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Eric's Wizarding World of Harry Potter Thread


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6/05/10: Soft Opening Photos

6/18/10: Opening Night Photos

7/9/10: A Return Visit With Good Friends

 

All week I have been closely watching online the soft opening status of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure at the Universal Orlando Resort. Last weekend Universal hotel guests started getting admittance into the new section for a preview every morning from 8am to around 11am. During the week, reports started coming out that the general public was also now being admitted in for the preview. I had planned on visiting the new addition when it officially opens on June 18th. But after having a hectic and kind of stressful workweek, I decided to chance it this morning and see if the preview was happening. I arrived at the Islands of Adventure main entrance around 8:15am and there was already a good crowd forming. Something that surprised me, was along with the regular ticket turn-styles, the park had set up 6 portable ticket turn-styles in the middle, in front of the park’s gate. I have never seen this gate open, it is always closed. I guess they figure with the upcoming large crowds it’s better to be ready. The park was scheduled to open at 9am, but do to the large crowds, they opened at 8:45am. Once the gates opened, everyone high-tailed it through Seuss Landing and then stopped at the entrance of the Lost Continent. While our large crowd was waiting on the bridge to the Lost Continent I began to worry that we wouldn’t get in. But after a minute, the 1/2 a dozen Universal employees, let us all continue on our way, and sure enough the gates to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter were open!

 

I had to do everything I could to not stop and look at anything. My goal was to hit the new land’s signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Since I had heard this had closed earlier than the rest of the land during previous previews, I wanted to make sure I would get at least one ride in. Forbidden Journey is housed in the giant Hogwarts castle. When I arrived at the gates to the castle the wait said 45 minutes, I didn’t care. Half of the attraction is the line that weaves through the castle. You experience the most famous rooms in the castle from the books and movies. Other than the giant greenhouse, most of the line is inside and in the air-condoning, which is a good thing since it was 9,000 degrees out today! The castle features some very cool special effects. Through “magic” you really come face to face with characters from the books and movies.

 

After touring through the castle, it’s was time to ride. I will say that the Universal Team Members did an excellent job with the loading process. A warning about the ride, do to the ride’s seats, they have test seats for larger guests to try out. I’m 5’8” and around 210lbs and I was pulled aside to test a seat, I had no problem, but it was a wake up call for me, that yes I need to go on a diet! I saw at least about ½ dozen larger guests that weren’t able to ride. Once I was seated on my “enchanted bench” we were off in the air. You fly via a magic spell through some famous scenes in the books and movies. The only way I can describe this ride is how a lot of other people have described it: a across between, the floor movement of The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Islands of Adventure and Dinosaur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the flying feeling of Soarin’ at Epcot and the motion of The Simpson’s Ride at Universal Studios. Then throw in top-notch theming on the level of Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios and you have The Forbbiden Journey. There has been a lot of hype about this ride. I will admit after getting off this ride I had the WOW thoughts like I did the first time I went on Star Tours and Back to the Future in the early 90’s, and Dinosaur and Spiderman in the late 90’s. I think this will be a winner for the general public. It just feels like this ride has taken the technology of the other rides I mentioned above and combined them all. The story of the ride is very chaotic and all over the place, but I think most people should be able to follow along. The ride is very smooth, not jerky. A lot of times I didn’t know which way was up. You move in every direction, sometimes for short instances are on you back, surrounded by giant dome screens. I could possibly see some people feeling a little queasy riding this. My favorite part about the ride was how immersive it was. Everything is up in your face. After the ride is over, muggles exit through “Fitch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods” gift shop and can purchase their on-ride photo. I rode the ride a second time and used the single riders line, waiting only about 5 minutes.

 

After Forbidden Journey, I took a ride on the Flight of the Hippogriff, a family sized gentle roller coaster. Highlights of this ride include traveling through a pumpkin patch, seeing Hagrid’s Hut and bowing to a Hippogriff. The robotic Hippogriff works well. If you had been to Islands of Adventure in the past, Flight of the Hippogriff is the old Flying Unicorn Coaster re-themed. I think the park did a good job with this.

