Right from the moment you walk under the archway into Hogsmede, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you are swept up in the magic of this Universal Islands of Adventure section. The snow-capped buildings of Hogsmede, with the familiar names of Honeydukes and Zonko’s, and Hog’s Head and the Three Broomsticks, is so pretty and well done, the feeling of excitement and magic is very hard to resist!
I had hurriedly finished the final book the morning of my visit, and even completed the book before it on the drive to the airport for this trip, which I would never usually do! Not wanting to catch any spoilers for the ending, I need not have worried, as clearly this land was planned mid-way through the Potter Hogwarts years.
Wandering into each of the snow-capped shops within Hogsmede, taking in the sweets and treats of Honeydukes, and checking out the Owl Post store with the owlery in the rafters above, was just like you had stepped into the books. There was a line-up at Ollivander’s Wand, as I believe you can go in and have a wand select you, but the line persisted all day so I gave that a miss.
With Hogwarts looming above, I decided to have a quick stop at the Hog’s Head and a glass of the infamous Butterbeer. Like a creamy soda, really, this Hogsmede staple sealed the experience.
Getting up to the castle, and storing my things in a locker, I then followed the path to the main ride of this "land". As a single rider I got to move through the barriers pretty quickly, as the walk through to the corridors of Hogwarts, with the moving and talking picture frames adorning the walls, past the Sorting Hat, up into the Great Hall with it’s gorgeous floating candles, and the seat for the ride.
Strapped in to the capsule and being set in motion, Hermione is the first character you encounter on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, explaining that you will travel through corridors of the castle and be met by Harry and Ron, to a Quiddich match. Harry and Ron take you flying from the Castle to outside, but then you cross paths with Hagrid who has lost a dragon, and sure enough, that dragon bumps your flying trip off path. You run into this dragon, feel the heat of his breath, before he causes much destruction within your path, making the walls crumble, and leading you to come face to face with Aragog. Eventually you make it safely to the Quidditch pitch - but soon dementors arrive, and Harry tries to take you away to find safety. You go into free fall, before Harry’s Patronus clears the path, and he brings you back safely to the Castle and the Great Hall.
The ride manages to capture quite a bit of the essence of the books, the characters and the setting, and lets you feel like you are there in enchantment of JK Rowlings' imaginings.
Back into the sunlight, after a visit to Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods, I jumped onto the Flight of the Hippogriff mini-roller coaster, which included a wizz past Hagrid’s Hut. I then wandered back into Hogsmede and had lunch at the Three Broomsticks, which included a glass of pumpkin juice, which was delicious!
Visiting the Wizarding World is the reason I travelled up to Orlando via my roadtrip, and the magic of the details bringing the books to life, such as the presence of Moaning Murtle in the bathroom, and the hanging Extendable Ears in Honeydukes, made it completely worth the effort. Seeing these characters and stories made into a physical place to enjoy was a delight, and is a real treat for any Harry Potter fan.