We stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort on the Universal Studios property. Staying on the property meant that we were a 15 minute walk away from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which was within Islands of Adventure) and that we got in an hour before the general public. Which is a big deal because holy HELL was this place crowded. We flew from Memphis to Orlando, then took a shuttle to the hotel and got in around 11 at night to find out that they had sold our hotel room....so we got upgraded to the Presidential Suite for the duration of our stay. The bathroom had a TV that you could swivel to watch in the shower. It was fancy!
The next day we were up at the crack of dawn so that we could be inside Harry Potter world the second it opened (7 a.m.). We walked from the hotel to Islands of Adventures, went through the Dr. Seuss section and the Atlantis section to arrive at the entrance to Harry Potter world. We walked in the gates to Hogsmeade and couldn't contain ourselves--it was like we walked straight into our favorite books!
Pure joy you guys. We were elated.
Harry Potter world is pretty small and contained. You walk in the gates of Hogsmeade and see the Hogwarts Express; there's a solid narrative every time you turn around; so you "arrived on the Hogwarts Express" in Hogsmeade and then walked through Hogsmeade to Hogwarts.
The employees are totally in character. The Hogwarts Express conducter walks around and checks his pocket watch (and poses for pictures of course). I asked an employee (wearing wizard robes) for a pen and she handed me a quill; when they hand you a receipt to sign they say "Could you sign this for the ministry please". And we DIED every time!
When you are in line for the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, it's like you're walking up to Hagrid's hut, and his voice is piped in overhead talking to you. When you go up in the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, Buckbeak BOWS TO YOU and then off you go on the roller coaster (I bowed back-duh). That awesome music plays everywhere and we were in heaven.
The streets of Hogsmeade were lined with shops, though there were lots of false fronts/decorated windows to provide atmosphere.
Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans in the Honeydukes window
We immediately headed for the Forbidden Journey, which is billed as one of the most technologically advanced roller coasters in the world...and waiting in line was one of the best parts, we had heard.
I'll fill you on the next part tomorrow!