With the exception of the new(ish) Hagrid’s ride (I refuse to type out the full name, it’s outrageously long and stupid), we already did all of the Harry Potter stuff the last time we were at Universal, and it was a good thing too seeing as this was the only area of Islands of Adventure that was actually crowded.
Hagrid’s was right up with VelociCoaster as far MUST-DOs went on this trip, and I was watching the wait times on the app like a fucking hawk for a few days leading up to our visit. It was always in the three digits no matter the day and time, so I was prepared for at least a 2-hr wait. Even when we first got there that morning, the wait time was already 150 minutes!!
Late morning, the time dropped down to 130 minutes (lol, wow what a reprieve) and I made the unilateral decision that it was now or never. I’m pretty sure that Hagrid’s is known to break down throughout the day and this was actually the lowest I had seen the line over the last three days of cyber-stalking.
I suggested that we put our stuff in a locker because I wasn’t sure what the loose articles sitch was like and, not that this matters, but I remembered having to empty everything from our pockets and go through a metal detector when it was still Dueling Dragons, the coaster that Hagrid’s replaced.
Almost immediately upon entering our new home for the next who knows how many hours, Henry and Chooch were quick to point out that pretty much every single person in line had their phones. Chooch wanted to kill me, and it didn’t make things any better when I said, “Oh well, now we’ll just have to talk to each other!”
You guys. What a line. It wasn’t as awful as you would think because the queue scenery is so well-done (I’d share pictures but LOL we were off the grid). For the first portion, we were outside but even that part had cool Harry Potter shit to look at. I don’t know if it was a good or bad thing not knowing how long the queue actually was.
Once we got inside the ride building, I was happy for a change of scenery, but now we were out of the sunlight and basically living like moles for the next however long. We reached a standstill at one point, where the line just wasn’t moving AT ALL. We could see a line attendant up ahead blocking the way with a chain but we had no idea what was going on. Everyone was starting to get shifty and restless now. There were two girls in front of us and one of them asked if we had ever ridden it before. “It’s so worth it,” she said when I said we hadn’t. So that was reassuring! And I had only ever heard great things about this coaster, which was why I was in for the long haul.
I guess when you go into things with the expectation of having to wait, it’s not as bad. We had gotten so incredibly lucky with VelociCoaster, so this felt like an even trade to me. We continued to wait without complaining, and omg we actually talked to each other! Even Chooch! He spoke to us! In public! Without even a hint of derision in his teenaged tone!
Turns out the reason why we had come to a standstill was because we had reached the STORY TIME point in the line. Th line attendant ushered a large group of us into a room and said, “MOVE ALL THE WAY DOWN.” I stupidly listened to him instead of sticking with the two girls in front of us, who were like “no thanks” and stayed along the left side of the room. So now we had to watch this….show? where Hagrid and Mr. Weasley are doing stuff, I dunno, I was drifting off. But it was basically building up the ride experience, so you knew why you were riding on some motorcycle thing.
But here’s the point in the story where I wish I had paid more attention to YouTube reviews of this ride, because then I would have known, well, that we were allowed to bring phones onto the ride, for starters, but also that this room is fucking dumb and that the exit is on the same side of the wall which we entered, so WHEN THE EXIT DOOR OPENED, WE LOST OUR SPOT IN LINE AND NOW THERE WERE LIKE 50 MORE PPL IN FRONT OF US.
At the end of the day, it really only set us back about 15 minutes, but it was so frustrating and Chooch was losing his goddamn mind over it. Every time we saw the two girls way up ahead in line, Chooch would say, “Just a reminder that we’d be all the way up there right now…”
He’s actually still finding ways to “just a reminder” me about this, and it’s been almost a month.
Meanwhile, we were wending and winding our way through room after room and thankfully they were all nicely themed so we had shit to look at, but really it was just like being in a dungeon with a bunch of strangers, none of which were annoying at least. No line-jumping here!
Another PRO TIP is that the single rider line bypasses that whole stupid story-telling room and so much more of the internal queue, but it was our first time riding it and I wanted to ride together! I think Chooch would have happily ditched us in favor of riding with a lone stranger though.
Eventually we reached a point where the family behind us started asking us when the fuck the line would end and we were like, “Let us slip on our ‘seeing-thru-walls’ glasses & get back to you.” This was when we were in a stone corridor and it felt like the walls were caving in.
So maybe about an hour into the line at that point?
The line was moving so inconsistently and I couldn’t figure out why. This ride is high-capacity! I think they run like 10 trains at a time and the loading station uses a moving conveyor belt system to really keep that shit going. But I guess it’s just THAT popular that even with excellent ops, there is just always going to be a line. Even on days when the rest of the park doesn’t seem too overly crowded.
