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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

In June of 2010, Universal Studios in Orlando Florida opened its long awaited new attraction named "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter". It was an immediate success drawing millions of Harry Potter fans from around the world, and it remains one of the most popular attractions in all of the amusement parks in the Orlando area.

Hogsmeade

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter contains a full sized replica of the village of Hogsmeade complete with shops, restaurants and a train station that includes the engine to the Hogswart Express. On a lofty crag overlooking the village, a near life-sized replica of Hogswart's Castle overlooks the quaint village.

This attraction contains two roller-coaster-like rides, "The Dragon Challenge", and "The Flight of the Hippogriff". Of the two coasters, the Dragon Challenge is the more thrilling. You choose to ride either the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail, and both coasters take you on a high-speed intertwining chase high above Hogsmeade. The Flight of the Hippogriff is a tamer, more family friendly ride past Hagrid's Hut and around the pumpkin patch.

Hogwarts Castle © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Walking out from Hogsmeade village, tourists see the Hogwarts Castle with it’s own roller coaster ride.

Hogswart Castle

The main feature of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the animatronic, holographic, high-tech experience called, "The Forbidden Journey". It is located within Hogswart Castle. You get to wander through the corridors replete with talking paintings, past Dumbledore's office, the Defense of Dark Arts Classroom, and the Gryffindor Commons Room. Along the way, you will be greeted by Dumbledore, Harry, Ron and Hermione. Then, you are seated upon an "enchanted bench" that whisks you through the air where you may encounter dragons, spiders, the whomping willow and dementors.

Hogsmeade Shops

In addition to the featured rides, the village of Hogsmeade contains a number of shops made famous in the Harry Potter films. Most famous is Olivander's Wand Shop where one lucky visitor at each session gets to be chosen by a wand. Next to that is The Owl Post and Dervish & Banges where you can purchase your own wand, robe, cauldron, or tee shirt. You can even send a card postmarked from Hogsmeade at the Owl Post. Honeydukes offers sweets. Zonkos sells tricks and gag gifts while Filch's Emporium sells a variety of Harry Potter themed gifts and collectibles.

The Three Broomsticks Tavern © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The Three Broomsticks™ restaurant – featuring traditional English pub style food, a children’s menu and fresh Butterbeer™

The Three Broomsticks Restaurant features traditional English fare such as fish and chips, Cornish pasties and shepherd's pie. The Hogshead Pub offers no alcoholic drinks but it does serve Butter Beer. This popular Hogsmeade refreshment is a cream soda and butterscotch flavored drink that comes in two varieties, the standard liquid confection and the frozen slush style. It is also sold at the Butter Beer carts located in the streets of the village.

When to visit?

I visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida during the summer of 2011. It was packed with muggles. You had to jostle your way through the crowds in the streets of Hogsmeade, and wait an hour or more to ride any of the attractions. The Universal Express pass that costs an additional fee enables one to get on the Dragon Challenge or the Flight of the Hippogryph in a considerably shorter time, but it was not accepted on the main feature, the Forbidden Journey. In fact, the wait for that attraction exceeded 90 minutes.

If you really want to enjoy your visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I suggest you consider timing your vacation for any time of the year except summer. June, July and August are the most popular times for vacationing due to the annual school holidays, yet they tend to be very hot and wet times in Florida. September and October typically offer a more pleasant climate with fewer crowds of tourists, but with a slim chance of hurricanes. March, April and May usually feature pleasant weather with fewer tourists and no threat of hurricanes. The winter months are favored by many Florida visitors as the tourists are few and the hurricane threats are nil, but the weather is a bit cool for swimming and beach activities.

Whatever time of year you choose to go, remember that the amusement parks are most crowded on weekends and generally a bit less crowded during the week.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: Direction sign in Hogsmeade Village pointing to Hogwarts Castle.