Day 14 – Princesses, Potions, Potter (finally!), and People (lots of them)
Finally we get to the Potions portion of our trip report title. We are Disney fans, and we don’t really enjoy Universal/IOA parks so we stick with Disney. However, the girls are massive massive Harry Potter fans. Katie’s read all the books numerous times, Molly is working her way though book number 5, and they’ve seen all the films etc. We are currently planning her Harry Potter birthday party.
So, you get the scenario. Potter is a big deal in our house, and Potter is in Orlando, so we had a conundrum. Could we possibly go to Orlando and not visit Hogwarts? Obviously, the answer was no, we had to go.
So, I checked the predictions and selected this day as the most likely to be relatively quiet at Islands of Adventure. And, I was wrong…….
We had a late night at Magic Kingdom, but we are all up early and we are at Islands of Adventure for 8:30. We buy tickets on the gate (ouch) and the first clue to our day is awaiting us at the turnstiles. It’s heaving, and disorganised. We are not in Disney anymore……
We are eventually allowed in, and we follow the crowd to Hogsmead. I’d read every tip I could find, and the first one was a good one. We found a locker near the train and dumped ours bags in a locker with no queue.
Tip number two was to do Olivanders first, but when we look there is already an enormous queue, so we sacrifice Olivander’s for the ride.
We headed up to the castle and managed to find the No Bags line. The line for people with bags was enormous. There are no signs, and no tips, so people are queuing for ages when there are lockers just a few feet behind them. So feeling just slightly smug, we enter the line at 9:10. They are announcing it’s a 90 minute wait in the main queue, or 15 minutes in the single rider line. I must admit to being tempted to dump the kids and go for single rider, but we stick together and enter the greenhouses. Actually, to start with we aren’t even in the greenhouse, we are outside. It’s quite telling that there is actually a cart selling refreshments in the queuing area….
Up ahead I spot a family sporting Dibb lanyards, so I pass some time trying to work out if we will ever pass them in the maze of lines. We do eventually end up near them so I should out ‘Hello Dibbers’, they look a little scared but say hello.
We wind our way, back and forth, it’s a long line but it is always moving so it’s not too soul destroying you feel like you are making some progress. at 9:42 we finally enter the castle. This is more like it ) The castle is cold and there are things to look at.
And bizarrely, there is no line in the castle. The queue just evaporates as we enter the castle, like some sort of bizarre magic trick, and we just walk straight through the next section with noone in front of us. I really don’t understand it, but I think it must be to do with there being things to look at right at the entrance to the castle, so somewhat like rubbernecking at an accident it’s causing a bottleneck even though there is nothing blocking the way. I don’t really know but there needs to be a CM sorting it out as it would be a lot more pleasant queuing inside with all the stuff to look at, rather than out in the greenhouse.
The inside of the castle is really cool and interesting but we really don’t get a chance to look properly as there is literally noone in front of us and we have to walk through quite quickly. We do see the entrance to Dumbledores office, and lots of talking portraits (which look amazing but don’t photograph well). All of a sudden we are at the Sorting Hat and it’s time to board. It’s 9:51 so we have waited 41 minutes. Longer than we like to wait, but certainly not unbearable and if we had been inside the castle it would have been quite pleasant.
As you board you sit on a pew and an overhead bar comes down. There is a really really long conveyor belt whilst you are being seated, we had to swap seats and I was thinking we must be running out of conveyor, but we had plenty of time to swap around. The ride is really smooth. I don’t like a lot of simulator rides and find them very jerky but I was absolutely fine on this. It reminded me more of Soarin’. I was worried about it being scary but it wasn’t too bad, sure there were spiders and dementors but nothing really jumped out and scared me in anyway. My only complaint, and it’s quite minor, is the Dementor scene went on a little long and I thought it was a bit boring compared to the flying bits so I wanted to get back to that. It’s quite a decent length, it’s not one of those rides where you queue for an hour and then it’s over in 20 seconds. I don’t know how long it is, but it felt long enough although I could have happily ridden longer too.
Ride over, and we emerge into a shop. This is our first shop experience and it’s an eye opener. If there was noone in the castle, it’s because everyone is in this shop. I’ve never seen so many people in one space before. The merchandise looks like it might be interesting but I can’t really move around to take a look, so we don’t buy anything.
