Alright, it's not Disney, but as a Harry Potter fan I felt a sense of duty to see if Universal could measure up to the amazing world I've imagined. We got up early and took a Mears bus from Disney to Universal. (Planning tip: you can get a great deal on transportation if you purchase a bus/theme park ticket here).
Forbidden Journey was first on our list. It reminded me of doing Toy Story Mania in the morning. I'm always torn between the excitement of finally getting to ride the attraction and enjoying the queue. The queue for Forbidden Journey feels like it's a mile long, there are many large different rooms to walk through. There was a huge greenhouse room to represent the botany classes. Indoor rooms included castle scenes with moving portraits, huge statues of the 4 houses, and rooms where hologram characters passed along messages to guests in the queue. There was even a pensieve.
Luckily, it wasn't nearly as crowded as it could have been and there was hardly a line. On the other hand, we ran right through queue so excited that I'm sure we missed some other great details.
The ride itself was nothing short of amazing. If I had to describe it (and that's difficult to do), I would say it's similar to the motion/flying effects of Soarin' with huge screens before you. We flew in and out of the castle, over the quidditch field, through dragon nests! However, it was not peaceful, like Soarin'. There were parts that were jerky and terrifying, reminding me of Dinosaur from Animal Kingdom. Spiders and dementors thrust themselves at the riders and chased them. I can't explain the thrill. Suffice to say, as soon as we exited the ride, we ran right back through the queue to ride it immediately again!
After all the excitement of surviving the Forbidden Journey (twice!), we cooled off with some butterbeer. It was very sweet (not a problem for me, I've got a big sweet tooth), and tasted a bit like cream soda and butterscotch with a foamy marshmallow topping. (Last summer my girlfriend and I attempted to recreate an adult version here.).
I was a little disappointed in the size of the village. It was not designed with large crowds, or even medium crowd levels, in mind. Despite the cute storefronts, many were just that: a front. There were only a few stores patrons could actually enter. And once inside there was very limited space to move around. Honeyduke's was visually pleasing and Zonko's joke shop was cute. We didn't dare attempt Ollivander's wand shop as the line was out the door and then some.
My brother and I rode each of the former "Dueling Dragons" while my mom and husband (not being rollercoaster fans) hung out at the Owlery. We had lunch at the 3 Broomsticks and the theming and food were good. I was a bit baffled that there was a well-decorated 2nd floor, but it was not available to guests. The restaurant sure could have used more seating up there.
Overall, it was a good time. We don't go to Universal every year, but try to go every couple of Disney trips.
Other Universal Notes
- Spiderman and the Hulk attractions did not disappoint!
- My mom, being a big "I Love Lucy" fan, was tickled pink to run into their "characters" at the park. One of my favorite moments is when Desi planted a big kiss on her. Unfortunately, we zoomed in too much on that photo and cut out Lucy looking shocked (think Home Alone).