I only have a few minutes of internet access, but I wanted to post a few pictures from my trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Guys--it is AWESOME! It is also INSANELY CROWDED AND THE CAPITAL OF CRAZY. I would definitely recommend waiting a year or so until the desperate need everyone feels to get inside dies down a little bit. But, if you're like me and absolutely can't wait, be prepared to wait an hour to get into the section of the park (it's in Island of Adventures section, just beyond Jurassic Park) and anywhere between an hour and three hours to ride The Forbidden Journey, which is the HOLY CRAP AMAZING ride in the Hogwarts castle. SOOOO cool. You can definitely tell the set designers for the movie were involved. While much of the waiting area is outside (the queue set up is, naturally, insane), that area is designed to look like the greenhouses at Hogwarts. When you finally get in the castle, you're lead through Dumbledore's incredibly accurate office, then into a section where you see holographic versions of the Trio arguing with one another about sneaking through the castle (and Hermione being annoyed the boys still hadn't read HOGWARTS: A HISTORY). From there, you head through the Gryffindor common room, and then into the portrait hall where, yes, all of the portraits come to life and interact with each other. (The Fat Lady is in the common room and was a total delight on the ears, as usual). The Sorting Hat gives you instructions for the ride just as you're hustled on.
The ride itself is kind of... random? I keep trying to edit all of the ride narratives, which is annoying my family--but I like my "journey" rides to have a clear beginning, middle, and resolution, okay??
DanRad (my immortal beloved) explained that the ride is meant to symbolize the chaos in Harry's life, and that's a pretty good description. It's not so much of a roller coaster as it is a simulator--you're lead along this path and thrown around a bit as spiders!! Dementors!! Dragons!! jump out at you. :) Very, very cool.
Hogsmeade was so well done, too--they really paid attention to details. Many of the stores weren't open (we weren't sure if they would ever be open, or if they were just there for show), and if I had to complain about anything, it's that the stores themselves are SMALL. Like, to the point that you have to wait in line for an hour to get inside and you're forced to fight against fate and common human decency to get what you want. I went a little hog wild with purchases (it's so stressful and you're so happy and you just want it all!!) and... uh... totally bought myself a wand. The best thing about said wand is that it has a white tip--you know the kind of caps they usually put on the end of fake toy guns? Like they needed to clarify that these wands were real and capable of damage.
While we went into Honeydukes and Zonko's, we couldn't bring ourselves to wait to go into Ollivander's when they had stands selling wands (speaking of wands, you can buy the actual character's wands, which are plastic, or "original" wands which I think are made out of wood... I bought one of the "original" wands, because they didn't have Hermione's or Ron's wands, and, let's be honest, Harry's is kinda fug, right?). We also didn't do the dueling dragons rollercoasters or the Hippogriff ride, because by the time we got off the Forbidden Journey ride it was almost noon and, with the exception of my younger brother, none of us really like roller coasters all that much. I'm a little bummed I didn't think to go up to Hagrid's hut or peek my head into the Hog's Head and Three Broomsticks, but, honestly, it was so crowded and crazy that after I bought my gear and took in the sights, we were ready to head out. (And, actually, we left just in time! When we sat down to eat our dino burgers in Jurassic Park, a torrential downpour started.)
Here are a few pictures. I posted all of these on twitter and tumblr (because I took them with my awesome new phone and didn't bring my camera cord to take the pictures off said camera). Will upload a few more when I get home, along with some of the video I took. I really wish I had thought to bring my camera inside of Hogwarts castle, but they force you to lock all of your bags and loose articles up in free lockers. And with good reason--my mom refused to lock up her sunglasses today on the Mummy ride and they went flying off into eternity...
My dad took some shots inside of the castle, so I'll post those when I get back to NYC on Sunday. I need to rest up for the big start of the Star Wars convention tomorrow...