Friday, September 10, 2010

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Remember when I admitted to crying on my eleventh birthday because I didn't get my Hogwarts letter? How I knew then that this magical world I clung to since I was nine couldn't be real because if it was I'd be a part of it?

My childhood wasn't the greatest and these books, this world, tethered me. Kept me sane. And when I didn't get my letter, the small bit of childhood I maintained despite circumstances, was crushed. But I never stopped believing in Harry Potter. For a long time it was the only thing I'd talk to Mom about - one of our only connections, aside from blood and all that. The books and world offered me glimpses of real happiness and these feelings the books inspired are a giant part of why I want to write my own novels.

So, to put it lightly, I had HIGH expectations. Honestly, I was terrified I'd be disappointed. While certain details aren't a hundred percent accurate to the books - most probably wouldn't notice but I've read them hundreds of times (no exaggeration!) and am crazy- they managed to capture the essence, the atmosphere.  Their attention to detail is astounding. The park may be new but it feels ancient, like thousands have walked the streets and halls for centuries.

A bubble encapsulates Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, a charged, magically infused dome fueled by dreams, belief and wonder. Stepping onto the street I froze, more positive emotions slammed into my chest then I've ever felt in my entire life. Instantaneously. No matter how happy I've been in the past, all the shadows have never been chased away, a little of my darkness always remained. Not then. There was nothing in me but light and positive emotions and they swept through me in a typhoon and I (the girl who refuses to cry anywhere but in private, who absolutely never cries in public) burst into tears.

Can you see the childhood I thought I lost slamming back into me? Can you see my dreams coming true?

For the next two hours as we went through Hogwarts and rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, walked around Hogsmeade and rode the Hungarian Horntail I alternated between trying to choke back tears and stopping myself from hyperventilating to the point I fainted (and I was close!), never mind the augmentation in my fidgeting - it was only so Ramona wouldn't notice my entire body shaking with emotion.

The Forbidden Journey is the best ride in all of Orlando. Hands down. And this isn't just coming from the Harry Potter nerd, Ramona - a future Disney animator - agrees wholeheartedly. We did this ride 15 times. It never got boring, there was always another smaller detail to notice. It is intricate and flows beautifully between Real3D (no glasses necessary) and live sets with mind-blowing, scream-inducing animatronics. I choked on a face full of Hungarian Horntail (dragon) flames, had spider webs wet my clothes (terrifying for someone who is deathly afraid of spiders), narrowly escaped the whomping willow, and I lost my soul (yes I'm certain, you will see when you do the ride for yourself).

Waiting is half the fun but there is also a leisurely walk-through of the castle. (Tip - if you don't mind being separating from your party go in the singles line, you can do the ride SO many more times even with other people waiting two hours - in slow season!)

Hanging over your head in the defense classroom, you get this pretty bone ensemble.

We drank butterbeer which is delicious - especially frozen - and somehow fills you up in the same way the novels says it does as well as pumpkin juice. We ate breakfast at the Three Broomsticks (How cool is this to say? I still can't believe I can and I lived this!)

There was a bloody brilliant school bullfrog choir (If you're on my facebook I'll be posting a sample video of them later today.) that played in the square.

There was also a spirit assembly where we got to witness the Durmstrang boys do amazing flips and battle with staffs. The girls of Beauxbatons performed breathily, gracefully twirling streamers. Ron would have fainted.

The Dragon Challenge offers you a viciously twisting coaster in the form of the Hungarian Horntail or a speed happy ride that leaves you a bit faint on the Chinese Fireball (which finds it slot as third best ride in all of Orlando). The two dragons almost collide. Twice. 

The Flight of the Hypogriff, supposedly a children's ride, is still fun and the animal's nest and Hagrid's hut are definitely worth seeing up close. 

Ollivanders wand experience. I had chills. Enough said. 

