This place blew my mind. It is COMPLETELY immersive. The sort of place that you could wander around all day, just taking in every detail.
You don’t even need to be going on the rides. It is just as much fun wandering through the streets and the shops. Because these are not standard souvenir shops. They are the shops from the books/movies perfectly recreated.
Browse for a wand at Ollivanders, explore the murky corners of Borgin & Burkes or buy some Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans at Honeyduke’s. But the best part is the interactive wands!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
While there are Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter in Japan and Los Angeles (opening April 2016), these parks only have Hogsmeade. Orlando is the only location with two parks next door to each other, with the Hogwarts Express train linking them up. One park has Diagon Alley and the other has Hogsmeade. And, as pretty as Hogsmeade is, Diagon Alley is my favourite.
Before you enter Diagon Alley there’s some cool London scenes to explore, including the Eros fountain from Piccadilly Circus, and the Knight Bus.
The amount of work that has gone into this place is astounding. Every detail is perfect and, if you’re a fan, there’s so much to take in.
The staff are very good too. Perhaps not quite Disney-level service, but these guys are definitely passionate about their Harry Potter.
There’s only one ride – Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – but it’s a really good one. Just walking through the bank, past the goblins, catching the lift, is all fun. The ride itself is part rollercoaster, part 3D experience. Very cool. And fortunately we were all tall enough to go on it.
Again, this is so well done. You board a proper English-style steam train and it takes you from one park to the other, while making you feel that you’re on your way to Hogwarts.
Hogsmeade is so pretty. It’s permanently winter here with snow on the roofs, which is slightly odd in the hot Orlando weather, but still awesome.
There’s 3 rides here –
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – a fabulous 3D experience in Hogwarts Castle that makes you feel like you’re flying a broomstick alongside Harry. Sadly Master 6 was too short for this one – minimum height 122cm. But we got super lucky and the guy at the entrance sent us in the secret shortcut way, so we skipped the 45min queue. Master 6 waited in the Parent Swap room (watching Harry Potter movies), while hubster and I took turns riding it with Miss 8.
- Dragon Challenge is full on adults and very big kids only – minimum height 138cm. Hubster and I took turns riding it, but to be honest I didn’t enjoy it. It’s one of those rollercoasters where your legs dangle and I find the head restraint very uncomfortable.
- Flight of the Hippogriff is the family-friendly one – minimum height 92cm – and the kids couldn’t get enough. A fun yet breathtaking rollercoaster.
The interactive wands are unique to Orlando. I don’t believe Japan or Los Angeles have them.
These are absolute genius for making you feel a part of the park. Just like a real wizard or witch. For only a few more dollars than a standard souvenir wand, you get one that makes magic!
There’s 20 or so marked spots in the parks (typically in shop windows), where, if you do the right movement with your wand (and say the magic words!), then something will happen. The technology is brilliant. There’s no tricky secret buttons to push or stand on. It seems a bit like a tv remote control. You point it towards a hidden camera in the shop window and it responds to the movement you make. You need to be quite accurate with it, but there’s often staff around to show you how.
I could have done this all day. Seriously. Thank goodness I had the kids with me to give me the excuse to play!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (TWWOHP) is located within Universal Orlando. Diagon Alley is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Hogsmeade is in Universal Studios – two theme parks located next door to one another. Personally I wouldn’t bother with the rest of Universal. I would spend all my time in TWWOHP, but the kids loved many of the Universal rides.
We had a 2 day pass, which we definitely needed. And you need to buy a ticket for both parks (“Park to Park Admission”) to be able to ride the Hogwarts Express.
Read about the rest of our trip here –
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Are you a mad Harry Potter fan too?