Every Potter fan must be aware of the fantastic recreation of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both Orlando, Florida and Hollywood, California. But what is there to actually do inside Harry Potter world? And just how good are their representations of Rowling’s magical universe?
I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood, which is supposedly a lot smaller than the park at Orlando, but there’s still plenty to be see, do and eat. Whilst they don’t have every single shop from Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, they’ve done their best to recreate the streets with as many of the most important wizarding supply shops as possible. At Universal Studios you’ll find the shops: Honeyduke’s, The Owl Post, Zonko’s Joke Shop, Dervish and Bangs, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Gladrags Wizardwear and Hogsmeade Station.
So you’ve just received your Hogwarts letter. Let’s go on a magical adventure…
Get your school robes
First things first, you’re going to need to pick up the official Hogwarts School Robes. You can find these at Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment where they stock robes for all sizes and all houses. A set of robes will set you back a whopping $115 though (excluding tax) so perhaps it would be best to take a leaf out of the Weasleys’ book and buy them second hand!
Pick up your school reading
If, like Hermione, you want to read all the school textbooks before term even starts, then head to Dervish and Bangs to purchase The Monster Book of Monsters. It might look cute and furry but it will actually come chomping its way towards you if you’re not careful. Remember, stroke the spine and it’ll calm right down. This sh*t actually works – must be magic!
Let the wand choose the wizard
Ollivander’s is one of the three experiences you’ll have to queue for at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but it’s worth it to see inside this amazing wizard’s shop. As part of the experience you’ll be led into Ollivander’s where Ollivander himself will guide one lucky young witch or wizard in choosing their wand. Watch as they go through a selection of different wands before finding their perfect match. Then make your way through to the main shop where you can buy one of your own.
Boxes and boxes of wands line the walls of the shops with lots of different wand types on offer. Of course you could buy a character’s wand but it’s much more fun to pick one that suits your personality. There are panels with that describe the type of witch or wizard that suits each wand material and I ended up with Ash. There were three different Ash wands to choose from so I picked the one that felt right in my hands – the wand chooses the wizard after all!
NB. Each wand costs around $55. Cry.
Choose a magical companion
At Filch’s Emporium outside the ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (more on that later..), you’ll be able to purchase your own magical companion from your time at Hogwarts.
There are lots of fluffy friends to choose from including Hedwig, Errol, Crookshanks and more. If you’re feeling brave you could even pick up Aragog!
Buy a broomstick
Whilst broomsticks are ordinarily bought from Quality Quidditch Supplies, at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ll find them at Dervish and Bangs. Here you can buy a full size replica of the Nimbus 2000 or a Firebolt as well as Quidditch inspired sporting gear, golden snitches and more.
Hop on the Hogwarts Express
Now that you’ve got all the supplies you need, it’s time to catch the train to Hogwarts! The magnificent recreation of the Hogwarts Express awaits you as you first enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and this is a great opportunity to take a picture with the Hogwarts Express driver. Have a chat, shake his hand then strike a pose!
Eat a pumpkin pasty
Whilst you’re at the Wizarding World, you may as well try as the magical treats they’ve got on offer. Pumpkin pasties were sold on the Hogwarts Express so make sure to try one on your journey to Hogwarts. They’re sold in the Honeydukes store and are wonderfully sweet, though I imagine they could be improved a little if they were warmed up.
Listen to the Frog Choir sing
After Dumbledore’s welcome speech, it’s time for some light entertainment! Listen to the real life Frog Choir sing a variety of songs from the Harry Potter series in front of Hogwarts castle.
You’ll be treated to acoustic renditions of Double Trouble as well as Do The Hippogriff. You’ll have to check the Universal Studios app on the day you’re visiting to check what time the choir will be performing but it’s not one to miss!
Fly through Hogwarts
Flying through Hogwarts has to be the absolute highlight of anyone’s time at the Harry Potter theme park. The ride is called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and will take you on a thrilling ride through Hogwarts on the tails of both Harry and Ron. It’s one of the best rides in Universal Studios so the queue is often quite long but if you download the Universal Studios app, you can view the waiting times on there and plan your time accordingly.
To enter this ride, you walk through the gates of Hogwarts and through the school itself! You’ll see numerous statues, the house point counter, the Mirror of Erised, pass through Dumbledore’s office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, moving portraits and more. The latter is the most impressive as the portraits truly look like they’ve been painted but some sort of snazzy technology means there are screens underneath that show the portraits moving.
Do some magic
Remember that wand you picked up right at the beginning of this adventure? Well, turns out it can do real magic at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you’ve bought one of the interactive wands from Ollivanders then you will be able to perform a select number of spells within the park. You’ll find a map inside your wand box, revealing 15 locations dotted around the park where you can cast spells.
