The Guardian has described him as 'one of the most exciting entertainers in Britain', he's toured the world with his stage shows, counts Ricky Gervais, Dannii Minogue and Kelly Osborne amongst his celebrity fans and today, Chris Cox, magician and self-proclaimed mind reader who can't read minds is sharing his tips for visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with readers of the vtravelled blog... over to you, Chris.
Don't be a Muggle
With the final film making millions and the saga now over, there has never been a better time to get your Gryffindor on and visit The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. Luckily for you there’s no need to charge at brick walls in King's Cross, because a quick Virgin Atlantic flight to Orlando will soon have you downing Butterbeer, trading Chocolate Frog cards and sharpening up your Patronus charm before you know it.
If you’ve read the books or seen the films then you'll know how magical Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are, and the good news is the wizards at Universal have managed to recreate the wondrous world as a theme park within a theme park at Islands Of Adventure. It truly is breathtaking, and as a big fan of the books I spent hours soaking up the atmosphere, trying all the rides and drawing a lightning bolt scar on my forehead. During my time there, like the sneakoscope I am, I picked up a few tips on how to avoid being a Muggle and make the most of your time with Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of the Hogwarts crew.
Tip 1: Stay on the Floo Network and be an early riser
OK, so the Floo Network might not really exist, but to get to the park as quickly as you would do with Floo powder your best bet is to make one of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels your home while you're there. The three beautiful hotels are all linked together via a boat network to the park and offer you early entry to the Wizarding World every morning, as well as front of line access to most rides and the chance to get your shopping sent to your room, so no melting Chocolate Frogs for you.
The Portofino Bay is the most luxurious and beautiful of the hotels, and a perfectly peaceful place to chill after a busy morning in the park. It’s the early access which is most beneficial though: the Wizarding World is hugely popular, and sometimes there are hours of queues just to get in so it's a real bonus to be able to enter the park at its emptiest, and this also makes it brilliant for photos. And if you can’t stay on-site don’t stress. If you book your holiday and your theme park tickets through Virgin Holidays you'll get into Hogwarts early, regardless of where you stay.
So it’s simple, get to the park 20 minutes or so before the doors open, and go straight to the Wizarding World. It’s a bit of a walk, so if you can Apparate, it’s probably best just to do that. Make the Forbidden Journey ride your first port of call, as it quickly generates long lines as the day goes on, and you'll then have more time to soak up the atmosphere of Hogsmeade.
Tip 2: See Hogwarts in all its splendour
Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey is the most technologically advanced ride in the world, taking place in the replica Hogwarts Castle. It's a thrilling experience from start to finish and the excitement starts from the moment you enter the queue, which winds its way through Hogwarts' famous halls, corridors and classrooms. If you’re too scared to ride, you can still experience a trip round Hogwarts by joining the non-riders line; a pathway around the castle which allows you to see the moving portraits, spend some time with Dumbledore in his office and get snowed on by Harry and co.
Tip 3: Get your gift on
No trip would be complete without a little bit of shopping and Hogsmeade has all the Potter gifts you could ever want, from wands to scarves and Quaffles to Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. If there's a huge line for Butterbeer from the outside carts (offering both normal and frozen versions) try popping into The Hog's Head pub instead, where the lines are shorter and it's just as tasty. Buy a postcard in the Owlery Post Office and they’ll give it a Hogsmeade post stamp, and if you're buying a Pygmy Puff be sure to have a name ready to christen it with as one of the sales assistants will announce it to the whole store.
Tip 4: Toads and wands
The Wizarding World is as bewitching as you’d expect, with little things happening round every corner and an incredible eye for detail. Pop into the toilets to hear Moaning Myrtle, keep an eye out for the singing toads who put on a performance every few hours, hop on over to the Hogwarts Express and get a photo with the conductor and nip into Ollivanders to see if you’re chosen by a wand. Although the line for this looks long, it moves pretty fast and is a lovely added touch.
Tip 5: Get even more adventurous
Don’t forget that there's more to Islands Of Adventure than just The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, so make sure you don’t miss out. Get here as early as you can, and then enjoy the rest of the park while everyone else is battling Dementors and freeing house elves. From Potter World it’s easy to take the bridge over to Jurassic Park and go on all the water rides there and in Toon Lagoon in one quick dash… then you’ve got rides a-plenty to enjoy before going back for more towards the end of the day when it’s less crowded.
So there you have it - the best ways to make the most of your trip to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. Just remember to respect the spell laws, avoid doing any dark magic and say hi to Harry from me if you see him. Mischief managed.
Thanks to Flickr photographer AdamCaudill.
Visit Virgin Holidays for more information on holidays to Orlando and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.