My sister, cousins and I grew up reading J.K Rowling’s books. Back in India, those days, the wait-time to get an original “Harry Potter” book at a bookstore was unusual. And hence who ever would get it first was supposed to share it with other siblings. Luckily, while I was still in a college, my brother-in-law would get us an online copy and we used to read it page-by-page burning midnight oil. Such was the magnitude of our love for “Harry Potter & His Friendly Wizards and Witches”.
When “Harry Potter” series ended, my inner magical soul died! However, after a really-really long time, I re-lived those magical days by visiting the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Advertureland” at Orlando, FL.
Below “The School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry” – Hogwarts is seen through the “Jurassic Park” jungle.
As we crossed the Jungle and came on to the bridge, we saw Hogsmeade by the lake. It felt real, lively as if we were the wizards & witches and it was our time to go through the “Sorting Hat”.
As we entered the main entrance, Hogwarts Express looked busy blowing out whistles at the Hogsmeade station arriving from London’s “King Cross” station.
The utterly beautiful Hogsmeade village has cobblestone roads and grey-hued snow-clad houses and shops. As if this place was photoshoped with one-tone Sepia theme.The first thing that caught my eye was “ButterBeer” cart and a long queue of buyers eager to relish this world-famous, one-of-a-kind, no-where-to-be-found beer.There were piles of Butterbeer Mugs.
It tasted like a butterscotch frappuccino with buttery foam that not only sticks to your lips, but lingers long after you have swallowed it. There are two options for drinking Butterbeer, as we found out from the barkeep—frosted and regular. The best Butterbeer is the frosted kind so make sure to try it!
Then there was lovely “Honeydukes“.
This was the most creative shop and had extensive variety of every flavor beans (with flavors ranging from earwax to vomit)! There were Chocolate Frogs (featuring an authentic wizard trading card).
Chocolate Wands, Fudge Flies, Peppermint Toads and more.Zonkos – “Tricks and Jokes” shop looked as if Fred and George had bought it and reopened at Diagon Ally. You might remember that Harry Potter gave his winnings from Tri-Wizard Tournament to Fred and George Wesley’s to open their joke shop.
Dogweed and Deathcap – Where a screeching Mandrake root could be heard from the display window.
Then there was “Three Broomsticks restaurant“.In the movie “The Leaky Cauldron” is shown as a dark, shabby pub for wizards. At first at Universals it sadly looked like a powder room but when you walk through it all the way through the Diagon Ally it’s there. A huge, dim but gorgeous decor with a leaking cauldron.
“Olivanders” Makers of Fine Wands – This was the only shop that had a long wait time. As our turns came, we were taken inside a dark, dusty shop that was filled with wands. We all held our breath, while Mr. Olivander scanned us and picked a potential future wizard.
One of the enthusiastic kid was chosen from a group of 25 while Olivander helped the kid to get a right wand. It was an interesting interactive experience with music, sound effects and other lighting special effects to show how a wand chooses its wizard
Olivander’s shop had other interesting things like Owls Post, Nevile Longbottoms – Remembrall, The Monster Book of Monsters – The book that attempts to bite anyone near it etc.
At the Diagon Alley shop, you can also buy a 47$ interactive wand. Mostly, these are sensor embedded wands and can be used to cast spells to lit lanterns, start water fountains and open doors or windows.
At the crossroads of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade – The Spirit rally is scheduled everyday around lunch. This rally is mostly a show or choir followed by meet-and-greet. Just like it happened in ” The Order Of Phoenix”; girls of Beauxbaton, the boys of Durmstrang and students from Hogwarts performed and showcased their talents.
We saved best for the last “The Dragon Challenge” that takes you through a dungeon. It’s a really intense challenge on the Chinese Firebolt “Dragon” which is one of the best attractions here. This is were we ended our journey.
There were a lot of things to be explored and I wished I had an extra pair of eyes and a day more to visit all the areas. Believe me, there are many hidden treasures that would need more time for in-depth exploring and a good observation. All the places mentioned in the “Harry Potter” series are here and make sure you are alert and observant or you will miss these tiny details and believable environments that come to life in a way no other theme park area can.
While I felt teleported from rest of the world at Universals, it has proved it’s possible to create an exciting new place that once existed only in films, books and in our imaginations. While there is still more to be explored, I am in an anticipation of yet another visit soon.