At long last it is here. The post I promised you guys about our trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida. In truth I had trouble putting it into words. How does one properly describe an experience so long awaited? I was eight when the first book came out, so I have waited over twenty years for this type of experience.
We were there for two days, and yes we did splurge on the park-to-park pass specifically so I could ride the Hogwarts Express. We also stayed at one of the Resort Hotels and it was so nice!
I also had everyone else take sorting quizzes before going. The Hubby took the official one on the Wizarding World site, previously Pottermore, and was sorted into Ravenclaw. I found a couple of quizzes suitable for the kids, but they only confirmed what I had already suspected. Isbe is in Gryffindor and Ade is in Slytherin.
The Universal City Walk and Shortcuts.
Before I go into the wonderful description of the Wizarding World, I would like to give some quick information about the City Walk and the Universal Parks. If you have been to the parks before then feel free to skip this section.
However, if it is your first time going to Universal Studios in Florida, let me save you some of the confusion we experienced. Our very first day we arrived in Orlando, we decided to go to the City Walk for lunch. We parked in the garage and headed in the direction we were told to go, but all we saw were signs pertaining to the Attractions. After a long walk (made easier with moving walkways, by the way) we reached a central hub of security checks. We were really confused because Disney’s City Walk is an open district, or at least it was a few years ago when we visited. It really appeared as if we were heading into one of the parks itself.
We ended up asking a security guard and they informed us that the City Walk indeed was beyond the security checks. So if you are visiting Universal Studios Florida for the first time, know that you go through a security check then directly into the City Walk. The City Walk then leads, in separate directions, to the Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks.
Yep. You have to walk through the entire CityWalk and then through the entire theme park to reach either Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. So be prepared to walk. A lot. There are shortcuts throughout the parks, we only discovered the one in Seuss Landing, so be sure to research where they are prior to going.
As this was my first trip to WWoHP, I had to do it properly and that meant visiting Diagon Alley first.
Between the grandeur of King’s Cross and the businesses on Charing Cross Rd, there is a brick wall. Fortunately, you do not need a magic wand to tap the bricks away as it appears a well-intentioned witch or wizard has already done it for you. You simply walk through the magically made archway and into Diagon Alley. Feel free to pause and take in the wonder of finally being in the world of your childhood. I did.
Our first stop was none other than Ollivander’s, of course. We immediately got in line for the wand experience. It was early enough in the day that the line wasn’t too long, though it did wrap around the side of the building, and it moved fairly quickly. I didn’t even have time to finish my morning Starbucks before we were at the entrance.
Please Note: You cannot take food or drink into the experience with you! They will tell you this as you get in line. There is a trash can near the entrance for you to dispose of any food or drink. We were able to keep the kids’ water cups, but they were in the backpack and were not open cups.
While we were standing in line, the Dragon escaping from Gringotts decided to roar its pleasure and blast a fireball. We were close enough that we certainly felt the heat of it. Unfortunately, it was so great a blast, with so much noise, that it terrified Isbe. Absolutely terrified her. We spent the rest of our time in Diagon Alley with one ear carefully listening for the signs that the display was about to happen again and would rush into the closest shop any time we heard its sound. So be warned if you have littles. Ade did okay, but he did think it was really loud. I did, too, for that matter but we were practically right under it so I think that’s understandable.
None of us were chosen for the wand experience, but that is okay. I’m not sure either I or the hubby really wanted to be chosen. Isbe is certainly too young and Ade would not have stood in front of everyone by himself. In fact, certain times during the ceremony scared even him a little. It was nice to be able to just stand back and watch the experience. Ade and Isbe both asked why we couldn’t go up the stairs. Apparently they have a thing for stairs, too.
After the Wand Experience we made our way into the shop proper. I’m sure it will be no surprise to anybody that it was so packed it was almost hard to move around. It seems that they have done away with the simple replicas as all wands are now interactive. Not that I’m complaining.
To replace the non-interactive wands there is now a section of Ollivander Originals, I guess you could call them. If you do not want a movie-replica wand, you can get one that is made from one of the 12 wand woods. Shop assistants will help you find the wand that chooses you. Thanks to Pottermore, I knew beforehand that my wand would be made of Hawthorn, but since I do not like the current design of the Hawthorn wands, I had already determined to buy the wand of my fellow Ravenclaw, Luna Lovegood.
