• Madison Miller

Harry Potter World

How do you begin to describe paradise? In honor of the new year, I thought I would celebrate the anniversary of last New Year's Orlando trip and cover, that’s right, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.

Very soon after we started dating, Andrew asked about going on a New Year’s trip to Orlando with some friends. All I could think about was HP World, but I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I was just happy to be along on the trip. Luckily, he already knew how much I loved it, and made sure we had plenty of time to spend there.

Things were still a little new with us, though. I was trying to play down my nerdiness for HP a little bit, even though I shouldn’t have. The first day at the park, Andrew and I decided to head in a little before the rest of the group. We got to Islands of Adventures right as it opened. I casually mentioned that I wanted to head straight for Hogsmeade. I think I did a good job of not screaming it, but I can’t be sure. I know I was walking at a brisk pace.

When I saw the tower tops of Hogwarts, I got a little emotional. I didn’t sob, but I did tear up just a little. I finally got my letter, y’all! I felt like the brightest witch of my age. Andrew and I spent lots of time taking some pics on the bridge into Hogsmeade with the great view of Hogwarts in the background.

Next up was of course, butterbeer. Universal serves a cold, frothy butterbeer at several carts spread throughout HP world. There was one right at the entrance of Hogsmeade that day. It’s Orlando, so it was still ike 80 degrees in December. The butterbeer with super sweet and butterscotchy. One weird thing: Andrew tried to order his with no whipped cream and they wouldn’t do it. They aren’t allowed to alter anything about the recipe for copyright reasons. That’s a little crazy to me, but I do admire the commitment to authenticity.

We went to Ollivander’s to get a wand for me! I ended up going with Hermione’s wand. I thought about being original, but I just love her so much. I had to go for it. We went around and tried to use it with some of the window spell stations. I tried my hardest not to jump in front of all of the children. I know they are allowed to love it just as much as me, but I can’t help feeling like I’ve earned it more than they have. I said this on the trip several times and I stand by it: they should allow people born between the years 1985-1995ish more access than other visitors. We are the OG fans, ok?

Anyway, I did end up having to visit the wand hospital. Apparently something on mine was broken, so it wasn’t working 100% of the time. It doesn’t matter. It was still great. I had so much fun wandering around and just looking at everything I possibly could.

A little later on, our friends showed up and we made our way back to HP world. We rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is the one inside of Hogwarts. It’s kind of a virtual reality ride going all throughout the castle. There is also a section where you are flying on a broom, which was probably my favorite part. Reading the books, that part always just sounded like so much fun. I have to say the best part of this ride, though, was actually just going through the line. It is truly like you are in Hogwarts. It’s the one time I didn’t mind waiting in line and I actually got a little sad if we were in a room I really loved and the line kept moving. I think they should just open it up to let people walk around a few times a day. It is very well done. I want to live there.

We also rode the Hagrid’s hut ride, which is technically the kiddy ride, but it was surprisingly fast! I had such a good time. It’s also just a really cool design with the wicker baskets.

We got the park hopper, so next up was riding the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley. This was another part that made me a little emotional. I have always wanted to ride that train. It’s also not just a train ride, of course. They made it feel like you are really riding away from Hogwarts. The screens inside the train show landscapes from the movies. On the inner isle screens, you can see students walking by, including Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The trolley lady makes an appearance. On the way back, the windows ice up because the dementors are coming on the train. It’s perfect. Also, getting off the train feels exactly like being in a train station in London. The detail that went into this is astounding. Andrew doesn’t love HP, sadly, but he was super impressed with the quality of everything.

Inside of The Leaky Cauldron

My favorite part about going into Diagon Alley is how hidden it is. You can’t see it from the main street of Universal Studios. The entrance is behind a wall. When you walk around it, it looks exactly like what Harry saw when Hagrid took him to Diagon Alley for the first time. I was internally screaming. We ended up there around nightfall, so everything was starting to light up. It was beautiful. We got dinner at The Leaky Cauldron. A dream come true. I ended up getting a bangers sandwich. Andrew had fish and chips, I believe. We also tried warm butterbeer, which was delicious and exactly how I had imagined it.

We ended up going into the Diagon Alley Ollivander’s for the wand show. It’s very much like Harry’s experience in the film. You enter Ollivander’s and he picks someone from the audience to select a wand. He tries a few and then eventually one is the right fit and the room sort of glows much like in the movies and books. It was very cool to see, but I’m still a little bitter that I wasn’t the one picked.

We rode the Gringotts ride. Once again, going through the line was an experience in itself. The bank looks exactly like it does in the movies. This ride is also virtual reality. It’s based on the escaping Gringotts part from the last movie, which I always thought would make the perfect ride. That might even be why they filmed it that way. It was so much fun.

After all of the rides, I just wanted to keep walking around and experiencing as much as possible. We went into all of the shops. I loved the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Also, they had Knockturn Alley and Borgin and Burkes. For some reason, my wand worked the best in this section. I guess that means I’m a dark wizard?

I loved every second of being in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. I can’t wait to go back and I already feel like a second trip is overdue.

P.S. We did spend lots of time in other areas of the park. I just wanted to focus on HP because I knew I could talk all day long about it and I was right. Honorable mention to The Mummy ride. I first rode that when I was in high school and HP world didn’t exist yet. It is still the coolest ride of all time in my book.