Motorbiking Misadventures: A Hogwarts Professor Visits Universal, Day 3.

Date:  9 July 2019.

T-shirt choice: Hand-painted Virginia is for Wizards Ravenclaw/Erudite hybrid.

Status of Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure: Open, with “brief” delays.

This was our Wizarding World-focused day.  Our hotel offers early admission to the Harry Potter sections of the park, so we decided to take advantage of being able to visit prior to the general public. Our plan was to start at Hogsmeade, which we hadn’t explored in detail the previous day, but, turns out, the early admissions offer only applied to Diagon Alley. This is not what the brochure advertised, so I suspect this restriction is a response to the crowd control measures necessitated by the popularity of Hagrid’s Motorbike Ride.

So, with my son’s new wand tucked safely into our Generic Magic Festival tote (thanks, Lana!) we headed there around 7:30 to try out some more spells. We spent an hour or so puttering around Diagon Alley with the spell map, trying out all the official ones and the “secret” unmarked ones that I had found on the internet. As we had heard, some are easier than others, and learning to use the wand takes some practice, as you can see in this video of my first attempts at spell-casting.

Within an hour or so there was a huge crowd forming in the line to King’s Cross Station and word spread that Hagrid’s Motorbike Ride was open. With high hopes that yesterday’s closure had resulted in the removal of all the nargles, we hopped in the line, got aboard the train (this time seeing the magic brick wall where people appear to vanish—we missed that on day 1) and joined the crowd heading to Hogsmeade, to assess the situation.  Did we make it to the oh-so-hyped adventure?  Tune in after the jump. Spoilers for rides ahead. [Read more…]

Sampling Fortescue’s: A Hogwarts Professor Visits Universal, Day 2

Date: 8 July 2019

T-shirt choice:  Roanoke Potterfest 2017.

Status of Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure: Closed all day.

Much of today was spent on non-Potter attractions:  specifically the thrill rides of Universal’s Islands of Adventure park. Even if we had wanted to take on the Hagrid ride, we couldn’t; it was closed all day. Islands of Adventure has a host of exciting rides; some of our favorite were the Incredible Hulk roller coaster, and the King Kong 3D ride, However, we also took a bit of a break from all the adrenaline rushes and enjoyed a few rides in Dr. Suess land.

Towards the end of the day, my kids decided they wanted to cross back over to the Universal Studios park for the Men in Black ride that we had skipped the day before. Turns out, the best way to get there was to go to Hogsmeade and take the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley. So, to my delight, we took another stroll through Hogsmeade, peeked into Honeydukes, and took in a few of the sights before catching the train. It was also an excuse to stop at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, for treats that were as good as I remember. We enjoyed delicious ice cream (hard pack recommended over soft serve) in a variety of British-inspired flavors (or should that be, “flavours?”) like Earl Grey and Lavender, Clotted Cream and Sticky Toffee Pudding. There was also Butterbeer ice cream, of course. We were so eager to eat it that I forgot to get a picture.

More Pottering… a lot more…on Day 3.

Escaping Gringotts: A Hogwarts Professor Visits Universal, Day 1.

Date: 7 July 2019

T-shirt choice:  2017 Queen City Mischief and Magic.

Status of Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure: Open briefly.

After an early morning flight (on American Eagle, which made the Ravenclaw in me smile) from Charlottesville, we arrived in Orlando by mid-morning. We caught an Uber to our hotel, the on-site Cabana Bay, a giant Universal property that takes its retro 50’s and 60’s theme to heart, right down to the Alberto V05 shampoo in the bathroom.  Happily, our room was available early, and we were able to eat a quick lunch and hop the hotel shuttle over the Universal Studios Park by early afternoon.

We are here to see the whole park, not just the Harry Potter attractions, so we spent the early part of the day doing other rides. Universal’s specialty is the virtual reality thrill ride: experiences where you get the illusion of entering a scene, sometimes with the aid of 3D glasses. We enjoyed several experiences like this, including Shrek, Despicable Me, the Simpsons and Transformers.  But, we eventually made it over to the Diagon Alley Entrance and crossed through the brick wall to the Wizarding World.  More after the jump! Spoilers for the Escape from Gringott’s ride. [Read more…]

Packing the Trunk: A Hogwarts Professor Heads to Universal

My kids have never forgiven me for getting to attend Leaky-Con 2014’s private “Open at the Close” party at Universal Orlando:  a night in the two Harry Potter Parks and all the free butter beer you could drink.  So, after some more complex vacation plans fell through, we are heading out tomorrow for a 5 day Universal Adventure.

Honestly, I am afraid 5 days in one theme park may be a bit much, even for a Potter Pundit such as myself. Yes, it is an impressive place, built to make you believe you are truly entering the wizarding world.  But will the experience be spoiled for me, since I got my first taste in a limited-size crowd of fellow Potter fans? I will admit considerable wariness about daytime heat, huge crowds and lengthy lines.

The big news at Universal this year is Hagrid’s Motorcycle Adventure, billed as the world’s first story coster.  While the ride has great reviews, with stories of 5 plus hour waits and regular, unplanned down times. I am not sure I will make the effort. Hopefully, 5 days in the park will result in some insider tips to navigate the system. I also hope to experience some of the rides, particularly Escape from Gringotts, that a pinched nerve in my neck stopped me from doing in 2014.

I already know a few tidbits from my earlier experience:  frozen butterbeer is better than regular, Florean’s ice cream is not to be missed, and the Three Brothers and Celestina Warbeck shows are definitely worth seeing. I absolutely want to see the Ollivander wand demo, but am still debating whether it is worth $50 to get the interactive version for myself. I also don’t know if the Ravenclaw merchandise  will meet my standards; I tend to be a purist when it comes to blue and bronze.  

Thanks to the years of Potter Punditing, I have different witchcraft and wizarding-themed t-shirts to wear every day of the week, including those from Misti-Con, the Generic Magic Festival and, of course, my local favorite, the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival.  (How is it I’ve never managed to come back from Chestnut Hill with a shirt?)  There are plenty of other attractions at Universal, so I will not be spending every moment in the Wizarding World. But hopefully I’ll be blogging some experiences along the way and be able to share some tips on the ups and downs of the Harry theme park, as well as the rest of the experience.

A long-awaited CFP: The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter, vol. 2!

In 2002, the first collection of Harry Potter scholarly essays, The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter, was published, under the leadership of Ferrum College Professor Lana Whited. To put the data in perspective, the series itself was only up to volume four: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Now, after 7 books, 8 movies, 2 Fantastic Beast screenplays and a theatrical production, a long-overdue second volume is being assembled.  Check out the following CFP and get those proposals ready!