My husband and I went to Universal Studio’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter this last February for our 5 year wedding anniversary. We stayed in one of the on site resorts so we were able to enter the park an hour before the public, which was worth it for sure. We got to the park at 8am and were led through the rest of the park to Hogsmead and the Hogwarts area as only that area is open for early admission. Walking up to the little village and train station instantly transport you to the wizarding world and is simply amazing.
When we entered the village of Hogsmead we walked around, got some good pictures while the crowds were calm from early admission. We headed straight to Hogwarts castle to ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” where you are taken on a flying adventure with so much to see, we rode it twice. We even enjoyed waiting in line for “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” as you get to go through the castle and in each little waiting room there is something to entertain you while you wait. There are moving portraits to listen to and watch, film accurate rooms to marvel at and much more.
One thing I was glad for in the parks is that before every large ride where you can not take your bags (we took a back pack) there are lockers outside of the rides where you can store your stuff for free while you are on the ride. You scan your finger print and then get your locker number, store your stuff away and then after the ride you just go and scan your print again and it opens your locker for you to grab your things and go.
I could spend all day walking through the shops and looking at every little thing. The shop fronts are amazing and really draw you in. In Hogsmead you have so many amazing things to look at: “Honeyduke’s” where you will find shelves of magical candy and treats, “Dervish and Banges” where you can find a bit of everything from t-shirts to brooms, “Ollivander’s” which is a smaller shop than the one in Diagon Alley but there are all the wands a wizard would want to pick from, “The Owl Post” where you can send mail or purchase stationary and quills, and “Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods” which is the gift shop located at the end of “The Forbidden Journey” where you could spend quite a bit of time looking around at all the odds and ends.
We grabbed some breakfast at “The Three Broomsticks” which has “Hogs Head Pub” attached to it. You can sit and look at all the interesting decorations while grabbing a bite or a drink.
In “Islands of Adventure” where Hogsmead and Hogwarts is you have two rides: “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” and “The Flight of the Hippogriff” . They are right next to each other so once you get off one head directly to the next one. “The Flight of the Hippogriff” was a simple small track coaster where you get to see Hagrid’s Hut and Buckbeak chilling outside. We went the first week of February and the crowds were not bad at all. The longest we waited in line for anything was 30min but 8 out of 10 rides were much less of a wait time than that.
You really want to try and go during low crowds because it is so great to be able to really take everything in. When you are in the shops look everywhere, side to side and up and down, there are things everywhere to see. Exploring is such a big part of the experience of the Wizarding World for sure.
Once you’re done walking around Hogsmead, if you have the park to park pass you can hop on the Hogwarts Express to head to “Universal Studio’s” where you will find Diagon Alley. Riding the Train to and from the two parks was fun and each way you will have a different experience so we found the park to park pass worth the extra cost since we only had one day to do all we could.
When you get off the train it puts you out into London where you need to look around for the entrance to Diagon Alley. When you walk through the opening and there are buildings looming on each side you are transported to when you first read “The Philosopher’s stone” or saw the movie for the first time. The hustle and bustle of everyone adds to the charm of the area as there are things to see and do all around.
The main ride in this area is “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” which was a blast, this ride was multi-dimensional with so much to experience. On top of the bank is a dragon that blows fire every few minutes and man can you feel the heat below! You can go next door to the “Gringotts Money Exchange” where you can trade your U.S. Dollars for Wizarding Notes you can use to purchase things around the Wizarding World.
The Florida heat can bear down even in February so you should stop by “Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor” for some fantastic soft serve or hand dipped ice cream in many fun flavors including ButterBeer Ice Cream!
Make sure to take the little tour of “Ollivander’s Wand Shop” where a lucky wizard will be chosen by a wand. You can purchase replica wands or interactive wands that can cast spells around the park, each wand is about $50.
There are many shops to look at in Diagon Alley: get your jokes at “Weasleys Wizard Wheezes”, some dapper robes or dresses at “Madame Malkins Robes for all Occasions”, all your Quidditch needs at “Quality Quidditch Supplies”, find a loving companion at the “Magical Menagerie” and several more shops to explore.
Make sure to try and catch some of the shows while you are visiting. We got to see “Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees” sing some great tunes and embarrass a lucky person with a serenade.
In Diagon Alley you can grab a bite at “The Leaky Cauldron” which is where we ate lunch, you can also go by “The Hopping Pot” for your choice of all the wizarding drinks to be had like: Toungue Tying Lemon Squash, Fishy Green Ale, Wizards Brew and many others.
We took the train back to ‘Islands of Adventure” and got to see the Frog Choir show which was so fun to watch. Besides Celestina’s show and the Frog Choir there is a Triwizard show as well that takes place in the same area as the Frog Choir.
We sat and relaxed in the middle of Hogsmead as the sun went down and watched the lights come on giving a truly magical ambiance. The Hogwarts light show at night was one of the coolest shows my husband and I have ever seen. Such a wonderful experience to bring our magical day to a close. We headed back to our room which was so easy with the resorts shuttle services.
I could go to the Wizarding world every week and never get bored. We really enjoyed our time there and can not wait to go back.
Have you ever been to Universal’s Wizarding World? Let me know about your trip in the comments! What house do you claim? What is your favorite treat in the park?
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My daughter and I both LOVE to read. I think it is very important, no matter how old you are to pick up a book any time you can. At the start of this home school year I decided to use my blank entry door as a backdrop for a reading reward idea I had. I cut out various shapes from construction paper, one shape for individual *on your own time* reading and one for, either novels we finish in school or ones we read together out loud. Every time we finish a book we write the title on the shape and then tape it to the door. Every 20 books there is a reward to be had: at 20 we had a movie night where she got to pick a movie to rent and snacks to eat, at 40 she got to pick a restaurant (we do not eat out often) and we went to Olive Garden. Right now we are at 43 working our way up. I will usually let her know what the next reward will be except for the 100 book mark. I think it will be cool to have a larger surprise for 100 books. For younger kids I would maybe do a little reward every 5-10 and have a big reward at a much lower number.
Here is a link to another page that has reading reward programs all around (mainly for k-6 maybe through 8th. I find that for the older kids it is harder to find programs for them)- http://howtohomeschoolforfree.com/reading-incentive-programs-for-kids/
This is a program that is for k-12 and earns your kid a T-shirt after compleating the list. Many of the books on these lists are one they would normally finish in school, may as well have a fun reward! http://www.examiner.com/article/kids-can-earn-free-t-shirts-and-certificates-from-mensa-for-kids-for-reading
Even Pizzahut has a book-it program: http://www.bookitprogram.com/
Do you know of any programs that are neat? Let me know in the comments!