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VOL. 132 | NO. 79 | Thursday, April 20, 2017


Lance Wiedower

One Day with Harry Potter in Orlando

BY LANCE WIEDOWER, Special to The Daily News

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Our goal was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Orlando Resort is home to adjoining amusement parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, and both have their own unique spin on Harry Potter.

Each property deserves its own day, but we only had time for one to see both parks so we bought the one-day park hopper pass. It’s also a must considering it’s the only way to ride the Hogwarts Express train between Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and Hogmeade at Islands of Adventure.

Our plan for the day was to head straight back to Diagon Alley, check out all the fun and then board the Hogwarts Express to Islands of Adventure. We’d have all the Harry Potter experiences and add on a few rides here and there.

But there’s a little problem with that plan. There’s a whole lot of awesome at these two parks.

As we entered the gates of Universal Studios and headed toward Diagon Alley, I noticed the Transformers The Ride only had about a 10-minute wait. And then E.T. Adventure’s wait was about five minutes.

Oh, and there’s the Simpsons Ride. It had a long wait but our Express pass allowed us to skip the line. I won’t spoil the ride, but I’ll just say this 3-D experience with Homer is a blast.

The Springfield area of the park, by the way, is all kinds of awesome for any fan of “The Simpsons.” They even have a Moe’s Tavern selling Duff Beer. Yes, I might’ve had a tasty beer as we continued our walk back to Diagon Alley.

It’s at this point that amusement park reality sets in. As we stepped into the beautifully re-created Diagon Alley and London of Harry Potter world, we discovered why the crowds weren’t so bad on the earlier rides. It seemed that everyone rushed through the front gates and made a beeline back to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

If you’ve read the books or watched the movies, the dark passageways of Knockturn Alley or the wand store, Ollivanders, will make sense. But even if you aren’t familiar with the story you’ll find this area of the park beautifully done.

The wait for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts was already two hours so we waited until three minutes before the park closed and jumped in the line when it was less than 30 minutes. It turned out to be one of our favorite rides, but it’s also one of the rides in the park that won’t take an Express pass.

We also were fortunate to get soft-opening tickets for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, which opened just a couple of weeks ago.

The ride is one of several across the park that uses 3-D simulation. I predict it will be a park favorite, in part because of how fun the wait is. It’s set up like a TV studio where everyone gathers to watch hilarious clips of Fallon’s “The Tonight Show.”

Was one day enough to experience both Universal Studios Florida parks? Sure, but we skipped most of the rides in Islands of Adventure. One day is enough, but two days is preferable. Harry Potter fans could spend a day just exploring that wizarding world.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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