Diagon Alley

Previous post: Hogsmeade Village

After lunch we walked through Universal to reach the discreet entrance to Diagon Alley, which was next to Kings Cross and directly across from the Knight Bus.

A few turns through a brick wall and the alley opened up to reveal The Leaky Cauldron, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and, in the distance, Gringott’s Bank.

If there was one disappointment (aside from the crowd) it’s that The Daily Prophet and Flourish & Blotts were facades and not actual places we could explore. They had window displays and signage, but there was no going inside Flourish & Blotts for parchment and ink. There was no newsroom to explore.

House-Elves were well represented. #freethehouseelves

Butterbeer time!

It was delicious but a touch too sweet, so Chuck, Jackson, and I shared a frozen Butterbeer, while Jeremy purchased a full drink with his own money and drank it happily.

God bless this man, who is not a Harry Potter fan nor an amusement park fan. Yet, he was a good sport and held my wand for me when I went to the restroom.

We opted out of the Escape from Gringott’s ride because the line was unreasonably long, plus it’s 3D. (No thank you, headache!) Later in the day we heard the ride had issues and had to shut down at one point, so we were doubly thankful we didn’t stand in line for nothing. Walking around Diagon Alley (and the hidden Knockturn Alley) was plenty fun.

Owen is a hugger!

As the afternoon turned into evening, we made our way to Kings Cross to catch the Hogwarts Express back to Hogsmeade.

Eight to a train car, the short ride featured simulated scenery through the window and chatter in the hallways (“Anything off the trolley, dears?“). A few chocolate frogs got loose and jumped around the frosted glass. None of my pictures (or attempts at pictures) are good enough to post. You’ll have to use your imagination.

Back at Hogsmeade, we hopped on the castle ride a couple more times and watched a brief light show against the castle walls. The day was ending, and despite our fatigue and the great relief we knew we’d feel crawling into bed, I didn’t want to leave. How could I? I’d been waiting 17 years to visit Hogwarts. One day simply wasn’t enough.

The trip is nearly a blur, save a few moments that made it into the lockbox of my brain. The park is so well done. The details are spot on – from hearing Moaning Myrtle in the bathrooms to the Cornish Pixies causing mischief over Zonko’s Joke Shop – it seems like no corner was left untouched. Which is good to know on account of the park fees and travel expenses we endured. This experience was not cheap.

Was it worth it? For me – yes. Again, I’ve wanted to go to Hogwarts for nearly two decades. Of course it was worth it! Will I go again? Doubtful, and that’s okay. There are plenty of other things to see and do in the world.

Hogsmeade Village

We had one full day at Universal, and that limitation required careful planning in regard to arrival time, meal time, and what part of the park to visit when. The crowd was unreal. Suffocating, in fact. Chuck remarked that navigating Iceland was less stressful than making our way through Universal, and I agreed. It took a bit of time for me to adjust expectations and ready my brain to endure the full day. Be it my innate introversion, a propensity for anxiety, or fatigue from travel, or a powerful combination of all three, I needed a moment to warm up to the amusement park.

Once I crossed over, I was better. No, I was better than better. I was buoyant. I couldn’t look away. Every detail of the buildings, signs, and overhead music deserved my acute attention. We began the day at Hogsmeade.

Captured in winter, Hogsmeade is the little wizarding village older students can visit on the weekends (with parents’ permission). It’s home to Honeydukes and Ollivander’s, The Three Broomsticks, and the Hog’s Head.

We’re introduced to Hogsmeade for the first time in the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

It was at the Owl Post, attached to Ollivander’s, where Owen and I purchased our wands – he chose Neville Longbottom’s, I selected Professor McGonagall’s. (Also in the store was the Monster Book of Monsters.)

On the far end of Hogsmeade is Hogwarts Castle and its ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The motion-based ride takes you on a simulated broomstick ride with Harry around the castle, by the Whomping Willow, and through a Quidditch game (and a mess of Dementors). By the end of the day I’d ridden it three times. I would’ve ridden it more had I the opportunity. Like a child, I gripped my “broomstick” and beamed with delight. I absolutely flippin’ loved it. 

Instead of boarding the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley, we decided to walk back through Universal towards a food court area to eat lunch. Knowing we’d return to Hogsmeade for the light show at night, we’d enjoy the train ride then.

Next: Diagon Alley

A second spring break

As homeschoolers, we do what we want. It’s glorious. It’s magnificent.

Our first spring break was spent at home, and truth be told, we still did math and reading while on hiatus from our homeschool cooperative. It wasn’t a full respite because we knew we had a second break coming – one that involved travel and excitement beyond compare.

Several years ago my sweet sister decided that she needed to take my children to Disney World since we weren’t going to. NO PROBLEM, I said, and threw some money her way. In 2015, Jeremy joined her family at Disney, and eventually, it would be Jackson’s turn.

This was his year.

On top of the Disney adventure, we decided it was also time to fork over the cash and visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, somewhere I’ve wanted to visit since it was built. Both Jeremy and Jackson are fans of the books and movies, so we’ve been counting the days until we could finally head to Orlando.

There is much to say about the experience, but in this particular post, I’ll be brief. I was overwhelmed to the point of tears, and not I’m not exaggerating. (Chuck has photographic proof, which I won’t be sharing publicly.) Since reading the first book in 2001 and seeing the final film in 2011, to watching both of my children fall in love with the series and love it as I do, going to Hogsmeade Village and Diagon Alley was an experience that spotlighted nearly two decades fandom. 

The impeccable detail of these two scenes left me fully satisfied, feeling like I’d actually walked into a magical world and lived there for one full day. YES, I bought a wand (Professor McGonagall’s). YES, I bought a Chocolate Frog. YES, we rode the Hogwarts Express. YES, we tried Butterbeer.

There is much to say about how it all felt, but I know what you really want is to see photos. They’re coming. I’ve got a few things to check off my to-do list before I tackle editing them.

Chuck, Jeremy, and I returned home late Wednesday night, leaving Jackson in Orlando with my sister and her family. He still had Disney World to experience, after all. From what I’ve seen in texts and Snaps, he’s living his best life. He’s loving every minute. Two magical experiences in one week is too good to be true for an 11-year-old. 

And yet, it’s all real.