The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is really why we’re here.
Wizarding World has single-handedly revitalized Universal’s operation in Florida. From 2010 to 2011, Islands of Adventure’s attendance was up 29%, from 5,949,000 to 7,647,000. This year, Walt Disney World’s attendance is down nearly 3%. Resort Occupancy is below 80% for the first time since I began running this website and Magical Express ridership is down by more than 100,000. When Test Track was closed for “RENEWAL,” Epcot attendance was down over 10% compared to the same period last year. Even DVC members are using their points to stay on property and skip visiting the Disney Parks. That’s why you saw the recent $299 Annual Pass promotion.
Disney’s response seems to be new bathrooms, a couple of neat queues, and a “Next Generation Experience” no one seems to want.
Universal’s response to their own success has been to streamline the Transformers attraction opening in June and expand Harry Potter to Universal Studios. Rumors indicate that you’ll be able to take the Hogwart’s Express from the London section at Universal to the Hogwarts section here at Islands of Adventure. Furthermore, it’s expected that there will be various storylines during the ride. For example, the lights may flicker as the train shakes from a dementor attack. The Gringott’s attraction is also supposed to be mind blowing.
That said, Wizarding World is really just one new attraction.
Flight of the Hippogriff was previously known as the Flying Unicorn.
It’s just a mostly un-themed kiddie coaster.
It’s still fun when there’s no wait like today.
And Dragon Challenge is a rebranded Dueling Dragons, which no longer duel after several accidents.
It’s totally wild though. Between the Disney Parks, SeaWorld, and Universal, I’d put Dragon Challenge as the second most intense coaster – only behind Manta at SeaWorld. I’m not sure if that’s debatable.
On a day like today, the posted wait is 5 minutes, or basically as long as it takes to walk the gigantic queue. There’s also a dedicated line for the front row, which is worth waiting a few extra minutes for.
We’ll return for better queue and on-ride photos. I purchased a “waist bag” for Tom and a wrist strap today, so on-ride photos of the more intense attractions should be possible. Wearing these things virtually guarantees I will never find a wife. Dragon Challenge is an inverted coaster with top speeds of 60 miles per hour and a 115 foot drop.
On the plus side, I took some pictures of stuff:
Not the greatest pictures in the world – for whatever reason all of the Harry Potter stores are extremely cramped and dark. But they have a lot of quality merchandise, most of which can be purchased online.
The thing about Wizarding World is that everything is themed perfectly.
The execution is astounding.
The newer “New Fantasyland” doesn’t even measure up.
I have never read a Harry Potter book because reading is for losers, but anyone will appreciate the detail.
It doesn’t even matter if you know where you’re being transported to.
Three Broomsticks is the quick service arm of Wizarding World, serving up what I consider to be the best fast food at Islands of Adventure.
The barbecue items should look familiar from Thunder Falls over in Jurassic Park. The benefit here would be that the food should still be hot by the time you arrive at your table. Unlike Thunder Falls, you pay first and then continue to pick up your freshly plated food.
As far as I’m concerned, Frozen Butterbeer is the best beverage in the world. I think my favorite thing about it is the consistency. It doesn’t suffer at all from the usual problem with frozen drinks, where you get to the point where there’s just ice in the bottom that’s impossible to slurp up. That and the butterscotch flavor. And it’s 30 cents less than LeFou’s Frozen Apple Juice.
I’m assuming it’s expertly themed. You can see that there’s all of six people here in the middle of the afternoon.
A little holiday cheer.
The Three Broomsticks.
My favorite part about Three Broomsticks is that they have a very authentic bird problem. They’re always chasing birds out of that place.
Outdoor seating is pleasant when it isn’t too warm out.
With a nice view.
Also inside is Hog Head’s Pub. You’ll find it on the opposite side of where you order.
With some authentically European brews.
As well as “Hog’s Head Brew.” Protip: it’s called Safari Amber at Animal Kingdom.
Hog’s Head (in particular) or Three Broomsticks are the best places to purchase Butterbeer or the other assorted Potter drinks. They accept the Annual Pass discount along with shorter lines in air-conditioning.
But on a day like today where there aren’t any lines anywhere, you could walk up and purchase whatever you wanted without a wait.
Inside Zonko’s, you’ll find more stuff:
That Duck on a Bike will be mine.
And at Honeydukes, more stuff:
It may remind you of Main Street Confectionery.
There’s also Olivanders, which this isn’t a picture of.
With its limited capacity, the usual advice is to head straight to it in the morning and then over to Forbidden Journey next. You could also do things in reverse – hitting Forbidden Journey and then Olivanders as your last two attractions of the day.
With tax, wands cost just south of $32. They’re easiest to purchase at the cart outside the exit to Forbidden Journey.
Forbidden Journey really is something else. I’m not sure if I’m really doing the Wizarding World justice here without pictures of what the rides are. I haven’t seen a video that does justice either. You should buy the hype though – the experience is pretty extraordinary.
We’ll return to Wizarding World for a better look, but this should give you an idea about what to expect if you haven’t really looked into it yet.
Next up is The Lost Continent.