Portraits speak to you and each other. Each shop window has tiny, wonderful, details. Moaning Myrtle never shuts up when you go into the girls lavatory (which, when your trying to pee is actually a little uncomfortable). Gryffindor employees treated me with scorn for sporting my Slytherin pride with my shirt (that a lot of people wanted but I bought years ago) while my Slytherin peers never failed to high-five, salute and acknowledge me.
I'm sorry this post is so long, there was just so much. Trust me I could gush for ages more... I was there and even after 17 hours (yes I counted. No I don't care that you think I'm psycho now :D ) I could hardly believe how they managed to exceed my expectations. An OWL of Outstanding, plus special notations in the Ministries record books, plus a plaque, plus statues, plus a monument, plus my soul - fifteen times over (Okay so the last one isn't really an option because they sort of just took it) is what I give to them.

These pictures fail to capture the magic. My words aren't enough. If you have any passing interest in Harry Potter I suggest you go. Heck, if you HATE Harry Potter (are you crazy?) it's still an amazing park and there will be something there for you. There's talk of them expanding the park in two-three years - if they are lacking for ideas I have at least a hundred rides/shops/things they could do. I'll be back again. Soon (as I can afford it).

My Grandparents made one of my childhood dreams come true. They got me to Hogwarts. Man, they are amazing. I can't get over it. Everyone, help me thank them and congratulate them on making it to their 55th wedding anniversary. Which was yesterday. (Pretty please?)

Do you have any dreams that have come true lately? That you are working towards? What's your biggest childhood wish? 

I'm posting the winner on Sunday because Monday's post really needs to stand alone. I will contact the winner (if they happen to miss it).


  1. Oh my gosh! Those pictures are amazing! I'm so happy for you that you had such a good time! I can't even imagine!

  2. Awe! I got all teary eyed seeing your "OMG I'm really, REALLY here!" photo. I know how much this trip meant to you and I full on understand how one place can erase the bad and the innocent state of being a child again takes over and hits like you said a typhoon. I don't cry in public but when I get to Disney it's not even a choice my body involountarily explodes at some inner child magnitude of sheer wonder and amazement. So, I mean, I get it.
    I'm was smiling through this whole post and was so excited for you! I could feel so much of your trip this whole week but I know today's was super duper special because you got to go to Hogwarts! Salute to your grandparents, may they always be awesome!
    Yes, I swam with the dolphins which was so cool. It's scary at first because you know they aren't trained and they are huge compared to ya know..the other fishies. But these dolphins have been swimming with locals for a long time and no one has ever been hurt by one jumping out of the water. They are super sweet and they LOVE to jump and show off.
    Questions: My dream of going to Disney and staying at a resort and being able to afford it with no issue just came true recently. Going is a whole other dream and thats only in 43 days. Scream! My biggest childhood wish...thats a tough one, I wished on stars every night and each one seemed just as big as the one before it.

  3. Love love love this!!! I've also read Harry Potter hundreds of times! I used to read them twice a year, but I've cut it back to once a year, around Dec./Jan. I'm so glad you had such a magical time!!!!! I can't wait to go there. I especially want to try Butterbeer and get a WAND!!! Your grandparents are super awesome and amazing and happy happy happy 55th wedding anniversary to them!

    By the way, I have a blog award for you!!! It's in my blog post today. :)

  4. SQUEEE!!! I was SO hoping you'd talk about this!!! It gave me chills just reading it! Next spring, BABY!! SO glad you got to experience it! *hugs*


    Your words with the pictures said it all, every emotion and experience, I cannot WAIT to experience it for myself and take similiar photos with the little giddy child look on my face!!! Pure joy!!! I'm glad to see that it's living up to the hype, you never know with these things. But Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling have never let me down :)

    Thanks for my lovely photos... you know I was impatiently waiting :)

  6. Loving these photos! You look so happy and excited - how cool to enter the world you kept alive in your head since childhood!

    Childhood dream, hm. I wanted to be an actress, win an Olympic gold medal in track and gymnastics... that didn't happen! I did want to get something published, and that happened! :)

  7. I've only read the first HP book once, but I've seen all of the movies. I have to say the excitement you convey in this post is engaging! I am so happy for you!!

    And Happy 55th to your Grandparents! :)

  8. After four boys, I just had my first little girl. I'm in heaven. I found you off Elana Johnson’s blog. Nice to meet you. Great blog.

