A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Orlando to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! This was before the park was officially open. It was only open to people who had purchased packages or were staying at Universal resorts. Pro: the park was busy when I was there, but I can’t imagine what the lines are like now. Con: it was only open for about three hours a day (8-11am). But the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was an amazing experience for me and my other HP-obsessed friends! Even non-fans or casual fans will enjoy the pumpkin juice and butterbeer.
First, a brief summary of the park itself. The first thing you see after entering through the Hogsmeade gate is the Hogwarts Express with steam billowing out of it and the conductor waiting to take pictures with you (he may be the friendliest amusement park employee ever). Hogsmeade is filled with stores from the books/movies—Honeydukes, Zonkos, the Owl Post, Ollivander’s. The detail inside and outside each store makes you feel like you are really on a trip to Hogsmeade. There is snow on the rooftops! Honeydukes is stocked with chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans; Zonkos sells pygmy puffs and sneakoscopes. Ollivander picks out a wand for a special member of the audience. Even the ATMs were Gringott’s ATMs!
The main attraction is Hogwarts. After walking through Hogsmeade, you reach Hogwarts castle. It’s as huge and imposing as you expect it to be. Hogwarts houses the Forbidden Journey. The line for the ride weaves you through the herbology greenhouse, into the castle. You pass tubes filled with red, green, blue, and yellow beads that show the standings for the house cup and then walk past the entrance to Dumbledore’s office. One room has portraits on the wall of the four founders of Hogwarts – Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. They are all moving and talking, of course. Then, you enter Dumbledore’s office (complete with pensieve) where Dumbledore appears via hologram (I think). Then you move onto the defense against the dark arts classroom. Harry, Ron, and Hermione appear, and Ron accidentally makes it snow real snow. Like it feels wet and really melts when it lands on you. Next, onto the Gryffindor common room, the Great Hall, and the Room of Requirement. Then the ride begins!
Now, the food. Honestly, there really wasn’t much of it because the park was only open from 8-11am. Breakfast at The Three Broomsticks was better than your average amusement park food
though. You could choose from pancakes, porridge, American breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, and a croissant), or English breakfast (eggs, beans, a croissant, a tomato, and black pudding). Only one of use was brave enough to try the black pudding, aka blood sausage, and it wasn’t me! It was black and looked sort of rubbery. I had the American breakfast the first day. Eggs are not my favorite [Ed: unless on a breakfast sandwich], and these eggs were definitely not going to change my mind. The bacon and croissant were tasty though. I had the pancake breakfast the second day. The fluffy pancakes were diner-worthy. Now that the park is open all day, The Three Broomsticks offers England inspired lunch/dinner options: fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, Cornish pastry, and turkey legs.
The star is really butterbeer. You can buy it from the Hog’s Head or from the giant barrel in the center of Hogsmeade. Regular is delicious – it tastes like butterscotch soda – but frozen is so much better. It also has the butterscotch flavor, but it’s creamy and icy and foamy, perfect on a hot, humid day in Orlando. The servers add the foam from a separate pump, so that everyone can get a Hermione-worthy foam mustache. I don’t think I could drink multiple mugs of butterbeer in one sitting, but I regret not drinking at least one more mug full each day. Pumpkin juice is also tasty. You can get it at the Three Broomsticks or at carts outside in an adorable bottle topped with a plastic pumpkin. I was surprised at how pumpkin-y it tastes. I think I would like it even more heated up during Fall/Winter.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was so much fun. I can’t wait to go back! I think we all
miss the butterbeer the most.