Friday, July 1, 2011

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Left Us Wanting More

The Picket Fence Post family just returned from a week of Orlando amusement park madness, highlighted by many hours spent at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure in a life-sized replica of Hogsmeade, and replicas of Hogwarts, Ollivanders Wand Shop, Zonko’s and Honeydukes. We also had a rather disappointing lunch at the Three Broomsticks, all places right out of J.K. Rowling’s beloved classic books and the subsequent film series.

I, the resident family ride wimp, didn’t go on any of the three Harry Potter rides, though I was able to walk through the Hogwarts castle without having to actually go on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. The Girl, who’s fearless, rode on all three Harry Potter rides, including the Dragon Challenge rollercoaster which goes upside-down. (She dragged her super-reluctant father onto the Dragon Challenge with her and he reported later that he kept his eyes closed the whole time, which is a heck of a lot better than I would've done.)

All three of the Picket Fence Post kids, however, rode on the Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster multiple times while I bided my time marveling at the very cool Hogsmeade storefronts many of which were simply just for show and had nothing behind them. For example, one storefront had the boastful books written by Professor Lockhart but they and the storefront were for display purposes.

Cool bits:

-- The Girl and The Youngest Boy liked the Butterbeer, which they said tasted like cream soda with a creamy, whipped kind of topping. They each imbibed two of them on the blisteringly hot day we spent in the Wizarding World where the rooftops of Hogsmeade are covered in faux snow.

-- There’s a hallway of talking, moving portraits in the Hogwarts castle. (If you go to the park, after you ride on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey be sure to check out the castle walk-through, where you can linger and look more closely at the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and other Hogwarts rooms.)

-- Pumpkin Fizz. Simply delicious. I sincerely wish that they’ll bottle it up and ship some up here to New England. It would be perfection with an autumn meal.

-- There’s a Hogwarts singing group, complete with oversized "frogs" in their arms, that performed. They were very good but I felt badly for the singers in their robes and Hogwarts-issued sweaters as they sweated profusely in the chest-crushing Orlando humidity.

-- Chocolate frogs. In blue boxes. With trading cards inside.

-- The Harry Potter film soundtracks playing over the loudspeakers.

-- Moaning Myrtle’s voice in the bathrooms.

Not-so-cool bits:

-- When we were at the Three Broomsticks, which didn’t nearly live up to my high expectations, I asked the cashier (as you order at a counter then pick up your food at another counter) if I could have a Butterbeer without the creamy topping because I have a dairy allergy. Alas, me experiencing Butterbeer was not to be as the cashier told me she was forbidden by law from serving up said non-dairy Butterbeer without the creamy topping. (?!) Though I was denied a coveted mug of Butterbeer, I was able to order Pumpkin Fizz instead. The Picket Fence Post family agreed that we wished the Three Broomsticks was a sit-down, full-service restaurant instead of cafeteria style, though they do find a seat for you. It ruined the ambiance of Hogsmeade to walk around with a plastic tray in your hands and packets of ketchup.

-- The line for Ollivanders wand shop – where they’d let a couple dozen people into the tiny shop at a time to witness a bit where the wandmaker selects a person from the crowd and goes through the process of having the wand “choose” that individual – was gigantic. And you couldn’t use an Express Pass (a pass for which you pay extra in order to cut the lines) to skip the line. We decided to wait anyway (or I did, while the family rode on rides multiple times over and I lusted after other people's Butterbeers) and, since we’re all huge Potter fans, we believe it was worth it. But we could’ve easily skipped it and gone straight to the gift shop where there were tons of wands and salespeople, dressed as though they were a part of the wizarding world, waiting to assist us with wand purchases.

-- Several of the storefronts were just that, fronts. I was hopeful that there’d be more stores than there were, but then again, I guess that’s the sign of a good theme park isn’t it, that I was left wanting more, even after spending about five+ hours there?

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