I was introduced to Harry Potter when I was a sophomore in High School, which was in 2001 and back then only four of the seven books were published. I was an instant fan and watching these characters grow in each book, parallel to my own personal growth, I felt bonded to the characters and their journey. I was there for every book release, every film release, and every website launch. So naturally, I always wanted to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. Since we planned our trip to Disney World we left a day aside to dedicate to this little adventure.
You have to start your journey in Universal Studios at the Diagon Alley park. There, you can explore some of London’s muggle locations. Once you take in all the landmarks: Grimmauld Place, Kings Cross, the Knight Bus. You can go through the red brick wall into Diagon Alley. Your eyes open wide as you try to take in all the beauty that is the world of Harry Potter actually come to life. Your excitement shoots through the roof at the sight of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and the alley of shops including Ollivanders, Flourish and Blotts, Gringotts Bank, and the ever-dark Knockturn Alley. There are countless other shops and stands, all influenced by the world of Harry Potter that everyone can enjoy.
Some of the main things to do is visit Ollivanders to choose your wand. You can either purchase a wand pertaining to one of the many characters in the novels or purchase any of the unnamed wands by reading the descriptions of the properties of the wands and choosing the one you feel will fit you most. I purchased the Elder Wand – the most powerful – which was also Dumbledore’s wand. All wands are about $50. The wands have a sensor at the tip that make their use through the park interactive. The park has markers on the ground with an inscription of an incantation and wand movement that you can replicate. The signal from the tip of your wand is picked up by a receiver in each location, if the wand movement is done correctly~~ something magical happens.
You can also experience a wand choosing the individual in a short performance inside a secret room in Ollivanders. Small groups are taken to a back room resembling the same room Harry got his wand in the movie. They choose an individual in the small group, they ask you questions, lights change, sounds come on – it’s pretty cool.
There is only one main ride in Diagon Alley which is the Gringotts Bank ride. It’s a rollercoaster/3D/simulation ride. For these rides, guests aren’t allowed to bring in bags, wands, etc. They have set up lockers conveniently next
to each ride. You rent a locker for free using your fingerprint as your ID, which allows you to open and close your locker. The ride itself was AWESOME!!!
I normally don’t do well on simulation type rides, I often always get motion sick but I managed to survive this ride.
Once you are ready to move on, you can enter King’s Cross Station and catch the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9 and ¾ and experience a real train ride that drops you off at Hogsmeade Village. For this, you have to have your two-park hopper ticket ready. To experience this ride you are leaving Universal Studios and making your way into Universal’s Islands of Adventure park. The train ride is cool because the window in your car turns into a screen displaying a “movie” of sorts and displays scenery from the films and has a whole bit about Dementors boarding the train.
Once at Hogsmeade you can enjoy a few more rollercoasters and another simulation type ride located at Hogwarts Castle. Unfortunately, I was not able to survive the Hogwarts ride, I felt motion sick for about 40 minutes after. We found a quite resting area with tables and benches and I was able to lay down and wait for the sickness to pass.
Apart from the rides you can enjoy other shops like Honeydukes or catch some lunch at the Three Broomsticks.
We tried BUTTERBEER! Yass!! It was good, it tasted like a cream soda (rootbeer) with a frothy whipped cream topping. I’ll admit, although it was not too sweet we were unable to finish ours. It would have been better to share one. Especially since each one was $6, a little more if you buy the frozen version.
Everything translated into an amazing experience and I was so happy to have been able to visit. Especially having a husband that indulged me and didn’t care that I wanted to stop in every single shop and look at every detail. Love him.