Harry Potter World at Universal, Orlando – Diagon Alley – It was truly magical to walk into Diagon Alley and see my imaginings of books I have loved for 20 years come to life. I have seen some of the things differently in my mind’s eye, of course, but to see the stores, to have them open and to have some of the merchandise available was fun (but expensive). To have my oldest daughter with whom I read the first books 15 and 20 years ago be excited to select a wand at Olivanders was so miraculous. To watch my youngest sons who are just now reading the books for the first time, use the interactive wands to cast spells into the store windows and watch a chocolate frog croak or a book open… it was pure joy. We drank butterbeer. We ate at the Leaky Cauldron. We entered Gringotts Bank and rode the ride three times in a row to be part of the crazy adventure. We wandered around Hogsmead and bought sweets at Honeydukes. We felt part of the wizarding world. It was really special. They have done a great job, especially with the details. The only strange thing about it is that it is two separate spaces tacked onto Universal. You enter Universal and walk up through Chicago and San Francisco and then enter London and the brick wall into Diagon Alley. It’s not a separate “Harry Potter World”, but parts of it are there and if you and your family have loved the books, you will love what is there. You will need at least one full day and two are best.
Hogswarts Express, Orlando – You can take the Hogswart Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmead to get between the two parts of Harry Potter World. The Hogwarts Express is a very organized ride. When you enter the long lines from the Kings Cross station, have someone from your party hang back before you walk through the door between platform 9 and 10. From a distance it looks like you are walking through a brick wall and they can video it for you. To you, you will be walking through a doorway. It looks great on video! From there, you stand in lines and are lead into a seat on a train car. From one direction you will see video and scenes from Harry Potter books of dementors and the tea trolley heading to Hogwarts. Coming from Hogwarts back to London, you will see a different set of scenes. We liked the route back to London better, since you see more characters. You can stand with the front of the train for photos in Hogsmead, so don’t worry if you don’t get good photos in the train stations. The train is always moving.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hogsmead, Orlando – Hogsmead is more crowded than Diagon Alley for some reason. We enjoyed buying sweets at Honeydukes and taking the Hippogriff, which is a short rollercoaster. I wish they had done more with the castle. It is only a ride. I wanted to have it be expansive and be able to walk around it. I wish it was larger and its own space. It’s not a separate “Harry Potter World”, but parts of it are there. If you and your family have loved the books, you will love seeing it come to life. We enjoyed being there for two full days.