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Posted on Feb 22, 2012 in Dear Diary | 26 comments

Of course this is happening inside your head, Harry…

…But why on earth should that mean it is not real?

It probably doesn’t even need to be said, but I am postponing this week’s weigh-in to allow my butterbeer belly time to deflate. So, where did we leave off? Ah yes, it’s Saturday morning, my parents and I have just arrived at the parks, and I am rip-raring and ready to get my arse to Harry Potter World! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the layout, Universal Orlando is split in two: Universal Studios park and Islands of Adventure. The latter is the one that houses the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is a section of the park along with others themed around things like Marvel superheroes, Jurassic Park, and Dr. Seuss.

Hop on Pop

We traipsed through Seussland and The Lost Continent, taking a few giddy moments at the Lorax statue and peering into a shop or two. No time to dilly-dally, though. I was a girl on a mission.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

It actually kind of sneaks up on you. Despite the fact that you’re actively looking for it. You just walk around a bend and suddenly, there it is.

Please Obey the Spell Limits

Hogsmeade. With its snow-crested rooftops and meticulously planned storefronts and Butterbeer barrels lining the streets. Eager children in robes roaming the streets, Hogwarts castle looming in the background. I would be lying if I didn’t get just the slightest bit emotional when I saw it. I’m only ridiculously obsessed with Harry Potter human, after all! And it was quite the magical moment for me.


After going through the main gate into Hogsmeade, we were immediately greeted by the enthusiastic conductor of the Hogwarts Express. To the right is the steaming smoke stack of the engine car, set up perfectly for a photo op. As I mentally squeal with utter delight, I see that the lockers for this area are housed under a sign indicating they’re part of the Hogsmeade train station (clever!).

Hogsmeade Train Schedule
All Aboard!Hogwarts Express

Across the cobblestones from the train sits Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes. At this point, the squealing is no longer just in my head.

Extendable Ears

I demand that we go inside right away, and I immediately melt at the sight of extendable ears dangling from the ceiling, wizard chess pieces dueling it out in the store window. Zonko’s and Honeydukes are connected, so it’s a mere hop, skip, and a display of Every Flavour Beans before I’m in the next store.

Bernie Bott's Every Flavour Beans
Chocolate Frog

I practice extreme self-restraint and leave the stores empty-handed today. After all, we’re only about 30 minutes into our two-day park adventure at this point! No point in letting my chocolate frogs melt while we’re waiting in line. They’ve only got one good jump in them to begin with.

McHavelock's Wizarding HeadgearOwl Post
Brooms for allSpectrespecs

Everyone keeps asking me what my favorite part of the park was, but it’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing. It was the overall feel, you know? The window displays of stores that weren’t even functional, set up for no purpose other than for us fans. The Mimbulus Mimbletonia in the window of the botany store. The set of Gilderoy Lockhart’s books displayed in the bookstore. Moaning Myrtle echoing from inside the bathroom walls (don’t forget to go to the ‘public conveniences” while you’re there!). I just loved it all.

Dervis & Banges

Besides Honeydukes and Zonko’s, the only other store that you can really go into is Dervish and Banges. This is where they sell all the wands, robes, and various paraphernalia you could dream of. We actually had to wait in a line just to get into the store itself on the first day we were there. Once inside, it’s mayhem, but amazing.

Replica Wands

Ollivander’s isn’t actually a store, so you can’t buy your wand there. We did go into Ollivander’s, of course, but I just wanted to point out the difference. It’s more like a show, after which you can purchase the actual wands in Dervish & Banges (or in one of the many other stores around the park, of course). You’ll find replicas of all the characters’ wands from the movies in addition to 12 wands that are exclusive to the park. The meanings behind these special wands are based on the Celtic rune calendar, so they can match you with one based on your birthday. As it turned out, I didn’t need to have them analyze any dates in order to know which wand to get, but that’s another (infinitely more awesome) story for later.

Pumpkin Patch

We stopped by a merchant so that I could try a pumpkin juice before we went any further at this point. Pumpkin juice, as crafted by the creatives behind the theme park, tastes a lot like spiced apple cider. A quick look at the ingredient list showed an apple juice base, with pumpkin puree, apricot puree, and various spices (and preservatives, of course, but that’s to be expected).

Pumpkin Juice Refreshing!

It was delicious but VERY sweet. We ended up watering it down quite a bit, and given the outrageous amount of sugar I remember reading on the nutrition label, so it’s probably just as well. Regardless, I certainly found it refreshing! And you better believe I kept the bottle. πŸ˜‰

Courtyard and towers

The Harry Potter area of Islands of Adventure currently boasts three main rides. First, there’s Dragon Challenge, a dueling roller coaster that they converted from a previously existing ride. I remember going on this particular coaster when I came to the park many years ago, so I didn’t feel the need to wait in line for it again. Then there’s Flight of the Hippogriff, which is more of a kid roller coaster. Dad and I hit this ride up on Day 2, when the line wasn’t too bad. Then, finally, there’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This spectacular simulator ride, which features a majority of the original actors, is the real star of the show. We waited in line for 90 minutes for this puppy, and it was so, so worth it (though my mom probably feels quite differently. Those who get easily motion-sick, be forewarned!). I won’t spoil things too much, but just know that I loved it. Once you weave your way through the outside part of the line, you dump your stuff at the free lockers inside and then get to take a tour of Hogwarts Castle!

Entering Hogwarts!

