Quick, the Cauldron! Harry Potter & Universal Nausea
We finally did it. After years of concocting excuses designed to mislead our children, we recently made the pilgrimage to Orlando, Florida, visiting both Universal Studios (3 days) and the Magic Kingdom (1 day).
Overall, it really was a fun family vacation. Our hotel, the Loews Royal Pacific at Universal, was quite nice and a mere 8 minute walk to the two Universal theme parks, Universal Studios and “Islands of Adventure.” We highly recommend this lodging, especially if your main focus is not Disney, which is about a 20-minute drive or taxi from there. Included in the somewhat high room rates were so-called “Express” passes for all four of us, a very handy perk which allows you to bypass long lines for the attractions. We felt pretty guilty walking past hundreds of exhausted, hot, and envious park-goers, but you get over it. Hey, that’s the “magic” of Orlando.
One of the major attractions of Islands of Adventure is a mock-up “Hogsmeade” village based on the Harry Potter series, complete with Olivander’s wand store, and other places Harry Potter enthusiasts will easily recognize. I found it hard to relax in the Moaning Myrtle Bathroom, but I suppose that’s the point: to chase you out quickly so that you can ingest more Butterbeer and chocolate frogs, completing the loop.
There are also several HP themed rides. One in particular, the “Forbidden Journey” in the enormous Hogwarts Castle, stands out. I guess this major “attraction” must be protected by some sort of enchantment, as it’s the only ride for which the Express pass will not work! This 3-4 minute adventure in motion sickness is not really a ride in the traditional sense, but rather a visual motion simulator; moving images are flashed at you while the seat you are bolted into (which is in turn attached to some type of robotic arm) rocks, dips, and spins you into thinking you are actually soaring through the air on a Wizard’s broomstick. Most Muggles (including my son), find this ride exhilarating and awe-inspiring. While I certainly appreciated the ride’s special effects (for all of the 20 seconds I actually had my eyes open), none of it was worth how deathly ill it made me feel for many hours thereafter. Imagine being car sick, air sick, and sea sick, all at once.
I would have done anything to escape this ride. But remembering that I couldn’t apparate on Hogwarts’ grounds, I tried passing the time distracting myself with other thoughts: could I sue J K Rowling for this? My desperation growing, I even tried summoning He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but even he wasn’t having any of it.
After stumbling off the ride in a daze, I reached for my daughter’s $35 plastic Hermione wand, fully intending to shove it in my mouth and shout “Avada Kedavra!” She refused. After all, we had not yet visited Disney!
Here is a video of the “Forbidden” ride from Youtube: