If you have been following my blog, chances are you already know that I am a huge Potterhead. I grew up reading the books and watching the movies, which is why when I found out that they were opening a Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios in Orlando, I knew I NEEDED to go.
I have been fortunate to have visited the park twice now – once in 2014, and then again last year after the new Diagon Alley section opened, and let me tell you… it is AMAZING. I had hyped this place up pretty heavily in my head, so I had VERY high expectations going into it… and it lived up to every single one. Of course, it is a theme park, so it was pretty crowded, but aside from that (and the hot, sunny weather) it all felt very real and immersive. The attention to detail (especially in Diagon Alley – post on that park coming soon!) is insane, and I would literally go back right now if I could. Right now.
This will sound very dramatic, but I’m going to say it anyway: I still remember the first moment I entered the park in 2014.
We had driven over 20 hours from Wisconsin to get there, so I should have been pretty tired, but I was too excited to notice. The entrance archway came into view, and I could see the Hogsmeade rooftops peeking out above it. I could hear the Harry Potter theme song playing and at first I thought it was in my head, but thankfully I’m not that insane and they were actually playing the soundtrack. Walking into Hogsmeade, hearing the music… it really did feel magical. I may have even cried… just a little. (Judge me).
Our first stop was to say hello to the cheerful conductor of the Hogwarts Express.
Afterwards, we made a beeline for the Hogs Head Pub so we could try some Butterbeer. You guys… it was delicious. You can get it hot, cold, or frozen. We were there in the summer, so hot was pretty much out of the question, but I did try the cold and the frozen and both were amazing!
Butterbeers in hand, we explored Hogsmeade and did a little shopping.. . Of course, I had to pick up a Chocolate Frog from Honeydukes (and if you’re wondering, I got none other than Albus Dumbledore as my card).
Our next stop was the wonderful Hogwarts. I have to say… they did an awesome job with it.
It looks just like the actual Hogwarts, towering over the rest of Hogsmeade. Inside the castle is a ride called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Probably the best part about this ride (for me at least) was the line. I know… weird, right? But they themed this line really well. You walk through Dumbledore’s office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where there are some pretty impressive talking holograms of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. You see the sorting hat, the pensieve, the talking portraits, and even the greenhouse.
The ride itself is pretty cool, but it does whip you around quite a bit, so if you get motion sickness easily, don’t eat beforehand! Also… I don’t want to spoil anything, but… if you’re terrified of spiders (like me), then just be prepared to scream like a baby… 😉
There are two other rides in Hogsmeade, both of which are roller coasters. The only one we rode was the Dragon Challenge (because the other one is smaller and meant for younger kids) and it was a blast. I had been on this one before, back when it was called Dueling Dragons and the Harry Potter parks hadn’t been announced yet. The ride itself hasn’t changed, but now you get to walk past Hagrid’s Hut, the Weasley’s flying car, and the Triwizard Cup on your way to the ride.
I could not have asked for a more magical first visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Keep an eye out for my next post about the Diagon Alley portion of the park!
Have you guys been to the Harry Potter parks?! What was your favorite part?