One more Potter post… Cookies!

Tomorrow is the last day of my after school Harry Potter fan club.  And each year, to celebrate, I bake Harry Potter cookies!  This year’s batch turned out great and were more creative than last year’s.  I was a little limited by what icing colors were available, but it was super fun!  Pictures below:

Harry Potter World: Hogsmeade

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I’ve just returned from Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and will be doing a series of posts on my experiences in Harry Potter World. I’m a big fan… and the park had a lot to live up to… I’ll try not to give too much away for those of you who haven’t journeyed to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But hopefully my posts will either bring back memories of your own trip or entice you to travel there yourself!
This post will highlight: 
Hogsmeade, Honeydukes, Zonkos

This last post about my trip to Harry Potter World will focus on Hogsmeade in general and the two most colorful shops on the block: Honeydukes and Zonkos.

Hogsmeade village was totally charming.  Despite the Harry Potter World being in Florida, the snow covered rooftops and icicles hanging from the windows add a definite extra bit of magic.  I loved how many of the chimneys are crooked and how there are detailed shop windows as you stroll down the street.  The attention to detail in the buildings is truly amazing!

The Hogwarts Express was the perfect thing to put at the entrance to the park!  The shiny red train has become so emblematic of the series and people can’t help but feel like they’re arriving just like Harry did when they see it.  Below are my brothers and me with the Hogwarts Express and a few pictures of Hogsmeade village:

Honeydukes is definitely one of the most dazzling candy shops I’ve ever been in!  The bright green and pink paint are perfectly suited to the glass jars of candy and delectable goodies they have for sale.  There are shelves upon shelves of Chocolate Frogs.  Boxes and boxes of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.  Sugar quills, Ton-Tongue Toffee, Pepper Imps, Peppermint Toads…  They had so many different types of candy straight out of the books.  The Cauldron Cakes were especially cool looking (but I didn’t get a picture of them).  They were chocolate cauldrons that looked like they had green icing/foam bubbling out of the top.

My only complaint about Honeydukes is how expensive it was.  A single Chocolate Frog costs $12.  A small box of Bertie’s Beans costs $10.  In fact, I don’t think I saw anything under $10… I would guess going into a shop like that with small children would be every parent’s worst nightmare.

Zonko’s Joke Shop was equally colorful with lots of quirky games and toys.  They have fluffy toy Pygmy Puffs, You-No-Poo, and Extendable Ears among loads of others.  I kind of wish I’d bought an Extendable Ear.  The box said they extend up to 12 feet, and it looks like it’s a rubbery, fleshy ear with a microphone inside and a long cord that leads to a small box with an earbud attached.  Pretty cool how they managed to create that, though it looks less inconspicuous than how I imagined the Weasley’s version in the books.

Below are some pictures of both Honeydukes and Zonkos:

A few more things I wish they had at Harry Potter World:
Each post I’ve been coming up with something I think the park needs, but it’s pretty clear that I basically want the entire world of Harry Potter to be recreated!  But here are a few more things I’d like to see at the park someday:
-Quidditch Match (3D show perhaps?)
-Room of Requirement (maybe a set of doors with rotating rooms behind it?)
-A potion brewing experience!
-Grimmauld Place (complete with screaming Mrs. Black and Kreacher)
-The Weasley House (of course!)

And finally, while I found the walkthrough Hogwarts to be very fun, I couldn’t help but imagine a Hogwarts ride kind of like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney.  I’d love to get a FULL tour of Hogwarts through classrooms, the House common rooms, etc. with ghosts drifting by and staircases changing and portraits talking.  To me, that would be the perfect Hogwarts ride (not that Forbidden Journey wasn’t totally awesome, but it was more of a “let’s scare you and whip you around” type ride).

Thanks for checking out all my Potter posts this past week!  I’ve been having lots of fun sharing and reliving my experience with you!  I hope everyone gets to go someday!  It’s definitely worth the trip for any Potter fan!  šŸ™‚

Coming soon… My review of Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly!

