Ok, who cares about the rest of this rubbish anyway.  Here's the important part.  The ride, the
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, is the absolute coolest ride I think I've ever been

It broke down all four times we went on it.  By that, I don't mean that it bucks you from the seat
and you go careening into the ground like Harry after the Dementors ambushed the quidditch
pitch in third year.  It just sort of stalls out and you sit in your little car, strapped in up the
wazoo, until it starts moving again.

No worries.  I'm sure they'll have it debugged soon, the park still is very young.

Helpful hint: make sure you lock up any loose articles before hand.  The lockers are free for an
hour, which is what I guess they figure it will take you to wait and ride and get back to the
locker bay.

They have one by the entrance, just before the Dragon Challenge ride (you have to store your
stuff for that one too).  But they will not let you on the Castle Ride, as I call it, before your stuff is
stored away.

We waited on a 30 minute line just to get to the lockers.  So STORE your stuff beforehand!

Once you get to the actual line for the ride, you zig-zag through the Greenhouses.  Sadly, this is
very realistic and works like a real greenhouse.  It was so swelteringly hot in there, it's very
possible to pass out.  

They have a drink stand on line, it might be worth
falling a few people behind to get a drink.

A drink, that if you don't finish, they will
confiscate from you before you board the
ride and you will never see it again.  Maybe
get one and share.  I don't believe they sell
Butterbeer there, but they sell water

They also have big fans in the Greenhouse.
They're great if you're directly in front of one
and useless otherwise. They didn't have
enough of them on or working, they should
also look into this new invention called oscillation.

But it's a cool section to meander through, you even get a close up view of Devil's Snare.  Which
thankfully has been rendered innocuous to the Muggles passing through (which I'm sure
Neville had something to do with ;).
I had an issue with the Dervish & Banges experience.  The first day we were there, the line for
this place wrapped almost all the way around the park (and it never went down in size).  It was
longer than any ride line in the entire theme park.  And I couldn't figure out why...

Every possibility went through my head, including that a cast member was there and I didn't
know about it.  So it became my quest to get into this store.

When we rushed into the parks the second day and queued up in the early comers line before
the park opened, I went immediately for the store...which already had a wait.

About 30 minutes later, I realized why it took so long.  The only let about 20 people in at a time.  
Why?  That's what I was asking... It wasn't because Hermione was there.  It was only Ollivander
or some guy playing Ollivander like he was bored with life.

You're forced to walk into Ollivander's Wand Shop first and watch a reenactment of that scene
from the first book/movie when Harry gets his wand.

A lucky kid is chosen to make the selection.  He uses it and
things start happening around the store.  It's cute. Especially
for that kid.  But I could have avoided it all together...if I was

Next, you get herded into the Owlery/Post Office where, for
some reason, they sell wands.  The cool thing is you can get a
Postcard stamped with the Hogsmeade Postal seal.

The Owl Post and Dervish and Banges are connected on the inside.  Two very small, confined
spaces set up with shelves and counters cram tourists and buyers into very tight quarters.  This,
I think is poor planning.

It was very aggravating and not really conducive to making a purchase.  I was more inclined to
just walk out.

    They had cool souvenirs though.  Souvenirs I didn't find
    anywhere else in the park which is either brilliant or really,
    really dumb!
    (Here you'll find the Hogwarts robes.)

    I'm not claustrophobic, but I was starting feel it while we were
    in there.

    In fact, Tip: If you are claustrophobic, totally and completely
avoid this at all costs.

The whole time they just keep letting more people through from Ollivander's before anyone has
left from the previous groups. And there's no other way to enter.

I'm not sure I care about the overall effect they were going for with the smallness because I
happen to know of another wizarding world miracle...they can make things much larger on the
inside than they appear on the outside.  How about pulling that one off?!

All right, disgruntlement over.

It's also important to note that there are plenty of shopping opportunities.  The Forbidden
Journey ride lets out into a shop (also small).  This one even sells working Marauder's Maps!

Also, keep your eyes peeled as you walk through the rest of Universal. Potter Park memorabilia
crops up just about everywhere.  We found some in the original Universal park and along the
CityWalk...which you will have to walk through to enter either park.  (You walk about three
miles before you even reach the ticket area.)

(Oh, and they scan your finger to enter the park and to rent lockers.  It was weird for me, they
didn't have that the last time I visited.  But it doesn't seem to be an actual fingerprinting, just
sort of a photo of your fingerprint.)

