i've been known to use harry potter jargon in everyday situations. like 'you know in harry potter and the goblet of fire, when harry opens the dragon egg and lets out the shriek of the merpeople? that's what a cicada sounds like.' or 'osama bin laden is dead? SOMEBODY FINALLY FOUND HIS LAST HORCRUX!'
but nothing beats the full hogwarts experience like the wizarding world of harry potter at universal studios in orlando. my family (sans daddy choo who is visiting family in korea) recently went to orlando to feel all the hogwarts magic.
we ended up riding this three times, so you could say we liked it. it was much more terrifying than i had expected (too many spiders!) but is THE ultimate in the harry potter experience. the line takes you through hogwarts past talking portraits and dumbledore's office which actually makes the waiting time fun.
- tip 1: ride this either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. any other time (especially 12-4p), the line will be LONG
- tip 2: any purses or bags must be stored in lockers (which are free during the ride), so if you can, pack light (ID, money, phone only) in your pockets to avoid these locker lines
flight of the hippogriff
this is the most kid-friendly ride of harry potter world but it still had my sister shakin' in her boots. it is a 'roller coaster' but rather tame and short. still fun and definitely worth doing.
please do not eat before this ride. of all the rollercoasters in both islands of adventure and universal studios, this was definitely the most dizzying, scariest one. at one point the two separate coasters (chinese fireball and hungarian horntail) come within 18 inches of each other. so much fun, just don't ride them back-to-back or you'll feel like you just ate a puking pastille.
three broomsticks & hog's head pub
this was my favorite restaurant of the trip (surprising for theme park food). i just loved the atmosphere and the service was very efficient. come during dinnertime when most of the crowds have left and the restaurant is much more mellow. make sure to get the fish and chips!
butterbeer & pumpkin juice
so how were they? delicious.
the butterbeer is like cream soda on the bottom and butterscotch foam on top. the frozen version is the best! i'm not much of a soda fan and even i drank 3 butterbeers during our trip. i could actually use one right now...
- tip 3: skip the long lines at the butterbeer stands outside and get them at three broomsticks or hog's head. they're much colder and tastier there.
- tip 4: the commemorative mug is a bit expensive (~$10) but makes a great souvenir. refills of butterbeer are $3.25 ($4.25 for frozen) and soda refills are $.85 at both parks. definitely worth it for us!
i think you either love or hate pumpkin juice. it's not too sweet and reminded me of a spiced, pumpkin-y apple cider.
honeydukes/zonko's joke shop
i think i'll let my sister christine, the sweets expert, write this section. afterall, she did go into honeydukes four times.
Honeyduke's was by far the place I was most excited to visit in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Two items that I knew would be purchased before even entering the store were Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and a chocolate frog, mostly for novelty purposes. The chocolate frogs come with trading cards just as shown in the movies, so they were a must! Items can be quite costly, but of course are well worth it. Chocolate frogs were $9.95 each (yes, ten dollars for one frog!) and the beans were $10.95. There are a plethora of tasty treats offered to satisfy all taste buds! There are jelly beans, hard candies, and gummies sold in a serve yourself fashion that are priced according to weight. There are also more prepackaged Wizarding World style treats such as Peppermint Toads, Tongue Toffee, Chocolate Cauldrons, Chocolate Wands, and much more! Peppermint Toads were also purchased and I can tell you from personal tasting that they are smooth, dreamy, delicious, and well worth the $7.95! As you make your way further into the store there is also a display case which has loads of bakery style goodies and caramel apples behind it. This leads me to my favorite Honeydukes purchase: a caramel and toffee apple ($7.95). It is just as the name would suggest, a granny smith apple coated in the most delicious caramel I have ever eaten, and then covered liberally with toffee chunks. Needless to say, all four trips were both worthwhile and practically necessary! (P.S. Margaret just gawked at the length of this.)
- tip 5: make sure this is the last stop of your visit unless you want melty chocolate frogs.
i'd hate to tell anyone to skip anything while here, but if you're short on time, pass on ollivander's. the line is always long as they only allow 25 people into the shop at a time. it can also be disappointing for little ones (and some of us older folks too) since ollivander only picks one participant for the wand experience. either way, you end up having to buy your wand at the next door owl post anyways.
- tip 6: like the forbidden journey ride, make sure to avoid going here during peak hours. when we went around 8p, the wait was about 15-20 minutes for ollivander's (10 min for forbidden journey)
owl post/dervish and banges
wands, robes, monster books galore! these connected stores offer everything from quill pens to gryffindor scarves. if you get a postcard, make sure to get it stamped with a hogsmeade postmark at the entrance of the owl post.
rest of islands of adventure & universal studios
while most of our time was spent with harry potter, we did manage to explore the rest of islands of adventure and universal studios. of all the other rides our favorites included:
- brother: men in black II ride (universal studios), the 3D adventures of spiderman (islands of adventure)
- me: return of the mummy (universal studios), train trolley in seussland (islands of adventure)
- sister: return of the mummy
- mom: popeye & bluto's bilge-rat barge (NOT! soaking wet mother = unhappy mother)
inside islands of adventure, next to harry potter world
as with most theme park restaurants, the emphasis is more on service than food. but mytho's does provide a more gourmet menu for those sick of chicken tenders and french fries. my pad thai was especially good (and huge). and even though they messed up my sister's bbq chicken pizza the first time, our server was so incredibly sweet, we almost felt bad for complaining.
the location is also ideal as it provides for a cool oasis in the middle of the day. make a reservation as this place seemed very popular.
emeril's tchoup chop
6300 hollywood way, orlando, FL
(407) 503. 2467
as my first emeril restaurant, i was pleasantly pleased. the interior was upscale polynesian and the food was very seafood-ccentric. our service was top-notch and i loved the interior pond at the center of the restaurant.
my seared black grouper served with thai sticky rice and peanut vinaigrette was delicious. but i would skip the desserts, both the banana cream pie and guava dumplings were just alright.
what a great way to start the summer!