This week was a very important week for me because I went to Universal and Islands of Adventure for the first time since I was 18 months old... Nearly nineteen years ago.
We boarded the Megabus in Cincy at 9:00 pm Sunday night, and arrived in Orlando at 3:30 pm Momday afternoon. We grabbed a cab and arrived at our hotel on International Drive a while later. I liked that the hotel was five minutes from Universal. We could go up to the top floor and see the park from there.
Most of this is a combination of the two days spent in the parks, simply because if I wrote out in detail everything we did chronologically, it would be the length of a Harry Potter book.
On Tuesday, we left our hotel at 8 am, and we were at CityWalk by around 8:20. Our plan was to go straight for Diagon Alley first. If we could be one of the first in line for Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, maybe we wouldn't have to wait three hours.
The gates were already crowded at 8:30. It wasn't like Kings Island, where 8:30 am means first in line for Banshee. We waited just inside the park where a line was already forming for Diagon Alley. Then, at 9, we waited an extra 20 minutes just to get into Diagon Alley.
Just outside Diagon Alley is 12 Grimmauld Place and the Knight Bus. If you watch one of the windows of 12 Grimmauld Place long enough, you'll see Kreacher peek around the curtain. I wasn't even in Diagon Alley yet and I was already amazed by J.K. Rowling and Universal's attention to detail. Everything from the books and movies was accurate in the parks.
I stepped over to talk to Stan and the shrunken head at the Knight Bus. It was extremely interactive; the shrunken head made a comment about my hairstyle
When I first stepped into Diagon Alley, I was overcome with awe and emotion. Being the huge Potter fan that I am, I started tearing up. Here was my childhood and favorite movies in real life in front of me. Of you're a Potter nerd like me, it's a very awesome experience.
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes is the first shop on the left when you walk in. They sell all the gags from the books like Puking Pastilles, Fever Fudge, and Extendable Ears. They also carried Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's.
Madame Malkin's was also a neat store. They had robes (with a hefty price tag) as well as Harry's and Ron's sweaters that Molly Weasley made for them in The Sorcerer's Stone. There was a mirror that complimented you when you looked at it, and they also had Hermione's Yule Ball dress and Dumbledore's robes on display.
The center of Diagon Alley was Gringotts Bank, which looks exactly like the one from the movies, no detail left behind.
Another interesting part of Diagon Alley was Knockturn Alley. Just like in the movies, the Alley goes from bright and enchanting to dark and mysterious (and air conditioned). The employees working in Knockturn even acted dark and mysterious. Very cool part of Diagon Alley.
We also saw a show in Diagon Alley: Celestia and her Banshees. She was based off a popular singer mentioned in the books. Very neat show!
After exploring all the shops (and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over every detail), we got in line for Gringotts.
Gringotts was, as expected of every brand new intricate ride, broken down when we got in line. Twenty or so minutes later, it was fixed. Total wait time= three hours. Worth it. I won't give any spoilers to the ride, but it was fantastic. The queue was fascinating as well. You walked through the main lobby of Gringotts and down a hall to the "office," and then "down" an elevator to the vaults. Very, very cool.
After Gringotts, we walked to Disaster!, which was a pretty interesting experience. The pre-show actors were very talented and very good at gauging the audience, plus the subway tunnel thing was awesome.
From there, we noticed the wait for Revenge of the Mumny was only 20 minutes, so we got a locker (very convenient that most lockers were free) and got in line. Revenge of the Mummy turned out to be one of my favorites. It was one of the few rides we made time for to ride twice.
Now for the start of our Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit complications. You know, ever since this ride was built it's been on my coaster bucket list. I mean, it's a coaster you get to pick your own music on! However, as we approached Rockit the first day, we were informed that the ride was down and to come back later. No biggie, we still had another day. We headed over to IOA to ride The Incredible Hulk. However, when we came back later to check it, the ride was still down. Throughout both days, the ride was either down, or it had over a two hour wait the entire time. Sadly, I never got to ride it, but maybe next time!
I was greeted with the familiar B&M roar as we entered the fifteen minute queue, feeling good about this ride. As we approached the station, however, the ride op announced that they were experiencing a brief delay. I noticed the train had begun to exit the station and go up the lift hill, but had stopped at the third car or so. A few minutes later, a mechanic appeared, hit a few buttons, and the ride was on its way. I'm assuming the ride op must've accidentally hit the wrong switch to cause the train to stop like that. Anyhoo, we boarded the train in row 6.
