“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” ― J.K. Rowling
Suddenly you are soaring with the wind against your face, at breakneck speed, diving up and down in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. For a few moments in time, you feel like you are Harry Potter, Hermione or Ron racing on top a broomstick inside of their magical world at Hogwarts. You race through Hogwarts castle, nearly escaping evil wizards and creatures on every side, then you are out on the Quidditch field having the game of your life. For those short breathless minutes on “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey“, you feel like you are part of Harry Potter’s exhilarating, enchanting world.
I honestly never dreamed I’d be into a theme park yet our day spent at Orlando’s Universal Studios revived the imaginative child within me, and I enjoyed myself equally as much as my two kids. I’ve always been an avid reader and ever since my children were little, Harry Potter and his magical world has been a big part of our lives. My husband first read all seven brilliant books by J.K. Rowling to our son Max when he was just learning to read. Then, both kids read the entire series of books in one month flat inspiring me to pick up and read them too. After reading the first few pages of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone I was hooked and lavishly read the remaining books as fast as I could.
Rowling’s phenomenal creation of the magical world of Harry Potter blows me away. I confess to once trying to write fiction but giving up after a year of roadblocks and frustration. Being a good writer is extremely hard yet Rowling has the gift. She is truly a genius! Not only has she created a wonderful collection of books, Harry Potter’s world has also made it to the big screen as well as theme parks for those who want a taste at the wizarding world.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter spans two theme parks – Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida – at the Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida. It opened in 2010 and has been greeting eager Potter enthusiasts ever since. Besides Harry Potter, Universal Studios also is home to several other themes including Marvel Studio Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Seuss Landing, and the newly opened Skull Island. But for our family, we spent the majority of our time checking out Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, truly our favorites.
When we arrived at the park, the first thing we did was walk all the way to the back of Universal Studios to check out Diagon Alley. We decided to work our way from the back of the park to the front in order to avoid crowds, and we also knew that Diagon Alley was the best. We had a one-day/2 park pass which allowed us to take the Hogwarts Express between the two parks (a big bonus for the kids!). You can easily spend two days at Universal Resort but we were able to see and do everything we wanted in one day.
Walking into Diagon Alley felt immediately like stepping foot into Harry Potter’s magical world. It was truly remarkable! All of the shops were just like they were in the book and it felt so incredibly real. We first stopped at Ollivanders where both kids chose their special interactive wands that perform magic at certain places around the park. You receive a map inside the box to all the magical locations throughout the park. It is quite entertaining.
We walked around and visited all the other extraordinarily real shops. There were wizard and witch robes for sale, school hats, scarves and jerseys. Pretty much anything you wanted to buy from Harry Potter was for sale. Plenty of people were dressed wearing their favorite black robe, even some adventurous adults.
Next we headed over to Gringotts bank which had surreal looking goblins running the show while we waited to board our first big ride, “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts“. The ride was extraordinarily thrilling! You could feel the hot breath of a dragon on your skin or the water droplets of another scary creature, all while riding deep within the depths of the bank to get to Harry’s magical vault before being attacked. Even for adults, the ride was exhilarating. I had to close my eyes a few times and of course let out several screams.
After our near-death escape from the monsters at Gringotts, we decided to enjoy an icy-cold and sweet Butterbeer and check out more of Diagon Alley’s amazing shops. We hit the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, and Gringotts Money Exchange where you can get real wizard money. We could have spent the entire day at Diagon Alley as it was the absolute highlight of our trip but it was nearing lunch and we wanted to make sure we got our chance to ride the famous Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade in Universal Island (the other part of the park).
After our ride on the Hogwarts Express where we had our own train compartment and felt like we were being attacked by the dementors, we arrived in frosty cool Hogsmeade for more shopping, sweets at Honey Dukes (we had to buy some Chocolate frogs), and more butterbeer.
The main highlight at Hogsmeade and by far all of our most favorite rides of all was on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the ride that I described in detail at the beginning of my post. The ride begins in the Hogwarts Castle. While you are waiting in line meandering through the castle, scenes from Harry Potter play throughout, making you feel a big part of the story. It is pretty amazing!
It was such an enchanting, magical experience that I had desperately wished we could do the ride again. Just like Harry Potter, it was magic. Flying on a broomstick racing through scenes of the movie, felt euphoric even to me.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the rest of Hogsmeade with zest. It was so much fun that it was hard to say goodbye but by five o’clock we were all hot, tired and ready to head back to our hotel. I confess that it exceeded my expectations of fun. I think I enjoyed myself just as much as my kids.
Disclaimer: I received discounted tickets from Universal Studios for my visit but all opinions are my own.