If you read my previous post, you’ll know exactly how much of a Harry Potter fan I am. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I was one of those children who was bitterly disappointed that I never received a Hogwarts letter in the mail. And I was more than ecstatic when plans for a Harry Potter theme park were unveiled and it seemed as though I might have a chance to experience a small part of the Hogwarts magic after all.
It’s official title is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and it is one of the many “lands” in Universal Studios. It’s smaller than you would expect, and though you can spend all your time there like true die-hard fans (us) you can easily see the rest of the park as well.
The day we visited, like most days in Orlando, dawned hot, and when we first saw the snow-capped spires of the Hogwarts castle rise over Universal Studios, it could have been laughable. But I wasn’t laughing. And nor was Cecilia. We were gazing in awe, and if Disney World had made us children again, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was making us eleven years old, wishing desperately for that envelope with emerald ink.
Some people will tell you that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter isn’t that great. It’s mostly old rides revamped with a Harry Potter theme, and the shops are cute but overly crowded. You have to wait ages in line to get into anything, and did we mention the heat?
But we were not there to complain. We’d come a long way and it was going to take a lot to put us in a bad mood. Everything from the Hogwarts Express at the entrance to the talking portraits in the castle gave us pause, and yet another thrill of excitement. We had butterbeer outside the Three Broomsticks, and we looked at broomsticks in the windows of Hogsmeade. We believed in the magic in Ollivander’s, and we pored over every item for sale in Zonko’s.
The highlight was the ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” which is a simulator ride that to get to you have to walk through the corridors of Hogwarts. That in itself was cause for wonder, as we saw the Greenhouses and Dumbledore’s office, and met Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The ride itself is a simulated flight. And there is nothing more thrilling than feeling as if you’re flying over Hogwarts. Not even when we came quite literally face to face with a giant spider was my mood ruined (okay, perhaps a tad).
We worked out how to use the shortcut line, and hence managed to fly over Hogwarts a total of five times. Dipping and weaving through the towers, zooming over the Quidditch Pitch, and hurtling past the Whomping Willow. Had it not been getting late in the day, I think we would have gone a few times more.
It was a day of pretending. We bought plenty of souvenirs, and ate lunch in the Hog’s Head, and watched the Hogwarts choir. But it was only when we were hurrying through the castle for the last time, with no one else around, calling to each other in terrible British accents, that I felt for a moment that it might be real.
And that glimpse of that other world made it all worth while.