Monday, July 02, 2012

Tips and Tricks : Harry Potter World

Cal and I recently went back to Harry Potter World in Orlando and were able to get the most of our vacation based on our prior experience at the park. I'm going to share some of the tidbits we learned so that maybe they'll help someone else planning their vacation.

  • We stayed at Coco Key's last year and International Palms this year. This year was way better (even though Coco Key's has a waterpark- be warned it's mostly kids). We had a nice room, nice pool, and a fridge and microwave. And free internet. At Coco Key's we didn't have a fridge, a microwave or free internet, which were important to us. There's a Walgreen's at one end of the street and a CVS at the other, both hotels are on International Drive. Coco Key's is a little farther down the road from Universal.
  • If you have Early Access tickets, go early. HPW gets busiest the fastest and unless you want a million people in all of your photos, going early is the perfect time to get all of the initial photo-taking out of the way (i.e. you with the castle, you with the Three Broomsticks, you with Honeydukes, you with the Hogwarts Express)
  • Don't go on the castle ride when there isn't a line. In fact, the longer the line, the better the experience. The ride itself is nothing compared to the wait for the ride; it snakes through Hogwarts' dungeons, greenhouses, Dumbledore's office, classrooms, hallways and the Gryffindor common room, all of which are filled with things to see in one go-around, even if the line is a 60-minute wait.
  • If you want to take even MORE time in the castle, you can do a walk-through of the castle by telling the attendant at the front of the line, you miss out on some key things, but you can walk through other areas at your own pace. You don't get to actually ride if you do this, though. But once again, the ride is nothing special compared to the wait.
  • Don't go on the castle ride or the roller coasters after eating at the Three Broomsticks. Trust me, especially if you ate breakfast there.
  • Eat at the Three Broomsticks. Breakfast isn't the best meal (the traditional English breakfast and the fruit salad breakfast were both incredibly disappointing) but lunch and dinner spectacular. We ordered Cornish Pasties and a Shepherd's Pie, the two cheapest things on the menu ($7 and $9, plus $3-4 each for drinks), and they were amazing. Also, walk around on the inside and in the back of it, it's a great sight.
  • Drink a regular and a frozen Butterbeer (we prefer frozen) and pumpkin juice. Lots of pumpkin juice. If you get pumpkin juice from the Hog's Head or the Three Broomsticks, it's much cheaper than the bottle they designed for it and I would be willing to say has as much juice if not more. If you get a butterbeer and intend on getting a lot of drinks, splurge for the mug. You get a discount on drinks except for butterbeer and pumpkin juice (of course).
  • The roller coaster has two dragons (red Horntail on the left, blue Chinese Fireball on the right) that run at the same time, but that are slightly different experiences. We prefer the Horntail. The walk-up to the rides is VERY long, much longer than needed, and dark. And a little unsafe. But it's fun! And don't expect to wait long, it took 10 minutes at the longest to go from getting in the line to riding, maybe 15 if you're waiting to go in the front. (Oh and flipflops go under your butt or behind your back if you want to take them off)
  • The line for Ollivander's is always long and will always take forever, even though they take ~20 people in at a time. We got there half an hour after the park opened for Early Access (one hour before normal time) and there was already a very long line there. But having said that, you should go once at least.
  • When we got chocolate frogs at Honeydukes, the box was awesome, the chocolate was not. As in, they were never even finished. We didn't buy any more chocolate. But I have to say, we bought them last year (May 2011) and there have been some changes to the park since then, so they might have tweaked the chocolate recipe by now. The rock cakes and the pumpkin tart from the counter were great tasting, even a day later.
  • Spend as much time there as possible, because it really is sad when it's time to leave for good. And you won't want to go.

Hope these tips helped some people or encouraged some other people to plan a vacation there! Our second time there was just as amazing as the first and we were able to do things we weren't able to do before (more food/drinks instead of souvenirs, for instance).

((((Oh, and if you're staying at a partner hotel and are worried about getting back in the afternoon before the shuttle comes back, taxis are ~$10 per ride, but walking back to the hotel isn't as far as you might think. There's sidewalks and great scenery to your left; we walked all three days this trip and took taxis all three days last trip. Walking was so much better, even though we'd already been walking all day each time. ))))

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