Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Random Ramble: Harry Potter World in Universal Orlando (Megan)

Recently I went on a family vacation to Florida and we spent two days in Universal. Now since I'm a huge nerd, that means I basically spent two whole days exploring the Harry Potter theme parks there. I had such a good time that I decided I wanted to capture my experience in a blog post. I know that a lot of fellow Potterheads want to go to the park but haven't had a chance to yet, so maybe this post can give you some much needed ammunition to prove to your parents (or yourself) that it is totally worth every penny to go!

Hogwarts up close and personal :)
First, I'll start with Hogsmeade. This is the part of the theme park in Island of Adventure which has been opened for a few years now. The Hogwarts castle as well as Hogsmeade village and now Hogsmeade station are also located here.

The Hogwarts castle is incredible and I cried when I saw it. If you ever go to Universal, no matter how long the line is, make sure you get on The Forbidden Journey, which is the ride inside the castle. It's a essentially a virtual tour of the castle with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. So many of the characters show up and in the line getting there you walk through Dumbledore's office, the Gryffindor Common Room and other recognizable places. I was fangirling so hard the entire time my family almost killed me.

Hogwarts from a distance
In Hogsmeade there are a TON of shops that you can go into and some that are just store fronts. They also sell butter beer and pumpkin juice here and they are both AMAZING. Butter beer is, as my friend Karla put it, like cream soda on crack (idk if these are her exact words but it was something along those lines. Either way, I AGREE). Pumpkin juice sounds like it would be gross but it's actually like drinking fall. They also have Honeydukes candy shop where you can buy chocolate frogs, Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans, Sugar Quills, Fudge Flies, and basically all of the candy that is mentioned in the books.

Another awesome attraction was Ollivander's wand shop where they let people in and there is an actual reenactment of a wand choosing a witch or wizard. While I didn't get chosen to do the reenactment, I did get to see it and once it was over everyone gets to go into the wand shop. You can buy any of the character wands in the shop, but you can also buy these super fancy interactive wands. They work on shop windows around Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and let you cast magic spells. Yes, I bought one of these, yes I walked around waving it like all of the little kids around me, and no I am not at all ashamed.

That's probably the best part about Harry Potter World! All of the staff are super cool and in character! They pretend they don't know what camera flashes are and act like muggle technology confuses them. We even had a girl who was in charge of our compartment on the Hogwarts Express who looked like Luna Lovegood. When my dad told her this, she immediately smiled and proclaimed, "Have fun! And watch out for nargles," before she literally skipped away down the train. People walk around in wizard robes. Basically it is Potterhead heaven.

Next, I'll talk about the Hogwarts Express which is one of the most accurate parts of the entire park. The train connects Hogsmeade and the London Waterfront, which then leads into Diagon Alley. You can ride the train back and forth and images are projected on the door of the compartment you're in as well as on the window you look out of. There are more character appearances here like Hagrid and Mad-Eye Moody. Not to mention all the fun of actually walking onto Platform 9 3/4 where Harry's luggage and Hedwig can be seen.

 The London Waterfront features the Knight Bus, an actual Knight Bus driver complete with the talking head, a telephone booth like the one that takes you to the Ministry of Magic, and 12 Grimmauld Place. If you stand outside Grimmauld Place long enough, you might just catch Kreacher peaking out of one of the windows up top. He stands there scowling for a few seconds and then goes back behind the curtain.

You can sort of see Kreacher in the picture above!

 Then once we braved the HUGE lines (and I mean huge. I was there on the second day Diagon Alley was officially open. YIKES) we were finally allowed into Diagon Alley which is PERFECT! None of the rest of the park is visible from inside and once you go through those bricks it is so easy to pretend you're in the wizarding world. I could have stayed there all day!

Pumpkin Juice!
Weasley Wizard Wheezes was a highlight where they actually sell Puking Pastilles and some of the other famous Weasley inventions. They also sell adorable Pygmy Puffs and hold naming ceremonies for them where they make the whole store clap for you and your new pet. My family did this to me. It was embarrassing. My Pygmy Puff is named Gerald.

Butter Beer!
You can also actually eat in the Leaky Cauldron which looked like I had just walked onto the movie set it was so accurate. They serve very British food like Fish & Chips, Bangers and Mash, and other favorites. Pumpkin Juice, Frozen and Cold Butterbeer, Gillywater, and normal Muggle beverages are also available. The food was amazing and I was in heaven the entire time.

 This post is starting to get crazy long so I'm going to start to bring it to a close by talking about Gringotts. You may have heard the drama about people waiting 7-8 hours or more in line to get on the ride. My family and I took advantage of the single riders line and were able to get on in only an hour. We all agreed that it was a really awesome ride and totally worth it, but we would not have felt the same way if we had waited 7 hours.

There were plenty of cameos from Bellatrix, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Bill Weasley, and even Voldemort himself in this one! Plus Gringotts just looks awesome from the outside and the dragon on top of the building actually breathes fire randomly. I mean real, actual fire. Like you can actually feel the heat of it as it shoots across the sky above your head. It's SO COOL.

 Knockturn Alley is also attached to Diagon Alley and you can really go and see the Vanishing Cabinet that Malfoy used to sneak the Death Eaters into Hogwarts in the 6th book. It's really dark, creepy, and cold back there with a window you don't want to miss if you have an interactive wand. It may involve a skeleton that follows all of your movements that you can make dance. Idkidkidkidk.

If you can't tell by this huge ramble of a blog post, I had the time of my life in Universal. There is even so much more I could talk about! I'm already planning another trip there at some point and hopefully with Rachel and Katherine so they can experience it too! If you get the chance to go I wouldn't pass it up! It's totally worth every second! If you have any questions about Harry Potter World, feel free to comment them below or tweet me (@athleticnerd18) about them! I would love to gush about this with someone!


  1. Oh my gosh! I want to go sooooooooo bad! And I think you just made my having to wait so much worse! I am planning that no matter what, in the summer of 2016, when the ALA summer convention is in Orlando, I will definitely be going to the Harry Potter World even if I have to stay extra days just to have the time to go and wait in line. I want to try Butter Beer so bad, and I didn't know about the Pumpkin Juice, but now I want to try that so bad! Oh my gosh, I can't wait to go! I am sharing your blog post with a friend of mine who is even way more fangirl for Harry Potter than I am. Great post!!!

    1. Thank you! Rachel, Katherine and I are hoping to road trip down to Florida after we graduate and go together! Of course I would die if I got to go to Leaky Con or another convention there! It's totally worth it so I really hope you get to go! :)