It may be best to begin this article with a disclaimer. Our daughter is a huge fan of Harry Potter, but Crystal and I approach this book-based series a little less seriously. A monumental dual occasion provided the three of us a reason to head to Orlando for some magical moments. The start of 2022 saw me reach 40 years at my day job, while our daughter, Amanda, reached the same number of circuits around the sun. To celebrate, we decided to do something out of the ordinary, which included exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, at Universal Studios. While two of the people in our party hadn’t read all of the Harry Potter books, we could still appreciate the experience.
You may notice that we don’t include many theme parks on our website. The biggest reason is that we prefer immersive adventures over fast rides. That being said, I still enjoy the occasional fast ride but mostly partake when visiting with one of our kids. Instead, we seek out places that transform us into a different place or time. The last one that Crystal and I went to one would have been Silver Dollar City, for their Christmas lights. Amanda had previously visited Universal Studios and promised us a captivating experience. We began our adventure by heading straight to the recreation of London. Our daughter led us through a dark portal that landed us in Diagon Alley. Suddenly, a magical world opened before our eyes. This would be one of the most immersive experiences that we’ve found. From the intricate architecture to the brightly colored shops, everything screamed Harry Potter.
We weren’t about to pass up exploring any of the spaces. To have the complete experience, Amanda picked out a wand and robes in the shops. She explained that the wands are interactive at various spots around the area. A flick of the wrist and a couple of magic words is all it takes to be amazed. After seeing some of these wonders, we found ourselves parched. I guess we will just have to grab ourselves some Butterbeer. This enticing concoction is a blend of cream soda and butterscotch and is served up in a variety of fashions. Crystal was a fan of the hot version (big surprise there), while Amanda seemed to prefer the colder type. They also sampled it frozen and in ice cream form. If I had known how much it would be consumed, I would have bought stock in it prior to our visit.
Riding the Rails
After thoroughly exploring the London side of the Wizarding World, it was time to make our way to Hogsmeade. Having seen a few of the movies, I knew this was the experience that had been devised to transport us to the other side of the park. We made our way to Kings Cross Station for our next immersive experience. After disappearing through the wall, at Platform 9 3/4, we climbed aboard the Hogwarts Express. As it pulled out of the station, we were entertained with a short audio-visual show, which made us feel like we were part of the cast. It was so engrossing that it made our journey fly by, and soon we pulled into Hogsmeade Station.
Welcome to Hogsmeade
Stepping through a huge archway, we found ourselves in a town filled with snow-capped buildings. This area had some similar shops as we had seen in Diagon Alley, but also included a few different ones. A large Butterbeer cart demanded a stop for refreshments. Doing wizardly chores (or Muggles in our case) works up quite an appetite. A stop at Three Broomsticks provided sustenance to fuel us into the rest of our adventure. Even the interiors of the restaurants continue the themed experience. We definitely felt like this was the most immersive design concept we had seen.
Wizards and Muggles
As we made our way through Hogsmeade, we were eventually rewarded with a view of Hogwarts Castle. Standing high upon a hillside, it jutted out of the landscape. We would make our way into the castle for a ride on the inside rollercoaster. While Crystal would avoid the stomach-wrenching ride, she would join us to experience the queue. This is another way that Universal Studios has differentiated itself from other parks we’ve visited. Even as you make your way through lines, you find yourself immersed in the backstory that plays out in the exhibits that surround you. It’s more than enough to bring a smile to a wizard’s (or muggle’s) lips. After the ride, we decided to explore more areas of the park, but that’s a tale for another time.