  9. Lovely photos! Can't wait until my kids are older and we can go.

    Only problem... I'm still not done producing kids.

    epic sigh....

  10. I've been desperate to go but I have no idea when I'll get the opportunity. So good to know a fellow HP obsessed fan (I am seriously obsessed with those books) wasn't disappointed! Can't wait to go for myself!

  11. That sounds incredible! I'm glad you had such a wonderful time. By the way, you are making me feel old! I was the mother of four children before I read Harry Potter. Congrats to your Grandparents. 55 years is amazing!

  12. Fantastic post! I was so hoping you'd post about HPW - my guys are are way too little to enjoy Universal yet so when we go in November we're just sticking to Disney... but I so so so so soooo wanted to go to HPW! Can't wait til they're older and I can take them!

    As far as childhood dreams... they all seemed so important at the time but I guess I just sorta lost them along the way. (But I did always want to go to Disney World... so I guess that one's coming! Yay!)

  13. Um, that looks AMAZING. Wow, you really got to step into Harry Potter's world--I definitely have to plan a trip now!

  14. MELISSA!!!! I'm so glad you went before me. You have made this sound EVEN better than anything I read. I'm not ashamed to admit that I am turning the big...okay, I won't mention my age this December, but my present from the hubster is a trip there! I can hardly wait now. Like every day is going to seem like an eternity! Ooooooh, I can't wait to show him this blog post! Thank you, thank you for sharing.

  15. This is an amazing post! I only finished the Harry Potter series for the first time a few months ago (I know, shame on me for waiting so long) but I am dying to go to the theme park! Thanks so much for sharing -- glad I found your blog! :)

  16. omg--that looks so amazing and supercool, I LOVE it!!! Feeling my disney withdrawals kicking in... must... get... to... Orlando!!! :D

  17. May I point out that the Hufflepuff with the frog is definitely the most fashionable one!! This gives me hope!

  18. Great pictures! That theme park looks amazing. :)

  19. I love the first pic of you, I imagine that's what I'd look like if I won the lottery... or ever got my own office. :D

    And for putting that smile on your face a big THANK YOU to your Grandparents, as well as Happy 55th Anniversary! (Wow! 55 years! I hope I can say that one day) :)

    My childhood wish - while completely cliched, I'm sure - was to see my name printed across a book. Now I want several books.

  20. Those pictures are amazing. And if they don't come close to capturing the essence of the place, then the park must truly be magical.

    I'm happy for you beyond words. I'm really glad your grandparents made it to their 55th wedding anniversary -- and that they made your childhood live again, Roland

  21. I haven't heard of this but now i am SOOO excited because I will be in Orlando at the end of September. Yeah! So very excited! Loved all the pictures and details.

  22. Oh-Em-Gee that's soooo awesome! Aww and happy 55th to your grand parents, that is amazind. 55 years!?!?!?! wow. It's so great they made your dream come true. Everything there looks so real. It would be cool to live at hogwarts, there would be an adventure EVERY day.

  23. Looks like an awesome trip! My sister-in-law would be jealous...and, I'll admit, so am I. :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, as well!

  24. This looks so much fun!!! I had to show my husband all of the pictures!! I really, really want to go now. And I think it's awesome you cried because I totally would have too. Also, I'm so glad it exceeded your expectations. Yay!!!!

  25. I can't believe I didn't comment on this before. This is so awesome! I'm very, very jealous! The rides sound incredible (and Universal has some really excellent rides, so I'm just dreaming of how great the HP rides are). The idea of spider webs touching me is freaking me out a little though, but I think I could bare if Harry asked me to. Must get to Florida! And must get a proper Ravenclaw shirt before I go! Thanks so much for posting all this! I think I will go look at airfare now...

  26. The pics are amazing! I so want to visit. If I was in the US, I would have already gone. Being in Korea kinda makes it a bit difficult to visit a theme park in the US.

    I find that I don't want a lot of my childhood wishes anymore. Or not that I don't want them, but I realize that they're not as important as I once though.

    The only dream I have that I am working towards is becoming an author. I've wrote the books, now I just have to get them published. I'd love to be a full-time writer.

    By the way, I love the title of the blog and your banner.


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