Can you show me to platform 9 3/4 please? Day 37
Today is the day. The culmination of childhood dreams, hours of late night reading, dozens of levitation attempts and a few poorly brewed potions. Today we enter the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This trip has been a long time coming and Jess and I are beyond excited. After our marathon Disney Day yesterday I slept like a stone and awoke ready to put on my cloak, grab my wand and head off on my nimbus 2000.
Ok so Jess and I are massive Harry Potter nerds and there was more to our day than Harry himself. We are actually at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure! Did we mention that Hogwarts castle is here? And Diagon Alley? And Ollivanders? I literally feel as if I’m in a dream! We get through the gates of universal and head straight for Hogwarts. Yes there are a million other things to see but we were practically bursting with excitement.
Then we arrive, the enormous Hogwarts express steams gently in front of us, the platform 9 3/4 in its cobblestone perfection, Diagon Alley as if it were ripped straight from the very pages of Rowlings incredible novels. We are in the wizard world and gawking at everything like a bunch of muggles. Universal does themes in unimaginable ways. Diagon Alley is perfect, and I mean beyond your imagination perfect. We grab a quick butterbeer then it’s off to Honeydukes, the magnificent lolly shop where chocolate frogs leap right from the box and Bertie Bott’s magical jelly beans taste of everything from lemon sherbet to black pepper and vomit.
We wander through Honeydukes and into Zonkos Joke Shop. Magical pumpkins, pewking pasties, exploding underwear this place has everything needed for the practical joking wizard. Jess and I are feeling a little less muggle now but something is definitely missing. Every wizard needs a wand. So we’re off to Ollivanders, the only wand expert in town. Hogwarts castle stands in the background while Mr Ollivander potters about the store filled to the ceiling with wands. “Try this one” he says. A swish and a flick and an entire stack of boxes tumbles down. Apparently not. “Perhaps this one, a core of Phoenix feather?” Swish and flick, the ladder falls over. Hmm perhaps we aren’t meant for this magical world. “Dragon core heart string?” The lights dim and suddenly we are aglow, the wind rustles dusty pages from shelves and the shutters begin to rattle. “the wand chooses the wizard friends” Mr Ollivander smiles. That’s it, Jess we are buying like fifty of these, this is awesome!
With our wands in hand we decide it’s definitely time to try some of the rides. First just let me see what these babies can do. “Alohamora” we try on a few door locks just to see them wiggle and jiggle about. Every detail is thought about here, down to casting charms and buying spellbooks. I don’t even care that as you’re reading this you’re thinking, god what nerds. I love it and it is like being a child again. The first ride is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. A semi simulated roller coaster ride that follows a journey through Hogwarts castle, a game of quidditch interrupted by some dementors and fending off a serious amount of dastardly critters including the giant spider Aragog and a fire breathing dragon! This is undoubtedly the best ride I have ever been on. Even the line tours you through the giant Hogwarts castle filled with talking portraits, a floating candle ceiling and the wonderful Albus Dumbledore speaking in his office. I could stay here forever I am having so much fun.
Now some fun for Jessica, The Dragon Challenge or as I like to call it, the most hideous roller coaster I have ever seen and no I am not going on it. Luckily Jess disappeared without even attempting to coerce me. This thing dipped, spun, swirled and made me nauseous. I’m feeling green just writing about it. Ok we may have to leave this mystical realm for a little while so we can see the rest of the park.
Now I must introduce Jess’s cousins and uncle. As you know Aunty Tanya has been with us for the past leg of our journey and now here comes the rest of the clan. Introducing Uncle Ang and the twins, Mia and Siena. Also known as thing 1 and thing 2 but we’ll get to that. They are desperate to see Dr Suess, so that’s where we head. The girls were introduced to roller coasters by their wicked, crazy cousin Jessica on Harry Potter’s Flight of the Hippogriff so Dr Suess may not thrill too much. However the bright colours and massive amount of spinning objects proves pretty thrilling, kind of like getting drunk in a circus tent, or throwing buckets of paint into a washing machine. The results are pretty alright actually. After we ride a few rides and refresh a little on the water cannons of one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish we mosey over to Marvel comics.
Jess and Ang thought they’d start slow. I must mention I thank god that Ang is here so Jess has someone to drag onto rides instead of me. Their slow start is in fact the fastest coaster in the park. The Incredible Hulk. While the girls spin on storms ride of the hurricane and Jess and Ang soar overhead at breakneck speed I decide this is a good time to sit and be grateful that I don’t have to do the terrifying rides. We all climb into Spider-Man and let the web slinger take us on an intense flight through Manhattan, narrowly escaping the clutches of Dr Octopus and the Green Goblin. The simulation rides at universal are great for all ages and it kept me off the coasters so I’m stoked.
It is getting hot, seriously hot. Time for some water rides kids, lets introduce you to Dudley Do Rights Riptide. A log ride that pummels you through rushing water before plummeting metres down a giant waterfall into the raging rapids below. Safe to say we aren’t hot anymore. We got drenched, so drenched in fact I stretched my t shirt into a XXXL and my underwear into women’s pantyhose. Next up rapids. Popeye points us the way as we tumble through the ravine, torrents of water rushing over us, thing 1 and thing 2 laughing maniacally as we get soaked again from head to toe.
“Daddy, lets see the dinosaurs” pipes Thing 2. Alright, Jurassic Park it is. We dive into the lost world, soaring on pterodactyl and trying to escape from a runaway Tyrannosaur. The day is getting away from us. What do we do? We have seen so much and rode through so many worlds. Back to Hogwarts, one more butterbeer, one stop at the three broomsticks and of course one more ride.
I jump back onto the magical journey, the kids hop aboard flight of the Hippogriff and of course Jess and Ang take on the Chinese fireball and the Hungarian Horntail. Those are dragons to you muggles. Remember, those hideous roller coasters I mentioned earlier. Universal studios truly has something for everybody. Shows, rides, shops, it’s all here. Sure it costs you an arm and a leg to get in but it’s not like you’re coming here every weekend. Hogwarts was worth every penny on its own. I want to go back tomorrow.
Dinner is at another American staple, Bubba Gump’s. A fairly ridiculous Forrest Gump themed restaurant where we are entertained with table vs table movie trivia. However, the portions are huge and the shrimp is good. A long day ends as we say our goodbyes to Tanya, Ang and the twins. We are almost at the end of our American journey as we head for Miami tomorrow.
To bed now. My scar on my forehead has been hurting me. Must be the weather?
Josh and Jess