Harry Potter World: The Three Broomsticks

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I’ve just returned from Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and will be doing a series of posts on my experiences in Harry Potter World. I’m a big fan… and the park had a lot to live up to… I’ll try not to give too much away for those of you who haven’t journeyed to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But hopefully my posts will either bring back memories of your own trip or entice you to travel there yourself!
This post will highlight: 
The Three Broomsticks

The Three Broomsticks was actually one of my unexpected favorite parts of the day.  It was well-organized, reasonably priced, tasty, and we got to sit down and relax.  And do not be dismayed if you look in and see there aren’t empty tables.  The place is big, and they have people who’s job it is to show you to a table.  If the wait time isn’t too bad, I definitely recommend it!

There’s a line to get in outside, but that went pretty quickly.  Inside you stand in another line that takes you past a window that displays the food options and a TV screen menu.  The menu is mostly British dishes like fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, etc.  Most meals come with a fresh garden salad.  You can also order wizarding drinks like butterbeer, pumpkin juice, or the special Hogshead brew (alcoholic beverage).  
I ordered the meat & veggie stuffed pastries which came with the garden salad and a butterbeer.  It was delicious, not too filling, and my butterbeer was the perfect sweet desert to top it all off!  I will be craving butterbeer for the rest of my life now.  It is sooooooo yummy.  I wish we could get it somewhere other than Orlando, Florida…
And a funny story: My brother wanted to try the Hogshead brew instead of butterbeer because he’s the big beer drinker in the family.  He ordered one at the register and they carded him, but then when we got our food/drinks… there was no beer.  He told the guy who showed us to our table that he didn’t get his beer, and the guy checked out the receipt.  Turns out, the girl at the register didn’t ring up the Hogshead beer.  But the guy was like, “No problem, man.  I’ll get you one.”  My brother ended up getting a FREE Hogshead beer.  If you’re curious what Hogshead tastes like, my brother said it reminded him of Yuengling.
I didn’t take pictures of my food.  Darn!  But here are a few pictures from outside and inside The Three Broomsticks:
The outside–so charming!
The inside–I loved the mismatched chairs and brooms everywhere.
If you watch the Hogshead by the bar… he moves!
Look what they have on draft!

One thing I wish they had at Harry Potter World:
I really wish there was some sort of Great Hall show/attraction.  I want to sit at one of the house tables.  I want to look up and see floating candles.  I want to see the ceiling that is bewitched to look like the sky.  The Great Hall is definitely one of the most important settings in Hogwarts, and I want to experience it.

The natural attraction/show to have in Hogwarts’ Great Hall is a Sorting Ceremony.  I think this would be a great opportunity to add an attraction for younger kids.  The audience could be seated at the tables in the Great Hall.  Children (or adults) could be picked out ahead of time to be part of the Sorting Ceremony.  There could be animatronic or screen projections of the professors.  The audience could watch and applaud as the Sorting Hat chooses houses for members of the audience, and then the show could end with a sing-a-long to the Hogwarts School Song.  How wonderful and fun does that sound?

Check tomorrow’s post for another ride/attraction I wish they had at Harry Potter World…

Harry Potter World: Ollivander’s Wand Shop

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I’ve just returned from Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and will be doing a series of posts on my experiences in Harry Potter World. I’m a big fan… and the park had a lot to live up to… I’ll try not to give too much away for those of you who haven’t journeyed to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But hopefully my posts will either bring back memories of your own trip or entice you to travel there yourself!
This post will highlight: 
Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Dervish & Banges, and the Owl Post

A lot of people say to skip Ollivander’s because it’s a quick little attraction and typically has a much longer wait.  But I’d already resigned myself to the fact that I’d be waiting in lines all day (it was a holiday weekend and quite crowded).  And I figured if I came all the way down here, then I’m not skipping anything!  I didn’t want to miss something and regret it later.  So yeah, the line for Ollivander’s was long (I think our wait was over an hour).  And yeah, the attraction is only 5-7 minutes.  But I’m still glad I saw it!

