Both Dawn and I have been to Orlando more than once. We have not been together as The Traveling Nurses so this article is solely about my visits with my family.
This is totally my opinion and am not affiliated with either Universal Studios or the Harry Potter franchise.
Many people are aware of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando and in recent years I have had the opportunity to visit more than once.
The first time we went we were not fans of Harry Potter and had never even read the books or seem the films so we were kind of going along to see what the big deal was. Our knowledge was what we had seen in the media.
For those of you who don’t know the Wizarding World is spread over both parks of Universal. Diagon Alley is based in the main park of Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is just a short train ride away on the Hogwarts Express to Islands of Adventure.
On our first visit we kind of wandered around not really being aware of how the things were relevant to the stories. We missed many of the nuances of the names of the shops and restaurants and actually nearly missed the whole Diagon Alley experience.
This is actually easier than it sounds.
When you exit the Kings Cross end of the Hogwarts Express you come out next to the entrance to Diagon Alley not in the middle of it.
Outside of Diagon Alley there is a rendering of a London street and the Knight Bus complete with conductor who will quite happily talk to you (in character of course).
Diagon Alley itself is hidden behind a wall that actually if you didn’t know the background of it you would be forgiven for thinking that that was all there was. Fortunately for us we spotted other guests disappearing behind the wall and into Diagon Alley we went.
Once inside we visited the known rides and wandered the shops trying chocolate frogs and butter beer with no real knowledge of the background of these items.
When we visited last October, one single thing had changed our daughter Miss N had not only read all the books and she had watched the films too. She had become a total Harry Potter fanatic. Well a Slytherin and Draco Malfoy obsessive. We now couldn’t move in her bedroom for green and silver items with the famous Slytherin snake emblazoned on them.
So when we went this time she was beside herself with excitement at the thought of visiting. Her number one purchase was a wand particularly a replica of that belonging to one Draco Malfoy.
We decided to visit Universal on our first day partially to please an over excited teen and partially because I had left the tickets at home in the UK and needed to know if they could be replaced or if we had to wait for the originals to arrive in the post.
Once we had new tickets in hand into the Universal Studios Park we went. A quick look round the outside area and in to Diagon Alley we went.
This time it was a whole new experience it was if we now had a (very) knowledgable guide. Miss N walked us through pointing out small details we missed explaining how they were important and how they related to the Harry Potter world.
As it was lunch time a visit to The Leaky Cauldron was decided, we chose a not very English hotdog and wedges but it was an English sausage so I suppose that counts. Miss N wasn’t hungry and nibbled on wedges and drank Butter beer.
Now we were fed and watered we found ourselves in an area which on our last visit we had missed completely – Knockturn Alley. Obviously being a Slytherin Miss N was very excited at finding this area. She explained that this was the area where the followers of ‘He who shall not be named’ frequented.
Unfortunately for my wallet, Diagon Alley also allows guest to buy all manner of school supplies. So Miss N now decided that all her holiday money would be spent on a Slytherin robe and school tie. We persuaded her that the first day of your holiday was not the day to spend all your money. She did however buy both (with some help from her parents) later in the holiday.
Miss N was really anxious to get her wand so a trip on the Hogwarts Express was needed to go and acquire one from Ollivanders. Despite my encouragement an interactive was not what was desired.
In Universal, for a few extra dollars, you can buy wands that perform spells within the Wizarding World, these include making shop windows move and making it rain from an umbrella located near The Leaky Cauldron.
On the whole I do feel that if you are not a fan of Harry Potter and plan to visit the Wizarding World a little bit of research would be a good idea if only to get the best from your visit.