Universally Yours… Tackling Both Universal Parks in One Day
I was so excited, I mean REALLY excited. Why? I was FINALLY going to walk into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and experience it all. Since Kyra got to go with my Mom and Bob for an early Birthday present, I had been so geeked out at what she got to see and do that the time had come for the family to all go together. So turn the HP soundtrack on while I take you through not only that area of the Park, but our entire Universal experience. Enjoy!
We got up early and were out the door by 8:00. The goal was to give ourselves plenty of time to find the place and figure out where to park. We found it with no problem, and we discovered its about 30 minutes from our house. We parked in the Jurassic Park section and rode two escalators up to the Main Level. I have to say their parking garage is very gross- trash was in the corners and it felt like you were parking at the Mall- it didn’t invite you in or get you at all excited about the movie experience you were about to take.
After several moving escalators, you come across their version of security. I did like the fact that they would check my bag ONCE and then I was free to roam from park to park, including City Walk, without having it checked again. It was painless and we were off and away to the Islands of Adventure first.
IOA was a first for Craig, Emily and myself- never been. It was exciting to do something new and we all had that butterfly feeling anticipating Harry Potter. We were able to get in with no issues, and we were practically skipping through each area. It was cool to see Seuss Landing in the morning, as no one was there, along with the Lost City. But the gold, what we wanted, was getting closer and closer. I recorded us getting to the entrance and how excited the kids were, look HERE for the video!!
The music swelled and we were actually walking into the area… I had goosebumps everywhere! The village shops covered with snow in Hogsmeade, the train sitting there with all its majesty, and over the roof tops you could catch the Hogwarts Castle. Since I had taken Bonine in the parking garage so I could ride the Forbidden Journey, it was time. The four of us walked in together, hand in hand, and giggled with glee. I was so geeked out, I couldn’t stand it. We walked past so much from the movie, and in one of the classrooms, Harry, Hemoine, and Ron made it snow!
As we made it to the end of the line, with no wait mind you- place was empty, Craig and Emily took our belongings and headed to the exit to wait for us. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous- but I was no longer scared. It was either the drugs or just adrenaline, but I was so happy to be riding it that I didn’t care. I was seated just fine, and I was right next to Kyra and two others. The ride vehicle itself only hold four at a time, and if someone is heavier, they put you on the outside, or they can’t let you ride at all. Hence the vehicle seats outside the Castle- they are there for you to MAKE SURE you will fit. And that you know what the snugness feels like.
I personally loved the harness coming down- it made me feel safe. I also love my feet dangling, makes you really feel like you are flying. Now, if you don’t want to know any spoilers, stop reading now. I’m not going into full details, but some that will be noted for those wondering if they can handle this ride. First off, the ride itself puts you literally on your back MANY times. It’s not for long, mostly to take you from sequence to sequence, but it can be alarming, so keep that in mind. Two, the ride takes you from movie scene to real scene to movie scene- this is where motion sickness can play a huge part. I did take Bonine and it worked MIRACLES, so I highly recommend it for this ride! Three, if you don’t like spiders- don’t ride. They are huge, they are in your face, and they spit at you. Remember the big guy from the movie? Yep, they let you see him up close and personal, so beware! Fourth, the Dementors. This area was more like a haunted house area- creepy and in your face, but nothing to alarming. What was more scary was the Whomping Willow that is swatting at you while you are on YOUR BACK. Yes, ON YOUR BACK- so that was a bit alarming. I also want to mention the Dragon, very cool to see, and he is A LOT like our Dino scary guy in Dinosaur- just more in your face. Heights- I am scared of them. But you are on a robot arm that is constantly moving you everywhere, so there is no time to LOOK DOWN, as far as I was concerned I was 5 feet off the ground.
What did I think overall? Well, I can tell you we went back on for a second ride soon after. You don’t see as much the first time because it is so alarming, whereas the second time I really looked around. I encourage everyone to try it at least once, it is a HUGE part of the Harry Potter experience. I seriously would have been upset with myself if I hadn’t had tried it, so I am very proud of myself that I did. If it isn’t your cup of tea, or butterbeer, then you can walk through the queue with your family, or ask for the castle tour line which is pretty much the same area. Either one will allow time to look around at all the neat stuff in line, including hearing the entire Dumbledore speech in his office and also Harry and the group’s conversation in the classroom.
