So, after we made it into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we then bee-lined for the main attraction: Hogwarts Castle!
From the outside, it is fairly intimidating. It looks like a real castle and appears to have the same overwhelming dimensions as that in the movie. It sits atop a craggy mountain and its towers soar into the air impressively. There was hardly any line for most of it, thanks to our 8:00 a.m. admittance, so we snaked through the queue pretty quickly. The neat thing about the castle is that it is actually two attractions in one.
You find as you wind your way through very dark castle passages, that the queue itself actually is a show. Here you see all sorts of appropriate Potter memorabilia: large statues from the houses, the grand stairwell where portraits talk noisily, as well as a peek into the headmaster’s private office, where Dumbledore himself greets you. And, thanks to modern technology, he actually looks as if he is really there!
Then you wind your way into the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom, where all sorts of telescopes, potions, and such are overshadowed by the skeleton of a dragon hanging from the ceiling. Here, you wait while Ron, Hermione, and Ron sneak into the classroom under the cover of their invisibility cloak. Once they throw their cloak off, they look every bit as present in the room as Dumbledore did! After some dialogue, Ron accidentally makes it snow, which is a fun touch. (Unfortunately, the ride broke down at this point, so my hubby and son and I saw this little skit twenty or so times…more than enough snow for a Central Florida summer day!)
Once we were moving again, we passed by the Fat Lady’s portrait as she lectured us about Harry Potter getting into trouble (or something like that) before we saw the Sorting Hat. This was a very cool and welcome effect, as you can get very close to the hat, watching it realistically drone on about safety on the ride.
And then, you could see into the Great Dining Hall…well, kind of. It was actually a fairly small area where you boarded the ride, but the magical effect of lights, faux candles, and mirrors made it seem passable for the Hall. Here’s video of our adventure. (I had to tinker with the lighting and exposure due to the entire video being black when I started out!)
We loaded four to a “car” where we were strapped into individual seats and then took off as a unit in the simulator. As we moved, my seat tilted backwards, forwards, and swung around mightily. I saw a combination of amazingly realistic green screen images of the outside of the castle, while flying on a broom behind Harry and Ron, and actual mock ups jumped out at me as I “rode” by. I was chased by dragons, spiders, and dementors and got to swing through a Quidditch game… it really was fun! And, yes, I did forget there were other riders in the “car” beside me. I felt alone on my boom!
All in all, this was well worth the wait during the delay. My son and I loved it…my hubby, however, who is sensitive to motion sickness on such rides, was done for the day! So, be warned, o ye of sensitive inner ears, this ride is definitely topsy-turvy and very capable of making you feel like you are really flying!
Be sure to check back later for Sneak Peek Part 3: Ollivander’s and Butterbeer!