The Wizarding World of Universal Studios
The last time I was in Universal Studios was about ten years ago on my last trip to Disney. This time around, Universal was actually the main draw for our trip, because my friends had booked a trip just to see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and figured they might as well hit up Disney while they were there. I crashed their trip, which is how I ended up here in Orlando in the first place. Needless to say, everyone was very anxious to head over to Universal Studios and the Islands of Adventure (the park attached to Universal that hosts the Harry Potter-park).
We decided to start at the Universal end (you do have to pay for both parks separately) because people seemed to be flocking in large herds to the Islands of Adventure side. We barely had to wait in any lines at all in Universal, it was awesome! Our first ride was Shrek 4-D where you sit in a theater with 3-D glasses and watch a short Shrek adventure on film, while your chair acts like a simulator. I REALLY loved the Shrek ride, and it was our first 4-D ride. While it is really cool to have seemingly normal chairs act as simulators, and have water splashed on you and other 4-D like things happen, after our sixth or seventh 4-D style ride, I was getting a little worried for Walt Disney World & Universal Studios. 4-D rides are really cool, but to me they can’t possibly replace the animatronic style rides like Pirates of the Caribbean or Revenge of the Mummy, and I hope that isn’t where the future of Disney/Universal rides is headed. Many rides while we were in Disney turned out to be 3-D with a simulator, 4-D, or renovated to be 4-D when they weren’t originally. 4-D rides include The Muppets, Shrek, Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Spiderman…the list goes on. Just sayin…I think Disney World might look very different 10 years from now, they might be handing you some universal 3-D glasses with your Park Hopper Pass!
In Universal Studios we rode Twister, Revenge of the Mummy, the Simpsons Ride, Men in Black, Jaws, and several others. We covered the whole park in half the day, and our collective favorite ride of this park was Revenge Of the Mummy. We all love roller coasters, and this one is AWESOME! Highly recommended!
By 2pm we headed over to the other half of the Universal area- the Islands of Adventure. This park is hometo The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which was the first stop on our list. I have to say, I am only starting to become familiar with Harry Potter, but the Wizarding World is very cool. Hogwarts castle is gigantic, it is absolutely monstrous in person, and in a way, more astounding than Cinderella’s castle simply because it looks like it was transplanted right out of the movie. It is enormous! Inside the castle is a ride, sort of a roller coaster and a simulator combined into one, and it ended up being one of my top 3 rides from the entire trip! When you walk through the line in the castle it is exactly like the movie: they have giant paintings that talk and move, Harry, Ron, and Hermione show up, there is a floating candle ceiling, this castle is amazing! The ride was really exhilarating and slightly terrifying, I enjoyed every minute of it!
The actual Harry Potter World is very very small. Extremely small. Did I mention it’s small? The castle is on one end, and then there is a little village that is snow covered and meant to look like Diagon Alley, where you can actually buy wands from Ollivander’s and drink Butter Beer at Hog’s Mead. The park is full of Harry-references! Then there is a dragon roller coaster that is actually a recycled ride they transplanted from a different part of the park, and then you are exiting the Wizarding World! It is very crowded and a very small space, but it is still totally a must-see, even if it is just for Hogwarts!
Other than that, there really isn’t much to see in the Islands of Adventure. I can honestly say that I now understand why we only bought tickets to the Universal side ten years ago when I was a kid (Dad are you reading this? You were right! haha) There is a small section of the park dedicated to Dr.Seuss, which is adorable but more oriented for kids. There is also a section devoted to comic books, and rides like the Hulk and Spiderman, but Spiderman turned out to be my least favorite ride of the trip. The line was hot and very very long, and the ride was not that great to begin with. I wouldn’t recommend the Islands of Adventure at all really, if it wasn’t for Harry Potter.