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Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando Florida

Forbidden Journey is the Better Potter Ride + the Awesome Dueling Dragons Coasters.

The Facts:

ACTIVITY: Amusement Park.  Part of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  Admission to BOTH parks is required to see the entire Harry Potter Wizarding World.

TYPE: Outdoors and Indoors.  Passive and active activities.

LOCATION:6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida

With the opening of Diagon Alley in the Universal Studios park, there truly is a “World of Harry Potter” to explore in Orlando when combined with the original Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.

Taken as a whole, the Diagon Alley experience is more “authentic” and “real” because you are completely enclosed in the Harry Potter world. It’s not simply a place along the path as Hogsmeade is. However, the Forbidden Journey ride in Hogsmeade is much more enjoyable than the Escape from Gringott’s Bank ride in Diagon Alley. They are two completely different experiences but for our time and money, Forbidden Journey is worth up to a 30 minute wait. Grigott’s is worth a 10 minute wait, maybe.  The Gringott’s ride is basically a faster version of Forbidden Journey but with a lot less practical elements.  The car moves fast and then stops for a movie and this repeats a few times.

In Forbidden Journey, you’re immersed inside the castle with many practical elements in a bit of a disorienting fashion, which I think adds to the excitement of the ride.  At times you honestly cannot see what’s coming next which is a great.  The downside to Forbidden Journey is that the film elements never quite look sharp.

Hogsmeade does tend to be a major traffic jam just because the pathway narrows and this is where everyone wants to be. Diagon Alley was designed as an all inclusive area with much more room to spread out. The Alley is dominated by the Weasley’s animated character and of course, the Dragon on top of the bank.  About every 10 minutes a brief ball of fire will erupt from the dragon. He doesn’t move, just spews fire.  I recommend taking up a position along the alley on the side so you can take a picture of the dragon’s fire in profile.  It’s quite dramatic.  The Weasley’s store is good fun with a lot of really funny and gross things to buy and share.

The Hogwart’s Express is quite interesting and not exactly what I expected. It’s a great way to get from park to park on a hot day as all of the cars are air conditioned. I won’t anything else other than to say that there’s nothing overly scary on the train that would frighten little children. If you ride the Dragon Challenge coaster, you can actually see the tracks for the Hogwart’s Express on your right when you get to the top of the first rise.

Speaking of the Dragon Challenge, I think that’s now my favorite set of coasters in the entire Univeral Orlando world. The blue one seems to be a bit more intense with a few more corkscrews but they’re both great. The coasters are incredibly smooth compared to the Hulk and Rip Ride Rokit which both have regular cars. The Flight of the Hippogriff is great for those wanting a more tame coaster experience.

As for Butterbeer, we prefer the frozen version. We do not own any wands so I can’t comment on those interactive wands but boy those folks were everywhere doing some fun stuff.  Seems to be a lot more interesting things to do in Diagon Alley.

If you are staying at one of the resorts that offers early admission to Harry Potter, TAKE ADVANTAGE of it because there are NO Express Passes at either of these worlds.  At least not at the time of this review.  We stayed at the Royal Pacific Resort and it was awesome. Personally I think it’s horrible that to see the entire Wizarding World you have to pay admission to both parks, even for a single day. But it is what it is, if I had to pick one for the ride, it would be Islands of Adventure and Hogsmeade.. If you just want to immerse yourself in the Harry Potter World, Universal Studios and Diagon Alley


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