Hubby ended up going with Albus Dumbledore’s wand from the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Ade went with Peter Pettigrew’s wand because it was a snake (just don’t tell him it’s not a Slytherin wand) and Isbe, in a surprising move, chose Leta Lestrange’s wand. I say surprising because we all thought she would choose Seraphina Picquery’s wand with its pink gem. I was completely shocked when she dismissed it! But as we all know, the wand chooses the wizard.
After the other three picked their wands, I went on the hunt for mine. I searched and searched until I finally asked a shop assistant where they were located. Turns out, wands such as Luna’s, Ginny’s, Lucius’, and a few others were sold out park wide. In every park. I ended up going with Picquery’s pink wand.
I am going to tell you a not-so secret: If you are staying at the Orlando Resort, check the store in your hotel. They have a few wands and if there is a specific wand from the movie that you want, they may have it in stock even when the parks do not. We were staying at the Endless Summer Surfside Resort and prior to our park trip, I found Luna’s wand in stock there. However, I was so set on doing everything properly and in order that I chose to wait to purchase my wand at Ollivander’s. So I am telling you, even if you want to do everything properly, you might check the availability of wands both in park and in the resort hotel store.
Blessedly, I have a husband who insisted I go buy the wand I really wanted, even though I had already purchased a wand. To be fair, though, I had a gift card that I used for the majority of our purchases and it was with that money that I purchased the wands.
Madam Malkin’s Robes
After buying our wands we ducked into Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. When I say ducked, I mean we weaved around people who had stopped to watch the Dragon fireball blast and ducked into the shop as quickly as we could. It’s almost comical how people freeze in anticipation for it. One would think time had stood still outside the shop.
This time around, I was the only one to buy something. There was a tiny replica of Hermione’s Yule Ball dress that I was sorely tempted to buy for Isbe. However, everything is so expensive and children grow so fast, it’s almost pointless to buy them any clothes, even school robes.
Not to say they didn’t get anything. By the time our visit to the park was over, Ade was decked head-to-toe in Slytherin, Isbe had a Gryffindor headband (she loves headbands), and the Hubby had a Ravenclaw Quidditch shirt. I am simply the only one who bought a House Robe.
Now the robes have your average sizes, X-Small to XX-Large. After the XS, though, it goes XXS, XXXS, and 4XS. I purchased an X-Small robe, but afterward I began thinking I should’ve gone smaller as it is a tiny bit big for me. What I should’ve done was ask the shop keeper what size robe she was wearing because she was about my height and size. Oh well.
If you are wondering what the best feature of the robes are, I would say it is a toss up between the wand pocket and the deep regular pockets. Who doesn’t love pockets? The regular pockets are deep enough to store a wand in them if your wand pocket is already in use, something I inevitably had to do with the kids’ wands.
The robes can be hot, so if you’re going in late Spring or any time in the Summer and plan on purchasing a House Robe, I would advise wearing light layers underneath. I had on a tank top under a Ravenclaw t-shirt and had to finally take my robe off along with the Ravenclaw shirt after entering another park.
I’m sure you have heard of the magical mirror in Madam Malkin’s and I must say, it is as entertaining as I have read. Isbe was endeared to it when it paid her a compliment as she stood in front of it.
Be assured, we are not dark witches and wizards. We did, however, have to take a turn down Nocturn Alley. I must say it was pretty cool, both literally and figuratively. If you were to slip down this alley for a break on a hot day, I would not blame you nor be suspicious of your intentions.
It was in Nocturn Alley where we first stopped and cast a few spells with our new wands. I’m not sure who had more fun with it, me or Ade. There is a shop soon after entering Nocturn Alley, across from Borgin and Burkes, where you will find two casting spots as well as a blacklight. It may take a couple of tries to accurately cast the spell, but hey, it’s not like we’d been to Hogwarts yet!
Wand Movements: We learned that it’s better to make your wand movements smaller rather than bigger. It is swish-and-flick not wave-and-jab, after all.
