The boy who lived.
He-who-must-not-be-named, dragons, friendship, the magic of Hogwarts and the familiarity and love of the Burrow. The astonishing world that J.K. Rowling created in her masterpiece, Harry Potter, has been brought to life in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with the help of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
I know I haven’t written my thoughts and reviews on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter yet – it is quite the undertaking… But, my husband and I got an awesome opportunity to go to the Wizarding World this past October and we discovered a few things that may help you in your adventure into the world of Harry Potter:
- Know when to go. If you have any control over what month/day you and yours go to the theme parks, there are certain months and days that are less crowded than others. I love/hate off-season traveling; but visiting Florida, specifically the Universal parks, are great to visit off-season. We went in October and the lines were minimal. The most we waited was 30 minutes for a ride and it wasn’t even in Harry Potter world. We also decided to go during the week vs. going on the weekend. Visiting on a weekday is a lot less crowded in the park!
- Be prepared to drop some serious cash on all the unique souvenirs and food/drinks. When you get to Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, you become fully immersed in the wizard life and you’re going to want to be a part of it too (don’t kid yourself). You or your kids are going to want wands, chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s Beans, the whole lot! Not to mention all of the cool drinks like pumpkin juice and their unique beers (with collectable mugs)! It can get pricey…Very quick. It’s amazing the detail they went into in recreating this.
- Regular wand or interactive wand? That is the question. What our group did is that we only got one interactive wand and then everyone else got regular wands. Ollivanders and Wands by Gregorovitch sells both types and are equally as cool to visit. I got a replica wand and my cousin got the interactive wand. We took turns using her wand to learn the spells at the practice stations throughout both parks. It’s amazing what they were able to do to give us the impression that we could do magic! We could shoot water at people, rebuild a suit of armor, and turn lights off and on! You even get a map to help guide you through your magical journey!
- Check out the ‘local’ pubs for some delicious grub. We went to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch whilst in Diagon Alley and it was fantastic. They have mostly authentic food to the UK and some foods that our American palates will recognize. I went simple and got the fish and chips and a Wizard’s Brew (stout beer). It was delicious. They even have little pubs and food/drink trolleys set up throughout both parks.
- Take the Hogwarts Express. It’s completely immersive from the moment you walk into Kings Cross. I’ll try not to spill too many details… But you get on an actual train that takes you from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade and you get to experience some of what Harry, Ron, and Hermione got to in the books! It’s a cool way to stay in the Wizarding World and cool off from the hot Florida sun.
- Try the butterbeer. Butterbeer is a wizarding staple and, in the parks, it’s served about 5 different ways. We tried it frozen, warm, and in ice cream form! I think it comes a few other ways, but we didn’t get to try them. My absolute favorite was, surprisingly, frozen. I don’t normally like slushies but frozen butterbeer was fantastic and refreshing. I had expected it to be too sweet, but it was more mild. It was also recommended to us to try a warm butterbeer with a shot of Firewhiskey in it… but that’s for those of us who are at least 21 years old!
- Go for the 2-park pass. Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure. It’s kind of inconvenient, but you have to get a separate pass for each park! When you get the 2-park combo pass, you do save some money… So it’s definitely the way to go. Also, keep your park passes at the ready if you are wanting to bounce between the two parks.
- Before you buy your 2-park pass, search around for the best deal! When we were in Florida, we stayed at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. This resort has quite a few concierge desks that offer different deals for different things (Disney desk, cruise desk, SeaWorld, etc). They had a Universal-Islands of Adventure Desk that was running a deal of which the 2-park pass for a WEEK was only $200/person. That was basically a steal and better than any of the other deals we saw. The standard price for a two day, 2-park ticket (also known as Park-to-Park) is $219.99 + tax/fees. Thankfully we waited to buy our tickets till we got to Florida so we could get that sweet deal!