Anyway, after the corridor section, we got to ANOTHER room and this is where we realized that this was where the fucking FAST PASS / QUICK QUEUE / EASY ENTRY / RICH PPL ONLY whatever the fuck you call it, pick one, people were spilling into the general queue. On one hand, that meant we must be close to the platform! On the other hand, it was so frustrating watching more and more people push us back in line. One of the families had this HUGE/TALL guy with them and Chooch was like AW HAGRID CAME TO RIDE HIS OWN RIDE but he said it kind of loud and Henry was like SHHHH because that’s Henry for you. Always at the ready with a dad-like SHHHH.
Then we did it! We reached the finish line! Everyone was getting so amped now, being in the final holding room, hearing the trains being loaded in the station on the other side of the wall, seeing the end of the single rider line!!
“Just a reminder that we’d be next,” Chooch said as the two girls who used to be in front of us were now being admitted onto the platform. Fuck off, Chooch.
I’m so glad that there were enough people ahead of us for us to still be in line long enough for Chooch to have the chance to say, “Just a reminder we’d be getting off the ride now,” as we saw the two girls walking through the exit a few minutes later.
Then we were next in line!! “Meet your new best friend,” the line attendant said to Henry as he was paired up with someone from the single ride line. I can’t believe it worked out this way AGAIN, but Chooch and I got the back row and Henry and his new friend (who was Maybe French, and I know this because Henry wouldn’t shut up about him like they had really shared something special together) got the front row of the next train!!
Anyway, finally the ride! Hagrid’s is a multi-launch family coaster with several tricks and gimmicks up its sleeve. I thought it was really fun! It made me laugh, and I felt that it was worth the wait – for the first time. While I would have loved to get a night ride on that thing, I was not willing to stand in that line again. So it’s got to lose some points for not being easily re-rideable. Which is a shame too because there was so much going on, and also the option to ride on the motorcycle or sidecar, so I feel like the experiences could vary.
But yeah, it was seriously fun and a GREAT family coaster. I do typically prefer more intense coasters, but I knew going in that this wasn’t going to deliver on that front.
“Can we stay on?” Chooch jokingly asked the ride attendant on the unloading platform. The guy took him seriously and said, “Oh man, I’m sorry but no. I wish I could let you,” and Chooch was like, “Haha I was kidding,” but the guy kept going on about how we couldn’t stay on and it was borderline embarrassing. Thankfully everyone else on our train had already started to walk away so no one else heard.
Thanks for that, Chooch.
For a split second, I liked it better than VelociCoaster but then came to my senses!
So overall, by the time we boarded the ride, we had actually been standing in line for less than 130 minutes. I think it was more like 110, or an hour and 45 minutes, which still isn’t fantastic but actually less than what I was bracing for when we planned this trip!
When I said this to Chooch, he was quick to point out, “Just a reminder, it would have been about 15 minutes less if we had stayed with those girls.”
UGH UGH UGH.
After we got off the ride, we immediately went to retrieve our phones and it was literally like REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD.
Hogsmeade is so beautiful.
We came back to Hogsmeade later for Butterbeer!
You know I’m 100% vegetarian and only about 75% vegan but this is still really annoying to me: Did you know that jackass terf J.K. Rowling contractually does not allow Universal Studios to offer foam-less Butterbeer to those who request it? This prevents vegans and other people with food allergies from being able to enjoy the Hogsmeade staple and I think it’s so stupid. I’m not sure if it’s actually JK Rowling’s doing but it was mentioned in several videos I watched about Universal Studios and she’s such a fucking weirdo that I wouldn’t doubt it.
Henry refused to drink his until I put my phone away, lol.
It really is great though. I am such an old person when it comes to butterscotch. Butterscotch candies are my absolute favorite and if it’s an option, I will usually take it over hot fudge on a sundae. My mom used to make the most divine butterscotch pie that my taste buds can still conjure up the memory of even though I haven’t had it since I was in high school probably. I recently asked her for the recipe so Henry can make it and she told me to look on Pinterest!??!? Um, I want the specific recipe she used back in the day BUT OK I’ll get it from some twee Pinterest influencer. Yay.
The only other Harry Potter ride we did that day was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I would say we waited in line for about 40-45 minutes but the line moves pretty continuously and like Hagrids, there is a lot to look at. This line was MUCH MORE ANNOYING than Hagrids though because right off the bat, a family of five behind us cut through an empty part of the queue and jumped ahead of not only us but the family of 5 who was in front of us. The dad of that family called them out by saying, “Not fair, guys. Not fair” and they just looked at him blankly and continued on with their cheating ways.
