You may be forgiven for thinking that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a theme park in its own right but in actual fact, it is just one part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Since The Wizarding World opened in June 2010, it has been Islands of Adventure’s biggest crowd-puller, with people even queuing for up to 8 hours to get into the park on the opening day! But fear not Potter fans, here is my run-down on my time in Hogsmeade which will hopefully help and inspire you on your own wizarding adventure.
Top Tip: Get to the park before it opens and grab a map. As soon as the gates open, head straight to The Wizarding World. The rest of the crowd are sure to be heading in this direction too but the amount of people will be far less than later on in the day.
First up, make a beeline for Hogwarts Castle as this is where the main ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, can be found. Enter the castle (don’t forget to stash your belongings in one of the free lockers!) and follow the corridors of Hogwarts school, where you will find yourself in the familiar surrounds of the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, Dumbledore’s office and other recognizable locations from the movies and books. You’ll be enchanted by the moving, talking portraits as depicted in the movies and even holograms of some of the main characters, so much so that the attention to detail here makes the queuing process a bit of an experience in itself.
Eventually when you reach the ride, you take your seat upon a 4-person “bench” and are then strapped in and whisked away for an adventure through the land of Harry Potter where you will follow Harry twisting and turning on his broomstick, over the Quidditch pitch and through the Forbidden Forest. You’ll see a fire-breathing dragon, giant spiders and evil dementors among other things – all in a clever mix of real animatronic models and high-tech computer graphics. The ride lasts for around 4 minutes and you’ll definitely want to ride it again just to take it all in! We were incredibly lucky and the longest we had to queue for this ride was around 20 minutes but queues for this have been known to exceed 4 hours!!
The next biggest ride is The Dragon Challenge, which is a nod to the Triwizard Tournament in The Goblet of Fire. Consisting of 2 large and looping rollercoasters, guests will all join one queue and then must choose whether they want to ride the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail (red or blue, in muggles terms). Both coasters travel at the same time and there are even a few moments when it appears as though both rollercoasters, or dragons, may collide. Perfect for thrill seekers, wizards and non-Potter fans alike.
A slightly tamer, yet still fun, rollercoaster ride is The Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a lot less stomach churning than The Dragon Challenge and aimed more at a younger crowd. Just don’t forget to bow to the Hippogriff before you ride!
Shopping and Dining
If you’ve always wanted to get your hands on a Pygmy Puff or a Golden Snitch, then all the best Potter merchandise can be found at the shops in Hogsmeade. These include favourites from the books such as Dervish and Banges, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and, my favourite, Honeydukes sweetshop. I defy anyone to walk out of Honeydukes without purchasing some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (rotten egg flavour jellybean anyone?)
Top Tip: Inside the bottom of the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans box there is a little piece of paper revealing which colour beans relate to which flavour. I must admit part of the fun is the Russian Roulette element but if you don’t like surprises or want to trick your friends into eating all the nasty ones then this might come in handy!
You can also visit the Owl Post in Hogsmeade where you can send a postcard home with a special Harry Potter stamp and a Hogsmeade post mark. The stamps are pretty pricey as you have to buy a whole pack (they won’t sell you just one) but you can always purchase a postcard and get a Hogsmeade post mark on the back (you just won’t be able to post it).
While the queues were kind to us for the rides, unfortunately they were a problem at Ollivander’s wand shop and so this was one part of Harry Potter World we failed to experience. Because the shop is small and is an interactive environment, limited numbers of visitors are allowed in at any one time. So true Potter fans should definitely aim to get here early if they want to see and do everything.
If you’re peckish while in this part of the park, then The Three Broomsticks serves up traditional British dishes such as shepherd’s pie and fish & chips, but even if you’ve already eaten, make sure you take a seat in the Hog’s Head pub and sample some famous Butterbeer or Hog’s Head Brew.
Top Tip: Butterbeer is non-alcoholic and comes in regular or frozen (slushie). No one should leave Hogsmeade without trying Butterbeer as the taste is indescribable!
There are plenty of things to look at in Hogsmeade, besides rides and shops. The village scenery is very beautiful and detailed, and true to the films. If you are there at the right time you may witness the Triwizard Spirit Rally, with ribbon twirling from the Beauxbaton witches and mock-fighting from the Durmstrang wizards.
Of course, I should add that my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was before they opened Diagon Alley at Universal Studios last year – which now even includes the Hogwarts Express to connect the two Universal parks!
Have you had the chance to visit the new Diagon Alley section? What did you think?