I went somewhere OTHER THAN DISNEY while in Orlando! Shocking, I know.
You know me. I'm the ultimate Disney geek - I could spend WEEKS on Disney property, never wanting to leave. But last week, I actually stepped OFF Disney property and went willingly to Universal's Islands of Adventure. I had one mission - to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
This is the story of what happened when a Disney girl went to Hogwarts....
As my "girls weekend" came to a close, I was sad to say goodbye to my friends, but I knew I had more time at Disney with my husband so I was happy too! Kevin arrived on Sunday for a work trade show and we were lucky enough to stay at Disney's BoardWalk Inn for two nights. It was one of the Deluxe resorts we hadn't stayed in yet and I'm so happy we picked it ... the place is gorgeous!
the view from our room
Anyway...I spent Sunday and Monday exploring the parks (with friends and alone) while Kevin attended trade show stuff. Between beignets at Port Orleans with the #PrincessParty Crew to Tonga Toast with Megan at The Poly to wandering the World Showcase alone (just heavenly, trust me...you must do this)...to people watching at Disney's Hollywood Studios while enjoying a carrot cake cookie (omg)...it really was a perfect couple of days.
I was relaxed and in my happy place.
And then Kevin called to tell me that I was going with him to a private party, after hours at the Islands of Adventure on Monday night. I nearly jumped for joy - the only thing stopping me was the fact that I was ON Disney property and it didn't seem right. (Just kidding. Sort of.)
I was so giddy on the bus ride to IOA that it was hard to sit still. All I could think was "I'm going to Hogwarts! And I need a wand at Ollivander's! And Butterbeer! I must get Butterbeer!" Yes, I had suddenly reverted to a 6-year-old little girl. I was so excited I nearly plowed people down in my rush to make it to the gates of IOA.
[Let's talk for a second about the walk to IOA. I am not a fan. After getting off the bus, we had to walk and take escalators and then walk on moving sidewalks and then walk past City Walk....all before making it to the gates of IOA. This was the least "magical" part of the night. I prefer Monorails, I guess.]
Once we walked into the IOA, I was, well, shocked at how very cool it was. I didn't know what I was expecting, but it was really an amazing sight. You felt like you had been transported to another country ... well, if you looked past the beer and wine carts set up all over the place. (ha!). Our first stop? To have a caricature drawn:
looks JUST like us, no?
After getting that lovely picture drawn, I had one thought. It wasn't food - despite the fact that we could eat AT ANY RESTAURANT at IOA (including Mythos) and all the concessions were open. And it was all free. It wasn't drink - even though the beer and wine were flowing that night.
Nope. My only thought was this: Get me to Harry Potter.
And then, we came to this
First stop - Butterbeer. No, it's not beer. There's no alcohol in it (Kevin was a bit surprised to hear this). It's like rootbeer, but with butterscotch. And yes, the frozen version is 100 times better than the "regular" Butterbeer. During the course of our stay in Hogsmeade I might have had two or three frozen Butterbeers.
Next stop - dinner at the Three Broomsticks. Yes, the very same tavern from the movies. I was so excited that I don't remember eating much of what we ordered. I just wanted to sit in the tavern and take it all in! I think I had two bites of Shepard Pie and a little bite of chicken. Oh, and Butterbeer.
dinner at the three broomsticks
After dinner, we headed to what would become the best destination of the night - Ollivanders wand shop. As we walked up to the door, there was a cast member standing there, presumably guarding the door. I asked if we could go in and he said in a few minutes. He proceeded to tell us about the "normal" procedure at Ollivanders where they let in about 20 people at a time and ONE person is chosen. But, he said, "since you are so excited, I'm quite certain you'll be chosen!" [At this point, I had no idea what was about to happen].
We were let in the door of Ollivanders and greeted by two "wizards" and the wandmaker himself. "Ah, I see you're in need of a wand," he says. "Yes, I am." And then, it happened. I was handed the first wand and told to water the plant with a spell. It failed - I killed the plant. "Ah, not this one," says the wandmaker. He hands me a second wand with the instruction "make that bell ring." Instead, all the bells in the store begin to ring and clang. "Oh! Not the right wand," he says. Then, he pulls a dusty box from the shelf, blows the dust off the top, and takes out the ash wand with a unicorn heartstring core. As he hands the wand to me, a slight breeze blows past me, a light shines down, and my wand has chosen me!
at Ollivanders, after receiving my wand
I kid you not...this was by far the coolest, most amazingly incredible thing I've experienced at a theme park. It truly was magical. I almost cried as the wandmaker explained why the wand chose me. It had something to do with the core of the wand and the type of person I am (strong, independent, charming - his words, not mine!) Then, we headed next door to Dervish and Banges, where I tried on my robes for Gryffindor (what? you thought I'd be in Slytherin?)
in my new robes, with my wand!
After procuring my supplies for Hogwarts, we walked out onto the streets of Hogsmeade again and turned a corner and there it was. Hogwarts. Again, some tears might have been shed.
Now, a word about Hogwarts. Inside this castle is a ride - Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I had no clue what to expect ... they said it was a "simulator" ride. No. It's a terrifying-strapped-in-with-a-shoulder-harness-oh-my-god-I-might-throw-up simulator ride. I was truly terrified about halfway through this ride. I thought Kevin was going to vomit (he hates roller coaster type rides). We flew with Harry on broomsticks, we nearly flipped upside down, we fell down caverns into the lairs of giant spiders who spit at us. Dragons breathed fire on us. We were part of a game of Quidditch! I screamed. I was queasy. I may never ride the Forbidden Journey again.
But...it was all worth it because we got to walk through Hogwarts! We saw Dumbledore's office! We saw the fat lady sing to let us into Gryffindor Hall! We saw the classroom and hallways of Hogwarts! The fact that my knees were shaking at the end of it all....minor detail, because friends...I saw the Sorting Hat!
the Sorting Hat
After the Forbidden Journey I needed yet another Butterbeer...so we headed back to town. And we visited Honeydukes candy store and Zonkos. We spent some more time wandering the streets of Hogsmeade and peeking in the shop windows. It really was a magical night.
And, I also met some other witches and wizards!
And then, just like that, it was time to leave Hogsmeade (even though I had been mistaken for a Weasley by the train conductor!). I finished my Butterbeer, grasped my wand, and started the long trek home with the other Muggles.