To any die-hard Harry Potter fan, it is impossible to defy the allure of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL for it is where the magic of the book comes alive. You can soar above the Hogwarts castle grounds on the Forbidden Journey, cast a spell with an interactive wand or even ride on a Hippogriff, a family-friendly roller coaster, in Hogsmeade - the wizarding village where Harry Potter and friends enjoy hanging out at. Built within Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, Hogsmeade does not disappoint with its snow-capped cottages, quirky shops and the majestic Hogwarts castle all recreated with painstaking detail to the book. Even to a non Harry Potter fan, this man-made small town is fun to explore as unexpected magic awaits in all corners. Read on to find out what Hogsmeade has in store!
1. Try out the Butterbeer
To anyone visiting Hogsmeade for the first time, no trip is complete without trying the Butterbeer (about 6 USD). This made-up drink is described as a popular wizarding drink in the book and is supposed to taste like a “less sickly version of butterscotch”. This amber-coloured drink is quite sweet and it tastes a bit like cream soda with thick butterscotch flavoured whipped cream on top. It comes in a regular fizzy version and a frozen version. Top up 5 USD and you can get a souvenir Butterbeer mug too. You can’t get Butterbeer anywhere else, therefore don’t forget to try it!
2. Dine in Three Broomsticks
How can one neglect the Three Broomsticks, which is where Harry Potter and friends often frequent when they visit Hogsmeade? True to its name, there are literally three broomsticks hanging at the entrance when you enter. The interior of this British tavern has a rustic vibe, with wooden tables and chairs, fireplace and wrought iron chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling. This supposed pub and inn serves standard English pub fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It might not be superb in terms of taste but it is definitely tasty enough and serving is big. What matters most is the experience of dining in this wooden inn, therefore do go in just to order a Butterbeer or Pumpkin Juice even if you are not hungry.
3. Check out Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
This thrill ride takes place within the Hogwarts castle compound and is a bit like an indoor roller coaster ride with virtual reality combined. Once you are strapped to your seat, you will go on an indoor motion-based ride in the dark, while a 3D movie takes you to through scenes that were featured in the Harry Potter movie before your eyes. The end result is an immersive experience whereby you genuinely feel like you are “flying” as you ride on your broomstick on this forbidden journey. The ride alternates between the 3D movie and “real” fire-breathing dragons and dementors in front of you, therefore it makes for a very realistic experience. In fact, I would go as far as to say this is the best ride I experienced in the Islands of Adventure theme park. However, this is an extremely popular ride and wait times are usually long. Therefore, a tip would be to join the shorter single-rider queues with shorter wait times if you are not particular about sitting side by side with your friends.
4. Witness how the wand chooses the wizard
Head to Ollivander’s, the famous wand shop in the wizarding world and join in the queue to take part in the wand-choosing ceremony. You will pass through rooms full of wands before finally reaching a small dark room, which is where the wand-choosing ceremony takes place. “Ollivander” will pick one lucky one from the crowd (usually a kid dressed in wizarding robes) and ask you to wave the different wands and cast a spell out loud. Whenever an unsuitable wand is chosen, there will be special effects such as a flower wilting suddenly to conjure the feeling that “magic” is happening. Everyone knows that these are just special effects, even so it comes close to real magic and it will definitely offer an unforgettable experience to kids who still believe in magic.
5. Visit Honeydukes for Every-Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs and Blood Pops
The shelves of this legendary sweetshop in Hogsmeade are stuffed with colourful sweets like Every-Flavour Beans, AcidPops, Fizzing Whizzbees and Chocolate frogs, which are irresistible even to adults, much less children. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even try the Blood Pop! All these sweets are only available in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and serve as good souvenirs.
Wear a wizarding robe when exploring Hogsmeade
Spanning 20 acres, Hogsmeade might not be very big but it is definitely very fun to explore and you could easily spend at least half a day there especially during peak season. With the amazing backdrop that transports you to a snowy quaint magical town in sunny Orlando, I would suggest that you wear a wizarding robe when you are there so that you will really look like a character in the Harry Potter book when you take pictures there.