We even found Potter merchandise in the airport.  Right before we went through the security
area, there was a shop with a lot of the t-shirts, id lanyards, stuffed animals (they have
Crookshanks), key chains, etc.  So if you feel as though you don't have enough - there's one last
opportunity. ;)
I didn't like being whipped around and plunged downward when I was little.  I was, in fact,
terrified of coasters of any kind so I can't really say I'm an accurate judge as to whether or not the
little ones will like it.

It's not that bad, none of the drops are that steep, there
are no flips, or loops.  It may be a good trial.

If your kids like coasters, this is a good one.  If they
don't like fast rides, stick to the ride in the castle...that's
where all the good stuff is anyway.

Cool parts: While waiting, you get to walk past Hagrid's
Hut.   Some  people even jump up the retaining wall
meant to corral you and take photos standing in front of
the door.  And before the ride starts, you have remember to bow to Buckbeak on the left.
The REAL Potter Park
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Granger's Army
Did I mention how awesome it is?

Because it's very awesome.

We got there early.  
(Tip #1)  You should get there

They let you in before the rest of the park opens so
you can start lining up for the Potter part of the park...
It's the farthest away from the entrance and the smallest part of the park.  But worth it!

So they make you walk through the entire park (which is a big circle).  It's a shorter distance to
go through the Dr. Seuss section, but in the early morning that part is blocked off for those
staying at Universal Studios hotels.  Lucky dastards. They get early admission.

But we lined up early and only stood in the line for like 5 minutes before they let us in early
too.  I guess that type of thing varies by the day.

You walk through a 'Welcome to Hogsmeade' sign from either direction, and you can see the
castle before you get near that area.  And it's awesome.
They have many storefronts, several of them are just the storefronts and you can't go in them.  
Bummer.  But everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, looks like they plucked it straight from a
scene in the movie.

I don't know why they decided to make it winter, but even the snow looks real.  Except in the
August heat, the people were melting and the fake snow just sat cleverly clinging to the
roof-tops mocking us.
They even have a snowman built.  They have a little staging area where a school choir comes to
sing for you.  I'm not sure what they sing, I didn't waste time standing around in the heat to
listen... I was on line, or in the queue, for the rides.

Except I did notice one of the girls performing had red hair and then almost everyone standing
in the audience commented on how they thought that must be Ginny, or she doesn't look like
Ginny, or how ridiculous, Ginny doesn't sing...

Yeah, us Potter fans take things very seriously.  It could just be that the girl happened to have
red hair.  There actually are more red-haired people in the world other than the Weasleys.  But
the fact that people were making those comments made me laugh.
You get to choose your dragon... The Chinese Fireball or the
Hungarian Horntail.  Both made me sick.

Heathy said it's the same ride as the duelling dragons, I think it
was called.  So if you've been to the parks before maybe that one
can be skipped if there's a big line.
But the first thing you see when you come in from
the Dr. Seuss entrance is the Hogwarts Express.

It steams and makes noises and there was a
conductor there taking photos with everyone, but
you can't board it or really do anything but stand
in front and take a picture. Wasted opportunity, if
you ask me.

The Dragon Challenge is two roller coasters, on
separate tracks, that at one point seem to skim
very closely by each other...and everyone screams
when they see the other people hurtling toward
Cool parts: You walk through a posting ground
for Triwizard Tournament signage.

There are signs for each Champion.  Signs in
French and what I presume is Bulgarian.

The only thing that bothered me is that there
weren't any signs for Cedric and, at that point,
most of the school supported only him.

Also, look for the Triwizard Cup and the Goblet
of Fire.
Really, the first thing you should do is get a Butterbeer.  The regular is better than the frozen
ones.  The frozen ones are best eaten with a spoon.  For the full Butterbeer effect, go with the
(Another tip)

They also sell Pumpkin Juice, which I bought and took home with me, but heretofore have been
too afraid to try.

The Butterbeer was I think four dollars.  It was absolutely awesome, a must for any Potter fan,
die-hard or not, and will make you smile.
Butterbeer stands are at both entrances to the park.  If you are crazy enough to go during the
summer, you will need many just to make it through the day.

Needless to say, this section of the park is packed!  Packed, like all day long.  They did a really
great job making it authentic.  And the street is narrow and windy.  Which I guess makes it look
real, but it's not really practical for tourists and 100 degree Florida heat.

They have Honeydukes and Zonko's which you can go into and shop, but both stores are
connected on the inside and as narrow as a broomstick carrying-case.

Very cool to go in and look around, but not really conducive to shopping or escaping the heat.
The Three Broomsticks is also there, and the Hog's Head which is the only pub that serves
alcohol.  The inside of both of these are connected as well.  Little to no seating for the pub
portion, all the seating goes to the patrons of the Three Broomsticks.

