Universal Studios and Universal's Islands of Adventure have become favorite theme parks for our family. Last year we visited the parks with our boys, and then again this year we attended the Family Forward Retreat, where we spent an entire evening in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
If you've never been, The Wizarding World is sooooo worth the trip. There’s just something magical about stepping into this world with movie themed music playing overhead; it’s almost as if you’ve stepped into the pages of the book or right into the movie.
Located in Universal's Islands of Adventure, there are two ways to enter The Wizarding World, from either Jurassic Park or The Lost Continent.
Either way, you'll have a fantastic view of Hogwarts Castle.
If entering from The Lost Continent, you'll find the Hogwarts Express, which is a picture perfect photo opp.
Then you'll enter the fantastic Hogsmeade Village with all of its shops and windows that are filled to the hilt with all kinds of magical, whimsical, wizarding goodies.
The snow and icicles hanging off the eaves really give the entire village a wintry holiday feel.
We explored every nook and cranny of each shop, including Honeydukes Sweets.
You would not imagine the amount of candy inside, and it's connected to Zonko's Joke Shop, where you'll find novelty items and toys. Inside Honeydukes, though, you'll find Chocolate Frogs (that also have a trading card inside each one; we were lucky enough to get Albus Dumbledore), Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans, chocolate bars, taffy, and much, much more.
Other shops include Dervish and Banges, Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods, and my personal favorite Ollivanders, where you'll find owls and wands galore.
My boys and I probably could have browsed in Ollivanders for quite some time. It's like walking into a library of wands, and they're all categorized by your favorite characters.
The boys couldn't resist a little role play while we were visiting. Of course, there's also a special wand show, where you can experience the wand ceremony, in which the wand chooses the wizard.
While the above shops are the only ones you can actually walk in and shop, there are other shops that are “window shop” only. It's so fun just to walk around, especially at night, catching glimpses in the windows or doors of these other magical shops.
The whole village has such a vintage feel.
Food and Restaurants
If you're looking for a bite to eat, Three Broomsticks is a buffet style restaurant. They serve both an adult and children's menu. Food includes chicken, fish and chips, macaroni and cheese, turkey legs, fresh veggies, etc.
But you'll definitely want to be sure and get a Butterbeer at one of the carts located in Hogsmeade or in Hog's Head, a pub located in the back of Three Broomsticks. Usually, you can get liquid or frozen, and it's oh so sweet and delicious. You can even get your own mug as a souvenir.
Though I didn't visit the bathroom, I intend to make it a point to do so the next time we're in Hogsmeade. A certain moaning character may be chatting away as you visit the loo.
Rides and Attractions
I'm just going to start with my absolute favorite ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, located in Hogwarts Castle.
We ride it over and over when we're in the park. Oh my gosh, it's such an amazing ride, but even the walk through the castle to the ride is amazing. From animated paintings and photos to rooms and locations you've read about or seen in the movies, to visits from Harry, Dumbledore, and other characters…. Even if you don't actually ride the ride, be sure to walk through the castle.
You're basically walking through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and it's an adventure in and of itself.
If you do ride the ride, you'll walk onto a moving belt, take a seat, and pull down your restraint. Then you're off for the adventure of a lifetime as you soar through and above the castle, through a Quidditch game, past a giant spider and other magical, sometimes horrifying creatures. It is the best ride ever!
My youngest enjoys riding Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a smaller roller coaster; and my oldest enjoys riding the Dragon Challenge, which is a dueling high-speed roller coaster. He hasn't gotten me on that one just quite yet, though I may be tempted the next time we visit.
News on What's Coming
Just walking through The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an experience, but taking time to explore all the little nooks and crannies is something you'll never forget.
There's truly something for every member of the family, and it's become one of our favorite family attractions. There's a nostalgic feel that is rather hard to explain.
Finally, one exciting piece of news…. Universal is working on a new Diagon Alley in Universal Studios, which will be connected to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure by the Hogwarts Express.
This means that visitors will be able to go back and forth between the 2 parks. It also means we definitely have to return when Diagon Alley is open to guests.
Have you visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Is it on your list of places to visit?
(Disclosure: This post is not a sponsored post. While our Family Forward trip wasn’t compensated, having paid our own way, we did receive an amazingly discounted package price that included park tickets, the retreat experience, and our hotel stay. All views/opinions remain honestly and solely our own.)