Final Round-Up: A Hogwarts Professor Visits Universal.

After a week of reflecting about the trip, I wanted to come back and summarize some final thoughts.

Do I recommend Universal as a pilgrimage destination for Potterheads? Merlin’s beard, yes! The Wizarding World attractions are amazing, and they are, of course, only part of a much larger theme park, which has some incredible rides, especially if you like the 3D and 4D type. Favorites of ours outside of the Wizarding World included the Hulk rollercoaster and the Transformers 3D ride.

Having experienced the park for a single evening on my own in 2014, I was particularly happy to share this multi-day adventure with my family. In a way. I felt like the fictional parents of the Wizarding World, beaming with pride at seeing my son purchase his wand at Ollivanders and learn to cast spells. Judging from the number of families who were enjoying the park together, I’m not alone. As the earliest child-readers of the series grow up and have their own families, I predict the park will only grow in popularity.

More random thoughts after the jump! [Read more…]

‘Cursed Child’ Three Minute Clip

The Clip Introduction —

The Closing Feast: A Hogwarts Professor Visits Universal, Day 5.

Date:  11 July 2019

T-shirt choice: “Always” (with Deathly Hallows symbol for A).

Status of Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure: Open on and off most of the day, but no way were we braving that line again.

Today was our last day in the park, and the plan was to arrive at a reasonable time, and stroll through both parks to do some favorite rides, provided the lines were reasonable. We started with the Hulk coaster in Islands of Adventure and worked our way up to Hogsmeade by midday.

Happily, I was able to see both of the shows that were rained out the previous evening. The Frog Choir was as 4-person (and 2-amphibian) a cappella group that did a short set of 3 songs, two of which were familiar from the movies: “Something Wicked This Way Comes” from Prisoner of Azkaban and “Dance Like a Hippogriff,” from the Yule Ball of Goblet of Fire. The frog puppets seemed to provide a bit of back-beat. Overall, a good, although short performance.

The Triwizard Spirit Rally was next and consisted of a group of three Durmstrang and four Beauxbatons students, performing a dance routine reminiscent of the schools’ entrance in Goblet of Fire. The guys did some acrobatics and a martial arts quarterstaff routine to the movie music, without the fire-blowing. The ladies did a ballet-style dance to the Beauxbatons music (no butterflies!) and of course, both groups were attired in their movie costumes. Again, a nice performance, but very brief.

The Forbidden Journey ride claimed a 60 minute wait time, so we decided that was worth another round. It was just as good as I remember and I was glad to refresh my memory on a bit of it before blogging about it. However, the wait time was again underestimated a bit: it was more like an hour and 15 minutes.

I picked up the Marauder’s Map scarf I’d had my eye on at the gift shop, mailed my postcards, then we got the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley, so my son could visit the Magical Menagerie store. This place carries almost every creature you can think of from Harry Potter in plush form; you can buy not only Hedwigs, but Errols and Pigwidgeons. I was partial to the hippogriffs, but my son ultimately selected a stuffed niffler. Having done our second round on Escape from Gringotts the previous night, I didn’t do much else there but say hi to Stan Shunpike and toast the end of the adventure with a frozen Butterbeer.

We worked our way back through the rest of the Universal Studios park, did a few more rides, then were ready to go back to the hotel by 8 PM or so.  Part of me wanted to double back and spent the last couple of hours in the Wizarding World, but common sense, and an early morning flight prevailed.

I’ll be back tomorrow for some closing thoughts.

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…]

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…]