This week’s Swoon-Worthy Sundays feature really shouldn’t come as a surprise. What does come as a surprise though is how hard it is for me to write about how amazing the Wizarding World was and do it justice. I was in Orlando for 4 days and because we were staying at an on-site hotel, it came with some perks. One of them being a line bypass “fast pass” (which consequently didn’t work in the Harry Potter area) but we did get early access to it. Guests staying at the on-site hotels got to go in an hour before it opens to the public. Amazing. We had bought a 4-day park pass beforehand and in the end spent our first day and last day at the Islands of Adventure portion, where the Wizarding World is located.
Upon arriving in Orlando on Tuesday, we immediately checked into our hotel and headed right to the park. It was about 3:30pm at this point and we had a couple hours to spend there before it closed at 7pm. What we realized was that the Hogwarts castle is on the other side of the body of water in the park.
So we turned right and passed through the Dr. Seuss & Poseidon’s Fury areas before seeing the Hogwarts Express in the distance. OMG. Marked by a hanging sign that says “Please respect the spell limits”, you can see the iconic train right behind it. The immediate sight of everything took my breath away. It felt like you were stepping right into Hogsmeade, with Zonko’s Joke Shop & Honeydukes to your left, the train station to your right; all the buildings covered in a layer of “snow”. I’d be curious if it always looks like it’s winter, or if it’s specially added on because of the season. Those of you who have gone in the summer, does it still look wintery then? Because if they change it for the season, then that’s even more impressive!
After passing the Three Broomsticks, Hog’s Head and Moaning Myrtle’s voice from the bathroom, we made our way to the castle for the ride. Very very nicely done. While it made my sister a bit nauseous, the ride itself is fantastic. Amazingly there wasn’t much of a line-up being that it’s off season and almost the end of the day. We walked right through the halls of the castle and grounds – and I wish I snapped some pictures but we had to lock up everything into lockers beforehand. The ride is a mix of screen projections and actual “set” pieces. You’re locked into a moving seat of 4 and get transported on a flying ride through the world we’ve all come to know and love. Sometimes frightening, constantly impressive – this ride is really a must-do for visitors.
Once we were done the ride (and spending quite some time in the gift shop!) we went to grab some Butterbeer. Deeeeeelicious. It’s like butterscotch cream soda and, of course, I had to pick up the souvenir mug with it as well. That was pretty much what we did on the first day with the few hours we had of the park.
On Friday, our last day in Florida and when our other friends were with us, we returned at 8am with our early access pass. That alone is a fantastic deal. There was maybe 50 people. Maybe. And we pretty much had Hogsmeade & Hogwarts to ourselves. As per Ashley @ Book Labyrinth‘s tip, we headed right to Ollivander’s first since it’s a cute (but short) presentation and probably not worth lining up that long to see it. Once inside, a boy was chosen and got to “try” out some wands before being handed the right one. Very cute – and glad we did that first considering we saw the line-up for this later on to be ridiculously long.
Did the ride through the castle again (the guy working at the ride this time looked like Malfoy from the back!) before going on the Flight of the Hippogriff – a smaller rollercoaster for the younger visitors to the park. We wanted to check out the Dragon Challenge dual rollercoaster but it wasn’t in service at the moment, so we would go back to it later on. Since it was still quite early, we checked out other parts of the park before returning just before noon to have lunch at the Three Broomsticks. The man at the door suggested we should do the Dragon Challenge rollercoaster before eating (wise words). What I love about the parks in Orlando is that they’ve got such an efficient way for food ordering – especially to the restaurants that are high traffic areas. They had multiple cashiers open, menus all along the way during the line-up to go in (so you know what you want when you get up there). I had Cornish Pasties, which were like a flaky pastry perogie. Delicious! Spent some time in Zonko’s and Honeydukes, picking up some yummy treats. Great branding with all their candy and jokes/toys (including Extendable Ears!)
It’s really very impressive and you absolutely feel like you’ve stepped into the world created by J.K. Rowling. If I said I wasn’t swooning the entire time that I was there, I’d be lying. I could easily have just hung out there all day, taking it all in. Fantastically magical.
More photos from my trip to Hogwarts: