Welcome back Wizards, Witches, and Muggles.

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In my last HGWT blog we boarded¬†the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4 from London’s King’s Cross Station to Hogsmeade in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter¬†at¬†Universal in Orlando, FL.
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I’m here to tell you in this blog post about our adventures in Hogsmeade¬†and Hogwarts Castle– the home of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!

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The train ride over was a lot quicker than I thought it would be, but still a lot of fun and different going each direction to and from. We had to keep our heads on a swivel as things would happen “outside the train” on in the hallway on either side of us. Definitely not a boring ride, and not that long of a wait in the queue line while we were there. A couple times we actually just walked right up and caught the next train.
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I hate to use the word “magical” to describe walking into Hogsmeade¬†for the first time, but that’s exactly how it felt. Snow covered roofs lined both sides of the streets. It wasn’t too cold outside, but there were a few times it did get a bit chilly in the shade when overcast. People filled the narrow streets. We were there the first week of November¬†– can’t imagine what this place is like at the height of the peak season!

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The attention to detail on the storefronts and other items in Hogsmeade was just as impressive as the ones in Diagon Alley.

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I loved the pixies in the cauldron (above). The pot would fill with water and dump out on unsuspecting visitors unfortunate to be standing under it when someone would cast a spell with their wands.

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There were several interactive wand spots outside the storefronts and some spells seemed a little harder than others to cast. There were some great shop interiors, too.

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There was Zonko’s Joke Shop¬†which offered¬†similar things as Weasleys‚Äô Wizard Wheezes/Fred and George‚Äôs shop in¬†Diagon Alley, and Honeydukes magical sweets shop where Chocolate Cauldrons,¬†Bertie Bott‚Äôs Every Flavour Beans,¬†Chocolate Frogs¬†and more can be purchased.

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It was soooooooo tempting to go crazy in both shops. Two¬†of my favorite things as a kid were going into joke/magic shops and candy shops. I guess they still are, and I was literally a big kid in a candy store while at Honeydukes. I have some really fond memories of going to the candy shop that was in Overton Square¬†in Memphis, TN back in the ’70s, and love stopping in at the candy stores on Broadway in Nashville, TN when we go up for Predators games. Also loved¬†visiting a magic shop in Las Vegas in the ’90s- not sure if it’s still there or not. We had one magic shop in Memphis (The Fun Shop) I would frequent near the U of M, but it’s closed now. ūüôĀ

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I loved shopping and exploring the inside of the Harry Potter stores we got a chance to enter. You could actually mail off letters at the Owl Post with official Harry Potter stamps and Hogsmeade¬†postmarks. I bought Nicki a set of the stamps. This beastly book was quite hilarious when kids or others would pass by that weren’t paying attention. It was¬†was inside a cage for a reason!

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Lots of other fun stuff inside¬†the Owl Post,¬†including something really familiar- The Quibbler! (You can see Luna Lovegood¬†with one in the movies. It’s¬†a wizarding tabloid published and edited by¬† her father¬†Xenophilius Lovegood.)

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They are made here in Memphis/Bartlett, TN at American Paper Optics. The company supplies many haunted houses and other events, as well as toys, videos, and more. (You can read more about them in my blog post- In your face 3-D! My trip to American Paper Optics.)

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I was able to pick up a copy of The Quibbler¬†from John the owner of APO during my visit to his 3D company- and he gave me some glasses to hand out at mine and Nicki’s wedding! They showed hearts whenever you looked at lights. Actually had some folks ask us what part of the wedding would be in 3D! Actually found out about APO¬†during one of my first trips to Florida and Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream. Was surprised to find out it was just a mile or so up the road from “Stage Fright” the haunt I volunteered at in Bartlett. Small world!

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I’m glad we were able to buy¬†our wands at¬†the main¬†Ollivander‚Äôs¬†shop in Diagon Alley. The Hogsmeade¬†location always had a line of folks waiting to get in, so we didn’t get a chance to explore it- maybe next time. (More of our shopping adventures at Ollivander‚Äôs¬†and other shops are in my earlier post- Diagonally!¬†My trip to the Wizarding World of¬†Harry¬†Potter Pt2-Diagon Alley.)

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We also ate and had more butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks Inn restaurant which is located near the entrance to Hogsmeade. (You can read more about the other food and drink options at my last post- “Pt.3 Let’s Eat- And Drink!.)

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There were plenty of interactive wand stops all over¬†Hogsmeade. Some of my favorites were at the Quidditch shop, Zonko’s, and the book store. Thought the moving¬†Quidditch¬†trunk and opening¬†Beedle The Bard book were a lot of fun.

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There were folks dressed as characters from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and from time to time the Frog Choir performed on stage at the edge of Hogsmeade and just outside the entrance to Hogwarts.

