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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!