My last post was all about the incredible Diagon Alley section of Universal Orlando, but today we’re taking the Hogwarts Express over to the Islands of Adventure park to see Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle.
If you have a park to park ticket you can take the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross Station to Hogsmeade (and vice versa). You sit in a compartment on the train and watch as the ‘scenery’ changes in the windows outside from the city of London to English countryside to Hogsmeade village. You’ll see some familiar faces on the way outside the windows and also some shadows on the inside frosted compartment windows to the corridor too. It’s a fun way to transfer between the parks, especially if you’re going between the two Harry Potter sections, as you never need to break the magic by walking through the rest of the park.
In Hogsmeade you have the chance to see the Hogwarts Express in all its glory, with steam puffing away out of the top, free from the barriers and queues of people when you ride it. Sometimes there’s even a photo opportunity to be had with the Hogwarts Express conductor in front of it. It does make for a pretty magical and thematic arrival into the village.
Coming out of the station you are greeted with the gateway and snowy rooftops of Hogsmeade village. It seems to be permanently winter here! Hogsmeade is the only all-wizarding village in Britain and the unusual shapes of the buildings’ roofs and chimneys really help to give that feeling. The buildings are just beautifully constructed with every one being slightly different but still looking perfect together. I love how some of the rooftops are wonky or slanted and all the doorways and frames are made from wood. It’s so traditional.
Here you’ll find familiar places like the famous Honeydukes sweetshop, Dervish and Banges (for all your wizarding needs), Hogsmeade’s owl post office (you can get your postcards and letters stamped here), The Hog’s Head Inn (for wizarding brews) and The Three Broomsticks (for food and drink). Just like in Diagon Alley there are other shops and businesses, like Ceridwen’s Cauldrons, that you can look at, but not enter.
One of my favourite things to do was to have a look in the windows and see what little details you could find, and also have another go with the interactive wand! Most of the spells are for window displays although one is to tip out some Cornish pixies from a cauldron. Mischievous little creatures!
Outside The Three Broomsticks, the pub/restaurant in Hogsmeade, there’s a moving picture of none other than Sirius Black when he had escaped from Azkaban. This, along with the snowy rooftops, is a nod to the book/film where we, and Harry, first see and experience Hogsmeade. If you don’t want to stop at either inn for anything to eat or drink, you’ll find plenty of refreshment carts throughout the high street of the village. Or if it’s something sweet you’re after, there’s always Honeydukes!
Working your way to the end of Hogsmeade High Street, you’ll find yourself face to face with Hogwarts Castle. It’s honestly one of the most amazing sights, and it gets me every time I walk through Hogsmeade. The view from Hogsmeade is stunning, but the view from the bridge leaving the area is even better. It’s the perfect place to snap a few pictures, as the natural surroundings of trees, rocks and river give the castle a more genuine appearance. Literally incredible.
The castle itself is home to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the main ride in this section of the park. Like the Gringotts ride, it’s partly on a moving track with real figures and partly a 3D experience. The queue winds through the castle so you’ll find yourself in the castle greenhouses, Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom with the principal trio, the entrance to and interior of Dumbledore’s office, and corridors of paintings chatting with each other (namely the founders of the school!). It’s such a fun ride, and if you do end up queuing for ages then you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied!
The other ride is the Flight of the Hippogriff, a small rollercoaster where you ride ‘on’ a hippogriff and fly around the school grounds. It looks like it might be an easy ride, but in fact it’s pretty fast! I went on this after the castle show with no queue and I could have easily ridden it 3 times in a row if I’d had time as it was super enjoyable!
There’s so much to do between the two areas here with rides and shows around Hogwarts and shops and restaurants within Hogsmeade. Plus, don’t forget those interactive wand spots too. Even if you don’t want to spend a small fortune to buy one, it’s a lot of fun to watch other people perform the spells and watch as they succeed. You may not be waving the wand, but you can share in the fun.
There are a couple of different shows that happen between Hogsmeade and the Castle, one of which being the frog choir singing some familiar tunes from the films. This really adds to the environment that you’re standing in and makes for a great ambience and soundtrack to your time there. There’s also a Triwizard rally where students from the three schools in The Goblet of Fire perform in celebration of the Triwizard Tournament featured in there book.
When dusk falls something really magical happens. A new addition to the park is a light projection show, with fireworks, on Hogwarts itself.
It’s not very long but it is absolutely incredible. The projections are so clear and brightly coloured and the narration to the show is by the Sorting Hat. He goes through all the different house choices before a glittering an explosive finale. This is well worth sticking around for, and despite the times guide saying it was only on at 7.15, it does in fact run every 15 minutes from dusk. It’s definitely worth staying for and I really wouldn’t miss it. To see the castle lit up like that against the night sky is so dramatic and although short, it really packs a punch!
I absolutely loved visiting Hogsmeade again and seeing all the new additions like the Hogwarts Express station, the light show, and the Flight of the Hippogriff. Playing with the wands also makes you see the area in a whole new light; it gives you something different to do and offer plenty of new details to discover. Being able to feel like you are in Hogsmeade itself is pretty incredible but nothing compares with being able to see Hogwarts in real life. It’s a truly magical experience.
I hope you’ve enjoyed discovering the Wizarding World of Harry Potter along with me and if you missed my first section visiting Diagon Alley, then you can take a look here.
See you soon!
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