A Little Declaration… Hogsmeade & Butterbeer Rocked My Socks at Universal Orlando’s Harry Potter World

I’m shucking my mantle of sophistication here on A Little Adrift to admit I’m a Harry Potter geek. And as a Florida native-born and raised, it overjoyed me to learn that the Universal Studios Orlando had bought the rights to develop a Harry Potter World. Yes, please! I wasn’t always a huge fan; I caught onto the series later than some, but earlier than many. When the book series first gained popularity I pooh-poohed the trend and refused to join the masses in the Harry Potter craze. Then, my best friend handed me book one with pointed instructions to “shut my face and just read the book.”

Fast forward three years, and I happened to “accidentally” stumble upon — just by chance, of course — a Barnes & Noble midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The series had hooked me, and I was giddy with anticipation as I waited hours in line behind a doe-faced eight-year-old Hermione look-alike. Then, I read the book in one sitting (a very, very long sitting).

Now you’re thinking, “OK, thanks for the backstory, but what about that butterbeer you mentioned?” The backstory serves as a point of view check on the rest of this review of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. I am a hardcore fan. I’ve reread the books many times, I went to early release parties, and I cried along with the main characters as the events of their lives unfolded. And as such, if you’re a fan too, know that I went to the Wizarding World hoping and wishing for a level of nuance aimed at mega fans. The park delivers with inside jokes, nerd references, and a carefully executed layout designed to fulfill the magic promised throughout the book series.

Hogsmeade Village from above at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

View of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade from the roller-coaster!

Overview: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando

As a native Floridian, I was instantly charmed by the snow-capped buildings sweetly nestled on the cobblestone street when I stepped into Hogsmeade Village, a fictional town from the book series. Florida suffers from a pervasive heat that bakes you down to your soul. But visually, walking through the Harry Potter world is an amazingly detailed trip through the intricacies of J.K. Rowling’s imaginative wizarding universe.

And if you’re observant, if you carefully read the books, Hogsmeade rewards you with fun nuance and deep layers to search for when you’re in the Wizarding World. There’s hidden writing on the walls, and small details etched into every aspect of Hogsmeade. The subtleties of the experience stand out as a what makes it stand out above my expectations. There is a bit of something for everyone, from the diehard fan to the casual theme park lover. There is no doubting that Universal took time and great thought into crafting the world, adding details that only true fans would find and appreciate.

All of the key elements from the series are represented: Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Dervish and Banges, Zonko’s Joke Shop, snack cakes, and pumpkin juice. Paraphernalia for each House is rampant — I was SO tempted to buy a Gryffindor scarf, they are quite striking. Every detail you could want is within the world. By stepping foot into this area of the Universal Theme Park, I had subsumed myself in the fictional universe I had lived in the 10+ years I had loved and enjoyed the books and films.

Hogsmeade Village in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

A snow-capped Hogsmeade Village at Universal Studios, Orlando.

Honey Dukes sweets shop at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

The various Harry Potter shops line the streets for sweets, jokes, and souvenirs

Let’s Not Forget: Butterbeer

Ah Butterbeer. It’s worth the price of park admission just to try this delicious concoction. And although I love real beer too, rest assured that Butterbeer is non-alcoholic (for muggles that is. Just like in the book series, if you bring some house elves it’s a different story ;-)

The drink is delicious and the park offers it in two forms, frozen and liquid. The frozen Butterbeer is tastier than the traditional liquid one, which tastes like cream soda — if you’re traveling in a couple, you get the shiny, happy ability to order both!

In fact, it’s so tasty that my friends and I left the Harry Potter world mid-morning to explore the rest of the park, but later we returned —which involved switching Universal parks and an extra 45 minute walk — just for one last taste.

Hogsmeade town at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando Delicious Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

All aboard the Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

All aboard the Hogwarts Express!

New Ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey wowed me. The journey through the queue alone is fully a part of the experience. I’m an avid theme-parker — I grew up an hour from Orlando, how could I not be? As I waited in line and wound through Hogwarts Castle, the level of detail, interaction, and care put into the experience made my inner geek smile at all the inside jokes. There are many delightfully geeky Harry Potter details. If you have kid fans with you, they will stay plenty occupied looking for the hidden details (and you can cheat and find out some of the hidden ones ahead of time!).

Hogwarts Castle and the new ride at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

Hogwarts Castle and home of the new Harry Potter ride

And one of the coolest parts is the holograms. The interior castle decorations have the best holographic technology I’ve ever seen.

The ride itself is nothing short of innovative. Or should I just give in and say it’s “magical?” In all seriousness though, words don’t do it justice except to say even the hours of queuing are worth it for the end result.

For the sake of full disclosure, the Forbidden Journey is not for the weak-stomached. Each person in my group felt ill walking out. I often get sick when they’re too much, but I was lucky not to need a sudden dash to a nearby trash can, thankfully. It’s a bit rough, but still doable!

Hogsmeade lit up at night at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando

Hogsmeade as night settles, and yes, more Butterbeer


Between the creamy butterbeer, the Universal Studios cast members dressed in robes, and the tinkling Harry Potter music throughout the village, I completely geeked out. Other Harry Potter fans will love it too, and even those fans in denial. :)

This was pretty much as good as it gets for a Harry Potter experience in the U.S. And I’ll admit that I am looking forward to visiting the Harry Potter studio tour in London when I next pass through the city. It looks like another geek-out worthy experience!

Quick Tips: Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, Orlando

When: Weather is decent all year round for the theme parks but school holidays are, naturally, the busiest and craziest times of the year. Visit in shoulder season if possible. I visited in fall and it was perfect.

Navigate Like a Pro: Insider guides offer tips and maps that save time. They are seriously amazing and make your whole visit smoother. Consider this Universal Orlando Insider Guide with heaps of tips to Harry Potter World. Also pick up the Insider Guide for Walt Disney World if you’re heading that way, too.

Extra Tips:

  • Wear sunscreen or you will burn in the Florida sunshine. Remember, even in cool weather the sun is strong.
  • If you book a night at the Hard Rock Hotel, or the other resorts on Universal property, you can enter the park an hour earlier than general admission. This extra hour allows you to ride the four major rides in Harry Potter World without huge lines and crowds. Everyone in our group found it convenient and worth the extra money.
  • Frozen butterbeer tastes better than regular. If you’re forced to choose just one, go with frozen.
  • All of the merchandise inside of the Harry Potter souvenir shops is available at other shops in the park — don’t stand in the 30+ min lines just to walk into the souvenir shop. (Although you will have to wait in line if you want to see the wand selecting ceremony, that’s only available at Ollivanders.

Prepare: Cozy up the week before you leave and stream the entire series so you can geek out like the other Potter fans.

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38 Responses to A Little Declaration… Hogsmeade & Butterbeer Rocked My Socks at Universal Orlando’s Harry Potter World

  1. Anonymous March 1, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    This is wonderful! I had no idea Universal Studies had a Harry Potter theme park. Weirder even, that I just last minute finished reading Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince. Glad you enjoyed the park.

    • Anonymous March 1, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Congrats on finishing the series! I was both devastated to have no more to
      read, and elated to know how it all went down :)

      • It's Good For Us March 1, 2011 at 11:29 am #

        Not finished yet, one more book after Half Blood Prince ;)

        • Anonymous March 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

          Oooo yes, yes. Right you are. Note to self: Read more closely :) Well then,
          you still have quite the adventure ahead of you!

          • It's Good For Us March 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

            Hehe… at least I know the ending will be… elating :)

  2. Monica February 22, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    Looks like I’m not the only person who is amazingly jealous!! You’ve just added another place to my bucket list!

    • Anonymous February 23, 2011 at 12:33 am #

      I just glad to know there’s so many other HP lovers out there too! :)

  3. Anonymous February 21, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    I am so jealous! This is heaven for me, I love harry potter – unfortunately it would be Poi’s idea of hell. ONE DAY I WILL DRAG HIM HERE THOUGH!

