The Wizarding World of Harry Potter officially opened its gates June 18th, 2010 at Universal Studios in Florida and to commemorate the event limited edition tickets were being given out as souvenirs. As a Harry Potter fan and general lover of all things magical and imaginative- this sounded like a perfect excuse to take a roadtrip to Orlando the first week of July and be one of the first to visit the wizarding world (along with tens of thousands of other people!)
This magical world is located inside Universal’s “Islands of Adventures” park. Walking through the gates, you are instantly transported to the world of Harry Potter, where magic not only exists, but is a part of everyday life.
As you leave the muggle world behind, you find yourself standing next to the Hogwarts Express stopped at Hogsmeade station. (If you are lost already, I think it’s about time you read the books!!) Although in reality it’s 35 degrees Celsius, with enough humidity to make you sweat just standing there, winter has set in here in Hogsmeade. Snow covered roofs and frosted window panes line the shops as you wander the busy streets, perhaps stopping for a pumpkin juice before heading into one of the many shops.
Zonko’s is where you’ll find all your favourite novelty and joke items like sneak-o-scopes, extendable ears and pygmy puffs. Continuing down the street you’ll find Honeydukes where you can purchase Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, treacle fudge and the famous chocolate frogs and just like in the hit series, inside every chocolate frog box is a famous wizard collector card!
Quidditch fans can buy robes and gear at Dervish and Banges, as well as supplies for your first day at Hogwarts. The Owl Post has around two dozen owls nesting high in the rafters, but watch your ears when you pass by a howler waiting to be delievered to some unlucky wizard. Filch’s Emporium of Confisgated Goods holds all the treasures he took from Hogwarts students, including posters, death eater masks, clothing and toys.
One of the most exciting shops is at the other end of town, where the wait time to get in was well over an hour,but was definitely worth the wait. Ollivander’s Wand Shop is as wondrous as I had imagined. The small shop is lined with floor to ceiling shelves, covered entirely with boxes of wands.
As you enter you come across Olivander himself, puttering about the shop. He chooses a lucky wizard and reminds them that “the wand chooses the wizard” before handing them a wand to try. As in the book, this first attempt ends in disaster and chaos ensues until the perfect wand is finally found.
In the courtyard between Hogsmeade and the gates to Hogwarts, crowds gather to welcome members of Durmstrang and Beaux Batons to Hogwarts for the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Competitors from each school show off their talents in an attempt to prove once and for all that they attend the best wizarding school in the world.
Here, you can also climb on the “Dueling Dragons Coaster” if you’re brave enough to face a fire breathing dragon head first on this wild ride.
Above the courtyard looms Hogwarts Castle, looking just as I always imagined it would. “Harry Potter and theForbidden Journey” is found inside the castle. This attraction begins in the basement of Hogwarts, thedungeons where students attend Professor Snape’s potion classes, before winding upstairs and out into thecourtyard. Next, you enter the greenhouses, where Professor Sprout teaches Herbalogy. Exotic looking plantsline the pathway (and gave us something to enjoy since the wait time was over an hour and a half!). In the corner, potted mandrakes can be spotted, with their angry squished-up faces staring out of the dirt, before youhead back into the castle. This upper hallway is where the House points are filling up the hourglasses as students earn points for either Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. You go through the portraithallway, where notable wizards in history chat amoungst themselves, paying little attention to the muggles passing through. The defence against the dark arts classroom is next, filled with books, skeletons and photos of magical creatures. Here, Harry, Ron and Hermione greet you as they go about their mission in the castle. Inside the castle you also find Dumbledore’s office and the Room of Requirement as you wander through the magical corridors of Hogwarts. At the end of the hallway the sorting hat greets you and recites words of wisdom as you board your “broom” and take off after Harry on a wild adventure coming face to face with manymagical creatures as you fly high above Hogwarts. (Sadly I have no picture from inside the castle)
After a day of magic, the rustic tavern, Three Broomsticks, is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a Harry Potter meal. Inside, the pub looks like you just stepped onto the movie set, complete with the room above that Harry lived in temporarily.
My chicken dinner was great, but the highlight of this meal was my souvenir pint of butterbeer! You have a choice of frozen or not. If you go, be sure to get the frozen- it’s amazing! (Kinda like a root-beer float- only better!) If Butterbeer isn’t really your style, then head on over to the Hogs Head pub for a selection of domestic and imported beers, wines and specialty drinks.
As the sun sets over Hogsmeade, the twinkling lights on the snow covered roofs, make the place even more special and just as magical as the books seem to us Harry Potter fans!