So now I was fixated on hating them. The mom reminded me SO MUCH of this total psycho bitch I used to be friends with during my LiveJournal ways who was super into making yarn hair to sell on Etsy (she actually told me back then that she wouldn’t recommend me selling my art and serial killer cards on Etsy, that they probably wouldn’t sell…that was in 2006 and here we are) and Civil War reenactments. Ugh. I literally could not stop glowering at the mom while she played some dumb hand games with her son who looked like he was in college, and then her mini-me teenaged daughter was doing the same with the youngest son, but kept looking at her mom for approval, and I bet they go camping together and sing church songs while baking mountain pies.
OK, the mountain pie part sounds nice. I take that back. I don’t want to envision them doing nice things. They eat baked beans out of a boot. There. Fixed it.
Then we stood there and watched as more and more people continued to appear out of nowhere, doing the whole, “Excuse me, my kid’s up there” song and dance. Like, hello. This is not how standing in line works!! I swear to god, I want to make my own theme park and have trap doors that will drop line-jumpers into an underground amusement park jail that’s actually another queue line but this one is so narrow that people can only fit in a single-file line and it has walls that go all the way up so you can catapult over or climb under. You’re stuck in a narrow AF queue that goes on forever and doesn’t even take you to a ride. It takes you to the very back of the parking lot but now the parking lot is covered in hot coals AND there’s a doctor at your car waiting to give you a colonoscopy while Baby Shark plays over the speakers in the lot.
Fucking cut in MY park, bitch I dare you.
Whatever. Still happy to be there!
Chooch barely spoke to us in this line because THE LINE WAS TOO LONG, WAH I’M SPOILED.
This part of the queue is excellent. It’s literally like being inside the movie.
I really wish JK Rowling wasn’t such a shit human.
Anyway, it was just about our turn to tell the line attendant how many dummies were in our party when I turned to continue walking and suddenly a new guy was in front of me. It had been that same family the whole time, the ones who got cut along with us, and now it was some new dad. I stopped in my tracks because he was facing me and I was startled, and then I saw that he was MOTIONING TO PEOPLE BACK FARTHER IN THE LINE TO JOIN HIM. Oh HELL NO, you bitch. I am very non-confrontational when it comes to this shit because you never fucking know what someone is capable of. I certainly don’t want to be the one getting ejected from the park and with my temper…well, this is why I struggle on the daily. But look man, I waited in that line for at least 40 minutes which isn’t that long but I was not about to get all the way to the end just to have people cut in front of me, and by the looks of it, he was inviting his entire family reunion to join him.
So, I looked at him and said, “Where did you come from.”
Just like that. WHERE. DID. YOU. COME. FROM.
I could tell he was stunned that someone had the audacity to call him out, so he didn’t say anything at first. I went on to say, “I was behind those people this whole time,” and I gestured to the family that I had forged a silent affinity with after BEING CUT TOGETHER and now it was about to happen again, I was about to get DOUBLE CUTTED.
“Oh, you can go ahead,” he said stammered, like he was DOING ME A FAVOR by letting me keep my original spot in line.
“Yeah I know, I can,” I said and marched ahead. Chooch and Henry were just like, “What….just happened” and when I turned around, sure enough, several people affiliated with this audacious asshole had cut through the line to join him. And no one said a thing.
The only thing that will prevent this from happening is having park employees stationed throughout every line but when parks can barely employ enough people to open all the food places, that is just not a viable option. Those “line jumping is cause for removal from the park” signs that I once WROTE A POEM ABOUT in high school (it was my Kennywood series lol) do not intimidate a single soul. Line jumpers gon’ line jump.
Well, at least the Harry Potter ride is worth all of this.
Again, even though this area is usually the most crowded section of both sides of the parks, it is still magical and not even the crowds in the general Hogsmeade area brought me down. I know it typically gets waaaaay more crowded than what we experienced during the summer and other holidays, but I would recommend going at the end of April like we did in 2016. It was still the most crowded sections of the park, relatively speaking, but we were nearly walking on both Escape from Gringotts and Forbidden Journey back then, AND the general area was not congested at all.
If you just can’t get enough of my AWESOME and INFORMATIVE Universal recaps, you are welcome to go back in time and read my “recaps” (I laugh because when can any of my posts be considered “recaps” when I drone on and on and on).
(Dude, I might even re-read these myself, to be honest because I EFFING MISS IT THERE SO MUCH. Like, am I considering moving to Florida? OK, maybe let’s not go that far. But I wouldn’t be mad if someone bought me a season pass for Xmas, you know?)
(Also, don’t worry! I still have one more Universal post up my sleeve. Jesus, I need a life.)