Warning: This post contains LOTS of pictures, and if you're not a Harry Potter fan, you won't care about most of them

Yes, "the adventure begins"... This was the day we had been so excited for, our visit to Universal Islands of Adventure and, more importantly, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We were SO EXCITED! We left at 7:00 a.m. to be there as close to when the gates opened as possible, and headed straight for the back of the park and Hogsmeade. We caught a glimpse of Hogwarts across the lake as we walked, and couldn't get there fast enough. The atmosphere in WWoHP was amazing - it really felt like we were in Harry Potter's world, except for the fact that I'm pretty sure Britain's never been that hot. Yes, it was sweltering. And the fact that it was insanely crowded made it feel even hotter!
So to try and beat the heat, we stepped into the Hog's Head for a frozen butterbeer - probably best described as a butterscotch-flavored slushie. I actually liked the creamy topping best, but the drink was definitely refreshing.

After cooling off we jumped into the line for Ollivander's wand shop, probably the longest line we stood in all day, with the possible exception of the line to purchase lunch. But we knew we wanted a wand to choose us so we would for sure be magical - no muggles here! Unfortunately the line was far too long unless you are the child who is chosen to be a part of the act. It was enjoyable, just not worth the wait in my opinion. After Ollivander's we decided we were hungry and headed out of WWoHP into the rest of the park for lunch (after nearly an hour-long line) and some non-Harry rides. The Hulk coaster was definitely the best ride of the day, though the Firebolt side of the Dragon Challenge was a great ride too. We really enjoyed Seuss Landing - it's so bright and colorful, just made me smile. We rode the Caroseussical just to get off our feet for a few minutes. Of course I chose to ride on an elephant. :) Eventually we made it back over to Hogsmeade where we visited some of the shops that we hadn't been able to get into earlier because of the crowds. Zonko's Joke Shop was full of fun novelties like pygmy puffs and You-No-Poo, and Honeydukes had so many tasty (and not-so-tasty) candies, including the Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans.

I haven't said much about the rides in WWoHP. There really are only 3 rides. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey takes you on a walk-through of Hogwarts before you go on a virtual coaster through the castle. It was a pretty cool ride, especially if you like virtual rides. You can also take a castle tour, which takes you through more of the castle, including Dumbledore's office, where we actually saw him! The Flight of the Hippogryph should have been labeled as a "family-style coaster". It lasted only about 20 seconds, and other than offering a quick sighting of Buckbeak and amazing views of the park, it was a dud. It probably would have been fine if we hadn't waited in the heat for over 30 minutes for a 20-second ride. The best ride in WWoHP was the Dragon Challenge - two intwined suspended coasters which "race" one-another. We rode each dragon twice. I really enjoyed the Chinese Firebolt. The Hungarian Horntail, on the other hand, had some issues. Both times we rode it, it got stuck. The second time we sat for over 20 minutes staring at the bottom of the first hill while they turned power off to the entire ride. Thankfully it was in the shade. To pass the time I pulled my camera out of my pocket and started taking random pictures. As you can see, Amie wasn't too happy about the delay. The sunset that evening was gorgeous. We tried to take a picture in front of the Hogwarts Express, but the sun was so bright the sunflare took over the picture! The view of the park, including Hogwarts, from across the lake was incredible - we stood and snapped a hundred pics (very little exaggeration there!) of the sunset from various angles. And then darkness fell. We spent our last few minutes exploring around Hogsmeade, buying a few souvenirs, and gazing awestruck at the way the castle looked against the deep purply blue of the darkening sky. It seriously reminded me of a Thomas Kinkade print, with the deep colors and light shining from the windows. It was beautiful! Unfortunately, my camera battery died about this time. I was able to coax a few pics out of it, but Amie was put in charge of taking the night pics. Luckily, she did a great job!What an amazing, hot, fabulous, fun, wizardly, hot, friend-filled day! The Wizarding World of Harry Potter didn't disappoint, even though it was hot and crowded. I would definitely go back - though not in July if I can help it. :) And to share it with the biggest Harry Potter fan I know just made it that much better. Thanks, Amie, for being willing to brave probably the most popular Florida theme park (right now anyway) with me in the middle of the hottest month of the year. In my opinion, it was well worth it!


Genny said…
Beautiful photos, especially of the castle. I didn't understand most of what you were talking about even though my entire household are HP fans. Still, great day!
Amie V said…
i agree!!

the only disclaimer i would add is that if you don't stand in the huge olivander's line, you still have to stand in line just to get into the shops. so i'd rather wait for the wee show than just for the shopping... but neither wait should be what it was. they didn't plan that very well.

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