11th birthday…long gone. Hogwarts acceptance letter? Nope. But there is one place which makes us feel like we’re home at last!
2015, both of us went to Florida, and being super obsessive Potterheads, obviously went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Lynette went during the summer, Vibha went at Christmas, so the crowd there meant that we couldn’t go to ALL the places… Therefore, we thought it would be nice if we put together a list of the Top 10 places to visit. The list isn’t in any particular order – these are just ten essentials so you don’t miss out on anything if you’re in a rush. Here goes!
1. The Hogwarts Express and Platform 9 3/4
Hogwarts Express was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!! Before you go on Hogwarts Express, just a note – it is a ONE WAY TRAIN. It is going to take you to the other end of Wizarding World, so if you want to come back to your current land, you should probably finish it off first, as you may have to queue up all over again.
You enter the line at King’s Cross, where there is a queue that’s a bit long…just a bit….45 mins actually! However, the setting and everything around you makes time fly by, and the 45 minutes doesn’t feel as long as it should. Towards the end of the line, a fantastic illusion is created of you walking through the wall and into the platform.
And welcome to Platform 9 and 3/4! Once you’ve walked through the wall you enter the famous platform. Trunks and robotic owls set the scene – and then you hear the sound of the steam train. Keep phones at the ready, it’s a great photo opportunity, as The Hogwarts Express is coming through the tunnel. Amazing.
The interiors of the train will blow your mind more. It is set up just like in the movies, with individual compartments, and realistic projectors on the window which make it feel like you are actually driving past the picturesque countryside of England. All sorts of characters walk past, and you can hear their conversations as they pass you.
DEFINITELY take a ride on the Hogwarts Express – you CANNOT miss it!
Buying a wand just adds to the magic of the Wizarding world experience. Wands are sold in every gift shop throughout Universal Studios, but if you would like to get the full experience, then you should buy a wand from Ollivander’s.
Ollivander’s is amazing, set up like the real thing, with scruffy boxes of wands falling off wonky shelves, it really makes you feel like you’re going to Hogwarts. There’s also a “wand chooses a wizard” ceremony, which is definitely worth watching. Perhaps you might be chosen by a wand yourself!
There choice of wands is vast, with wands ranging from Harry Potter’s to Fleur Delacour’s, Lord Voldemort’s to Cedric Diggory’s. Not only that, but the wands come in beautiful boxes, encased in lovely, black, velvety fabrics. They also sell interactive wands, which come with an amazing, aged map of the park surrounded by incantations and their actions. Although the interactive wands are quite pricy, it is worth the experience, as you get to “cast spells” across the park.
3. The Three Broomsticks/Butterbeer Stall
You cannot go to Universal Studios and NOT have Butterbeer! Butterbeer is a must have, it’s absolutely delicious! The ingredients were chosen by JKR herself, so that her fans could get a taste of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s favourite drink at the Three Broomsticks. The Butterbeer itself is sold in several stalls all across Wizarding World, and is served cold or hot, but due to the intense Florida heat, I would suggest
An even more special Butterbeer experience would be to have it in The Three Broomsticks or Hog’s Head pub. Not only are they furnished beautiful on the inside, but the building looks gorgeous from the outside too. However, due to the huge crowd of Potterheads wanting to visit these locations, it’s almost impossible to get in without having a reservation. Our suggestion would be to take a reservation, at least a month before you actually go, for a lunch or dinner time period. Therefore, not only will you be able to go inside and enjoy the beauty of these restaurants, but you can also eat some lovely English recipes AND drink Butterbeer!
4. Madame Malkin’s
Madame Malkin’s is the shop where the Hogwarts students usually purchase their robes and uniform. If you have some money to spend, you can go there and buy your house robes, ties, scarves and even socks! They also sell lots of other products to showcase your house pride, so do head over there if you want to give your house a Harry Potter makeover!
