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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer Vacation 2015 (Part 1): The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express, Hogwarts

Hubby and I have the habit of not telling the kids anything about any upcoming vacations until the morning we are to travel. If we give them any advance notice, chances are they will drive us mad when they wouldn't stop talking about it. However, we made an exception this time. Two weeks before we were due to travel, we told the kids that we were going to Orlando, Florida. Specifically, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Without even us asking, our 12 year old twins immediately went online to research the theme park. They also started re-reading the Harry Potter books. Their little sister was so inspired that she too, started reading the books. To further prepare them for the trip, we binge watched all 8 Harry Potter movies the week before we traveled. I really think that doing so helped us enjoy the theme park even more than if we had not watch the movies or read the books.

Hubby got us a 2-day pass to the park but we loved it so much, we wished it could have lasted longer. We loved EVERYTHING about it! From the moment we stepped into Diagon Alley, to getting on the Hogwarts Express, to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, we felt like we were transported into a different world! If not for all the sweaty, t-shirt-and-shorts-wearing crowd, one might even forget that you are actually at a theme park!

If you are planning a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, here are a few tips that may help:

- Try to read the Harry Potter books or at least watch a Harry Potter movie before visiting the park. It will give you a better context of the attractions and you will enjoy the park even more.

- Head to Ollivanders as soon as you get to the park to watch their little "The Wand chooses the Wizard" show. It is better to get that over and done with in the morning when the line is short, then to have to wait up to an hour for it later in the day. The 5-mins (or so) show is cute but it is not worth waiting that long for.

- If you are getting the interactive wands, get them early in the day so that the kids have all day to cast spells with them.

- Travel light. Universal Studios prohibit guests from bringing anything that cannot fit inside their pockets onto the rides. They do provide lockers but it is still a hassle and a huge time-waster. My kids brought along their purses on the first day we went to the park and we wasted so much time waiting in line to get to the lockers. We smartened up the next time and went with only one backpack for the group. Even though we still had to store away the bag, it was definitely easier than having to deal with more than one locker.

- If you are an American Express cardholder, you can get exclusive perks and discounts at the park. Click HERE for details.

Hubby and I took a lot of pictures at the park. Here are some of them. Enjoy!

The Leaky Cauldron:

We tried to get inside the Leaky Cauldron as depicted in the book but alas! The door doesn't open.


Our first stop: Ollivander's Wand Shop.
photo by Hubby
So many wands! Which to pick?
The girls casting spells with their new interactive wands

Gringotts Bank:

The Gringotts Bank look just like the one depicted in the book and the movie. It was so cool to see the goblins "at work".
photo by Hubby
photo by Hubby

Hogwarts Express:

We took the Hogwarts Express from the King's Cross train station to get to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.


The amazing Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


Look at all these Muggles! Everyone wants a taste of Butterbeer.
Butterbeer! A must-have in Harry Potter land.
The Great Feast Platter at Three Broomsticks was the perfect lunch for the five of us.
The Hogwarts Frog Choir- hilarious!
We made a stop at the Hogsmeade Post Office to get some postcards mailed out to our friends.
Check out the cool Hogsmeade postmark and the Hogwarts postage stamps.
Pick your owl. I was told the owl on the left is faster (aka Express Mail but not really).

Diagon Alley:

Magic potions, anyone?
More magic in a bottle

Here's one more look at Diagon Alley and the fire-breathing dragon that sits atop Gringotts Bank:


  1. We loved this park, too! The details there are so stunningly beautiful - and the rides were amazing, aren't they? Girls must have been so excited when you guys told them!!! Great travel tips Jin! You should write travel books! Awesome captures, too!

  2. Oh man, I wish I knew about that AMEX savings! We were just there and I used my AMEX the whole time and had no clue about the 10% savings! We only spent 1 day in the park and chose Diagon Alley. I think we could've spent a whole day in each side of HP World! My kids are still young (4 & 7) and so they were not too much into HP yet. Though, they have watched the Sorcerer's Stone a couple of times before our trip. They loved the the park and the magic wand and now they are really into HP. We will be getting the books and rest of the movies for them!
    Love your pictures. I don't know how you were able to get several of the shots without anyone else in them! It was very crowded when we were there!

  3. What a wondrous vacation Jin! What did the butterbeer taste like? I have read the HP series over 10 times and still feel like a child wondering if I have the power to fly. Thanks so much for sharing your photos - I loved seeing the bank and it must have been so hushed and quiet in there with them scowling down like that!