When I tell people we went to Universal Studios in February, the first question everyone asks is, “How was Harry Potter?” (Technically, it’s “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”—kind of a cumbersome name, if you ask me. I’ll just call it WWHP). So I thought I’d share a little tour:
You can enter WWHP two ways. Here’s one entrance:
If the fam there were to look to their right, this is what they’d see from the bridge:
Hogwarts castle! It’s actually not very big. They made it look like it’s farther away than it is by making it small—kind of an optical illusion.
Pretty awesome detail, though.
Walking into WWHP this way, you turn left to go to Hogwarts, and right to go into Hogsmeade.
We’ll start in Hogsmeade. I loved the way they made some of the chimneys crooked. The designers really did a fabulous job.
Everyone wants to know about Butterbeer, of course. It’s basically cream soda with a thick cream on top (the consistency of melting ice cream) that tastes like butterscotch. Yummy. Super sweet.
Speaking of sweets, we were psyched to go to Honeydukes. It honestly isn’t that impressive inside. It was pretty small, and though they had iconic treats like chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every-Flavored Beans, most of it was just standard theme park candy.
The joke shop was part of Honeydukes, too. I wasn’t terribly impressed with their offerings, either. Nothing that you couldn’t find elsewhere, and again terribly small. I can’t imagine what it must be like in there during peak seasons.
The rest of Hogsmeade was cool, though. It really felt like you were in the real (“real”?) Harry Potter world.
Lots of little details in shops and windows.
Like the monster book that “breathed” inside its cage.
All kinds of piles of old books and trinkets.
Quidditch (with a missing snitch)!
Public conveniences (a.k.a. bathrooms)! The fun part of these was that they have Moaning Myrtle talking to you while you’re in there.
Ollivander’s Wand Shop was really cool. You wait in line (often a very long line) to go in, as they take around 20 people or so at a time.
One person gets chosen each time to come forward and be the “wizard” who is getting matched up with a wand. Ollivander has the person try out several wands, with bad results (shelves falling, flowers withering, etc.) until they find the right wand. Then a light shines on the person, air blows up from the floor beneath them, and music plays dramatically when they get the “right” wand. Really fun, especially for the kids. We went twice, and The Muse got chosen the second time. So she has a special wand from Ollivanders that “chose” her. 🙂
Okay, let’s go back to Hogwarts.
Inside the castle are several rooms, which are all part of the line for the Forbidden Journey ride. You can actually tour the castle without going on the ride, so we did that for Havarti and The Muse, who aren’t ride riders.
I tried to take photos of the rooms inside the castle, but it was quite dim lighting. I did manage to get a clear one of the talking picture room. That was fun. The people in the pictures really do talk and move around, just like in the books/movies.
There’s also Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and one other room I’m not remembering. I was a little disappointed that there was no Great Hall. But it was still very cool.
Since we were there the week after President’s Day week, the crowds were very low. Most of the day, there was only a 10-20 minute wait for the Forbidden Journey ride inside Hogwarts. Apparently it can be a 2-3 hour wait during the peak seasons. I can’t even imagine.
The ride was pretty fun, but it made me a little queasy. Most of the rides at Universal make use of simulator technology, which tends to do a number on my equilibrium. Dolittle and I only went on it once. It was a little scary for her, and I prefer real roller coasters.
Speaking of which, right next to Hogwarts is the “Flight of the Hippogriff” ride. It’s a little roller coaster, but fun. BoyWonder and Dolittle couldn’t get enough of it. And with a 5-minute wait time, we got to go on it a lot.
Wee!! Dolittle especially loved it because as you go up the first hill, you pass Buckbeak in his nest. Incredibly real-looking. He moves and everything. I couldn’t help but feel like a little kid each time.
While we rode the coaster, The Muse did some more wand browsing.
This is the other entrance to WWHP. There’s another larger coaster (Dueling Dragons? Dragon Challenge? Something like that.) at this end, but we didn’t go on it. The only person who would have gone with me was Dolittle, but she wasn’t quite tall enough and I didn’t feel like going by myself. Now I kind of wish I had.
Near this entrance is the Hogwarts Express train, too. Right now it’s just a prop. But they’re busy building Diagon Alley in Universal Studios (WWHP is in Islands of Adventure, the other Universal theme park), and from what I understand they’re going to have the Hogwarts train go to and from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. We just missed it by half a year or so. Guess we’ll just have to go back. 🙂
I particularly enjoyed WWHP at night. I always love theme parks at night anyway, but seeing the castle lit up was awesome, and it really created a cool atmosphere in Hogsmeade.
So, all in all, Harry Potter’s world at Universal’s Islands of Adventure was an awesome experience. I might even call it “magical.” 🙂
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