What is it like being an adult fan of Harry Potter, traveling with other adult fans of Harry Potter, at a theme park for families who may or may not be as much as a Harry Potter fan as you are? It’s pretty freaking awesome! Bonus: I have no fear regarding roller coasters (it’s my only Gryffindor quality) so ALL the rides were available to me.
Here is what you need to know about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: it’s tucked in the back of each respective park. Other than walking out of one park and into the other, the Hogwarts Express is the only way to get back and forth between parks. Additionally, you have to pay extra on the tickets to be able to jump between parks. It turns a 2-day pass into a $200 ticket. Is it worth it? Yes, if you do all of each park. If you JUST want Harry Potter stuff you can probably do both parks in 1 day- if you stay all day.
What should you expect? Rides are primarily at the Hogsmeade side. Dueling Dragons is intense because it is a suspended rollercoaster with two loops and two spirals. I loved it and almost went twice. I would have, but there was other stuff to do. This ride is focused around the first task of the Tri-Wizard’s Championship. There was about a 15 minute line most of the time, which is short. Always shave about 5 minutes off the wait time. We realized that even rides with zero line had a 5 minute wait. That’s how much each ride lasts.
The frustration with a lot of the rides is that they have things to see while you wait in line, but not all allow you to bring your cameras. Dueling Dragons had a lot of Cedric Diggory stuff and I took zero pictures because they didn’t allow camera. The Hogwart’s ride also had some fantastic elements and, again, I did not have my phone. We had lunch at the Boar’s Head and tried butter beer. If you like butterscotch, you will probably like it.
There are three rides on the Hogsmeade side plus the Olivander’s show (which is insanely short, but fun). The Hogwart’s Express shows two different scenes depending on your direction. The Diagon Alley side has one ride: Gringotts. Anyone can walk through the line and leave right before the ride starts. There are plenty of picture opportunities on that wait. Most of the interactive wand activities are on this side of the park. I did not buy a wand, but my sister-in-law did and it was pretty clear that I have no magical ability. I was too tall to get them to work properly.
We tried to be smart about our days in the park. We left at mid-day when it was the hottest and we were tired. We would rest through the afternoon and then go back for dinner and more entertainment. We did 90% of both parks and almost every ride we wanted. Plus, I think we avoided the worst parts of the lines.
I spent money too- not just on food. I had to have almost all the Ravenclaw things they made. I have a journal, a rubber stamp, a wax seal, a prefect badge, a house crest pin, a patch, and a lanyard all in Ravenclaw colors. Then I had to buy a purple quill for reasons and postcards that I never actually sent to anyone because MINE! What I didn’t buy was a lot of candy. I ended up tasting a lot of what others got. Things are quite large and rich. Also, chocolate melts even after the sun has gone down. I enjoyed Dumbledore’s favorite Sherbet Lemons and similar hard candies. I left with a small bag of those. I tasted pumpkin juice, which I think would be wonderful heated up on a nice cold fall day. I tasted a pumpkin pastie, which is basically just pumpkin pie that you can hold in your hand. Some of the candy was wonderful and special, like the very rich chocolate cauldrons. Other were just… candy, like the peppermint frogs.
A lot of what I loved was simply being there with my family. My mother, who has not read any of the books nor seen a movie and swears she has no idea what we are talking about, walked away with a Hogwarts t-shirt of her own. My father, the one who introduced both my sister and me to the series, took more pictures than any of us. Between 5 smartphones and my mother’s point-n-click, we probably have more than we will ever know what to do with. We shared meals together, bickered like we have all our lives, drank a lot of alcoholic drinks, and ended every night barely able to move from exhaustion.
As we walked around the rest of the park, I tried to place the things that had changed in the 15-ish years since I had last visited. The Nickelodeon stuff is gone to make way for Jimmy Fallon. I have fond memories of that area since I was a teenager who had a sister and babysat kids who watched the popular shows of the mid-90s. The Hulk rollercoaster was down for major repairs, which I found devastating as it is one of my all time favorite rollercoasters. Other changes I liked- the who Krustyland/Simpsons area is where Back to the Future once was. In fact, the Krusty-land ride is the Back to the Future ride. Some things I barely remembered were still there like Men in Black and The Mummy. I was glad to see some things gone like the Twister show, but missed the Jaws stuff.
Side note on the issue of literary tourism and this trip. Harry Potter isn’t the only literature related aspect to the park. Island of Adventure has: Jurassic Park (a book AND movie), Dr. Seuss stuff, and Marvel content (there before Disney bought them… it’s weird now). We rode almost ALL the rides in the Dr. Seuss area with pure delight. We also hung around Marvel and Jurassic Park. The Jurassic Park rides had the longest waits and we were tired and hungry by then. Marvel had 1 ride we really want to do, but the Hulk was closed.
I know this is a tough sell for a literary tourism trip, but there is more for the book lover than Harry Potter.