As a huge fan of the Harry Potter (film) series, I am quite surprised it took me so long to make a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando. The reason I’m surprised is because I usually visit Florida once a year, if not, then at least every other year. Whenever I go, it’s always for a short amount of time, and the first thing on my mind is to relax, and go to Disney! I love going to Disney World as it is fun for all ages, and each time you go, it’s always a different experience. This time however, I decided to skip out on Disney World and instead make a trip to Universal Studios, and visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Firstly, the area is split between the two parks at Universal. The first was opened in June of 2010 in Islands of Adventure. This area comprised of a recreation of Hogsmeade, and the Hogwarts Castle. The second expansion of the park was in the Universal Studios Florida area. This part was opened in July of 2014, and comprised of a recreation of London and Diagon Alley, with a full scale, working replica of the Hogwarts Express which can be used to travel between the two parks (Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade). Let me just say, if you wanted to visit to experience everything, and get to shop freely with no hassle, DO NOT go in April. It was horrendously busy when I went, and because of that, it lessened the excitement of the whole park. There were crowds EVERYWHERE, and lineups for ALL the attractions. If you are looking for that perfect Instagram photo, good luck! My suggestion would be to arrive real early to the park, or stay late, and get a night shot.
Since we were in Universal Studios we first ended up in Diagon Alley. From the moment, you walk in you notice Gringotts Bank straight ahead with the dragon up top. To the right was the famous Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, which was seen in Order of the Pheonix and Half-Blood Prince. Obviously since this was a replication of Diagon Alley there were all the usual stores that you would expect, such as Borgin and Burkes, Scribbulus, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Ollivanders and many more. It really felt as if this is where they would have shot the movie, other than the fact that it was overpopulated.
The main ride to check out in this side of the park was Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This was an indoor steel roller coaster and definitely one of the most anticipated rides for me. The wait itself was crazy long, as we ended up waiting for almost 2 hours before making it onto the ride. The lead up was quite amazing as you were able to walk through Gringotts Bank, and then downstairs, and see different (replicated) areas of the bank. The ride itself was definitely enjoyable, and a highlight of my trip as it took you through the bank, on a roller-coaster ride, but also with 3D visuals to accompany.
After getting off, we left the area, and enjoyed more of Universal Studios before heading to City Walk for lunch. After eating and relaxing for a bit, it was time to make our way to Islands of Adventure, to enjoy the more thrilling rides, and the other side of the Harry Potter attractions. When entering into Hogsmeade the first thing you notice on your right is a replica of the Hogwarts Express train. This is not the real, working one, but just the front cart, mainly for show, and pictures. The first thing I did when I got to Hogsmeade was buy Butter Beer! I wanted to try it for the longest time, and even tried making it at home – which was a fail! So I finally had the chance now, and did not pass up to opportunity. It was quite expensive for the size that I got, but it’s what you would expect buying it from the amusement park. It was quite tasty, but only complaint was the sweetness. I would rather them sell smaller sizes, or I should have shared with someone, because a little while after, I ended up with a headache from the sugar. After gulping down the Butter Beer, we headed towards Hogwarts Castle for another ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Now this was an amazing ride. Sure, the line-up was long, but definitely worth it. It was quite similar to the Escape from Gringotts ride in the sense that it was an indoor motion-based ride. It took you through the movies of the Harry Potter series, in and around Hogwarts, and gave the experience that you were actually flying. I would have to say, it was the most immersive and impressive ride I have ever been on. I tried to record it on my GoPro, but because it was dark, the quality came out horrible. If you ever make it to Orlando and are a fan of Harry Potter I can safely say that you should make this ride a high priority. Even if you aren’t a fan of the series, but enjoy a thrilling, new experience, this ride will give it to you. This is not just my opinion, but it has been consistently winning the Golden Ticket Award for the “Best Dark Ride.”
After the Forbidden Journey, there was only one more ride to go, called Dragon Challenge. Now this was an older ride, which was part of Universal Studios before, until it was revamped, and renamed when it became part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It features two intertwined, inverted roller coasters. They are supposed to represent two dragons going at each other, with one called the Chinese Fireball and the other being the Hungarian Horntail. This was your typical roller coaster with drops and loops, so it was quite fun, but not scary (for me at least). I am still trying to find a ride that it actually thrilling and scary for me – it’s quite hard.
Overall, I would say that the layout, design, and the way the park immerses you was incredibly done. I definitely enjoyed my time are the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and would highly recommend it to anyone that is a fan of the series. What I would say is to research into when is the low season, and avoid peak seasons, as the wait times, and crowds are ridiculous. I plan to be back within the next two years, but definitely during the low season.
Have you ever been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? How did you enjoy it?