After a few days of enjoying Disney Magic, we were ready to re-enter the magical world of Harry Potter.
This time, Islands of Adventure was our portkey into the storybook world of JK Rowling.
This particular portkey brought us to Hogsmeade, the wizarding village where upperclassman at Hogwarts go to enjoy some time away from their studies and do a little shopping for candy at Honeydukes or toys at Zonko’s Joke Shop.
Our first trip into Hogsmeade occurred at the end of our Universal Studios day in Diagon Alley, when we decided to take the Hogwart’s Express over to Hogsmeade in the last 15 minutes before the park closed. When wanted to make sure we rode the train in both directions, having heard that each journey has a different storyline that plays out in the train car, depending on which direction guests are traveling.
The Hogwarts Express connects Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure, allowing guests with park-to-park admission to enjoy a real journey aboard the iconic locomotive. The Hogwarts Express experience combines powerful storytelling, live special effects, lifelike animation and state-of-the-art technology to take riders on the journey of a lifetime.
Once seated in the cabin, guests can look out their windows as an incredibly authentic and magical adventure unfolds before them. They’ll see Hagrid alongside the train on his flying motorbike, Buckbeak the Hippogriff swoop over the black lake, the Weasley twins on brooms and up to their usual antics, the Knight Bus swerving through London traffic – and other special surprises.
Universal’s Creative team worked closely with Warner Bros. to create a sensational Hogwarts Express experience that the entire family can enjoy. The creative team went to great lengths to ensure the experience is true to the books and films. Everything about the train is authentic – from the paint and the materials used to build it and all the way down to the whistle.
We found the Hogwarts Express to be one of the most amazing experiences that Universal Studios had to offer. I can’t even tell you how magical it was to see Hagrid, Harry and a few others so “close.” It felt as though we had stepped into the film. It was truly an immersive experience and one worth doing.
There are two train stations, one in “London” and one in “Hogsmeade,” each authentic to the story.
King’s Cross Station is the muggle station. So, guests will see lots of typical transportation signs, the billboard as seen in the movie, a snack counter and platform 9 3/4.
While in King’s Cross Station, guests can walk through the wall at 9 ¾.
In King’s Cross Station we also spotted a feathered friend.
Once on board, guests are placed in a train car that seats 8 people.
The train serves the dual purpose of transporting guests, with park hopper tickets, between parks, while also providing guests with a magical wizarding experience.
As we rode, there were things to see out the window and also through the frosted glass doors on the side.
Once we arrived in Hogsmeade, we were greeted with a breath-taking view of the village. The sight of the snow-covered shops, and the sound of the movie soundtrack playing over loud speakers, gave me goosebumps. It is something you must experience firsthand!
Along the streets of Hogsmeade, guests will find a variety of shops selling all sorts of magical wares.
The details were amazing!
My favorite was the Owlery, which was connected to Dervish and Banges.
Here we saw the caged biting book and the owls resting overhead.
Bring a stamp from home and purchase a postcard.
Outside the Owlery, they’ll stamp it with Hogsmeade station.
Honeydukes has all the favorite wizard treats like chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans.
We enjoyed spending time walking through Hogsmeade and finding all the spots where we could use our wands to do a little magic.
For lunch we ate at The Three Broomsticks. Here guests can find traditional English fare.
We chose to order two of the family platters. It was one of the best meals we have enjoyed on this vacation.
It came with roasted chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, potato slices and vegetables and was AMAZING!
After lunch we made a quick stop at the “public facilities” and enjoyed listening for Moaning Myrtle, who haunts the public restrooms when she isn’t hanging out in Hogwart’s bathrooms.
From there we walked up the street to Hogwarts Castle, the shining star of Hogsmeade.
It is crazy how much it looks like the real deal and guests will feel as though they are first year’s heading in to get sorted into their houses.
Located inside the castle walls is the most popular ride in the park: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
“Enter through the towering castle gates and make your way down the familiar passageways and corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Visit iconic locations such as Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor common room, the Room of Requirement, and more.
Then get ready to soar above the castle grounds as you join Harry Potter and his friends on an unforgettably thrilling adventure, coming face-to-face with an array of magical creatures. This amazing attraction uses groundbreaking, state-of-the-art technology (and a little magic) to create a one-of-a-kind ride.”
We found the queue to be one of the most magical aspects of this ride with its talking portraits and touches of magic. Guests will enjoy exploring Dumbledore’s Office and listening to Ron, Harry and Hermoine’s plan for getting you to the Quidditch pitch. Even if you have no interest in actually riding this ride, it is worth walking through the queue and experiencing the magic inside the walls of Hogwarts.
The attraction itself is pretty intense and is a combination of simulator and ride.
Some of the kids were fans, others…not so much.
But we all enjoyed the Wizarding magic of our Hogsmeade experience,
Ending our day as all good wizards should, with a little wizarding mischief and a cold drink of Butterbeer…cheers!