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As an exceptionally great Christmas present this year, my parents took me and my sister to Orlando for a whirlwind two-day trip right before Christmas. The main reason was to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Islands of Adventure, which we’d been chomping-at-the-bit to see ever since we saw the concept art. It was also a chance to get in some Disney favorites (*cough Safaris cough*) — I’m lucky enough to be able to go to Disneyland quite often now, but I’ve been missing my Florida home and chances to see old friends.

So, immediately after spending a full day flying with a small puppy (tiring, but relatively easy) I turned around a got in a car for a 10 hour car ride! My very best friend from college, Anne-Marie, had stuck around an extra day so that we could drive down together — she was heading home to Tampa for break and the long ride was excellent catch up time. (I then proceeded to wake up at about 6 AM for the next two days and run around for 16+ hours each day — let’s just say the jet lag catch-up was a doozy.)

DAY ONE: THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

At the advice of some friends, we were parked in the Universal parking structure by 7:00ish…when the park didn’t even open until 8 AM. Until park open, we were slowly shuffled through check-points in Islands of Adventure until we were allowed to enter the Harry Potter section of the park.

 

Hogwarts

From there it was a mad dash to The Forbidden Journey — the new ride that takes you through Hogwarts Castle, and is pretty revolutionary in terms of theme park technology. Getting into the Harry Potter area exactly at 8 meant that there was only an hour wait (and trust me, by the time we got off, it was already 2 hours, and the wait to get into the Harry Potter area itself was at least 2 hours too.)

Hermione's Dress from the 4th movie

Later in the morning Dragon Challenge (the dueling roller coaster) only had a 15 minute wait! We spent the majority of our time though waiting in line for all the really great stores they’ve recreated.

 

The Owlery

Like Honeydukes

A frothy butterbeer while waiting in line for the candy store!

And Dervish & Bangs

Your very own Triwizard Cup

And definitely Ollivander’s wand shop, were Mr. Ollivander helps a wand pick a kid in a short show. (This had the longest wait of any of the stores.)

It makes sense that they limit the amount of people into the Harry Potter land — it’s very realistic to the movies/books, which means that the streets and stores are very narrow by theme park standards. It really helps you feel immersed in the world though, and it’s not a wonder that Wizarding World of Harry Potter is such a success 🙂

After spending all morning there, we breezed through Seuss Landing on our way out for some Grinchmas cheer:

And then spent the rest of the day at the outlet malls in the Orlando area until it was time for dinner at Fulton’s Crab House in Downtown Disney — a family favorite!

Next up: The insanity that is 5 Parks in 1 Day (yes, you read that right.)

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I mentioned my family is leaving this weekend  to go to Disney World in Orlando right? Well I’m slightly less jealous of them now. But only slightly.

You see, the opening date of Harry Potter World aka The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (phew! what a mouthful.) has been announced. And while millions of spring breakers were, I’m sure, hoping to hit up both Disney World AND Universal’s Islands of Adventure, today they sadly declared that the “spring 2010” opening date is going to be…

June 18th.

I’m not sure who exactly clarified for Universal what months “Spring” usually are, but oh well.

Here is an article from Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch today that has an introduction video to the big ticket ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. They apparently filmed new scenes with Daniel, Emma and Rupert (we’re on first name basis, obviously) just for the ride, and it sounds like they made the queue REALLY intense/interesting. Which is good, because I’m sure for at least the first few months you’re looking at a minimum of an hour wait.

This is the link for Universal Orlando’s super fancy official site for the section of the park, in case anyone is interested.

Ooooo. Pretty Concept Art!

I really want to be one of the crazies there on opening weekend. Anyone wanna go halfsies on tickets??

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