(This post has a soundtrack, ain't that nifty? Click right here and let that play in the background while reading for ultimate immersion!)
Psst.. come close and I'll tell you a little secret.
A little closer..
Gah! Not that close! Did you have onions for lunch? Back off a little, man!
Ok, that's better. Now then, my secret:
When we were deciding where to go for our vacation this year, there was one thing that tipped the scales in the direction of another Orlando trip. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Islands of Adventure.
You see, I am a Harry Potter NUT. I've read the entire series twice, and plan on a third time as soon as I can buy them all in e-book format from Pottermore. I enjoy the movies and all, but I love the books with every fiber of my being. The combination of J.K Rowling's writing and the rich world that she has created can suck me in like you wouldn't believe. When I'm reading, the rest of the world doesn't exist. Ask Matt. He's nearly called the paramedics when I was unresponsive to outside stimulus.
When I first learned that they were building this attraction, I knew another trip to FL was in our near future. On the day we visited Islands of Adventure, we barely gave the rest of the park a glance as we bolted straight for PotterUniverse!
The teetering chimneys of Hogsmeade Village are the first thing you see as you cross the bridge into the attraction.
When you swivel your little head around to the left, you see good ole Hogwarts, the only school that any child would attend without complaint.
My heart did a little flutter as we got closer to the castle and I heard music from the movie scores playing from hidden speakers.
The Grand Staircase was pretty awesome. And yes, the portraits do move and speak!
It was crazy dark inside of the castle (which is basically the line for the motion simulator ride at the end) but I was able to snag a few photos.
The notice board and sorting hat!
Fortuna Major! Flibbertigibbet! Mimbulus Mimbletonia! Darnit, woman, I'm a Gryffindor! Let me in!
After leaving the castle: the required long-arm self-portrait.
Hogsmeade Village is actually a combo of the shops in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley (but I forgive them). Most of the shops are just facades, but there are several that you can go inside.
I thought it was a nice touch to have every single book in the window of Tomes and Scrolls written by Gilderoy Lockhart.
I had to pretend really hard that we were in the snow-covered paradise of Hogsmeade and not a 400-degree summer in central Florida.
The inside of Ollivanders was, in a word, awesome. Straight out of the books. Don't miss Ollivander's Wand Experience, where Mr. Ollivander himself chooses someone to receive his/her first wand.
Any Harry Potter fan recognizes this creature! If only textbooks like this existed in the real world.
Looking back toward the rooftops of Hogsmeade.
Honeydukes is one of the "real" shops (of COURSE it is! People would riot otherwise!)
Every Flavour Beans!
C'mon, you knew they were gonna sell butterbeer. It's the quintessential drink of the wizarding world, and letting my business woman side peek through here, one of the smartest decisions they made regarding this attraction. We stood in line for a solid 15 minutes to give it a try, and there were 3 different places selling it.. all with massive lines. Can you imagine how much dough they are raking in from butterbeer sales alone?
And a bonus.. it was super yummy.
Zonko's Joke Shop was another "real" shop, and was full of many recognizable pranks and gags from the books.
U-No-Poo got a serious giggle from the both of us. Matt tries to pretend like he doesn't care about Harry Potter, but he gives himself away when he says things like, "Oh, I bet Fred & George were totally the ones who invented that!"
Gotta love him.
The Three Broomsticks is an air-conditioned place to sit down for a meal. We had other dinner plans, so we just peeked inside.
Hog's Head is where you can get an adult beverage and tons of atmosphere.
Another facade (I love how the doors all said things like "Closed" or "Out to Lunch")
This grainy black and white version of Hogsmeade can almost convince you that it's snowy and wintry.
And of course.. the Hogwarts Express.
Have you read the books? Seen the movies? Been to the park? Tell me all about it!!