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Harry Potter and the Anniversary Tourists

Monday, January 24, 2011 @ 09:01 AM

020As I write this post and gaze out the window at the snow gently falling, I am reminded of how nice and warm Orlando was last October and frankly it probably still is compared to here this time of year.  Thinking back I remember how much of a whirlwind week of both food and entertainment it was; and in particular, there was one place I was unbelievably excited to visit that was a hit on both accords. I’m talking about Universal Orlando’s “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”!

Now I don’t typically jump on bandwagons…wait who am I kidding….I pretty much always jump on, I’ve loved all things “Harry Potter” pretty much since the beginning, and quite obsessively.  In fact, my sorority “big” and I were such fans that we had Harry Potter themed letter sweatshirts made. Ya…I know…big dork for sure! But what I love so much about the books, movies…the whole lot if it is how it allows grown-ups and kids alike to jump into those pages and get lost for a bit.  J.K. Rowling truly has created an entire world complete with new words, phrases, foods & beverages, and descriptions that could allow one to picture exactly how this world would be.

Well we don’t have to picture it anymore; and when I heard they were opening up a section of Universal Studios created entirely around Harry Potter I was beyond excited.  To see what I had always pictured it could look like in my head in real life…it’s hard to imagine how it could be done.  But then again, with someone like Rowling giving the ok to everything, I knew it would be done right.

So needless to say, from the moment I found out, I wanted to see it, although I honestly didn’t think we would visit it for some years. That was until we decided that our anniversary trip was going to be to Orlando this past year.  It was at that moment that I expressed STRONG desire to make Universal one of our park visits, and lucky for us we were able to cover the cost of the tickets by using credit card points. Also, our friends Tim and Alex Smoker (who are also enthusiasts) had a free trip to the park as well and were happy to join us, since they live in Orlando…double bonus!

Now I want to begin by saying that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not an entire theme park in and of itself, rather it is one of Universal’s ‘Islands of Adventure.’ So we actually began our morning by slowly making our way to that “island” section of the park, knowing that section would be packed first thing and so we could make sure to arrive by lunch time, since the goal was to eat there.  This actually worked out perfectly since everyone else did in fact seem to go straight there, meaning we had very little wait at any of the islands leading up to the Harry Potter section.  But let me tell you, you know you are getting close when you begin to feel claustrophobic.  I am not kidding…, it is as if you see the castle and all of sudden are surrounded by a million people. Still the sight is worth it…




It looks straight out of the movies…so amazing!  After crossing the bridge, you are immediately in Diagon Alley, full of all the shops you remember reading about in the books.  It feels very surreal to walk around. You believe that you’re actually there thank to the attention to detail, which is simply perfect.  Anyway, it was almost noon, so we figured we should try and get in for lunch before it got too crazy.  The restaurant in this section is aptly called Three Broomsticks, which is very much like an old English tavern, complete with the Hog’s Head Pub attached.  We decided to forgo the alcoholic drinks because I had my heart set on a Butterbeer, but we’ll get to that.

Although a typical tourist attraction complete with lines that you wrap your way around to the counter to order, you really don’t feel like you are in any normal attraction.  Rather, the employees are so well in character that you almost have to remind yourself you are in the real world.  We eyed everything on the menu and I decided the best bet was the Chicken and Ribs platter complete with corn on the cob and roasted potatoes.  Adam and Tim went with the same, while Alex decided to go with the Cornish Pasties and side salad. To drink, we all 4 had Butterbeers; and Alex informed us prior to ordering that although they come “normal” and frozen, frozen was the way to go. She was SOOOO right! They did not disappoint.




First of all, the Butterbeer…AMAZE-BALLS!  It’s really hard to describe, but if I had to, I would say it tastes like a butterscotch icy milkshake…thick, creamy, almost float like.  It was definitely the highlight of the meal for everyone, and although very sweet, it was still refreshing after being out in the heat.  Then there was the food, which was also very good, especially considering we were dining inside a theme park, which are not known for their high level cuisine.  I mean let’s be real, many theme parks are known to give you really not great food at outrageous prices.  However, these meals were hearty, tasty, and totally hit the spot!  And best of all, they were relatively reasonable in price considering how much food each of us got.

Following lunch we walked around a little bit more and hit up the main Harry Potter ride, which is TOTALLY AWESOME! (unless you get simulater sickness, like Adam does…, and did! Smile)  We wanted to go through a lot of the shops, like Olivander’s, however unless you want to wait in a line for an hour to buy something, you unfortunately can’t even get in to look around.  That I would say is sort of the downfall of the whole experience. I really wanted to experience more of that world, so if you are like me and have built it up so much in your head, you will likely be disappointed if you don’t want to wait a long time.

Unfortunately past that there really isn’t much.  I think maybe in a few years once the hype dies down a bit, I would enjoy being able to go inside some of the shops, but for this trip it just didn’t pay to. Still, I enjoyed looking at the detail, and we got to go on a few more of the rides, so still kinda worth it.

SIGNATURE DISH: In the case of this excursion I would have to say their “signature” items are actually drinks.  Between their Butterbeer and Pumpkin Ale, drinks are the most popular items to try while visiting.  While I showcased the food we ate, it isn’t any dish that is noteworthy from the books, rather foods you would find at many local pubs around England.  The drinks, however, are very notable, and it was interesting to try a beverage created only from a name and to see if it tastes like what you would think it might.

TASTE: I said it above, the food we tried was great, but again what stood out was the Butterbeer!  I have never in my life had anything like it, nor do I do I think I ever would again.  It was just so creamy and delightful…, everything I hoped it would be and more!

AMBIANCE: The surroundings are truly the best part. Every detail was taken into account and it truly enhances the experience.  I loved being submersed inside this world I had envisioned in my head, and my only wish was that I could have gone inside more of the shops.  Still, just walking through the “town square” area transports you into what feels like another world.  There is truly a different experience walking into and leaving this section of the park, unlike any other section throughout. This could possibly be due to the large crowds, but I like to think it was because of the “magic” of it all! 😉

PRICE: This is where we were all very shocked!  For the Chicken and Ribs Platter you paid $11.99, which is way less than many restaurants outside a theme park, and you also get A LOT of food, and it tastes really good.  They have done a great job making eating there a worthwhile adventure.

SERVICE: Aside from the shops with crazy lines, we didn’t encounter too much of a wait anywhere, and there were always things to look at if you did have to wait.  But all of their employees are extremely well versed in both the workings of the park, as well as Harry Potter trivia itself. All in all they were also extremely helpful.

At the end of the day, although not being able to take part in more of the whole experience was disappointing, I believe that to be largely my own fault for my unwillingness to wait.  Plus, outside of my expecting it to be “grander” or larger, what we did experience was pretty spectacular.  I truly did have a smile the whole time and I would visit again in an instant…, mostly if not just to have another Butterbeer! So with that, I give The Wizarding World of Harry Potter…4 1/2 ‘Little… “Hoggies”‘ Winking smile

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One Response to “Harry Potter and the Anniversary Tourists”

  1. […] exciting experiences (or food related excursions) that are also featured in popular culture. From Harry Potter to the good ol’ County Fair, our excursions have run the gamut. While some of our excursions are […]