This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six “Secrets” of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hogsmeade Village. When Islands of Adventure opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) in 2010, Universal established a new gold standard in theme park immersion. Walking into Hogsmeade Village is the closest anyone can come to stepping into the pages of J.K. Rowling’s book series. Filled with magic and surprises, Universal’s Wizarding World contains many secrets that not every guest knows about – even the ones who have been several times. Today we’re going to look at six of our favorites.
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Next to Ollivanders is the Owl Post, and outside of that is a manned Owl Post station where you can mail letters and get them marked with an actual Hogsmeade stamp. We all have friends and family who can’t make it down to Orlando, and this is one of the cheapest souvenirs you can get for them. It can also be a unique Wizarding World item to have waiting for you once you return home from vacation, so consider mailing something to yourself.
There is stationary you can buy in Hogsmeade Village to write your letter, or you can just bring your own. You’re also responsible for your own postage. Once you are ready, take your mail to the witch or wizard manning the station, and he or she will stamp your envelope and hand it off to Errol, Pigwidgeon, or the next owl up for delivery.
# 5 – Pumpkin Fizz at the Three Broomsticks
There are a lot of popular drinks within Hogsmeade, including Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice, and Hog’s Head Ale, but one drink not everyone knows about is Pumpkin Fizz. Pumpkin Fizz is very similar to Pumpkin Juice except that it is carbonated and does not come in the great bottle that the juice variety does. However, just as I prefer frozen Butterbeer to the regular version, I much prefer Pumpkin Fizz over Pumpkin Juice, and to get it you need to stroll into the Three Broomsticks or the Hog’s Head Pub, as it is not available at any of the outdoor carts.
# 4 – Fire Whiskey in the Hog’s Head
Speaking of the Hog’s Head, this small bar is one of my favorite stops in the Wizarding World. I think it’s the best place to get Butterbeer (as the carts outside seem to always have much longer lines), and the little details throughout are amazing to take in. Besides the huge Hog’s Head animatronic, you’ll see shrunken heads from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (along with a great sign that reads “Management will not take responsibility if you lose your head”), hear a witch complaining if you stand near the staircase, and behind the bar there are a whole bunch of Potter Universe themed bottles.
One of these bottles is for Fire Whiskey, one of the drinks many guests hope is realized once Diagon Alley opens later in 2014. Mentioned in several of the Potter books, Firewhiskey – as it written in Potter cannon – is an alcoholic drink that is prohibited to underaged wizards and witches (although Harry Potter drank some in memory to “Mad Eye” Moody.)
# 3 – Moaning Myrtle in the bathrooms
This is one of the all time great details in any theme park. Moaning Myrtle, the school girl who died at Hogwarts in 1943 and continued to haunt the lavatories as a ghost, can also be found in the WWoHP. That’s right, head into the “Public Conveniences,” and you can her Myrtle herself talking to guests.
Speaking of details, signs for Public Conveniences instead of Restrooms and Pram Parking instead of Stroller Parking are the cherry on top of the sundae of the level of detail that is throughout Hogsmeade Village. After you’ve ridden Forbidden Journey, Dragon Challenge, and Flight of the Hippogriff, spend some time window shopping in Hogsmeade and see all the amazing details. You don’t have to be a huge fan to appreciate all the work put into these windows, but if you are a fan of the books or movies, you will be blown away.
# 2 – The Hogwarts Castle tour
With Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Universal Creative accomplished the impossible. Forget about the Kuka-arm-based ride that seamlessly transitions between film and real sets. Forget about a brand new story that involves the characters from the movies we all love (imagine if Star Tours opened in 1987 with a new story featuring Han Solo and Luke Skywalker or if Star Tours: The Adventure Continues had new footage with Obi-Wan and Anakin.) Forget about everything that makes this one of the greatest E-Ticket attractions ever made. What makes Forbidden Journey special is the fact it is the first queue made in the history of theme parks that guests want to spend more time in.
There hasn’t been a time through the queue where I haven’t been told by other guests that I can pass by them because they want to spend more time in a room to take pictures or sit and watch and the musion technology scenes with Dumbledore and the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. The queue is filled with rooms and settings we all love from the books and films, including Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts class room, and the Gryffindor common room. Universal found a way to make the moving portraits from the movies work in a real world setting and used them brilliantly to tell the story of the ride and show people what they are about to experience.
What many guests don’t know is that Universal offers a Hogwarts castle tour where you can walk the queue at your own pace and take as many pictures you want without people constantly moving around you. The tour skips the outdoor greenhouse and keeps you inside the entire time. This is the perfect way for people who love to take a lot of pictures and want to get the full story, as often you are walking threw the rooms too fast to get the full experience. There are a free times when Universal shuts down the castle tour line (ironically, when the ride is at its busiest, which makes absolutely no sense at all), so be sure to ask the team members at the beginning of the queue if you can go through the castle tour line. Just remember, you will not be able to ride Forbidden Journey if you walk through the castle tour line. You will have to go back through the stand by queue for that.
# 1 – The Four Founders of Hogwarts
Mentioned repeatedly in the books but never seen in the movies were the four founders of Hogwarts: Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin. In one of my favorite rooms of the Forbidden Journey queue, you are surrounded by hundreds of portraits, and four of them are having a conversation with each other. Those four are the founders of Hogwarts, and – true to fashion – Salazar Slytherin is beside himself that muggles are being allowed into the castle, while the others try to talk some sense into him.
The Chocolate Frog, surely one of the most popular pieces of merchandise being sold in Hogsmeade, also contains a special “witches and wizards” card, similar to the one Harry Potter received in the very first movie. Opening a chocolate frog will reveal one of five cards featuring the four founders and Dumbledore (who was added into the rotation in 2013). To top it off, three of the founders are pictured with the items that Tom Riddle (Voldemort) used as Horcruxes in the Potter series (Godric is pictured with the sword of Gryffindor). Talk about over delivering to your audience!
So there you have it: Six “Secrets” of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hogsmeade Village. See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.