Monday, April 4, 2016

A Visit to "Harry Potter Land" - Universal Studios in Orlando

Book #1
First a bit of background: When the first Harry Potter book came out in 1997, my wife, Dianne, decided to pick up a copy...just because it was getting such raves.  When she brought the book home I poo-pooed her for buying a "children's book". 

Well...I happened to pick it up when she wasn't around and discovered why it was getting such raves. It was some fantastically creative story telling - and not necessarily just for children. I wouldn't give it back to her until I had finished reading it! 

The Heart of Universal Studios Orlando
As a huge fan of JK Rowling and her Harry Potter books and movies, I couldn't resist the opportunity spend a couple of days in Orlando at Universal Studios. This was my first trip to Universal, so it took a bit of time to get oriented and find out just where the Harry Potter places were.  It turns out they are located in different parks...of you have to pay a "two park" entry fee.  Clever? Not! 😁

Dragon Dominates Daigon Alley
After getting oriented...and purchasing the needed two park fee...we set off for the newest of the Harry Potter lands, Daigon Alley. You may remember that this was the place where everyone went to get their wizarding needs, from wands to Hogwarts school uniforms to Quidditch brooms. The attention to detail was just astounding! You could easily imagine yourself being a witch or warlock and finding the appropriate magical stuff for whatever you wanted to do!

Wands for Sale
There was one place that was jam-packed with wands...and I did break down and bought one (they took good old American money and credit cards, you didn't need a Gringott's account 😀). I purchased a replica of Professor Dumbledore's wand. Every wizarding device and magical accessory was available no matter where you looked.

Celestial Sky
One especially interesting shop focused on the astronomical accessories that a non-Muggle might want to acquire.  Telescopes, astronomical charts, models of the sky and stars...all of which were incredibly detailed...available for purchase with what had to be considered Muggle money.  That is because the next adventure took us to the center of the wizard's financial empire - Gringott's Bank.

A Diligent Troll at Work
The best part of the visit to Daigon Alley was the venture into the vaults of the Troll managed Gringott's Bank.  I won't give away the actual adventure, but believe me, you need to give it a try.  It is a "ride" that takes you through some of the most interesting parts of the early Harry Potter tales. (A bit of advice, don't have a heavy lunch before you explore this part of Daigon Alley!) This is what recreating the Harry Potter experience is all, scary, action packed and wonderfully realistic as we Muggles can endure!

On Our Way to Hogwarts
OK...we had covered Daigon Alley...took a break for lunch...and headed off for the "other" Harry Potter land - Hogshead and Hogwarts - the home of the wizarding! But to get there, we had to take the Hogwarts Express train that departed from Platform 9 3/4 from King's Cross Station in London. Again, attention to detail was paramount here.  Obviously on their way to Hogwarts, we could see passengers disappearing into the brick wall labled "Platform 9 3/4" as we entered the station!

We boarded the train, had an interesting view of the English countryside as we propelled our way to the second Universal Park and the quaint village of Hogshead.  As with Daigon Alley, things were authentic and could even get a butter-beer or partake of some very interestingly flavored magical candies 😀. We thoroughly enjoyed the shops before heading up for the real adventured - a trip through Hogwarts.

Hogwarts at Universal Studios Orlando
From a tourist perspective, we were lucky to have come on a day that had few tourists...but, you could tell that this "exhibit" had been set up with the expectation of many-many-many tourists pouring through the "castle" on any given day.  To get to the main exhibits, you had to go through a vast maze of cues.  When we were there, they were virtually empty so there was no hold-up, but I could see a long-long wait on another day.

Now, there were distractions along the way to keep you occupied, so not much to complain about, but, at the end you were in for the journey of your life...well sort of. It was a great experience and, again, I won't give away the details.

I'll just wrap this up with saying that: If you are a Harry Potter fan, then both the Daigon Alley and Hogshead/Hogwarts experiences at Universal Studios Orlando are well worth it!

1 comment:

  1. Another great travelog from my friend Ed. I too read all the books when they came out so I identified well with your highlights of what's in the Universal Studios' Harry Potter Experience. I might be tempted to do it during our May visit to Orlando this year, though the 2-parks entry fee may prove too high for my taste, bearing in mind that Harry Potter has never interested wife Maz!