If you think back to the first HP movie and when Harry gets his wand, this attraction very much tries to recreate that experience.  One person from the audience is chosen by Ollivander (our Ollivander was a very good actor and charming fellow) to hold different wands and instructed to wave them about.  Strange things happen when the wands are waved in the shop, similar to how it was for Harry.  It’s fun and cute and one of the few calm attractions in the park.  And what I loved was feeling like I was in the Wizarding World for even just a few minutes.

So I’d vote against skipping Ollivander’s.  Grab a butterbeer or pumpkin juice to sip while you’re in line.  Play a silly game with the people you’re with (like “I Spy” or the alphabet game with Harry Potter characters).

And people say only kids get chosen by Ollivander, but in our group it was a 20-something girl in the front instead of a kid in the front.  I think the real key is just being up front!

Below are some pictures of Ollivander’s:

Ollivander’s sign

Wand Display Window

Wand boxes in the bottom left corner

I did end up buying a wand.  One of my brothers was making fun of me saying I was paying $30 for a stick.  And that he would go outside when he got home and pick up his own “wand” off the ground for free.

But I love the wand I got.  It’s Luna Lovegood’s and it’s beautiful. My other brother bought Snape’s wand, but I don’t have any pictures of his.  So below are pictures of my wand aka Luna’s wand:

Label on the Wand Box

Rich brown color

Pretty tulip handle

Not a toy?

Ollivander’s wand shop is connected to Dervish and Banges and the Owl Post.  They are kind of all just one big shop.  You can buy wands, stationary, postcards, stamps (postage stamps as well as a wax seal kit) journals, quills, robes, stuffed owls, brooms… If you buy postcards, they will postmark them with a special Hogsmeade stamp.  So cool!  This is one of the bigger shops and was crowded all day long.  But it’s fun!!!  You should definitely stop in here!  Below are some pictures from Dervish and Banges and the Owl Post:

Dervish and Banges sign

The Bludgers were fighting to get out!

The Monster Book of Monsters!

Owl Post sign

Shop window outside the Owl Post

Owls and packages to be delivered…

There are owls up in the rafters!

One thing I wish they had at Harry Potter World:
EVERYONE was buying wands.  Hogwarts scarves and wands are by far the two most popular souvenirs.  Everyone was walking around the park, waving their newly purchased wands and feeling so magically cool.  But… it’d be awesome if they had an attraction that USED your wand!  How cool would it be to have a “Charms Classroom Experience” where you get to enter a Hogwarts Charms classroom and have a 15 minute lesson on how to perform a few basic spells (Wingardium Leviosa?).  If you didn’t have a wand, you could borrow one, but it might not “work properly.”  The classroom could be rigged to follow with the pace of the lesson/instructor so that different magical things (floating feathers or explosions) happened throughout the lesson when students started waving their wands.

I definitely think an attraction like this is possible, and I think the park needs more of this kind of attraction.  The rides were all thrill/scary/intense rides, but we Harry Potter fans really want to feel like we’re in the world J.K. Rowling created.  We want to pretend we’re wizards for the day.  The thrills and roller coasters are fun, but I’d much rather experience Hogwarts firsthand.

Check tomorrow’s post for another ride/attraction I wish they had at Harry Potter World…

Harry Potter World: Hogwarts Castle

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I’ve just returned from Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and will be doing a series of posts on my experiences in Harry Potter World. I’m a big fan… and the park had a lot to live up to… I’ll try not to give too much away for those of you who haven’t journeyed to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But hopefully my posts will either bring back memories of your own trip or entice you to travel there yourself!
This post will highlight: 
Hogwarts Castle and the Forbidden Journey ride

If you head down to Harry Potter World, you have to hit the castle first. Anyone who’s been there will agree with me. You avoid the long lines, you go on Forbidden Journey before eating, and you start the day with awesomeness.

There are two things I can say that Universal Studios did well: the attention to detail in the construction of the buildings and creating rides that are a thrill.

Hogwarts Castle is definitely the standout feature of the park. You can see it from anywhere in Universal Studios (it’s that huge), but you don’t fully appreciate the astounding detail until you get up close. From each angle you notice something different. The beauty of it is breathtaking. Below are some pictures from various angles to illustrate my point.

As you wait in line for the best HP ride in the park, Forbidden Journey, you get to walk through Hogwarts castle where you see various statues, moving portraits, and you kinda get to see some rooms in the castle. I say kinda because everything is at a distance and the employees in the park rushed you through the line. I’d recommend just slowing down and letting people pass you if you want to look because chances are you’re only going to do this ride once. The portrait hall was my favorite! I recommend standing there for a bit and listening to the Hogwarts founders chat it up! Here’s some pics of statues, portraits, the Sorting Hat, and the Pensieve:

Entrance to Dumbledore’s Office
Hogwarts Founder statue

Dumbledore’s Pensieve

Portrait Hall (with moving, talking portraits!)

The Sorting Hat

And finally, I’m not going to spoil the ride, but it is INTENSE.  If you get motion sickness, I really don’t recommend going on it.  And definitely wait to get butterbeer until after the ride!  It’s probably the most technologically advanced ride I’ve ever been on.  But Universal Studio’s approach to making a Harry Potter ride was to take every scary, thrilling bit from the movies and throw it into one ride.  I wouldn’t say it’s very “little kid friendly.”  But maybe little guys are tougher than I was back in the day…  Here’s the warning sign for the ride.  The 90 minute wait time was the shortest we saw all day…

At the end of each post this week, I’m going to write about one thing I think they SHOULD have had at Wizarding World of Harry Potter but sadly they don’t…  (While my brother and I waited in lines all day, we brainstormed rides and attractions we wished the park had, and came up with quite a “dream park”)

One thing I wish they had at Harry Potter World:
A mine cart ride through the underground vaults at Gringotts.  The ride could begin with a line that winds though the inside of a big marble bank interior “to speak with one of the goblins and request to access your vault.”  Then you hop in a mine cart and zoom through tunnels and caverns past vaults filled with Galleons and Sickles and Knuts.  Maybe a waterfall that flips you upside down…  And of course a dragon!  Seriously, this scene/location from the books begs to be made into a ride.

Check tomorrow’s post for another ride/attraction I wish they had at Harry Potter World…

Harry Potter World Post Line-Up

I’ve returned from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  It was so amazing, and I have so much to share!  My mom is a semi-pro photographer with a big fancy camera and I’ve been waiting for her to sort through and upload the amazing pictures she took before I started my posts.

You’ll notice I said POSTS.  As in plural.  I’ve decided I have too much to share (and too many amazing photographs) to just do one post.

I’ll be doing a series of posts on different areas of the park:

  • Hogwarts Castle & Forbidden Journey Ride
  • Ollivander’s Wand Shop
  • The Three Broomsticks
  • Hogsmeade Village and Shops
I’ll try not to give too much away for those of you who haven’t journeyed to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  But hopefully my posts will either bring back memories of your own trip or entice you to travel there yourself!
Here’s two teaser pictures:
View of Hogwarts Castle with the Winged Boars in front
Me with my brothers in front of the Hogwarts Express!

MIA: Going to Harry Potter World

I’m going to be missing from the blogosphere for the next week because I’m going to Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida!!!  I’m stoked.  I’ve been bugging my family to go since it opened and we’re finally doing it (and a week before my birthday, how awesome is that?!?!)  My grandparents also live down in Florida during the winter and I’ll get to spend some quality time with them, too.  Plus, 80 degree weather is way better than 20 degree weather. I am definitely going to need it, because this week I’m working two 14-hour workdays because of parent conferences.

So I won’t be around much.  All I’ll have is my iPhone for internet access.

I’m excusing myself from writing this week, which hopefully means I’ll knock a few books out and post some reviews when I get back.

And I’ll definitely have pics and a full review of Harry Potter World!  Wheeeee!

Anyone been to HP World already and have some tips to share?