We also visited the famous shop, Borgin and Burkes. Perhaps my favorite feature of the shop was the wall displaying Umbridge’s Proclamations. We didn’t stay long, just enough time to walk through it.
Make sure you look along the walls of the alley, there are wanted posters, such as one for Bellatrix Lestrange. In true wizarding fashion, these posters move.
Exploring the Shops.
Coming out the other side of Nocturn Alley, we headed to the Magical Menagerie. Ade spotted the big snake in the window, so we spent a few minutes watching it. My hubby did say he heard it speaking Parseltongue, but apparently I missed it. Oh well, all the more reason to go back.
After exploring the Menagerie, we headed over to Quality Quidditch Supplies. It was here that Ade bought his Slytherin socks. He loves those socks even though they’re so big, they become thigh-highs on him. I thought for sure I would buy something in this shop, too, because I’ve been wanting a Quidditch shirt. I imagine myself a Seeker and thought I had found the perfect shirt for me, but of course it had ‘Chang’ on the back. If you don’t know, I am not a fan of Cho Chang’s simply because she tried to take Harry away from Ginny. (I know that’s not really what happened, but I am a hardcore Hinny shipper, okay?) Anyway, I would’ve preferred a shirt without her name on it. Sadly I did not find another Ravenclaw Seeker shirt during our trip.
We had to make a quick stop into Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, but as it was getting close to lunch time, we did not stay long. We did buy the kids each an Edible Dark Mark Lollipop. I would have liked to explore it a little more, but that is true with everything in Diagon Alley. We decided, then, to hop on the train.
Amazingly there was not much of a line for the train. The first time. Walking through King’s Cross Station, it seemed almost deserted apart from the people who entered just ahead and behind us. Along with various advertisements for places in the UK, there are also stacks of luggage. In one such collection there is a white snowy owl perched on top of a luggage chest with the initials HP.
I was a bit worried before boarding the train as part of the show is a Dementor attack. For some convoluted reason, I was picturing something similar to the movie with the Dementors creepily opening the carriage door and attempting an attack on us. The image I had in my head would’ve terrified my kids. Probably would’ve terrified me, too. I am glad to report that that scenario did not happen.
There were six of us in the carriage together. On one side we had a “window” out of the train from which we could view the countryside as we sped along. The doors and windows into the train corridor is also a screen, but one of shadows. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that you do encounter, in some form or other, some of our famous Harry Potter characters, including the Golden Trio. I think my favorite part of the whole ride was the chocolate frogs hopping on the door, but that could be debatable.
I’m sure you are aware, but in case you are not, the ride to Hogsmeade and the ride back to King’s Cross are different. I join countless others who would agree that riding the train both ways is worth it. For me, it wasn’t just about seeing both shows, but more about closing out the experience properly.
Riding from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley was packed, probably because Hogsmeade was closing. It also didn’t help that there was a delay with the train at some point, otherwise the line would’ve moved better. It was still worth the wait, though.
Hogsmeade is the first park that was built and holds every witch and wizards home-away-from-home: Hogwarts. Though the weather was certainly warm enough to be summertime, the tops of the stores and pubs were covered in glittering white snow, undoubtedly held there by some magic spell. Isbe took one look at it and immediately asked if she could touch it.
Hogsmeade is also home to The Three Broomsticks and the Hogshead. Because we did not eat in the parks, apart from a cup of Butterbeer, I cannot judge the eating experience. I do know, after a brief research, that the Hogshead only serves drinks.
If it is Butterbeer that you are after, there are two Butterbeer barrel stations that I saw. Both are relatively close to both entrances of the park. They are bright red with a huge barrel and the word Butterbeer in bright yellow letters. You honestly cannot miss them.
Sadly, I found the Butterbeer underwhelming. Maybe I had hyped it up too much in my mind or maybe it just wasn’t what I expected. It is possible that the frozen option is actually a lot better, but we opted for the regular version this time around. Ade loved it and ended up drinking most of it. While we didn’t buy a souvenir cup, we did keep the plastic cup it came in. We rinsed it out later and brought it home with us. It’s currently sitting in my room alongside my Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans tin.
