I recently went on a trip to Universal Studios with my family. This was our fourth time going (I come from a family of Harry Potter nerds), but it was just as wonderful and magical as the first time we went. I thought I’d share some stories as well as some tips and tricks if you’re ever looking to take a trip there!
The first thing we did when we got into the parks was book it to Harry Potter World. We went to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, which is different from Universal studios, first. This park is home to Hogsmeade, the first of the two Wizarding Worlds to be constructed. The world features a cobblestone main street lined with crooked, snow-tipped buildings, including the Three Broomsticks, Dervish & Banges, Ollivander’s Wand Shop, and Honeyduke’s (all from the books, if you’re not a fan.) Turning the corner, you get a breathtaking view of the Hogwarts castle, which is home to one of our favorite rides in the park – the Forbidden Journey. I don’t want to spoil anything for potential Universal-goers, but imagine Epcot’s Soarin’, but way more intense and Harry Potter-themed. Going through the castle (a.k.a. the million-mile waiting line that was necessary for the attraction) we got to see the Mirror of Erised, the door to the Potions classroom, the greenhouse with mandrakes, Dumbledore’s office, and tons of other amazing things. Needless to say, we were in heaven.
We then, naturally, wanted to cross over to the other Wizarding World, Diagon Alley. One stipulation of this is that, while Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure, Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios proper – and so vacationers need to buy a park-to-park pass to see both parks. In our case, while it was an inconvenience, I get the distinct impression that my mother would forfeit her retirement fund to see Harry Potter World, so it was a bit of a no-brainer. The reward for this purchase, in my eyes, is the way you can travel back and forth in between the parks – you can walk over, like a foolish Muggle, OR…. wait for it…. TAKE THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS. As well as a mode of transportation, it’s an actual ride – the window in each compartment is not actually a window, but a simulation window. You get to see the Scottish Highlands pass by, as well as a few familiar faces and destinations from the books. Even if you don’t want to travel to the other park, it’s still just fun to take it! Unfortunately there’s no food trolley, but we let it slide.
Once in Universal Studios, again we power-walked to Diagon Alley, the entrance to which is a broken brick wall surrounded by a Knight Bus with a particularly sassy Stan Shunpike, a telephone booth (unfortunately not transporting anyone to the Ministry of Magic at this time), and a sign for Grimmauld Place. Once inside, you feel like you’re in the first scene of Diagon Alley from the first movie (although much wider to accommodate all the crazy Potterheads like us) with a winding cobblestone road lined with the Leaky Cauldron, Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, another Ollivanders (can’t have too many) and a giant, centralized facade of Gringotts Bank with the Gringotts Dragon posed menacingly atop the structure. That’s not even to speak of the ride that’s inside: the Escape from Gringotts. Again, I won’t spoil anything, but expect a rushing adventure in a Gringotts cart through the Thieves’ Downfall and a consequently grandiose escape. This world also features, which I was surprised and elated to find, a Knockturn Alley – around back, you can take a creepy walk through the dark alley, visit Borgin & Burkes, and spend your life’s savings if you’re goth trash like myself. With everything going on (and so much more that I haven’t even mentioned), we spent a bulk of our time as a family in the Wizarding Worlds, nerding out and making memories.
Me with my man Stan.
The Ministry of Magic wouldn’t let me in.
This is a difficult phenomenon to photograph.
We visited other parks as well, but, to be honest, nothing held as much oompf for us as the Wizarding Worlds. However, it was lovely to be with family and explore the parks, so here are some more pictures of us so you can see how cute we are. Hopefully, it will inspire you to travel to these amazing parks (in my opinion – better than Disney!!!!!!!! For adults, at least) with your loved ones and make similarly magical memories!
My brother and I showed our support for the trees.
Self-love goes a long way.