The Three Broomsticks is the official restaurant of the Wizarding World, supplying folks with a menu of simple Brit food items to help sell the English/Rowling ambiance of the franchise (Shepherd’s Pie is also on the menu, along with Strawberry-Peanut Butter ice cream). The building is rather cavernous and, obviously, highly themed, with artwork and props hanging from the walls to peruse, while plenty of seating (indoors and outdoors) awaits customers stopping by for a meal. I only sampled the fish and chips plate, which consisted of three large batter-fried pieces of cod and a handful of potato wedges. The fish had a good color and a surprisingly fresh taste (frankly, I wasn’t expecting much), with hefty portions to match the accelerated theme park pricing. I washed down the fish and chips with a cup of pear cider, which is nearly as perfect a refreshment as Butterbeer, only lacking a frozen counterpart. Ohhh, frozen pear cider…gimme, gimme.
Hog’s Head Pub
Connected to the Three Broomsticks is the Hog’s Head Pub, a smaller area devoted to a more traditional English pastime: boozing it up! Offering a selection of beers and a nice cool area to sit down and enjoy the drink of your choice, Hog’s Head continues the architectural theme of The Three Broomsticks, yet manages to create an amusing corner of active pub life, topped off with an animatronic boar’s head that snorts at customers (a whimsical touch that wasn’t working during my visits). For those seeking refuge from the sun, this is a terrific stop during a sweltering Hogsmeade day, and they also sell Butterbeer to keep the teetotalers engaged.
Dervish and Banges
The primary home for all magical merchandise, Dervish and Banges is a tight fit in terms of building size, but the glory contained within makes it a must-do for any muggle with a decent sized credit card limit. Teeming with t-shirts and trinkets of all colors, the real draw here is the chance to purchase a Hogwarts student robe, which helps to fit in with the glorious theming of the park. I’m told they’re comfortable in both summer and winter, though this information was passed along by a fellow sweating himself into a coma while wearing his Gryffindor pride. Also for sale are replicas of the famous flying broomsticks, helping to take the swirling fantasy of Quidditch to the next level by providing the correct prop, sans ability to fly. Hey, it beats a mop and/or hockey stick. Another oasis of fantastical merch, Dervish and Banges is something to visit. Just watch out for the finger-chomping Monster Book of Monsters.The Owl Post
The Owl Post is connected to Dervish and Banges (also next door to The Owlery -- a place to sit down a take a breath while animatronic owls perch and stare), serving as a generic merch area and home to the treasured wand selection. While Ollivander’s showcases the power of the magical tools, Owl Post presents the opportunity to bring one home, modeled after beloved heroes and feared villains. While I was anticipating cheap plastic sticks, the wands actually retain a nice, solid weight, with personal detail befitting the owner. The wands don’t actually trigger any sparks or curses within the Wizarding World (a missed opportunity), but the magical power of imagination is enough to pluck your money’s worth out of the purchase. Also offered here is a chance to have postcards and assorted letters branded with a Hogsmeade postmark. Won’t Netflix be ever so confused!
The Frog Choir and The Triwizard Rally
Two live shows are brought out to distract guests away from the grind of rides and shops. The first spotlights tunes from the Frog Choir, who perform a few “Harry Potter” staples (Rockapella-style), while two of the actors carry around puppet frogs for support in the bass department. It’s cute, tuneful (these are talented folk), but it stretches on a few minutes too long.
The Triwizard Rally trots out fetching members from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and burly warriors from the Durmstrang Institute for a demonstration of skill and theatricality. The ladies work a ribbon routine while hoofing it up before the blushing tourists, while the guys kick around some fight choreography before settling on a few moves involving their oversized warrior staffs. More action orientated and mindful of outward appearance, it’s the more crowd-pleasing of the two shows.
Flight of the Hippogriff
The second of the two reworked rides, Flight of the Hippogriff takes over for the Flying Unicorn attraction, elevating a modest family roller coaster with a heaping helping of Potter magic. The queue here takes the guest near Hagrid’s Hut, hearing the groundskeeper talk of Hippogriff rules and the dangers of the forest. After the coaster is boarded and locked into position, Buckbeak makes a cameo appearance on the ride (a huge animatronic figure), sitting in his nest awaiting a bow from respectful coaster passengers. From there on, it’s off like…well, a family thrill ride, hitting a safe speed of butterfly engagement, providing a rich aerial view of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. Obviously, it’s not for thrill-seekers, but “Flight of the Hippogriff” proves yet again what a lot of detail and retheming creativity will do to a stale ride meant for a limited audience. The Hippogriff overlay guarantees the attraction will reach more adults in one year than the previous eight of operation under Unicorn rule.
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