“J.K. Rowling is my hero.”
Scorpio season was a good time to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because I felt the spooky, magical, mystical vibes the entire time. Not a fan of zodiacs? Fair enough – moving on.
We went to the Orlando location, located roughly 15-20 minutes away from Disney World. Universal Studios is a unique place. The park specializes in simulated animation, which may leave your motion-sick family members feeling green. There are plenty of disclaimers before each ride so you can simply read the CAUTION signs and advance at your own risk. Lol. In my opinion, this makes it a little less “family friendly.”
HOWEVER, the bread and butter of this park is 1,000% Harry Potter. No contest. Don’t even @ me. The attention to detail is outstanding and I commend J.K. Rowling for not selling her empire to Disney, which would have relinquished her vision for the masterpiece you see today.
Instead, Universal Studios offered our beloved author a true presence which the Harry Potter series clearly deserved. Essentially, it is its own entity and boosts Universal high up in the theme park ranking (for HP world alone).
To start, they bring Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade to life. You enter Diagon Alley through a brick wall consistent with the novel. Immediately to your left you’ll find the Leaky Cauldron and to your right the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes joke shop. And it doesn’t end there.
They serve butterbeer: cold, warm, or frozen. What Harry Potter fan doesn’t want to get their hands on a cup of butterbeer?! (My favorite is frozen or warm, depending on the weather when you arrive).
Some of the rides include an escape from Gringotts, a tour of Hogwarts, and the ever popular still-semi-new Hagrid’s Motorbike rollercoaster. In Gringotts you’ll find realer-than-life goblins running the bank. The tour of Hogwarts is a mixture of simulation and movement throughout the castle – if you get motion sick I think you can still ride it and cover your eyes during the simulated portion (that’s what I did). It’s too cool to miss and the line itself is an experience. Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure will take up some time (in line) but is worth it for the true Harry Potter fan that can appreciate the attention to detail. I hear 12-1 pm is the best time to hit the line as most folks are heading to lunch. We waited an hour before we got on, totally worth it.
Diagon Alley sits in Universal Studios while Hogsmeade is located in Islands of Adventure. I preferred Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade, but I’m excited to visit Hogsmeade during a quieter season when the narrow “town” isn’t so packed and crowded. There were perks to each, and I’ll list them below:
- Seemed to be less crowded (definitely go right when the park opens for the most breath-taking experience – and room to walk around)
- You’ll see a lot of kids (or adults) with wands casting spells which is just too cool
- Stop by Ollivander’s to watch someone get selected for a “wand fitting”
- Send out a postcard at the Owlery for a unique and memorable experience
- Step inside the Leaky Cauldron for a snack or lunch
- Observe all the storefronts which include animated photo frames and magical demonstrations
- Entrance to Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure
- Breathtaking view of Hogswarts castle (+ the ride!)
- Listen for Moaning Myrtle in the restrooms
- Entrance straight into Hogsmeade if you pick up the “Hogwarts Express” train from the other park – I’d recommend doing this early so you aren’t dumped into a crowded street as your first experience of Universal’s Hogsmeade
Lastly, I’d like to chat about the Hogwarts Express, which is just… BRAVO! This was a 20 min wait for us. Right before you enter the platform, pay attention to the guests ahead of you. They disappear walking onto platform 9 ¾ and you do not want to miss! I don’t know if you can capture on camera, but definitely keep an eye out. It’s low-key one of the coolest things I saw there. You feel as if you’re stepping right into the books.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not one to miss. Even if you’re not a fan, I think you’d enjoy it. If you are a fan, you’ll poop your pants. I teared up walking into Diagon Alley for the first time. It’s emotional! A huge round of applause to J.K. Rowling + Universal for fully immersing their guests in an experience of a lifetime. To date, it is the most impressive themed “world” I have ever encountered.
Service in Gringotts is spotty so I am signing out…