A Magical Trip, Part One: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

by Jenn (eating bender) on June 21, 2012

Hello, hello! I’ve missed you. This past week was one of the best of my life. Our family had an amazing trip to Universal Studios and Disney World. Though it was over too quickly – as always – we packed in as many experiences into four days as possible.

I took an exorbitant amount of pictures (surprising?) and can’t wait to share them with you. On the first morning of our adventure, we woke up bright and early to take the boat from our hotel to Universal Studios for an early entry into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

As we came around the final corner, the Universal globe came into sight. This was my first time visiting, so needless to say I was pretty excited. The park was quiet, and the weather was beautiful.

We entered through Islands of Adventure and made our way to the very back of the park, where Hogwarts castle greeted us. I know there are a lot of Harry Potter fans out there who will appreciate just how fast my heart was beating when I saw it. Pure joy is the best way to describe it.

As you can see, everyone made their way to the castle ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – first thing. At 8:00 in the morning, there was no line at all, but as the day goes on it can build to well over an hour or two, if not more. It was great to have the chance to walk around the castle and take in all the details without a huge crowd.

For example, Dumbledore’s office.

It came complete with a pensieve and a holographic Dumbledore speaking of the choice between doing what is right and what is easy. There was also a room full of talking portraits, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom – with a holographic Ron, Hermione and Harry speaking about the enchantment they were about to put on us – and a hello from The Fat Lady and the sorting hat.

The ride was incredible! It’s a simulation that takes you through the entire castle and Harry Potter experience. Hermione places a charm on your riding car so that you are able to “fly” with them. I don’t want to give away too many details because it’s best to go through the ride not knowing what to expect the first time, but let’s just say that you will feel like you are back in the movies.

After riding and re-riding a few times, we made our way to the Flight of the Hippogriff. This is a smaller roller coaster and though we enjoyed riding it once, it was so short and anti-climactic that we decided once was enough. We had a feeling that it was meant for a younger set of riders, which was confirmed when we arrived at the third and final ride inside Hogsmeade: The Dragon Challenge.

Oh my gosh, this was amazing. You definitely have to love roller coasters (and upside down twists) to enjoy it, but if you do I can promise that it will be one of the best you ever go on. Personally I thought it was the best – the ride was so smooth and the twists and turns did not jerk you around as so many other roller coasters can do. It felt like we were flying, dragon style. I can’t recommend this ride enough! We rode both the blue and the red tracks – Hungarian Horntail and Chinese Fireball, respectively – and found that the red was definitely better. I’m sure that’s a matter of personal opinion, but it was extra smooth with more exciting twists from our perspective!

On the way up to the ride, we passed the blue Ford Anglia. :)

After we finished our second trip on the roller coaster, we were starting to feel a little woozy – my stomach is not ironclad, I’m afraid – and decided to get in line for a visit to Ollivanders. We snapped a few pictures of the group while waiting.

The line was already quite long and the park wasn’t officially open yet! It’s a popular place.

Once inside, “Ollivander” chose a young wizard to come up and select his wand – though really, the wand chooses him, yes? He went through a series of tests until he came up with the right one, which was fun to watch. Then we were all escorted into the shop to select our own. I know they have to move people through quickly because of the long line, but I can imagine that the other young kids (or not so young, ahem) who were in there and didn’t get chosen might have been disappointed. Still, it was a cool experience!

We ended up at Dervish and Banges to look around at all the magical equipment for sale.

The attention to detail throughout the entire Harry Potter world was incredible – as to be expected, considering how intricate the movie set was for all the films. We passed by broomsticks of every shape, size and make…

…cauldrons and spellbooks…

…and a certain Monster Book of Monsters.

By the time we finished, it was nearing 11:00 and we were hungry for an early lunch. We decided to head over to Three Broomsticks, an experience I had been eagerly anticipating all morning.

I practically skipped through the doors. It was my first chance to try butterbeer!

Straight from the tap, even. Words do not do justice to my level of excitement.

The verdict? I thought it was dee-licious. Very sweet and certainly not something you chug like water, but it tasted a lot like a buttery cream soda and the foam was a lot of fun, too. Thumbs up.

We ordered the Great Feast Platter, which came with chicken, spare ribs, corn on the cob, broccoli, carrots and potatoes. They weren’t kidding about the feast, but it was perfect for our group.

The feast also came with a side salad that had fresh tomatoes and Italian dressing.

Mama Bender ordered the pumpkin juice. I didn’t like it nearly as much as the butterbeer, but it was still fun to try. It had some qualities of a pumpkin beer (without the alcohol, of course).

On our way out of Three Broomsticks, we passed through the Hog’s Head.

Then it was time to explore two other favorite shops: Zonko’s and Honeydukes!

