It's hard to excite the somewhat jaded Orlando
theme park crowd but that was exactly the mood over the summer when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
opened at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. J.K. Rowling
was involved in every aspect of the making of the Wizard World and it shows. Those who have read the books have pictures in their heads of what Hogsmeade Village should look like and no one will be disappointed. From the snow covered roofs to the clock in the Owlery fans of the books will see their beloved village come to life in the most authentic way, which is the only way that was acceptable to J.K. Rowling.
What to see
When you first walk through the archway directly on your right is the red steam engine known to all Potter fans as the Hogwarts Express
. This is a great place to stop and get a picture, sometimes there is a conductor there who'll be happy to either take a picture or be in it with you. The platform has a trunks and other luggage waiting to be taken to Hogwarts Castle, it's as if the engine has just come into the station.
, connected to Dervish and Banges, is a place for tired witches and wizards to stop and take a break. This covered area has animatronic owls overhead that hoot and move periodically. There is also a clock that is a replica of the one you see at Hogwarts in the movies.
Next to the Owlery and connected to Dervish and Banges is the Owl Post
. At the Owl Post you can send a letter to anyone with the Hogsmeade postmark on it. You can also buy a wand in the Owl Post as well as journals and stationery items.
Where to Shop for all your Wizarding Needs
Of course they couldn't recreate the whole village so they choose some of the most popular shops from Hogsmeade, made them as authentic as possible and invited us to join them in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Dervish and Banges
is where you can find all things Quidditch. They sell brooms, golden snitches, Quaffles, robes, 'house' t-shirts, school uniforms, scarves, ties journals, stationery items and even a copy of Monsters Book of Monsters, which you'll need for Professor Hagrid's class. They also carry sneakoscopes, spectrespecs and omnioculars.
Ollivanders has been 'Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.' and is THE place to buy a wand. Here you'll find countless, and I mean stacked to the ceiling, wands in boxes, just waiting for you. At Ollivanders the wand chooses you, the wizard, in a unique interactive experience. You can also choose one yourself from a variety of wands including replicas of the ones used by the characters in the Harry Potter movies, they also have collectible wand sets and more.
Connected to Hogwarts Castle is Filchs Emporium of Confiscated Goods
. They too have Hogwarts clothing, t-shirts, jackets, sweatshirts, caps, scarves, and such. You can get shoulder bags, house crest banners, stationery, movie prop replicas like character walking sticks, Death Eater masks and a variety of assorted toys and other souvenirs. This is also where the ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey exits.
Back down in the village right by the Three Broomsticks are Zonko's Joke Shop and Honeydukes, these two shops are connected. Honeydukes
is packed with all the sweets described in the book that you've always dreamed of tasting; chocolate frogs, with real wizard trading cards in each box, cauldron cakes, acid pops and there's a whole wall dedicated to Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans.
Zonko's Joke Shop
is stocked with sneakoscopes, extendable ears, screaming yo-yos, boxing telescope, fanged flyer, Ginny's favorites pygmy puffs, shrunken Heads, t-shirts, mugs and more. If your intended 'prey' has a sweet tooth you can prank them with, fainting fancies, fever fudge, nosebleed nougat, and U-No-Poo, a Weasley Wizarding Wheezes best seller.
Wizarding World Performers
Periodically throughout the day there are different performers from Harry Potter's world that come to entertain the crowd. The Frog Choir
, it's made up of several performers and their frogs who sing songs you'll recognize from the movies. Then the men from Durmstrang perform a staff show based how they entered the Great Hall in the movie and the lovely ladies of Beauxbatons perform a similar 'ribbon dance' from the movie, both groups are very entertaining and you can take pictures with them after the show.
Where to Eat in Hogsmeade
The Three Broomsticks
, the only place to eat here in Hogsmeade, is amazing it's like you've walked onto the set from the movies. The ceiling is high with rafters that add to the authenticity, the place is decorated with antlers and guests sit at wooden tables after going through a line to get their food which is traditional English fare. To the side of the Three Broomsticks is a scaled down version of the Hogs Head where guests can enjoy a beer, mixed drinks, butterbeer and a special Hogsmeade beer called Hog's Head Brew.
Wild Wizarding Rides
When you first walk into the village you encounter the Dragon Challenge
. This ride is based on the book Goblet of Fire, specifically the Triwizard Tournament. The ride is a high speed roller coaster; you get to choose between riding a Chinese Fireball or a Hungarian Horntail. These intertwining coasters twist, loop and nearly collide, it's quite thrilling and the queue for the ride has you going through the 'tent' occupied by the champions before they go out to face their fate. You, also, not only get to see the Goblet of fire but the spectacular Triwizard Cup itself.
The Flight of the Hippogriff
is a smaller roller coaster; perfect for the kids, here you get introduced to 'Buckbeak', the hippogriff. In the queue for this ride you pass the hut of Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper, and as you pass you'll hear his boarhound, Fang, barking and scratching at the door to get out and greet you. Hagrid instructs on the proper way to approach a Hippogriff, which are creatures with the head of a giant eagle and the body of a horse, they are very proud and as the coaster starts you must bow as you approach so as not to insult Buckbeak. The ride itself has gentle slops and drops and is a great roller coaster for the whole family to enjoy.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
uses groundbreaking, state-of-the-art technology to create a thrill ride that is truly one of a kind. As you enter through the gates of Hogwarts Castle students greet you and welcome you to 'their school.' The queue for this ride takes you through the greenhouse and into the castle where you pass iconic things from the books and films such as the sorting hat and the Hall of Portraits. You visit Dumbledore's office, the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor common room and the Room of Requirement. Then you join Harry, Ron and Hermione and soar high above the castle grounds on a fast paced, thrilling adventure ride. You come face to face with some magical creatures, win a Quidditch game and get cheered by your fellow Gryffindors as you reenter the castle, it's quite an experience.
When we are first introduced to Harry Potter he is a ten year old orphan who is living a cupboard under the stairs in the house of his Aunt and Uncle who, obviously, don't care for him. However on his eleventh birthday he is visited by Hagrid 'biggest man he has ever seen'. Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard and explains that the mysterious letters his relatives have been trying to keep from him are, in fact, his invitation to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Harry's life changes in a big way.
At Hogwarts he meets Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, the two people who will becomes his best friends for life and with whom he will share many adventures and misadventures. He is also taught how to use magic by a number of wonderful professors including Professor Dumbledore who is the Headmaster at Hogwarts and consider to be greatest wizard of the age. However life isn't all fun and games for Harry, he finds out the scar on his forehead was given to him by a dark wizard named Voldemort. He further learns that it was this wizard who murdered his parents and tried to kill him when he was just a baby, thus leaving him with the scar.
Seven books take you through Harry's life at Hogwarts as he struggles to become the wizard he was meant to be, meets various people who become important to him and, at times, struggles to merely stay alive as Voldemort tries, more than once to kill him. Harry learns to rely on his friends, his adoptive family, the Weasleys, and most of all himself. All this leads Harry Potter to his final battle with Voldemort, whom he must face, because "neither can live while the other survives."