"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live," said Albus Dumbledore, and I couldn't agree more. Nick and I have been dreaming of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios for years now, so this summer we made those dreams a reality! With friends eager to join us and vacation time waiting to be used, we made a spur of the moment decision a few months ago to book a flight, order our park passes, and hop aboard the Hogwarts Express to Harry Potter World!
There is no way this blog post is going to do our trip justice, because we had the best time we could possibly have. I've never felt so much like a true Gryffindor in my life and I think I would be happy spending every day sipping butterbeers in Diagon Alley, talking about last night's quidditch match, and practicing new spells to annoy the Slytherins. I'll have to keep thinking about how to make those dreams come true, but for now I'll recap Part 1 of our three-day HP adventure for you - enjoy!
Hogwarts & Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure)
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located in two different Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios. If you have "park-to-park" passes, you can ride the Hogwarts Express to visit both parks on the same day, however, we just spent two days in Islands of Adventure and one day in Universal Studios.
When you walk into Islands of Adventure you have to trek through the entire park to get to The Wizarding World, but as soon as you see the snow covered roofs of Hogsmeade and Hogswarts Castle in the distance, it's alllllll worth it.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: This ride was the very first thing we did at the park and it was AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING. Oh hey, did I mention, amazing?! This 3D simulation/roller coaster hybrid is inside Hogwarts, so not only do you get to experience an incredible ride, you also get to see inside the castle that you've dreamed about living in for years now.
Flight of the Hippogriff: This was the kid/family friendly roller coaster just outside of Hogwarts. It was fun to see Hagrid's hut and an awesome life size Hippogriff. We used this little ride as a stepping stone to build up Nick's roller coaster nerves.
Dragon Challenge: This roller coaster is a little like Lightning Racer at Hersheypark (for our fellow PA readers!) Now, Nick has always been super terrified of roller coasters, but I think it's safe to say that we successfully converted him on this trip! We warmed up with the Flight of the Hippogriff ride and went straight on to the Dragon Challenge. He was looking pretty terrified at the offset but by the end he was all about it. It's a "leg dangling" ride (not sure if that's the technical term or not...) and was easily one of the funnest rides in the park. We rode it a total of 3 times: Once on the blue (Hungarian Horntail), once on the red (Chinese Fireball), and once more on the blue. There is some debate among our friends over which one is better, but here in the Surznick household, we're bigger fans of the blue side!
Butterbeers!: Need I say more, really? Okay, I will. There are a ton of places to get butterbeer in Hogsmade, but we most often went to the cart outside Hogwarts. You can purchase your butterbeer either cold (like a soda) or frozen (like a slushie). We went frozen every time with no regrets.
The Three Broomsticks: We stopped into the Three Broomsticks for lunch (and to escape a massive downpour that left us soaked to the bone!) There aren't any meal options that are clearly vegetarian, but the staff was very accommodating and let us create a "veggie platter" with any three meat-free items. We also split a Pumpkin Juice, which was super yummy and would be a great drink for autumn. Think cinnamon pumpkin spice latte, in juice form.
Honeydukes: Stop in to pick up some chocolate frogs or Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans! Or just admire all of the colorful confections like we did!
Ollivander's Wand Shop: We didn't end up going inside this Ollivander's (there's another in Diagon Alley), but this is where you would go to purchase a wand or see the "wand choose a wizard" show (more on that in our next post!)
There are a few other shops that look like true Hogsmeade shops, but are actually just park merchandise stores. One of the coolest things about each of the storefronts is that if you purchase an interactive wand, you can actually make magic happen in each storefront window!
The Hogwarts Express: Though we were unable to ride the Hogwarts Express without park-to-park passes, we still snapped some photos and I chatted up the conductor! He's a super friendly guy, make sure you say hi!
Beauxbatons & Durmstrang Show: No theme park trip would be complete without a little bit of live action entertainment. Passersby got the opportunity to watch dancing presentations from the lovely Beauxbaton ladies, and some intense tumbling from the Durmstrang dudes. You can catch a video of the Beauxbatons on Instagram!
Have we convinced you that Harry Potter World is a vacation you NEED to go on? Well don't worry, we have even more coming in our next post where we'll recap Diagon Alley! Stay tuned!
Sarah & Nick