A day or two after the end of LeakyCon, under totally unrelated circumstances, my family checked into that very same hotel that hosted that Harry Potter conference. The hotel lobby still held a few remnants of Leaky-attendees; I even saw Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) checking a package with the hotel staff- but between being quite shy in person and quite exhausted from the trip, I did not say hello.
Anyways, for those that don’t know, the hotel I was staying at is on Universal Studios property and is about a ten minute walk from the parks. I was so eager to get in and see Hogwarts castle, but our passes to the park didn’t start until the next day.
It didn’t matter though- my magical adventure seemed to start the very first day I stepped on Universal property. That evening we saw the Blue Man’s Group show (which was terrific!). The show has a lot of audience involvement. For one bit, the three Blue Men went out into the audience, stared audience members down, and ultimately selected three members to come up on stage. One looked right at me. I looked right back, smiled, and next thing I know, I was sitting on stage with drum sticks on elastic cords taped to my ears.
The majority of my day 2 adventure was spent over at the Universal Studios side of the parks. For those that don’t know, there are two parks at Universal. Universal Studios (which, alas, does not house the Harry Potter park), and the Islands of Adventure. It wasn’t until the very end of the day that we decided to park hop to the Islands of Adventure to snag a sneak peak at Hogsmeade.
I became so giddy in anticipation as we approached the archway into Hogsmeade.
The place was so packed with people! I still can’t properly express in words how fantastically well-themed everything was. That night we window shopped and had our first taste of butterbeer.
Advice on drinking the frozen butterbeers: To avoid wicked brain-freeze, sip slowly! I had one of the most powerful brain-freezes of my life on my second sip because it was just so GOOD!
If you stay on Universal properties during your stay, you end up getting some good perks- one of these perks is early admittance to the park. As far as I can tell, early admittance to the Islands of Adventure usually works like this: the gates open, guests scan their cards and fingers, then commences the mad dash through Seuss Landing and the Lost Continent. Virtually everybody is running straight to Hogwarts to the two longest lines- The Forbidden Journey in the Hogwarts Castle, and Ollivander’s Wand shop.
On morning day 3, my family and I woke up to be a part of this mad rush. Our goal: run straight to Ollivander’s wand shop. My family didn’t know what to expect. I had vague ideas of what we were about to see, and hoped to myself that I would be lucky enough to be selected when we got in. It was a bit of a wait, but worth it! If you try getting in this line later in the day, you’ll likely find a much longer line.
We got in and it looked just like the wand shop out of the movie. The guy playing Mr. Ollivander came out from behind his desk, looked me in the eye, told me he sensed something magical in me and started asking about my wand hand, and measuring my forearm, and my mouth. I was at this point grinning ear to ear. I just couldn’t help it. Every moment of the experience felt magical, and oh that ridiculous grin…
Eventually, after I caused a bell to keep clanging and some shelves to collapse, Ollivander was drawn to a long olive green box. He handed me the wand. In a puff of wind and a swell of light and music, he announced the wand had chosen me!
15″, Holly, Unicorn hair.
Additional note regarding my wand: While my wand is not a character wand, I did discover something neat- It has elements of two character’s wands! The handle looks very much like George Weasley’s wand, and the rest resembles Cho Chang’s wand.
If you’re looking to get chosen at Ollivanders… Now, I went into Ollivander’s wearing a Ravenclaw shirt and lanyard. I was looking excited and probably looked like the type of sucker who could get roped into buying the wand in the end. I bet that type of thing would help you in your odds of being chosen. With this in addition to having been chosen the previous day at the Blue Man’s Group, I was feeling like a pro. Also I am a young woman with passably-good looks which, if I may be so bold, probably doesn’t hurt my odds. Just sayin’…
Anyways, as you can imagine, after I was told I was a witch and a wand “FREAKIN’ CHOSE ME!” pretty much nothing else could get me down all day. We had breakfast at the Three Broomsticks: an English breakfast with pumpkin juice (I highly recommend it). We sat at a table which in my opinion, was the best in the building. It was a lot of breakfast to eat, and by the end I was stuffed, and my brother decided to pick up my fork and told me to “Open up for the Hogwarts Express” (Momentary tangent: Do you think this is what mothers tell their babies in the wizarding world at meal time?)
Protip: If ever you find yourself in Hogsmeade waiting in a crazy long line to buy butterbeer off the street vendor, do yourself a big favor and go to the three broomsticks instead! From my experience, the line is often much shorter buying butterbeer indoors- I don’t think many people knew it was even an option to buy inside.
We ate three meals at the Three Broomsticks throughout our four day stay. It was reasonably priced, pretty good, and great scenery.
If you ever go to the Three Broomsticks: Make sure you keep your eyes up on the walls and in the rafters. Every now and then, if you’re lucky, you will see a shadow of an owl fly by with some owl post, or a house elf going about his cleaning business!
There’s Two street shows to see in Hogsmeade. One features the Durmstrang boys and Beauxbatons girls. It was okay.
The one to catch, in my opinion, is the frog choir.
Every now and then I find myself singing their rendition of “Can you dance like a Hippogriff? nanananananananana!” And it’s been over a month since I saw them. Now, you can view both these acts on Youtube. I’ve discovered that the frog show is really hit-or-miss. The Slytherin girl was really hamming it up in her performance when I saw it, making faces, pouting when she had to sing back-up etc. The Ravenclaw guy was also good in his rivalry against the Slytherin girl. They ended the performance pulling their wands out at eachother. Side note: The Ravenclaw guy had my wand! And this, being a hopeful Ravenclaw, makes me very happy.
Anyways, let us move on to the rides!
I don’t even remember the exact name of the Hippogriff coaster. As far as coasters go, the thing is very mellow and, I believe, meant for younger park guests. However, there’s an excellent view of the castle, and Buckbeak, and the car is a wicker-looking hippogriff.
The Dragon Challenge is pretty good. I have been on this one before under its old name. The queue has been themed up more. You walk past the Weasley family car and into a Triwizard tournament tent and there’s the Goblet of Fire in the middle. Forward in the queue, you can see the silhouette of a dragon scratching at the roof.
Good coaster, worth the wait for the front if the wait looks reasonable.
Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey (The Hogwarts Castle ride)
This ride was in my opinion the best ride in all of Universal. But I’m not going to mention the ride itself. It’s worth experiencing without any prior knowledge. What I will share, is a little of my experience with the queue. Once the line moves inside the castle, there’s some neat things to see. Some portraits are actually moving! The trio, and Dumbledore come out and talk to you. The defense Against the Dark Arts classroom is a pretty neat room. The line stopped moving in here on one of my times through, so we got some better flash pictures of some of things that were otherwise harder to see in the dark while we waited.
In other news…
How come Ravenclaw is losing?!
That’s about all I have for this post. Hope you enjoyed!