March 19, Universal Studios Florida has recreated Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, giving us muggles a very real experience of the world of flying broomsticks, goblins and love potions. While growing up, not receiving the Hogwarts acceptance letter was a major heartbreak for Potterheads like me.
But one ticket to Orlando and all our childhood dreams come to life. With multiple 4D thrill rides, live shows, shops and outlandish theatricals all around, Universal Studios offers something for all age groups. Once I saw the familiar purple bus, I had an ear to ear smile. It is well hidden behind a huge wall but once you find it, you're surrounded by people in long black robes, waving their interactive wands at things that appear absolutely normal, except they suddenly start moving, spraying water or making noise.
The place is built with intricate detail, making it very true to the books. Harry Potter fans rejoice! The fire-spitting dragon on top of the bank is quite enthralling. I entered the building for my first ride. The main hall of the bank looks spectacular with the huge, sparkling chandeliers on the ceiling and elegantly fashioned life-like goblins sitting on both sides of the hall. The head goblin, sitting right in front of the queue, looks up, nods and writes in the bank books like the rest of them.
Mail Today But to my surprise he also started talking and giving instructions on how to open a new account. Escape from Gringotts is a multi-dimensional simulation ride where I, along with Harry, Ron and Hermione, break-out of the underground vaults. There are numerous obstacles - dragons, out-ofcontrol degree cart turns, and at one point Voldemort and Bellatrix attack using spells.
It is undoubtedly the most exciting ride not only because of the roller coaster and cart spins, but because the 3D effects make you feel you're actually part of the action. I screamed, laughed, had panic attacks but enjoyed every bit of it.
The rest of Diagon Alley was hustling with people. There were live shows throughout the day. My favourite was 'The Tale of the Three Brothers', the legendary story of the deathly hallows. The deliciously creamy Butterbeer and the tangy Firewhiskey at Leaky Cauldron are must-haves. At every shop, the managers ask you to "Please sign for the Ministry". The park members are extremely invested in making this a special experience for us.
A small dark street next to one of the shops is a hidden gem. It takes you to the nasty and shady Knockturn Alley, filled with miscreant characters, singing shrunken heads and animated posters of Azkaban prisoners such as Bellatrix and Sirius.
You can see the entire journey between London and Hogsmeade "outside your window".
Both the windows and compartment doors are screens where you encounter Harry, Ron and Hermione roaming the train passages, when it gets attacked by dementors. You can also see Hedwig and Buckbeak flying next to the window, Fred and George causing mayhem while flying on their brooms, centaurs running as we cross the Forbidden Forest, the majestic Hogwarts Castle and of course, Hagrid with his welcoming smile.
Once off the train, you enter Hogsmeade village. My favourite thing about this place was The Three Broomsticks. Accommodating up to people, the place is huge and cuisines so delicious, you will end up in a food coma. You can also see Hedwig and Buckbeak flying next to the window. Mail Today When you exit the village, you get the first sight of the stunning Hogwarts Castle. It is a breath-taking adventure inside Hogwarts Castle.
Unlike the Gringotts cart, I was sitting in a suspended seat held by a mechanical track above. This allowed more movement and room to pivot while I travelled the Floo network, played Quidditch and escaped dementors, fell into the Chamber of Secrets, slammed into Whomping Willow and faced Aragog in the Forbidden Forest.
Words cannot describe how beautifully various parts of the books are woven together in one ride. Moreover, the ride's queue was through Headmaster's office with talking paintings, Gryffindor common room and different parts of the castle, making it all the more nostalgic. Minions 3D ride was another fun plot which involved a scientific experiment of converting us humans into tiny yellow troublemakers. The Transformers 3D ride was worth the 2-hour wait.
You get to experience a hyper-realistic thrill ride, right in the middle of all the action in the incredible world of Transformers. You are being thrown around city streets, zipping through subways, hanging to your dear life.
At one point, Megatron drops you 50 storeys down a building and Optimus Prime saves you, just in time. Universal's Parade is a starstudded show where all the characters from different movies come to life on the streets of the park.
It was marvellous and absolutely memorable watching the Minions, Spongebob squarepants and the characters from Secret life of pets have a ball. But the grand finale was the Mardi Gras parade where stilt walkers, street performers and glitter covered dancers and artists came on floats and threw glimmering beads into the crowd to make everyone a part of the celebration. From the streets of New York and San Francisco to Jurassic World and Poseidon's ancient temple, every part of the park is so charming and appealing.
Every turn takes you to another place, another era, which is a visual treat. Everything is on such a grand scale, it felt surreal. I would definitely love to come back and join the party.
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A photo posted by The Lockhart Bar thelockhartto on Aug 29, at 5: There's no butterbeer, for example, since that name of a Potter-approved beverage is copyrighted, according to the New Toronto.
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