Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Field Trip: Universal Studios and Harry Potter World

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My family has been Harry Potter fans for years.  It all goes back to when my Aunt and Uncle gave sister K a trio of books for Christmas.  K wasn't much of a reader (still isn't come to think of it) so we started reading the books all together.  Soon, all 3 of us were hooked.  As new books came out, we'd read them aloud to make sure no one missed a single minute of the books.

We were the crazy fans that waited at midnight for the 6th book, and then the 7th.  It was a huge part of our childhood that we, all 3 of us, experienced together.  So, when Harry Potter world was first announced at Universal, it got put on our "must visit" list.  That was years ago though and since none could visit without the others, it took until September 2015 for us to make the pilgrimage.

If you are a Harry Potter (or HP as we affectionately call him in our house) fan, you are never going to find another place like this.  Even John, a non-HP fan enjoyed the experience.  You walk through Universal and you end up at the very back of the park.  We wanted to start our adventure in Diagon Alley, as HP does in his books.  However, in the heat of September, you do NOT want to be in Hogsmeade with no shade in the afternoon.  So, we started in Hogsmeade.

We headed straight to Hogwarts where Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride takes place.  The line, when we got there was 45 minutes long.  As soon as we got into the castle, we realized why.  Contrary to popular belief, people were not standing in line.  The details in the castle (while ostensibly you are to be waiting in line), were so rich people were just NOT moving.  As huge fans ourselves, we were happy to stroll despite the large gaps between groups to see the moving portraits, Dumbledore's office, and the entrance to Griffyndor's common room.

By the time we strolled our way to the front, we were put right on the ride.  The ride keeps everyone moving by making you get on the seat while it moves along a conveyor belt.  Talk about pressure for those non-coordinated among us (i.e. me).  The ride was like nothing I"ve ever been on before.  Part simulation, part roller-coaster, it was enjoyable to everyone.

The next stop was Ollivander's as it had a very, very short line and we were nervous about the line at Diagon Alley (a pointless worry as the entire time we were there, we saw not one line at Ollivander's in Diagon Alley so wait to do it in the original Ollivander's).  We got a great show where 2 siblings were chosen to allow the wands to choose them!  And then, we were into the shop to buy wands.  At $50, you can buy a wand that allows you to interact within the park.  And it is COOL for adults as well as kids.  In fact, the wands are rather sensitive and it took both K and M time to adjust to them.

We had an early lunch at the Three Broomsticks, the best way we realized to avoid crowds was to eat around 11:30.  We enjoyed frozen butterbeer and cold butterbeer (frozen was better), and for lunch we had their Great Feast.  It is a lunch for 4 that was more like a lunch for 6!  Roasted chicken, delicious roasted potatoes, and roasted veggies.  It was delicious!  Also among the favorites was the fish and chips, freshly fried and completely tasty.

Off to the Hogwart's Express.  We were 8 people, a perfect compartment on the train and we filled in rather quickly.  It was a fun ride to King's Cross Station, looking exactly as it does in the movies.  We filed out onto the streets of London.  Diagon Alley is tucked away, just as in the books, so as not to be invaded by Muggles.  We hung out at the Knight Bus, saw Kreacher peeking through the windows at 11 Grimmald Place and then headed into Diagon Alley where we found ourselves immersed in a wizarding world.  Robes, wands, Gringott's money, it's all there.

Diagon Alley had so much to see and do we ended up spending most of the day there.  First up was the Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes.  As if it had stepped out of the pages of the books themselves, the shop is a small yet stuffed space filled with delicious jokes to share with all your loved ones.  The shop's entrance is so cute and something you could stare at for a few minutes enjoying it all!  There's also a large dragon on top of Gringott's bank who blows fire.  It's not on a timeframe, it is "at her whim" the nice man standing there told us.

We went onto the Harry Potter Escape from Gringotts ride and once again were shocked by the gorgeous details of the line!  The bank was recreated with such detail that no one wanted to walk quickly through the line!  Everyone ended up standing and watching the goblins do their work or talk to you.  Then, we went down into the vaults and got on the ride.  Another fantastic mix of virtual reality, roller coaster, and props, we all thoroughly enjoyed it!

After a quick stop at Florean Forescue's Ice Cream Parlour - butterbeer ice cream, chocolate and chili ice cream, every one was fantastic, we were off to explore the rest of the park!
The next day, we got started with lunch at the Leaky Cauldron; unfortunately, it was rainy that day and by the time we got back to Hogsmeade we were really chilled.  We stopped at Hog's Head for some adult drinks and hot butterbeer, our favorite butterbeer type!  It tasted exactly like what you would imagine Harry and his friends drank on their visits to Hogsmeade in the winter!  For HP fans like us,, this was an amazing experience.  One, I imagine that is only rivaled by London itself (which of course, John and I have had the pleasure of visiting ourselves) but necessary for everyone who wants to walk a day in Harry's shoes.

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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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