Our first stop of Hogsmeade was really the first shop we encountered, Honeydukes. Home to classic sweets such as Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Cauldrons, Rainbow Lollipops, Peppermint Toads, No-Melt Ice Cream, and Sugar Quills. I’m pretty sure one could get a sugar high just by entering the shop.
With its bright colors and shelves of candy, it is a lot to take in. I could have spent so much time in there looking at the packaging of each item. They even had HoneyDukes Mugs! Maybe it was just the time of day, but I seriously debated buying one for my morning coffee. It would’ve been the perfect size, too.
Instead I opted for a Sugar Quill and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. Just so you know, Bertie Bott’s comes in two different package types. One is cardboard and plastic and the other is a collectable tin. There is a significant price difference, as the collectable tin one was around $25.00 USD. Expensive, I know, but I deemed it a worthy souvenir and shelled out the cash for it. If you’re only in it for the Beans, feel free to get the less expensive packaging. Just don’t eat too many at one time, trust me. A cool thing about the Sugar Quill is you can actually write with it! Dip the tip in cold water and voila!
Honeydukes also has a fudge bar! Much like an ice cream parlor (that’s what HoneyDukes reminds me of, actually) there is a glass display case near the registers that holds all the different fudges and cauldron cakes. I really wanted to try the Butterbeer fudge, but like the Chocolate Frogs, I passed it up because I was concerned about there being chocolate in it.
For those who have Allergies: If you have a dairy intolerance or some other food allergy that prevents you from purchasing a Chocolate Frog, but you really want that Wizard collection card, know that you can purchase the cards individually elsewhere in the park. I believe you can purchase them in places such as Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods or Dervish and Banges. This is something I found out only after we were leaving the park and the stores were closed.
The Owl Post was next on my to-visit list. I was excited by the fact that you could actually send mail from there! They have everything you could want to write and send your own owl post, including various postcards, quills, and stationary.
As every writer will tell you, we collect notebooks. So without any hesitation at all, I purchased a pretty Ravenclaw journal. What will I use it for? I have no idea, but I’m sure the opportunity will present itself eventually. I also purchased a Ravenclaw wax and seal kit, something I have wanted for years and just couldn’t deny myself any longer.
I did not buy a feather quill simply because a friend of mine gifted me one from Ireland years ago. There was a quill and ink set that did tempt me, though. They also had pens in the shape of quills for those who don’t want to deal with the mess of an ink pot.
Simply put, if you enjoy writing in any capacity then the Owl Post is a shop you cannot miss.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
After obtaining my writing utensils, my House robe, wand, and riding the Hogwarts Express, it was finally time to head to the school.
At the first full look of Hogwarts Castle, I stood still in awe. The wonder and magic of it seemed to hit me all at once. It was in this moment that I fangirled the most. When my hubby offered to take my picture, I stood there unsure of what pose to even make. Am I even now conveying the emotion of the moment correctly?
As you have probably guessed by now, we did not go on any rides apart from the Hogwarts Express. I mention this now because Hogwarts itself is a line for the ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. However, if you are like us, they will let you simply tour the castle. It is an experience I highly recommend for any Potterhead. The Hogwarts Castle is amazingly well done, though I don’t recall seeing any moving staircases… I did see the Pensieve, The Mirror of Erised, and the House Points Hourglasses. You also walk through what I assume to be the Greenhouses before entering the main halls of the school, as well as Dumbledore’s office further in.
I could not stop taking pictures. I couldn’t. Not all of my pictures turned out well, though, because I was trying to be courteous to the people behind us and not hold up the line too much. The men behind us were nice enough to take a picture of us in front of Dumbledore’s office entrance (and forgave me when I accidentally took a picture with the flash on. I immediately apologized and explained that I thought I had turned it off, which it usually is every other time). The line to the ride was also short enough that we were able to step out of it and take un-interrupted pictures of a certain classroom.