 

I decided it was time to explore Hogsmeade Village and to have a taste of Butterbeer. So I tried the normal non-frozen version of Butterbeer. It was really good, a cream soda tasting drink with a butterscotch foam topping. I heard that the frozen version was good also from other guests. I also picked up a bottle of Pumpkin Juice. This was kind of strong. It really does taste like biting into a pumpkin pie, but then after awhile the taste changes to a really strong-spicy cider. It was good and came in a pretty cool pumpkin bottle. But the winner for me was the Butterbeer. I poked my head into the Three Broomsticks restaurant. It was pretty much just like in the movies, dark with tall ceilings. Looked like a pretty good place to eat. Connected to the Three Broomsticks is the Hog’s Head Pub, a bar with character.

 

The shops were all very detailed with treats from the books and movies. All the store’s windows and façade windows were unique and had a special magic quality to them. From quills writing by themselves to moving portraits, all were animated. Olivander’s Wand Shop and experience was excuse the pun, "magical". Had to wait in about a 10 minute line to go into Olivander’s. Once inside, we found the shopkeeper stocking the floor-to-ceiling wand boxes. Once our group of about 20 muggles were in the shop, the keeper helped a young boy find his perfect wand. Through special effects and “magic” the wand found him. After the presentation we were ushered into the real wand shop where you can purchase your own wand if you would like.

 

Decided to check out the old Dueling Dragon's attraction, the park's 2 inverted roller coasters. Nothing has changed except that this has been renamed Dragon's Challenge and the castle queue is themed to the Tri-Wizard Tournament complete with the Goblet of Fire and Tri-Wizard Cup. I think this works well with the new story and theme of the ride.

 

I think this new area is going to be a huge success. The only problem I see is even thou the shops are very awesome, they are very small. When I was walking through the wand shop it was jammed packed, could barely move, and the area was not that crowded and not even officially open yet. Also since The new land is on a small footprint, everything is very tall. I spent most of the visit while in the castle, shops and restaurants all looking up. The walls and shelves and theming go about 2-3 stories up. My neck was actually kind of sore. It is a lot to take in.

 

I am familiar with Harry Potter, I have read the first 3 books and seen all the movies. I believe guests that aren't familiar with Harry Potter will still appreciate the highly themed new area. People not familar with Harry Potter need not to worry. I have never read a Dr.Suess book in my entire life. But because Suess Landing is highly themed and themed welI, I can appreciate Suess Landing's attractions. The joke shop and candy shop are very whimsical as well as the wand shop. Guests that rode Spiderman and didn't have any previous knowledge going into the ride, but enjoyed it, I believe will have the same results on Forbidden Journey.

 

My best recommendation is to visit during the off season like in the fall. This summer it is going to be a gazillion degrees and agazillion people visiting! The Harry Potter area is very hot, no shade, but that is not unique to just Harry Potter, other than Jurassic Park, all of the other islands at IOA have no shade either. Since I rarely go to the Florida parks in the summer, I guess I forgot how extremely hot IOA can get. If you can't wait and have to visit soon, be sure to get to the park EARLY. If the park is scheduled to open at 9am, be at the park gate lined up by 8:15am. Most likely the park will open a little early. Once inside the park, hit Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey first, Save the shops and restaurants till after the ride, you will have a much shorter wait this way.

 

Here are some photos I took of my visit. Thanks for reading. Enjoy!

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THe stampede through The Lost Continent to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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Hogsmeade Village entrance.

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The Hogwarts Express welcomes muggles to the new land.

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The Hogwarts Express

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The Hogwarts Express

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Hogsmeade Village

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Outside of Zonko's Joke Shop.

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Inside Zonko's Joke Shop.

