(Part I of Harry Potter World)

Hogwarts is amazing, both inside and out. Not built to scale, but a good size. You go beneath the hill for the recreated classrooms/halls/offices. I really hope they expand this because it’s just great for us fans.

The approach...

walking alongside it

First order of business, though, someone needs to redesign the free lockers where you put all your stuff. You can’t bring it with you on this motion-simulated ride. Note: I do NOT do well on motion-simulated rides, but this is one not to be missed. Especially if you’ve always wondered what it’s like to ride a broomstick. The ride was the best part of the day, even though ours stopped for about 2 minutes midway through. I heard stories all week how the ride kept breaking down; let’s hope they get that fixed.

Hogwarts!!

Another tip: volunteer to go as a single rider. Have your whole family do it and you’ll get on the ride in about 10 minutes instead of the 2 hour wait that we did. (Emily, we have to get you riding by yourself!). The ride contraption you sit in looks like a cross between an upright coffin and a pew. The bar thingy comes down over your head, the sides extend out past your shoulders, so you’re lucky if you can see the person’s feet next to you, let alone talk to them or hold their hand. So, go for the single rider thing and ride it a few times, and compare notes with family and friends after. They have a singe riders line that moves really quickly.

the detail is AWESOME!

Tip: put as much of your personal stuff as you can in your pockets and not in the locker, namely your wallet with money to buy water, because you’ll need it, a tiny umbrella b/c there is very little shade when you’re in the “back lot” walking through the roped off line, and the fans are only blowing hot, sticky air at you and aren’t really any help (and someone didn’t think to put an awning up over this ungodly hot waiting area, nor is there any place to sit down. They have water fountains, but they’re like teasers. By the time you get to them, you’re only about 8 minutes from the door. The other 2 hours prior to that, you’re looking longingly at the water vendor but you don’ t have your wallet b/c nowhere is there any sign at the lockers that you’re in for a 2 hour broiling wait. Also, put your camera in your pocket. I owe all these interior shots to Emily b/c she had her camera. Stupid me, stuck mine in the locker. Dumb…

Emily and I didn't remember this from the books, but it was cool

The locker area is a mess. People coming off the ride (and out of the gift shop, convenient how they walk you through that, but, hello? We don’t have our wallets…) are trying to get their stuff out of the locker while people coming in are trying to put their stuff in lockers. The biometric locks were a little touchy, so I really wish I hadn’t put my cell phone and money in it. This is a good place for a fanny pack, I don’t care how touristy it looks.

Dumbledore's Office

So, now you have nothing with you and off you go to explore the castle. Universal needs to take not only People-Moving lessons from Disney, but also How to Construct a Ride classes. You know how, in the Haunted Mansion in Disney you sit in this little motorized cart and here a ghost talking to you throughout the ride? That’s what they should do with the walk through the castle. You could have Ron, Harry, Hermione, Sirius, Dumbledore, etc.

Dark Arts Classroom

talking to you as you wend through the Dark Arts classroom and Dumbledore’s office. They could point out the Mirror of Erised and the pensieve. You could hear the pictures in the hall better than when you walk through. It’s a great concept, but they need to up the presentation.

the pensieve

Especially when you hit the back lot out back. I sincerely hope they were just anxious to open the park and have big plans for this waiting line b/c it’s a FAIL of EPIC PROPORTIONS. Poor shade, hot air from the fans, no seats, no water to drink, and the decor is sorely lacking. It looks like a back lot of a movie set, and while maybe that’d be cool to see, it’s just not cool in bazillion-degree heat.

entrance/staircase to Dumbledore's office

All this sounds like I hated it, doesn’t it? I didn’t. I really really didn’t. There’s magic there. I just wished someone had thought beyond the magic they wanted to create to the reality we all have to deal with waiting in line. Disney knows how to do this – someone please go take their management class or something!

mandragora plant

talking pictures

spell book

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12 Responses

  1. Thanks for the great overview of Harry Potter World. I’d love to go there someday soon. The online reviews of this park have not been particularly good–precisely for the reasons you gave. Hopefully, they’ll work out the kinks and make the park more visitor-friendly. It’s a great concept. I, too, am a rabid HP fan!

    Best–Adele

  2. Okay, dear, here’s my Harry Potter THE Ride story. Prepare your hankie.

    It’s eight million degrees with a humidity of at least a thousand percent. And we get in THE line. Well, what we thought was THE line. It’s only supposed to be an hour fifteen minute wait. (And the locker situation IS the stupidest thing EVAH!) So you wait in line to get in the locker line then you wait in line to get in the line for the actual line of the ride. It’s a big chaotic mess and the “students” aka employees who are supposed to be helping sort out the line to the line for the ride are total jerks. I digress….

    The line winds through the back lot area (as you call it) and then into the green house. The fake plants are cool, by the way. I know because I stared at them for about an hour. Why? Because while we were standing in the line from HELL, the ride broke down. They announce that it will be a 45 minute wait. Perhaps you would like to try a different attraction but you’re welcome to wait in line until it’s fixed. So we decide to wait. We’ve already got an hour in this line, why leave? The line inches forward as people get sick of waiting and bow out. About an hour later (it’s two hours in the line by now) another announcement. We can’t figure out what is wrong with the ride. It might take two mintues to fix it or ten hours. Perhaps you would like to try another attraction, but you’re welcome to stay in line and wait until it’s fixed. Okay, we’ve got two hours in this line now and are mere yards from the castle doors where it’s cool and dark. Besides it started to rain and they closed all the roller coasters. Might as well stay in line a bit longer.

    I’ll mention now that the “announcer” attempts a British accent which can not be deciphered by the queen of England herself. We spend most of the time trying to figure out what exactly the announcer said and then pantomiming to the non-English speakers in line that the ride is broken. Unknown “fix” time.

    Another hour. More people are leaving. We’re in the castle now. We get a very upclose and personal examination of all the artifacts. Those talking paintings you didn’t have time to enjoy? I know the entire 20-minute loop by heart, dammit!

    Another hour. We’re in Dumbledoor’s office (I can also recite his two different loops by heart). Mom is starting to look homicidal at this point. The cranky ride attendants are yelling at people for sitting on railings. We’ve been waiting in line for four mucking hours with no bathroom, no drink, no seating (and for my mom and aunt no smoking) and they’re yelling at us for sitting on railings. I’m thinking this better be the best effin’ ride on the planet!

    Another thirty minutes. We’re in the defense against the Dark Arts classroom (there’s two different loops for this one too, Judi) There’s a huge thunderstorm raging outside, but another announcement. They still don’t know when it will be fixed. I’m done. Let’s get the ‘eff” out of here. And I’m cussing at the top of my lungs, by the way. People with kids left the line hours ago. My “party” is relieved when I make the call. Let’s go before I kill someone. Not sure why I had to make the call, they’d been ready to kill for a couple hours. So we left. After 4.5 hours in line. And didn’t get to ride it.

    Until the next day. Almost got in a fist fight with some British man over cutting in line. I don’t need the lockers, Buddy. You’re in the “locker” line. I’m still picking daggers out of my back over that one. They really need to get that locker mess straightened out. My mom now has a permanent fear of Hogwarts and refused to even get in line with us. This time we stormed right through the castle and were on the ride in less than an hour and a half. No break downs. Thank the voodoo dolls I stashed in my sandals.

    The ride was awesome! Except a giant spider spit directly in my eye. Loved it so much, I rode it twice. If it had broken down again (which luckily it didn’t), I would have become a famous arsonist. Yep.

  3. Oh, Olivia! I knew you had a HP ride story; I hadn’t realized it was that intense! At least you got to ride it twice. I did it once and we’d had enough. We left shortly thereafter, when I’d planned to spend the entire evening there. Enough was enough.

    But the magic was great.

  4. Hi Judy!! How sweet of you to include us in your article! I’m printing a copy for Emily as we speak . . . she’s gonna love it! And what a great review of the place–concise, well written, and above all, accurate. For those of you who are thinking about visiting Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, take notes. Especially if you plan on traveling during the summer months. Trust me, Judi hit the proverbial “nails” right on their heads. I’m sure Universal will eventually tweak things here and there in the coming years, but it you’re going any time soon, please reread Judi’s article again and pay close attention to her suggestions–you’ll be glad you did.

    On a more personal note, our time in Florida has left my daughter and myself with many great memories that will surely last a lifetime. The awesomeness (is that even a word?!?) of experiencing Hogwarts firsthand–our main reason for traveling to Florida in July–was a thrill all by itself. But how could we ever forget the lady who dared to challenge Emily as the #1 Harry Potter fan? I must say, Judi, it was a brave thing to do. 🙂 I mean, who goes to a theme park all by herself, fully prepared to take on the horrendous summer Florida heat and long lines alone, except an absolute die-hard fan? Again, another brave thing to do. It didn’t take long to realize I’d met a pretty unique lady. Our chance meeting actually served two purposes. It gave me the opportunity to share a fun-filled day with a newfound “sister”, and Emily the chance to speak “Potter” to someone who actually understood and appreciated it! Yep, it was a magical day all around.