Find the gold circles on the floor, move your wand in the motion indicated on the map, say the words of the spell and if all goes correctly, you should see some magic happen! I won’t reveal too much but this includes dress robes that fly up and down, a moving cactus and more.
Celebrate the Triwizard Tournament
The Triwizard Tournament is about to get underway and Hogwarts is playing host to two of the world’s most impressive wizarding schools: Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Each school has put forward their finest students to put on a Spirit Rally for you so keep checking the Universal Studios app for the location and show times. There’s also a photo opportunity but these usually don’t last long so when you hear someone shouting that the Beauxbatons students have arrived, hurry on over.
Buy your dress robes
The Yule Ball is fast approaching and you’re going to need a set of dress robes if you want to impress the visiting wizarding schools! Hopefully you won’t have to wear hand-me-downs like Ron Weasley… Head to Gladrags Wizardwear and they’ll sort you out. On sale here are Hermione’s dress robes from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in both child and adult sizes! If I had a daughter I would’ve bought two sets and we could’ve played matchy matchy. In fact, I will be doing exactly that when I eventually have children.
Send some owl post home
Unfortunately you can’t send your postcards home via owl post but you can still get a Wizarding world of Harry Potter postmark instead, which is pretty special. Here you’ll find lots of Hogwarts embossed letter-writing tools including parchment paper and quills. There are also lots of owl-related products to buy though thankfully the Owl Post doesn’t smell nearly as bad as the Owlery at Hogwarts.
Pay Moaning Myrtle a visit
This experience just proves that no detail has been spared and Universal Studios really have pulled out all the stops. In the women’s bathroom (perhaps in the men’s too), you’ll hear the sounds of Moaning Myrtle floating about, complaining, as per usual, as you do your business. The toilets have been designed to look like those in the girl’s bathroom on the second floor of Hogwarts. It’s quite the experience!
Pick up a copy of the Quibbler
You’ve got to pick up the Quibbler just once to see what Luna’s always nattering on about, right? Complete with a set of spectacular spectrespecs, you’ll find copies of the Quibbler on sale at Gladrags Wizardwear.
Stock up on sweets at Honeydukes
Gorge yourself on all the sweets described in the J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series at Honeydukes. It really does look exactly how it looked in the films! Wildy colourful with sweets covering every surface, you could while away a whole afternoon in here checking out what’s on all the shelves.
My top suggestions have to be a chocolate frog and a cauldron cake. The cauldron cake costs $10 which is a little insane but it does come in a reusable cauldron cake mould so you can make your very own little cauldron cake again at home.
Ride a Hippogriff
It’s not often wise to trust Hagrid (ahem, “follow the spiders”) but he was right all along about Buckbeak. The Flight of the Hippogriff is the second ride at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and is much, much tamer than Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. As you queue for the ride you’ll pass replicas of Hagrid’s motorcycle (lent to him by Sirius), as well as Hagrid’s Hut.
As the ride begins, you’ll pass (and bow to) Buckbeak who is waiting patiently for you. Then you’re off whizzing round and round, getting fantastic views of Hogwarts Castle above you and Hogsmeade too. This ride is child-friendly though still quite exhilarating.
No trip to Hogsmeade is complete with a swig of Butterbeer. I’ve tried this concoction before at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. They seem to use the same recipe at Universal Studios but, as with everything else in America, the serving size is much, much larger.
There are two different options here and you can go for the normal fizzy drink version or the iced slushy version of Butterbeer. I opted for the latter, which is perfect for a hot day at Hogsmeade. If you want to upgrade your drink, you can choose to pay extra for a plastic tankard that you can keep afterwards. This costs twice as much at $13 as opposed to $7 but you do get a nice little souvenir to keep.
NB. Butterbeer is completely alcohol free!
Buy a joke item at Zonko’s Joke
Next to Honeyduke’s is Zonko’s Joke Shop where you’ll find lots of novelty Harry Potter items as well as jokes and even more sweets. I’ve never tried a puking pastille myself but if you want to prank an unsuspected friend then you can purchase these here.
Also on sale are a wide range of pygmy puff items including slippers, toys, blankets and more. They’re all super, super fluffy and will be a hit with the younger kids.
Eat at the Three Broomsticks
Last but by no means least, you need to pay a visit to the Three Broomsticks. You can stop by just for a pint of Butterbeer or you can have a whole meal. This is the only place to have lunch inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so it gets pretty crowded in the early afternoon.
The food options here are pretty decent with roast chicken, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie and more all on offer. Clearly that’s what Americans think good British grub is! Fair warning – as is always the case with America, the portions are enormous!
Next to the Three Broomsticks is the Hog’s Head, which is just another bar, but the two are connected.
So that’s just 20 magical things to do at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter but there’s so much to experience there that I’m sure you’ll find even more to do on your visit! For big Harry Potter fans this can turn out to be a very, very expensive experience so make sure you’ve saved up lots of money if you really want to make the very most of your experience!
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