Andrew Dean visited the Harry Potter attraction in September 2011 and has given us his view on this brilliant new attraction.
Andrew Dean says ...
I had a brilliant time at Orlando once again – with the help of Simon and Susan’s great book – and I am thrilled to contribute some of my photos to the Brit Guide to Orlando website together with my notes on the Harry Potter experience. I hope you find them useful when you visit Orlando.
The first thing to note is that the whole experience is wonderfully true to the books and the detail is astonishing, so do try to take your time and keep looking around you so you can absorb as much as possible.
90% of IoA visitors flock to Harry Potter as soon as they enter the park so it will get busy early – and it stays busy. Plus, the streets and shops are, of course, modelled on those in the books and films so they are fairly small and cosy, which makes the crowds seem all the larger.
You may need to visit the stores more than once to take in all that is going on around you as they tend to be busy so do not lend themselves to leisurely browsing. Be sure to look a full 360 to catch all the wonders – such as the tethered flying brooms in Dervish & Banges!
- Honeydukes contains all kinds of sweet (and not so sweet) things to take your fancy. Try the every flavour beans (if you’re brave enough!), chocolate frogs or pumpkin juice. There is also a more traditional sweet counter for the less adventurous guest.
Zonkos is a real gigglefest as there are so many outrageous toys and gadgets to keep you occupied: extendable ears, inflatable tongues, screaming yoyos and sneakoscopes to name but a few.
Ollivanders is the store where Harry buys his first wand. This is set up exactly as it is in the films and the effects are almost identical too. The queues for this experience start as soon as the park opens but, as 25 people are taken in at a time, the queue does dissipate quite quickly so don’t be put off by a long line. Small children should be warned that they must keep the noise down whilst inside! When you exit through to Dervish & Banges to choose a wand for yourself, you can either go for a replica wand of your favourite HP character, or have a Hogwarts member choose a wand for you to match your birthday …. or should we say, have the wand choose you? There’s a choice of over 20 different wands.
Dervish & Banges is the shop you enter following the Ollivander’s experience. There is a little something for everyone in here. You can complete your Harry Potter set as all 7 books are on sale. Plus there is an array of souvenirs such as notebooks, keyrings, badges and magnets. You can update your HP wardrobe with a robe, scarf, tie or backpack. Depending on your devotion to HP, you can even have your very own broom (for a hefty fee of $250).
Owl Post is the mail sorting office for Hogsmead. You can buy your own cuddly owl here or record your memories on some parchment paper complete with the Hogwarts crest.
The Three Broomsticks now serves breakfast as well as lunch and dinner.
Butterbeer comes in two varieties: regular or frozen. Try both as they are delicious!
The Hogwarts Choir is a must see: 5 choir members and 2 giant toads on velvet cushions entertain you with the songs of Hogwarts. There are approximately 6 shows per day so you shouldn’t have to wait too long before seeing one.
The Triwizard Spirit Rally is a dance spectacular brought to you by the Durmstrang gentlemen and the Beauxbatons ladies. Again, shows are approximately 5 times per day and worth waiting for.
The Forbidden Journey
This is a very clever mix of onscreen graphics and audio-animatronics, but may frighten young children or those of a nervous disposition.
Queues for this ride start to build up more or less as soon as the park opens. However, don’t be put off by a long wait time as there is so much to entertain you as you wait.
Please take heed when advised to have NOTHING in your pockets when you board this ride as although you never actually go upside-down on this one, you are flat on your back a few times so anything in your pockets WILL be lost. There are many frightening elements to this ride but do try to keep your eyes open as there is so much to see.
- You begin your journey by walking through the corridors of Hogwarts, past classrooms where you can hear the lesson being taught inside. You venture outside through the Herbology greenhouse where some strange and wonderful plants grow.
- The portraits hall is quite spectacular as you follow the conversations between the portraits themselves and aggravate the Fat Lady by being able to pass without supplying a password!
- Even more breathtaking is Dumbledore’s office, complete with pensieve and Dumbledore himself.
- My favourite part, however, is the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione appear from beneath the cloak of invisibility to whisk you away from your tour of Hogwarts to watch a quidditch match. And if you’re lucky, you may get to experience Ron’s disastrous spell-casting at its best as he makes it snow indoors! As usual, Hermione saves the day.
- From here you join the final part of the queue where the sorting hat will give you instructions on the ride itself, and be sure to look up as you board your enchanted bench to see the floating candles above you.
- And all that is before the ride actually starts!
- Your ride begins with a visit from Hermione who douses your bench in floo powder, allowing you to fly alongside Harry and Ron on your way to the quidditch match. But, of course, things are not that straightforward as you encounter Hagrid, holding on to a very large, very broken chain used to tether dragons! Your journey to the game is interrupted by a huge Hungarian Horntail who breathes fire into your face. Further detouring from the track, your bench descends into Aragog’s lair where you will find yourself surrounded by many of Aragog’s fellow spiders. Once again, Hermione appears to rescue you and uses her magic to propel you back towards the castle, but not before you are almost squashed by a gigantic whomping willow. Thankfully, the swipe from the branch knocks you right into the quidditch pitch.
- All seems well for a short time as you enjoy the Gryffindor vs Slytherin match, until the dementors arrive. Harry tries to lead you from harm but you fall into the Chamber of Secrets where you come face to face with the skeleton of the Basilisk and are chased and terrorised by the dementors who try to suck out your soul. Keep en eye out for the smoke effect at this stage of the ride as it is quite impressive! Harry manages to expel the dementors and save the day with the Patronus spell as your bench flies back into Hogwarts and through the main hall where your return is celebrated by Harry, Ron and friends. Professor Dumbledore proclaims that you are welcome to return to Hogwarts any time and send you back to the Room of Requirement where the ride ends.
- In true theme park fashion, all rides must exit through the gift shop, and this one is no different. Upon exiting the Forbidden Journey, you enter Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods where you can buy a Hogwarts school gown, sweater, bag and many prop replicas from the movies such as Mad Eye Moody’s staff. There is also a dizzying selection of magnets and pins available, including Sirius’ Wanted poster and various Proclamations. This is also where you will be able to pick up a copy of your ride photo as documentary evidence of just how scared you were! Package prices start at $30.
- The old Dueling Dragons has been given a HP-style makeover to create this rollercoaster. The actual ride is the same except that now you choose between a Chinese Fireball and a Hungarian Horntail to ride, but the queue has been modified to include the Goblet of Fire, Tri Wizard Cup and some scary moments when you think a dragon is about to burst through the door next to you.
Flight of the Hippogriff
- This is a modest but fun little rollercoaster for smaller HP fans.