The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was like being picked up and literally dropped into the magical world. The blistering heat of the state of Florida, the masses of people in complete awe of where they are, snow gracing the roofs of Hogsmead buildings – yes, you read that right. One moment you are basking in the Heat of The Lost Continent then the next minute you are being greeted at the gates of Hogsmead by the station master, welcoming you into a world a snow-capped houses, slanting roofs, and the hustle and bustle of an English market street. Okay so the heat is still scorching, and the hustle and bustle is made up of excited tourists rather than shoppers but the effect is there. Everything from the window displays in the shops to the lockers to store your bags in while you ride the roller-coasters are in theme. Entering as though on the platform of Hogsmead station, a replica Hogwarts Express stands pride of place and a photo opportunity with the station master (who is British may I add!) arises before being able to run wild in your new surroundings.
The shops include Dervish and Bangers selling all types of merchandise like t-shirts, gloves, scarves and brooms; Honeydukes Sweet Shop which has the legendary Chocolate Frogs and Every Flavour Beans; and Zonko’s Joke shop selling all types of pranks and jokes seen in the film. There is also an Owlery where letters can be sent to anywhere in the world (or taken away on the spot) with the Hogsmead stamp upon it signifying the place of dispatch.
But also included – which goes against both the films and books – is Ollivander’s Wand shop. This is clearly the marketing strategy coming through, as of course you can’t go to the world of Harry Potter and not return with a wand! But rather than stand out like a sore thumb it fits in nicely to the atmosphere and architecture, not only can you purchase a wand but you can also have ‘the wand experience’ whereby the wand chooses you, just like in the real magical world.
On top of the shops there are the food options, the Three Broomsticks offers a sit down restaurant offering fast food such as fish and chips and pies (real English food), although the food options aren’t fantastic the reason you have gone there is for the design and the atmosphere inside. It’s dark and dingy, a real reflection of the inside of a British pub on a rainy day, although a lot bigger and accommodating to the hoard of hungry tourists. Outside there are is the option to purchase Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice; real refreshers on a hot sunny day; however I personally found the drinks equally disgusting, but that could just be my tastes buds as the queues for each stretched out down the street.
As you make your way up the main street of Hogsmead, through the hustle and bustle, you are suddenly in full view of the magnificent Hogwarts Castle. Towering on the top of a cliff in full glory, overlooking the entire Island of Adventures, Hogwarts Castle is captivating. You instantly stop mid step as you take in its beauty, its architecture, its detail. It takes your breath away. The drive is fairly lengthy but you barely notice it as you take in your new surroundings. What’s amazing is not only does the castle hold a spectacular ride inside its walls, but it also holds a tour. For those not wanting to ride, you are able to walk the hallways and corridors of the castle, visit Dumbledore’s office and the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. The ride itself is spell-binding, taking visitors on a voyage over the castle grounds, it is truly indescribable. As well as the castle ride there are two others which are (although less popular queue wise) still fascinating: the Flight of the Hippogriff and the Dragon Challenge.
As I mentioned earlier, the Hogwarts Castle hosted a walk though tour for those who didn’t want to ride, but this was in fact also the queue. It was brilliant, you barely felt you were queuing because there was always something new to look at, and it all fit in so well: walking through the champion’s tent while queuing for the Dragon’s Challenge; passing Hagird’s Hut while queuing for the Flight of the Hippogriff. It was all surreal.
Visiting the Wizarding World was amazing, one of the best experiences of my life so far, and I would recommend it to anyone. It was beautiful a true work of art that shouldn’t be missed by anyone. If you are wanting to experience the world of Harry Potter then this is where you need to be, to walk the paths of your imagination and be captivated by what is possible.
‘Now if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed – or worse, expelled.’ Hermione, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.