In fact, I've been saying yes to a lot more things lately, and I couldn't be more happy about it. Spontaneity is the spice of life and it's amazing how many life changing experiences you have when you just put yourself out there!
There are two Harry Potter parks in Universal Studios in Orlando. Hogsmeade was the first, and then they opened up Diagon Alley pretty recently. We started the day off in Hogsmeade.
Once you walk through the Hogsmeade entryway, it truly feels like your stepping into a scene from the movie or a page from the books.
That magical Harry Potter music plays everywhere, and you can't help but get swept up in the whimsy.
We stopped in the famous Honey Dukes and loaded up on chocolate frogs, fizzing whisbies and Bernie Bott's Every Flavor Beans (the name is literal, be careful for bogie flavored!)
Here's the entrance to the Three Broomsticks, where one can get a snack and an ice cold butterbeer (which is an absolutely delicious, butterscotch and root beer flavored concoction, although I could only manage a few sips before sugar coma set in).
Maura and I stopped in Ollivander's Wand Shop (which in the books is actually in Diagon Alley, but we didn't mind), where we were actually chosen to be fitted for a wand by Ollivander himself! We shelled out $40 bucks to keep them, and the greatest part is that all over these parks are interactive window displays where you can try our your magic with your wands.
Finally we made it to Hogwarts Castle. Inside the castle is the best ride in both parks. In typical Orlando fashion the line is miles long, but it's fun because you wander through the casle as the line twists and turns, and you're presented with some of the best scenes from the movies- moving portraits, the sorting hat, Dumbledore's Pensieve. It's very dark in there but it all feels so real. The ride itself was amazing, but it's very hard to explain, and I really don't want to ruin the magic- so if you are a HP fan like me then you absolutely must put it on your list.
Here we are waiting in line as we passed through Herbology class...
The House Cup tally...
After exploring Hogwarts, we took a ride on a Hippgriff outside Hagrid's hut! Complete with oversized pumpkins. This ride is your typical theme park attraction, if you like being upsidedown and thrown around you will love it.
Even the water is HP themed, and it was hot, so we stayed hydrated with quite a few Gilly Waters (presumably from the Hogwart's lake).
Once we waved our wands at everything in Hogsmeade, we scooted over to Platform 9 3/4 and hopped aboard the Hogwart's Express to take us to the other, newer park, Diagon Alley!
Then you walk behind a wall, and ta da! Diagon Alley opens up in front of you. Starting with Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, and off in the distance Gringott's Bank- truly a sight to behold.
Inside Gringott's is an exact replica of the bank in the movie- complete with Goblin bank tellers.
As you walk past the Goblins, you go underground to visit your cave and experience another Harry Potter ride. Big fun, but this one was very kid friendly. Afterwards we explored Diagon Alley some more. There is something to look at in every nook and cranny- there was even a Knockturn Alley section that was a little too dark for pictures but very shady and a little scary!
The Owlery was my favorite. I want my own Hedwig!
Overall the two parks blew me away with their dedication to really capturing the HP experience. We ate at the Leaky Cauldron- I had Toad in a Hole and Maura had fish and chips- honestly the food was really good and in keeping with the theme, very British.
Now, I was 11 when the first Harry Potter books came out, just like Harry himself. I kind of grew up along with Harry in the books, and so the whole Wizarding World of Harry Potter has a very special place in my heart. There were many times I've turned to the series for comfort or distraction, and to finally get to Orlando to experience the park was a very fun bucket list item to cross off. And to do it with Maura, another HP obsessed adult, in honor of HER upcoming wedding, made it even better!!! I will definitely be coming back with my kids one day!