We found Extendable Ears and Sneakoscopes right away.

Eric found a cool hat (and Bobby photobombed his picture)!

Honeydukes was full of candies, both real and “magical.” I loved this pink staircase.

I can’t say enough about the experience of walking through every detail of the books (as seen through the lens of the movies). Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart. They are the books that made me fall in love with reading and expanded my imagination. I know an entire generation of Harry Potter fans can relate. Visiting Harry Potter world is an absolute must!

We’ve heard that they are planning to expand the park and create a Hogwarts Express train to ride back and forth between the two areas. All I have to say is: yes, please.

I have so much more to share, but don’t want to overwhelm this post with pictures! Plus, it’s much more fun to give each part of the trip the recap it deserves. I’ll be back soon with more. Until then…

Goodbye from Platform 9 3/4!

Are you a Harry Potter fan? What were you/would you be most excited to see?


1 Cara (Twinthusiast) June 21, 2012 at 11:28 am

How fun! While reading this I kept thinking how trippy it must be for J.K. Rowling to have her whole world actually built in real life. Although with her level of fame probably nothing surprises her anymore…:) I wonder how long the park will stay in business? Do you think it will be around in 30 years once some of the HP excitement dies down? I think the books will endure for quite some time but it makes me curious about something like an amusement park. Ok enough of my business analysis – so glad you guys had a blast.
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2 Jenn (eating bender) June 21, 2012 at 11:42 am

I was actually thinking about a lot of the same things while we were there! At one point I said to Bobby that I feel as though no matter how famous J.K. Rowling is, it must be amazing to wake up every morning knowing that your books have had an impact in such a variety of ways. It is an interesting question about how long it will last – I agree that the books will endure for many future generations, and I feel as though it’s possible the same will be true for the amusement park. It’s certainly different than Disney, but then I think about the comic book characters who have been around since the 60s and have very popular rides today (Spiderman, etc.) and know that there will be some staying power…er, magic. :)

3 Jenny June 21, 2012 at 11:39 am

jealousy is oozing from my ears! God, I miss Harry Potter…..
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4 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I miss it, too! I fully admit to being one of those people who bawled her eyes out after the last movie…

5 Erica June 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

I went to Harry Potter world just after I found out I was preggers with Kay! It was so neat to see…but I couldn’t ride any of the rides! The Great Feast Platter looks so yummy! Delicious
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6 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm

You’ll definitely have to make a return trip when she is tall enough! πŸ˜‰ So awesome.

7 Shannon June 21, 2012 at 11:58 am

haha, this is awesome. :) glad you guys are having such a good time!
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8 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Thanks, Shannon!

9 Natalie @ will jog for food June 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Wizarding World is AWESOME! I went there last year and it didn’t cease to amaze me. It’s exactly like I pictured it to be. Butterbeer rocks!
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10 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I felt the same way! Oh what I wouldn’t give for a cold glass of butterbeer right now. Can’t wait to try making my own!

11 Christina June 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Looks like a great beginning! We went there last year and had a blast. It was amazing to see all the details they included in shop windows and performances. I tried the frozen style of butterbeer.. yummy!
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12 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Yes! The details were so intricate and well thought out that it really made you feel like you were there. And I wish I had a butterbeer tap here at home!

13 Megan (Braise The Roof) June 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm

So much fun! I really want to go visit the park- I’m going to have to put it on my list of things to do. :) I’m impressed that the feast included so many fresh veggies- I feel like you don’t normally see that at amusement parks!
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14 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm

You definitely need to add it to the list! I was impressed by the feast, too. Compared to the rest of the amusement park fare it was heaven! Not that I was complaining about the chance to enjoy all-you-can-eat greasy foods for a few days…that was awesome, too. :)

15 em June 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Looks like a great time! It must be so fun to see all of the things in the HP books come to life. :)
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16 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:49 pm

It really was incredible!

17 BroccoliHut June 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Well this post pretty much decided that Seth and I MUST go back to Orlando, if only for Harry Potter fun!
Digging your butterbeer ‘stache :)

18 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Yes, yes, you must!! You will LOVE it. :)

19 emily (a nutritionist eats) June 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm

I have not read the books or seen the movie. :( I know.
BUT I realized while reading this that you might be able to give me some advice! I need a gift for my cousin – she is having a book character themed party and HP is her absolute favorite – any ideas?!
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20 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Oh my. Emily – we must fix this ASAP! Read them, watch them. You won’t regret it. πŸ˜‰

As for your cousin…that’s an awesome idea for a party! Do you know if she has a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard? It’s a collection of children stories mentioned in the books that was released a while back as an actual book: http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Beedle-Standard-Edition-Potter/dp/0545128285/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340481255&sr=1-1&keywords=the+tales+of+beedle+the+bard.

