This has been on my Life List since the park was first announced 9 years ago. I knew that this was a place I had to eventually see, something I needed to experience, and this year I finally made that happen. Before I delve into the experience itself though, we have to first explore a bit of backstory so hang with me! It’ll be worth it, I promise!
I discovered Harry Potter in high school, after the publication of book two but before book three came along. I fell in love with those books and everything about them, from the settings to the characters. It just all spoke to something inside of me as a fantasy lover, and I found myself absolutely engrossed in Harry Potter and his world. Some of my other high school friends were into it too, so we’d talk about them, go to book release parties, and collect HP related goodies. It was a time in my life too when I needed a crutch thanks to my grandfather passing away, and JK Rowling provided that for me without even knowing it.
Flash forward a bit to college, where my love of Harry Potter reached new heights. I started to roleplay and write fanfiction about the HP-verse, and I met a lot of great people. Eventually, as time went on, I would meet two of my now closest friends, Mandi and Shell, who also loved Harry Potter and were likewise writers in the same universe. This was how we met and bonded, over a strong love of Harry Potter, and that is how we became so close. Without Harry and JK Rowling I wouldn’t have gotten so close to them, we wouldn’t have had such a huge thing in common, and we may not have stayed friends.
Harry Potter has given me so, so much. Which may sound strange to some, but it’s nonetheless true. Without Harry Potter, who knows where I would be?
So when the time came to figure out our vacation plans this year, the idea of going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was brought up and it just sort of took off on its own. We wanted to see Hogwarts, experience Diagon Alley, put ourselves right into this world we loved so much. So we booked tickets for Universal Studios and Disney World, and then had to wait about eight months. Then, suddenly, it was September and we were really going!
I’ll save you all the details of the drive down and whatnot, and get right to the good stuff. We had made matching Hogwarts Alumni t-shirts with our house names on the back, the four of us (my sister came along too) each representing a different Hogwarts house. I’m a Gryffindor for those keeping track at home! We decided to start at Islands of Adventure and then take the Hogwarts Express over to Universal Studios, since we were also doing HHN and this logistically just made the most sense. So the very first thing we saw as we got deep into the park from a distance was Hogwarts, and I think my heart stopped from joy at just seeing it!
The tears didn’t begin until we actually stepped into Hogsmeade and there was Hogwarts, looming large and looking so real right in front of us. That was the moment we all teared up, because we were actually there! After 20 years of books, friendship, storytelling, and memories we were finally at a place that represented who we were as friends and people, and it was breathtaking. I know it’s just an amusement park, but it felt like so much more than that! It felt like fate finally being justified, and finally acknowledging that this was something that had brought us, and kept us, together.
Needless to say after that we hit the ground running! I picked the end of September to visit the parks because supposedly it’s the off season, and I picked well! The ride wait times lingered at about 20 minutes, so we were able to get on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey right away. We were even more in awe as we walked through the line that snakes through Hogwarts, admiring classrooms, talking portraits, and “snow” falling from the ceiling. The ride itself was so good, and it felt like we were really inside one of the books or movies! We then got on the Buckbeak coaster, which is small but still a lot of fun!
We drank butter beer and peered into shops before we caught the Hogwarts Express, which is also fantastically done! I mean it was just so nice, and it felt like really being on the train to Hogwarts. From there we made our way into Diagon Alley where we enjoyed good food at The Leaky Cauldron. We did a little more shopping and more riding, deciding to buy our souvenirs during our return trip the next day.
We were highly entertained by Stan outside The Knight Bus, which is also super cool looking, and I had a major fangirl moment over 12 Grimmauld Place because Sirius Black is my #1 favorite character in the series. Seeing Kreacher in the window was so cool! I ate pumpkin pasties, drank a tongue tying lemon squash, and bought myself something nice to sit on my bookshelf with my ever glowing collection of Harry Potter books. I just let myself be a kid again, enjoying this thing that I loved so much, and let me tell you that it was totally worth it.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, or are just interested in seeing something cool, I highly recommend you go if you haven’t before. You won’t regret it, not for a second. My sister has seen all the movies but she isn’t a real fan of HP and even she had a really good time there. Just make sure to go at a time of year when the crowds aren’t super excessive, or you’ll find yourself spending the whole day waiting around in lines. Other than that though, there is no downside whatsoever!
Life List Item: Complete