If this blog has seemed quiet for the past few days, it's because I've been on "spring break." I took three days off earlier this week for a trip with my younger sister to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.
Yes, I went to Harry Potter World. Yes, I'm 25 years old. But I wasn't the oldest person there geeking out over wizarding robes and magic wands.
It's hard not to get excited entering the park, because the level of detail is amazing. It looks almost exactly like the set for Hogsmeade Village in the movies. There's snow on the building rooftops and ravens flying around Hogwarts Castle. Every window -- even in the shops that are closed -- has moving displays of enchanted items and magical creatures. The movie score plays over the park loudspeakers on a loop. Drink stands sell butterbeer and pumpkin juice. Park workers wander around in wizarding robes and call all the tourists "Muggles."
If you decide to make the trip to Hogwarts (I highly recommend it), here are some things to keep in mind:
Never miss a local story.
1) If you decide to drive, the quickest route to Orlando is also one of the most boring 7-hour stretches of road you will ever travel. It's mostly farmland and billboards for retirement homes and "We Bare All" cafes. I suggest loading up your Ipod with your favorite music and powering through the drive as quickly as possible.
2) Islands of Adventure -- the park that Harry Potter World is in -- opens at 9 a.m. Get there early, so you can find parking and enter the park as soon as it opens. Power walk your way to Hogsmeade and stay there until you've had your fill of magic spells, then visit the other sections of Islands of Adventure. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter reaches capacity very quickly and if you take your time getting there, you might be asked to return to that section of the park later in the day.
3) Yes, you're in Harry Potter World and it's super cool, but this is not your own personal journey to Hogwarts. There are thousands of other people, just like you, who want to tour the castle, visit Ollivander's wand shop and get a meal at the Three Broomsticks. There will be plenty of long lines and ridiculous wait times for everything, including the souvenir shops and the restaurant. Complaining about it not only ruins the trip for you, but also for every other tourist around you. So please don't complain. Use your time in line to notice the cool little park details, people watch, quiz other tourists on Harry Potter trivia, or drink a butterbeer.
4) Tired of waiting? Some rides, like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, offer separate lines for single riders that usually have shorter wait times. Single riders are used to fill in empty seats on an attraction. If you don't mind splitting up your party, I suggest getting in this line. The wait's usually only about 15 minutes, instead of 45 minutes to an hour.
5) Not a Harry Potter fan? That's okay. You buy a ticket for Islands of Adventure, not just Harry Potter World. Once you've toured Hogwarts and drank a butterbeer, you can visit one of the other parks. We browsed through Seuss World for a while, then went to the Marvel Superhero World to ride the Hulk coaster and the Spiderman ride.
(Got a favorite family vacation memory you'd like to share? Leave a comment on this blog or contact me at email@example.com or 706-320-4469. You could be featured in a story on vacation planning I'm writing for Her magazine)