I thought the Harry Potter rides were at Disney. Oops. They are at Universal Orlando, which is a $50 cab ride from Magic Kingdom. As a Potter fan, I wanted to go.
Top 5 Things to Know About Universal Orlando
- There are two parks here. If you want to experience the Potter universe to its fullest, you have to buy admission to both parks.
- Don’t bring a bag. If you do you have to check it on the Potter rides as no loose articles are allowed. Your trunk is strapped tightly and your legs are free so there’s nowhere to put any stuff. The locker system is not well planned logistically. There are self-use kiosks and lockers and no one explains how it works. There are small lockers in several low-ceiling, dark, small rooms that are constantly jammed with people so claustrophobics beware. From a kiosk you choose start a new locker, your fingerprint gets scanned, and a locker opens. You put your stuff in and have to remember your locker number. Upon return, you fight the crowds and get to a kiosk near your locker. Choose open a locker, put your finger in the scanner, and your locker opens. It’s all free and sounds easy but in the dark chaos it’s mayhem so knowing what to expect is useful. There were many people around me whose lockers wouldn’t open. Help was slow to come.
- About the Potter Experience. Islands of Adventure has three Harry Potter rides and a replica of Hogsmeade. I did one ride, Forbidden Journey, and it was one of the worst decisions I ever made. It was constant jerking up, down, whooshing, jiggling for several minutes. My husband and I were so sick from it and I was close to having a panic attack. If you are even slightly prone to motion sickness, don’t do it. We waited in line for about 50 minutes. Hogsmeade was small but nicely done. You take the Hogwarts Express into “London.” It’s a short ride where you sit in a train car as in the movies; you see images through the window; and the shadows and voices of characters from the movie are outside your compartment door. Pleasant.
Nicely done. Now you’re in the Universal Studios Florida park. Exit the “train station” and to your left, unmarked, is Diagon Alley. Fun to wander around, looking at all the creative signs. You can buy a wand and at numerous locations and create “spells” that make things happen. I was disappointed by the retail experience here though. For example, the Weasley brothers’ shop of practical jokes was so small with lame inventory. It could have been so good. A Potter robe will set you back $100. There’s one ride but 1) you had to check your bag and 2) it had a motion sickness warning 3) there was a 50 minute wait, so after my earlier experience I chose not to do it. So honestly, without being able to do the rides, the Harry Potter experience was not worth the money or time for me.
4. Islands of Adventure is a great park for people interested in superheroes. I didn’t do any of the rides but there are rides and experiences for a range of ages and the lines didn’t seem bad anywhere except Potter. There are also some themed play areas and experiences relating to Jurassic Park and Dr. Seuss.
5. Universal Studios Orlando has rides with themes of the Simpsons, Terminator, Transformers, Shrek, and more. My favorite thing here was convincing my husband to take a selfie with Bart Simspon.