The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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Theme parks are known for their thrills. Some have the ability to unleash your imagination, transporting you into an magical world. That’s the experience we had when visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

My whole family, kids and adults, are huge Harry Potter fans. We were beyond excited when we heard that Universal Orlando would be the home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Imagine walking the cobble streets outside of Hogsmeade or venturing into Hogwarts? A recent trip to Florida gave us the chance to experience the magic first hand.

The Wizardinig World of Harry Potter is located towards the back end of Universal’s Island of Adventure theme park.  As you enter you’ll be greeted by the Hogwarts Express and the track 9 ¾. Just like Harry and his friends enter their magical world by this train, it seems fitting that it’s the fist thing you see. It’s like your passageway into the magical world.

I have seen many images of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, both photos and illustrations, but nothing compares to seeing the attention to detail first hand. From cobbled streets to leaning shops, you could really imagine yourself walking through Hogsmeade.

wizarding world harry potter forbidden journey

Olivanders

Our first stop had to be Olivanders. No surprise we had to wait outside in a line that curved behind the building. Even on the rainy day we attended, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was busy and there was a line to enter the Olivanders experience. Of course you could just enter the store without going through the experience, but it’s the experience we came for.

The shop is small but we never felt over crowded. Staff ensured that kids were standing near the front so they could see the experience. Of course my oldest daughter was beyond excited about being picked for her wand fitting. The gentleman fitting the wand was great and got right into his part. The whole experience, trying different wands and seeing areas in the shop react, was great fun, even if one of our kids had not been selected.

wizarding world harry potter wand

After the experience we were ushered into the store where you could purchase your favourite character’s wands. My daughter received a wand from her experience, based on her birthday. I should point out that this wand isn’t given to you. If you want it you do have to buy it but what a great memento.

Dragon Challenge

Wands in hand, my oldest daughter and I were up for a Dragon Challenge. This is an outdoor roller coaster in which two dragons race against each other. The height restriction (at least54”) meant my two younger kids couldn’t enjoy the ride. Just like in the Tri Wizard Cup, your pathway to the coaster has you walkng through the tent waiting area. You even get to see the cup. This roller coaster is one where you hang below the rigging versus in a car. It was raining when we went on the Dragon Challenge so I think my eyes were closed for most of the ride but I did feel a lot of flips and turns. If you are the type of person who loves to sit at the front, there’s a separate line just for you. No more bugging the attendant to grab the first car. If you have a coaster fan you know what I mean.

Flight of the Hippogriff

The second roller coaster in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Flight of the Hippogriff, appeared to be a tamer car based roller coaster that all three kids were able to ride on. Unfortunately due to the rain and it being another outdoor coaster, it wasn’t operating during our visit. This will definitely be something to put on our list for the next visit, especially for my youngest.

wizarding world harry potter Flight Hippogriff

© 2012 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved. HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Of course the main attraction, the one we kept until the end, was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. We were all thrilled to be walking the halls of Hogworts Castle. I’ll come right out and say it up front; I was blown away by this ride. From the moment you enter the castle you enter the experience. The rooms you’ve only seen in movies, like the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom or the Portrait Gallery, are not flat images but actual rooms your walk through to get to the ride.

wizarding world harry potter portrait

© 2012 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved. HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. 

You sit side-by-side in a car that is then transformed, giving you the ability to fly with Harry and friends. The combination of movement, film, props and special effects make this like no other ride experience I’ve ever been on. We fly outside (virtually), avoiding buildings and down cliffs. We narrowly escape dementours that appear within arms length of our face. We dodge the whomping willow and avoid dragon attacks. There isn’t a dull moment on this ride as all your senses are drawn in. In the end we’re able to help Harry and we land safe and sound. Although we knew exactly what to expect on the ride, we were just as thrilled when we experienced it a second and third time.

My youngest was again too small for the safety harness on this ride (and there is a lot of rocking and tossing and movement). There is a child swap option for parents who want to experience this ride on their own or with older kids. There’s a room just to the side where riders get on the ride. My youngest daughter didn’t mind waiting as they played one of the Harry Potter movies on a screen in the room. As you get off the ride, instead of leaving you enter the rider swap room and the new rider goes has their turn.

We were lucky there wasn’t much of a line on our rainy day visit but I can see how this ride could include long wait times. Walking through and waiting in the various rooms of Hogwarts would easily make the experience more enjoyable and not seem like a ride wait line. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a must ride for any Harry Potter fan. It will definitely be a ride we will enjoy every time we visit Orlando Florida.

The Three Broomsticks Great Feast

After a morning of rides, it was time to grab something to eat. You could leave the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and enjoy the various dining options around Universal’s Island of Adventure but why break the spell cast over you in the park. Our next stop was the Three Broomsticks.  Here we kept things simple and ordered the Great Feast. This gave us a garden salad, rotisserie chicken (already quartered), grilled ribs, whole roasted corn-on-the-cob, roasted potatoes, and veggies. The Feast is designed to serve four but the youngest in our family of five doesn’t eat much so it worked out perfectly, avoiding the purchase of an additional serving.  I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food tasted, for a theme park restaurant.

wizarding world harry potter great feast

I had read that Universal Orlando had a seating structure in their parks that enables staff to find you a table versus having guests fight over seating. I didn’t notice this service when we attended but perhaps because the place wasn’t that busy, they didn’t see the need. I love the idea. Finding a table is one of the worst experiences when it comes to theme park dining with kids.

Although the Great Feast was wonderful, my absolute favourite treat was Butter Beer. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this but I knew I had to try it. It reminded me of cream soda but not as sweet and it was delicious. Of course we had to buy our serving in souvenir mugs. You can buy it cold or frozen. Frozen reminded me more of a slushie making the cold option my preferred choice. Butter Beer is something I would buy again and again, without the souvenir cup next time.

wizarding world harry potter butter bear mustache

After eating we did a little shopping, buying chocolate frogs and Pumpkin Juice at Honeydukes. The frogs are can seem expensive at $10 but these solid chocolate frogs are quite big, about the size of your hand. Plus you receive a collector card in the box, just like in the Harry Potter movies.

wizarding world harry potter honeydukes

My oldest daughter bought a time turner necklace at Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and I picked up Chinese Fortune Sticks at Zonko’s. They sit by our front door and get used everyday they’re so fun. Like the rides, the various shops contained their character making them a delight to walk around and find little surprises tucked here and there, like the ears hanging from a small area in Zonko’s.

wizarding world harry potter ears

We only had a day to spend at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and we used all of our time. Universal Studios Florida did an amazing job recreating a world that so many families have fallen in love with over the years. From the rides and shops to the window displays and staff, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is sure to impress any fan. We’re already looking forward to the day we can return.

Thanks to the folks at Universal Orlando for the opportunity to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Top image © 2012 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved. HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR.

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