Did I mention there was FREE butter beer??!!
So, DH and I just returned last weekend from the most wonderful theme park experience of my life! DH had a conference in Orlando and one of the bigger vendors "rented" WWOHP for the Friday night we were there...OH MY GOODNESS, is all I can say! (You will notice that I am a FEPU - that's 'frequent exclamation point user' to those not familiar.) :blush:
First, let me say that my wonderful parents drove 6 and a half hours to come to my house and stay with DD7 and DS5 for 5 days - included 2 and a half school days. :worship: This meant that DH and I were able to explore a theme park with NO KIDS for the first time since our 1st anniversary, which was 9 years ago! Woo-hoo! Now, this was not a small conference by any stretch of the imagination....I would estimate 3,000 conference attendees - and then add in their families for the party that night. So, I wasn't expecting to get everything done that night and had bought IOA tix for DH and I the next day.
The evening begins about 6:30 when they have us meet to line up for the buses. Anyone who is an event planner can imagine the logistics into getting probably 4,500 people to an event and having them scheduled to arrive all at the same time. And it went so smoothly. :worship: We boarded the buses and headed to the park about 7:00. They had the buses drop us off at a back entrance to IOA, which put us out behind the theater for the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show. They had a red carpet rolled out for us and event brochures/park maps that they were handing us as we disembarked the buses. DH and I made a beeline for the WWOHP...I'm a HUGE HP fan and have been anxiously awaiting this for so long. Unfortunately, DH is hungry and he just has to stop and eat something, he says. They had food stations set up thru the walkways of The Lost Continent and I tried to be so patient. :headache: We finally make it into WWOHP and it totally takes my breath away. As you step in and see the Hogwarts Express standing there, you feel as if you've stepped into Hogsmeade. There's Honeydukes, Zonko's, the Three Broomsticks, the Hogs Head - all right there! We immediately get in the short, but growing line for butterbeer - and it's FREE :drinking1, along with Pumpkin Juice and bottled water (who's gonna drink that???)! We then head into the Three Broomsticks and grab some Fish-N-Chips (best I've EVER had, BTW), then it's off to do those rides. Now, after the reports vie read here on the DISBoards, I'm totally expecting at least a 30 min wait. We walk up for the Dragon's Challenge - nope, 5 MINUTES! :banana: We walked right on. Great roller coaster - we both had 'sea legs' after getting off. Now, off to Fobidden Journey and my first glimpse of Hogwarts. We start walking, and all the while, I'm looking for Ollivander's, thinking I'll be sure to spot the line. No lines anywhere, but I did spot this little shop with the windows blacked out and several cast members standing outside in wizard robes. I go up and ask, is this Ollivander's and where do we line up? She says, "Yep, this is it...and there's no line yet. It'll be about 5 min til the next show." So, we hang around and chat with her and she says after a couple of minutes - "Okay, you guys are up. Looks like it's just you two." ARE YOU SERIOUS??!!! Apparently, she was...I go in in total amazement and shock as DH and I are the only 2 in there and Ollivander helps our wands find us. I had this goofy grin on my face the entire time. Truly amazing! Bought my wand (birch with a dragon heart-string core) and then we're off to Forbidden Journey.
So, we're winding our way through the castle (no wait again!) and I'm taking pictures left and right (few of which came out well because DH was pushing me to go faster) and I'm mesmerized by the whole experience. I mean, I'm in HOGWARTS!! :faint: Passed by the Triwizard Cup, the Sorting Hat, Dumbledore's office, the Terrific Trio (Harry, Ron & Hermione). Get on the ride and thank goodness for the restraint bars...this ride is much more intense than I was ready for - and I had read the reports on these boards. WOW is all I can say...great ride, but there was no way either of us could ride it again that night. The attention to detail on this ride was unbelievable...but the voice soundtrack could've been louder.
After buying the photo (after seeing DH's face, did you see it? Could anyone have NOT bought it? :rotfl2:), we just head out to wander around, taking it all in. We visit Dervish & Banges, The Owlery, and just visiting the windows along Hogsmeade, which I highly recommend if you can. We grab some more of the food they had for us - all of the HP food - pumpkin pasties, trifle, treacle pudding. Such a great experience to be able to do all this with such a small crowd.
So, as I mentioned, I had bought tickets for DH and I to return to IOA the next day. We get moving and are there pretty close to opening. After the LONG walk from the parking garage, we head off to ride the Hulk...one of the best coasters I've ever ridden - I would have to put it above The Dragon's Challenge. Even though I thought I was expecting it, the launch was so fast! Then we hit Dr. Doom's and after that, I'm feeling the need for a carbonated drink. LOL! However, at 9:40am, we could not find any food/drink stations or restaurants open, ready to sell. I could not believe they would open the park and not have at least drink stations open and ready for business. All I could think was "Disney would NEVER allow that!" :confused3 Throughout the day, we managed to hit most of the big attractions we wanted, but after just walking through WWOHP, we decided to pass on those rides/attractions (except for the Three Broomsticks - best fish & chips ever, I tell you!) and just walked through. And boy, did we ever get an appreciation for the lack of wait times the night before. There was a line probably 100 - 150 people deep at Ollivander's, FJ was running about a 50 min wait time, as was Dragon's Challenge. And the butterbeer - it wasn't free that day. :sad: We headed out and managed to do most of the Dr. Seuss rides that we wanted, Spiderman several times (GREAT ride), Jurassic Park River Adventure, and Poseidon's Fury. After that, we decided we were done and walked the 100 miles back to the parking garage. :goodvibes
Overall, I still prefer Disney - but I am a Disney fanatic and have younger kids. Universal will be a better park for us as a family as my kids get older, but there was still something about Universal that didn't overwhelm me. The rides were not as well maintained and clean - saw lots of chipped paint, gum, trash, etc. throughout the rides and queues; there wasn't the thought put into ensuring that the guests don't see the "backstage" parts of the rides; as I mentioned above about the lack of drink/food availability before 10am when the park opened at 9am was appalling to me...this seemed like poor management. Also, after being a Disney guest for so long, I was overwhelmed by the number of places selling beer at Universal. It seemed like every time we turned around, there was a beer cart. I was very glad that I had read the reports here on the boards about not taking a bag in :disrocks: - all I took was my phone and a small wallet that went around my wrist. After riding things like the Hulk and FJ - I can totally understand why they don't want you to have anything with you. All this being said, some of the rides were the best I've ever ridden - in particular, Spiderman is a great attraction and we loved the Dragon's Challenge and the Hulk. Poseidon's Fury was a great attraction as well - kind of surprised us. However, the WWOHP was done so well - the attention to detail in that area of the park was awesome, and it truly made you feel as if you were going to run into Harry or Hadrid. I was disappointed that there were no "Dobby" tee-shirts or merchandise :confused:. He is one of my favorite characters. And if you ever have the opportunity to go when it is a closed event - it's an unforgettable experience! My oldest is just getting old enough to like the HP series and I can't wait for her to truly "get it" so I can take her.
Thanks for reading! We're headed back to Disney in September for our vacation and staying deluxe this time - I'm so excited!
I can't wait to go now! I hadn't heard the bag advice, so thanks for sharing that tidbit.
Sounds like it was a fun trip!
Also some on the locker situation which should be of a help as well!:thumbsup2
dakjoskaimiksmom - hope you have a great time! i fell in love with WWOHP...:love: it was just too good to believe you were actually there, KWIM?
Tink2Day - thanks for linking those threads! the boards are a lifesaver for me! so much good info. we found so many things at WDW last Sept that we'd never experienced (can I say Dole Whip???) and never would have without having read about them here. :goodvibes
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