We’ve finally reached the end of my Wizarding World of Harry Potter posts and what a journey it has been (for me at least). This last installment will cover the two major rides, the experience at Ollivander’s, and the eateries/food. If you haven’t yet, you can also check out Part One and Part Two. Without further ado, I present to you, Part Three.
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Ollivanders – Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC
Ollivanders makes an appearance in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, which makes sense considering wands are a major part of the Harry Potter universe. The shop in Hogsmeade is much smaller, more cramped, and less detailed than the shop in Diagon Alley. This is due to the fact that the original Ollivanders in Hogsmeade was mainly dedicated to the wand choosing ceremony, while the new one in Diagon Alley is made to house more people.
The main attraction of both Ollivanders shops is the wand choosing the wizard show they put on. On my first trip, there was a super long wait, but the second time I visited was much better. It seems that having two shops has helped with the massive amount of traffic. The show itself, in my opinion, is worth waiting for. It’s kind of cheesy, but it adds a nice element of magic to the experience. Only one person is selected to try out different wands, but it’s still fun to watch the effect each wand has. Plus you get to see a different part of Ollivanders.
After the show, you exit the set and enter the shop where you can actually make a wand purchase. The shop in Hogsmeade is pretty basic, but the one in Diagon Alley has an enormous amount of detail. Boxes of wands are stacked up to the ceiling and the décor is, as usual, interesting to look at.
The wands themselves are a true wonder. There are thirteen Ollivanders Original styles, which were inspired by the Celtic calendar. Tons of different replica character wands are also available, some of which I certainly did not anticipate. For example, I found a replica of Viktor Krum’s wand, which I thought was awesome. You can buy non-interactive, interactive, and toy learner wands.
Interactive wands are another one of the new additions to the parks. Places where you can use these wands to cast spells are located throughout the park. The spells will only work if you use the correct motions, so there are plenty of wandering wizards who are willing to help you out if you’re struggling. Each spot is marked with a medallion embedded into the ground. The wands come with a map that shows where the magical spots are located, but some are left off the map so you can discover them on your own. The wands don’t require batteries and can be used again if you revisit the park.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
The first time I rode this ride, I was shocked at how real it felt. It was hands down the best ride I’d ever been on (until I rode Escape from Gringotts on my second visit). The detail and technology is outstanding. The line can get extremely long, but the quality of this experience makes it more than worth the wait. Besides, you never know when you might get lucky and encounter a shorter line. On my second visit, we were lucky and passed through it pretty quickly.
Even if you have a long wait time, you won’t be lacking for marvelous things to look at. You can spot major items from the books and movies, such as the Mirror of Erised and moving portraits that speak to one another. The line takes you through the castle grounds and into replicas of different rooms found in Hogwarts, including Dumbledore’s office and the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. At one point, you are greeted by a holographic image of Dumbledore. At another point, Harry, Ron, and Hermione appear from under the Invisibility Cloak. You even get to experience snow falling from the ceiling.
Once you’re through the line, you board a moving bench in the Room of Requirement, which is meant to act as an enchanted broom that allows Muggles to fly. As you swoop through a Quidditch match things start to escalate. I don’t want to spoil the ride for you, so I won’t go into too much detail. I will say that it involves a dragon, Aragog the spider, the Forbidden Forest, The Chamber of Secrets, Dementors, and the Whomping Willow. This ride is truly incredible. It was easy to forget I was buckled into a bench seat and to imagine that I was indeed flying through the air.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
The Forbidden Journey ride is rivaled only by other major ride at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Escape from Gringotts. Perched atop Gringotts is a fire-breathing dragon. Seriously, it breathes fire.
Every fifteen minutes or so, you can hear the dragon begin to growl. It then lets loose a blast of hot, in-your-face fire. This was one of the coolest things about Diagon Alley. Another cool thing is the money exchange at Gringotts, where you can exchange your money for wizard currency, but I digress.
