Sorry to be quiet for so long. We took our annual vacation to visit grandparents in Florida and I elected to use the computer as little as possible to rest my beleaguered hands/arms. Hence, no blogging.
In case you’re wondering, the weather was nice in Florida – highs in the low 70’s (oF) and partly cloudy for most of our visit. We spent the bulk of our time lying around eating bonbons. Seriously. Occasionally we’d get up and go for a brief walk, often as far as the bathroom, and then settle back in. It was a welcome break after a demanding semester.
After several days of this, we felt rested and recharged enough to indulge in another annual tradition: the Florida theme park. Over the years since Tom’s folks moved to Florida, we’ve been to Busch Gardens, Universal Studios, Sea World, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom (twice). In fact, we’ve been to all the major theme parks except MGM Studios and Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure. Given the launch of the new Wonderful World – oops – Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it seemed mandatory that we give Islands of Adventure a try. I will now give you an account of our adventures therein, complete with pictures.
The park opened at 9:30. We got there a little after 10:00 on January 4, figuring the lines wouldn’t be too bad since the kids were supposed to be back at school the day before. We were a little naive. Here’s a picture of the excited, happy people waiting to get into the park.
It only took us about an hour to get into the park and I felt confident that we’d have time to go on all the rides we wanted. But just in case, we decided to visit the Harry Potter section, first. Below is a picture of some of us with the castle in the background. Who knew there would be palm trees at Hogwarts!
It turned out that there was a line to get into Harry Potter World. No, not just to get into any particular ride within Harry Potter World — a line to get into the village itself. It took about five minutes to walk from the Potter World entrance to the end of the line to get in. Hmm. A park employee gave us a pass to come back at 12:30, sorta like a Disney fast pass, allowing us to bypass the big line. So, in the meantime, we went to the Lost Continent and got in line for the Poseidon’s Fury tour.
We waited for 10 minutes or so to get through the doors, after which we were funneled into the building. Where we joined another line. Another 15 minutes or so went by. Finally we were passed through a doorway . . . to another line, where we waited a few more minutes. By this time, I was stifling little bursts of hysterical laughter, wondering if the next line would lead us to an exit.
The tour itself was actually somewhat entertaining. I would have happily waited in line ten, or even fifteen, minutes to see it.
After this experience, we decided it might be worthwhile to buy the Express Pass for an additional $40 per person. Either that, or be satisfied with three rides on the day. Passes in hand, we were off to the Wonderful Wizard of Potter World!
I have to say, the attention to detail given to Harry Potter World was exceptional. I’d describe it for you, but I think pictures will do a better job. Unfortunately, it was tough to get a clear shot of anything . . .
Our Express Pass was useful for getting us onto the Dragon Challenge ride. This was a twin roller coaster. You stood in line and then picked one of two coasters to ride. The yellow coaster was called the Chinese Fireball and the red one called the Norwegian Horntail. (I probably got that wrong — see Harry Potter IV for the correct dragon species.) These roller coasters crisscross and wind around each other, which is an interesting idea, except you’re really going too fast to notice. It is an economical use of space, though, fitting two rides into the footprint of one. I had to admire the engineering.
We wanted to visit Honeydukes, Zonkos, Dervish and Banges, Olivanders, etc., but each store had a wait of 20 minutes or more to get inside. Yes, you had to wait in line to look at things you might want to buy, and then you had to wait in line to buy them. Tom began to mutter words like “insane”, “appalling”, and “obscene” over and over under his breath and there was a wild, trapped-animal look around his eyes. So we decided to bypass the stores and do the “Harry and the Forbidden Journey” ride, and then head to more mundane sections of the park.
The line for the Forbidden Journey wound around half the castle and doubled back almost to the ride’s entrance. Intimidating. Naturally, this was one of the few rides the Express Pass didn’t work for. So Tom and Hannah got in line while Jules and I found a line for a food cart. Twenty minutes later, snacks in hand, we rejoined Tom and Hannah. The line had actually progressed quite a bit. By the time we’d finished eating, we were nearly up to the ride’s entrance. Maybe an hour’s wait, altogether, but at least we made efficient use of the time.
The Forbidden Journey was obviously the “piece de resistance” of Harry Potter World. Before you climb into the ride itself, you wind your way through a Hogwarts full of realistic artifacts and small special effects from the movie series. Realistically done and quite wonderful. The ride itself was a mix of movie and mechanical effects, again really well done and unique. Not to mention, a little tough on those with weak stomachs. It was actually worth the wait, in my opinion.
And that was all the line-standing we were willing to do. We headed to more sparsely populated parts of the park, like Toon Lagoon, where we rode Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barge — a pleasant river raft ride with no wait. Largely because the ride floats you beneath multiple waterfalls and leaves you utterly soaked, which is not nearly as pleasant as it sounds.
And finally, we fled to a place that would do us no wrong.
It was a full day, with equal parts frustration and fun. My final assessment: Yes, the Wild World of Wizarding is worth visiting, though I highly recommend steering clear of holidays. And maybe wait a couple of years.