The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios

I’m a huge Potterhead, I am. I’ve read the entire series twice over and seen (all) the movies at least four times. While researching the trip, I became aware that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually part of Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure theme park, and couldn’t help feeling a bit worried that HP World might be too small or too watered down, but my fears are now equivocally nixed. HP World is every bit as magical as everyone says it is, and overall, Islands of Adventure is as exciting as the main Universal Studios park.

Since we went at an off-peak season, there were NO QUEUES! We rode Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey within Hogwarts Castle twice, rode Flight of the Hippogriff twice and sat in front row seats for the Dragon Challenge ride. Lunch and frozen Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks was delightful; again it was super fast and no wait — good food too!

Fans like me will notice a lot of details while wandering about Hogsmeade. Gilderoy Lockhart’s books are showcased prominently in shop windows, as are wands and Quidditch supplies. A mandrake screeches at people as they walk past, and Sirius Black glares menacingly out of a poster next to the Hog’s Head Inn. At Filch’s Emporium, a bottle of Skele-Gro is on display, next to Seamus Finnigan’s school trunk. Even Hagrid’s house has a place next to the Hippogriff ride, and visitors on their way up to the Dragon Challenge ride will find Ron’s baby blue flying car permanently grounded next to tree.

In addition, the characters walking around really make HP World come to life. We ran to take photos with the friendly porter standing in front of the red and black Hogwarts Express train, and later with visiting Veela and Durmstrang wizards. Near a street cart selling wands, a boy in Gryffindor robes chats with a Slytherin girl while holding a hatching dragon’s egg. The lady at Honeydukes warns me not to open my Chocolate Frog near a window, and a wand maker’s apprentice ushers Muggles in to a shop for a demonstration by Ollivander. I only wished there were more characters to interact with!

For shopping, Honeydukes and Zonko’s Joke Shop are located side-by-side. I found Ton-Tongues, Fizzing Whizbees, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, pumpkin juice and of course, Chocolate Frogs. Zonko’s sells Remembralls, Extendable Ears and Sneakoscopes, just to name a few. Visitors looking for the easily recognized souvenirs like quills, scarfs, robes, and wands can find them at Dervish & Banges and Filch’s Emporium. Hard-core fans will love to know they can also find the Marauder’s Map (including one version that actually moves!) a $300 wizard’s chess set and Hermione’s Time Turner, which I got in keychain form.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a fan’s dream come true. Rumour has it that they’re expanding — can’t wait to check out the new features next summer!

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