There’s no place like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to bring out the kid in you. We’ve partnered with the globetrotting girl next door, Angie Orth, from Angie Away, as she shares tips on one of the most magical places in her home state of Florida.
When it comes to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort, there is no shortage of surprises to entertain and delight! The Wizarding World is the only themed land of its kind in the world to span two separate theme parks – Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure – connected by the Hogwart’s Express train, a magical experience in its own right.
Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
From sprinting through the wall at Platform 9 ¾ to sipping on frothy (non-alcoholic) Butterbeer while wandering around the snowy village of Hogsmeade, the park’s creative geniuses, in conjunction with J.K. Rowling herself, made sure that even oblivious Muggles will appreciate the magic within. For true wizards – those fans who’ve read the books, seen the films and have been sorted into the appropriate Hogwarts houses – Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are filled to the brim with clever details that even old Mr. Filch would get a kick out of.
Here’s a list of 10 secrets and surprises to watch out for when visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
1. Postmarked Stamps from the Owl Post
When visiting Hogsmeade, be sure to stop by the Owl Post, located next to Ollivanders, where any Muggle can swing in to purchase a postcard and have it adorned with the official Hogsmeade stamp. You can also find other stationary featuring Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff house crests. Once your postcard or envelope is stamped, you can hand it off to the next owl for delivery. Friends and family back home will be so excited to receive mail direct from Hogsmeade!
Dining at the Leaky Cauldron. Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
2. The Leaky Cauldron
Just inside Diagon Alley is the famed Leaky Cauldron, a fast casual restaurant which serves the same classic fare that Harry, Ron and Hermione dined on in the books and films. Its sign is more than an embellishment outside – it also leaks! Pay attention when you stroll past the storefront and you will see water dripping from the bottom of the cauldron.
3. The Bird in the Vanishing Cabinet
When perusing the aisles of Borgin and Burkes, Diagon Alley’s creepy shop for the darkest of wizards, you may happen to stumble upon the infamous vanishing cabinet from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Listen closely to hear the chirp from a tiny bird within.
4. The Chatty Mirror in Madame Malkin’s
If you want to purchase some fun Harry Potter gear while in Diagon Alley, head over to Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, a charming boutique featuring costumes worn in the movies and plenty of branded Hogwarts gear to take home. While trying on robes, check yourself out in the mirror in the center of the room. It magically dishes out witty comments and compliments to onlookers.
5. Speed Dial the Ministry of Magic
While wandering the streets of London and admiring the Knight Bus outside the entrance to Diagon Alley, check out the traditional red phone booths near Kings Cross station. Pick up the phone and dial 62442 (MAGIC) for a special message from the Ministry of Magic.
Ollivanders Wand Shop, Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
6. Magical Wand Locations
After “the wand chooses the wizard” at Ollivanders, you’ll receive a map indicating all the spots you can use it to cast spells around the Wizarding World. What you won’t see are the hidden spots on the map — top secret magic locations! The only way to see these hidden locations are under black light, which can be found in Diagon Alley’s darkest, dankest hideout — Knockturn Alley. Muggles, beware.
Other unmarked spells exist, but you’ll have to keep your eyes open to find them. Hint: check Slug and Jiggers Apothecary on Diagon Alley and Scribbulus Writing Implements on Horizont Alley.
7. He Who Shall Not Be Named
Speaking of Knockturn Alley, keep an eye out for a green glowing light from the basement outside of Borgin and Burkes. Rumor has it that the eerie glow is actually Lord Voldemort using one of the unforgivable curses.
Hint: Knockturn Alley may be dark and creepy, but it’s also one of the coolest places to escape from the Florida heat! I like to grab some Butterbeer soft serve from Florian Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor and pop in there to cool down on hot afternoons.
Diagon Alley at night. Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
8. A Suspicious Watchman in the Window
While passing through London en route to Diagon Alley, keep an eye on the second floor of Sirius Black’s home. Every once in a while, Kreacher the cranky house elf, makes an appearance in an upstairs window.
9. An Homage to a Terrible Professor
When browsing the various knickknacks from Sneakoscopes to Bombtastic Bombs in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes joke shop, you may spot a very peculiar and pink Professor Umbridge riding back and forth on a unicycle upstairs. If you listen closely you can hear her shouting, “I will have order!”
While you’re looking up for Umbridge, you may also see a fireworks display that never stops – inside the shop.
Hogsmeade. Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
10. Package Pickup
This is one of the most magical offerings in the Wizarding World, and throughout Universal Orlando Resort. You can buy robes, Puking Pastilles, interactive wands, Pygmy Puffs and chocolate frogs, but who wants to carry them around all day? If you’re staying at one of the onsite hotels, you can have your purchases sent directly there and not have to worry about carrying a thing. What could be more magical than that? Store clerks can also have your items sent to the front of the park to be retrieved upon exit if you’re staying elsewhere.
These are just a few of the magical happenings to watch out for in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The attention to detail within the parks will impress you even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, but unless your name starts with a “V” and ends with an “oldemort,” why wouldn’t you be?
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