Are you a Harry Potter nerd like me? YES?!? Ohhh good! Because you’re in for a real treat today!
Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I literally grew up with Harry Potter. The series came out when I was in elementary school and, being the avid reader that I was, I read the series time and time again, getting giddy every time a new book was released. If you’re a millennial like me, I’m sure you understand.
Ever since the Harry Potter addition was opened in Universal Studios Orlando, I’ve been dying to go experience the magic that I’ve been reading since childhood. They have a REAL Hogwarts Express, what?!?! And you can use wands to literally “cast spells” around Diagon Alley (a magical part of London from the book), SERIOUSLYYY?!??!? And you can drink Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade?!? Again, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you totally catch my drift. I apologize if you’re not… now go read those books already!!! 😉
When you first get to the Harry Potter section of the park, it looks just like London— the tube station, the double decker “Knight Bus”, the rows of historic townhouses (aka Grimwald Place)— no magical world to be found. BUT, once you walk through an opening in a brick wall, you are quickly led to Diagon Alley, a magical part of London that only wizards know how to get to. Ohh Universal, you did that so well!
As soon as you cross the threshold, you step onto this incredible magical street, full of all the places described in great detail in the books: The Weasley’s Joke Shop, The Three Broomsticks, Gringotts Bank, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, Florish & Blotts Book Shop— I could go on for days! It was hard getting great pictures because of all the crowds, but here are some of the incredible scenes from Diagon Alley below:
Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour was absolutely adorable and has some seriously interesting flavors, like Earl Grey & Lavender, Apple Crumble, Butterbeer, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Clotted Cream. My siblings and I tried lots of different flavors, like Mint Vanilla Soft Serve (pictured below), Apple Crumble, Earl Grey & Lavender, Salted Caramel Blondie, and Pistachio Vanilla— all of which were delicious! Unfortunately, they don’t have any vegan ice cream options at this time, but I have heard that the Butterbeer is non-dairy.
I’m not a big sugary-drink fan, so unfortunately I didn’t try the infamous Butterbeer. Instead I stuck with a Dragon’s Head Brew from the pub in Diagon Alley (pictured below), which turned out to be a delicious IPA! Definitely recommend! A lot of people were also suggesting the Frozen Butterbeer, saying they weren’t quite as sweet because they’re blended with ice. Very interesting….
Now for some of my favorite parts of Diagon Alley (many are pictured below):
- Watch the dragon above Gringotts. About every 20 minutes, it comes to life and shoots fire into the sky!
- Take the Hogwarts Express* from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure instead of vice versa (you need a park hopper pass to do so). They have these incredible special effects that make it look like you’re walking through the wall at Platform 9 3/4! AND the train is super interactive, which we definitely didn’t expect. SO COOL! We ended up taking the train both ways between the two parks because we loved it SO much!
- You can talk to the goblins at Gringotts and they’ll answer your questions (even though they’re just robots). It’s pretty entertaining stuff.
- If you buy a wand (which, I hate to say, are quite pricey), there are places all over Diagon Alley where you can “cast spells” and “perform magic” (ex: turning lights on and off in buildings, making it rain under an umbrella, etc). People were LOVING this!
- The “Escape From Gringotts” Ride is incredible! It was hands down my favorite ride in the whole park. A little tip, do the single rider line for all of the Harry Potter rides. We saved HOURS doing this!**
*Take the Hogwarts Express in the morning. We only had to wait about 10 minutes before getting on. It gets really crowded after 11 am (40-60 minute waits).
**Another little tip, do the rest of the park in the morning (between 8-11 am) and Harry Potter World in the afternoon. Harry Potter World is ALWAYS crowded, no matter what time of day. The rest of the park is absolutely dead in the morning, so we walked onto every ride between 8-11 am without waiting in ANY lines. It was amazing!
Finally, time for some real food! Unfortunately, there are very few vegetarian (or healthy) options in Harry Potter World (that would be my only complaint). I recommend going out into City Walk for lunch and/or dinner because there are countless options for healthier eaters and special dietary needs.
We decided to eat at Cowfish (pictured below), a burger and sushi bar. We were all able to find food we liked (2 vegetarians and 2 meat eaters), the food was plentiful, and the price wasn’t bad. I ordered a Vegetarian Bento Box, which included a mini veggie burger, a 4 piece-roll of vegetable sushi, sweet potato fries, spicy cucumber salad, and lots of steamed edamame. Yum! This was definitely one of my favorite meals from the whole trip.
Stop by next week for Part 2: Vegetarian Travel: Island of Adventure, Universal!