FINALLY, I was going to Orlando. I was so so excited when I saw this on my March Roster, that, to see it at the end of the month was a long and painful wait. However, this gave me chance to mull over the very big decision. Would I be going to Disney, or would I be going to Harry Potter World?
We departed Dubai International Airport at 3am with 15 hours and 10 minutes over to Orlando. We got to the hotel around 1pm and I thought I might have time to sneak in a trip to Disney, as crew we had decided on Universal Studios for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They have sneakily placed Harry Potter across two parks; both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure so I paid $192 for access to both parks. But all plans of sneaking in a trip to Disney too came crashing down as it wouldn’t make sense to also pay for Disney and not get to spend much time there. Instead, I met the crew at the pool bar for a some lunch and drinks before we decided to head on over to the Outlet Mall.
After a fair few hours of shopping (hello $12 bikinis in Victoria Secret!!) we took an Uber back to the hotel to get a good nights rest before our long day of theme parks ahead of us!
The next day I woke up at 7:45am to get ready before the hotel shuttle took us over to Universal Studios. I love the feeling you get when you’re going to places like this. I felt like a kid all over again, I was beyond excited for Harry Potter and upon scanning our tickets for entry we were told to head straight over there as the queues were at their shortest when the park has just opened.
Walking over to Harry Potter I was as excited as a child is on Christmas Eve, when I first caught the glimpse of Leicester Square Tube Station with the Knight Bus outside with it being such a familiar scene both from spending a lot of time in London and also with watching the films I felt completely immersed in the Wizarding World.
Walking past Kings Cross Train Station (which we would soon be going back to) and in through the broken rubble wall into Diagon Alley, I have never felt like I have stepped into a film like this in my entire life. It was the perfect replica of Diagon Alley and I felt what Harry Potter must have felt like when he was taken there by Hagrid before he went to Hogwarts. The shops were perfect and you could enter them and buy different items from Weasley Wizard Wheezes or even go and buy your perfect wand from Olivanders. There were different places to eat and drink and of course you could buy the famous (non-alcoholic) Butter Beer in both cold and frozen formats. I couldn’t get around it all fast enough, I was amazed at everything there was and there were even people dressed up in wizard and witches gowns. It was honestly mesmerising and I’d not even done anything yet.
Walking up to Gringotts Bank (the building with the dragon on you can see in the above picture) was the first ride: Escape From Gringotts. The ride was brilliant, and even in the queues – and this goes for all the Harry Potter rides – there was so much attention to detail. You genuinely felt like you were in the bank, and they had life like goblins going about their daily tasks, moving newspaper articles for you to read and an interesting lift journey down into the vaults. I waited 40 minutes for the ride, but I was that entertained, it didn’t feel that long at all.
The ride was a rollercoaster combined with a 3D visual experience, and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who wasn’t been but it was just brilliant. You genuinely felt part of the film.
Next up was the Hogwarts Express over to the other park Islands Of Adventure. Walking through the line to get on the train you actually went through the wall for platform 9 3/4 or so it was made to look like before you got on the grand steam train. And it wasn’t just a train ride, the ‘window’ was actually a TV screen which made it feel like you were actually leaving Kings Cross in London (a journey I was very familiar with whilst at university) and through the countryside of the UK right into Hogsmeade Station. Not only that, the doors of the carriage were made to look like silhouettes were outside when the death eaters came and that Ron, Hermione and Harry were also outside buying chocolate frogs from the sweet cart. The ride back over was also different, so you didn’t feel like you had been on the same ride twice.
Pulling into Hogsmeade we were finally in the land of all things truly magical, and even though it was a lovely 29 degrees, the town had snow on the roofs as it does in the film. The crew wanted to go on this big rollercoaster, as I’m not a massive fan of coasters (I know, why did I pay so much for a theme park) and when asking the attendant about it, he said it went upside down 7 times. Thats the one thing that will stop me from going on a rollercoaster, so I sat that one out and had a butter beer whilst soaking up the sunshine!
After this, we wandered round to Hogwarts Castle which looked so impressive. The next ride was in here and you were placed on a broomstick type ride which four of you were secured into and taken on a ride through Hogwarts.
Walking through the school they had different holograms of Harry, Hermione and Ron and Dumbledore which were talking to us and explaining what we were about to do. They had the paintings that adorned the walls of Hogwarts that were talking to each other and to us, it was exactly like the set. Instead of queuing for a ride, you felt like you were just exploring the school.
Sadly this brought us to the end of the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter and we moved onto to explore the rest of Islands Of Adventure, not before having a quick browse through the shops of Hogsmeade!
Islands of Adventure is another great park, a lot of 3D simulator based rides. Its just crazy to think a ride, where you are just moving through a series of rooms with huge screens, can make you feel like you are there! Whether it be King Kong running over the top of the buggy you’re riding in, or whether Spiderman is dragging you through the streets of New York you genuinely feel like you’re in that moment!
After Islands of Adventure, it was back to Universal to see the rest of what it has to offer. My favourite ride had to be The Simpsons ride, again it was a simulator experience as though you were on a rollercoaster, and I genuinely felt as though I was on one. My stomach was dropping and I was genuinely fearing for the next drop. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a room, in a cart, that was not moving.
Before I knew it, the park was coming to a close and myself and two of the other crew decided to stay in the grounds for dinner before going home and collapsing into bed after our incredibly long day on our feet.
I honestly had such a great layover, it is definitely up there with my favourites. Feeling like a kid is great again, and I would honestly recommend Harry Potter to any HP fan, whether you’ve just watched the films, or you grew up with it like I did. It really is a truly magical day out.