“I solemnly swear that I am [still] up to no good.”
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida in June 2010. That fall break I drove down with a friend to experience it; the world that I had grown up reading about and imagining was suddenly tangible and more real that even the movies made it seem. That visit prompted my Muggles Welcome post, which can be found here.
When I went in 2010, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter only consisted of Hogwarts and a Hogsmeade set up within Islands of Adventure. Universal has since expanded the Wizarding World and Diagon Alley opened at Universal Studios in 2014. Along with the addition of Diagon Alley came the addition of the Hogwarts Express as a viable transportation option between the two parks. As soon as the new phase of the Wizarding World was open I knew I was going to have to get back there to see it – little did I know that a) it would take me 3 years to get there (my PARENTS got to go before I did – in what world is that fair?) and b) it would be more of a magical trip this time around than it was in 2010.
Planning for this trip started a little over a year ago when my boyfriend and I were talking about going on a cruise with some of my family. Originally, we were going to do a trip of our own to Orlando and then meet everyone in Puerto Rico for the cruise after a few days of park fun. Ultimately we decided not to cruise but to still do a quick weekend getaway to Universal.
When my friend and I booked our trip on 2010, our travel agent booked a Harry Potter package for us that Universal had put together. It included off-site hotel, park tickets, early park admission, and breakfast at the Three Broomsticks (Hogsmeade/Islands of Adventure). It was a convenient package, so I was relieved when Universal had an updated version of that package available to book for this trip. Our package this time around included on-site hotel, park tickets, breakfast at Three Broomsticks, breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron (Diagon Alley/Universal Studios) and a photo session at Shutterbuttons.
First of all, on-site hotels are totally worth the increase in cost from the off-site hotels. We stayed at the Loews Sapphire Falls, which was one of the on-site properties with a water taxi to the parks. Had we stayed off-site, we would have had to take a shuttle bus to City Walk each day and walk through the entirety of City Walk to get to the parks. The water taxi drops off basically at the gates (not quite, but close enough compared to where the buses drop off). Having a room on-site also came in handy when we got tired and needed a nap mid afternoon.
Our first day in the parks I insisted on going to the Universal side first. I wanted to see the new stuff, the stuff that wasn’t there the last time I went. I’ll admit that I probably would have sprinted to Diagon Alley but park staff would not have taken too kindly to that. Plus, I had my boyfriend with me and he had never been before so we took the time to ride some rides, shop in some shops and mosey on back. We had a breakfast reservation so I knew it would not take us very long to make our way back to where Diagon Alley was.
Diagon Alley is a little more hidden than Hogsmeade is, but you still know when you are almost there. Much like I squealed and cried when I saw the boundaries of Hogsmeade in 2010, I squealed and did a weird hopping happy dance when I saw Kings Cross Station. Once you walk past Kings Cross you look for the brick wall, go “through” it and suddenly you’re in Diagon Alley, facing a dragon (on top of Gringotts) and surrounded by the Diagon Alley shops.
Leaky Cauldron is appropriately immediately by the brick wall when you arrive. We had a late breakfast here – the menu is the same here as it is at Three Broomsticks at Leaky Cauldron. You get to choose between an American breakfast (eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage and a croissant), a pancake breakfast (pancakes, bacon, and sausage with a croissant) and a “traditional” breakfast (also known as an English breakfast with eggs, sausage, black pudding, English bacon, baked beans, a grilled tomato, mushrooms and potatoes). I opted for the traditional breakfast.
From Leaky Cauldron we made our way to Gringotts. I liked this ride a tad more than I like Forbidden Journey…mostly because there were no giant fake spiders.
The only other thing to do in Diagon Alley besides the Gringotts ride is shop. You can visit Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes (and have a moment of silence for Fred Weasley), drink a butterbeer (I still prefer the frozen variety) and shop in the various wizard shops. Ollivanders is here as well, with a larger shop than the one in Hogsmeade. If you have an interactive wand you can run around doing magic at certain spots. Yes, I bought an interactive wand. Yes, I ran around to all of the interactive spots. Yes, I was probably the oldest person doing magic. No, I did not care about any judgement that may have passed.
Honestly, what I was most excited about was the Hogwarts Express. I cried a little – not as much as I did when I first saw Hogwarts in 2010, but I definitely teared up. We made sure to ride the train both ways, as the story that’s shown is different depending on if you’re going to Hogsmeade/Hogwarts or leaving to go to Diagon Alley. The cabins were a little stuffy. They seat 6-8 people per cabin on the train and if you happen to get a cabin where the air conditioning is not 100% working, it can be a bit stifling. Thankfully the ride is relatively short, but no air conditioning in Florida heat and humidity can make any amount of time seem like an eternity (hence why I look a bit like a hot mess in this picture).
All in all, it was definitely a good trip and something I look forward to doing again in the future.
Oh. Yeah. Remember how I said that this trip would be more memorable than my first trip in 2010? This happened (click the link). I apologize for the ugly crying, but it can’t be helped. The whole trip, back to the beginning planning stages, through getting me to change the reservation from off site hotel to an on site hotel, to my friend suddenly being available to meet up with us one day, the whole thing was a big Inception-level plot by my parent and boyfriend…erm, fiancee…to lead up to proposing at Ollivanders.
Best. Trip. Ever.
And with that, mischief managed.