Friday, June 7, 2013

#chelindseyvaca: the Wizarding World

catch up with #chelindseyvaca here! 

The entire reason for our Orlando vacation was to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Harry Potter holds a very special place in our hearts. I grew up the same age as Harry as each book was released. Lindsey was the same age as the movie characters. We eagerly anticipated every book release and every movie release- reading under the covers by flashlight late into the night and waiting in line for midnight premieres hoping the film would be true to the novel. And I'll admit I was such a fan that I created this little website while in middle school. 

When we were in middle school, Lindsey and I were both in the gifted and talented program. One of our objectives for the year as part of GT was to score a cumulative amount of reading points as a group. If we lost, there were embarrassing consequences (our teacher had us dress as ducks and waddle through the classrooms quacking. yep.) If we met our goal, we got to choose a consequence for the teacher! 

Lindsey was not much of a reader at the time so I began reading Harry Potter to her. The books had high point values because they were so much longer than normal middle school reading material. Before long she was as much a fan as I was.

So with our inner 11 year olds alive and excited, we raced through Islands of Adventures to the Wizarding World. 

First, you enter Hogsmeade...

Snowcapped shops and restaurants line the walkways with street vendors throughout 

There is incredible detail in every storefront, pulling from both the books and movies. Here a mandrake plant screams from the botany store window! 

Zonko's featured both wizard and muggle joke items. Lindsey and I could not stop laughing at U No Poo. If you've read the books, it's seriously one of the brightest silly spots in the very dark plots of the final books. Although, technically it was a Weasley Wizard Wheezes product, not a Zonko's product! ;) 

Inside Dervish and Bangs, the Monster Book of Monsters growled, snarled and charged at customers from within its cage. (Pretty sure this guy was sold at Flourish and Blotts in the books though)

Some store front windows
Gilderoy Lockhart's books for sale at Tomes and Scrolls

sporting gear, including bludgeons scrambling to be let loose, sold at Spintwiches

 self stirring cauldrons

Hermione's dress from the Yule Ball in the window at Gladrags

The Owl Post was quite busy- got my postcards stamped here!

 the botany store

Next we moved on to Hogwarts! It was big and beautiful and had tons of cool stuff along the way to the ride inside. 

Me and Lindsey were super excited about the castle.

Once you get inside, there are tons of details from the books/movies. However, it is really dark inside so my photo documentation is limited. There was a cool  tapestry of a unicorn.

the entrance to Dumbledore's office

Dumbledore's hologram speaks to you as you go through his office!

Next we ventured over to Hagrid's cabin!

...and said hi to Buckbeak on our way up the coaster!

After cheering on the representatives from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang at the Triwizard Pep Rally, we went on the Dragon Challenge- a ride simulating the Triwizard Tournament's dragon challenge. 

Cedric, sniff. ;(

We kept our eyes open for Sirius Black

sipped frozen butterbeer
(kinda tasted like a cream soda icee)

checked out the full menu at the Three Broomsticks and the Hog's Head

decided we couldn't spend $7 on pumpkin juice

And posed in front of the Hogwarts Express

We had a full, lovely day at the Wizarding World and left with some budget-conscious goodies- postcards stamped at the Owl Post, Bertie Bott's Beans, a Chocolate Frog, and a time turner key chain. 

What We Loved:
- the awesome details
- fictional treats come to life (butterbeer, pumpkin juice, the whole store at Honeyduke's, the Three Broomsticks)
- really helpful employees
- holograms of characters throughout the Hogwarts ride
- a holding service for Honeyduke's purchases
- the Owl Post stamp

Things to Prepare For:
-the Wizarding World is just a section of Islands of Adventures so even though there is plenty to explore, it won't take you all day. We completed absolutely everything in three hours
- Most of the details are from the early books/movies
- Everything is pretty pricey (for poor students anyway ;). A chocolate frog was $10, a wand was $30+, and a house scarf was $35. 
- most of the stores are just decorative storefronts 

Our Tips:

1. Get there early- the park fills up quickly and makes for crowded streets, stores and long lines. It's also much cooler in the morning!

2. Dress comfortably- make sure you have on supportive shoes!

3. If you are prone to motion sickness, even a little bit, take Dramamine before riding the Harry Potter rides. We wish we had. Even though the rides were super cool, we felt queasy the whole time. 

4. Watch every show and explore every shop.

5. Even if you aren't going to buy the souvenir photo they take on the roller coasters, go look at your face and get a good laugh. 

6. Take your time going through Hogwarts- they've included tons of awesome details along the way to the front of the line. 

7. It's totally okay to bring a bag/purse. There are free lockers at every ride with fingerprint access. 

8. Don't spend money on souvenirs that won't be used or enjoyed after your trip. The wands are cool... but you're not a wizard. The $100+ robes would make an awesome costume but goodness gracious just borrow someone's graduation robes for that. Basically, just be wise about how you spend your money. 

9. The time turner necklace was $50 and looked almost identical to the $12 keychain. 

10. Wait until the Diagon Alley section is completed to come visit! 

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