I’ll admit it. I’m WILD about Harry! Harry Potter, that is. Being a teacher, and a lover of books, when the Harry Potter series hit the shelves, I snatched them up faster than a Golden Snitch trying to stay free during a Quidditch match! I’ve read the books, seen the movies, and that really only means that there’s one way left to get my Harry fix. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter features two distinctly different areas Univeral’s Islands of Adventure© and Universal Studios Florida© to help any Harry Potter fan forget that he’s grown up and moved on without us.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure is where the first section to open, Hogsmeade™, is located. It features Hogwarts™ Castle, is home to the Dragon Challenge™ – twin rollercoasters, Flight of the Hippogriff™ – a family-friendly coaster, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™. This is by far one of my absolute favorite rides of any theme park I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to LOTS of them!). The Forbidden Journey ride is a combination of fast action, non-stop motion, and massive movie screens that bring every aspect of the books, from near misses by the Whomping Willow, being chased by dragons, dodging hundreds of spiders, and fending off Dementors, this definitely isn’t a ride for the faint of heart (or those prone to motion sickness).
Hogsmeade features several shops where you can buy wands, Quidditch and Hogswarts House gear and Honeydukes™, which is sure to please your sweet tooth. If you looking for a bite to eat, head to the Three Broomsticks™, where you can sample traditional English pub fare, like The Great Feast Platter, perfect for sharing, Shepard’s Pie and Fish & Chips.
Universal Studios Florida, recently unveiled their second section, Diagon Alley™, which has only been open for a few months, and it’s absolutely amazing – exactly what I hoped it would look like! When you arrive via the train, you are dropped off right at Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. The main attraction at Diagon Alley is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™. While we were there, the wait was a whopping 270 minutes, so we skipped it and will be sure not to miss it on our next visit. We did walk through where the line forms, and the inside of Gringott’s Bank was absolutely amazing!
Diagon Alley™ is home to Ollivanders™ wand shop, where my daughter dropped a quick $45 for a magic wand. We have annual passes, and visit several times a year, so in the end, I’m sure it’ll be worth the price. She was able to cast spells throughout Diagon Alley™, the super creepy Knockturn Alley, and Hogsmeade, where she played with a skeleton, made shrunken heads sing, turn song birds into monsters, power a water fountain, bring a constellation to life, and lots more fantastic features throughout all of the Harry Potter parks.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour was a perfect stop for a quick snack. They have a fantastic assortment of traditional and soft serve ice cream. Our favorites were the chocolate raspberry, and the Butterbeer soft serve! They also had a nice selection of pastries and drinks. The Leaky Cauldron Pub™ is similar to Three Broomsticks, with additional British pub selections – I loved the Cottage Pie!
Diagon Alley also features a small stage where we watched the Tales of Beedle Bard – a puppet show like something straight out of the Renaissance! There are an even larger assortment of shops and walk-up counters for drinks to sample in Diagon Alley, so I’d plan at least two-three hours to check out all there is to see. Hogsmeade will run visitors about two hours as well. But, they’re both so totally worth it, especially if you love Harry like I love Harry!
With a two park pass, you have two options to get from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley, the best, of course, being the Hogwarts™ Express Train, which you pick up at Hogsmeade™ Station. As you ride, you’re party is entertained by the adventures and antics of several HP stars including the Weasley brothers and Hagrid. It’s a must to take the train between both parks, because there are different features depending on the direction you are traveling. Make sure to be on the lookout for all of the unique surprises, like a fire-breathing dragon, raining umbrella and wall that catches fire. There are so many amazing features, I can’t wait to go back and see what else I can find!