The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you'll know the biggest thing to hit Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. While it debuted in 2010, it's so good we’re going to make sure there isn’t a single person who isn’t itching to get on an airplane just to come and see it. On entry to the park you can’t miss the imposing edifice that is Hogwart’s Castle. And if that’s not enough to get your pulse racing, your first view of Hogsmeade Village certainly will be. The level of care and detail that went into creating this magical land doesn’t just make you feel as if you’ve entered the story of Harry Potter and friends; you will believe you’re in a real place, where muggles mingle with wizards and the butterbeer flows freely.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
The highlight attraction here is undeniably Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, an adventure that takes riders through every scene from the Harry Potter series that we all wished we could experience first-hand. The queue winds through Hogwart’s Castle, where guests meet Professor Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as well as the talking portraits of the four founders and the hilarious Fat Lady, before being whisked off on enchanted benches for the ride of a lifetime.
PRO SPOT: SKIPPING QUEUES
- Want to skip the queues? Consider the Universal Express Plus pass which allows entry to special ‘fast track’ queues at select attractions.
The former Dueling Dragons coaster has been re-themed as Dragon Challenge, and while the tracks have not changed, the queue certainly has. Enter the tent where the Tri-Wizard Tournament champions rest between challenges. Pass by golden eggs, floating candles, and evidence of restless dragons unhappy with their confinement. It all adds up to a thrilling ride, in best Harry Potter style.
Rides for younger guests
Younger guests have not been forgotten here either, as friendly Hagrid gives instructions on approaching and riding a Hippogriff. The former Flying Unicorn children’s coaster has not changed in terms of its track, but it has been re-themed to the Flying Hippogriff, and the makeover is quite impressive! There are several daily showings of the Tri-Wizard Spirit Rally, with ribbon dances performed by the Beauxbaton students, stick fighting by the Durmstrang men, and the excellent (if hilarious!) Frog Choir, assisted by Hogwart’s students.
The village of Hogsmeade itself is an attraction in its own right, so life-like and realistic you’ll be hard pressed to remember you’re still in a theme park in Orlando. From the gag-gift shop of Zonko’s to the sweets at Honeyduke’s and the stunning selection of wands in Ollivander’s. There's everything an aspiring witch or wizard could want is here. Filtch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods carries the coveted Harry Potter #8 quiddich shirt, while clothing and ‘necessities’ from all four houses can be found at Dervish and Bange’s.
Food and Drinks
The only dining location here, besides the beverage and snack carts, is high concept The Three Broomsticks. Be prepared to stop in your tracks and gape at the roofline, amazed by the mysterious activity overhead that may have you wondering if it’s real or imagined. Offerings here tend to be on the pricy side, but at least stop in for a (non-alcoholic) butterbeer, or head next door to the Hogs Head Pub for the real thing.
PRO SPOT - ALL YOU CAN EAT AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO:
- Have a hungry brood to feed? Universal’s Meal Deal offers all-you-can-eat dining at three select restaurants in each of the Universal parks. For $20.99 per adult, $10.99 per child (age 3-9), Meal Deal includes one entrée platter and one dessert each time you order (drinks not included). If you are visiting two parks in one day, the Two-Park meal pass is $24.99 ($12.99 ages 3-9).
Matt Hoffman’s Aggro Circus
On a smaller scale at the Islands of Adventure is Matt Hoffman’s Aggro Circus in the Toon Lagoon Amphitheater, which seems to be a permanent summertime show. It’s a real heart-pounder, with extreme rollerblade, skateboard, and BMX bike stunts, worth seeing when you need some time off your feet.
Want to hear what other ATD members have to say about Universal Orlando? Check out our forums here.