I’ll try to keep this short and sweet, but I can’t NOT share photos and advice with you guys, on how to do the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So this will be broken up into four posts so as not to overwhelm.
As most of you know, Fedora and I took an epic 3-day jaunt through Universal Studios Orlando, to play at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you should also do this. It was more fun than you can fit into a Gringott’s Bank vault, and despite 3 full days spent entirely in their two Harry Potter-themed areas of the park we still didn’t see everything.
Perhaps the best thing about this theme park is how interactive everything is. From creepy wizards and witches hanging out in Nocturne Alley, to Ollivander’s wand selection event (yes, see it, because it’s different every time), to shop window spells you can do with a $45 interactive wand, it’s all awesome.
Is it worth buying a $45 wand? Yes, yes it is. Get one for your whole party, if that helps, but it’s worth it. Not only because of the nifty things they do, but also for the community it encourages. We were helped and in turn helped others in locations with fiddly spells, sharing an experience and a pride in accomplishment. There are staff members on hand to help, as well. And while some of the displays will only look like magic to someone who isn’t analytical, observant, and a fan of animatronics….there’s one display (and I won’t tell you which) that I could NOT figure out. Seriously, magic.
The wand events are marked on the map but there are a few not marked, only one of which we found. Look for a brass inlay on the ground, which gives direction to point wand (this is easiest at night, just look for the 4 red dots within the shop window and aim there), incantation (say it! you know you want to), and wand gesture. With the wands, it’s important to gesture from the wrist, not the arm, for a smaller, precise motion. And although you will see blacklight marks on the map in Nocturne Alley, these are not hidden events but marked spell locations. We went batty trying to find the hidden content in Nocturne Alley, only to discover that there aren’t any not already marked on the map in plain ink.
Also, there are interactive tidbits that don’t require a wand, just your proximity, touching, or hearing. And things like an interactive talking Goblin at the Exchange, who will answer (literally) any question you can think to pose. We were too intimidated to get very silly, but we heard a wide range.
There’s also a Wizard Photo experience, with a green screen and 12 scenes from around both parks, as if you were immersed in them instead of having experienced them as patrons. The ‘demo’ looks cheesy and stupid, but we were totally willing to shell out the $67 (AAA discount!) for the DVD of them. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
(Unfortunately, we lost track of time and weren’t able to get to Diagon Alley before our chance to buy the wizard photo expired. WHY Universal closes each park at a different time is beyond me, but frustrating).
And plenty of shops have lovely clockwork displays in the front window, or ceiling events. Carkitt Market, especially, has so much signs and doorways (not passages, sadly) that we were thoroughly entertained just wandering and looking.
Plus, there’s music from the movies piped everywhere, which added to the ambience. I honestly didn’t get tired of those 8 or so tunes, despite hearing them constantly.
The costumed employees at these parks are amazing, and one of the best parts of our experience. They weren’t afraid to flip us shit (in character, of course). I had a “Wooo!” outburst at Ollivander’s when the selected wand recipient declared she wanted to be sorted into Ravenclaw, and Ollivander himself deadpanned at me for it. We traded zingers with the Knight Bus conductor for a good 10 minutes in the pouring rain. The Slytherin manning the Forbidden Journey line sneered at us while we waited. We teased, and were teased, as if we and the park employees had been friends for years. Even the janitor cleaning the Witches bathroom was in character!
The very few who weren’t in character were still positive, clearly enjoying working here (despite some being middle-aged and grey-haired), and very helpful. I have never experienced such unanimous positive attitude from theme park employees, ever.
Clearly, this is a place they’re working at because they want to be. And they’re having fun, or at least encouraging the rest of us to have fun, even though I’m sure their jobs are exhausting beyond belief.
They’re all over. Whoever got to create and design the props and costumes for WWoHP had the best job in the world. There’s an attention to detail that is mind-boggling. If you like the books, or the movies, or both, you will find little Easter Eggs all over both parks.
Here’s a hint: keep your ears open everywhere, from Borgin and Burkes to the public conveniences (read: toilets) in Hogsmeade.