Pretty good menu.  We had the roasted chicken, it comes with potatoes and a full ear of corn.  
And Butterbeer, of course.

Typcial park food prices.  Bring money with you to these parks.  Even the souveniers are pricey.

Another tip: if you want to eat at the Three Broomsticks, get there early.  A line starts forming, and
wrapping around the outside, around noon.
The Flight of the Hippogriff.

Billed as a family-friendly roller-coaster.

My verdict was that it was too short of a ride.  We
waited for 40 to 45 minutes and the ride lasted
maybe two or 1 minute, 30 seconds.

Too quick.  But it was fun.
(The Devil's Snare is
wrapped all around
the greenhouses.)
They have some very cool things to see as you meander through the school.  Talking portraits
were the only thing I couldn't get a picture of because the screens always black out.  The other
photos are below.  

The Mirror of Erised picture really didn't come out so well, but it's just a Mirror - I didn't see
anything other than me.  That or my deepest desire was to be at Hogwarts and it had already
come true!
You finally reach Dumbledore's office.  It's a very cool set filled with all sorts of things.  On
slower moving lines, you have more than enough time to see everything and hear Dumbledore's
welcome speech at least half a dozen times.

And then you mozy on into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and meet Harry, Ron
and Hermione.  They set up the ride premise.  I didn't really care about the story line, I was too
enamored with the whole thing!

Ron made it snow in the classroom.  And though I'm
old enough to figure out how they do it, it was still
awesome.  Hermione, of course, sets things right.

The projections are great.  They manage to look pretty
real, almost as if the characters were in the room with
you.  Heathy was dazzled and was trying to get a
closer view of Dumbledore to figure out how they
made it so life-like.

Once you're through the classroom, you're mostly there.
Some portraits go over what you are and are not supposed to do on the ride, like keeping you're
arms and legs inside the vehicle and all that.  And then the Sorting Hat makes an appearance.

    I kind of have a crush on the Sorting Hat so I was
    thrilled by that.

    Tip: Look up as you're coming up to the boarding

    I don't know how much to say really.  I don't want
    to ruin it for you.  As one fellow rider ahead of us
    said to his friend who was revealing the whole
    thing to him (and inadvertently to us), he wanted
    to "experience it for himself."  I couldn't agree with
    him more.

I'm not going to reveal the details of the ride.  Other than it's awesome and I haven't heard of
anyone not liking it.

In the words of one very cool teenager, very experienced in the world of theme parks..."it was
one of the best rides ever."  (Thanks for the quote, Andrew!)

I loved it!  Loved it!  Loved it!  LOVED it!

Even though it scared the socks off me and I had to close my eyes.

Another tip: they take a picture of you!  Be warned.  You will most likely look dopey.

I also don't want to build all this up too much and then you're let down.  But I thought it was all
talk before I went.  I figured they had done a good job with it, but how could it be everything
everyone was saying?  Right?

For me, it was better than I could have imagined.  I can't even begin to explain how great a job
they did.  Even in the things that could be better or can be improved, it's still awesome.  Still
worth the price of admission and still worth the wait.

My Top Recommendation: Go in January.  You could probably do the whole park in the
amount of time some people have waited to go on just one ride.

My Top Changes:  More.  Just more of everything.  How could anyone in their right mind make
what is the biggest, most successful franchise to hit the entire world in like ever into a theme
park that is literally an alleyway?

The park should be bigger.  More rides.  Sorry, more
new rides.  More stores that are big enough
to actually go into without slithering through single-file.  

The attention to detail is really amazing!  The only other thing I would suggest is to make the
Hogwarts Express do something.  Climb on board and toot the horn.  Something!  It's so iconic
and you get so excited to see it and then it just sits there.   It's almost sad.  We've talked about it
and when they expand the park they should make it a ride.  What a Potter fan wouldn't give to
ride the real Hogwarts Express?!

And if they really wanted to blow people's minds.  Make The Three Broomsticks, The Hog's
Head and The Leaky Cauldron real working hotels so fans can stay in the park.  I, for one,
would blow a gasket!

Here's to living the dream!  Well, done WB and Universal - you have earned 1000 House Points!
Wanted posters are up for Sirius
Black. It's a moving picture,
I thought this was a cool touch.

Although, if you don't know where
you are, you should be kicked out of
the park.
Map of the grounds of Hogwarts.
It hangs inside the castle.
Defense Classroom
What I assumed was the
Gryffindor Common Room