Since the dawn of the Harry Potter series, I’ve been filled with an unquenchable thirst. Every time I read about how Harry and his friends journeyed to Hogsmeade with a stopover for some Butterbeer, my mouth watered. And how do you satiate a thirst when the drink in question doesn’t even exist?
Ah, but it does.
Thank you, Orlando, for helping me tick one major item off my Bucket List.
Seems silly, right? A simple drink being such a major motivator for travel? Wrong. If you know me and my obsession for books and literature, you’ll understand a little more how Harry Potter became such a big part of my life. The funny thing is that I didn’t enjoy the movies – not even a little – but Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter drew me in anyway.
It wasn’t a part of the original plan with Aeroplan when they sent me to Florida with their “Welcome Aboard” event, but there was no way I was passing up that opportunity. My buddy Camile and I headed over to the park early on a Monday morning to jump aboard the legendary Forbidden Journey ride and prowl the grounds of the park for ourselves.
But Spring Break in Florida had other plans.
I felt like a kid when entering the WWoHP: the gabled peaks of the shops in Diagon Alley were covered in snow, and Hogwarts loomed like a dark shadow in the background. The Hogwarts Express tooted its horn as Camile and I wrestled the crowds to make our way to the castle where the Forbidden Journey ride awaited.
We observed the Wait Time: 120.
“An hour and 20 minutes?” I said.
“120 minutes,” Camile responded.
Feeling bitter and annoyed, I decided to get into line-up for a Butterbeer being pumped from an old-skool truck pulling a giant red keg. No big deal, right? Dude just pumps the keg and the beer flows freely. Except it was like 30 degrees Celsius and I had to wait 45 minutes.
I guess it’s true that you appreciate things more once you “work” for them, because DAAAMN that iced Butterbeer was amazing. It tasted exactly like how I imagined it would: sweet, and butterscotch-y. The only thing that could have made it better was it actually contained alcohol (seriously Universal, get on that).
Then Camile and I skipped off to do the Jurassic Park river ride. After that exhilarating experience where once again I tried to face my fears of t-rex (but in reality now I’m just having more nightmares), I was propelled by a sense of adrenaline and decided to skip back and check on the Forbidden Journey.
75 minute wait-time. “Screw it,” I thought. “When will I ever get back to Orlando?”
Once inside the castle, I moved into the “Single Riders” line (if you opt for this route, you move a lot quicker as the workers use you to fill seats).
And once you’re inside, the wait is actually FUN. Talking paintings on the walls warn you of the upcoming ride, and the Sorting Hat spouts out safety instructions. Everything is pitch-black and exactly like how you’d imagine the inside of Hogwarts.
It’s freaking brilliant.
The guides usher you along the moving conveyer built to strap you into a seat, like in a rollercoaster. And that’s when the fun starts.
You swoop, soar, and fly over Hogwarts, dashing demons and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. You sit alongside Harry, and are guided through a mystical landscape you can’t even imagine in your wildest dreams.
I have actually never experienced such open-mouthed wonderment before. I was gobsmacked, blown away by visuals and the reality of it all. I kept pulling up my feet to avoid hitting things.
The wait time? Worth. Every. Second.
By the time we pulled to a stop and the entire cast of the movies was waiting for me and cheering, I actually got a little teary-eyed. Even my legs felt weak.
The Forbidden Journey was my FIRST blown-away moment experienced somewhere outside of the great outdoors. Truly. I would go back again, and again, and again.
TIP: DEFINITELY do the Single Rider thing. You can’t see the other riders in your seat anyway, so it doesn’t even really make sense to go with a group unless you’re with your family.
TIP 2: People prone to motion sickness, beware. Have that Butterbeer after the ride.