    I’m glad it lived up to the hype, I’m always worried that things like this can be ruined. like the movies were a little disappointing for me esp the fifth when Ginny just turned into a werid creep!

    • Anonymous February 22, 2011 at 2:14 am #

      Poi might actually like it!! There are a lot of roller coasters at Universal
      and unless he just unequivocally hates theme parks, then he only has to stay
      in the HP world for a couple hours, then you go and do the rest of the park.
      And if he does hate it, then arrange to go when I’m living in Orlando and
      I’ll go with ya :)

      As for your comment about Ginny in the 5th movie – hahahaha!! Yes. Just yes
      :)

  4. Mike February 18, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    Wow. I wanted to visit but I had also heard negative things. Great write up and now my urge to visit has returned.

    • Anonymous February 18, 2011 at 10:18 am #

      The one negative thing I hear and agree with is that it’s small. I wouldn’t
      go there JUST to see HP world, but if you’re heading to Orlando and the
      theme parks already, it’s worth a visit for sure! And really, the butterbeer
      is fantastic, so there’s that :)

  5. Amanda Williams February 18, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    It’s definitely on my “to-do” list in the very near future. I, too, am a complete HP nerd, and I’m dying to visit Harry Potter world! It’s just a matter of timing, and finding someone enthusiastic enough to drag along with me…

    • Anonymous February 18, 2011 at 10:12 am #

      Having someone else to tote along with you is definitely necessary, the
      theme parks are a whooole lot more fun when you have a friend too! :)

  6. Anonymous February 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    This is good advice as i use to live in Florida for 15 years and there are certain times of the year you can really get bad skin damage

    • Anonymous February 18, 2011 at 4:17 am #

      So very true, the sun is really strong in Florida and some people just don’t realize how much sun you get in a full day at the theme parks! :)

      • Anonymous February 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

        Especially if you go to Epcot in Disney World becasue they have a lot of mirrors which reflect a lot of sunlight as well. So you get hit with direct sunlight and reflected sunlight and if you are standing in line for a long period of time getting that reflected sunlight you can get burnt a lot more quickly

  7. Priyank February 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Hi Shannon, Butter beer for real? I wonder where else I can find it! Perhaps saying “Accio butterbeer” might work… no wait it didnt.

    • Anonymous February 14, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

      Hahaha! I wish that worked so easily, wouldn’t life be fun if we lived in
      Harry Potter’s world! :)

  8. Sarah Wu February 14, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    I want that beer, lol it look so fun there.

    • Anonymous February 14, 2011 at 8:30 am #

      It’s pretty tasty Sarah! You’ll enjoy Universal if you make it there! :)

  9. Charter Bus DC February 14, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    Here is Similar Story

    There’s no need to travel to Hogsmeade — or to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Orlando — to get a taste of butterbeer. The drink is one of the features of the new Harry Potter attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and now the recipe for the beverage is available to all.

    The 20-acre park brings the Harry Potter books and movies to life with detailed reproductions of the fictitious village of Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the steam-belching Hogwarts Express train.

  10. MARTIN E. JAKSA February 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    AS A REGULAR VISITOR TO THE THEME PARKS OF ORLANDO, I AM NOT GOING TO ATTEMPT A VISIT TO THE HARRY POTTER ATTRACTION DUE TO REVIEWS BY FRIENDS AND STRANGERS ALIKE, THE SERVICE BY THE STAFF HAS BEEN NOTED TO BE VERY POOR AND RUDE. THE ATTRACTION ITSELF SAID TO BE TOO SMALL, THE RESTRICTIONS ON MANY ACCOUNTS HAVE BEEN DEAL BREAKING EVENTS THAT WOULD MAKE ME NEVER WISH TO WALK ON THEIR PROPERTY EVER AGAIN. NO ONE PERSON SHOULD HAVE TO TRAVEL THAT FAR AND SPEND THAT KIND OF MONEY TO BE MISTREATED BY AN UNCARING STAFF. I MYSELF WILL BE TELLING MY FRIENDS OF THE MISHAPS OF MY FRIENDS AND OTHERS IN THE HORRIBLE VACATION TRAP CREATED BY UNIVERSAL STUDIOS THEME PARK

