For those of you that have been lucky enough to experience it, The Wizarding world of Harry Potter in Universal, Orlando Florida is a truly breathtaking experience. As far as theme parks go this section of the park is completely immersive in its theming.
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I was lucky enough to visit the attraction with a few friends recently. We booked our flights and villa accommodation through American Holidays (who also got us the best deal on our Universal theme park tickets).
We chose to begin our Harry Potter experience in Diagon Alley – a realistically faithful recreation of the franchise scenery complete with outlets from the books and films. (Both Diagon Alley and Hogsmede contain several of these including Dervish and Banges, Honeydukes, Ollivanders, Zonko’s Joke Shop, The Three Broomsticks and The Hog’s Head)
The main attraction in this part of the park is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, a rollercoaster that incorporates 3D elements. It is housed inside a replica of Gringotts Bank – a building guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. Your guide through the banks vaults is Bill Weasley who helps steer your cart to safety. The blending of the 3D elements is flawless making the rollercoaster itself a thrilling ride and one of the best in the park.
Ollivanders wand shop is a sight to behold. With wand boxes stacked high up to the ceiling and the wonky shelves it’s hard not to get caught up in the genuine excitement of young wizards picking their wands. If you are lucky enough you may even be among the select customers to enter the back room where Garrick Ollivander himself takes you through the wand choosing ceremony. A very special event for any Potter fan! (Interactive versions of all of the wands can be purchased to manipulate various features of the Wizarding World such as signs, fountains, shop mannequins etc)
When you’ve finished with the alley simply walk through the recreation of Kings Cross Station and down to Platform 9 & 3/4 to hop on the Hogwarts Express. The train not only takes you to the Hogsmede section of the park but is itself an immersive ride experience that changes depending which route you travel.
Hogsmede is also a visually stunning attraction with its snow-covered roofs and breathtaking Hogwarts castle – an amazing photo opportunity which houses the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. The queue for the ride takes the visitor through the corridors of the celebrated castle and past famous franchise props. The ride itself is an immersive blend of 3D elements and practical effects viewed from a seated rack position.
All in all we had an absolute blast in this part of the park! The scenery is so immersive and involving it’s hard not to get caught up in the magic.
A HUGE thank-you to everyone at Universal Orlando Resort Customer Services! When Universal learnt that 2 of our party were also on honeymoon (as well as holiday) they very kindly provided us with a complimentary gift card and their best wishes! A fantastic gesture which went a long way to ensuring the couple had an extra special holiday. We enquired with Disney to see if they offered a similar courtesy but they declined. They did however supply us with a list of purchases we could make to celebrate. (The MCU must be struggling for funds!)
And now to the good stuff! No journey to the Wizarding World would be complete without an ice-cold Butterbeer! The brew is available in various forms such as ice cream, or my personal favourite Frozen variety. But if like me you are feeling the financial pinch and can’t afford the air fares to Florida – try our CrazyDiscoStu ButterBeer recipe!
6 parts Cream Soda
1 part Butterscotch schnapps
1 part Vanilla Vodka
1 part caramel liqueur
and top off with a spoonful of Vanilla Ice cream
Served as cold as a Dementors kiss!
(if you’re feeling extra brave add a shot of Fireball Whisky for a Fire Butterbeer variety! You can find some of the ingredients in our Nerd Store)
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