The Incredible Hulk was very different from other B&Ms I've ridden (Diamondback, Banshee, Gatekeeper, Raptor, and Mantis). I have never experienced a launch on a B&M, but I must say I liked the combination. A B&M with themeing was a good change of pace from B&Ms just sitting there looking picturesque (don't get me wrong, those are great too). The launch straight into the inversion was my favorite element; it just flipped my insides around and actually took my breath away. Very neat. Very cool.
Next stop was Hogsmeade. I didn't cry this time when I walked in, thank goodness. We spoke to the conductor of the Hogwarts express, who had perfectly timed when this mechanical owl would pop out of the owl post like a cuckoo clock. He was very comical and pleasant to interact with
After that, we decided to go to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was at an hour wait according to the Universal Orlando app, but it didn't feel that long. My one problem with Forbidden Journey is how they handle lockers. You're inside a dimly lit corridor, where a mess of people are either renting a locker, trying to get back to their party, taking the castle tour, or trying to exit the gift shop. It's a confusing mass of people. Half the parties would wait for their one person to come back from getting a locker while the other half would move alon and leave their extra person to have to weave through people in the queue to find their group. It was a bit hectic.
Again, I was not disappointed in the amount of detail that went into building the castle. The Mirror of the Erised was accurate. Dumbledore's office was amazing. The Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom was spot on, and the effect with Hermione counter-cursing the weather was really cool too. Finally, the sorting hat told us to "have fun" before we boarded the ride.
Forbidden Journey was my absolute favorite ride in the park. Hands down. No others. I was smiling the entire time, getting really into it, shouting "expecto patronum" at the dementors and everything. I loved how close everything got to you as you were riding, like Aragog and the Whomping Willow. Genius. I'm smiling just writing about it.
We also got to eat at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, which I was impressed with. No Pepsi products or soda at all, just how J.K. Rowling wanted it. I ordered the chicken an ribs meal with a butterbeer. Not the best ribs I've ever had, but the rest was delicious!
I should also add that I tried pumpkin juice. For $7 a bottle, do me a favor and skip it. It doesn't taste good on a hundred degree summer day, and you'll waste $7.
We caught a show in Hogsmeade, "The Triwizard Pep Rally," basically re-creating the scene from Goblet of Fire where the Durmstrang boys and Beauxbatons girls are introduced. Loved the costumes. Props to the actors for doing all that in the miserable Orlando weather.
We also rode the Dragon Challenge, both sides, since the line was so short. I loved how it made you feel like you were a Triwizard Champion, showing the Goblet of Fire, the Triwizard Cup (but watch out! It's a portkey. Hehe.) and the golden eggs the dragons protected. Between the Chinese Fireball and the Hungarian Horntail, I liked the Chinese Fireball side more. On that note, why don't suspended coasters have more hills? I would ride a suspended version of Diamondback. Anyhoo...
After seeing the rest if the shops and doing the spells in the windows, it was off to the Hogsmeade train station to go back to Diagon Alley. The train ride was very neat, how it included not only events from out the window but on the other side of the frosted glass as well.
I liked the ride from Kings Cross to Hogsmeade better than the other way around, simply because of the dementors. I won't say any more to spoil, but here are some pics if the Kings Cross station.
We exited Kings Cross to hit Men in Black and The Simpsons. The Simpsons was really funny, and poked fun at amusement parks in general (overpriced stuff, etc) and was really fun. Men in Black was a lot better than the indoor shooter game back home. It makes me wish Boo Blasters had a bit more flare.
On our way out of that area, I saw the iconic movie prop from my all-time favorite movie. Great Scott! I mean, the DeLorean in itself is reason enough to come back, right?
After that, we buckled down for the 45 minute Transformers Hype Giant Building With Optimus Prime On It 4-D. I like Transformers. I was expecting a lot more. The queue was noisy, and the videos repeated themselves way too often. When they told us to put our stuff at our feet instead of in a locker, I was confused, and then I rode the ride and discovered why. It wasn't exciting. Look, if you wanna sit and watch Optimus Prime aand Megatron fight for a few scenes, just go watch the movies with 3-D glasses on and spare yourself the long wait. It wasn't that great.
I know I was told to see the Horror Makeup Show, but we caught it too late. The show was at 8:45, and we got there at 8:50. However, I did get to see Optimus Prime next door
We decided to experience Terminator 2 instead. I was excited because Terminator 2 happens to be my favorite of the Terminator movies. It was a show with some really wild effects, where the real actors were put on the screens and the live actors had shadows on their faces so you couldn't tell it wasn't the real Arnold (but I think we knew already). It was some great, cheesy 80s movie fun.
All in all, I had a fantastic time. The Harry Potter stuff really took my breath away and it was some of the most fun I've ever had at an amusement park. I can't wait to go again as soon as possible.