I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, so I couldn't wait to get down to see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We went June 22, 2010. We got discounted tickets through our timeshare, but normally the tickets are around $82/adults. It's in Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. I've never been to either Universal Studios park before, and only went because of Harry Potter. There was a huge volume of people at IOA, because the HP World had opened 4 days before. The weather was in the mid 90s and we had to stand in line for 2.5 hours just to get INTO the HP World. We were in a snaking line that meandered through the park. Once we were inside HP World, it was so congested and crowded, I got bumped and jostled around. Everyone seemed like they were in a war zone, no one was smiling, no one was happy. There were lines for EVERYTHING.
The first thing we did was get into line for the ride Forbidden Journey, which is in the "castle" in HP World. Fabulous details on the outside of the castle, and we couldn't wait to get inside and see more. We had to put our bags into lockers in the "dungeons" before we could get on the ride. The park creators were idiots the way they designed this-- there were electronic thumb print scanners to "reserve" a locker, but there were not nearly enough lockers to support the crazy volume of people going to this. We were in the dungeons for like 20 mins just waiting for a locker to open up. Then we got back in line for at least 1.5 hours to get on the ride. The waiting area was set up like Professor Sprout's greenhouses, which was neat. There was only 1 water fountain in the back, and since we all had to check our bags and drinks in the lockers, we were all practically passing out. Once inside the castle, I couldn't believe the details--- The corridors were fake stone but so realistic. There was a wall of talking and moving portraits to keep you entertained as you waited, and the line snaked through Lockhart's Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. There was a hologram/3D video playing of Ron, Harry, and Hermione. We got to peer into the side of the Great Hall (lots of floating candles). The ride itself was amazing. It was a 3D/simulator ride, and you got strapped in to a roller coaster seat that hooked over your shoulders. You sit 4 to a row. It twisted and turned and swooped and spinned. There was a giant OMNI theater style screen (curved, top to bottom screen) so you felt very much in the 3D picture. It combined 3D effects and juxtaposed animatronic characters during the ride. A Hungarian Horntail dragon appears and breathes "fire" and smoke on you (and you feel the heat!), a giant spider spits water at you (I screamed like a banshee in fear with that!), and a large dementor swoops in and "chills" the air. Very very very cool. They snap a picture of you sometime in the ride. When you get off, you are right in a gift shop, which is SO poorly designed because you have to fight the crowds coming in to the dungeons to get your stuff (adjacent to the gift shop) and fight all the crowds in the gift shop.
There are 2 other rides in the HP World, a duelling roller coaster ride (scary) and a hippogriff themed roller coaster (mild, ok for kids). Horrible lines for those so we skipped them (plus we don't really like roller coasters. I really wanted to get into the shops, which were Ollivander's, Flourish and Blotts, Zonkos, and Honeydukes, but the lines were ungodly long and it was so hot and crowded. There was a giant barrel tanker truck of Butterbeer (more long lines!), but I couldn't miss the opportunity (butterbeer tastes like shortbread and cream soda). You can get it cold or frozen, and in a commemorative mug for $10.
The details on the outside of the shops was tremendous. I really felt like I was in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade! If you have studied the movies, you will see all the beautiful details and time the creators spent on this. I loved seeing what they could recreate and I just wish I could have visited the shops too, because I'm sure inside the details would have been just as amazing.
If you love Harry Potter, DEFINITELY visit this. If you are only a mild and casual fan, skip it for a few years until it is no longer a novelty and the crowds are down. It's only a tiny part of Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, so there are a lot of other things to see and do in the rest of the park (which we did after HP World).
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