    Thanks again for the great article. Forget the T-shirts and wands–this is definitely the ultimate keepsake in the Berry household! TTYS . . .

  5. smiling, here, Donna…

    I know, wasn’t it strangely cool how we hit it off right away? So glad you enjoyed the rundown of our day. My day was definitely better when you guys let me share in your celebration. I would have had fun by myself, but I definitely had more fun with you two!

    Maybe we can do it again when Emily graduates from culinary school. LOL

  6. Spot on description of Harry Potter World, Judi. The detail and magic were fabulous but there were a number of things that need to be rethought in regards to streamlining traffic and handling large crowds, case and point the exit to the Hogwarts ride into that tiny, tiny store.

    Still, I’m glad I got to see it and of course get my wand. Loved the butterbeer. Did you try the pumpkin juice? That was surprisingly good too.

  7. Rayna, I couldn’t bring myself to try the pumpkin juice – I didn’t want to spend money on something I wasn’t sure I’d like. They should offer free samples.

  8. Hi, Judi,

    You know, I wasn’t all that keen on visiting WWHP, but you’ve made it sound so exciting that now it’s on my list! Thankfully it’s only 2.5 hrs away from me, so I can wait until the crowds thin out and a colder month! Great pictures, too. And I want a wand!

  9. Now, see, DHUtheQuill, you have an option I just don’t, being as I’m in PA. Orlando isn’t just a few hour drive for me, so I had no idea when I’d get there – though Hubs had made the comment that he’d come down with me for a weekend and spend one day at the park and one day fishing, but, trust me – he would have only been able to handle about two hours of that crush and that would have been it which would have made it miserable for both of us. But you’re lucky – you can head up by yourself if need be.

    I’d seriously go that Thursday before Thanksgiving. No one’s in the parks then b/c they all make their vacation around Thanksgiving. And it’s cooler, but I guess since you live in FL, you’re used to it. I don’t know how you’re used to it, b/c I could never get used to it, but then, that would be why I don’t live in Florida and highly doubt I ever will.

  10. We went yesterday and Hogwarts really is awesome. Universal has very little land to develop which is a big drawback. I think what this would have been like out at Disney and wish they had it. There is not enough room for what they have and what could be added. It was warm for October, 92 or so, but not very crowded for the Orlando tourist business. Even so, you could hardly move in the streets or in the shops. There were lines to get into the shops that were as bad as the ride lines. The line for Olivander’s was longer than the line for The Forbidden Journey ride all day. We only waited about 40 minutes the first time we went through Hogwarts and the second time it was 23 minutes from the time we entered the line area until we finished the ride. The shops are small and hard to get around in. If there is any kind of a line for check-out, forget about trying to shop. I can’t even imagine trying to visit during peak tourist season. You will die from the heat and won’t be able to move. In reality, there is little to DO at the park other than spend too much on overpriced food and merchandise and wait in line for the few rides and attractions. This is the third Universal park we have been to and have had the same comments about all of them.
    We have visited Disney many times (a relative can get us in) and you do pay too much for food and merchandise there too. However, it is spread out more, and there is more for the whole family to do together. There are more shows and play areas. The stores are spacious, so it is easier to shop. (If your customers can”t get near the shelves and easily look at the items, they aren’t going to buy it.) Disney is expert at traffic flow. We have also been to Sea World and Busch Gardens and they do a better job than Universal in both areas.
    They have done an outstanding job building Hogwarts and the technology for the ride is state of the art. The look and the feel of Hogsmeade is very good. It just needs to be more spread out and family friendly.

  11. I wholeheartedly agree with you librarypat – Disney is SO much better at moving people, it really is a shame that they didn’t get Harry Potter world. I do love the design, but, yeah, the stores… what were they (not) thinking? I get that they wanted to make them true to the book, but Olivanders in the book wasn’t having hundreds of thousands of people going through it a week!

    Ah, well, at least the magic was there. It truly is magical.

    We’ve done SeaWorld and the kids actually liked it better than Disney World – blasphemy! – although the Discovery Cove part of it was this side of heaven. I’ve been twice and utterly love it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. This sounds awesome. (Not the waiting part. I think I’ll skip that.) But now I want to go.

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