However, these products can be slightly pricy, so if you want, you can go there and wear your house robes and scarf, and stand in a beautifully decorated podium, and take a picture! It’s a great place to show your friends and family just how much fun you’re having, and make your fellow Potterheads jealous 😛.
5. Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes
Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes is a great place to stock up on some wizarding jokes, especially if you are a prankster Potterhead! It’s also a great place to remember Fred….NOOOOO!
The store looks exactly like Fred and George’s shop in the movies, with the robotic statue of a Weasley uncovering a rabbit from under their hats, over the door. It sells everything from Pygmy Puffs, to Puking Pastilles, so do head over there! It’s such a laugh!
6. Gringotts Money Exchange
Do you ever find yourself needing a little bit of wizard cash? Well, go to Gringotts Money Exchange, where you can swap your normal money for wizard banknotes! In case you’re wondering what they’re for, you can use them around Universal Studios (but bear in mind you can’t use them for everything) or you can keep them as a souvenir!
When I went in, it was surprising to see a fake goblin at the end, reading and looking up every now and then. In Gringotts Money Exchange, not only can you exchange dollars into wizarding money, but you can also buy some special Gringotts chocolates! It was a small place, but if you want to get rid of your muggle money and get some proper wizard money, then you must go to Gringott’s Money Exchange!
7. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to properly be in the world of Harry Potter, flying along on a broomstick, then this ride is definitely for you! This is an exciting indoor ride, but rather different from a rollercoaster as it is like a virtual reality. When you come onto the ride, and start moving along, it takes you through many scenes in the books and movies, and you feel like you are actually in the world of Harry Potter, riding on a broomstick. With Quidditch games, Dementors, the Whomping Willow and Hogwarts itself, the ride seems very magical! It was an amazing experience!
The queuing place was also great! It was inside the building of Hogwarts, and paintings on the walls would talk and move every now and then. There was also the Sorting Hat, which also spoke. There were also small clips of movie scenes in Harry Potter. Despite the fact that the queue was rather long, with all the magic going around, I wasn’t bored in the slightest!
I highly recommend going on this ride, especially if you are a huge Harry Potter fan, because it transports you into the world of Harry Potter completely!
8. Dragon Challenge
Feel up to a fun, thrilling rollercoaster? Then maybe the Dragon Challenge ride is for you The rollercoaster is made of two separate rollercoasters which entwine and cross a lot of the time! When you walk in and start to queue up, at one point you can choose whether you want to go onto the Chinese Fireball dragon, or the Hungarian Horntail one!
It’s very fast, has a few big drops and quite a few loops. It gives you a sensation that you are really flying on a dragon at a high speed, which feels incredible! After the exciting ride has finished, you’ll be begging to go again.
9. Frog Choir
The Frog Choir is an interesting show in which frogs sing! You can find a small choir on a stage holding some large ‘frogs’ on cushions, and they sing! It’s very amusing and quite funny, with toads ‘singing’ at the top of their voices! It’s a lovely small thing to watch and listen to whilst you’re walking through Hogsmeade. The show is around ten minutes long, so why don’t you go and watch some frogs singing? Where else can you watch big toads on cushions singing?
We all love sweets, don’t we? And haven’t you ever wanted to try out proper sweets from Harry Potter? This shop sells the well-known Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans, chocolate frogs, cauldron cakes and Fizzing Whizbees, and even more! Bertie Bott’s Every Flavoured Beans is a must-buy, as it’s the only place where you can get so many different jelly beans, ranging from the lovely candy floss to the disgusting earwax (which you can give to your siblings or friends for fun!)
Not only does it have classic Harry Potter sweets, however. This lovely shop also sells many other sweets, but I’d say that the Harry Potter sweets would be best to buy, as there’s nowhere else you can buy them.
When you have the opportunity, go to Universal Studios and take a look at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Being a Potterhead, that’s a must-see place for you to go to. I hope you’ll enjoy these 10 attractions which Vibha and I enjoyed a lot!
-L and V