Hogwarts! Hogsmead! Harry Potter! oh, and Universal Studios.

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“Hogwarts, Hogwarts, hoggy warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please!”

Okay, if you are a big fan like me, this is going to be a fantastic destination. If not, just bear with it…it’s a half day trip at best.

The village of Hogsmeades is set on one of Universal Studio’s islands and is a charming snow covered, icicle hanging, detailed recreation of the movie sets. Store fronts with real shops behind them, old rides repurposed to fit the new theme, and sensational, but buggy new rides all lead to a fun day in Harry Potter land!

It’s the dedication to details that make this park so fun. Fans know their books, they know what to expect when they go into Ollivanders wand shop, they know what an owl post is and they know what a butterbeer is. With careful attention Universal has tried to fulfill the imagination of the fans, and has succeeded.

So here is a few practical tips: Really plan your day. If beating the lines is important, consider staying in one of the on-site hotels. This is also great for taking an afternoon dip in the pool to recover your energy before you head back to the park. Also, plan an early lunch and get in before the lines. And my favorite, plan your breaks. Make sure you land at Hogshead Pub for a chilled butterbeer (skip the pumpkin juice). Hogshead is a tiny pub attached to the Three Broomsticks restaurant (which also carries butterbeer) and is AIR CONDITIONED!  Believe me when standing in the middle of a snow covered village in July with the sweat dripping off you,  this bit of Muggle technology is not to be underestimated in reviving your spirit.

There are three rides in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Hippogriff was a charming attraction perfect for young kids that like roller coasters. The Dragon Challenge was a high speed high adrenalin ride that I loved, even though it left me dizzy. This coaster had all the hallmarks of a well repurposed ride. The Forbidden Journey was a combo of multi-media, sensory, and fantasy with all the thrills of a good ride. My favorite attraction, it travels through the castle and into the air during a quidditch match. Fantastic and just plain fun! The one drawback was the frequent breakdowns. At one point we were stuck in line (which winds through a set of Hogwarts grounds and castle) for 3 hours. Sitting on the ground in the hall of portraits as the recorded voices reset and ran their canned script over and over for three hours was more then my non-fan husband could take. But come on, it’s Harry Potter! so all the inconveniences were nothing compared to the fun!

(Additional note, you may get distracted by Seuss Landing on your way into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  It’s a great distraction, but you can come back!)

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Butterbeer

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Ollivander’s Shop

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The castle and entry to the Forbidden Journey ride.

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Lots of people in Hogsmeade

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Ron’s father’s car is found!

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Hagrid’s house

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Honeydukes is a real shop

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view of Hogwarts at Universal Orlando