To be completely honest, I went in with questionable expectations. One day, I would think "Universal had to have gotten this right, it's going to be amazing!" The next day, my mind would veer off along the track of "It's Universal, not Disney...I shouldn't expect too much or I'll end up disappointed".
And in the end? Well, in the end my opinion was somewhere between those two trains of thought.
First, I'm not sure if Universal didn't expect the turnout they've gotten for their Harry Potter themed area at IOA, or if they just really are that daft about crowd control and the like. Because when you enter the park, despite the fact that the quickest way to WWoHP is to walk through Seuss Landing and the Lost Continent, they direct you to the left--through Marvel Island, Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park. Okay, I guess that they're probably trying to distract you along the way, maybe hoping to slow up the crowds who only go to IOA to see WWoHP. But still...no bueno.
|View of the Hogsmeade buildings|
We continued on to the new attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is located inside "Hogwarts"...and this is where we first began to notice the telltale signs of the fact that we were in Universal, not Disney. From afar, everything looked great--but
|Me, Steve, Melissa and Emily in front of Hogwarts|
And yes, we waited a long time for that ride--nearly two hours, actually. Was it worth it? I think so. I wouldn' t have wanted to wait longer than that, or wait that long had I been on it recently, but the attraction itself is exceptional. Sort of like a really intense version of Soarin' at EPCOT.
Now, the other issue I take with Universal is the fact that they force you to store your belongings/bags in lockers before you go on most rides--including this one. It's nice to not worry about losing anything, sure, but I would have liked to have my camera with me in the queue. And for the Forbidden Journey ride in particular, we waited about 20-30 minutes just to put our bags in a locker! There
|Lunch at the Three Broomsticks--note my pumpkin juice!|
Immediately after the Forbidden Journey, it was time for Dueling Drag--oops, excuse me, I mean "Dragon Challenge".
(For those of you who don't know, when they built WWoHP, they basically just renamed the coaster that was already there and threw a few Harry Potter-esque things in the queue to make it fit into the theme. Smart, and surely a money saver, but again...Disney would have re-vamped it much better.)
Ugh, I realize that I'm whining a lot about how much better Disney would have done things. Sorry. It's just that...well, it's the truth. However--Universal did get a lot right with WWoHP. For instance:
|Steve with the yummy frozen butterbeer|
- Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice. They's got them, and them's awesome. (Although we did the frozen butterbeer and I've heard not-so-great things about the regular butterbeer)
- The Three Broomsticks. Great theming, amazing food. We all ate different things (there were eight of us there) and we all agreed that it was the best quick service theme park food we'd ever had.
- The Forbidden Journey ride, as previously mentioned, and at least the inside part of the queue for it.
- The stores (their theming and products), especially Honeyduke's (although I have to be honest about having some complaints here too, and I'll get into that in a moment)
- The general look of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, barring the fact that you can see a bit too much of the "outside world" for my taste
|Cauldron Cakes (nothing but good things!) at Honeyduke's|
All in all, it was a great experience. I'm glad we went; maybe we'll even go back again in a couple of years. I certainly suggest a visit to all big Harry Potter fans such as ourselves. And if you go expecting not perfection, but "just enough"...you won't be disappointed.