Have your wand and broomstick at the ready, as approaching Hogwarts castle for the first time is like watching the book itself come to life. Every curious detail is perfectly captured and realistic, with movie set magic gloriously realized. Because of this, a trip to Florida is not complete without a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.
The Wizarding World is a muggle’s dream come true; the attention to detail here is incredible, and it seems that every sign, window, and doorway has some sort of magical touch. It is effort to not get distracted as you find yourself wandering the winding streets and alleys.
The world itself is divided into two different but equally engrossing areas – Diagon Alley and Hogsmede. Both areas are connected by the Hogwart’s Express.
There is so much to explore when visiting the Wizarding World; one could effortlessly spend their entire trip here, and not discover all of its magic. To assist you in the process, we have included some of our favorites.
1) Visit Hogwarts
Located in the Hogsmede area of the park, Hogwarts castle dominates the landscape. The sheer size of the towering building makes it all the more impressive and beautiful. Thrill-seekers will want to get here early, as the castle is home to the Forbidden Journey ride; this 3D adventure is truly fantastic, and well worth the notoriously long wait in line.
The line up is actually an experience in itself, as it meanders through Hogwarts, allowing you to see some of the iconic areas of the castle. The queue begins in the castle greenhouse, complete with melancholy mandrakes that stare up at you with tiny frowning faces. As you walk through the castle, you will have the opportunity to stumble upon the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor common room, and even Dumbledore’s office, all with details that are awesomely true to the book. Keep an eye out for the sorting hat and the talking picture frames!
2) Make a trip to Gringotts
With a fire breathing dragon perched recklessly on the rooftop, Gringotts is hard to miss. You may want to dawdle outside for a while, as every 10 minutes or so, the dragon lets out a fierce and fiery roar.
Once again, this ride is well worth the wait time, with a queue that has enough magical details to keep even the hardest to please muggle entertained. The goblins were especially exciting.
The thrilling ride is 3D and multi dimensional, and allows passengers to come face to face with Lord Voldemort himself. The special effects are seriously jaw dropping. We have heard that many have found this ride a bit too intense for little ones, but our two really enjoyed it.
3) Stop for Snacks!
The themed snacks inside the Wizarding World are a huge part of the fun. The descriptions of all of the treats in the books are some of our favorite parts, and it was especially exciting to see them all brought to life. Be sure to stop by Honey Dukes, where magic is unleashed in the form of Fizzing Whizzbees, Fudge Flies, and Cauldron Cakes. You will probably want to steer clear of the ear wax flavored jellybeans.
Butter Beer and Pumpkin Juice were hits with our little ones.
We opted for the frozen version of Butter Beer, but you can actually find it served four different ways in the park – frozen, hot, cold, or as ice cream. It tastes a bit like butterscotch mixed with frothy creme soda; we are fans.
4) Ride the Hogwarts Express
The Hogwarts Express connects the enchanted areas of Hogsmede and Diagon Alley. After arriving at the station, you walk through the brick wall and find yourself magically standing on Platform 9 3/4.
Once aboard the train, you hop into your private car, and the ride begins. You will soon discover that this is so much more than a simple train ride to get you from one side of the park to the other. We actually thought this was one of the best parts of the Wizarding World; they do a great job of bringing the train ride to life, complete with a 3D show projected on the windows and escaping chocolate frogs. Be sure to take the train to travel both ways, as both rides are different. Watch out for Dementors!
We visited the Wizarding Word during our Christmas break, and because of this things were exceptionally crowded. Because of this, some of the shops and alleyways were difficult to navigate with little ones. We would have loved some additional time to explore without so many people around, to really see and appreciate everything the area has to offer. Whatever time of year you choose to visit, we strongly suggest you head to the Wizarding World as soon as the park opens, or an hour or two before closing, in order to avoid some of the crowds.