Sun Flare Over Hogwarts
With the magical community finally coming out of the broom closet and admitting that wizards and witches exist, it was only a matter of time until the Ministry of Magic figured out a way to reach into our muggle pockets and extract some coin to deposit in Gringotts. Now open for muggle tours, the most famous of the Wizarding Schools, Hogwarts looms over the interesting and kooky village of Hogsmeade.
The Hogwarts Express
ready to leave Hogsmeade for arrival at
London's Kings Cross Station and platform 9 3/4
Being a huge fan of J.K. Rowling's books and of the movies, I was filled with excitement and anticipation for my first visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Approaching the entrance to Hogsmeade, I got a bit teary-eyed. I imagine it would feel the same if I ever get to visit Hobbiton in New Zealand. There are some stories you connect to more than others.
I went on a Friday, in fall, while school was in session and it was still packed with muggles, all trying to get a picture of the Hogwarts Express, an entry into Ollivander's, or a mug of Butterbeer. It was madness. Most of the stores were no bigger than my bedroom and Ollivander's is the size of my closet. But sometimes, good things come in small packages!
Rowling created this amazing world, filled with amazing characters, amazing details. I can't help but wonder what this world would be like if the Disney Company would have had the rights to build the park. There is so much more that could have been done if it was a separate park instead of just a back corner of Universal Islands of Adventure. There could have been a crazy elevator ride into the Ministry of Magic, a Forbidden Forest to walk, or ride through, perhaps in Mr. Weasley's flying car. You could stroll down Privett Drive and see the Dursley's stuffing themselves through their living room window. You could relax away from the crowds in one of the four common rooms, or maybe take in a potions class in the dungeon with Professor Snape. Maybe you could attend Sir Nicholas' Death Day Party. Where is Doby or Winkie?
Unfortunately, no where to be found...nor did they find any look-a-likes of the main characters to wander the park. I did enjoy the Hogwarts Choir and seeing the ladies of Beauxbaton and the lads of Durmstrang.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Hogwarts Choir and the Singing Frogs
The ladies of Beauxbaton and the lads of Durmstrang
Disney would have had more real estate to work with and it would have been less expensive for the muggle.
Let's face it, Universal charges more for everything. Tickets are higher and you even have to pay extra to get an Express Pass (to skip the lines) which DOES NOT include the Hogwarts Castle ride,Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in the Harry Potter Wizarding World. The cost of food and drink is higher and the souvenirs...lordy be! $50 for the Maurader's Map?
Okay, I'm a sucker...I had to have one. Being an artist, I couldn't help but marvel over the yummy detail.
Muggle tip: The Express Pass is only worth it if you are planning on riding all the rides in the park and it's only good for one time on each ride. It does not include Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
The village of Hogsmeade is pretty darn cool but it's hard to move inside the stores. You feel like a sardine stuffed in a tin can. All you want to do once you get into one, is get the heck out. You have to wait in a long line to get into Ollivander's (part of Dervish and Banges) which as I mentioned earlier, is very very small. The wand that "chooses" you is based on your birth date so there are only a few different ones to go along with the character wands. Which, at $28.95, are pretty reasonably priced. Muggle tip: if you really want a wand, skip the line at Ollivanders and get a character wand from a small stand near the castle.
Of course this small slice of Harry's world is better than not having one at all. And there were some really great things about it. Including the ride at the castle and all the details within it...Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey alone is worth the price of the ticket. If you only go on one ride, this is the one to do. You go through Hogwarts in a virtual broom ride that is exciting and chaotic. It's really cool walking into the moving Portrait Gallery, to almost get walloped by the Womping Willow or to get the air sucked out of you by a Dementor. Muggle tip: Just walk right though Hogsmeade (try not to get distracted) and get to the castle first thing in the morning to do the ride. The lines just get longer and longer throughout the day. You can always come back and hang out in Hogsmeade later.
The Hog's head Pub and The Three Broomsticks are both well done. Both have plenty of room for the hoards of hungry muggles. I was absolutely loving all the painstaking detail in Hogsmeade.
The Hog's Head Pub Sign
Entrance into the Three Broomsticks
A Fine Eating Establishment
Of course, every muggle that visits Hogsmeade should try the Butterbeer, an overly-sweet fizzy drink with a delicious foam on top. The outside line for the Butterbeer was ridiculously long. Muggle tip: skip standing in line at the Butterbeer keg and instead order your butterbeer with lunch inside The Three Broomsticks. The drink will be too sweet for most muggles, so save some money by getting only one mug and a bunch of straws and just share it with your family and friends. It costs extra to get it in a souvenir mug so be sure to ask for one as it is not automatically assumed that's what you want.
A keg of Butterbeer
The food at The Three Broomsticks is delightfully British. I felt right at home ordering Fish and Chips and Shepard's Pie. They have vegetarian options as well. The grilled corn on the cob looked delicious.
Despite of the crowds and the size of the stores, I still enjoyed going in and seeing what kind of magical items I could find. I loved Dervish and Banges, which is where I got my outrageously priced Maurader's Map. It has an assortment of items from the World of Harry Potter including Quidditch gear and various clothing articles, all in the theme of the four houses of Hogwarts. There are details in store decorations inside as well as outside..look around, take it all in, enjoy it.
I solemnly swear that I am up to no good...
Honeydukes and Junko's Joke Shop share a space and they are filled with tons of goodies from the books. I got a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavored Beans and a Chocolate Frog which comes with a collectible wizard card! Yay! It seemed that the Pygmy Puff's were the most popular item at Junko's. Many a tiny muggle and wizard walked out of there with the newly adopted puff.
One of the least expensive things to do is to buy a postcard or two from the shop, have a lovely lady stamp it with a "Hogsmeade Owl Post" and mail it off to your other muggle friends. The Owl Post store front is filled with wrapped packages, letters and scrolls, ready to be delivered by the owls in the Olwery.
The store front windows are all filled with awesome detail...like this crying Mandrake Root:
I will definitely be going back for future visits. I would love to slowly roam around Hogsmeade without the crowds but I don't think there will ever be a time where it won't be filled with muggles. Loyal fans will continue to flock to get their Hogwarts fix and more will be made as upcoming generations discover the astonishing world of Harry Potter through the books and movies. The imagination is a wonderful thing and J.K. Rowling's is exquisite. I wish everyone in the world believed in fairytales. It would be a much nicer world to live in. I hope you enjoyed the images and this review of Harry Potter's Wizarding World. For now I'm off to my potions class...