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Dragon's Challenge Entrance.

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Dragon's Challenge queue.

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Dragon's Challenge queue featuring the Weasley's crashed car and Hagrid's Hut.

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Weasley's crashed car.

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Dragon's Challenge castle entrance.

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Looking the other way.

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Welcome to The Tri-Wizard Tournement.

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Dragon's Challenge queue, the Goblet of Fire.

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Dragon's Challenge queue.

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Dragon's Challenge queue.

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Dragon's Challenge queue featuring the The Goblet of Fire.

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Dragon's Challenge queue.

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The Tri-Wizard Cup.

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Dragon's Challenge queue

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Dragon's Challenge queue, floating candles.

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Dragon's Challenge.

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Honeydukes candy shop.

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Inside Honeydukes.

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Inside Honeydukes.

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Inside Honeydukes.

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Inside Honeydukes.

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Inside Honeydukes.

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Outside Honeydukes.

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Animated shop window.

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Olivander's Wand Shop.

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Inside Olivander's Wand shop.

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Inside Olivander's. Lots of wands!

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Inside Olivander's.

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Inside the real wand shop, kind of busy.

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The Monster of Books, be careful, this book bites!

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Inside Dervish and Banges.

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Outside of Dervish and Banges.

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In the Owlery.

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The Three Broomsticks Tavern.

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The Three Broomsticks Tavern.

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The Three Broomsticks Tavern.

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The Three Broomsticks Tavern.

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The Three Broomsticks Tavern.

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The Three Broomsticks Tavern.

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The Hog's Head Pub.

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The Hog's Head Pub.

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The Hog's Head Pub.

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Street entertainment.

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Hogsmeade Village.

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Entrance to The Flight of the Hippogriff.

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The Flight of the Hippogriff.

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Hogwart's Castle, home to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction.

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Hogwart's Castle, home to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction.

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Hogwart's Castle, home to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction.

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Hogwart's Castle, home to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction.

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Hogwart's Castle, home to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction.

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Greenhouse part of the queue for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. Thanks for reading!

Edited by live2tell75
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Thanks everyone. I have updated my review to include everything and hopefully it is written a little clearer. Most of my photos of inside of the castle did not come out. I wasn't clear if we could use a flash. I now believe you can, I'll try to get some on a future visit in the next few weeks.

 

Also something that didn't occur to me is that the now present Lost Continent area (Mytho's Restaurant, Poseidon's Fury, Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show, Mystic Fountain and Theatre Magic show/store still take up a pretty large footprint for an island.

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After touring through the castle, it’s was time to ride. I will say that the Universal Team Members did an excellent job with the loading process. A warning about the ride, do to the ride’s seats, they have test seats for larger guests to try out. I’m 5’8” and around 210lbs and I was pulled aside to test a seat, I had no problem, but it was a wake up call for me, that yes I need to go on a diet!

 

And this is what annoys me...that people tend to think that it is always a weight issue. Are the restraints "over-the-shoulder?" I can't do a thing exercise-wise regarding the size of my chest other than getting a new rib cage installed. Yes I have a bit of a gut, but any time I have had issues getting onto a ride it has been my chest/shoulders which have been the issue-the part of me that is for the most part- skin and bones. While I have yet to ever be denied a ride due to my size, I fear that the day is coming! Use some tact and realize that if someone is too big for a ride system- it is not always due to something which they have any control of!

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^ The restraints are over the shoulder. I figured that I must have had the look of someone that might not fit in the seat properly. Since I have gained a lot of weight in the last 3-4 years, this was a wake up call for me personally, since I have never been singled out for any ride in my life. I noticed the guy that sat next to me that was really tall, he wasn't pulled out, but after the ride he was freaked out because he thought his legs were going to hit many objects throughout the ride.

