For some, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is considered “The Most Magical Place on Earth” but we’ve got news for those Muggles – they’re dead wrong. Universal Studios snagged the title when they opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWHP) in June 2010.
Housed within Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure theme park, WWHP is a Rowling-fan’s dream come true. As with the books and films, the park’s attention to detail is impeccable. That noise you’re hearing in the girl’s loo? Oh, that’s just Moaning Myrtle having a wee cry. Looking for the ATM? It’s under the archway labelled “Gringotts.” So cool, right?
From touring inside Hogwarts to indulging your sweet tooth at Honeydukes, there’s a lot to see and do in the park, which also means a lot of time for lollygagging. Our suggestion: get to the park early (we arrived 30 minutes before it was supposed to open and they let us in!) and beeline to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, located inside Hogwarts (!!!). This dark ride takes you through the castle, where you’ll follow Harry (on his broom, natch) and encounter a lot of familiar sights: the Whomping Willow, Dementors and the Quidditch pitch. Surpringingly, one of our favourite parts of the ride was the queue, as it took you through Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor Common Room, Professor Sprout’s greenhouse and the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom.
The two other rides are Dragon’s Challenge, a pair of completely different roller coasters and the Flight of the Hippogriff, a kid-friendly ride by Hagrid’s cottage. If you’re a fan of rides, we highly suggest waiting in line for both the Red and Blue dragon coaster. Another tip: eat lunch after the rides.
Finally, the shopping. Hogsmeade has it all: Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Honeydukes, Zonko’s and the Three Broomsticks. But save up your Galleons because Hogsmeade ain’t cheap. A character’s wand will run you $30, the Marauder’s Map (unframed) is $50 and a Chocolate Frog is about $10. There’s one thing that’s totally worth the pricetag though, and that’s Butterbeer. Make sure you get it frozen and in the commerative cup. You can thank us later.