Breakfast at the Three Broomsticks

I recently returned from a week long vacation to sunny Orlando, Florida, and it was an average of 85 degrees the whole time I was there. Given that I never left the United States, and I was in hot and sunny Florida, I never the less ended up in a snow covered village in Scotland called Hogsmeade! For those of you who are not yet aware, Islands of Adventure, which is part of the Universal Orlando Resort, opened “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in the summer of 2010. My wife Anna and I have visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (from now on to be called WWHP) on two occasions, once in 2011 and now again in 2012. Our first trip there wasn’t the best experience. It was still very very new and as such, mostly shoulder to shoulder and you had to wait for everything, even just to get a simple cup of butter beer from a street vendor. We hoped that a second trip would prove to be less hectic, and while it was still of course VERY busy, it wasn’t quite so crazy this time around.

When you first enter into WWHP from the Lost Continent area of the park, (FYI, the Lost Continent has an AWESOME restaurant called Mythos that must be experienced) the first thing you see is Hogsmeade Station and the Hogwarts Express. There is always a conductor stationed in front of the Hogwarts Express who just LOVES to have his picture taken, so of course I got my picture taken using my “muggle camera.”

You can’t see it in this photo, but in later photos you’ll notice that it’s always winter in Hogsmeade (I’ve read somewhere that the movie’s set designers decided early on that Hogsmeade was
“permanently above the snow line”. So it’s apparently movie canon for WWHP to have snow, even when it’s 90 degrees F outside.

We got to the park around 9:00 AM the first day (an hour after open) and we walked briskly through Suess Landing and Lost Continent straight to the Three Broomsticks. We had been advised you could get a great breakfast if you get there fast enough. After some confusion at the entrance, we made it into the “tavern” and only had to wait in a very short line till we saw the Breakfast Menu (click the image to see the full size menu):

I had the Traditional English Breakfast, which was quite a LOT of food. Eggs, Sausage Links, Black Pudding, English Bacon, Baked Beans, Grilled Tomato, Potatoes and a Croissant (which wasn’t on the menu). I of course also had Butterbeer, which is a must try. It was a fantastic breakfast, and the interior of the Broomsticks looks pretty fantastic. In the “back” of the Three Broomsticks is the Hogshead Pub, where you can get actual fire water (beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks etc). There is a small outdoor area where you can enjoy your food and/or drinks outside, but they have plenty of inside seating as well. The next time we visit I hope to have occasion to visit the Three Broomsticks for lunch or dinner, as we haven’t yet had time to do that.

From there we had planned to make our way to the big time ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”, which is built INSIDE the giant, scale repica of Hogwarts that hovers over the whole park. The ride seems to be a combination of a tracked ride and an augmented reality simulator, that has you riding a broom all over Hogwarts and the surrounding areas such as the Quidditch pitch and being chased by various baddies. Unfortunately at that time of the morning, there was a posted 2 hour wait just to get in. We took off for other parts of the park and came back later to find only an 80 minute posted wait time, so we got in line. The wait line is partially outside, through a nice shadowed forest like area, and partially indoors, a nice but VERY DARK walk through parts of Hogwarts castle, at one point you end up in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, where Harry, Hermione and Ron explain how they’re going to save you from the BORING new DATDA teacher and get you into the Quidditch game. Warning, if you wear contact lenses, and have trouble focusing on near objects when you wear them, you might want to wear your GLASSES instead when you ride this ride. The first time I tried this ride in 2011, I had my contacts in, and I couldn’t see the projected scenes in front of me hardly at all (they were too close). The second time around though, wearing glasses, It was awesome.

The two other rides in the WWHP part of the park aren’t new, they are re-packaged versions of rides that already existed before WWHP. They are Flight of the Hippogriff, a short, fun but quick “kiddie coaster”, and Dragon Challenge, which is a very cool double roller coaster that intertwines with itself and puts your dangling feet to the sky on multiple occasions, whichever one of the two tracks you ride. I’ve actually not ridden the Dragon Challenge since WWHP was made, but I had ridden it before when it was called Dueling Dragons. After it was re-purposed for WWHP, they changed the wait line to a progressing story about the Tri-Wizard Tournament in which, among other things, you get to see the Ford Anglia flying car.

Another big item to see is Olivander’s wand shop, which I haven’t yet seen in the two years  I visited there. I’m sorry I can’t impart my opinion about what’s inside Olivander’s, but I can impart my opinion on it from the outside. It’s completely beyond me why, but they do not let you go into the wand shop to buy wands, without going through their “wand chooses you” show first. The wait time to get into Olivander’s wand shop has never been less than an hour, and has at times been as long as 2 hours. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to wait that long just to get into a store so I can spend money. If I were a kid I can see the excitement of the wand chooses you experience, but you see, they don’t let a wand choose EVERYONE who wants it. A wand only chooses one out of the 20 or so that are in each group, before they finally let you into the actual shop where you can buy wands.

Other than that there’s also Honeydukes Sweet Shop, which shares a building with Zonko’s joke shop. Honeydukes has all the candy you’ve read about in Harry Potter, from Chocolate Frogs (BIG ONES) to mint chocolate toads, every flavor beans, licorice wands, etc. Zonko’s is filled with all the little joke items you would ever want as a kid, as well as t-shirts and hats advertising the shop. There is also Dervish and Banges shop, where you can buy Hogwarts uniforms, Quidditch supplies, brooms and souvenir type products.

All in all Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a great place for fun and shopping, though I wouldn’t spend the whole day there, and we didn’t. There are plenty of other awesome rides and attractions at Islands of Adventure (and Universal Studios). A two day or more, two park ticket is recommended. You should definitely try the Spiderman ride and the Hulk coaster. My favorites of the two parks. http://www.universalorlando.com/harrypotter/

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