Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Part Two

My last post was about our recent trip to Universal Studios, but there was so much to tell that I simply couldn’t complete it in one post. I don’t know how many posts it will come out as, but probably a few. So this is part two. 

After wandering around Diagon Alley and attempting to absorb it all, we decided to head to one of The Wizarding World’s rides. Strolling through one line which led straight through Gringotts bank,  I continually gasped and pointed at small details only a true fan would notice. As we passed a set of golden doors engraved with a poem I knew by heart, I recited dramatically:

“Enter, Stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed.
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath these floors,
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware,
Of finding more than treasure there.”

Goblins

In the ride, you were led through several top-security vaults by Bill Weasley and Griphook the goblin, while being attacked by many security measures which Gringotts puts up against intruders. It was a ride of great quality, being mostly digital but very well done.

Knockturn Alley we had yet to visit. I knew, of course, what it was supposed to be like, and upon finding it I was not in the slightest disappointed. There was Borgin and Burke’s, a store of dark magic into which Harry had once inadvertently stumbled, and in the corner was a vanishing cabinet, and in a glass case was a cursed necklace, and you could there by a “hand of glory,” a severed hand which gave a light which only the holder could benefit from. Or rather, that was the idea; but, of course, these were only skeletal plastic hands with a hole for a tea-candle. I cast a silencing charm on some severed heads, lit a digital bird on fire, and magically unlocked a door – though it still couldn’t be opened. Everything was dark in Knockturn Alley, though outside the world was bright and cheery. A couple cloaked and hooded wizards roamed the streets, looking forbidding; they were only kids in costume, but they had gotten quite into character.

Hogwarts castle in the distance.
Hogwarts castle in the distance.

We stopped into Florean Fortescue’s for earl grey and lavender flavored ice cream, which turned out to be pretty good but still tasted far more like lavender than the earl grey we were hoping for. We drank some delicious butterbeer, enjoyed pumpkin juice, and nibbled a gigantic chocolate frog. Every frog comes with a famous witch or wizard card, and I, a Hufflepuff, got a Helga Hufflepuff card with my first and only frog! We got some gillywater as well, which is nothing more than regular water with a fancy sticker on the bottle, but throughout the day we kept refilling both its bottle and that of the pumpkin juice.

Diagon Alley, I think, was the best part of Universal. Everything else was really fantastic as well, but nothing, not one single thing, could top the magic of this magical shopping centre.

Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Part One

The occurrences of this post took place some time ago, but due to several distractions I am only writing them out now.

Gordon and I were given tickets to Universal Studios for Christmas – it was a three-day pass, including both the Universal Studios park (with Diagon Alley) and Islands of Adventure (boasting Hogwarts and Hogsmeade), and a park-to-park pass which allowed us to ride the Hogwarts Express between the two. Now, if you’re one of the few unfortunate people in this world who hasn’t read J.K. Rowling’s enchanted Harry Potter series, I’ll have to explain some things. Diagon Alley is a street full of wizarding shops, in between Horizont Alley and Knockturn Alley – which is crammed with stores for dark wizards. Hogwarts is, of course, the wizarding school which students attend between the ages of eleven and seventeen, and Hogsmeade is “the only all-magic village in Britain,” located right by Hogwarts. So now that you know the basics, let’s begin.

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Just me, being astonished.

I don’t want to give too much away for those of you who may be going in future, but at the same time I’d rather not make this a bland article, so I’ll do my best to obtain a spot in the happy medium.

We started at Universal Studios and hurried through the New York and San Francisco sections of the park to reach The Wizarding World right away. Each area of Universal Studios is arranged to appear as a real city. Walking by the “ocean” in San Francisco with seagulls over my head, I nearly forgot that I was in Florida. I was already grinning madly as we entered the park, but I became truly giddy upon seeing London. There, in the middle of Florida, are King’s Cross Station, Big Ben, several small bookshops, and a row of apartments on Grimmauld Place. There’s the triple-decker Knight Bus, and Stan Shunpike leaning against its purple exterior chatting idly with Ernie, the driver. And a stereotypical London phone booth, which I later slipped inside to dial 62442, the code to enter the Ministry of Magic, though to my disappointment no cool female voice spoke into the air, asking my name and business.

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But the true magic lay behind a brick wall passageway discreetly hidden in Muggle London. I stepped hastily through and saw to my pure joy and astonishment a very nearly perfect replica of Diagon Alley. I stood there for several moments with my jaw hanging open, filled with amazement, hardly able to breath for happiness, admiring Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes on my right, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor on my left, and straight ahead, Gringotts bank, topped by a blind albino dragon which breathed fire every ten minutes. After recovering myself, I set off down the street taking it all in. It was a bit crowded, by not overly, being a Friday when most visitors with annual passes were busy with school and work. The cobbled road was wet, though it hadn’t rained in a week, because it was London, and in London it’s always just rained.

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I gaped at Ollivander’s wand shop (since 382 B.C.), grinned at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, and continually reminded myself to breathe. In Horizont Alley, I watched Celestina Warbeck perform several songs I knew (A Cauldron Full of Hot Strong Love, You Charmed the Heart Right out of Me), and several I didn’t (the Quidditch anthem, for example). I bought a wand from Ollivander’s, because there are interactive sites throughout Universal’s Wizarding World which allow you to “perform magic” if you have the proper wand, and that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I also pretended that it was me causing the dragon to breath fire, and every time it happened I held up my wand with a look of intense concentration and cried aloud “incendio!” It was fantastic to explore Diagon Alley and imagine myself in the world of Harry Potter (after Voldemort’s time, of course).