Two years ago, I introduced my six year old to a boy named Harry Potter. I’d already seen all the movies but had never read the books. So I purchased the entire set and he and I entered the magical world together.
We read every night and promptly fell in love with the series. I devoured the other books within two weeks, often staying up well past midnight to finish them.
So when we decided to take a trip to Universal Studio Orlando this summer, I knew we were in for a HUGE treat. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter encompasses both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and I had heard wonderful things about that section of Universal. But would it live up to the hype?
Oh my gosh! You guys, I have literally been searching for weeks to find the right words to describe the overall Harry Potter experience. We didn’t spend nearly enough time there. Honestly, I could probably have wandered between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade for an entire day by myself, just absorbing the awesomeness of it all.
Here’s a quick run-through of some of the things you can do while you’re touring the World of Harry Potter:
Escape from Gringotts – 3-D/4-D thrill ride for anyone over 42″/ Under 48″ must have an adult with them
First off, both kids loved this ride (I did too!). We rode it three different times. You travel down into the vaults of Gringotts with Charlie Weasley and of course, trouble shows up. The attention to detail throughout the entire experience was amazing. I mean just look at these photos. The goblins looked SO REAL. And even if you don’t ride the ride, the fire breathing dragon outside is pretty cool to watch.
Leaky Cauldron – Enjoy a bite to eat at this famous pub in between shopping and riding Escape from Gringotts
Ollivander’s – Choose a wand or let the wand choose you. Throughout the day, Ollivanders has wand choosing ceremonies, but if you don’t have time (or don’t get selected) you can simply pick out your perfect wand in the shop.
Knockturn Alley – Make sure not to miss taking a turn down Knockturn Alley. Be sure to pop into Borgin and Burkes as well.
The coolest thing about Hogsmeade is the way it makes you feel. First of all, it has Hogwarts looming the background, which in and of itself, is simply amazing. But it just feels like it should be winter (even when it’s 90+ degrees out during your visit).
Flight of the Hippogriff – Super cute kids coaster near Hagrid’s hut. We rode this one twice. It’s quick but fun.
Three Broomsticks – Grab a meal or some butter beer at this classic Harry Potter establishment.
Honeydukes – Looking for a candy fix? Pop into this sweets shop for an afternoon treat.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – Simply waiting in line for this ride was worth the wait. I loved all the detail put into Hogwarts. The paintings talk; you get a glimpse into Dumbledore’s office and into a Dark Arts classroom. Word of warning though – this ride is rough for any one even slightly prone to motion-sickness.
Things not to miss in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Hogwarts Express – If you have park hopper tickets, you can ride the Hogwart’s Express from Diagon Alley to Hogmeade and from Hogmeade to Diagon Alley. The experience is a bit different each way, so be sure to check it out!
Interactive Wands – When you stop at Ollivanders, it’s worth the investment in purchasing the interactive wanders vs the regular wands. My kids had a blast casting spells all over Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
ButterBeer – Sweet, sweet butterbeer. And I do mean sweet. It’s definitely worth trying but it’s quite rich, so you might considering getting one or two for your family and splitting it.
The Knight Bus – In London, right before you go into Diagon Alley, make sure you stop and check out the Knight Bus. It even has the Shrunken Head that you can see in the Prisoner of Azkaban film.
Have a blast on your trip! We can’t wait to go back. (There is a new Harry Potter ride in the works for 2019!)
Heading to Universal Orlando Resort? Make sure to check out these posts too.
Photos provided by Melinda Johnson of Melinda Jae Photography and A Parenting Production.