Today's guest post comes from Ashley of A Southern Gypsy, she's a 20 something who is leaving behind the boring, stable life and preparing for long term travel. Like me, Ashley loves Harry Potter and has been lucky enough to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando! She is hoping to re-visit now all the new rides have been introduced- and I am very jealous. You can find Ashley on facebook, and twitter.
I’d say it’s a fair assumption that the Harry Potter franchise has impacted almost everyone in one way or another. Everyone has most likely at least heard of it, is close to someone who loves it or they love it themselves. It’s no secret that J.K. Rowling created something that will never die.
I was lucky enough to literally grow up with Harry Potter. I was 11 when the first Harry Potter book was released, the same age as Harry Potter. I read the books as I and Rowling’s characters grew. I was into the magical series before anyone really knew what they were. So, yes I was there from the beginning and my obsession has only grown.
Naturally, I went to all the midnight showings of the films. My obsession really shined through though when Universal Studios released that they would be opening a Harry Potter theme park. The park opened in the summer of 2010 and of course I was there. While the Harry Potter Studio Tour outside of London is an amazing experience to really see the behind the scenes aspects of the films, the Wizarding World park lets you actually pretend to be a witch or wizard for a day.
The park is located at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida - only about ten hours away from me in Tennessee. I planned my visit for the week before I was to move to Washington - the perfect going away trip. This past January, I returned four years later for a second trip to the park.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter basically consists of Hogsmeade and three rides - the Dragon Challenge, the Flight of the Hippogriff, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey which is located within the Hogwarts castle.
As you enter the Wizarding World and Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts Express conductor is there to greet you and take a photograph with you before you move on to explore the streets of Hogsmeade just like your favorite characters did.
Honeydukes is every witch and wizard’s favorite stop for sweets - you definitely don’t want to miss out on this during your visit. Acid pops, Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and exploding bonbons are just the beginning of what Honeydukes has to offer.
Zonko’s Joke Shop
Connected to Honeydukes is Zonko’s Joke Shop. Here you can buy basically anything to drive anyone who doesn’t have an appreciation for Harry Potter insane including extendable ears, screaming yo-yos, and inflatable tongues.
Note : With the expansion set to open this summer, Zonko’s has been moved to Diagon Alley and Honeydukes expanded. More candy!
Dervish and Banges
Dervish and Banges carries everything from Golden Snitches, brooms, the Monster Book of Monsters and Hogwarts school uniforms.
Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods
At Filch’s Emporium you can take a look at confiscated items as well as buy many souvenirs including Hogwarts clothing, house crest banners, and stationary. You can also find many replicas such as Death Eater masks, chess sets, Quidditch clothing and much more here.
Every Harry Potter fan will love this. Once you step into Ollivanders - a small dusty shop with wand boxes stacked as high as the ceiling - you enter a unique experience. Just like in the books and movies, you get to see a wand choose a witch or wizard. You then get to purchasedyour own wand. I’m the proud owner of a Ginny Weasley replica wand.
Here you can drop your postcards and letters into the post box and they’ll be delivered with a Hosgmeade postmark. You can also purchase stationary and Wizarding World of Harry Potter stamps.
After all that shopping (and candy), you must be hungry. Make sure to stop in at Three Broomsticks. I didn’t the first time because of the crowd, but did the second time. Forget the food, just the design and authenticity of it, is absolutely incredible. You can have a pint of Butterbeer or pumpkin juice to wash down your fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and turkey legs.
The Dragon Challenge ride consists of duelling roller coasters - an aggressive Chinese Fireball dragon or a ferocious Hungarian Horntail. These dragons take you on twists and loops and intertwine along the way.
Flight of the Hippogriff
This ride is a much calmer roller coaster and perfect for smaller children. While not as exciting as the other two, it’s still a lot of fun. While waiting in line, you pass by Hagrid’s hut before boarding the ride.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
One of the best rides out there in my opinion is located inside Hogwarts castle. You may have to wait in line, but even the line is fun as you make your way through passageways and corridors of Hogwarts such as Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, common rooms and more. This ride is a mix between a roller coaster and a simulator with groundbreaking technology that creates one amazing experience.
The two times that I visited the Wizarding World, the aforementioned places is all that it consisted of. However, Universal Studios has been working on a huge expansion - doubling it in size. The expansion is set to open this summer - most likely sometime in June. (Yes, I already have a scheduled trip there in October).
What it’s going to include is going to blow your mind. A King’s Cross station will connect the two parks with the Hogwarts Express. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a multi-dimensional thrill ride. There is going to plenty of shops to include Borgin and Burkes for all your dark art needs and Quality Quidditch Supplies for all your Quidditch needs. For nourishment, you’ll find the Leaky Cauldron and Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour here.
I can’t wait to return this fall and see the expansion for myself. If you’re a Harry Potter fan or even if you’re not, you should definitely visit this park - they did a phenomenal job and it’s fun for everyone.