Hey, y'all! So last week, the week of my 21st birthday, I was lucky enough to travel to Orlando and go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! And, since Harry Potter is such a big deal and a lot of people go to Universal just to go to Harry Potter World, I decided to write a post just talking about my experience there and hopefully give y'all some helpful information if you are, in fact, planning to visit.
So, the most important thing to know going into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (shortened from here onward just to WWHP) is that there are two distinct sections, each of which is in a different park. The Universal Resort is made up of Islands of Adventure, where the Hogsmeade section of WWHP is located, and Universal Studios, where the Diagon Alley section of WWHP is located. When Diagon Alley, the newer of the two sections, was built, the Hogwarts Express was added in order to transport people between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
And this, my friends, is the catch. If you want to be able to go to both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley in the same day, you have to have a park-to-park pass, meaning that you have a pass to both the Islands of Adventure park and the Universal Studios park. The same goes for riding the Hogwarts Express. If you want to travel between the two parks, you have to have passes to both parks. And obviously, this is more expensive than having a pass to just one park. However, although this is an obvious money grab, it really is the best way to experience WWHP because the two parks are very complementary.
|(These pictures are from my 2012 trip-- I didn't really get any Hogsmeade pics this time)|
Within Hogsmeade, there are 3 rides:
The Forbidden Journey
Flight of the Hippogriff
The third and final ride in Hogsmeade is the Forbidden Journey, which is inside of the Hogwarts castle. It's a very unique, hard-to-describe ride. Put into the simplest terms possible, it's an inside roller coaster. However, there's a bit more to it than that. It's a ride where the track is above you and your feet dangle down. You sit in a row of 4 people, and your little "car" travels independently from the other cars. By that, I mean that although all of the cars take the same path, you don't see them at all, and you feel like your car is all by itself. As far as the things that happen during the ride, it's a mix of screens and physical objects. The screens are huge 3D screens that look very realistic and are combined with special effects like wind to make you feel like it's actually real. You're also taken past physical objects that move and react to your car. The ride definitely does not feel like you are on a normal track. You get turned around, you go up, around, sideways, etc. It's a very interesting, unique ride.
So, before you even get inside Diagon Alley, you come across The Knight Bus and Grimmauld Place.
Also outside of the actual Diagon Alley section are King's Cross Station and the Phone Box that lets guests into the Ministry of Magic.
|Wisacres Wizarding Equipment|
|Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour|
|Weasley's Wizard Wheezes|
The only ride within Diagon Alley is the Escape from Gringotts ride.
The Gringotts ride is similar to the Forbidden Journey ride in the sense that it is an atypical ride that has heavy use of 3D screens. However, the Gringotts ride is slightly more like a typical roller coaster. You sit in a cart with 6 rows, which is much more like a normal roller coaster, and follows a more typical, mostly horizontal, track. However, unlike the Hogwarts ride that has both screens and physical objects, the Gringotts ride is solely just screens and a ride.
The Hogwarts Express
I rode the Hogwarts Express multiple times in both directions. It's pretty straight-forward- you sit down in one of the compartments and the window is actually a 3D screen that recreates what you would see outside of the actual window. There's not too much to say about the train except that it's a pretty cool experience. And it is different each way, so make sure that you take it each way!
OK, so now that I've broken down what each of the parks have, I'm going to compare the two and talk about what the best parts of each are. Like I said at the beginning of the post, the parks are very complementary. I feel like Hogsmeade has the better rides, and Diagon Alley is the better overall experience. I think that the Hogwarts ride is a lot more fun and more dynamic than the Gringotts ride, and that's even before considering the other two rides in Hogsmeade.
And, as I said, Diagon Alley is a better experience, especially for the hardcore Harry Potter fan. Although the entrance is not through The Leaky Cauldron, the entrance is very discreet and secluded, and when you enter Diagon Alley, it's like entering into a totally different world. And it never really breaks character (if that makes sense). However, with Hogsmeade, there are constant ride intrusions, butterbeer carts all over the place, and shops that aren't actually in Hogsmeade, and for me that took away from the experience.
|Bangers & Mash at The Leaky Cauldron w/ regular Butterbeer|
|Fish & Chips at The Three Broomsticks w/ hot Butterbeer|
So, for those of you who don't know, there are actually multiple different versions of Butterbeer. When I went to WWHP 3 years ago, there were only two types- regular/cold & frozen- and they have since added hot butterbeer. However, these drinks are not all the same drink at different temperatures. They actually all have very distinct flavors. Regular butterbeer is carbonated, and pretty much tastes like cream soda and root beer. Frozen butterbeer is a slushie texture and is the sweetest of the three. Hot butterbeer kind of has a bit of a chocolatey flavor to it. The flavor of it (to me) was very familiar, but I couldn't place it. All three of them are topped off with a very butterscotchy cream. The first time I was there, I tried both and distinctly remembered preferring frozen butterbeer to regular butterbeer. However, I decided to try all three of them again and decided to rank them on here for y'all.
#3) Regular/cold Butterbeer
I still like regular butterbeer, but both of the other forms are far superior. To me, this one just has the least flavor out of all of them. Both of the other two have really great flavors, but this one is just a little watery when compared to the other two. And while I got 2 cups of each of the other two while at WWHP (and for one form I got 2 cups of it in the same day), I only got this single cup during my entire time at WWHP.
#2) Frozen Butterbeer
|Apologies for the worst-focused picture ever!|
Frozen Butterbeer is just SO GOOD. And it's so perfect to drink on a hot day in Orlando. It's so sweet and delicious and oh so yummy. It was just as good as I remembered it being, and I had to get a cup each day.
#1) Hot Butterbeer
Y'all. Y'ALL. This was such a wonderful surprise. I wasn't sure what to expect from this, but I definitely didn't expect the sheer perfection of this drink. I loved it so much that I got two cups in one day, even though it was like 90 degrees outside during the day and 80 in the evening. Like, I was in Diagon Alley at the end of the day on my last day I was there, and 30 minutes before close, I went to go get one last cup and they were out on that side of the park so I sprinted to the train and sprinted from the train to The Three Broomsticks just to get a hot butterbeer. I wish I had this stuff on tap so that I could drink it all the time.
So, that's pretty much all the stuff at Harry Potter World that I wanted to talk about! I think I covered pretty much everything, but if you do have any other questions, I'd love to answer them down in the description!
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