I’d definitely recommend it if she doesn’t have it – makes a great addition to an HP collection and is also a fun read. :)

21 Jess @JessCantCook June 22, 2012 at 8:34 am

I’m so jealous!! My sister went last year but I wasn’t able to go, I’m thinking I need to make my husband take me for my birthday next year :) I’m so glad you had a great time!
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22 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Yes! I think that is an excellent idea, Jess. You will have an amazing time!!! :)

23 Irina @ Chocolatea Time June 22, 2012 at 10:03 am

WOW Harry Potter land looks soo incredible!!! I’m quite jealous of your trip :) Glad to see you had a fantastic time

24 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Thanks, Irina! You should definitely add it to your list of places to go if you’re an HP fan! :)

25 Jordan @ Bake Write Sleep June 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Hey Jenn!

It’s Jordan (formerly Salt Sweat Sugar!) I just came back to Blogland and I came to visit youuuu =]

I LOVE Butterbeer. When I came home after visiting there, I looked up about 30 recipes for it IMMEDIATELY. It’s not so hard to make!

I’ve missed your face! I’m so glad you’re still blogging!
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26 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

JORDAN! I was so excited to see a comment from you and can’t wait to visit your new blog. :) I am planning to make butterbeer ASAP. Another blogger sent me a recipe that looks incredible…I just have to get the ingredients! I’ve missed you, too, and am so happy to see you back in Blogland!

27 Wendi June 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Isn’t it, like, the BESTEST place EVER?!?! I am soooo vey glad that you had an absolute ball sweety. The pics are uber cute although they have seriously given me the itch to return to that magical place sometime in the near, near future :)

28 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm

It really, TRULY, is. I can’t believe it has already been a week since I stepped foot in that magical place. Can I go back please?! It must happen for both of us in the near future. I honestly wouldn’t mind buying an apartment above Honeydukes… πŸ˜‰

29 Kayla @Keep Moving Forward June 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm

My husband and I want to go here in December for our anniversary! We are huge fans and can’t wait!

30 Jenn (eating bender) June 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

You should absolutely go there for your anniversary, especially if you are both huge fans! It will be so much fun and romantic in its HP way, too. :) Do it!

31 glidingcalm June 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm

that is insane! I can’t believe how many details they put into the park! wow wow wow! and I have known for a while how much you adore HP, so I would have loved to have been there with you! I totally was smiling this whole post as I thought of your experience! How freakin cool!
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32 Jenn (eating bender) June 25, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I couldn’t stop ooh-ing and ahh-ing! Thanks, GC! :)

33 lynn @ the actor's diet June 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm

so happy you did this post – we were supposed to go when in orlando in April but I was too pooped and regretted it! harry potter’s supposed to come to our ‘hood in LA – but not for a few more years. i’m getting excited again!
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34 Jenn (eating bender) June 25, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Really?!?! I had no idea they were bringing it to LA. That is AWESOME. :)

35 Emily (@EmSemm) June 25, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Jenn, so glad you had so much fun! Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart too, so it was definitely a magical experience to visit with my family as well. Agree, they did a great job with excellent attention to detail and everything was really well done! On our last day we spent a lot of time just hanging out and part of me felt like we should have been rushing around to go on more rides, but then I realized – how many people actually get to hang out in the world of their favorite books?

36 Jenn (eating bender) June 25, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I totally agree with you, Emily! It’s such a cool experience to walk around essentially in J.K. Rowling’s imagination. I didn’t want to leave and if they rented out apartment space above Honeydukes someday, I would not oppose. :) I also heard they are planning to expand the park in the coming years so we will all definitely have to go back!

37 Alex July 13, 2013 at 10:46 am

My family surprised my sister and I with a trip to Disney about three years ago, and since they know what a Potterhead I am, we didn’t leave without taking a trip to Universal to visit the Harry Potter portion of the park. I couldn’t believe the amount of thought that was put into it! Every last detail was near perfect. My experience was especially great because I was one of those lucky people that got to have Ollivander help their wand “find them”, haha. The butterbeer was THE BEST, although I didn’t get to have it straight out of the tap as you did. πŸ˜€ Recently I’ve been relentless to find a recipe similar to the one at Universal Studios – what can I say? I’ve been very reminiscent of my Harry Potter era lately. I’ll be reading the books again soon :-) In 2014 they will be opening up Diagon Alley, and it’s true that the train at Kings Cross will be transporting guests between the two parks. I can’t wait, and I know you probably can’t either!!! Anyways, I stumbled across your page via Pinterest and just wanted to share my experience with you! I’m so glad you had a great time on your trip, even though it was almost a year ago πŸ˜‰ Thanks for sharing!

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