Nothing like a little temperature shock to get your system back into the swing of things. On Monday, I went from sunny 75-degree Florida to 0 degree Chicago (with a negative 12 windchill) in a matter of mere hours. Talk about vacation withdrawal.
The first leg of my Florida trip with my mom and sister was a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a theme park in its own right, but a new section of the existing Universal Studios Islands of Adventure theme park. Semantics, ay?
It’s actually an important distinction because the Harry Potter section itself is rather small—definitely doable in a half-day, if there aren’t a lot of crowds.
We were some of the first people in the park, as you can judge by the deserted streets of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Every detail from the movie set was meticulously recreated in sunny Orlando, down to the faux English village stuck in perpetual winter with fake snow affixed to the rooftops and icicles dangling from the eaves. The Harry Potter soundtrack was piped in softly throughout the park, which really heightened the atmosphere.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out when I was 11 and I vividly remember my sixth grade teacher reading aloud the first half of the book to us, over the course of several weeks. That was all it took for me to become hooked. I enjoyed most of the movies, but my heart belongs to J.K. Rowling’s seven spellbinding novels.
Anyway. Highlights? Here they are.
I drooled over Honeyduke’s candy displays and bought a sack of sugary goods to bring back to Chicago—chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Fizzing Whizzbees…it was all there, plus more. Candy heaven. We strolled through Zonko’s joke shop, warmed up in the Three Broomsticks, and witnessed a cute little spell of magic in Ollivander’s Wand Shop.
This section of the theme park has three roller coasters: a pair known as the “Dueling Dragons” and the tamer “Flight of the Hippogriff.”
The park’s piece de resistance is the Forbidden Journey, a part-simulator, part-thrill ride through the halls of Hogwarts. I don’t want to spoil anything for you future parkgoers, but suffice it to say, it was really neat. Even waiting in line was an experience, as we passed through Dumbledore’s office, the school halls, and a Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson.
It was seriously delicious and also unusual—like a cross between cream soda and root beer, with a buttery foam topping.