The line takes you through the lavishly decorated bank, where you pass several animatronic goblins that will speak to you. The ride takes on a similar sense as the Forbidden Journey, but utilizes train cars rather thanbenches. It involves a few new characters as well. You will find yourself face to face with Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort himself. The ride is, once again, brilliantly realistic. I won’t give anything away, but at one point, I’m pretty sure my life flashed before my eyes.
Food vendors are scattered around both parks, which is nice of you’re looking for something quick. If you’re looking for an experience to go with your food, however, there are a few places you should consider checking out.
Three Broomsticks is the only real dining establishment in Hogsmeade, and it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a daily basis. The tavern is set up as a buffeteria, which somewhat brings back memories of school lunches. The menu consists of traditional dishes such as shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. I had breakfast there the first time I visited, and the food was delicious. The décor is even better, though, so be sure to take a good look around.
At the back of Three Broomsticks is the Hog’s Head pub. Here you can sample specialty drinks or choose from a selection of domestic and imported beers, spirits, wine, and mixed drinks. The highlight of the Hog’s Head pub is the hog’s head (go figure) that periodically snarls at the guests.
Diagon Alley also only hosts one dining establishment, which is the Leaky Cauldron. This pub is set up differently, however, where you place your order and receive a number. You can then sit and wait for someone to bring your food, or you can place your number at a table and have a look around. I recommend looking around, because as per usual, the décor is pretty great. I had lunch here the second time I visited, and the food was both filling and satisfying.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour
In my opinion, Florean Fortescue’s is not to be missed. Granted, I’m absolutely crazy about ice cream so there’s a slight bias there. Still, this parlour offers some delectable soft-serve ice cream. There are typical flavors like chocolate and vanilla, but there are also some really unique and interesting flavors like strawberry and peanut butter or earl grey and lavender. I tried the latter, and I thought it was wonderful. After doing so, however, I discovered that Butterbeer was a flavor option. I don’t know how I missed this, but I’m going to have to go back to try it.
Along with all of the awesome food selections, there are several exclusive beverages to try. Pumpkin Juice is one of the better-known options. It also happens to be one of the only ones I actually tried. I personally really enjoyed Pumpkin Juice, which somehow captures the taste of pumpkin pie and autumn. However, not everyone seems to enjoy this drink. It stills worth a try and is the only beverage (don’t quote me on that, because I’m not totally sure) exclusive to the park that can be bought in bottled form.
Another beverage available to try is Fishy Green Ale, which tastes like cinnamon and mint and has blueberry-flavored bubbles at the bottom. You can also try Otter’s Fizzy Orange Drink, Tongue Tying Lemon Squash, Peachtree Fizzing Tea, and Gilly Water (which is literally just expensive bottled water). You can also buy four different flavors of Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment, which can be added to water to create a potion. These elixirs come in keepsake vials, which are actually pretty neat. For the 21+ crowd there are two beers to try that are unique to the parks. Wizard’s Brew is a dark porter, while Dragon Scale is a lighter, malty beer.
Butterbeer deserves its own section. It is, perhaps, the most famous beverage at the parks, and there is no question in my mind as to why. The first time I tasted Butterbeer, I was instantly enamored. I’m quite certain I could drink it every day, and I would if it were available. If there is one thing you try at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then it should absolutely be Butterbeer. Despite the name, Butterbeer is a non-alcoholic beverage, so people of all ages can enjoy this creamy drink. It is available in cold or frozen form, though I wish it were available warm. You can find it in any of the dining establishments, at scattered kiosks, or the Fountain of Fair Fortune, where you can get an exclusive keepsake mug.
We’ve made it to the end of the three-part journey through the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For a while there, I didn’t think I’d ever be done. There’s just so much to say about this incredible place. I’m sure I’ve missed all sorts of things, but hopefully I at least covered the major stuff. This magical place will live in my memory for many, many years to come, and I hope I will be able to visit it again someday. If you can, you should absolutely try to experience it for yourself. It really is the trip of a lifetime.
Shout out to Sarah, Nicole, and Vanessa Schultz and Jake Reardon for contributing some great ideas about what to cover in this post. Thanks for all your help! 🙂