If I'm any indication, visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is the Millennial Dream. Check out the top 10 things you won't want to miss, when you finally make your pilgrimage.
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So you're off to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
Lucky you! If you've been following the blog for a while, you'll know that I am a *massive* Harry Potter fan, and we've visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter not once, but twice, in as many years. Both times have been phenomenal; it's a truly unique, immersive experience.
So let's discuss the top 10 must-have experiences at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, from the moment you set foot in Muggle London until your first view of Hogwarts Castle. We'll talk about the experiences roughly in the order in when you'll see them, if you go in the order I prescribe in 5 Tips for Millennials Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So much detail went into every inch of these spaces - it's easy to miss something, especially on a crowded day, and unfortunately there are a lot of those.
One of many great things about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is that it's surprisingly large. The portion of Universal dedicated to The Wizarding World has actually doubled in recent years - growing to include the portion I would visit "first" - Muggle London and Diagon Alley (previously it was just Hogwarts and Hogsmeade). And, of course, they're recently added a new ride in the original section, Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which you can watch from the comfort of your sofa here!
1. Visiting Kreacher at Grimmauld Place
If you wait just a minute outside of Grimmauld Place, its permanent resident, Kreacher, will poke his head out from the upper window to say hello!
Try to stop by Grimmauld Place fairly early in your day, if you can - later, the front step is full of people taking pictures, causing a massive line and sometimes even an employee directing traffic. Of course, if you do the parks in order, this will the first thing you see.
2. Through the Barrier at Diagon Alley
No need to tap the bricks, just wind through the gateway - watch the Wizarding World open up before you! Interestingly, they've chosen not to have the entrance be through the Leaky Cauldron, though you'll see it pretty quickly on your left. I'm assuming this is so that the Leaky Cauldron can be fully within Diagon Alley, and it is right next to the entrance once you get inside, but I thought it was a unique choice.
It's an incredible moment, as Diagon Alley has been well-designed to spread outward and upward in front of your eyes, the minute you emerge through the barrier.
3. Gringotts Dragon's Fire
Just about every 10 minutes, you'll notice a certain amount of excitement among the crowd in Diagon Alley - cameras coming out, and people jockeying for position!
That's because the Dragon, having just broken free from the bowels of Gringotts, presumably with Harry, Ron, and Hermoine on his back, is expressing his delight with a fresh burst of flame! Gringotts is the central feature of Diagon Alley - everything orients toward it, and the dragon towers above the street, so no matter where you stand, you'll get at least a bit of a view! And if you happen to miss it, never fear - it'll happen again soon!
It's really quite incredible - you can actually feel the heat throughout Diagon Alley. And, with the frequency of the blasts, it's hard to miss!
4. A Stroll Down Knockturn Alley
If you can escape Hagrid's watchful eye long enough, take a turn down the discrete Knockturn Alley - and you'll find a very detailed section of the park that many visitors overlook, including Borgin and Burke's; necklace and all!
Knockturn Alley is actually quite easy to miss and walk right by. While it is sign posted, it truly is an alley - and the often-intense crowds definitely mask the entrance. It's also extremely dark (as it should be!) And, perhaps best of all, the temperature drops about 10 degrees the moment that you step out of the Florida sun!
5. Window Shopping in Diagon Alley
The attention to detail expended on each and every shop in Diagon Alley's storefronts is remarkable. Most of the stores are full-sized shops, stocked with authentic merchandise and/or displays. If you have plenty of time (which you should!!) or if you are a non-ride-goer like me, take time to look in as many windows as you can! Even the names on each book at Flourish & Blotts are meticulously correct!
Now isn't a bad time in our journey to grab yourself an adult beverage to accompany you on your shopping journey...
6. Catching the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross
One of the highlights of our experience was entering Kings Cross Station - which will take you to the Hogwarts Express and up to start your year at Hogwarts! This is assuming that you have the Park-to-Park ticket, which, incidentally you should - check out the full post on planning a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for Millennials! If you're only seeing one park, we're now transitioning, but unfortunately you will not be able to ride the Hogwarts Express, though you could pop your head into Kings Cross for a quick look!
Make sure to spend some actual time in Kings Cross - I can see a lot of people just whizzing through, excited to get into Hogsmeade (which is totally fair), but it is absolutely an experience - especially if you're been in the real Kings Cross in London. It's quite a massive structure, actually, and one shudders to think that it is like on an extremely crowded day - if they've built it out with that much space for lines! But, on a normal day, it's just a slightly longer walk than you were anticipating!
The attention to detail throughout the entire station is remarkable - it's so much more than just a mechanism to get you from one part of the park to the next.
There's something new to see around every turn. From the advertisement from the first scene of Half-Blood Prince, to the convenience stores serving authentic British beers and snacks,
To the AMAZING experience of walking through Platform 9 3/4!
While you'll certainly be tempted to make your way through to get to the Hogwarts Express - there are a lot of places to pull over to the side of the lines and really take in the station...and drink your newly purchased pint.
7. Drinking on the Hogwarts Express
If you're a follower of the Blog, you'll know that this was an all-time favorite of mine! I mean seriously - the Millennial Dream.
Seeing the beer in Kings Cross, I imagined a nightmare scenario where they'd make me chug the beer before I could take the ride of a lifetime. But it was so much better - Platform 9 3/4 is phenomenal- and the experience of entering it for the first time is made all the more perfect when accompanied by a cold Boddington's and hops right onto the train with you!
What's the ride on the Hogwarts Express like?
8. First View of Hogwarts Castle
Coming out of the gorgeous Hogsmeade Station after you step off the Hogwarts Express, you're immediately fully immersed into Hogsmeade, with all the shops, bustle, and snow. Hogwarts looms in the distance, perfectly framed - but, at least for me, I was so overwhelmed with Hogsmeade that I'm not sure I really noticed at first!
Once you get inside Hogsmeade, keep looking up! You'll notice that Hogwarts is constructed to perfectly suit the perspective - it looks far larger from down below than it actually is. The ride "in Hogwarts" is not actually in the Castle, but in the "rock" below it - making the Castle purely ornamental, but perfectly done.
You'll never forget that first view. Welcome Home.
9. The Hog's Head Inn
There are three pubs in Harry Potter World - The Hog's Head, The Three Broomsticks, and The Leaky Cauldron. They're all amazing, but for me, grabbing a pint in The Hog's Head was definitely a highlight. Attached to The Leaky Cauldron, it's significantly less packed than the full pub and also accessible via a separate, outdoor entrance. If you're just after a pint, definitely get it here and avoid the crowds.
The animatronic hog's head is simply stunning (and massive), and with a mixture of their own brews and trusty British imports, you really can't go wrong with the selection. Just make sure Aberforth uses a clean rag on your glass!
For more on eating and drinking in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, check out the full post!
10. Sending Mail from the Owlery in Hogsmeade Village
This one is perhaps a bit more for those of you traveling with younger companions - the Owlery in the Wizarding World is a functioning post office!
If you mail something from the owlery - it'll have the Hogsmeade postmark! Beware - post cards are sold in packs of 10, so you may want to bring a piece of your own, if you only want to send one.
Thanks for stopping by!
I hope you enjoy your time at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as much as we always have! Don't forget to subscribe to the newsletter for more travel tips and tricks delivered by owl, straight to your inbox!
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