We leave Filch’s emporium and pass flight of the Hippogriff, Molly is desperate to ride it but the queue is upto an hour already and it’s about a 30 second ride.
We walk down into Hogsmead and we are just overwhelmed. It looks amazing, and there is great attention to detail, but there are very few signs and we don’t know our way around so we don’t really know what to do or where to go. The line for Olivanders is still enormous and there is even a line for the 3 broomsticks. I didn’t realise until we got back that the Hogs Head Pub had a separate entrance, or we would have gone in there for a Butterbear. The Three Broomsticks looks good, and we like the look of the menu but it’s only 10:30 and we aren’t really ready for Shepherds Pie or Cornish Pasties.
We go into Honeydukes next, and this is amazing, the sweets and cakes all look fabulous. Honeydukes is connected to Zonkos where they have lots of crazy toys and games, and also Pygmy Puffs. We’d been asked to buy a pink Pygmy Puff and they are on special so we end up with a purple one as well. The queue is actually relatively short, I think most people are looking rather than buying.
We take a brief look in the other shop which is where Olivander’s empties out into but it is so crowded that I can’t really get into the building, so we decide to collect our bags and leave the area.
We return to the bag claim and try and open our locker. It uses a finger print to authenticate you and it won’t recognise my finger. I try about 5 times and then ask for help, the helper tries my finger a bunch of times as well, and eventually agrees to open it as long as I have ID locked in the locker. Which fortunately I do. There is another family who have ID in their pockets and not in the lockers and she says she will have to call security for them, I’m not sure what happens there, but I would recommend locking something in your locker that will identify you.
Rather reluctantly we leave Hogsmeade, this is really why we came and it is just amazing to look at, but we don’t really manage to do it justice due to the crowds. I expected as much but I’m still a little disappointed. We walk back through Suess Landing and decide it’s time for a Cinnabun for breakfast.
Whilst we are eating, I am tapped on the shoulder and i nearly jump out of my skin when I turn around and am faced with Woody Woodpecker. Sadly my kids didn’t know who he was. Our ‘quiet’ breakfast spot is turning out to be anything but quiet, first we have Woody, then a bunch of superheros on motor trikes, and some belly dancers on stilts appear, and there is a band playing somewhere nearby!
After breakfast, we head back into Suess Landing and do Cat in the Hat. This is a 25 minute wait. None of these rides are really worth 30 minute waits, but with no fast pass the choice is wait or wander around and do nothing, so we just grin and bear it. After the Cat in the Hat we spot an exceptional opportunity, the Carousel has no queue. So, on we hop. We aren’t massive Carousel fans, but a ride with no queue is unmissable opportunity. It’s a rare one as well, as next up is the Suess Trolley Train Ride and that’s a 25 minute wait. It’s quite a cute little ride but it’s not long and it’s not that exciting if I am honest.
It’s now lunchtime and we’ve only seen Hogsmeade and Suess Landing, we are all really hot and bothered now, so we head down to the watery play area. Now, every single time we visit a theme park I take spare clothes, except today….. Not really sure why we didn’t bring them except I think we were focused on the bag issue for Harry Potter. I am sure you can see where this is leading. I told the girls to have a paddle but not get too wet. Katie has a paddle, and in fact, so did I. It was heavenly to just cool down with my feet in the stream. Molly didn’t quite manage a paddle. Molly was soaked from head to toe.
We finally break ourselves away from the water area and Phil goes off to ride Spiderman in the single rider line, whilst the girls do the ‘teacups’ ride. I watch, I will do a lot of things but I won’t do teacups. There is no line for teacups, which is quite a nice change for today, so they get on pretty quickly.
After the teacups we realise it’s getting quite late, and we’ve not eaten anything so we go into a cafe near the Hulk. Katie has a meatball sub, Molly has a kids spaghetti, and Phil and I just have some breadsticks as we had rather a lot of Cinnabun earlier. We also buy a refillable mug. It’s around the price of 2 large drinks, and then it’s 79c to refill it, so it seems like a pretty good idea. The food is ok, but are planning is terrible, we’d wanted to eat in the 3 Broomsticks but of course we are on the complete opposite side of the park when we get hungry.
After lunch, we popped into the loo and I stripped Molly head to toe (she stayed in a cubicle) and I dried everything in the hand dryers. They had those amazing Dyson dryers and they got her pretty dry.
