As I have probably mentioned before, I am essentially a child in an adults body. Therefore it should come as no surprise to learn that whilst in Orlando I was determined to visit Universal studios. Much to my delight I wasn’t the only member of the trek who felt this way, and so a group of us went together.
We bought the ticket which would allow us to go between the two parks – Universal’s Island of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. I think this was the best option as in one day we were able to get around most of the rides in both parks, and therefore I can’t help but think that we would have got a bit bored if we had only had the options available in one park.
We began the day by going to Harry Potter World. We had been advised to do this first as apparently it can get insanely busy later on in the day. Somewhat surprisingly, we didn’t actually have any problems with queues at all during the day. I think the longest that we had to wait for something was 35 minutes, and actually even that wasn’t boring. Something I really like about Universal is that they try and make your wait for a ride interesting entertaining. So it isn’t just a queue with some music playing repeatedly overhead like at some parks. Instead, you almost go through a journey as you wait for your ride. For example, as you waited for the Harry Potter ride you walked around Hogwarts, saw the paintings move and talk to each other, you visited Dumbledores office etc. So although technically you were waiting in line, it felt more like you were exploring the world of the ride – something that I loved.
Anyway, as we reached Harry Potter World it really did feel like we had stepped back in London – which was quite a strange sensation. They had paid a lot of attention to small details such as the road signs in England, and the lights you find along the Thames. I thought this attention to detail was very impressive and it’s nice to see that they put so much time and effort into all their rides. We walked past the house used by the Order of the Phoenix, and the overnight bus. There was a red phone box for people to take photos in (which I think is more exciting if you’re not from England, and then we explored Diagon Alley! Sadly we didn’t really have much time to explore the shops properly. We wanted to try and do as many of the rides as possible, and we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we had been continuously distracted. When I next come back to Universal (which I am 100% doing) I’d like to be able to spend a day looking around all of the little shops and stalls the park has, as well as the rides.
Anyway, we went on a ride that takes you through the vaults of Gringotts bank. It’s not really a roller coaster, I think I would describe it more as a roller coaster stimulator. Essentially, as you’re going along the tracks, you see a story playing out along the screen. In this case, Voldemort attacking the bank, a dragon escaping and Harry and his friends trying to get you to safety. There are some moments were you’re diving down the track and being thrown around, but not loop-the-loops etc that I would associate with a ‘real’ roller-coaster. The visuals were fantastic and they were made even better by the fact that you’re wearing 3D glasses – it really does feel like you’re really there!
From Gringotts we then went through Kings Cross Station, and to Platform 9 and 3/4. From here you’re able to take the Hogwarts express to the Harry Potter World in the other park! (Again, I think walking through Kings Cross would be a little bit more exciting for those who don’t come from England)
Another thing I really liked was that on the train ride, the window was actually a screen which played a little video. You heard Harry, Ron and Hermione talking in the train corridor, you saw the shadow of a dement or drifting by, you watched as London turned into typical English fields and saw Hagrid riding his flying motorbike. I love how the park have made the effort to make everything fun and entertaining, and it really does make the experience that little bit more magical!
Getting off the train we suddenly found ourselves in Hogsmeade! Once again, we sadly weren’t able to have as much of a look around as I would have liked. We did however, get to visit Hogwarts, which definitely made up for it! The rides here were fantastic and once again, they really did make you feel like you were part of an adventure, and not just waiting for a ride in a theme park!
Harry Potter World is a definite must. I was a really big fan of the books when I was younger, although not so much now that i’m older and i’ve found other things to obsess over. Our group ranged from an obsessed Potterhead to someone who had never having read the books or watched the movies, and yet all of us thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone, even if they’re not a massive fan. If nothing else, the rides are brilliant fun and Harry Potter World does include one of the ‘real’ roller-coasters of the Theme Parks. A fantastic way to start the day!
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous