Editor’s note: Thank you to Tina from sugarbeanbakers.blogspot.com for sharing this post about her recent visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and all of her incredible photos (don’t miss the gallery at the bottom of the post with more than 100 images).
This is a very long, photo heavy, and detailed post about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I realize I usually write about about food, but when I was planning my vacation, personal blog posts, a site called Orlando Informer, & friends who had already attended the park, were the most helpful to me, so I’m doing my part and giving back!
We’ve just returned from our vacation to Florida. It was just 2 close friends, the Bean, and me. We had such a great time, doing all things geeky! We went to The Magic Kingdom, Medieval Times Dinner Theater, squeezed in a little beach time, but most importantly, we finally made it to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
It. was. amazing.
So, sit back & let me tell you a little about my first trip (but definitely not my last) to Universal.
Of course, regular readers know, that I’m into all things Potter. So, I’ve been following the progress of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando since it was announced several years ago. For the last 2 years I’ve wanted to go oh so badly! We had preliminary plans that fell through early this year and, needless to say, we were pretty disappointed. However, in June, my friend Stephanie suggested we check into going together… and so we did! We held our breath waiting for something to go wrong. It never seemed like we were really going to be there. Not even when we were in the car on the way! It wasn’t until we walked through these gates that we truly accepted that we were there!
What can I say about Hogsmeade? Well, it’s beautiful. So detailed and amazing. I wish all the shops were open, but most are just store fronts. The shops that ARE open are teeny and have 6,000,000 people in them.. but.. I DID NOT CARE.
Alright, so they don’t have 6,000,000 people in them, but they are crowded and a little hard to navigate. We were there in September, which is, by the way, the slow season, so keep that in mind.
Let me just show you a few photos from Hogsmeade. I was obsessed with the rooftops. They were just so cool. They just had a tumbledown elegance. I wanted to take them all home and plant them in my backyard.
The first thing you’ll see is the entry to the town and the gleaming scarlet engine, The Hogwarts Express.
Hogsmeade as a whole is just as you’d imagine. Looks like you are walking the movie set. Hogwarts dominates the landscape. It is impressive and beautiful.
I found the best place in the park to get a gorgeous shot of the castle is on queue for The Dragon Challenge. The last two photos where taken from that vantage.
The Land: At Islands of Adventure, the different themes are sectioned off, of course. So, the ‘island’ of The Wizarding World itself is small. Hogsmeade shops, the train (for photo ops only, of course, but watch for the conducter, he’ll be glad to pose with you!), the castle, & 2 roller coasters (Dragon Challenge & Flight of the Hippogriff), but it is SO well done you won’t care. I was warned it was small, and yes, I WANTED more, but I didn’t NEED it, if you know what I mean. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m over the moon excited that they are expanding and cannot wait to see that, but, I was satisfied.
The Shops: Open shops are Honeydukes, Zonkos, Dervish & Banges, and the Owl Post (where you buy wands). In Hogwarts you’ll exit the ride, The Forbidden Journey, through Filtch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods. Ollivanders is open, but is a show, not a shop.
Honeydukes had everything from the books that you could imagine. Ton Tongue Toffee, Fizzing Whizzbees, Sherbet Lemons, Chocolate Frogs, Fudge Flies, Cauldron Cakes, Rock Cakes, etc, etc, etc. It looked so much like the movie. So much fun. I wanted to buy ALL THE THINGS, but I limited my self to the awesome glass jar of Sherbert Lemons with the Honeydukes logo, a Chocolate Frog, & a Cauldron Cake.
Let’s talk about those, eh?
The Cauldron Cake ($3.95) was quite yummy. Chocolate cake with a chocolate handle, with a chocolate mousse type filling.
The Sherbert Lemons, are simply, Lemon Drops, which are just about my favorite candy ever. They (and a few other varieties) come in an awesome Honeydukes logo-ed glass jar ($12.95).
The Chocolate Frog is MASSIVE. It’s also $10, but it’s over 5 ounces of solid chocolate. Comes in the cool box & with a Famous Witch or Wizard Card (we got Godric Gryffindor).
Zonko’s is a joke shop in the movies & books. In the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter it’s more or less a toys & novelty store. It was fun to wander around, but nothing struck our personal fancies. Where Zonko’s & Honeydukes combines, look up, and you’ll see sneaky Fred & George’s Extendable Ears.
Please note my sweet son in front of the window display.
Owl Post: This is where you go to buy wands. You do not have to stand in line for the Ollivander’s show if you only want to purchase a wand. There is also a wand cart outside of the castle, however, the one outside the castle sells character wands only.
In here you can buy postcards & US postage stamps (along with other assorted items). The stamps are very expensive, $15/for 10, but they have either the Ministry of Magic Logo, Owl Post Logo, or a Hogwarts crest. They will postmark all of your cards upon request with “Hogsmeade”. You can also take letters/cards into the park and they will postmark those as well! Very cool!
Dervish & Banges: Dervish & Banges is connected to the Owl Post. In it you’ll find assorted souvenirs. There are things like (seriously expensive) robes, quaffles, drinking glasses, keychains, the Triwizard Cup, and just about anything else you can think of. The Monster Book of Monsters is in here & if you watch it a while, it will snap at you.
Filtch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods: As I mentioned, you exit The Forbidden Journey ride through this shop. Lots of Hogwarts/House branded items. Stuffed animals, glasses, cups, and for the first time in the park, I found copies of the books for sale! It’s VERY dark in here, as it is in the castle itself. It’s got cool decor though, including a Marauder’s Map with moving footprints, Death Eater masks, and lots of items Filtch has gathered over the years. If you look hard enough you will even see Hogwarts student’s files.
Shows:Unfortunately, we missed the Triwizard Show. I was very sad about this.
The Frog Choir: We heard them preform “Hedwig’s Theme”, “Double, Double, Toil, and Trouble” & the Weird Sister’s song “This Is The Night”. They were very good.
Ollivander’s: The “show” itself lasts about 5-10 mins at the most. The Ollivander we had was great. He had a great accent, presence, & was just an all around good actor. They allow like 12 people in at a time, so the queue can be LONG. We waited about 20 mins and it was a SLOW day. I’ve heard it can sometimes be 2 hours long. From every group they pick one person- my 15 year old got picked, so the wait was totally worth it for us. He tried 2 wands with varying effects of bad, until he found the right one and the lights lit up, just like in the movie. It was so much fun! If you didn’t get picked though, it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. If you DO get picked, you are gonna wanna shell out the $30 for the wand. Clever marketing! If you want a wand, they are next door, as I said, at the Owl Post. You don’t have to wait in the Ollivander’s line to buy one.
Lunching in The Three Broomsticks is great. The food is OK, the atmosphere is amazing. I read that they drew up the plans for the one at the park, then used those to make the movie set, so to say it’s authentic looking is an understatement. Watch for house elf shadows in the ‘upstairs’ part of the building.
Food: For my food, I got the Shepherd’s Pie & Salad. I figured… when in Britain, you know. It was good. Not knock my socks off delicious, but good. Everyone else got the chicken or chicken & ribs (which is served with roasted corn and roasted potatoes). They liked their lunches as well. It is theme park food, and therefore, a bit expensive. The price for my Shepherd’s Pie was $9.99 & the Chicken/Ribs platter was $13.49.They serve other items as well: Fish & Chips for $11.99, Cornish Pasties with Garden Salad for $7.99, Smoked Turkey Leg (with wedge fries) for $11.99, a Rotisserie Smoked Chicken Platter (with roasted corn and roasted potatoes) for $9.99, Chargrilled Rib Platter (again with the corn & potatoes) for $13.49. There’s a kid’s menu for ages 9 & under featuring Fish & Chips, Mac & Cheese, Chicken Fingers, or Chicken Legs for $4.99/each. There are various sides, drinks, and desserts you can purchase as well.
You can also get the ‘Great Feast’ (a platter for four) for $49.99. It consists of salad, chicken, ribs, potatoes, and corn.
Butterbeer comes in 2 varieties: On Tap & Frozen. In this photo you’ll see one of each. These are also in the awesome souvenir mugs. They run $9.99 for a mug of on tap Butterbeer & $10.99 for the mug of frozen. You can get the Butterbeer in disposable cups for $3.25 for on tap or $4.25 for frozen.
I loved the on tap version. I thought it tasted like liquid cake batter- and really- you can’t say no to that. The kid liked the frozen much better.
In addition to The Three Broomsticks, you can also get Butterbeer in The Hog’s Head Pub & there are a couple Butterbeer carts in the streets of Hogsmeade.
Darla told me if you drink the on tap version slowly, that the foam (best part!) seems to regenerate… and you know what?? She’s right!
