On an unusually cold and cloudy Florida day thousands upon thousands of Harry Potter fans crowded the magical streets of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort for the annual event, A Celebration of Harry Potter. I found myself amidst a throng of wide-eyed adults marveling at the amazingly detailed shops of Diagon Alley, their children at their sides frantically waving their interactive wands in simple patterns to activate the numerous “spells” located throughout the park. The chilly wind ruffled countless student robes that identified each guest to their respective Hogwarts house. Virtually everyone displayed their house colors proudly as scarves wrapped around their necks. If I had to choose between being alone at home watching Netflix and shoving my way through a giant crowd of people, I would normally gravitate toward binge watching Korean dramas online. However, that was not the case this day. On this day, I was home.
The stories of Harry Potter have been an obsession of mine for most of my life as it has been for many others who have been and continue to be enchanted by the tales of magic, friendship, and bravery at the hands of evil and prejudice. I was immediately enthralled by the otherworldly accounts of Harry, Ron, and Hermione and I spent most of my middle school lunches secretively reading about their adventures at the school’s library. At the time, my mother had been swept up in the controversy sparked by church groups that condemned Harry Potter as “books from the devil”. As the skeptic I have always been, I ignored her warnings of being “lured into hell by witchcraft” and they did not stop me from feeling a personal attachment to the kids in these stories. I proclaimed at that early age that I would have been sorted into Gryffindor, just like Harry, and I have remained a devoted fan ever since.
Although I have been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort many times, this was my first time at this event and it was a day to remember. The celebration itself lasts three days with a variety of scheduled events including wand choreography, costume contests, and a Q&A session with actors from the movies. I only went Saturday and couldn’t do much. A word of advice for any interested in this celebration: get there early and get ready to wait in lines. A lot of lines. Nevertheless, I was more than happy with my experience.
Held within two of Universal Orlando Resort’s many sound stages, the Harry Potter Expo showcased a few interesting exhibits. For those who thought they knew all sevens books inside and out, there was an audio trivia contest where participants listened to excerpts from the books through headphones and identified which book the reading was from on a touch screen. Fans of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were not forgotten as a line formed for a chance to wear a VR headset and wave your “wand” in order to help Newt catch some escaped creatures. My absolute favorite part of the Expo was the Harry Potter Mosaic. The attendant explained that guests were able to post their pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #harrypottercelebration and they would print in an almost mini-Poloroid format at their station. Within forty-five minutes, fans were able to pick their pictures up from the booth while copies of them were arranged in an extravagant mosaic slowly forming an image of Hogwarts castle.
As I made my way through the winding path of Diagon Alley, I stopped to ask a couple of guests about their most favorite aspect of A Celebration of Harry Potter. Almost everyone mentioned that they love gawking at the extensive details and oftentimes inventive cosplay worn by the very fans themselves. One yellow and black clad Hufflepuff perfectly described that he “felt like [he was] actually in the world of Harry Potter walking with students and professors…” I couldn’t hold back a smile watching the youngest of Harry Potter devotees tug at their parent’s sleeve and ask if that really was Hermione who just walked by in her fancy Yule Ball gown or hear them giggle at the sight of Professor Snape dressed as Neville’s grandmother.
I am shameless in admitting that I most look forward to food served at any event so it was no surprised that I was ecstatic to try every magical treat I could get my hands on. Generally on my visits to The Wizarding World I will drift toward the much loved Butterbeer poured at multiple locations through the two parks. Personal Opinion Alert: the frozen Butterbeer is ten times better than the regular liquid version. This time, however, I decided to expand my horizons and stopped by Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour and sank my spoon into Butterbeer flavored soft-serve. I was not disappointed with the delicious butterscotch-vanilla swirl ice cream and finished it in record time despite my husband’s incredulous stare. Among the numerous, and often oddly named (Fishy Green Ale??), drinks at The Wizarding World one can always find yummy Pumpkin Juice with it’s signature pumpkin shaped topper in snack carts or within Honeydukes. To my sweet-toothed readers planning on visiting this fantastic place please do not forget to make a stop at Honeydukes. Straight from the pages of J.K. Rowling’s otherworldly stories Honeydukes features treats you never thought you would be able to hold in your hands such as Fizzing Whizzbees, Exploding Bon-Bons, and Chocolate Frogs.
This is a must-see event for any Harry Potter fanatics such as myself. If you find yourself making your way to Orlando, Florida make sure to pack your wizard’s robes and dust off your magic wand and enjoy the overdose of magic you will find here.
Disclaimer: This is solely my personal review and all pictures were taken by me. I do not own any of the character or location names. All rights go to Warner Bros, J.K. Rowling, and Universal Orlando Resort.