Wizarding World of Harry Potter

by Christy on

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade and have never heard of this Harry Potter bloke, I’m starting off with a two minute clip (featuring finger puppets!) that’ll more or less bring you up to speed.

Go ahead and watch, I’ll wait.

I love Harry Potter, so before we left Florida we had to make a detour to Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter to see how well the theme park portrayed the world of Hogwarts.

Tickets were outrageously expensive, access required hiking through Dr. Seuss-land, and there were hoards of overly-rambunctious children running around screaming and frothing at the mouth, but none of that mattered once we reached the gates of Hogsmeade.

Hogsmeade at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Whoever designed the Wizarding World of Harry Potter did a great job capturing the ambiance of Hogsmeade, with its snow-capped buildings and fancifully-attired worker elves selling butterbeer from wooden barrels. We were surprised by the extent to which it actually felt like a quaint little wizarding village (ableit one full of ridiculous muggles). Well done, Universal Studios, well done.

Once we finished running around and squeeling in delight our initial inspection, we discovered that there are essentially three things you can do here: eat like a wizard, ride like a wizard, or shop like a very wealthy wizard who needs a lot of over-priced stuff.

Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks

The Hog’s Head wasn’t open for business, so we opted for lunch at the Three Broomsticks. Given the length of the line we figured it would take forever and a day to get our food, but nope! The menu was quirky (what the heck is a Cornish pasty?), but we settled on the shepherd’s pie (which was terrible) and the fish and chips (which were, no pun intended, magical).

And, of course, a butterbeer.

A deliciously creamy butterbeer, tasting strongly of butterscotch and imbued with a hint of euphoric ecstasy. Yes, it’s served in a plastic cup, but you gotta let little things like that slide to keep the dream alive. We’re in Hogsmeade!

Three Broomsticks at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Pumpkin Juice at the Wizarding World of Harry PotterButterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Three Broomsticks at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Vomiting the Previously-Imbibed Butterbeer on a Rollercoaster

OK, so we didn’t actually up-chuck our butterbeer (I know, ew), but that’s only because we avoided two of the three rides. We had no intention of enjoying the Dueling Dragon Challenge or the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coasters, even though there were supposedly some pretty cool sights along the queue lines (like the Triwizard Cup and Hagrid’s Hut).

However, we absolutely could not miss the signature ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Not only is it the only to see inside Hogwarts, but the ride itself utilizes cutting-edge robocoaster technology. Riders are strapped four abreast on an “enchanted bench” connected to a robotic arm that can pivot on six axes at once while simultaneously moving along the track… the result is a surprisingly-immersive roller coaster/virtual reality hybrid machine that wooshes you through traditional dark ride sections interspersed with video sequences synced to the motions of the bench. Over all, very impressive.

Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

In the spirit of complete honesty, though, I’ll admit that I found the experience mildly terrifying (it’s OK, I compensated by repeatedly squeezing my eyes shut). While more emotionally than physically disturbing, I did experience a little nausea, and only part of that was due to the disgusting spider that spit in my eye.

Before getting on the ride itself, the thirty minute wait in line winds through Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, corridors with talking portraits, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and a hollographic conversation with Harry, Ron, and Hermione that establishes the backstory for how a bunch of muggles like us are going to be able to fly around the castle. Unfortunately you can’t bring any bags or large cameras on the ride with you, though, so we weren’t able to capture any of this on film.

Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Finding the Right Wand

The main thoroughfare of Hogsmeade is lined with all your favorite shops: Zonko’s Toy and Joke Store, Honeydukes, Ollivanders Wand Shop, and the Owl Post, where postcards will actually get delivered with an authentic Hogsmeade postmark.

Hogsmeade Store at the Wizarding World of Harry PotterHogsmeade Store at the Wizarding World of Harry PotterHogsmeade Store at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

We bought some of Bertie’s Every Flavored Beans at Honeydukes and had a few fun surprises. Luckily we didn’t encounter any earwax or snot (which a Honeydukes employee gleefully assured us were included… I assume she was joking, but she was very convincing), but we did stumble on black pepper, jalapeno, and what was apparently dirt.

Honeydukes at the Wizarding World of Harry PotterEvery Flavor Beans at the Wizarding World of Harry PotterHoneydukes at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Next door was Ollivanders Wand Shop, where a handful of patient participants could watch a real demonstration of Ollivander finding just the right wand for a lucky lass or lad. There was quite a line, though, so if you’re the impatient type you can just wander into the store next door to buy wands “like” those used by Harry, Ron, Hermione, and other major characters. Kali was particularly enthralled with Voldemort’s wand (should we be worried?), but at sixty bucks a pop he decided to carve his own from a stick of wood. More economical, and hopefully slightly less evil. ;)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Owl Post at the Wizarding World of Harry PotterWands at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was quite an experience. Yes, it’s all a big tourist trap, gimmicky, and overly commercialized. All that notwithstanding, though, we certainly enjoyed ourselves, and I’d say Universal has actually done a pretty good job recreating a slice of Hogsmeade in central Florida.

