Caution: This post is about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It contains a lot of Harry Potter jargon. Muggles (non-magical people) may not understand. If you are a muggle and have not read the books or watched the movies, read this version.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
When the Harry Potter books took the world by storm, I was one of the millions of fans eagerly awaiting the next one. I immersed myself in the series and wondered what it would be like to travel on the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts, go shopping in Diagon Alley and have a break with my friends at Hogsmeade. With the launch of the eighth Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition Script in 2016, a whole new generation of children will be experiencing similar sentiments. I got to live some of my fantasies at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort in December.
I absolutely loved the way Universal Studios has painstakingly recreated Harry Potter’s World with every fine detail in place, from the talking paintings to the invisible ink to the individually replicated shops in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. It was just as I’d imagined. Even the staff had been perfectly chosen, from the elderly gentleman who managed the souvenir shop to the ride operators who applauded us when we returned “unharmed” from the Forbidden Journey- and they all looked as though they were in awe of Harry Potter.
Wizard robes and wands were available for sale at Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions and it was quite commonplace to see wizards and witches of all ages, shapes and sizes waving wands and uttering spells at all and sundry.
We walked through the snow-capped village of Hogsmeade, passed the Three Broomsticks Inn and sampled the pumpkin juice, saving the (non-alcoholic) butterbeer for later. Honeydukes was doing a roaring trade with chocolate frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans and other wizard treats.
Eventually, we reached Hogwarts. As we entered the great hall, floating candles dimly lit the ceiling over our heads, and we passed The Sorting Hat, talking portraits and interactive newspapers as we made our way to the point where our ride would begin.
“Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” was one of the best rides I’d ever experienced in my life. We started off in the classrooms and corridors of Hogwarts from where we then soared over the castle grounds and the Quidditch pitch. The ride uses ground-breaking technology and special effects to create a unique experience. We were joined by Harry Potter and his friends who rode alongside us on their broomsticks shouting words of encouragement as we fought off dementors and skeletons. It was simply magical.
We then went on to The Flight of the Hippogriff and the Dragon Challenge. Then we boarded the Hogwarts Express which would take us to the other side of the park. But it was no ordinary train ride. Once we were seated in our cabin, the windows and doors were shut and as the train set off, Hagrid waved goodbye to us. As we rode through the English countryside, there was a minor commotion and we saw Harry Potter’s silhouette on our carriage door. He was telling his friends that our cabin was occupied and that they should move on. Eventually the train stopped and we emerged to find ourselves at King’s Cross station. It was adjoined by Diagon Alley and all its familiar shops.
We visited the purple knight bus and got to talk to the eccentric conductor and the shrunken head. Then we spied Kreacher peeking at us out of a window in 12 Grimauld Place before we went on to explore Diagon Alley.
My daughter was called up for a wand choosing at Ollivanders Wands, where she experimented with different wands as she practised her spells in the shop. Her first two wands did not respond very well to her spells and they had the opposite effect of what was intended. Then she was presented with a third wand and suddenly gentle music began playing and lights sparkled in the dark shop. She was quite pleased when she was told that she had the makings of a fine wizard and was presented with an option to purchase the interactive wand which would cause spells to occur in the Harry Potter world.
Then it was time for our next ride -Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. We entered Gringotts Bank where stern little goblins peeked at us from under their horn-rimmed spectacles as they continued with their tasks as hand. We were taken underground to the vaults where we began The Escape from Gringotts as we were pursued by a fierce dragon. It was another exhilarating ride and one of the two contenders for best ride in the park – alongside Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – in my books anyway.
For the muggles, there were other cool rides too, most of them based on popular movies. Like “Revenge of the Mummy”, Transformers and Dr. Seuss. If you only have a day there, be sure to get a Universal Express pass which entitles you to skip the lines at most rides.
If you are a Harry Potter fan or a thrill ride fan, you simply have to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.