I decide I’d like to ride Spiderman, so I head into the Single Rider line. There’s actually a fair queue in here, so I have to wait a little while but definitely not an hour, it was maybe 10 minutes. Phil and the kids look in the shops, and cool off under a mister fan. There isn’t much shade in IOA but they do have quite a few mister fans set up which help a little.
I last did Spiderman 10 years ago, and it was a lot rougher than I remembered, a similar concept to Harry Potter but not as well executed and you get thrown around in the car quite a bit. I think there is a scene missing at the end as well, we seemed to be getting thrown around in front of a black screen at one point.
Our next stop is the Toon Lagoon. Having just dried Molly off, it seems quite logical to send her on Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. I really don’t want to get wet so I opt to hold the bags, and then I wander around seemingly endlessly trying to find somewhere cool to sit and wait. There is a shop but it’s not big and a bit boring, so then I try a cafe, figuring I can refill my mug and sit and drink it, but there are about 10 tables in the cafe so I feel bad taking one when I am just having a drink. (I also spot some kids from the school where I work in here and I think they are quite shocked to see me half way around the world!)
I eventually find a spot on a wall outside the cafe, it’s in the shade and the door is open so I can feel a breeze from the air-conditioning. This park just doesn’t seem to have a lot of places to hide from the heat. There aren’t many (or even any) shows that are inside, and the restaurants and shops seem to be quite small. In Magic Kingdom, for example, when we get too hot, we can do a whole series of ‘sit down and cool off’ rides / shows, but we couldn’t seem to find that here.
Phil and the kids return and yes, they are wet, but they’re not too bad as they wimped out and wore their ponchos! Cheats I know, but at least I don’t have to listen to moaning about wet pants.
We take a quick walk through Jurassic Park as noone really fancies anything in here, and find ourselves back in Hogsmeade. Molly is still desperate to ride the Flight of the Hippogriff so we check the time and it’s listed as 35 minutes. There is no escape, we are going to have to wait. So, we wait, and we wait, and we wait some more. It’s long, hot and pretty boring queue to be honest. At this point I am pretty much sworn off IOA without a Front of Line pass in the future. We stayed at RPR a few years ago to get the FOTL pass and we didn’t need it, but on this occasion the pass would have been a godsend.
The ride queue has had a few nice touches added, you can see Hagrid’s hut and Buckback is in his nest. The ride is quite fast and nippy but it’s extremely short. I think Molly is a bit surprised at just how short it is to be honest.
As we are leaving the ride we pass a little stall selling wands, and there is a cast member on the floor, the heat is so much that she has passed out. It is just relentlessly hot.
We have a bit of a wander around the shops but it’s still crazy busy in them. We visited the bathroom, and had a listen out for Moaning Murtle. Annoyingly, I didn’t realise you could enter the pub rather than the restaurant, or we would have stopped for a drink. We didn’t want food now as we were full from lunch.
Eventually, and rather reluctantly, we leave the area. The theming is superb and there is loads to look at, but it is just so busy that it’s hard to really enjoy it fully. I am pleased we went and saw it, especially as we are all huge Harry Potter fans and read the books, watch the films over and over again.
As we leave the area, it’s nearly time for the Sinbad show to start. This sounds tantalisingly like a long sit down in a cool arena, so we decide to give it a try. It is a pretty long sit-down but the arena isn’t cool, so by the time we are finished we are all dripping. The show is pretty good, lots of stunts and effects but none of the ‘how did they do that’, that I was expecting.
Show over, and we are debating where to go next when Molly says ‘Please can we go to the Boardwalk’, and we all just immediately say ‘Yes, let’s go’
We’ve had a good day but the heat and the crowds have just made it very hard work.
As we are leaving the park, I spot a friend of mine who is also in Orlando. We quickly say hello, they are on there way in having been home for a rest midday.
We make the long trek back to the carpark. They really need a tram or a monorail here. It’s a long way to your carpark and we were in the front row.
We stop off at KMart on the way back to the hotel, and then finally we are back in our lovely room.
It’s a Pizza from the takeaway counter for tea, and a lot of packing to do as tomorrow we are moving to the beach. The kids rent Lilo and Stitch to watch as we pack. We have absolutely no energy for anything more than pizza and a movie.