If you only read for the food, skip this post! If you hate (or don't care about) Harry Potter, skip this post!
My grandparents have lived in Florida for most of my life. I go there with my mom every year for Christmas. This year, my good friend and college roommate Laura started a post-doc in Florida and I was extremely excited to see her--we hadn't seen each other in years. I threw out the idea to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. I knew Laura and I are both Harry Potter fans, the WWoHP just opened (and it's cool to see things before everyone else has), and, as someone who has been to the FL theme parks a zillion times, Islands of Adventure is the only one I've ever truly liked.
So we set off!
If you decide to go to the WWoHP, expect huge crowds. Honestly, we were there when the park opened, went straight to get our ticket to WWoHP, and still didn't get a time to enter until four hours later or so.
This December was surprisingly cold in FL. The day we went to WWoHP was around 30. Were the two of us wearing coats? No. A fleece for Laura and a sweatshirt for me. What do we decide to do while we wait?
Ride water rides. That's right, we rode the first water ride while it was around freezing. Not surprisingly, there were no lines. Honest to god, not a single person in line.
We figured we were already wet, so we might as well go on a second water ride. I men, we couldn't get wetter, right?
Wrong. Very, very wrong. We were so soaking wet that people were pointing at us and laughing.
We were absolutely freezing so we went in to one of the cafes to warm up. They had reasonably priced and warming beer:
Finally it was Harry Potter time! I don't have any great pictures of the terrific moving pictures on the walls of Hogwarts, the terrific sorting hat, all of that. If you are a Harry Potter fan, this is a must-go.
There was just something awesome about seeing the Hogsmeade sign:
Hogwarts in the background!
How perfect were the Beauxbaton girls? I can totally see Fleur.
And Durmstrang, of course. I don't know where they found these guys but they were perfect!
When I went to Islands of Adventure a dozen years ago, when it first opened, there was a dueling dragon ride. That ride has now been rebranded as the Triwizard Tournament ride and it was full of these great signs:
Gorgeous view, right? I felt like I was walking to Hogsmeade. And my butterbeer!
What about the butterbeer?
Both Laura and I were excited about the butterbeer. And this must have shown through because we were asked so many questions about it by random tourists it was amazing. Honestly, I bet we answered a hundred questions. We were like the Butterbeer representatives. Is it hot? (No, you can get it cold or frozen. We stated that we were already frozen so we picked cold). Is it alcoholic? (Sadly, no, it's "beer" like "root beer"). Where can we get it? (Right by the entrances). What does it taste like? (A lot like cream soda and butterscotch). Is it good? (Surprisingly, yes!). For some reason I thought it would be hot but no.
While we were walking around we saw a big sign that proclaimed the Mythos Resturant to have been voted "Best theme park restaraunt" by some theme park magazine. That was good enough for us! Note to future visiters--if you want to go, make sure to make a reservation. We didn't and we waited FOREVER.
These were actually really, really good. And that's a statement I've never been able to make about a theme park meal before. Plus it was relatively cheap. I figure that if I manage not to sign away my first born at a theme park, the day was a win. I've never seen risotto on a theme park menu before so I was impressed.
Super, super fun day. If you love Harry Potter and ever are in Florida, go to Islands of Adventure. It was expensive but totally worth it.