Thursday, July 14, 2011

Signs of Harry Potter

We recently visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, and we were completely blown away by detail work that tops anything Disney has done. As a huge Disney fan, I certainly don't say that lightly. For example, the rocks pictured here on the castle cliff don't just have a paint job; there is three-dimensional lichen all over them. Trash cans resemble iron barrels. Store clerks hand you a quill pen to sign your credit card reciept.  Even the smallest of details were attended to in this section of the park.

While the other areas of Islands of Adventure looked tempting upon arrival, we made a beeline for the back of the right-hand side. This is where the area called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter lies, just over a bridge. The entrance arch to the area has a sign that said "Please respect the spell limits". When you walk in, the village of Hogsmeade greets you with a riot of snow-capped rooflines, and the soundtrack to the movie plays from hidden speakers.

The space may be ridiculously crowded with visitors, but you forget about the crowd when you see the Hogwarts Express train puffing smoke as it comes through Platform 9  3/4 immediately to your right.

 Visitors dressed in their house robes, like this Gryffindor boy, add to the illusion of being in Harry's world. (Adult robes are $99 at the park or pay $12 shipping and get the same robes-and other merchandise- at Universal's online store here. Select Filtch's Emporium.)

The quaint village shops have windows with interesting and often, animated, items. More often than not, the storefronts are false; there is no store and the windows are just for the entertainment of passers-by and to supply the correct ambiance. For example, below is Wiseacres wizarding supplies store, with a hanging iron telescope for a shop sign. The window is filled with astronomical devices, and you can see a room filled with other assorted wizard paraphenalia. Above this, there is a music store with music paper flying madly around as though  in a whirlwind, and the cacophonus toots and blasts of beginners playing instruments can be heard. Instrument cases are left on the stairs that could be seen through the door. You cannot enter either of these places, but they are entertaining none the less.

Several books had tiny moving video scenes embedded in the covers. Gilderoy Lockhart waves and preens on this book cover.

I bought one of these Hedwig owls. They are puppets with a stick inside so you can swivel their heads.

Ollivander's wand shop has a short show, wherein the wizard selects a participant (usually a youngster) and then decides which wand is a good fit for that person. Flicking the wrong wand causes lightening and other displays of commotion. When the correct wand is chosen, something else happens (I don't want to say too much). There is always a line to see that small show, as only a handful of people can fit in the room.
The number of wand boxes in Ollivander's is simply astounding. The shelves full of them go up...

...and up and up! And it is like this all around the room and partway into the next room as well.


Ollivanders connects to the Owlry post office, which sells stationary, post cards, stamps, wax seals, and pens. You can send outbound mail there, with a Hogsmead postmark.  The other stores in Hogsmead you can actually enter are Zonko's joke shop, Honeydukes candy store, Dervish and Banges for clothing and all kinds of souvenirs. In this area there is also the Three Broomsticks restaurant and Hog's Head Pub, as well as the entrance to Dragon Challenge roller coaster (and Hagrids hut and other things we missed because we didn't know there was more than a roller coaster there. Next time, I am going to join the queue so I can see everything and then bail out before getting on the coaster.)  The ATM says Gringott's Bank, and the restrooms are alive with the sound of Moaning Myrtle.

Honeydukes candy store window, from the inside. Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean is featured in this display.

Butterbeer barrel cart and Honeyduke's candy store

Butterbeer from the tap or frozen like a slushee, your choice!
I got a frozen one, without the more expensive plastic souvenir mug. It does have a frothy top and a delicious vanilla-y flavor.

The frog chorus entertains with "singing" puppet frogs

Set decoration in Dervish and Banges' inaccessable 2nd story includes Spectra Specs and an Advanced Potion Making  text book, as well as a broom that "flys" slowly up and down a bit.

There are many items not for sale, but just for ambiance in the stores.

You can get your outbound mail stamped in the left corner with a Hogsmead postmark
The Owl Post is stuffed with parcels to be mailed (all are set decorations)

The Owlry is an open-sided bench-filled pavilion with many animated owls roosting on the high beams.
The owls very subtly swivel their heads and flap their wings and blink

The Monster Book of Monsters was sleeping and snoringin a big cage with a warning sign.

There were some things that caught the eye of this Halloween-lover:

skeleton in Zonko's Joke Shop

Mini Halloween candy buckets (on the drum) at Zonko's joke shop

This cart looks like an old  funeral coach to me. (The Hipppogriff rollercoaster is behind it.)
The pumpkin lids on the rather vile-tasting Pumpkin Juice.  At first it tasted good, especially when you are parched in the heat, but then it turned flavor on my tongue. I poured mine down a drain and kept the bottle.

And finally, the signs of Harry Potter, or really, the signs of Hogsmeade, each one so unique:
golden snitch at Spintwitches sporting goods (fake storefront)
Another shot of the Golden Snitch with quidditch balls. Spintwitches has quidditch supplies in the window.
Hanging witch and wizard signs for the ladies and men's restrooms. Above hangs a mortar and pestle for the 2nd story Potions shop (fake store)
Potages Cauldrons (fake storefront) gets 2 hanging signs. A room with more cauldrons and an oven with a self-stirring  cauldron are viewed through the window.
Zonko's joke shop's hanging sign is a man with a big mouth
Ollivander's wand shop's elegant hanging sign
Dervish and Banges for clothing and souveniers
Tomes and Scrolls (fake storefront). The animation in the window is a quill pen scribbling unassisted in a book.
Excuse me, I need to go finish my Butterbeer now!


  1. We are going in December. I can't wait! Thanks for sharing all the great images.

  2. I would love to see all of this! Where did you stay while you were in Florida? Also, how many days would you recommend for seeing all of this? It would be great to plan a trip!

    Your photos made me want to see the singing frog puppets, the monster book, and of course all the Halloween goodies! I think the room of owls would have freaked me out, though. They were a little too real! :) Thanks so much for sharing these pictures!

  3. @Justine: We stayed at Best Western Universal Inn at 5618 VINELAND DR, Orlando 32819. It had a rating of 4 out of 5 stars and had a self-serve full American breakfast (cereal, waffles, etc) as well as a free shuttle to the park. However, the shuttle only runs certain times and you must sign up for it (they might not tell you that). It returned a few hours before the park closed, so we just took a taxi back because we wanted to stay in the park as long as possible. Taxi was about $8- the hotel is very close but not walkable, for various reasons. Hotel was only $59 per night and I think it was a quite a deal. We will stay there again when we return, because oh yes, we ARE returning to the Wizarding World!
    Length of stay is hard to say. We spent a loong time in the one "land" because it was my obsession to photograph *everything* and shop, plus the line for HP's Forbidden Journey ride (inside the castle)was 90 mins and for Ollivander's show it was 45 mins. Oh! Big tip: ask for the TOUR before getting in line for Forbidden Journey- you will see more things than those in line do, however you will miss the greenhouse. Then get in the single rider line.
    We short-changed the other "lands". So, a day an a half??

  4. What a wonderful place for Harry Potter fans and kids of all ages!

  5. What an incredible trip! This is on my list of places to visit the next time! Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful pictures!

  6. Oh, wow, those are amazing pictures. I so have to give up this Halloween stuff so I have more spare time and money to travel!! Thank you for sharing these pictures. Made my Friday!!




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