Universal Orlando Resort offered us an after-hours free tour of the park. We were not asked to express a particular point of view, and as always, our thoughts are entirely our own on Ciao Bambino.
Seeing is believing and after visiting Universal Orlando Resort I officially ‘get’ the magic of being immersed in story. We had an after-hours tour of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the TMS Family Travel Conference in Orlando a few weeks ago and I couldn’t get over the level of detail put into this theme park. It’s absolutely a story come to life, and for Harry Potter fans, a visit is a dream come true.
The first stop is, of course, Hogwart’s Express. The life size version of Harry’s mode of transport is manned by a cheeky conductor and the perfect pre-visit photo op.
I may be a family travel guru, but I’m not a theme park expert by any stretch and I have to admit, I was blown away by the fact that Harry Potter World is not just a few buildings out of the story, but a whole village. Once you are within the gates, there’s nothing to distract from the joy of the immersion of this fantasy place. I get it! This is a very appealing place for busy parents and their children who lead logistics-intensive lives and complete escape is the ultimate rejuvenation.
It was too dark to take photos but a visit to the wand shop is a must. It’s not just about pulling any old wand off the shelf, the wand chooses you. What I love about this park is that it is optimized for older kids. I can see my 10-year-old son and my 20-year-old nephew eating this up with equal gusto.
The dame of the theme park is Hogwart’s Castle. I was unprepared for how big and life like it is … I’ve included myself in this photo to demonstrate scale. Impressive. The castle interior includes many of the recognizable rooms and artifacts from the books and movies including talking portraits. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine appear for a chat around the forthcoming journey to a Quidditch match.
All roads lead to the signature ride of the park, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, using a robotic arm paired with 3-D visuals to simulate the trek to the Quidditch match. You truly feel like you are flying and presented with an array of thrills en route. The ride is not for the faint of motion — an adult male on our tour came off the ride pale-faced and sweating. But for those not prone to motion sickness, it’s amazing!
I can’t wait to go back with my 10-year-old. And that is saying something, as a trek to Florida is no small endeavor from California, particularly given the fact that we have our own excellent array of in-state theme parks.
Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy