My wife and I spent a magical day celebrating our anniversary at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure. My wife had never been to, and my last time was like six years ago, way before the new expansion at Universal Studios, so we were extremely excited for our fun-filled day. Wearing cute matching shirts that said She’s A Catch and He’s A Keeper, we headed to the parks.
We splurged big time and got the 2-park ticket so we could do the entire Wizarding World experience. Tickets in hand, we first went into Islands of Adventure, heading straight to Hogwarts via the shortest route possible, through Seuss Landing (where we detoured to ride the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, because why not?) and The Lost Continent (which, with its magical, sword-and-sorcery vibe serves as a great preamble to the Wizarding World).
At Islands of Adventure, you find the original half of the Wizarding World: the town of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle. I visited this area once years ago, but it was as if I was there for the first time again when we turned a corner and saw the entrance to Hogsmeade. The town is forever caught in winter, with snow-capped roofs on every building, and even a wizarding snowman near the entrance to Hogwarts. We wandered about Honeydukes candy shop, checking out all the cool candies, then checked out all the storefronts to the rest of the shops in the village. Our next stop was Dervish & Banges, where you can get lots of branded memorabilia, and since it is next to Ollivander’s wand shop, we were able to get our very own wizarding wands. We went over to Hogwarts Castle, but quickly realized neither of us would be able to go on the Forbidden Journey ride. A very friendly park employee hooked us up with a small wad of single-use Express Passes, which we used to gain quick access to the castle so we could walk through it and see the inside of Hogwarts without wasting time making the line. As we walked back through Hogsmeade, we pulled out our wands and tried our hand at casting the interactive spells scattered around the village. The chance to cast wingardium leviosa and see little doo-dads floating about on a window is one of the coolest bits of immersion the Wizarding World provides, and you can’t help but smile wide every time you get a spell right. Butterbeer in hand (YUM!), we walked out of Hogsmeade, ready for a snack before heading to London and Diagon Alley.
The Hogwarts Express ride links the two areas of the Wizarding World (and the two Universal Parks) via a train ride with a mini-movie showing the cameo-laden countryside, as well as scenes as if people (or creatures) were walking along the carts. The mini-movies are different whether you ride from Hogsmeade to London or vice-versa, which makes the two-way trip entertaining. Arriving at King’s Cross Station is awesome, as they did a perfect replica of the London train station. You exit onto the street, and it’s a perfectly British scene, with red phone boxes, storefronts, a fountain (and the Knight’s Bus), and the row-houses of Grimmauld Place, including number 12, the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, including a peeking Kreacher in one of the windows. There are no signs in the Muggle part of London, but go behind one of the walls and you enter Diagon Alley. Your jaw will drop. This area of the Wizarding World is just amazing in both scope and detail; they took all the lessons learned at Hogsmeade and raised the bar twice as high. As you enter you see Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, full of the Weasley Twin’s joke products (many now turned into sweets), and as you wander you run into Ollivander’s Wands, Flourish & Blott’s, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, and of course the Leaky Cauldron (where we had lunch), Knockturn Alley, and Gringotts Bank with the dragon perched on its roof. Everywhere you turn it’s like being in the book or movie, and the interactive wand areas are even better than at Hogsmeade (there’s also more in Diagon Alley).
I absolutely love the Wizarding World of Harry Potter park, even if I hate that Universal split it between their two theme parks so that you need a 2-park ticket to see it all. We splurged because it was our anniversary, but I can’t see this being a place for regular visits. I just don’t find the Universal parks to be worth the high price of admission beyond the Wizarding World areas. That said, we are both so happy with our day of fun with all the wizards and witches and magical creatures around. It was truly a magical celebration of our first anniversary as husband and wife.