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A muggle's guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - how to make the most of your time at Universal's Islands of Adventure

A muggle’s guide to… The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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.

Rides

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!

honeydukes-at-wizarding-world-orlando

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!

hogs-head-at-harry-potter-world

Other entertainment

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?

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A muggle's guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: This guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was written prior to the extension at Universal Studios.

My Disney Haul!

So as you know, I was lucky enough to visit Disneyland Paris twice this year so I thought I would share with you my Disney haul. I also bought some of these goodies when I visited Orlando a couple of years ago but I’m pretty sure most of this stuff is available at any Disney park.

Collectables

alice-in-wonderland-snowglobe

Disney have so many adorable snow globes! In all honesty I liked them all, but I owed it to my younger self to purchase the Alice in Wonderland one simply because this was one of my all-time favourite films as a child (still is!). I’m not really someone who tends to collect a lot of ornaments but I can imagine there are a few people out there with an impressive collection of Disney snow globes, they’re all so beautiful.

grape-soda-pin-from-disney-up

Disney Pins are also quite collectable, the parks even have Cast Members who offer pin trading although I don’t know a lot about it since this is the first pin I’ve bought. I really wanted something Up related because I adore that movie. Unfortunately there is a severe lack of Up merchandise available. I really wanted something with the house and balloons on but all I could find was this grape soda pin, like the one Ellie gave to Carl in the film.

Pocket money purchases

disney-keyrings

Not everything at Disney has to cost an arm and a leg, there are plenty of smaller purchases to be had, for example these keyrings. The one on the left was bought at World of Disney in Downtown Disney, Orlando and celebrates the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World. The one on the right was bought at Disneyland Paris because I really wanted something with the castle on it. Which leads me to…

disney-magnets

I think I have an obsession with the Disney castle because as well as the keyring, I also bought a castle fridge magnet. And although I’m not someone who collects “collectable stuff” as such, I do tend to buy a fridge magnet of some sort whenever I go on holiday, so the one on the right was bought at Walt Disney World Florida (founded 1971).

The Mickey merch

steamboat-willie-mickey-mouse-souvenirs

No one can leave “The Happiest Place On Earth” without some kind of Mickey merchandise, so here are a couple of beauties we picked up at the World of Disney store in Orlando – black and white vintage style Mickeys! The bobble-head sculpture is based on the cartoon that Mickey made his debut, Steamboat Willie. And the other is just a rather cute cuddly toy. Which leads me to…

Another cuddly toy!

lotso-bear-from-toy-story-3

This is Lotso from Toy Story 3, he was bought in the Buzz Lightyear gift shop at Disneyland Paris. He wasn’t a favourite character or anything (I totally love Ken in TS3!) but he’s ever so cuddly and he smells of strawberries!!

The meaningful souvenir

minnie-mickey-proposal

Ok so it might sound cheesy or it might sound incredibly cute but we bought this ornament in Downtown Disney Orlando (I think it was The Art of Disney Store) because my (now) husband proposed to me in Florida. He didn’t do it at the theme parks or anything but it seemed an appropriate memento to have.

The must-have

minnie-mouse-ears

Last but not least, no Disney park shopping trip is complete without Minnie Mouse ears! They’ve had several wears already and I look forward to the next!

Top 5 tips for any Disney theme park!

So it’s been almost 2 weeks since my last post here but fear not, I haven’t gone off the radar. It appears that my brain can only be obsessed with one thing at a time and because this time last week I was gallivanting around Disneyland, my latest obsession is all things Disney!

I took a day trip on the Eurostar over to Paris with 14 of my work mates and we spent the day running around in our Minnie Mouse ears like excited school children. Well I say day, by the time we got there and had to factor in getting the last train home we only had a mere 5 hours park time*. Not long enough. Hence why, just a few days later, I’m all booked up to go again! I justified this to my husband by telling him that I’d had the trailer and now I want the movie.

As someone who ‘grew up’ on Disney films**, I never actually visited any Disney theme parks as a child. Perhaps I wasn’t that bothered? I can’t remember. Or perhaps my parents couldn’t really afford it? I don’t know. Not that it matters, because at Walt Disney World everyone becomes a child in their own special way. So it wasn’t until the grand old age of 28 that I actually went on holiday with friends to Orlando and experienced some of that Disney magic first hand. As well as never going there as a child, I have never been there with a child, so this post is dedicated to all those Peter Pan adults who never grew up…

1. Dress appropriately

To me this means wearing something Disney, be it a t-shirt with Mickey’s face on it, or Minnie Mouse ears. It also means comfortable shoes. I’m here to have fun! I see too many people wear odd things to theme parks (yeah I’m talking to you – lady with the bridesmaid hair and Nina Ricci dress!).

white-rabbit-magic-kingdom

2. Meet some of the characters

Go on, you know you want to! It’s practically the law to meet Mickey and Minnie at these parks, regardless of how old you are, but who else do you fancy hugging? You haven’t got to get an autograph like all the little kiddies do but it’s fun to have your photo taken with the characters (until Goofy bloody stands on your foot! True story).

3. Watch a parade

Every day, several times a day, there will be a parade. The parades are definitely something that should be ticked off of every Disney wishlist. Just check your park schedule to find out the times and try to bagsy yourself a spot with the castle as your backdrop!

Celebrate parade in Orlando
Celebrate parade in Orlando
Halloween parade in Paris
Halloween parade in Paris
Electrical parade in Orlando
Electrical parade in Orlando

4. Take advantage of Disney’s Fast Pass system

Just look for the Fast Pass Distribution sign near the entrance of a ride, insert your park admission ticket and then receive a fast pass ticket telling you when to come back to the ride. You are limited to how many fast pass tickets you can hold during any one time and the number of tickets on offer are limited, but it’s free and well worth doing to mimimise time spent queueing.

5. Stay to watch the fireworks

Disney do fireworks like no one else, so if you’re able to stay in the park until it closes then do so. My photos don’t do it justice really, but I promise you will not be disappointed!

Epcot, Orlando
Epcot, Orlando
Magic Kingdom, Orlando
Magic Kingdom, Orlando

*Fortunately one of the girls had sorted us a good deal so it’s not like we wasted any money.
** I say grew up, but does someone who considers candyfloss to be an appropriate meal at Disney World ever really grow up?