Today was one of the best experiences I’ve had here in Orlando.
And for once, it wasn’t at Walt Disney World…
As many people probably know, Walt Disney World may have been the first theme park in Orange County here in Florida, but it wasn’t the only for very long. If you travel here now you have the choice of exploring Walt Disney World, Universal, Sea World and Legoland as well as a bunch of other attractions and theme parks like Busch Gardens and Aquatica.
While I would love to visit some of the other parks while I’m here, I must admit that Disney holds the most memories and nostalgia for me. But another park comes very close. Or, at least, part of it does.
I’m talking about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, located within the Islands of Adventure under the Universal theme park. If you make your way through either the Dr Seuss or Marvel and Jurassic areas, you find yourself in Hogsmeade, with Hogwarts Castle looming over you, as the strains of Hedwig’s Theme lilt out to you.
My friends and I have not really bought season passes to Universal Studios… we’ve bought season passes to WWHP. We literally spend all our time there. I’ve been to the actual Universal Studios side once.
You can have a butterbeer in the Hog’s Head or Three Broomsticks, buy candy at Honeydukes or buy a wand at Ollivanders… with a little extra magic.
If you go to the park, you’ll notice a line forming to get into Ollivanders. You can use the door at the Owl Post store to get into the store itself, but if you join the queue, you can participate in a wand demonstration with Ollivander himself!
Out of the 30-odd people in the room, Ollivander will find the perfect wand for one. He’ll ask you to perform some spells to see which wand will choose you. Finally, there’s the perfect one and you can purchase it in the store.
What I like the most about this experience is that it’s mostly not children who get chosen. I like this for a number of reasons; it means that the fans who grew up with the books (ie. 20 year olds) get chosen more often and kids who are too young to read the books or watch the more violent movies don’t get to have an experience they won’t really ‘get’ anyway. And it also requires a heavy amount of interaction, which means shy kids who would freak out at being asked to do things in front of a crowd don’t ruin the show. Sorry, but urgh kids sometimes.
I got chosen the other day while my two friends Bec and Lizzie looked on. I’m not sure why he picked me, as it seems to be on a whim, but I’m so glad he did!
They filmed it,
so I’ll have to find and post that at some point, but after asking which was my wand arm (right) he measured it, my hand, the distance from my arm to the ground, my face, my nose and the distance between my eyes while doing a spiel about how no two wands are the same.
He then selected a wand from the shelf and asked me to levitate some boxes towards us. I tried it, and the boxes all started to jump out of the shelf. Not the wand for me, then.
He got another one and asked for me to bring the flowers on the shelf down towards us. When I tried that, they all wilted and died. Again, not the right one.
He declared I was a tricky customer and then started, looked deep in my eyes and said “I wonder…” before racing upstairs to a box on a shelf. As he handed it to me, the room lit up in a haunting way, music started and my hair started flying — straight out of the movie! He then explained how this wand had chosen me and me alone, and like people no two wands were the same.
ETA: Thanks so much to Bec and Lizzie for leaping into action with their phones and filming my wand choosing me! It’s very dark in Ollivanders, so apologies if you can’t see much; trust me, we couldn’t either!
So I freaked, bought the wand and then we went around Hogsmeade and took pictures.
The best part of the day for the group of us was that we returned later on and he not only recognized me by name, but chose both my friends to have their wands chose them!
This experience is well worth the wait if you want to get picked, even if it means waiting a few times. Be prepared to drop the $30 odd on the wand and wait a while if you don’t get picked the first time. Birthday buttons help, as we’ve later found, but I hate people who wear them simply to get free stuff, so only on your birthday! Either way, it’s an experience that’s great if you’re a passholder because then you’re less constrained by time.
Later on in the day, we retreated to the quieter parts of the area to take some photos. There’s a wonderful part of WWHP located behind Honeydukes which technically leads to a backstage area, but is still a themed area where we like to take pictures and generally mess up poor team members going to/coming from breaks.
More on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter soon!