Butter Beer, Yum – J.A. Bove

It’s almost embarrassing for me to admit that it’s taken this long, but I finally got around to visiting Harry Potter and his friends at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando Florida last weekend. Why is it embarrassing? Beyond being a big fan of the story, I live in Tampa, which is only an hour’s drive away. Was it worth the trip? Let’s face it; anytime you get an opportunity to visit the Island of Adventure, it’s worth the trip.

We arrived Friday night and stayed at the Portofino Bay Hotel, one of the three hotels on the premises. In my opinion, it’s the best of the three. The room was beautiful with a view overlooking the bay. The staff couldn’t have been friendlier. Granted, it may take a little longer to get to the park from there than from The Hard Rock, but with the boat ride over, you really don’t mind.

One of the benefits at staying at one of the Universal hotels is that they offer you a fast pass to all the rides, for you and your entire family. The only exception for the fast pass is, you guessed it, Harry Potter. The consolation for no fast pass through Hogwarts is that they allow you to enter the park an hour before it opens to the public, so there shouldn’t be any wait when you arrive. Awesome, I’m all about no waiting. One flaw with that invitation, you’ve got to get up early, and I’ve got a bad case of insomnia. A seven a.m. wake-up call is a lot to ask for on the weekend. No worries, I’m with the wife and kids, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Boy was I wrong, didn’t sleep a wink. Don’t know why, but I can never sleep in a strange bed. To my wife’s credit, she tried to get me going, but the thought of spending an entire day at the park without any sleep was more than I could bear. We arrived at ten. No problem, it’s still early I said, how bad could it be?

We entered the park, and the first thing that struck me was that the park wasn’t packed. Maybe it was the fact that it was close to 100 degrees in the shade, but it was still pretty early and the lines to enter were growing. We glanced at Superhero land, and walked through Dr. Seuss land, and still, the park looked light. I thought we were in luck. I got to sleep in late and the park was empty. Look out wizards, the muggles are coming. Hey look, there’s the entrance to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter straight ahead. I’m excited, can’t wait to go on these rides.

I turn the corner and my face dropped. If we were playing hide and seek, I just won. I found everyone in the park waiting for me to arrive, and they saved me a spot at the entrance. Phew, did I mention it was hot out? Okay, good sprits, two hours sleep, I could do this. Let’s go on the Dragon Challenge; no wait, it’s a two and a half hour wait. Ok, let’s go visit some of the shops. Hey look, it’s Ollivanders …what, standing room only you say, occupancy full you say, okay, let’s not. I know, let’s try one of those world famous butter beers that everyone appears to be enjoying. Where’s the stand … about a thirty-minute wait in front of you. Feel enthusiasm fading … must stay excited. Who was I kidding this was going to be a long day.

Due to the heat and dehydration we decided we would only wait on one line, but which one, they’re all so long. I was told the best ride was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Now I heard from many a friend that this ride would be worth the wait, so we waited, and waited, and an hour and some change later we waited some more. We went from the entrance inside, quickly back outside, through a tangled line of people (saw a poor little girl collapsed on the floor crying) and continued to soldier on in the heat, up stairs, and without much protection from the sun. Ahh … could it be? Yes, I think we’ve reached it. Success, we’re in the castle. From here on was only about another twenty-minute wait.

Now the only thing that truly concerned me was that I was with my seven year old daughter who made it very clear to me that she did not want to go on this ride. I know what you’re thinking; I’m not that mean, she didn’t want to go on any other ride either, with the exception of anything from Seuseville. That aside, I had other patient children and a wife who did want to go on the ride, so I made a deal. I told her that I would sit right beside her and if she got scared, to just lean against my side and close her eyes.

I’m nervous. I was under the impression that this ride might be like Spiderman, or the Simpson’s … it wasn’t. The chair pulled-up and we had a seat, but were immediately separated by a thin wall that came between us. She leaned over and I saw the concern in her eyes. I grabbed her hand and reassured her that I’m right here. I reminded her to close her eyes if she got scared. Boom! We’re off like a shot. The ride moved very much like a roller coaster, nothing compared to the simulators I expected.

First up, a dragon. No, not a friendly dragon, mind you, a dragon with flames and smoke. A couple of wild rolls, chasing Harry on his broom, and we’re off to the woods. Hooray, giant spiders! Can this ride get any scarier? Why yes, it can. Some more rolls and twists and hey look, it’s the dementors, (please tell me your eyes are shut). I don’t recall much after this point; I could only imagine the therapy my child would have to endure because daddy had to go on the Harry Potter ride.

Long story short, we exited the ride and I looked at my daughter with concern. I didn’t want to make the first move, because I thought it might cause a reaction, so I squeezed her hand and said it’s all over. To my surprise she didn’t cry. I asked if everything was all right and she immediate told me she would not go on another scary ride for the rest of the day. Luckily, she did as I asked and had her eyes closed the entire ride. Thank God.

Now in defense of this ride, if it were just the wife, and myself I would have loved it. Nothing makes you feel like you’re in the movie more than this ride and this entire themed area of the park. I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of the series. Universal did an incredible job. There’s a reason everyone in the park waited to enter this attraction. We eventually grabbed some butter beer (cream soda and vanilla ice cream?) and it was delicious. So to all curious, go and enjoy. Get some butter beer and put your Hogwarts cloak on (other’s did). Just make sure to get a good night sleep, come early, and maybe wait until it cools off a little. If not, enjoy the butter beer. My son loved it.

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