Let’s get to it—HARRY POTTER WORLD is crazy magical and fun. If you’ve only been to the Hogsmeade portion and weren’t thrilled, I feel ya. We did only Hogsmeade on the first day, and while it was fun, I was a little disappointed. But when we took the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley the next day, omgomg all my dreams came true. I’m posting the pictures by category rather than chronologically because it’s more fun that way:
The small tour through and ride inside of Hogwarts is great; in fact, the ride (I think it’s called The Forbidden Journey), was one of my favorites of the whole trip. The castle is pretty dark inside, and you’re not supposed to take anything with you once you get in line for the ride, but I snuck my phone with me to snap a few shots of the castle.
Like I said, there wasn’t a whole lot to do or see in Hogsmeade, but it was cute, and there was butterbeer.
HOGWARTS EXPRESS + LONDON
When you leave King’s Cross station, you come out to a small “London” area, where you can talk with Stanley Shunpike outside the Knight Bus and see No. 12 Grimmauld Place.
WEASLEYS’ WIZARD WHEEZES
The resort we were staying at lets you get into one of the Universal parks one hour early. The three days we were there, the park they opened early was Islands of Adventure, which includes Hogsmeade (not Diagon Alley).
So on our last day, we rode the dragon ride a couple times, then headed straight for the Hogwarts Express to get over to Diagon Alley early. We made it on the very first train over there, and ended up in Diagon Alley before that park had officially opened. Ben and I booked it to the Escape from Gringotts ride and zipped through the queue. We somehow ended up with nobody behind us for the last portion of the queue, and it just so happened that we weren’t grouped with anyone in front of us, either. So we got to ride on one of the carts ALL BY OURSELVES. I wanted to get a pic of it so bad, but there wasn’t really any way to. If you’ve ever ridden this ride, you know how insanely long the lines are at all times of the day, so we were laughing at our luck.
One of the best parts of this whole experience was seeing all the little kids use their wands throughout the park. Side note, Ben and I kept talking about how we couldn’t wait to bring our future kiddos here (maybe for their 11th birthdays?!?).
Luckily (and hilariously), Ben has a co-worker—an old machinist guy—who happens to love Harry Potter, and when Ben told him we were going to Harry Potter World, he reached for his wallet and handed Ben $100 cash and said, “I want you to buy me the best wand money can buy.” So we went to Ollivander’s and did just that (and of course used it while we were there). You can also watch a little presentation of a wand choosing a young witch or wizard in your group, which is really fun:
The wand-shop owner hands the witch a few wands and tells her to try them out. The first few are disastrous (killing plants when she points at them, etc.) and then, with a dramatic pause (the actor was actually excellent), he says “Hmm, I wonder . . .” and pulls a wand from the wall behind him.
She picks up this wand and the dramatic music/lights/wind gust cue just like in the first movie. It’s so great.
You can choose to buy either a character wand (Harry’s, Sirius’s, Hermione’s, etc.) or a specific wood wand. The wood wands are based on the Celtic calendar and have corresponding characteristics. They’re also the interactive wands that you can use to cast spells throughout the park.
Food was surprisingly on point at HP World. Here are some of the highlights:
Overall, HP World is 10/10, A++, highly recommend, excellent, would go again.
THE REST OF UNIVERSAL
We also had lots of fun in the rest of the park. I’ve been several times growing up, but it was fun taking Ben here for the first time. His fave ride was Revenge of the Mummy, so we went on that about four times in a row.
I was raised on The Simpsons, so of course I loved re-visiting Simpson Land.
We spent one day at Disney and decided to do Animal Kingdom (probably my favorite park because it’s different from the others. Also, animals.). We got in to the park early because we were staying at a Disney resort (the Swan, pictured below). We went straight to the safari and were on the first safari of the day.
Next, we rode the Expedition Everest roller coaster about four times in a row; this became Ben’s new fave ride.
We watched a few shows (Flights of Wonder and Lion King Festival), then headed back to the hotel for a bit. We went back to the park in the evening for the Tree of Life show and then got on one of the very last nighttime safari rides (which they had just started a few weeks prior).
I have to admit, the night safari was a little scary, especially when a rhino was out where he wasn’t supposed to be and our guide was visibly worried and told us to not look at him for fear of him charging us. I was on the very outside edge closest to him, and he was probably 20 feet away from me. Other than that, it was fun to see some of the other animals who are more active at night than during the day.
Great trip, but I will never return to Orlando in the summer!! 🙂