My childhood consisted of reading Harry Potter book religiously, so when I found out that part of our family trip at the beginning of 2013 included a visit to Orlando Studios — AKA a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — I couldn’t contain myself. That’s why it’s in my Top 3 2013 Moments.
We all remember what it’s like to walk into Disney World or Disneyland for the first time, or anytime after. You get giddy like a child again. You feel like you’re home.
Well, walking into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is like having all your magical dreams that you’ve read about laid out before your very eyes.
The little world consists of two main parts: the streets of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts castle. And let me tell you, walking through the streets of Hogsmeade was fun, but when I laid eyes on that castle… It was over. Everything about the place is magical and absolutely charming.
The inside of Hogwarts is a huge ride, and while you’re waiting in line you go through the castle grounds, through Professor Sprout’s gardens, and finally through the inside of the castle where you’ll see the entrance to Dumbledore’s office as well as all the moving paintings.
Cast members hurry you along, and call you “muggles.” What do they know? I’m sure you’ve already got your house scarf and wand picked out!
Outside the castle, back at Hogsmeade, you’ll find all the shops you’ve read about in the books.
Honeydukes, the famous candy shop. You can buy all the magical goods you’ve ever dreamed of here. I bought some Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans (which I took home to Jake, who then was actually concerned he’d stumble upon an earwax flavored one). I wasn’t brave enough to buy and eat a chocolate frog — but they have those there too!
There’s also Fred and George’s joke shop. A fun little store. Even Olivander’s, where you can pick up your very own wand! And if you’re lucky enough, there’s a show where the shopkeeper could pick you to see which kind of wand chooses you.
You can find Butterbeer carts outside along the streets, but you can grab a mug along with lunch or dinner inside The Three Broomsticks as well. I never imagined I’d be eating at The Three Broomsticks. It gets pretty crowded in there. If you’re looking for Butterbeer specifically, I’d stick to the carts.
Butterbeer, by the way, is god’s nectar. Starbucks has added a Butterbeer drink to their secret menu, but I heard it doesn’t compare to the real thing.
It wouldn’t be Hogwarts without house gear. You can pick up all you’ll in the shop connected to Olivander’s. My brother was a Gryffindor for a while, but he later turned to Slytherin. Cast members around the park made funny comments and jokingly sneered at him. Slytherin! It’s a real culture out there.
This trip wasn’t just special to me because my Harry Potter dreams came true. It was also our first family trip in years, and the last one before my brother went away to college. Moments like these where we can all spend time together away from the responsibilities of our lives are becoming rarer and rarer each year.
So I treasure this trip, and all the memories we made together. It was a great way to start off 2013, and I’m looking forward to starting 2014 with them as well.
I hope everyone looks back on 2013, but also looks forward to all the good that’s coming in 2014. Happy New Year, everyone!