What do you think?  Have you ever been or do you want to go to the Harry Potter Theme Park?

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Camels & Chocolatetwitter: LunaticAtLarge March 1, 2011 at

Oh my gosh, we pretty much wrote the same post, ha! I was there over Christmas with my family and a couple friends and drank THREE Butterbeers in one day, and all five of us got super nauseous riding the Forbidden Journey ride (even though we did it three times). Glad we’re not just weird =) Funny how a ride that seems so tame can make everyone feel so sick!

There were no lines for the rides while we were there (it was absolutely pouring out), so we got to do Forbidden Journey and Dueling Dragons several times, but due to being inside, the Wand Experience wait was forever, so sadly that was one thing I had to pass on! Next time…
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Christy March 1, 2011 at

I was so nervous riding the Forbidden Journey – I get nauseous really easily and there were signs everywhere that said “CAUTION: Don’t ride if you experience motion sickness.” I almost turned back multiple times. :P The ride was awesome, but some of those scenes really make your stomach drop.

We actually didn’t get to see the wand thing, either; I had read about it and was really excited, but the line was forever long (in the sun). At least there’s always a next time, lol.


Claire March 1, 2011 at

I’m so tempted to go down to Orlando to go to it. I don’t usually go in for these kind of tourist traps, but I’m a little bit obsessed with Harry. Actually just after reading your post I checked out flight prices to Orlando! Unfortunately a little to pricy for the near future.
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Christy March 1, 2011 at

Yeah, we’re not big fans of theme parks, but this one was calling to us. We actually re-watched all the movies leading up to our visit there, so we were immersed in Harry Potter! Now I’m going through withdrawal symptoms. :P


Erica March 2, 2011 at

I just turned to Shaun and said, “You DO know that if we are in Florida that you HAVE to take me to the Harry Potter themepark, right? I don’t care HOW much we have to shell out.”
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Christy March 2, 2011 at

Haha, that’s pretty much how our conversation went. Kali was skeptical (“what are we even going to do there?”) and I responded with “ZOMG HARRY POTTER!”


Erica March 4, 2011 at

ZOMG Harry Potter is the perfect answer!
Erica recently posted: Fur Babies- Your Fuzzy Children


Connie March 2, 2011 at

I may be forever labeled a dork, but I kind of like these types of theme parks! HARRY POTTER!!! The video is hilarious. Wow, would love to go the next time I find myself in Florida.
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Christy March 2, 2011 at

Nothing wrong with being a dork. ;) And that video has given us more hours of entertainment than I care to admit….


OurTakeOnFreedom March 2, 2011 at

As a non- Harry Potter person, that still looks awesome. My only tangential relation to Harry Potter is through geocaching, where non-geocachers are referred to as muggles.
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Christy March 2, 2011 at

I had no idea non-geocachers are referred to as muggles! I’ve seen similar references in a few other places online, though, and it always makes me laugh. :)


jill- Jack and JIll Traveltwitter: jacknjilltravel March 2, 2011 at

Would I go? YES, YES, YES!!! The gawdier the better… I want to see the whopping willow, the hippogriff, and … (start thinking that Florida’s somewhat on the way to Colombia — as a matter of fact, I think we have a stopover there. Hmmm…)
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Christy March 2, 2011 at

Ha, it would so be worth scheduling a layover in Orlando just to go there! But it would have to be a long layover – we spent most of a day just in the Harry Potter section and only briefly looked at the other areas on the island.


Melissann March 2, 2011 at

Ok, you know how jealous I am! Now I want to go read Harry Potter and instead have to write, write, write final papers. But knowing me, I’ll keep sneaking back to your post and eventually end up watching an HP movie for a break. Look at the monster you’ve created! ;)


Christy March 2, 2011 at

I kept thinking of you while we were there! You would have loved it, and you know I’m a strong advocate of giving yourself a break to watch one of the movies. :)


Melissann March 4, 2011 at

It’s funny because I found my old Hogwarts backpack at home and brought it back since it’s easier on my back than a bag that goes over one shoulder. I guiltily wore it to school today–of course, I’m in a Ph.D. program with a HP bag. :) Cannot wait to see you–so, so soon now!


Christy March 4, 2011 at

That is so priceless and so incredibly awesome. Too bad you aren’t teaching this year. ;) I’m sure you’re rocking that HP backpack out like nobody’s business.