The Hog’s Head is attached to The Three Broomsticks. You can buy beer in there, if you drink. Loved the look of that too. It’s less crowded than The Three Broomsticks & if you just want a Butterbeer while you get out of the Florida sun. I wanted a Hog’s Head Mug, but I don’t drink, so I asked if I could still buy one. Sure, but the price was the same ($11) with or without beer. They wouldn’t fill it with Butterbeer either. So… I did what any good Potter nut would do. I shelled out the $11 without batting an eye.
Here is the mug, I took this here at home, it’s like, my favorite mug in the history of the evers. I like it more than the Butterbeer mugs, it’s fatter.
By the way, be sure to HANDWASH the Butterbeer & Hog’s Head mugs so the logos won’t scratch off!
Flight of the Hippogriff is a ‘family coaster’, meaning it’s small & not too scary for little ones. I apologize for the one terrible photo I got of the ride itself, but I was more interested in Buckbeak & Hagrid’s Hut. It’s a fun little coaster and it gives you an AWESOME view of the park (wish I could have taken photos from up there), but it’s short.. and I do mean SHORT. I’d say the ride lasts under a full minute. We walked right on with no wait. I, personally, wouldn’t stand in line for it more than 15 minutes. The queue does, as I said, show you Buckbeak & Hagrid’s Hut, however, the better view of the Hut is in the Dragon Challenge queue. Buckbeak is so beautiful! He bows to you, of course. You should probably bow first, you know how Hippogriffs are!
The Dragon Challenge: My kid is not a coaster fan, I will ride them, but didn’t want to alone. The dragons both go upside down. Even if you aren’t riding, walk the queue (if it’s not a long wait). Outside there are banners for the contestants & the Ford Anglia. It goes into a castle type thing (but not THE castle). You start in the tent at the beginning of the 1st task, then you walk through the castle, you’ll see the Goblet of Fire, The Triwizard Cup, The Golden Eggs, and floating candles. It’s also got a great view of Hagrid’s Hut. It’s also got the best view of Hogwarts for photos!
The Forbidden Journey: NOW- the Castle & Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Gorgeous, amazing. love. Love. LOVE. The queue, again, is a must go. You are routed through the castle. You start in the greenhouse then go past the entry to Dumbledore’s office. In the Greenhouse, look for the Mandrakes! You’ll see talking portraits, including Founders & The Fat Lady, statues, the Sorting Hat, the Pensieve, you’ll see Dumbedore’s office where he will speak to you, the DADA room where the Trio will talk to you. Ron made it snow on us, that was SO awesome. Then you’ll go to the ride. It’s a bench type seat, 4 people to a bench (but individual). You’ll start off with Hermione enchanting your bench, then you start to fly. It twists, turns, flips, etc. It’s very 4D. People with motion sickness should NOT ride it. You feel like you are flying with Ron and Harry, it’s awesome. SO awesome. I was scared it would bother me, but it didn’t at ALL. I wanted to ride it 100 times… I only rode it 2 though. Our friend didn’t like it though, it made him woozy. Since I’m a huge massive nerd… it made ME cry. Ridiculous, eh?
You cannot take bags or cameras. My friend, Stephanie, walked the queue, but didn’t ride, so I was able to take my camera, then when she had to exit, she took it with her. Lockers are provided. They are free WHILE YOU RIDE, but after that you have to pay. I believe it was $3 a half hour, max of $20. Yowtch! You are ushered straight into the locker area where the workers tell you to check all your bags before proceeding.
I think I’ve covered about everything I can. Please hit me up with any questions! I hope that you find this post helpful.
I’ m SO excited for the expansion that is currently underway & cannot wait to go back! I’d go back tomorrow!
These sunset photos were taken just outside Seuss Landing with the castle across the pond.
My only complaint about the time of year we went was that it closes at 7pm. I’d love to see Hogwarts & Hogsmeade lit up at night.
This place is magic.
Editor’s note: Again, I want to thank Tina from sugarbeanbakers.blogspot.com for sharing this post with us. For those interested in learn more, be sure to check out our Complete insider’s guide to the Wizarding World. Also, don’t miss Tiny’s complete photo gallery below.
Click any image to view it full-screen. When the full-screen image is open, click to the right or use the right arrow on your keyboard to advance through the gallery. If several thumbnails are missing, try reloading this page in your browser.
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