It’s been quite a while since I promised to discuss my vacation to Orlando, Florida. I decided to just sit down and write it, otherwise it would never get done. Anyways, because I didn’t only visit Walt Disney World, I’m going to talk a little about a few other places that I visited during my time in Florida.
First up, Universal Studios. Location: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Harry Potter World is placed in two parts of Universal – the town of Hogsmeade in the Island of Adventure, and Diagon Alley in Universal. Diagon Alley was newly added by Universal due to the popularity of the original park.
Now if you haven’t read the book or seen the movies, Hogsmeade was the wizarding town that third year students from Hogwarts could visit during select times during the year, and Diagon Alley was the all-in-one wizarding shopping center where wizards buy their school supplies.
At the foot of the Hogwarts castle lies Hogsmeade, a pleasant snow-capped village where visitors can stroll along the streets and visit all sorts of interesting shops, many of which are featured in the series. It’s an amazing to be able to experience a town straight out of a book in real life, which was part of the reason why I enjoyed this attraction so much. 🙂
The main ride in Hogsmeade is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a 4D holographic, motion type ride that sends you on a journey.. obviously. I won’t ruin it completely, but let’s just say that you get to experience a game of Quidditch with Harry and Ron, until Death Eaters ruin it, that is.
You also get to meet the Sorting Hat and see the House Cup rankings, which I won’t lie, is pretty cool.
Survival tactic though – the lines at the most popular rides (all the 4D ones) are always super long. I recommend going for the single riders lane – it’s so much quicker and usually a group ends up going together anyway. (Or if you get split up, it’s at least pretty close together)
This is one of the rides where you have to put all your stuff away in a locker locked with your fingerprint. It’s super important to remember which locker is yours, because you can only access it twice; one to put your stuff in, and one to take it out!
One of the other rides, Flight of the Hippogriff (you can kind of see it in the right corner of the above image, is also pretty awesome. It’s an outdoor roller-coaster, and you have the opportunity to go by Hagrid’s hut at one point! 😀
And of course, no visit to Harry Potter World would be complete without a wand from Olliviander’s (or any other wand retailer). All around the parks, you can see people holding wands and waving them around. There’s one type of interactive wand that can be used in certain areas in the Harry Potter parks. Not only do you have a map to figure out where, but there’s always a wandmaster nearby to make sure all the young wizards and witches have what it
takes to perform magic. 😀
Have a sweet tooth? Honeydukes, the amazing sweet shop from the book is here in Hogsmeade for you to enjoy the sweets. You can buy Chocolate Frogs, Every-Flavour Beans, and Pumpkin Cakes, just to name a few. Yumm.. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them.
And of course, Butterbeer is a must-have for any Harry Potter fanatic. Of course, no real beer included, but it’s a wonderful beverage for the Floridan sun. It’s available hot, cool, frozen, and with ice cream. I chose frozen, because it was a little on the sweet side, with the caramel flavored froth at the top and caramel flavoring at the bottom. It came in a cute little Harry Potter themed plastic cup with a special straw that had a flared out bottom that made it easier to drink and could double as a spoon.
When we were done with Hogsmeade, we visited King’s Cross Station and Platform 9 and 3/4 to travel to Diagon Alley in Universal. Since they added a new sector of Harry Potter World, they also added the Hogwarts Express (and Platform 9 3/4) that travels to and from the parks, as long as you have a park-hopping pass. It’s a little different both ways so I recommend going to see both. Plus, the train is really cool and the seats are comfortable. 😉
Anyways once you get off the train and exit the station, you’ll find yourself in Diagon Alley.
Diagon Alley is an actual “alley” hidden behind a London street. When you exit King’s Cross, the Knight Bus is sitting across the street and the conductor can be seen most days, answering questions and posing for photos. On this street is the home of Sirius Black, 12 Grimmauld Place. Visitors can climb up the steps and take pictures of it, but that’s about it.
Anyways, moving on, Diagon Alley is behind a series of walls, kind of like the book! Just pass through and you’ll find yourself in an amazing place. There are a lot of shops here, like Ollivianders, Gringotts Bank, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, and Potage’s Cauldrons. There’s even an Eelops Owl Emporium and a few shops for selling wizardly apparel. A couple other shops sell furry stuffed animal companions, such as the well-known Pigmy Puff or even a Snowy Owl like Hedwig.
I really like the ride here – Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts – a 4D thriller ride with a storyline to it. You’re on a tour at Gringotts Goblin Bank with a goblin tour guide and a wizard when Voldemort and Belletrix decide to attack. Luckily, Harry, Hermoine, and Ron are there to help bring you to safety. It’s a brilliant 4D adventure with a lot of thrill and… dragons. It involves getting fire in your face and possibly getting spat on (don’t worry – it’s just water!) 😛
Same thing here though, get into the single riders land because it’s so much faster. I mean, unless you actually want to wait a long time (when I was there, the wait time was always around 75-80 minutes… Sometimes even more!)
These animatronic goblins are actually the coolest things ever. The bank tellers are viewable in the Bank, on your way to the feature ride, Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts. They actually talk and move as though they’re writing on a sheet a papyrus and the head teller goblin at the front will tell you about the Bank and invites you to open an account.
In conclusion, Harry Potter World was probably the coolest part of Universal Studios (mainly because I love the series) However, I never saw any of the movies so it probably wasn’t as magical for me than for someone who has seen them, because a lot of the architecture and design was taken straight from the movies.
All in all, it’s still an amazing place to visit and is a must-see for anyone traveling to Orlando.
And that’s it for now! I’m going to be heading over to Disney’s Epcot and sharing my experience there next 🙂
Have you been to Universal? Want to share an experience in Orlando? Have a question about my trip there? Please leave me a comment below – I always like hearing from y’all 😉