As I mentioned before, we had a special Harry Potter package. One of the benefits to having this package deal is that you get to enter the park an hour earlier than the general public. This is HUGE!!! This, in my opinion, is worth paying extra to stay on site, versus other accommodations. However, that is just my opinion. But I think Scott would also agree.
Since the park opened at 9am, we were allowed to enter at 8am, which meant we were up by 6:30am and out the door by 7a so we could be first in line. We were among the first people in line both mornings we went. A small sacrifice to pay to get to do the things we wanted.
One thing I didn't understand, the first morning we went, is that they opened the gates about 15 minutes before the park opened, only to hold everyone up not too far inside the park, behind another barrier. I'm not sure why they do that? In my opinion, it just creates a bigger mass of people and more opportunity for people to get hurt. It kind of reminded me of Black Friday shopping, except that people were a little less crazy and I didn't see anyone get knocked over or trampled.
Once we got through the 2nd barrier, we walked VERY FAST, to the Harry Potter theme park. It was so thrilling to me when we got to the entrance. I was actually overcome with emotion. We waited so long and worked so hard to save the money to do this and WE WERE ACTUALLY THERE! I had tears welling up in my eyes and I had to take lots of deep breaths so no one would think I was hurt, or worse yet, crazy! I was thankful that I was about 10 strides behind Scott and the kids so I could regain composure! ;-)
The Hogwarts Castle! This is where you get your true "Harry Potter experience". We didn't actually get into the castle on day 1. We had read in our book "Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids", that there were 3 attractions that were a MUST DO first thing in the morning, otherwise the lines were so long that you wasted alot of time just waiting. Our plan of action was to go to Ollivander's Wand Shop the first morning and Hogwarts the 2nd morning. Hind sight is always 20/20, but we actually could have managed both attractions both days. Part of our problem was that we weren't oriented to the park and didn't realize where everything was at first.
Because I have so much trouble getting the pictures on here, then getting them in chronological order, I'm just leaving them where they fell at random.
This Dogweed Deathcap shop had screaming Mandrakes in their window display! They were terrible on the ears! In the movies their shrieks bring death to anyone who hears them.
I think Honeydukes was one of our favorite shops. It was very vibrant with color inside, which was one reason I fancied this store.
Right next door is Zonkos Joke Shop. Emma liked all the Pygmy Puffs on display.
Our first morning, after visiting Ollivander's Wand Shop, and riding Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a fairly tame roller coaster, we decided to try Dragon Challenge. You can't really see much of this roller coaster from the outside, except for right here in this spot. We didn't actually see this until AFTER we rode the ride. We had read in our book that the best spot to ride is in the front row, so you can actually see what is going on. Because we didn't know what we were getting in to, we got in line for the first seat. The red coaster is the Chinese Fireball and the blue one is the Hungarian Horntail. Gage wanted to ride the Hungarian Horntail, so that is what we did. Although now I look back in our book and it says "coaster loonies hype the front row of the Chinese Fireball and last row of Hungarian Horntail, the Unofficial crew unanimously prefers the Hungarian Horntail. We were in the front row of the Hungarian Horntail, so maybe that's why Gage was screaming, "GET ME OFF OF HERE! GET ME OFF OF HERE!" and Scott was thinking, "I AM GOING TO DIE! I AM GOING TO DIE!" LOL! I could hear Emma screaming at the top of her lungs and I just kept praying that I wouldn't get sick. I have always LOVED the big thrill rides. Now, not so much. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the "thrill" of the ride, but my body doesn't agree with my brain much of the time. I did actually make it through this ride without much trouble, other than I was shocked at how stupid I was that I didn't realize what a "thrill" this ride was! Needless to say, when I asked Gage if he would like to try the Chinese Fireball side, he replied with a quick "NO!" This ride has actually been at Universal for a long time, it was just rethemed as Harry Potter. How convenient that was for the park designing engineers!!
There were a couple Butterbeer stands within the park. You could choose regular or frozen. Frozen wins best drink, hands down, by the Stephens family! However, at about $21.00 for 2 frozen drinks in souvenir mugs, we didn't sample too many of them!
This picture is pretty self explanatory! ;-)
The Hogwarts Express!
The Hogwarts Express Conductor. I loved all of the uniforms the staff wore throughout the park. You definitely felt like you were in the movie!
We waited in this area for 2 different shows that were scheduled. All 4 houses were represented. Griffyndor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin.
We watched the Triwizard Spirit Rally which was a show of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students as they lead the excitement for the Triward Tournament.
A Durmstrang student up close and personal!
The show was quite enjoyable to watch.
The Beauxbatons put on a ribbon twirling show which was also fun to watch.