Kenan Lucas March 3, 2011 at

Those photos like like they have come from the movie set of the series. Amazing. The plastic cups are probably a safety thing right?
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Christy March 3, 2011 at

Why, thank you! :D

Yeah, they probably didn’t want the possibility of broken glass with so many kiddos running around. You could also buy the butterbeer in more official-looking souvenir mugs (and I think it came with free refills?!), but even those were a durable plastic.


Chloetwitter: campinginheels March 10, 2011 at

I’m a HUGE Harry Potter nerd, so I was devastated when I found out it wasn’t opening until September last year (about 6 months after I would have left the states). Must plan a trip there – hopefully some of the crowds will have died down a bit!

These photos look awesome, and being a candy freak as well I think I could do some serious damage in Honeydukes ;)
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Christy March 10, 2011 at

It would have been so infuriating to visit the area right before they opened the HP section… so close, but so inaccessible! I’d definitely agree that it’s worth a second visit, though. ;)


Christina April 10, 2011 at

Wow, thanks for sharing your Harry Potter experience! Amazing what you get to see in Florida. I’ve never been to the theme park, but I have been on the movie sets, sat in the Great Hall and walked through the Ministry of Magic. That was great but certainly the big studio lights keep you from feeling immersed in the story!


Christy April 11, 2011 at

Visiting the movie set would be really cool! But yeah, it probably wouldn’t feel very “real”…. and of course a theme park does, lol.


Jennie June 25, 2011 at

OMG!!!!! We took our Senior Trip to Orlando, FL and we took 2 days and went to Universal. OMG I never wanted to leave the Wizarding World it was so realistic and breath taking. I went to Olivander’s and bought Hermione’s wand. I went to Zonko’s and Honeyduke’s and bought Botty Bert’s Ever Flavored Beans, A Chocolate Frog, and A Chocolate Wand. I rode the Dragon Challenge and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey rides. I’ve never been to a theme park that was so realistic and spot on about things. The people were awesome, one of the days we were there we saw the choir perform. I really wanna go back. I’d really love to get a job and play a wizard there. I loved the people being in character which made it even better. I also loved that they had some of the stuff from the movies. I saw the beautiful pink/purple dress Hermione wore to the ball. The people at Universal have out done themselves with this park. Going there will be an amazing memory I carry with me the rest of my life. It was such an unforgettable experience! :D


Christy June 25, 2011 at

I agree, Jennie! We were so impressed with how well it was done; it could have come out awful if Universal Studios had focused entirely on the money-making side of things, but they kept the park small and intimate and so authentic-feeling. If I lived in Orlando (or even Florida!) I would go back all the time. :) We didn’t have the chance to see everything we wanted, and I really wish we could have taken more time walking through Hogwarts on the way to the Forbidden Journey ride. And we didn’t even go on two of the rides! The Harry Potter theme park really is incredible, and thinking about it all again has made me even more excited for the new movie (if that’s even possible)! :P


Mark September 23, 2011 at

WOW! I would want to go to that place! As a HUGE Harry Potter fan, being able to “experience” the wizarding world would be great. Is the ticket price worth it?
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Christy September 23, 2011 at

When we paid for the tickets we were cringing at the price and kept muttering that it better be worth it (we’re so crotchety, lol), but by the end of the day we definitely knew we had made the right choice! Kali’s not even that huge of a Harry Potter fan (I know, the horror!) and he had a blast.


Shanna Schultz December 30, 2011 at

Ok, I HAVE to go now. This looks awesome. Looks like a great excuse for a little warm weather later when winter starts to drag on and on forever here in MN!

I am also excited about the opening of the Making of Harry Potter attraction outside of London. It is located at the studio where some of the movie was filmed and its features some of the original sets (including the Great Hall and Dumbledor’s office!)
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Christy January 3, 2012 at

There’s another one opening outside of London?!? Yesss! There’s also another attraction like the one in Orlando being built in California, so now you’ll have two places to go to escape the MN cold. ;)


Tash March 10, 2012 at

Oh! I have booked a stopover in Florida for a trip next month to go here, so this post has just made this all the more exciting! I cannot wait! Ha!
Tash recently posted: Harry Potter: The Exhibition


Christy March 10, 2012 at

Yay! A stopover for some Harry Potter fun is a brilliant idea — have a butterbeer for us! :D


Tawny- Captain and Clark May 8, 2012 at

So COOL! We’re pretty big Harry Potter fans and would love to get our hands on some butter beer. We’ve got to plan a trip sometime soon.


Christy May 11, 2012 at

The butterbeer was actually really tasty! I was skeptical at first, but that first smooth sip won me over. ;)


Memographer July 25, 2012 at

I just need to go there and get the right wand. Cant wait!
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