Happy Kick-Off to the Re-Read Readathon for Harry Potter! This Re-Read happened to coincide with my son and my annual Florida trip to Universal Studios… more importantly Harry Potter World. If you are a Potter Head, such as myself, you are probably aware – or at least heard Muggle mumblings of additions being made to the park…. most specific – A Hogwart’s Express that you can actually ride from one park to another. There was also mention of additional shops, Diagon Alley, and a Gringott’s Bank ride. All of this…
definitely worth checking out.
Join me now… for my thoughts on the additions to the park and what you should know before you go.
For the whole “Look I have been accepted to Hogwart’s and am going to the school on a train!” experience, it is important (vital really) that you enter from the Universal Studios side of the park. *Note – it is two parks adjoined together, you can pay for the Adventure Island park pass and be able to walk into Harry Potter World but for the full experience with the train ride and Diagon Alley you will need to buy the park pass for both parks…expensive – yes. Worth it? You bet.
Once you enter the King’s Cross Area you will have your ticket checked by a Train Conductor (I like to use the word Keeper) but my son says that is not correct… sheesh… like he is Magic born or something…)
While on your way to the train you get to experience some super cool effects. Do not miss out on going through the wall to get to platform 9 3/4 (it is easy to miss – you have to watch your friends go through to see it.. if you see other people stopped and looking at a wall – you should too!) I have a cool video of this on my Facebook page (Sheila McKinney DeChantal). Here is a sort of picture of it:
Once you get to the train area (oh yeah it is awesome!), you will wait to be seated and you will go in a very authentic looking version of the Hogwarts train – even the fun little compartments to sit in with your Hogwart friends.
Then you are off – it is actually a smooth ride and you may not even think the train is actually moving – but it is because the doors open up and you are in the other park (Island Of Adventures) and you are at the entrance of Hogsmeade, the town near the Hogwarts School. This is all the original Harry Potter World park so if you are new, be sure to check out all the amazing detail in the shops, listen for the show on the stage, and perhaps grab a bite to eat in Three Broomsticks, a beer in Hogshead (very cool and authentic) or – for the whole family… you must try the Butter Beer – either on ice or frozen:
If you are new to the Harry Potter Wold or a repeat offender such as Justin and I, you must go on The Forbidden Journey ride. Walking through the Hogwarts building is a treat in itself with amazing detail, talking pictures, the whole works. Even if you opt out of the ride, you are able to walk through this part and check it out. However – do not opt out of the ride! It is mainly simulated, you are in a seat and get the feeling of flying through the air. There are no sudden drops and you are not really shook up as in some rides. I personally LOVE IT.
But now… where is the new stuff? Well, we were not sure either but we looked at the awesome sauce park map and discovered it was back in the other park…
Nicely played Universal, nicely played…. utilizing both parks so well.
Note – this is perfect. YOU want to ride the train into Hogsmeade and go to Hogwarts BEFORE you go back to Diagon as the train experience is a bit different. When you get off the train back in the Universal Park Diagon Alley is not obvious where it is. Come off the train and go to the left… you will receive a few hints… for instance, the Knight Bus is there along with the Shrunken Head (be sure to check out the back of the bus, you can step into it.)
If you look across the road from the Knight Bus you will see a large brick wall and you can see an area to go in. It looks as though it may be a way to bathrooms… there is nothing identifying it… but step in and around the corner…
AHHHHH AHHHHHHHH! It is DIAGON ALLEY! Sweet Mother! It is a while new world hidden behind a wall! Seriously, this finding… took almost the rest of our day! There is so much to see!
Many of the shops you could walk into… of course they are selling everything from chocolate frogs to Quidditch gear. Scarves, gloves, hats, t-shirts, gowns, Weasley sweaters, key chains, Christmas ornaments… you name it.. they probably have it.
The Leaky Cauldren is a restaurant but they told us it had a different menu than the Three Broomsticks which is found at Hogsmeade. Florrish and Blotts had notebooks, diaries, pens, note pads… there was so much to see and do! Justin even was chosen to be tried for a wand…
Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was a cool shop of candy and gags, great looking building inside and out.
Kids… ok people, can purchase wands and in certain places in Diagon Alley you can stand on these cool areas that tell you what spell to use and how to swish your wand and things will move. It was brilliant and the kids… err…. people, loved it.
Of course… the real highlight of the new Diagon Alley area is the Gringott’s Bank ride. This ride will be discussed in a separate post so not to make an already long gushing post longer. 🙂 Hopefully I will get that post up today.
My overall rating on a scale of 1 – 10, a 10+. For all Potter fans this is a must do trip. It was absolutely awesome to see all the people wearing Harry Potter gear, ties and gowns were everywhere.. this is truly a franchise that is not going anywhere soon and kudos plus to the amazing J K Rowling for creating such a phenomenon that captures the imaginations of children of all ages.
This is as I mentioned the kick off date the The Harry Potter Re-Read Readathon. Check out the details… there are giveaways and house points and all sorts of fun for those who decide to join in. 🙂