This past weekend David and I went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, mostly to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan and have been waiting years to be able to go to Universal just to see it all come to life. I’ve tried to get David just excited as I am about Harry Potter, and while he has really grown to like it, he is nowhere near my level of obsessed. He was such a good sport and so patient while I just ogled and awed over everything.
Since Universal Studios was closing early at 5pm for Halloween Horror Nights, we decided to start our day there. Plus it seemed only natural to explore Diagon Alley before heading to Hogwarts and Hogsmead.
Once we got to the London section of Universal, I saw Kings Cross Station and immediately got giddy, grabbing David’s arm and pointing. We followed the crowd toward a red brick wall, and when we turned the corner, what was hidden behind that wall took our breath away.
There were several alley ways in Diagon Alley to explore, filled with stores from the books. Walking around truly made me feel like I was in the books and movies. It was so realistic and well done. I didn’t want to leave. I could have spent all day just sitting and enjoying my surroundings. They even included Knockturn Alley, which has a really neat store in it that focuses on the villains and Deathly Hollows, so be sure to go explore the less desirable side of Diagon Alley. David was so patient with me while I explored every nook and cranny of the place.
We took a break in our exploration to jump in line f or the Gringrotts ride. We ended up waiting 2 hours, but there was no way either of us was going to skip the ride. Obviously the rides aren’t very long, and I doubt any ride is truly worth a two hour wait, but the ride was fantastic regardless. The detail inside the bank was amazing just like it was all over the rest of Diagon Alley. They even had goblins and newspapers with moving pictures for you to look at while waiting in line!
Before leaving Diagon Alley, we were sure to visit Olivander’s and check out the wands. You can buy 30 something famous wizards wands (including Harry, Voldemort, and Death Eaters), or buy one that coincides with your birthday. They also have plain wooden ones and interactive ones that allow you to do magic tricks at specific places within the park. I knew selecting the right wand was a serious decision so I decided to think on it and buy my wand at the other Olivander’s shop over in Hogsmeade.
Before heading over to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, David and I had to get Butter Beer. Butter Beer was one of the main reasons I was so excited to go to Universal. They sell it in both parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we couldn’t wait any longer to try it. When we entered the little pub we found ourselves faced with some tough choices.
I stuck with my original plan to try Butter Beer and David got the Wizards Brew, which was a dark lager they brew on the property. It actually tasted pretty good, but both of us agreed the Butter Beer was better. It was fantastic. So rich and foamy. It is similar to a cream soda, and the foam tastes a lot like the foam on top of a cappuccino. It’s so sweet and rich, that an entire cup is too much. I couldn’t finish it no matter how delicious it was. You also get foam all over your face when you drink it, which is half the fun. I also managed to somehow get it all over my pants, but it was a small price to pay.
As it got close to 5pm and Universal Studios was about to close, David and I headed over to Islands of Adventure to explore Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. We had planned and were really excited to take the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station but the wait to get on the train was 45 minutes, and by that point in the day, we were losing our patience with lines. We decided to skip the train and just walk over to Islands of Adventure.
Entering Hogsmeade was wonderful, if not as shocking as rounding the corner to see Diagon Alley had been.
Before really exploring, David and I decided to go get in line for the Hogwarts ride. The wait was only about 45 minutes and the ride was fantastic, just like the Gringotts one. Of all the rides we went on that day, those two were my favorite. It was amazing to walk through Hogwarts in the line and see familiar scenes like Dumbledore’s office and the defense of the dark arts classroom.
After the Hogwarts ride, we went on to explore Hogsmede. It felt a village trapped in Christmas and it was magical. I had so much fun exploring Honeydukes and the other stores. While exploring we saw that the Dragon Challenge roller coaster had a 15 minute wait and we jumped right on. It’s a traditional roller-coaster and we both loved it. After the ride, David and I headed over to finally purchase our wands. I knew I wanted Snape’s, and wondered why I even felt doubt or the need to think about it in the first place. From the very first book, for some reason I was always drawn to his character, and he was always my favorite, even when seemingly evil. David, who has only seen the first 3 movies was confused why I would want Snape. He picked out Dumbledore and when the wand clerk said it’s the most powerful wand, I told him now he has to watch the rest of the movies to find out why.
When I say that wand went with me everywhere, I am not exaggerating. I carried it around with me and wouldn’t put it away, back in its box. I looked like a kid. Even after we left the park, it came with me to dinner in my purse. It even made me question my muggle status when David asked me if I knew any spells and I did the Patronus spell. My Fitbit instantly went off. I mean, I could have just hit my step goal, or I could be a half-blood wizard (or even full blood since I am adopted after all) and my letter to Hogwarts somehow got lost. I like to pretend it’s one of the later options.
The trip to Universal was everything I had hoped it would be. I will caution that Diagon Alley was insanely crowded, and so was Universal Studios as a whole. Hogsmeade and Islands of Adventure were much less crowded. Despite the crowds and lines, we both had a wonderful time. I can check it off my bucket list now, although I have no doubt I will be going back in the future.
The next day, David and I spent the day with his father and his girl-friend. We went to 4 Rivers, which is supposed to be the “best BBQ ever” and I have to admit it was pretty delicious. Needless to say between the theme park food, Butter Beer, and BBQ, I feel like I gained 50 pounds this weekend.
Needless to say, it was an amazing weekend!