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Universal Orlando is an amazing amusement park in Orlando, Florida. Located within this park is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the most magical land a Harry Potter fan can be in! My husband and I love the park so much that we’ve gone twice (two years in a row) and have loved it more each time!
Harry Potter World (another name used by fans) is actually located in two parks within the whole park. Hogsmeade (which is just like its namesake) is in Island’s of Adventure. Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios. The two locations can be traveled to by the Hogwart’s Express train with a park-to-park ticket.
Hogsmeade is the first part of Harry Potter World that we saw. With our tickets, we got early access into the Island’s of Adventure side of the park to see Hogsmeade. When you first walk in, you can see a large archway with the iron “Hogsmeade” sign hanging from it to welcome you. Then you see all of the Gothic-style buildings with snow covering the rooftops. The window displays are filled with various things, like quidditch gear, house uniforms, and Honeyduke’s candy. Everywhere you look, there are so many amazing details!
Shops and Food
You can actually visit Honeyduke’s for candy, pasties, and ice cream, and you can also visit the quidditch shop. There are lots of clothes, broomsticks, quills, and other trinkets to look at. You can also eat at The Three Broomsticks! They serve a variety of British-style foods in a restaurant that is themed just like you would imagine: Old-chandelier lighting, dark-wood furniture, and high lofty ceilings filled with stairwells leading to “visitor rooms.” I tried the Toad in the Hole, which was really good! We also had to try some butterbeer, of course! During the trip, we got a regular butterbeer and a frozen one. They’re equally delicious, but the frozen one is sweeter and more like dessert. Visiting these shops and restaurants is an absolute must!
The Forbidden Journey
One ride you absolutely can’t miss while in Universal is The Forbidden Journey ride. This ride is located in Hogwarts. Yes, the castle! Something I love about this park is how the rides are located in really amazing places. There is so much to see just while you’re waiting to get on a ride!
You start out walking into the grounds of the castle to get in line. Once inside, you place your bags in a free locker area then work your way through several iconic rooms that you might remember from the movies. One room is filled with talking/moving paintings, and another is the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. There’s a large dragon skeleton hanging from the ceiling, and Harry, Hermione, and Ron even come out to talk. One time when we were waiting in this room, it even snowed! The details alone are magical.
Once you’re close to the entrance of the ride, you will see the sorting hat talking to others in line, and you will notice the floating candles. The vehicles float off the ground and (once you’ve strapped yourself in quickly) carry you off into the amazing ride. The whole vehicle lifts off the ground and moves in different ways since it’s on a hanging track. The ride is made up of life size props (like the whomping willow) and 3D-like screens to take you on a flying broomstick journey through the grounds of Hogwarts. I won’t give away much more about this one, but I will tell you that it was easily my most favorite ride in the whole park!
Another ride in Hogsmeade is Flight of the Hippogriff. This is a great one for kids because it still has a thrill factor without being too intense. It’s your typical roller coaster style but with the hippogriff leading the way of the coaster. It winds through Hagrid’s hut and the pumpkin patch, and it gives you a great view of the shops and walkways down below. This is a fun and quick ride!
One roller coaster we rode that is no longer there was The Dueling Dragons. It was made of two coasters that intertwined to “race” each other. One side was blue and the other was red. The coasters hung off a track and made several loops, spins, and fast turns before it got to the end. This was a fun ride, but the new ride replacing it should be a blast too! The new ride, named Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike, has been called a “highly-themed coaster”. I haven’t heard much about it, but I can’t wait to go back and try it out!
Before I discuss all of the magical things you can find in Diagon Alley, I have to tell you about the Hogwart’s Express ride. You need a park-to-park ticket to ride, but it’s well worth it! Hogsmeade has a train station that lets you board the Hogwart’s Express, and it’s just like what you see in the movie. You enter a room on the train with a door that slides shut. The interior is designed with an old world style, and it includes a “window” to see out.
When the train starts, the “window” shows you the land around Hogwarts while the lights inside flash and move. The door that closes off your room even shows you a scene too! The whole ride is an amazing experience that shouldn’t be missed. You’ll finally end up at King’s Cross Station in Diagon Alley. The ride also gives you a different experience when ridden from Diagon Alley back to Hogsmeade.
Shops and Restaurants
There is so much to see in Diagon Alley! First of all, you have to make sure you check out Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. This is just like what you would imagine. The top of the store has a giant man putting his hat on and off, and the inside of the store is filled to the brim with magical gag gifts and funny treats. You can look straight up and see stairs going up forever with things flying all around.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour has a variety of fun and magical ice cream flavors to try (even butterbeer ice cream!), and you can also get butterbeer at The Hopping Pot and The Fountain of Fair Fortune. You also have to make sure you eat at the Leaky Cauldron. The Leaky Cauldron is a lot like The Three Broomsticks in what it serves, but the taste is just as great! I tried the rotisserie chicken platter, and it was amazing!
Don’t forget to visit Ollivander’s wand shop. Not only can you select a wand of your choice, but you can also visit a show. Just like when Harry found his right wand, a wizard will pick someone from the crowd to help them find theirs. Next, make sure you check out Knockturn alley. Dark magic resides there (like at Borgin and Burkes), but you won’t want to miss all of the interesting and devious details! There’s also more places to buy all of the wizarding gear and chocolate frogs a die-hard fan would need.
Harry Potter and The Escape from Gringotts
The only ride in this part of the park is The Escape from Gringotts. It’s easily one of the best rides in the park, though! Just like The Forbidden Journey, the waiting area helps make the wait a little more bearable. Right out front of the ride is the dragon that sits high above the park. At certain times, it will even breathe out fire! Another great part is getting to be inside the bank of Gringotts to see all of the goblins working at their counters and eyeing you suspiciously while you wait.
You then get to travel down into the cool vaults (which feels amazing in the summer heat!) to load onto a cart with other passengers. The cart is on top of the track, unlike the other ride, but this one uses screens and makes the cart tilt around as well. However, this one also travels along the track like a regular coaster so you get a lot more speed and drops with this one! There are even moments when you can feel the heat of the villains’ wands, the splash of water on your face, and the smoke of things crumbling around you. It’s an amazing ride!
One thing you may want to do while you’re in Harry Potter world is get an interactive wand. Interactive wands are about $50 and can be used throughout the two parks (the Harry Potter parts) to make magical things happen! I hope to get one the next time we go, because they really look amazing. There are different locations within the park that will make things move, spout out water, turn things on and off, and more with just the flick of your wrist!
Some other things you may want to check out are right outside of the King’s Cross Station entrance in Universal Studios. The Knight bus, as well as its driver and talking voodoo head, are on display right outside. You can talk to the head, as well as the driver, and take pictures with the bus. Also, if you wait long enough, you can see Creature peering out one of the windows of “The Order’s” headquarters and then closing the curtain back.
One last thing – check out Hogwarts at night! They have started a light show on the castle that is amazing, and you won’t want to miss it!
You can check out my other travel posts here!
Please check out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and let me know if you have any questions. It’ll be a magical experience you won’t forget!