Grindylows & Celestina Warbeck: A Hogwarts Professor Visits Universal, Day 4.

Date: 10 July 2019

T-shirt choice:  Generic Witch Festival (for water park) and Queen City Mischief and Magic 2018 (for Wizarding World).

Status of Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure: Didn’t check much, open at least some in the afternoon; “at capacity” by 6 PM.

Much of today was spent cavorting with merpeople and harnassing kelpies at the Volcano Bay Water Park, the third park in our three-park package. No Wizarding World stuff there, but some Nargles apparently snatched our hotel key cards from my son’s velcroed pocket on one of the slides. This was a great park as far as water parks go; the virtual lines were much appreciated after the 3.25 hour event at Hagrid’s Motorbike yesterday.

Having started bright and early, we were finished with the water park by 4 and headed back to the hotel for showers and dinner. Afterwards, we elected to go back to the theme parks for the evening hours, when the park is much cooler and the lines much shorter. I was most interested in going back to the Wizarding World, specifically to see the shows and do some shopping. My daughter went with me; my son and husband were more interested in doing some of the rides they had not yet been on, and re-visiting a few favorites. You can read more about that experience after the jump. [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 Psychological Reading of ‘Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters’

I met Dr Janina Scarlet at MISTI-Con 2015 at which Group That Shall Not Be Named gathering she and I were the headliners. I moderated a panel that featured her explanation of ‘Superhero-Therapy’ and the role that reading stories can play in creating or re-fashioning a positive idea of ourselves. She is a licensed clinical psychologist, teacher of acceptance and commitment therapy, and a “full-time witch” (her words).

To the point, she is posting podcasts at her website, Superhero-Therapy.com, that are chapter-by chapter readings of the seven Harry Potter novels from a psychologist’s perspective. Dr Louise Freeman, HogwartsProfessor.com certified Potter Pundit and Psychology professor at Mary Baldwin University, was Dr Scarlet’s special guest for her reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone chapter 6, ‘The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters.’

I don’t listen to podcasts as a rule (especially ones I am on) but I was curious about this series and, having been in several podcasts with Dr Freeman and an admirer of all her popular literature analysis, I knew her part would reward a listening. I wasn’t disappointed! Check out the conversation at Superhero-Therapy.com — it’s only half an hour — and let me know what you think.