This morning, as I drank my coffee and watched the latest Studio C skit (more on that later), I found myself pondering about what to write this week. As luck would have it, the skit happened to be Harry Potter related, which is a subject very near and dear to my heart. With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hitting theaters this weekend, I figure now is as good a time as ever to talk about one of my favorite places in the world – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit this magical land twice. The first time was shortly after it opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The second time was after the Diagon Alley portion was added at Universal Studios Florida. Both of these are without a doubt, in my opinion, worth visiting. While they have some similarities, they are not at all the same. They each offer unique experiences, and if you can, I recommend visiting both. With all of the staff members dressed in appropriate costumes, the parks are a true immersion into the wizarding world.
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Where the Wizarding World Began
Hogsmeade is where the Orlando Resort’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter began. It’s located all the way at the back of the park, which makes it feel separate from everything else. I think this is one of its great assets. It adds to the feeling of being in a different world, and isn’t that what draws so many of us the Fantasy genre in the first place?
Stepping into Hogsmeade Village for the first time was a dream come true. As one of my fellow travelers put it, “It honestly felt like magic.” He was absolutely right. The whole place emanates an air of excitement and curiosity. Imagine walking along High Street, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells, while the music from the movies plays in the background and other visitors bustle around you. It’s pretty fantastic.
One of the fascinating parts of the wizarding world is the amount of detail that has gone into it. From the cobblestones to the snowy roofs, everything about Hogsmeade is made to convince you it’s as real as can be. The windows of the shops are full of minute details that drudge up memories of descriptions from the books. The signs use words such as pram rather than stroller in order to stay true to Harry Potter’s British roots. Even the Public Conveniences (Restrooms) have the fun detail of a speaking Moaning Myrtle.
Hogsmeade Village features four shops where you can browse for and purchase products. These shops are small and were awfully crowded the first time I was there. However, by the second time, things had died down. They were still busy, but I found that the crowds weren’t nearly as bad. I would complain about how small the shops are, but this is another one of those details that is included to stay true to the books and movies. I read somewhere (I can’t remember where exactly) that J.K. Rowling actually insisted this be the case.
Dervish and Banges
Dervish and Banges is essentially an assortment shop, though if I had to give it a main category I would consider it a Quidditch supply shop. Here you will find Quaffles, Bludgers, and Golden Snitches. Broomsticks, such as the Firebolt or the Nimbus Two Thousand and One, can also be purchased, though they unfortunately don’t fly (or so we’ve been told). Among the Quidditch paraphernalia, you will also find fun items such as Spectrespecs, Sneakoscopes, and The Monster Book of Monsters. Hogwarts and Quidditch-related uniforms and other clothing items are also available, along with an array of other items.
A trip to Hogsmeade wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the famous Honeydukes. This colorful shop is brimming with all sorts of candies and sweets. Alongside classics, such as Candy Floss (cotton candy) and Salt Water Taffy, lie items that are unique to the wizarding world. These range from the well known to the somewhat obscure. Not surprisingly, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans take up a large portion of the shop. Fizzing Whizzbees, Sherbet Lemons, Cauldron Cakes, Butterbeer Fudge, and Sugar Quill pops are just some of the delightful options Honeydukes has to offer, but there are dozens of others. I wish I could have tried them all.
Note – The first time I visited the park Zonko’s Joke Shop was attached to Honeydukes. Since then, it has been taken over because of the high demand and high traffic of Honeydukes. Zonko’s was a fun, little shop, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t even realize it was missing the second time I went.
The Owl Post is a small shop attached to Dervish and Banges. Here you can purchase stationary items such as feather quills, inkwells, and parchment paper. You’ll see lots of stuffed owls mixed in with other toys and gifts. You can also buy unique wizarding world stamps and mail a letter using the special Hogsmeade postmark.
Filch’s Emporium is a part of the Hogwart’s castle. It carries a plethora of Potter memorabilia, as well as some specialty items. The selection at Filch’s seems almost endless and includes your typical souvenir type items. This is the largest shop in Hogsmeade, but can still get rather
crowded. Here you will find great items like The Marauder’s Map, chess sets (no, they don’t move on their own), and movie prop replicas. Among the replicas, you will see Death Eater masks, the Sorting Hat, and the Sword of Gryffindor. Even if you might never consider buying some of these items, they’re brilliant to look at.
Other than the famous Forbidden Journey ride, Hogsmeade has two other rides. It seems to me these are often overlooked and overshadowed, but I think they deserve some love. The Flight of the Hippogriff is a family-friendly junior roller coaster that takes you a flight over Hagrid’s Hut, through the pumpkin patch, and over the Forbidden Forest. It’s a mild ride, but it features the same detail you’ll find everywhere else in the park. The line winds through the grounds at Hogwarts and ends in an area modeled after where Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class was taught. While you wait in the line, you’ll be able to take in the sights of Hagrid’s Hut and the Forbidden Forest. However, both times I was there, the line for The Flight of the Hippogriff was almost non-existent.
The other ride is the Dragon Challenge and is actually made up of two separate rides. It consists of two intertwined inverted roller coasters. When you first enter the line, you pass by a variety of Triwizard Tournament posters and a crashed Ford Anglia. You then enter the Champions’ Tent where the Triwizard Cup sits on a pedestal. From here you will pass through various dark tunnels until you reach a point where you have to choose to go left or right. To the right lies the Hungarian Horntail, which is light blue and reaches a top speed of 55 MPH. To the left lies the Chinese Fireball, which is orange and reaches a top speed of 60 MPH. Both of these have several twists, turns, and loops. While they are similar, they are both worth trying as the lines are also surprisingly short and move quickly.
So Much More
I fear I have already gone on too long, but there’s so much more to cover. I find myself pining after another trip to the wizarding word as I’m writing this. I’m excited just thinking about it. Hogsmeade a magical place that every Harry Potter fan should try to visit someday. I certainly will if the opportunity arises.
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! 🙂