My sister Becca, our best friend Krissy and I have made a tradition of seeing the midnight showing of every new Harry Potter movie together (we've been friends for 21 years, so we feel very comfortable with each others' nerdery). Aside from my mom's homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, this is my favorite tradition of all time. So last spring, when the trailers for Deathly Hallows started showing up, we were trying to figure out how we'd be able to see it together. Now that we're adults (ha), we all live in different states. Then the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in Orlando, and Krissy sent us an email that said, "When can we go?" Oh, wouldn't it be awesome to go when the movie came out?
It was kind of a joke at first. But then we thought, no, seriously, LET'S DO THAT. And the anticipation began. We spent the next few months planning and getting excited. At one point, Becca was faced with the possibility of having to take a flight with two layovers that left really early in the morning. "It's okay," she said. "If Harry can fight Voldemort, I can do this." I like her.
Anyway, we all flew into Orlando on that Thursday. After getting everyone picked up at the airport and dropping things off at our hotel, we headed to theater where we had tickets to the IMAX showing at midnight. We had a great time catching up and wasting time waiting for the movie to start. Around 11:30, Becca left to get popcorn since the line at concessions was crazy (there were several midnight showings in the theater). By about 10 to midnight, there were still a bunch of people in front of her in line, and she started freaking out, so Krissy went to wait with her. At midnight they were just barely getting to the front of the line and were worried they'd miss the beginning of the movie, because the previews had started. I texted them each time a new preview would start so they'd know they had a couple more minutes. As the IMAX countdown appeared on screen, I frantically called them to tell them to get back to the theater. Nobody picked up, but as the countdown ended, I saw two little figures sprinting along the bottom of the theater with popcorn in hand. They collapsed into their seats just as the title screen came up. A true Potter miracle.
The next morning we got up early-ish after about 5 hours of sleep to walk over to Islands of Adventure. We got there right as it opened and headed straight for the Harry Potter section. Turning the corner and seeing Hogsmeade village with Hogwarts castle in the distance was seriously my 13-year-old dream come true. Everything was so incredibly detailed, it felt like we had walked right into the movie.
Besides a kid's coaster and a couple other attractions, there are two main rides: the Dragon Challenge roller coaster with two interweaving tracks (so you see other cars whiz by you) and the Forbidden Journey ride, which is part virtual reality, part Indiana Jones-style thrill ride. The line for Forbidden Journey weaves through Hogwarts castle, so you get to spend time looking through the classrooms, Dumbledore's office, etc. Both rides were awesome, and we spent the morning going on each a few times and looking through all the shops.
After lunch at the Three Broomsticks, we decided to go to the other parts of Islands of Adventure for a bit. None of the park was especially crowded (our line wait time averaged about 10 minutes), but the HP section was by far the busiest. And we hardly saw any kids there--it was mostly people our age or slightly older. We came back to HP land for another time on each of the rides and to get some Butterbeer.
Butterbeer, which I MUST figure out how to replicate.
Around 4pm, we were feeling pretty exhausted, so we decided to call it a day. I will say that as fantastic as the park was, I do hope they expand it at some point. All day we were coming up with awesome ideas for more rides and attractions, which is just proof that they should hire us for these things.
In line for Dragon Challenge.
Leaving at the end of a glorious day. I call this one "Accio Hotel".
Back at the hotel, we collapsed and took naps for an hour or two. When we woke up we considered going to a different movie that night, but we were all too tired. Instead, we opted for dinner at Sweet Tomatoes (an old school favorite) and watching a movie in our hotel room. Our 24 hour Harry Potterpalooza was everything I'd hoped it would be, and my only complaint is that I do not live there.