Going to Harry Potter World for the Day
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Miami welcomes thousands of people each week on vacation and many decide that being so close to Orlando that they’d like to visit one of the theme parks. But who wants the hassle of renting a car and driving in Miami?
Driving here can be daunting, especially if you come from overseas and are used to driving on the other side of the road. But luckily there is a much easier way to get to and from the Orlando theme parks: take the 1-Day Tour with Miami Beach 411.
Taking the bus to Orlando
I decided to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in anticipation of the final film being released this month. As a South Beach local, I don’t own a car and so taking the bus is the perfect way to get to Orlando. The bus picks up at all the hotels in South and Mid Beach along Collins and Washington Avenue so I headed to the nearest hotel to my apartment for a 6am pick up. The day starts early, but we quickly got on our way heading up the turnpike to Orlando. It is a comfortable journey, with a restroom on board and a stop for 5 minutes at a rest stop halfway through the journey. The bus also has TVs throughout to play movies for the passengers.
The journey is an easy drive up the turnpike and it feels like you arrive in Orlando in no time at all. There is a drop off in Kissimmee and then the bus heads to the bus station where many alight with luggage and cases. You can take the journey one way and stay in Orlando if you wish, but most people are on board to head to the theme parks. The next stop was Universal Studios, only a two minute journey from the bus station. The journey was well organized, with a specific drop off and pick up location in the bus parking lot at Universal. We arrived at the park at 11am, ready to enjoy the day.
Harry Potter is in fact within Islands of Adventure
While most people know of the new $265 million Harry Potter theme park, many do not realize that the park is actually a section within Islands of Adventure. It is the newest addition at Universal, with 20 acres of Harry Potter World sandwiched in between the Jurassic Park and the Lost Continent lands. With 7 hours to enjoy myself I wasted no time in heading straight towards the recreated Hogwarts castle. As you get closer the excitement builds and you can see the snow covered roofs of the village glinting in the Florida sunshine. You round the corner and there it is: the entrance to Hogsmeade, the wizard village from the books. As you cross into the world of Harry Potter, the magic begins.
The Town of Hogsmeade
The first thing you’ll think as you walk through the gates is I don’t know where to start! With clearly no money spared, the wizard village is a feast for the eyes of any Harry Potter fan, young or old. The overwhelming feeling is that you have stepped into one of the films. The Hogwarts Express train sits to your right and the shops you know and love from the books stretch out in front of you. Zonkos joke shop, Honeydukes candy shop, Madame Gladrags and most importantly Ollivanders the wand shop are all to be found here. The merchandise is creative, allowing you to buy wizard robes, magic wands, Gryffindor school ties or a golden snitch, to name a few. Stalls sell pumpkin juice and delicious butterbeer and The Three Broomsticks pub is now a restaurant in case you are hungry enough to stop and eat. But for us, it was straight to the castle.
The Rides at Harry Potter
There are three major rides at Harry Potter all themed around the books. The first is the Dragon Challenge, a terrifying double rollercoaster that spins and curves, giving the effect that the two trains will crash into each other. Next is the Flight of the Hippogriff, a runaway train that weaves through pumpkin patches and around Hagrid’s house. But the most impressive is the Forbidden Journey, the simulator ride within the walls of the Hogwarts castle and the most popular of the three attractions. Even waiting in line is entertaining as you walk through the student greenhouse complete with mandrakes growing, Dumbledore’s office, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione are practicing spells. The ride includes so many details from the books to the notable delight of all the people discovering them. My particular favorite is the portraits on the wall where the people really do talk and seeing the house point hour glasses.
The ride itself is a journey through the different stories of Harry Potter. Expect to be chased by a dragon, escape the Dementors, narrowly miss being hit by the whomping willow tree and lead your house to victory in the Quidditch Cup. At the end of the ride you feel exhilarated and in our case, thoroughly satisfied to have made the journey from Miami for that ride alone.
Is one day at Universal enough time to see everything?
Most of you booking the round trip to Orlando for the day do so having only a few days of vacation, so we understand time is precious. The bus does not come to collect you until 6:30pm so you have a full 7 hours to explore the park. The key is to plan ahead with a map and have an idea of where you are going and what you want to see. I managed to visit both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, even stopping for lunch in City Walk. I went on more rides than just at Harry Potter World, getting soaked on the Jurassic Park water ride, wearing 3D glasses on the Adventures of Shrek and was nearly swept away by the Twister. As we left to catch the bus home, you can only feel that it was a great day spent on a day trip from Miami.
It is easy to go as you are driven to and from Orlando on a fun day out. So if you are thinking of how to get to a theme park for the day while you stay in Miami, click here or call 305-754-2206. Enjoy your trip!
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"Going to Harry Potter World for the Day"