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Thanks for posting all the pictures. While I am still miffed about Dueling Dragons, it looks like a ton of work went into making the land look amazing and the new ride should make up for it. I'm curious, though, about what's offered in the shops. There's been lots of talk about the butterbeer and wands all over, but do Honeydukes Candy and Zonko's Jokes have any real Harry Potter themed items, or are they just highly themed shops selling the same as every other joke and candy shop?

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Thanks for posting all the pictures. While I am still miffed about Dueling Dragons, it looks like a ton of work went into making the land look amazing and the new ride should make up for it. I'm curious, though, about what's offered in the shops. There's been lots of talk about the butterbeer and wands all over, but do Honeydukes Candy and Zonko's Jokes have any real Harry Potter themed items, or are they just highly themed shops selling the same as every other joke and candy shop?

 

In Honeydukes, I picked up about 5 or 6 candies to look at and sure enough the labels said "Specially made for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort". To be honest I didn't look at anything particular in Zonko's, not sure if the items are from the movies/books or just gag/joke gifts. The Forbidden Journey and Dervish and Banges gift shops all featured everything you could imagine Harry Potter merchandise. People were going crazy! If you are a pin collector the stores carry about 20-30 different pins. The only thing I wanted was something that said "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" on it. I asked the store's keepers and they said as of right now they didn't have anything with the ride's name on it.

 

Thanks for the photos and review. THe addition looks great!

Do the wands have any interactivity outside of the shop?

 

Nope unfortunately the wands don't have interactivity. I had heard over the last few years while TWWOHP was being built there were rumors about incorporating a "MagiQuest" type system (not sure if that's what it is called?) Who knows, maybe sometime in the future something will be added. I think if Universal could do what Epcot did with the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, it would work well in the new land.

 

I don't think you covered this in your TR but how fast does the line move?

Or is there so much to look at in the line that you never really noticed?

 

The sign in front of the attraction said the wait time was 45 minutes. I timed it and sure enough it was just a little over 45 minutes. Other than the queue in the greenhouse, because there is a lot to look at, the time does go by pretty quickly.

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Forgot one photo to add to my report, a bottle of Pumpkin Juice. As I said earlier, I liked it, but it was kind of strong, but at least it came in a cool looking bottle (it should, it cost $6!). But I still like Butterbeer the best!

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Pumpkin Juice!

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The sign in front of the attraction said the wait time was 45 minutes. I timed it and sure enough it was just a little over 45 minutes. Other than the queue in the greenhouse, because there is a lot to look at, the time does go by pretty quickly.

 

The sign out front does seem to be very accurate. My wait time was within 1 minutes of the posted time. Of course, that's if you're lucky enough not to have a break down during your wait.

 

 

 

...Enjoyed the trip report, thanks for posting it.

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It looks amazing, even if it's all a bit cramped! I went early this morning hoping to get in on some soft opening action, but sadly, it was only open to vacation package people and resort guests. Although, I heard there were technical difficulties with the ride, so maybe that's why they kept the admission limited today? No idea. But still, I at least have your photos to gaze at to tide me over until I can experience it myself. Nice job!

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This looks absolutely incredible. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan (I've read all the books at least ten times, and seen all the movies at least five) and words cannot describe how excited I am to have a look for myself.

The whole area looks, well, beautiful. The attention to detail is amazing. I read another TR on Inside the Magic the other day and wow! It's the little things that make the whole area more amazing.

I also read a detailed report on the Forbidden Journey ride, and I'm so excited to ride it! It sounds amazing (except for the bit with all the acromantula - that sounds... kinda scary. I do NOT want to come face-to-face with Aragog).

By the way, did you get to see the Hogwarts Frog Choir? I saw a video, it was great.

Thanks for the TR!

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Not to sound like a moron, but in reading this thread and the "Official" thread on the same ride topic I can still not fully figure out what this ride is. Is it a tracked ride or just a simulator? Does anyone have decent photos or video of the loading station (seeing how rides load is interesting to me...I'm weird).

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