Magic, Wizards, & Mug of Butterbeer: Harry Potter World

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! For our Thanksgiving holiday, my boyfriend and I took an impromptu week and a half trip to Florida to celebrate our 1 year anniversary. It was kind of surreal, because 2 weeks after we decided to take the trip, we were already getting ready to go.

Half of it was spent working in Cape Canaveral, and the other half was spent in Orlando, exploring Disney World, Universal Studios, and the Outlets (but of course). I was pretty hyped for Harry Potter World, because I’ve never been there, and also excited for my first time staying at Disney World Resort.

Cape Canaveral

We flew in to Orlando Monday mid day, then drove an hour to Cape Canaveral. I had taken the Monday and Tuesday off, so I stayed at the hotel to explore the walkable area while my boyfriend went to work. All I can say is, yay, palm trees, yay, 70+ degrees, but oh my goodness the food is horrible.

There wasn’t much around the hotel, but there was a place called Manatee Sanctuary Park.  Expecting something like Pier 39 in San Francisco, where there are Sea Lions just chilling by the dozens, I made the trek there.

Unfortunately, the only Manatee was the Manatee Statue (should’ve been called the Manatee Statue Park, tbh), and I also got drenched from the 3PM Flash Storm that seems to happen every day there.

For the rest of the work week, I worked remotely from the hotel, which had awesome breakfast, free wifi, and fresh coffee all day. Fabulous.


The “Orlando Eye.”

Mid-day Friday (aka: during my lunch hour), we loaded the rental car, and drove back an hour to Orlando, checking in to our next hotel. The hotel was just minutes from Universal Studios, and pretty nice.

So fancy that they charged $16/night for parking. What a riot.

I finished off my work week at the hotel, and at 5PM, we were finally officially on Vacation Mode!

Peppermint Mocha!

The food was so much better, and we had a lot of options (instead of Pizza and Spaghetti every day).  We found really good coffee at “Le Cafe De Paris,” a French Cafe, which served amazing salmon on baguette:

We spent Saturday relaxing, exploring Orlando, and getting ready to dive into the Amusement Park part of the holiday.

Obviously, that meant we went to the Outlets.  More to see what all the hype was, rather than hardcore shopping, but I did manage to find a few things I had been hunting for for a long time for heavy discounts, so that was nice.

Universal Studios: Magical World of Harry Potter

Hogwarts! Finally, my inner-11-year-old got her letter!

Sunday was our Universal Studios day.  We got Park-To-Park Pass, because as it turns out, Harry Potter World (our main attraction) is split into both parks, so in order to experience the whole thing, you need park hopper.

Wow. How ingenious.  What capitalistic genius.

We also got the Express Pass, which was $100 extra per person, but so worth it for the ability to get through both parks in one day.

Hogsmeade (and Hogwarts) is in Island of Adventure, and the Universal Studios Florida has the Diagon Alley.  Connecting the two is Hogwarts Express (which was, I have to admit, pretty cool).

Aside from the fact that there are Palm Trees in middle of snow, Hogsmeade was really cool to look at!


We tried Butterbeer, watched a Wand pick its Wizard at Ollivanders, and had lunch at the Three Broomsticks.

Three Broomsticks!
Looking outside from Three Broomsticks.
I guess even Harry Potter eats french fries!

And, of course, we got a little dressed up…

Hogwarts Express

Once we got through Hogsmeade, rode all the rides, and went through all the shops, we headed to Hogsmeade Station to get on the Hogwarts Express, which took us to King’s Cross Station.

All Aboad the Hogwarts Express!!

King’s Cross Station on Platform 9 3/4

5~10 minutes later, we somehow ended up in London!

Platform 9 3/4.
King’s Cross Station.

Diagon Alley

From King’s Cross, we made our way to Diagon Alley, passing through the city of London, and even encountering the double-decker bus (with a shrunken head in the window). (Yes; this whole set up is really really elaborate.)

