The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (Harry Potter land from now on) has been open for over a year now, and the crowds have really calmed down. I have friends who visited Harry Potter land the first month it opened and heard horror stories of huge lines just to enter gift shops, two-hour lines for rides, etc. It sounded horrible. When I finally announced plans for my trip in May, I heard a lot of "OMG YOU WILL HAVE HORRIBLE TIME121!!!one!" from friends.
I'm glad I ignored them. The lines were tolerable, shops were a wee bit crowded, but it's friggin' HARRY POTTER LAND. Of course it's going to be filled with people!
Doesn't it look badass? It is.
My trip was in the middle of May, and I went to Universal Studios for three days. For those of you planning a trip to see Harry Potter land, know that it is very small. You need no more than a 2-day ticket to experience everything Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have to offer. Also, do not go on a weekend. Lines for rides were pretty small on Tuesday and Wednesday, but by Thursday there was a noticeable increase in traffic and lines.
The Harry Potter park itself is best experienced with fellow Harry Potter nerds. My friend and I took our boyfriends and had to make them go away at times. We wanted to savor everything, especially the shops, because the park is gorgeous. There's such depth and attention to detail--Moaning Myrtle talks in the restroom. However, there are only three rides and not much else for people who aren't fans of Harry Potter. Our boyfriends quickly got bored while my friend and I were still squeeing about every little detail. Definitely best experienced with true fans.
Sweet Baby Jesus it's Hogwarts.
As for the rides, I'm sure you've heard rave reviews of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The line for this ride is much longer than the others, but you simply have to do it. The line takes you through various rooms of Hogwarts, which makes the line itself just as enjoyable as if it were also a ride. There's talking portraits, Dumbledore's office, and the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom. All of it was amazing and I squealed a lot. I wish there was more Hogwarts to explore!
Dumbledore's Office! There was a 3D Dumbledore talking to us as we waited, and he was pretty realistic :D
Ah, the Pensieve. It's a good thing there wasn't water in it...
The ride itself was awesome. I had my mouth open in delight throughout most of it. It's a lot like the Spider-man 3D ride, but, y'know, Harry Potter. You fly around, which felt very real, but most of the ride takes place in the Forbidden Forest with giant spiders spitting at you and dementors trying to suck out your soul. I'm kind of a chicken, so I spent those portions with my eyes closed. Unfortunately, as the wait for this ride was about forty-five minutes to an hour on a good day, I wasn't able to ride it again in order to try to actually experience the whole ride.
Take me with you!
The other two rides were a super intense roller coaster and a children's ride that I didn't get to experience. The coaster, formerly titled "Dueling Dragons" before being Potter-fied, was awesome. We rode it twice, and both times my hair was frozen in a wind-blown state after the ride ended. Since I'm pretty small (only 5'2"!), I generally can't take roller coasters. They throw my head around too much because they're made for bigger people than me (I have no idea how small kids can stand it!). However, this ride was very comfortable and enjoyable for me. This and Revenge of the Mummy were my favorite roller coasters of all Universal Studios! And a note for smaller women like me who don't like getting your heads tossed around like floppy pillows: Do NOT ride the Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster. I nearly cried because of much I was tossed around in my seat.
Ollivander's. You simply have to see the small show in Ollivander's if you're a huge fan, or if you have children. The line looks terrifyingly long, but it took about twenty minutes for me and was totally worth it. However, I was actually chosen to take part in the show, so I have no idea if it's really worth it for onlookers. I assume it is. The show itself is a reproduction of the wand choosing scene from the first Harry Potter film. Ollivander chooses someone from the audience to be chosen by a wand. In most cases this is a small child, which irritates me. Small children generally aren't big fans of Harry Potter, so why should they get this awesome experience that I've wanted since I was eleven? Well, lucky for me I LOOK like a small child, so Ollivander chose twenty-one-year-old me! I nearly died on the spot. No, really, I was shaking. I knew it was all fake, but it was still epic. Anyway, it goes just like the movie: you "cast" spells and stuff happens. When my wand finally chose me, cold air blew at me and lights changed and stuff. I've read blogs and articles about the wand that chooses you being free, but it's not anymore. There may be a discount, but I didn't look into it. Besides, there's nothing really special about the wands in Ollivander's except that the box is dusty. You can buy the exact same wands in any of the shops, and the character-based wands are way more awesome, anyway (I bought Narcissa Malfoy's wand instead).
Zonko's was pretty lame, but looked awesome, so I forgive.
All of the shops have awesome decor and are worth a walk through, but generally sell all the same things. The chocolate frogs at Honeydukes are $10, but huge and come with a card. I bought two and got Godric Gryffindor and Helga Hufflepuff! I think they're pretty tasty, but nothing mind-meltingly awesome. All the best t-shirts are at Filch's Emporium (the shop at the end of the Forbidden Journey). I was sad that class robes were $100, but the staff were totally okay with me trying on robes and taking pictures with them on, and many people were doing the same!
The Three Broomsticks was pretty meh for me. I don't really like the "wholesome" kind of food, but it's a great option for people wanting something that is real food and not just hotdogs and burgers. Actually, the food was a lot like the food you get at Medieval Times. But even if you just get some butter beers and a small side dish, you need to go in the Three Broomsticks. It's awesome! Also, like you've probably heard a million times, I definitely recommend the frozen butterbeer. It lasts a lot longer than the non-frozen one, and tastes like a frozen Dr. Pepper slushie with a shit-ton of sugar and a toffee/caramel-y splash. It was so awesome that I bought two. You really taste the sugar, though; it hits you like a truck. So keep that in mind if you're not much on sweets.
One of the shops. See, I told you they were cool.
Well, that's it on my ridiculously long article about my adventures in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Please ask any questions about stuff I forgot, tell me about your own experience, geek out with me about Harry Potter, whatevs.