UNIVERSAL ORLANDO, 2010
WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
I am currently sitting at my desk drinking a glass of pumpkin juice, the last remnants from my fantastic tour of Orlando's new "theme park within a theme park."
Ignore any other ridiculous BS, naysars, and haters. Harry Potter is the best thing to happen to a theme park since New Orleans Square in Disneyland CA. This giant trip report will be divided into multiple parts, the first of which a review of the Hogsmeade in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
okay then... before I get ahead of myself, I will begin by saying the atmosphere is amazing, above and beyond any other theme park. From the moment you step into the land you are immersed in Hogsmeade. Steam rises from the Hogwarts express, which seams to have just pulled into the Hogsmeade station. The entire land is unbelievable.
Everything in Potter had a line. HP and the Forbidden Journey had a two hour wait throughout the day, while Dragon Challenge and the Flight of the hipporgriph sported a half hour wait throughout the day. There was a 3 1/2 hour wait just to get in the land if you weren't staying at the hotel and didn't arrive at the park an hour before opening when I went, but opening day had a 7 hour wait just to get inside. Honeydukes had about an half hour line just to get into the gift shop, while the line for Butterbear was at least 45 minutes from the minute the park opened. Olivanders, an interactive wand choosing experience, had an hour wait, while Dervish and banks had a 45 minute wait as well. The Hogshead, a small pub to get Butter Bear and Pumpkin Juice tended to have a 20 minute wait, while the Three Broomsticks had a 45 minute wait. Keep in mind, Universal did have crowds in mind--even the shops have detailed queues with interactive pots and pans for the Three Broomsticks, levitating wand window displays in Olivanders, etc. Obviously, the park is a huge success. I spoke with the cashiers at Honeydukes about an hour after the park closed, while the land was still relatively busy, and they said that every 1,000 purchases, they need to empty the cash register--this happened multiple times every hour.
The staff at the Wizarding World was exceptional--everyone stayed in theme and they were very nice and made any waits enjoyable. They were true "cast members." Everyone enjoyed their part and seemed to be excited to work at the Wizarding World. A few girls at honeydukes, late after closing, also gave a "harry potter trivia quiz," asking questions they were asked as well to test their knowledge of Harry Potter should they be faced with ruthless fans. The trickiest question was probably "Name the number of the vaut in which the sorcerer's stone is stored in Book 1. The cast members, or whatever they are called, made our day very enjoyable, and they were excited, fun, and relatable, not steril and unthemed.
The Window displays put Main Street to shame. Each display had something unique about them--a witches dress made of tape measures and other designing tools with a purring kitten fashioned the same way, a levitating wand--no strings attached, full on mock shops, busy with stacked up pots and pans or scribbling quills, skeletons that tip their hats to passer byers, Quidditch gear, complete with a flying snitch, moving Owls, sorting hats, screaming mandrakes (plants), "howler" cards, growling books, and so much more. The shops too were decked out with details, from hanging ears in Zonkos, to Mr. something's licorice, were guests see how wizard candy is made, attacking chess boards, floating Nimbus 2,000 broom sticks, house elves, and a snarling hog's head. Best of all--all the food and merchandise was specifically personalised, from the well crafted original wizard-esq. toys at Zonkos, to the Butterbeer--which is unlike anything you have ever tasted. You can't find the merchandise and food anywhere else, unlike at Disney World, where each shop sells exactly the same thing, and the shops are only differentiated by their facades, like a department store.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey full review coming soon...