Welcome to Diagon Alley!

We went into Gringott’s ran away from dragons, and on the way out, grabbed delicious soft serve from an ice cream shop.

Escape from Dragons at Gringott’s. Get Ice Cream.

Universal Studios Florida

Hey, SF. Haven’t seen you in a while!

So somehow, after London, we ended up in San Francisco! It was getting really dark out, so we decided we’ll ride a few last rides and go home, pretty content with the coverage we managed, even with spending half the day being Potterheads.

To the left is Piers of San Francisco, and to the right is London. LOL.

In Conclusion…

Harry Potter World was awesome.  We were really impressed with the architecture and execution of the whole thematic universe.  My family used to go to Orlando every Christmas for a week or so, and park hopped Universal Studios and Disney World, but back then, this park didn’t exist, so it was great to finally have the opportunity to experience it.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know about, like Hogwarts Express (which was a ride in itself, because it took you through the experience of riding Hogwarts Express as a student) and the Marauder’s Map Treasure Hunt you could do if you bought a Wand (for $50 each, of course).

Thankfully, the flight there didn’t aggravate my Rheumatoid Arthritis, and surprisingly, being at a park all day didn’t fatigue me as much as I thought it would.  I was afraid being on my feet and walking all day would bring back the arthritis pain in my foot, but amazingly, while my feet did hurt, that was more because I was… on my feet all day, which I’m usually not.  (My boyfriend was in more pain than I was with his feet, I think.)  Wow; the power of modern medicine!

And here’s a shot of me, being eaten by a Shark right before we left the park:

Next Up: Disney Magic

Next up will be moving over to Disney Resort (we had 2 bathrooms!), 2 days at Disney World, ending with our Anniversary Dinner at Epcot.

Dog Sitting @ Rover

So being a lonely puppy-lover that I am, I decided to register for Rover, to walk, play, and love dogs that are not my own because owning dogs is too much of a responsibility but I need doggos in my life.  It’ll also be a fun and healthy (walks are 30 minutes long) to earn some extra cash.

By the way, if you need a dog or cat sitter for the holidays, if you register for Rover with this discount code, you’ll get $20 off your first booking: HIROLOVESPUPPIES20.

(Doesn’t have to be with me to get your booking discount, of course. Though I do wish I could go to every one of you and steal your dogs….)


How was your Thanksgiving? Or have you ever been to Universal Studios or Harry Potter World? What was your favorite part?

Hiroko Nishimura
AWS Community Hero. Special Education teacher turned IT Engineer turned Technical Writer. Author "AWS for Non-Engineers" (Manning Publications). Technical Instructor "Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers" (LinkedIn Learning).

13 thoughts on “Magic, Wizards, & Mug of Butterbeer: Harry Potter World”

  1. Are you a Slytherin Hiro? I noticed your scarf. I actually have a blue one from when I went to Hogwarts and Hosgmeade – but that was in 2011 and I don’t think Diagon Alley was built then because I certainly don’t remember that or any Hogwarts Express / King’s Cross. Now it looks like I’ll have to go back! I bet they built a lot more to Universal Studios in the last few years.

    When I was younger I went to Florida for all my vacations because it was only a 3-hour flight away to nicer weather. I’m pretty used to traveling to the tropics so flash storms are something that speaks vacation to me, as weird as that is. 😛

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. I try to think I am, but I think I most definitely am not! I am just naturally wayyyy too anxious. Just the thought of someone being cross or upset with me or about something I’ve said/done is enough to send me down a spiral! I don’t think I have it in me to be too be conniving enough. LOL!

      I highly recommend it, if you haven’t experienced it yet!! It was pretty cool. Though, obviously, hella expensive. I definitely think the experience was worth it for us, because we were both Harry Potter fans growing up. And yeah; we used to go every Christmas, so it’s like “oh, Orlando. that thing we do for Christmas.” It was definitely NOTHING like the crowdedness we saw over Thanksgiving though…

  2. Harry Potter World looks amazing! I went to the UK studio tour a couple of months ago, but it doesn’t look nearly as amazing. Those buildings are so detailed and I can’t believe you got to ride the Hogwarts Express. I really want to go now!