    • Anonymous February 14, 2011 at 3:17 am #

      Sorry to hear that your friends had such negative experiences. I will give you the point about the attraction being small, it is pretty tiny compared to the huge rest of the park, but I haven’t yet experienced rude staff and I’m often a season pass holder. It’s the smallest things that can ruin a place, so I’m sorry to hear that happened to those you know :-/

  11. Dina VagabondQuest February 12, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    Hey, I’m a fan of Harry Potter too! Even though I have to say I love the book much more than the movies. Ryan used to make fun of me about that. I didn’t know they have this in Orlando, but then, I was focusing in Disney and NASA shuttle launch when we were there. Fun thing to see if next time we go there again :)

    • Anonymous February 12, 2011 at 9:58 am #

      That gives you a reason to go back to Orlando for sure! :) As a HP fan,
      you’ll love it…and if you head back that way, let me know, I live nearby
      and would love to meet up if you come to FL!

  12. Gray February 11, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    I’m so jealous! I definitely want to do this on my next trip to Orlando. What does butterbeer taste like, anyway? Regular beer, only nonalcoholic?

    • Anonymous February 12, 2011 at 3:30 am #

      You’ll love it! It tastes like cream soda and butterscotch maybe…with a
      really delicious creamy top – very, very sweet and un-beerlike :)

  13. Erica Kuschel February 11, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    I want to go so badly! When I heard about the ground breaking for this endeavor I flipped out! There is a theatre here in town that serves 5 course meals with butterbeer during the Harry Potter movie releases. The little I have had I still dream about.

    • Anonymous February 11, 2011 at 4:57 am #

      Wait!?! Now I’m jealous – butterbeer during the movie showings? My theatre
      doesn’t do that and I feel like I’ve sorely missed out on something, lol!
      You’ll love it when you make it there, it’s really well done :-)

  14. Candicewalsh February 11, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    I’m not going to lie, this is RIGHT AT THE TOP of my travel list right now. I am fucking DYING for some butterbeer. So jealous!

    • Anonymous February 11, 2011 at 4:55 am #

      Muwhaha! It’s so good, you are going to love it once you get there – plus
      Universal is one of my favorite theme parks, so once you’re HPed out you can
      go ride all the other rides :) If you make it there while I’m in Florida,
      let me know, I live nearby!

  15. Scott February 11, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    The fact that they spared no expense or detail in the recreation of his world is really amazing. From those buildings to the brewing of the butterbeer, I think I would have a blast there even though all I have seen is one of the movies and vaguely remember it. Thanks for the review!

    • Anonymous February 11, 2011 at 4:53 am #

      I agree – even if you’re not a fanatic, the world they created is a whole
      lot of fun to walk through and enjoy! Thanks for stopping in and sharing
      Scott :-)

  16. Anonymous February 11, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    So fun! A few of my girlfriends are huge Harry Potter fans too so we’re thinking about making a girls trip there and then going to the Caribbean! We’ll see if we ever follow through–that butter beer sure is tempting!

    • Anonymous February 11, 2011 at 4:21 am #

      Yay, go! You guys will love it, especially as a precursor to a Caribbean
      vacation…when are you planning on going? If you’re in Florida late
      summer/fall let me know, that’s where I live when I’m back home and would
      love to meet you :)

  17. Akila February 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    You’re the third person in the last month to write about the Harry Potter area and the deliciousness of butterbeer. It’s almost as if the blogging gods are sending me a message that I need to go and immerse myself in Harry Potter-ness.

    • Anonymous February 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

      That’s EXACTLY what the blogging gods are saying! It’s a lot of fun and
      worth a visit if you’re heading to Orlando anyway :)

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