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Triwizard Tournament Champions also performed on stage for the crowds as a Hogwarts student emceed the event.

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She was very energetic and entertaining and really reminded me of a younger Sandra Bullock. During some appearances visitors could have their pictures taken with all of them, and sometimes there wasn’t time. I missed a couple photo ops with some other costumed characters around the park. Sometimes you just had to be at the right place at the right time.

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For this appearance it was ladies first, so the female students from the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic performed their magical ribbon routine.

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I can see why Ron is such a fan of them. Very graceful.

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Then it was time for the “gentlemen”from the Durmstrang Institute¬†to take the stage and perform some magical martial arts.

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There was lots of grunting and striking their staffs on the stage, but these guys were pretty light on their feet!

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Both schools put on a great show. They would walk from Hogwarts down to the stage, and we got to catch them a few times during the week. We really liked all of the shows we saw throughout the park that week. I think my favorite was the Deathly Hallows/The Tale of the Three Brothers puppet show over in Diagon Alley. We saw that show twice. Great mix of live action and puppetry, and looked a lot like the animation in the Deathly Hallows movie.

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We passed on riding the two roller-coasters in HogsmeadeDragon Challenge and The Flight of the Hippogriff. Kind of wished we had at least rode the Hippogriff one. It’s a bit more family friendly, but Nicki’s not a big fan of coasters.

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Apparently we missed seeing an animatronic hippogriff¬†(Buckbeak) and¬†Hagrid’s hut¬†when entering the ride, and we also missed¬†walking through the champion’s tent before the Dragon Challenge.

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The dragons once fought a simulated duel, but that stopped after a rider was injured by flying debris a while back.

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But as awesome as Hogsmeade¬†and it’s shops and restaurant all were, we made the trip to go to Hogwarts Castle and attend¬†Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!

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Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald,
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling,
With some interesting stuff,
For now they’re bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we’ve forgot,
Just do your best, we’ll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot.

The Hogwarts school song

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I have to say that seeing Hogwarts for the first time was incredibly impressive! I loved seeing the white dragon sitting atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank, but seeing this version of Hogwarts Castle in person made the money spent getting there worth it all.

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Actually, seeing the look on my wife’s face after she saw it for the first time was priceless! The only thing that could have made it even better would be a nighttime boat ride across a lake to get to it, but I have to admit that standing in front of it was geeking me out! The way it’s built makes it look bigger/taller than it really is. Still, it’s REALLY big!

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We entered the front gates and stowed our camera, photos, and butterbeer mugs in a locker. Like at Gringotts, they were free and a safe place to put our stuff while touring the castle. We made our way around to the back of the castle and through the greenhouse entrance.

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The queue line moved fairly quickly and only became slightly congested as we got to the main entrance for the Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey ride.

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We saw some of our favorite things from the movie such as the Sorting Hat as we winded our way through the dark hallways of Hogwarts Castle. I just wanted to stop and take it all in, but had to keep moving. Again, the attention to detail was impressive, and Nicki would point out things she recognized that I might have missed otherwise. As much fun as I was having, it was even more fun watching her experience it all.

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Nicki was quite excited to see the entrance to Hogwarts’¬†Headmaster Albus Dumbledore‘s office. It was a cool surprise and looked just like the movie. There were so many times I forgot I was at a theme park in Florida and not a castle or movie set in England.

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The Pensieve of Hogwarts¬†and other artifacts were throughout the castle. I loved seeing the magical moving portraits¬†including the Fat Lady, and of course the four founders of the Hogwarts housesGodric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin. I know there was plenty I missed, because each time I would go to other parts of the park I’d notice something new I hadn’t seen before.
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Before getting into the ride itself, we were greeted by Harry, Hermione, and Ron. A large dragon skeleton hung from the rafters above us. Throughout the queue and ride there were other familiar faces and props.

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We took our seats on the motion ride and…well, I don’t want to give away any surprises. I will say the¬†Quidditch scene was my favorite, and as you can see in the photo above, we found another dragon! The ride was much like the Escape From Gringotts and the Spiderman ride- a mixture of animatronics, projections, moving cars, wires, mirrors, pyrotechnics, and other great effects. I would love to watch the movies this way!

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At the end of the ride there was a great gift shop. It was a bit crowded as folks exited the ride, but I enjoyed checking out all merchandise as we made our way over to the photo counter. Wish we would have had time to ride this and Escape From Gringotts more than once, but there was just sooooooo much to see and do and only a few short days to experience it all.

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I’ve said before that if you’re an Elvis fan you have to go to Graceland once, if you’re a Superman fan you need to go to the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, and now I can say that if you’re a Harry Potter fan you’ve got to go to Hogwarts!

We’ll be back for sure!

Lin

(Photos by Lin and Nicki Workman (C) 2014)