We spent day three of our eight day Disney World trip not on Disney property but at Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was a huge motivator for us to visit Islands of Adventure. Brennan is a huge Harry Potter fan, he's read the entire series at least 3 times, Nate has read the entire series, and Phoenix is currently on book 5 of the series. I've never read the books but I want to and I've enjoyed the movies. Wynter isn't that interested in Harry Potter but you can't please everyone.
Since we were staying on Disney property and used the Magical Express free transfer service to and from the airport we did not have a rental car. I priced out options for a family of 6 and a cab ride was the most economical. Adding one day at Islands of Adventure was not cheap. The entire day cost us around $700 for park tickets, two meals at the park, and round trip cab fare. Adding another day at Disney would have cost us $59. Seeing Harry Potter world was a must do for us though so we made it happen.
Crossing the bridge from the City Walk area to Islands of Adventure
The first thing we did was head out to the bell hop at our resort to get a cab that sat 6 and had a car seat. There was one waiting and we were quickly on our way. The cab ride was much quicker than I thought and we arrived at Universal very early. We got a Starbucks and walked around the City Walk area and then headed back to the main gates about 30 minutes before opening. Good thing we did because they started letting people in 15 minutes before official opening.
We had to bypass Suess Landing in the morning but came back to that area later in the day
We used a touring plan from the Unofficial Guide and touringplans.com. Crowds were low though so the most important part was making a beeline for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. After that we explored the park as we saw fit as crowds weren't too high that day.
The entrance to Hogsmeade Village
So amazing! Looks just like the movies.
We bypassed the village at first and headed straight for the Forbidden Journey. There was no wait. The only bad part is there is so much to see inside the castle and since there was no wait I felt rushed to jump on to the ride. Universal does their baby swap different than Disney and there is a waiting area near the ride entrance for the big rides. It typically is covered and or air conditioned with some benches and a movie for little kids going. It was nice to wait in line with Nate and the big kids then just be separated while they were on the ride. Since we had the baby swap, two of the big kids got to ride every big ride twice which was great for them!
Inside Hogwarts castle
More pictures from inside the castle. It really was SO neat!
Orion was not impressed though.
Last picture from inside Hogwarts
Nate and the big kids rode the other two rides in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Dragon Challenge and the Flight of the Hippogriff. Orion and I tried to find a shady place to nurse because it was probably only 9:30am and it was already miserably hot and humid. My one complaint about the trip was the heat! It was so hot and humid it was exhausting. I found myself dying for air conditioning at many points throughout the day. We are planning a return trip to Disney in 2013 but have opted for early December mainly to escape the heat (and see Christmas decorations).
Hogshead Tavern with our butterbeer
Once we had rode all the rides inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter we were ready for a break with some air conditioning and a cold glass of butter beer. Nate bought some frozen and some regular butterbeer. We each had favorites. I much preferred the frozen but the regular butter beer was good too. I even had a 2nd frozen butter beer later in the day when we came to explore Hogsmeade Village.
Orion was also not impressed with the heat!
We explored the other islands in the Islands of Adventure. We rode the Jurassic Park ride twice (lots of fun), Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls (another fun water ride), Popeye and Pluto's Blige-Rat Barges. We looked around and explored the park too. We had lunch at Thunder Falls Terrace and it was really good. We shared 3 adults meals and it was more food than we could eat. We got a turkey leg, a rib and chicken combo, and a chicken wrap.
Wynter on the Caro-Suess-el
We then explored Seussland. The big kids went on the carousel while I fed Orion. The longest wait of the entire week was for the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. I really wanted to ride it so the 20 minute wait was okay but honestly we could have just skipped it.
Brennan used some of his own money to buy a custom hand pressed medallion with a traveler's symbol and an eagle.
We all got in line for the Poseidon's Fury special effects spectacular. The wait was a bit long because I think a show had just started when we got in line. Orion was having a complete meltdown in the line. There was no one who worked there in sight. It was hot and I was tired so Orion and I walked back out the way we came in. I looked for an air conditioned place to nurse Orion and was directed to the First Aid center. Islands of Adventure doesn't have baby care centers like Disney so it was an emergency room exam room but it was set up with a rocking chair and most importantly it had air conditioning so it worked. All four days at Disney I never even set foot in a baby care center but I think this was the hottest day of the week.
After I met back up with Nate and the big kids we went back to Hogsmeade Village to get more butterbeer and explore the shops. The attention to detail is amazing. Everything is just like the movies (which is close to the books I hear too). We had a lot of fun checking everything out and feeling like we were part of Harry Potter's world.
Honey Duke's Candy Shoppe was a favorite. The kids each bought a chocolate frog.
We didn't eat at Three Broomsticks but I had to take a picture.
The Hogs Head Tavern where we consumed several butterbeers earlier in the day.
Nate and Orion waited outside while the big kids and I went inside the Owl Post.
Brennan ended up buying the elder wand (Dumbeldore's wand) at Olivander's
Next we headed over to the Marvel super hero area. Nate thought this part was very neat. I'm not into super heroes and comic books much and wasn't as a kid so I wasn't overly impressed. The theming was neat though. Nate and the big kids went and rode the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. Orion was ready to eat so I decided to find a shady place to feed him and skipped the ride. Nate and the big kids said the ride was amazing afterwards so I wish I would have rode it but oh well.
Phoenix wanted to ride Dr. Doom's Fearfall but was about 1/2 inch too short. Brennan and Nate rode it still. They both said the ride was okay but the wait was much too long (about 20 minutes). At this point it was getting late (maybe 5:30pm or so) and we decided to make our way back to our hotel. Catching a cab that sat 6 and had a car seat was very easy again and I was pleased with my decision to take a cab rather than spending more money (and certainly more hassle) to rent a car for one day.
We really enjoyed our time at Islands of Adventure. I was worried the rest of the park besides the Wizarding World of Harry Potter may be lacking but it wasn't. There was plenty to keep us busy for an entire day.
If you want to read day one of our eight day trip, go here, day 2 go here. Up next, resort and rest day. Chef Mickey's, Downtown Disney, Exploring, Time at Port Orleans Resort...