I was a reluctant Harry Potter fan.
Growing-up, magic was mostly forbidden. Bible magic was OK. Disney magic and Chronicles of Narnia magic was OK, too. But Bed Knobs and Broomsticks magic and Roald Dahl Witches magic was not. Maybe because magic was so forbidden, I have always been obsessed with magic.
Fast forward to the summer after my senior year of high school. Before college freshman orientation, we were all assigned to read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the fifth book in J.K. Rowling’s series. I had never read a Harry Potter book and I thought it was the stupidest assignment in the world.
I dutifully bought the book. It was as heavy as a brick and 870 pages long. With a resentful heart, I opened the book and started my summer reading assignment.
And I loved it. I loved the juxtaposition between the two worlds. I loved quidditch. I loved the mythical creatures and the magical candies and the wands and the broomsticks. I loved the theme of young people doing brave things. All 870 pages flew by and I went back for more until I had finished the series. This turned out to be the best summer reading assignment ever.
As I alluded to before, I’m not typically fond of amusement parks and had some anxiety about spending an entire day at Universal Studios Orlando. I was not thrilled about spending the day waiting for people to ride roller coasters, but I was really excited about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It is every bit as magical for which a Harry Potter fan could hope.
There are two parts to Universal Studios Orlando’s Harry Potter World; Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. If you want to see them both, you have to buy the two-park pass. Both parts are connected by a short train ride on the Hogwarts Express.
The first thing I did in Harry Potter World was drink a Butterbeer.
The park offers butter beer in three different forms: Cold, frozen and hot. I chose the frozen which has more of a slushy consistency. The frozen version comes in one size (it’s got to be at least 20 ounces) and tastes very, very sweet. The flavor reminded me of a combination of cream soda and butterscotch.
I liked it, but am also glad I shared it.
You can buy other whimsical drinks, too, like these charming bottles of pumpkin juice and Gillywater.
Gillywater is just bottled water, but you can add these flavor potions.
I tried roast chicken and fried fish at the Three Broomsticks Restaurant. The chicken had nicely rendered skin, and moist meat, while the fish was fried well and tasted fresh. The food at Three Broomsticks exceeded my expectations for amusement park food.
The sweets are enchanting, too. Candy shops in both parks carry treats that appear in the Harry Potter books such as Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Fizzing Whizzbees, and chocolate frogs.
For $11 you can buy a milk chocolate frog the size of your face. Just like the books, the frogs come packaged with a wizard or witch trading card. Unlike the books, they don’t actually hop around like real frogs. Just saying. Harry Potter World is magical, but is still constrained by earth’s rules of gravity and physics.
Much of the candy is chocolate or chocolate covered, which could be tough to transport on warm days.
Besides all of the Harry Potter-themed food, there are rides and shops that you’ll recognize from the books like the Weasley’s Whizarding Wheezes.
The details on all of the buildings is remarkable. If you weren’t surrounded by people taking selfies, you’d feel like you were really there. If Harry Potter World is on your priority list, my best advice is to go early. Like, right away!
Pull into the parking lot 15-30 minutes before opening, grab a coffee, and head to Hogshead or Diagon Alley. The park will become denser and denser with people as the morning continues. Some of the restaurants might not be open right away, but at least you can do some exploring and grab those pictures.
Don’t be alarmed if you see people running around in wizard robes waving wands. Both are for sale in shops located in the park. Wands come in interactive and ordinary versions, designed in most of the characters’ styles. An electronic wand runs about $50.
People who purchase the interactive wands can visit different spots around the park and make things light up and move. There are corresponding spells and movements to go with each spot, but I read that it’s the movement of the wand that actually triggers the effect.
What all this is trying to say is that if you love J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, you will love visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
We could all stand to bask in a little magic.