After Craig and Kyra took a ride on the Flight of the Hippogriff which is basically a small coaster, we headed for an early lunch as we all seemed starved. We ate at the THREE BROOMSTICKS where we ordered two chicken feasts, the mac and cheese kids meal, and a fish dinner. Including four Butterbeers it came to $51 total. Ouch, but oh so worth it. We loved sharing our first drink together, and it was very neat to be sitting in the Restaurant that you read among the pages of Harry Potter. If you sit long enough, certain shadows cast on the wall of familiar characters! But it has to be said, ANYTHING you do In this area is worth doing while listening to the soundtrack over and over again.
After our stomachs were satisfied, we headed for the line for Ollivanders Wand Shop. Kyra had raved about the wand show and how Ollivander helps the wand pick someone out of the audience. We waited for about 45 minutes in line, and stepped into this small, dark room. It was quiet, no music, just peaceful. The 30 of us were spread throughout the one side of the room, and with no one saying a word, Ollivander walked down the stairs. He never stopped looking at Emily, and it was then that we knew Emily had been chosen! HOW COOL WAS THIS!?!?!? To see and hear the wand show, check out the VLOG HERE!!
We enjoyed the show, and of course, I bought the wand that chose her. She was so happy that she was chosen, and we were happy that she was so honored. I have to say it made the day so much more special, and I highly encourage you to see the show- you never know what will happen!
We said goodbye to the WWOHP for awhile and checked out the rest of the Park. We took a walk through Seuss Landing, where the kids met Characters and we rode the trolley train high above the area. A slow moving ride, it had me a bit nervous with how high it- especially when it went over the water- I found it almost comical how nervous I was on the trolley, but not on the Forbidden Journey. It was a beautiful day, low 80s I would say, but the sun was still zapping my energy by early afternoon. We decided to head to the other Park to see what was there and at least say we had done it.
The walk between IOA and Universal Studios isn’t that bad, maybe 10-15 minutes. You walk through City Walk again, more on a boardwalk area, but it’s a small hike. We got into that Park with no issues, and no expectations. It wasn’t like Disney where we had a clue of where to go, we even grabbed a park map. The last time I had been there was Halloween Horror Nights, Kyra and Craigs last time was 1999, and Emily had never been here. It was exciting to do something new again, so we decided to go with the flow.
We grabbed some chili-cheese fries at Mels Diner, then headed towards E.T. to take Em on for the first time. I had forgotten how cool this ride was, and after some coaxing Emily on, we all got on. I really love the queue for this ride- it’s just such a neat forest. We were happy we had all done it as a family- weird to think that Emily wasn’t even an idea yet the last time we had ridden it- and now she is 11 and Kyra is 18. Where did the time go?
We took picture at the Simpsons ride, passed on Men in Black and Jaws, and Kyra and I tried out Twister. Nothing to write home about, but still cool to see at least once. We didn’t stick around for the Macy’s Day parade, but they had everyone out and ready for it, so if you want to meet those in the parade, they were all hanging out. You could tell it was a dead Park day, no one was there. The employees seemed bored, and the whole Park had a very quiet vibe. I can tell you this, I won’t be buying an Annual pass for this Park.
Dinner was eaten at Panda Express, in City Walk, which Craig and Kyra were happy about- it’s the orange chicken they crave! We had eaten out all day, I could feel my digestive system weeping. We headed back into Islands of Adventure and walked to the left route to WWOHP. The Marvel area was really cool, and Emily was most excited about taking pictures for her previous teacher, Mr. Bonson. He was a Marvel nut!
We then headed into the Toon area, which was really odd to me. A new park, I would assume they would have done something more with this. Jurassic Park was the final area we hadn’t seen, and that was just ok too. We didn’t ride anything, but it was deserted. I did like the tree ride where you could swing on a line through the trees, but it was for children only.
We were finally back in Hogsmeade and headed to the Castle. Craig, Em and I took the Castle tour while Kyra rode one more time. I had eaten so much msg for the day, I was terrified what a third ride would do to my stomach. The tour was so cool, as I said before, we could listen and watch everything without holding up the line. The line was so short for the ride that Kyra got out before we did!
It was hard to say goodbye to the area, it was so beautiful in the evening. We said hello to our friend Shane, who works there, and just enjoyed the sights and sounds one more time. We all agreed that if we could buy Annual Passes for JUST the Harry Potter area, we would do it. Otherwise, not so much. The rest of the Park didn’t give me any warm fuzzies that would make me want to go back- and THAT is what Disney does best!
I will stick with Walt Disney World in my back yard, but it was a pleasure to experience the movie magic for one day. Thank you to a good friend who made it all possible for us to go, we thank you!!