I did it. I finally got my letter to Hogwarts. And by “got my letter” I mean I paid a bunch of money for tickets to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. I’ve been a fan of the series for 20 years now and have been dying to visit the theme park ever since it opened. Let me just tell you, after years and years of waiting, it was everything I hoped it would be.
For my first day I got park-to-park passes, which allowed me to ride the Hogwarts express between the two theme parks. Walking thorough the brick wall and stumbling onto Diagon Alley was exactly like I always imagined it was in the books. It felt just like Harry’s first visit where he was simply in awe of everything and didn’t know where to look next. Standing there, looking at all the shops around me, with the sounds of the workers inside the Daily Prophet spilling out of the door next to me, children wearing their house robes and waving their wands, and seeing the dragon perched atop Gringotts in the distance, my eyes honestly got a little teary. The only thing missing was Hagrid.
I spent my morning walking around Diagon Alley, checking out all the shops and amazing window displays. I heard the bird chirping from inside the vanishing cabinet at Borgin & Burkes, where I went to look at dark and dangerous artifacts. I chuckled at the U-No-Poo and Puking Pastilles display at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and watched a toy version of Delores Umbridge wheel overhead on a unicycle, shouting “I will have order.” I watched the wand ceremony at Ollivanders, spotted a Crumble-Horned Snorkack in the Magical Menagerie, and had an enchanted mirror tell me how lovely I was in Madame Malkin’s. I had my very first butterbeer (and butterbeer mustache) and ate lunch at The Leaky Cauldron. I also rode the Escape from Gringotts ride inside the bank, which was super cool! Every detail in the park was so spot on and true to the books that I was simply blown away.
Outside Diagon Alley were some other familiar sights. I caught a glimpse of Kreacher in the window at number 12 Grimmauld Place and took a look inside the Knight Bus before making my way over to Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station. The short train ride was a fun, mini ride (although the voice they used for Hermione sounded nothing like her), which brought us right into Hogsmeade station.
To be honest, I was slightly less impressed with Hogsmeade overall. It was cool to check out, but there was less to do there and less stuff to look at. I did pay a visit to Honeydukes while I was there though to buy some fun sweet treats to bring back to my hotel room. (I tried the exploding bon bons and peppermint toads.) Of course, the piece de resistance was a visit to Hogwarts castle. *squeeee* The ride inside Hogwarts was awesome (despite the fact that I got slightly motion sick, lol). I wish I could have gotten a video or some photos of the Quidditch pitch, the whomping willow, or the dementors for you guys. Just trust me that it was a fantastic ride. You’ll need to ride it yourselves some day if you can stomach it.
I went back to Diagon Alley my second day and revisited some of my favorite spots. I also decided to give butterbeer softserve a try…at 9 in the morning…because I can do whatever I want on vacation. 🙂 Honestly, I liked the butterbeer ice cream even more than the liquid version, which was a little too sweet for me.
I checked out a little bit of the rest of the Universal parks while I was there, but none of it was as special to me as the Wizarding World parts of the parks. I was exhausted and a little tired of people and lines by the time I went home Monday morning, but I loved every minute of my visit and can’t wait to go back someday.