Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Five Years Later


With the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter opening in Hollywood this spring, we look at how the original has changed in the last five years.

At the very end of October last year, I got to visit the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. It was the second time I’d been; the first was just over five years before, in August 2010 (not long at all after it first opened).

Obviously these were two insanely different experiences, though I’m happy to say that I enjoyed both of them. The crowds and weather were certainly much more favorable in late October of 2015 than they were in August 2014 right after the area opened. But the real question is, how did WWoHP hold up after its first five years?

As a former Disney cast member, I’ve long been more than a little bit picky about theme parks, and I have several distinct memories from my first trip to Wizarding World that aren’t that great, even outside of the heat and the crowds. At the time they clearly hadn’t figured out crowd control, which of course made things worse…and on top of that, Wizarding World features a lot of narrow alleys, small shops, etc.

Five years later, the theming had barely faded at all. If anything they’ve put more work into it.

But even in the heat of August, the ambiance was there, and to this day it still is. Whether you enter from Jurassic Park or Seuss Landing, you’re greeted with amazing views of either Hogwarts or Hogsmeade. And while a lot of the theming in Universal parks has always seemed lax, slapdash, superficial, they definitely went all-out for Wizarding World.

Are there still moments when you notice little things that almost – ALMOST – take you out of Universal’s recreation of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade? Yup. But they were minor then. Five years later, the theming had barely faded at all. If anything they’ve put more work into it – which is pleasantly surprising considering they opened the new Diagon Alley in Universal Studios in 2014. They could have let things in Hogsmeade slide as attendance was bolstered by the new addition, but instead they did their best to merge the two.

While I was sad that the joke shop moved from Hogsmeade, that’s because I wish I could have headed over to Diagon Alley to check it out. Alas, that was not in the cards for me last year, and so I contented myself with exploring every nook and cranny of the much less crowded and still amazing Hogsmeade and Hogwarts…including visiting each shop numerous times to make sure I wasn’t missing anything before deciding to make purchases. And though I missed the atmosphere of Zonko’s, it’s hard to not love that they expanded Honeydukes (and its offerings).

Between the Hogwarts train conductor who makes appearances for photos and the stage shows featuring the Frog Choir, Beauxbatons girls, and Durmstrang boys, Universal is still going out of their way to entertain Harry Potter fans. They also now offer the interactive wands – though I didn’t purchase one myself, I had a ball watching people use them at the designated magic spots.

Apparently you can also take tours of Hogwarts, which I wish I’d signed up for because when we rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey we had to rush through the beautiful queue area.

Thankfully I’d seen it slowly and in detail five years ago when I waited nearly two hours for the ride, but I do believe this tour needs to be in the cards for my next Universal visit.

More from Culturess

No trip to Hogsmeade would be complete without a stop at the Three Broomsticks (and the Hog’s Head pub too!) I wasn’t quite so fond of the butterbeer this time around – it was good, but I felt like maybe they’d changed the recipe? Though to be honest, my tastes could have changed as well.

While not all of the food at the Three Broomsticks is amazing  it’s still some of the better theme park food I’ve experienced. I’ve now tried two different entrees as well as helping myself to some of my friend’s roast potatoes this time around – they, at least, were delicious.

I enjoyed chatting with the bartender in the Hog’s Head, too – it really felt like she was going out of her way to make our short stop there memorable.

A lot of my awesome experience last year was bolstered by the aforementioned fact that the weather was perfect and the park was practically empty, but that doesn’t change the fact that despite having been open to the public for five years, Hogsmeade and Hogwarts have aged well…and my visit there only made me want to see Diagon Alley even more. I look forward to heading back. And maybe this time I won’t have to wait so long between visits!

Next: Making a Horcrux is More Horrifying Than You Think

The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens in April at Universal Studios Hollywood.