There are a few things in the world that can match the impact of Harry Potter. Let’s be real here. Real nerdy. Harry Potter transformed the imaginations of an entire generation and beyond.
So when Alston and I were doing our Orlando tour of Disney Adventures and decided to include Universal, I couldn’t deny that what I was most looking forward to was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I was going to be a witch! I’d see Hogwarts! Roller coasters! Everything was going to be amazing.
I’ll be super frank here and say that I didn’t love J.K. Rowling’s writing all the time. I had issues with her style and some of the choices she made (wait, Dumbledore is gay? Why didn’t you include that in the story so LGBTQ readers could have an amazing hero that was just like them? Why announce it only after everything is done? Argh… don’t get me started), but one thing I desperately loved was the world she crafted. She really did bring magic to life.
The Universal Studios park in Orlando (there’s also a Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Los Angeles and Osaka) is like a fairy tale come true for many of the Harry Potter generation. You get to live and breath the whimsical world of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, walk in the shadow of Hogwarts, and drink Butterbeer and eat Puking Pasties.
But wait… I’m getting ahead of myself. You need to get there first!
The first thing to realize about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which shall henceforth be referred to as WWoHP because holy crap that’s a lot of words to keep typing over and over again), is that it is magical.
Okay, you knew that.
Actually, it’s two different parks. You have Diagon Alley and London at Universal Studios Florida and then Hogsmeade and Hogwarts on Islands of Adventure. To get between the two, you take the Hogwarts Express. For realsies. You take a train.
From King’s Cross to be exact.
Ignoring the geographical error here and the fact Leicester Square is not directly next to King’s Cross, I have to hand it to Universal for getting the architecture of London pretty gosh darn right. Sure there’s the staple f the red telephone booth, but then again, those do still exist. What amused me most was they have the grating for the tube stop completely right. it’s the little things, people.
In fact, this part of the park, which is also home to Diagon Alley, is a mini recreation of London with important landmarks from the films. There’s 12 Grimmauld Place, home of Sirius Black and later headquarters for The Order of the Phoenix, the infamous Knight Bus from The Prisoner of Azkaban, and of course King’s Cross and the magical Platform 9 3/4.
The particular part of the park is really just an entrance to the rest of the attractions. From here you can get to both Diagon Alley and hop on the train to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. Other than posing with the various landmarks there’s not much else to do, unless you’re us and get into a duel, but that’ll come later.
Getting to Hogwarts
In order to get to Hogwarts from here you need to head into King’s Cross station with your park ticket, get validated, and then wait in line. The train runs back and forth constantly so the wait is never horribly long, and in theory you could just exit Universal and go to the Islands of Adventure entrance, but what fun is that?
The good thing is that the line has plenty of things to amuse you. There’s luggage stacked everywhere, a few owls looking at you, and of course all the excited people roaming around. Alston and I were decked out in our robes and everything by this point and more than one person was snapping a pic. Alston frequently got mistaken for an employee x’D.
Did you know that when you go to TWWoHP that you actually become magical? I mean, how else did Alston and I go through platforms 9 and 10?
It’s actually a fun mirror trick (OH GOD I RUINED THE MAGIC!). It’s just another little quirk and experience here that really adds to the atmosphere.
Once you pass through Platform 9 3/4, you see the sign for the Hogwarts Express, and it’s kinda hard not to squeal. I mean, this is iconic.
Though so is waiting in lines.
Eventually you’ll be put into chutes for your cabins when the train finally rolls up. And when it does you’ll also feel like a kid because there it is, in all it’s glory: The Hogwarts Express!
6-8 fit in a cabin and as you travel to the other park you’re treated to a little movie that shows you chugging along the Scottish countryside as well as some memorably moments from the films (the car from A Chamber of Secrets makes a particularly amusing cameo). There’s also shadows on the cabin windows of your fellow Hogwarts students passing along, including the famous trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
It should be noted that to get the full experience, ride the train BACK to Universal as well instead of exiting through Islands of Adventure. The movie is different on the return trip.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a theme park in every sense of the world. It’s about the theme and the experience more than about the rides. The rides are great, but there’s not a lot of them. When you go to TWWoHP, it’s to dive into the magical world of the books and movies more than anything else. And it just goes to show how successful that aspect is by the fact you can entertain yourself in the London and King’s Cross part of the attraction, which is relatively minuscule in comparison to everything else.
Especially because… who knows… you may just end up in a duel!
A Muggle’s Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be a multi-part series, so make sure to subscribe and follow us on social media to know when the next part is published!
A Muggle’s Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is part of the Disney Adventures collaboration between The Nerdventurists and Alston Stephanus of Alston Stephanus Accessories. Check him out on Instagram & his company!
Photos by Noriko Sugiura.