    The dog walking app sounds great. It must be so fun to get to walk other people’s dogs and get paid for it. And it’s so helpful for people who don’t have time to walk their dogs enough. Hope you have fun doing it!

    1. You should definitely come by if you are a fan! They were sooo intricate in the details, we were really impressed. And all the ways you can interact with the environment (like the Hogwarts Express and the Olivander’s Wand selection show) were really cool, especially as life-long fans!

  3. I loved your photos. I really enjoyed reading about your trip. It makes me so happy that you had a great time.

    That Kate Spade bunny backpack purse is so cute.

    1. It indeed is pretty cute. But it was so funny to see almost exact copies of different bags I own in different stores.
      And yes! It was quite exciting to finally make that trip. I’ve been talking about “Going to Orlando….” or a while, and finally we did it!

  4. That’s neat that you worked remotely from Florida! Seems like it’d be refreshing to have a change in environment for a little bit. I’m glad that you were able to go into full vacation mode part way through.

    I’m amazed at how elaborate Harry Potter World is and how good the set-ups there are. I had heard before that it was split into two parks, which sucks that you have to pay for both. I guess it works out for them since they know people will want to go to both =P At least the train ride seems cool, haha. That looks like it was a lot of fun! I’m also glad your RA didn’t act up while you were there!

    1. Yeah they are pretty much marketing geniuses over there at US someone’s getting paid a lot of money to come up with these things! Lol. The attention to detail was spectacular though, so I can’t even be mad. And we got to ride all the rides, thanks to fast pass.
      Being able to work remotely now for Wed-Fri definitely opens my scope up for more traveling, once I’m feeling better! Working in Florida with all the sun and warmth definitely beats working in my dark apartment at home! Lol.

  5. I am both jealous and in complete awe of your visit to Wizarding World in Orlando. It’s definitely on my “Bucket List, and hopefully I’ll get to make that trip toward the end of next year. We’ve been hoping to go, as my hubby is also a big Harry Potter fanatic like myself. I need your scarf.
    We have many different pieces of HP merchandise in my house, but most prevalent are those items of mine that are green and silver, though hubby’s blue and bronze are still noticeable in part ^__^

    I am actually rather impressed with how they created the theme park, in regards to all the photos I’ve seen of it. Even a relative of mine who went said the pictures just don’t do it justice, especially with their expansion to include Hogsmede and Diagon Alley. I cannot wait to be able to go myself, and I think it just puts the icing on the cake you were able to work remotely, yet still have time to enjoy being there!

    1. I hope you get to go soon too!! I’d been talking about it for so long without a concrete plan (and my friends were all taking amazing photos!!!), so I’m super glad I finally had the opportunity to go 😀 You’d have opportunity to get soooo much merch there, too. I wish there were more varieties in the paper products (like journals/pens/etc.) because I would have been ALL OVER THAT, but alas, I couldn’t find any that fit my specific wants.
      And I agree- pictures really can’t do justice! You really have to take in the whole thing, because it’s amazing!!

  6. I am so jealous every time I see people at the Harry Potter world. I would love to go but my boyfriend is not a Harry Potter fan. So I guess I will have to wait until I have kids. Hopefully it will still be there. I was in Disney World with my family when I was 15, but I don’t remember a whole lot about it. That was 17 years ago…

    1. Oh no! Mean, I think it would still be enjoyable as a non-fan! The artisanship is spectacular. Growing up, I enjoyed jurrasic park area in universal for their scenery and rides, and I’m not a fan of that franchise! As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know my boyfriend was a HP fan until we got there and he started getting giddy. Lol. I hope you’ll make it out soon! It was really a remarkable set!

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