Starting with a few talking portraits (the way they cured the screens really does make them look like paintings! It’s fantastic!) and various decorative pieces that I recognized from the movies easily (the Mirror of Erised, the unicorn tapestry, etc.), you go through a few rooms before being greeted by Professor Dumbledore himself in his office (make sure to look for the Pensieve!). Then, you meet up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and finally learn what the ride is actually going to be about. Spoilers stop here, so if you’re curious for more you’ll just have to go to Orlando and find out yourself! πŸ˜€

Three Broomsticks Hog's Head

After disembarking from the ride, retrieving our things, and edging our way back out of Filch’s Emporium for Confiscated Goods (a.k.a. the ride’s gift shop), we headed down to the Three Broomsticks to let my mom’s stomach settle and refresh ourselves. They serve traditional British pub food there, unshockingly, so we got a couple plates of fish & chips to share. It was also here that I had my first (but not last!) taste of frozen butterbeer. Otherwise known as God’s gift to sugar, the aftereffects of which must be a parent’s worst nightmare, hahaha.

Icey Frozen Butterbeer

It tasted like a vanilla and butterscotch milkshake, and was so, so, SO delicious. I cannot wait to try to recreate this at home… with alcohol, natch. I’m thinking something like cream soda, butterscotch liquor, and a blender. Can you blend carbonated soda with ice? Guess we’re going to find out! And on that ominous note, I think we’ve covered enough ground today. Are you still with me? Haven’t jumped ship quite yet? Still to come: Ollivander’s and choosing my wand, Hagrid’s hut and the Flight of the Hippogriff, and many, MANY galleons’ worth of swag!

To be continued…


  1. The lines were so short when we were there so we decided to ride The Forbidden Journey two times in a row. Boy, was that a mistake. I can do roller coasters and spinning rides like a champ, but simulator rides… No good!!

    • Yeah, my mom was NOT feeling her best afterwards. I’m rarely one to get motion sick but I have tons of roller coaster-loving friends who said that they were nauseous after this one!

  2. Hey Gretchen,

    I read your blog a lot, and never comment… I know, bad reader… but I saw this today and thought of you. Hilarious.


    • FINALLY a workout I could get on board with!! πŸ˜€

  3. I’m so jealous. I seriously want to go right now!

    • I am *SO* excited about the expansion they’re planning. Do you have any idea when that’s projected to be completed? You better BELIEVE I’ll be back then!

      • I actually don’t know but I don’t think anytime in 2012 because they are promoting tickets to FL residents like whoa mentioning the “new attractions” and no mention of HP expansion yet. I’m HOPING 2013 πŸ˜‰

  4. I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to go…now I most definitely want to go!!

    • Do it do it do it do it do it do it do it do it πŸ˜€

  5. Gretchen you’re sooo freaking cute. I definitely want to visit! LOVE me some HP!

  6. This is an awesome post. As a fellow Harry Potter enthusiast, I am sufficiently jealous. I need to get myself there! Can’t wait to read about the rest of your adventure!

  7. Hehehe i swear, these reviews are awesome! I am excited to go back again, even though I let my annual pass lapse…oops. I’m glad you tried the frozen butterbeer vs. non-frozen. The non-frozen just sits in your gut and makes you crampy and nauseous haha. I totally have not tried the pumpkin juice! Must do that next time. And I know you mentioned not riding the dueling coaster, but WHEN (not if, lol) you come back, you must! The walk to the actual embarking point is pretty awesome!!

    • My dad and I were speculating on that — how we felt like if it weren’t a frozen drink the sweetness would be cloying instead of tasty. Good to know that we made the right choice!

  8. Just looking at this makes me WANT to be a Harry Potter fan! Heck, I’d go anyway- even if I didn’t “get” any of the stuff.
    My friend Erika is a Harry Potter nut and made her own butter beer…. I remember her posting it on her blog a while ago. This was the recipe she followed: http://bakingdom.com/2010/11/butterbeer-oh-yes-friends-butterbeer.html

    She also advised me to tell you that it makes too much cream for on top and you can get away with half of what it calls for. πŸ™‚

    • Ooooh, awesome! Looks like that’ll be a great place for me to start, and then hopefully I can somehow figure out how to make it into a frozen blended drink without ‘sploding my kitchen. Wheee experimentation!

  9. The Dragon Challenge is totally the same as when it was Dueling Dragons, but they did add some cute stuff in the line (the flying car, etc). Check it out (at least the line) next time you’re down here.

    • You know, I thought about that in hindsight — that they would have added stuff for the wait line and whatnot. Oh nerts, looks like I’ll have to go back again to experience the part I missed! πŸ˜‰

  10. Nice tank, I have the same one from Old Navy πŸ˜› But seriously, looks like you’re having quite the time!

  11. Disney’s the same way with certain foods and drinks. They’re signature, and you want them (there’s a thing called a DoleWhip – Pineapple soft serve ice cream with pineapple sauce or something delicious — that you can only get in Adventureland at MK or on the Dole plantation in Hawaii that is SO GOOD but.. so absolutely terribly bad for you) but might kill you. I’ve heard the butterbeer and pumpkin juice are kind of the same thing. You love them, you want them, but you know how sugar’d up you’re gonna be afterwards.

    But totally worth it!

  12. My baking friend sent me your page because I’m going to Universal for my honeymoon the last week of March! I just wanted to say that I was obviously excited already, but after seeing your pictures it became so much more real!!! I’m a fellow Harry Potter nerd and your entries have got me practically beside myself πŸ™‚

  13. Is Harry Potter World in Disneyworld!? Love it!


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