The halls of the castle are filled with tapestries, statues, and portraits, and yes, the portraits actually move! Some occupants will even try to interact with you. One such occupant will invite you to come into the portrait with him. There are a few portraits closer to the ride area that will give you advice on how to stay on your broom (if I remember correctly). My mouth fell open in more awe when we walked into the Hall of Portraits. There were so many! I loved it. I’m not sure about the other founders, but there was definitely one of Rowena Ravenclaw, so maybe the other three are there, too.
If you are wondering what the actual ride is about, I believe it to be the Golden Trio working to get you, a muggle, out of the castle without being detected. I’m not 100% sure about that, though. There’s probably a better review out there of the actual ride if you wish to know more details about it. Personally, I was under the impression before that it was a Quidditch match! Maybe there’s Quidditch involved? The Fat Lady certainly seems to think so.
Towards the end, an attendant will ask you if you wish to see the Sorting Hat. I initially thought they were asking if we wanted to be sorted by the Sorting Hat. This is not the case. The Sorting Hat is the last “attraction” you see before entering the ride area. Basically they were asking if we wanted to exit right then or go a little bit further and into the ride portion. I’m not sure where that initial exit goes since we decided to continue on into the next part, but the ride exit leads into a gift shop.
An End of a Journey
We returned to Hogsmeade later on our second day partly to ride the train back to King’s Cross. Until that point, I was not at all ready to say good-bye to the Wizarding World, but as I walked off the train and out of King’s Cross, I felt that my journey was complete. I had entered through Diagon Alley, bought my school robes, a wand, even a journal and wax kit for writing and sending letters, I had visited Hogsmeade, and entered Hogwarts. Now I was off on another adventure knowing that I would be returning to do it all over again at some point.
As Harry said, “We’re not going home. Not really.”
More First Time Advice
I realize that there is so much more to explore in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. In truth, I probably missed so much because my head was spinning. I couldn’t think straight, I was so taken with everything. There were shops that I knew about and wanted to explore, but in the moment, I completely forgot about them. So my first advice is this:
Make a Plan and Write it Down.
Are there shops you want to see? Which rides do you want to go on? Is there a food you want to try? Is there a specific product you want to buy?
Write them down in an easily accessible place. I suggest your phone since you’re likely to have it with you at all times. I would go one step further than simply writing it down and suggest that you sort it based on which park it is in and how important it is to you to see it/try it/get it.
Give Yourself Time
There is nothing that says you have to do it all in one day. Unless you’re only going to be there for one day. Even if that’s the case, I suggest taking your time.
It is a lot of walking just to get to the parks, so I see no reason not to break up your park visits. If you only have one day, then visit one park in the morning and one park in the afternoon/evening. Take a break between them. And by taking a break, I mean leaving the park and relaxing for even a few hours wherever you are staying.
If you are there for more than one day then I still suggest breaking up your park visit and taking a break in the middle of your day. This will not only allow you to rest, it’ll give you time to evaluate what you have already done, what you still want to do, and what you would like to do again.
Purchase a Park-to-Park Pass
Apart from being the only way to ride the Hogwarts Express, it will save you a lot of walking. Without it you would have to walk all the way through one park back to the CityWalk and all the way through the next park. I’m not sure about you, but that doesn’t really sound like a lot of fun to me. So if you can afford it in your ticket package, let the Park-to-Park Pass be a no brainer.
Take a Backpack
Yes, I am serious, especially if you plan on making a lot of purchases. It will free up your hands. You can store the purchases in your backpack instead of carrying them on your arm through the entire park. You can also carry a water bottle or other drink in the holders on the side.
If you are going with young kids, don’t even bother with a diaper bag, just don’t. This is something we learned on our trip to Disney back in 2020. We brought our diaper bag and then ended up using the backpack instead. I don’t think I’ve used our nice diaper bag since then. If you need diapers and wipes, they can easily be stored in the laptop sleeve that comes in most backpacks.
Stay at the Resort
If you can, I would suggest staying at one of Orlando Studio’s resorts. They are really nice and you have special transportation to and from the parks. I’ve also read that you can send your purchases to your resort hotel room. I haven’t ever tried that, though, so you might double check. We stayed at the Endless Summer Surfside Resort.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It truly was a magical trip and I am so glad we decided to go.
Have you visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What was your favorite part about it?
Let me know in the comments!