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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Celebrates Five Years

June 18, 2015

I can’t believe that five years ago today, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade opened to guests at Universal Islands of Adventure.

As a long-time Harry Potter fan, I’m still in awe of the way Hogsmeade envelops you in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. My jaw still drops when I pass through the entryway and am reminded to “Respect the Spell Limits.”

I feel like I’m stepping into a movie and entering a new reality—from the wondrous corridors of Hogwarts castle to the first creamy sip of Butterbeer, to wrapping myself in Gryffindor robes. It’s so authentic that you have to experience it to believe it.

I’ve got so many incredible memories from that opening week. As we celebrate five amazing years, I wanted to share mine with you.

Hogwarts Castle

On Wednesday, June 16, 2010, we had the opportunity to host hundreds of journalists and special guests in the land for a nighttime event. The evening reached its peak as John Williams led an orchestral ensemble to play that epic Harry Potter score as lights radiated from the illustrious Hogwarts castle.

There are no words for this evening. Guests were summoned to the castle by Owl Post letters that flew from the sky. Everyone received wands that helped light up the castle, culminating in an incredible fireworks display. It. Was. AWESOME.

HP Cast Members

That same night, we hosted a red carpet event featuring cast members from the Harry Potter films, including Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Warwick Davis, James and Oliver Phelps, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis, Michael Gambon, and Bonnie Wright.

For us Harry Potter fans, it was dream as almost everyone was there…even J.K. Rowling herself.

Mark Woodbury and J.K. Rowling
Universal Creative President Mark Woodbury and J.K. Rowling

Friday, June 18, 2010 was the big day—the grand opening. I’ll never forget the crowds filled with die-hard fans who came to celebrate. What an incredible moment in time!

First Visitors to Hogsmeade

The first official guests consisted of a few lucky children who were led into the land by the Harry Potter film stars—what a cool experience!

Hippogriff with Harry

They even got to take the first official ride on Flight of the Hippogriff. Imagine riding with Daniel Radcliffe sitting next to you!

The above video is the best way I can think of to sum up that week. I still get teary-eyed when I watch it, and it’s humbling to think of all the memories that have been made here over the past five years.

But most of all, it’s our guests who make this land so incredible. I love watching the awe-stricken faces as someone steps inside Hogsmeade for the first time. Or when someone walks down the steps of Hogwarts castle, brimming with excitement, after riding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I’ve seen families challenge each other to try Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans and have had the wand choose them at Ollivanders.

If you haven’t gotten a chance to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there’s no better time than now.

If you have been, what’s your most breathtaking memory from the past five years? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Reply Desiree Miller (@DesireeMiller) June 18, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    My most breathtaking moment came with setting eyes on Hogwarts for the first time ever…that same summer 5 years ago. I didn’t think that could be topped, but the opening of the second phase, turning the corner into Diagon Alley…that was the ultimate, especially when the dragon started spewing his fire. My son, now 20, who learned to read with the Harry Potter books, and I both were overwhelmed by just how incredible the entire experience was. We truly felt like characters in the books. And yes, that butterbeer is great, but as he turns 21 this summer, he’s looking forward to trying the FireWhisky.

  • Reply Sean June 18, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    My favorite moment was almost five months ago to the day. My wife and I got married outside of the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. And our first official act as a married couple was to run over to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, go through the castle, and get our picture taken while on the ride. We now have a picture in our house of one of our happiest moments as a couple, dressed up, with a dragon breathing fire behind us. It was a pretty awesome moment that I’m glad to have memorialized and I really hope we can make it back there soon.

  • Reply Cele Schaffer June 19, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I am 56 years old and want to tell you I felt like I was 12 when I saw Hogwarts for the first time! I felt the magic and excitement and could hardly believe I was there. Universal got it SO PERFECT. Before seeing the castle, I remember loving the buildings-especially the snow! Absolutely loved the wand shop- I think I was in there for an hour just looking at the details in the windows and sets all around besides being able to purchase actual Harry Potter treasures. Then seeing the Castle blew me away! Every detail spot on and the ride just brings it all to life. What an amazing experience… I could go on and on. This summer I was able to go to Diagon Alley. Let me just say I didn’t think anything could top Hogwarts but WOW they sure know what their doing! The train has to be my favorite with the Bank a close second. To have the train take you between the parks is genius-I didn’t even want to see the rest of the park-HA! I also love the wider walking area in Diagon Alley and the live puppet shows are not to be missed. Finish off with a cold butter beer and your good to go-again and again.

  • Reply Mick July 6, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    The Potter Magic hit me twice. The first time was unexpected as driving down Interstate 4 I noticed a castle looking building that I had not seen before. Within seconds I shreaked it must be Hogwarts! We couldn’t’ get there fast enough and soon we were standing at the entrance taking pictures like everyone else. Through the entrance we went and the train was a smoking, the snow topped buildings were gleaming in the bright sunlight and the the crowds smiling, eager to participate in this enticing landscape. The detail was impressive. The castle won our hearts with the detail built on a mountainside, turrets a plenty and mystical creatures guarding the entrance. We ducked around them and snuck into the forbidden journey. The special effects had me dizzy with the marvels such that I had to regroup to do it again. Although I thought it was too small for the crowds that would attend, the second hit was greater than ever.

    Walking in the Universal part of the park, we were looking for Diagon Alley and walked right past it before my daughter noticed the possible entrance. We turned left and a few steps later, bingo! A beautiful set, this part of the park left a fantastic WOW impression and spent hours watching skits, kids with magic wands and the architecture which must have taken years to perfect. This incredible setting is the best of all parks. Take the Gringotts ride which is extremely well done and is one of my favorites.

    A final note, 25 years ago we took our three kids 4, 6 and 10 to Orlando and enjoyed Disney and one day at Universal. This February, all 5 of us did were able to meet again in this area and spent 5 days enjoying the Universal parks with the Harry Potter land the top highlight of many. Take the family and definitely get the 3 day pass. You will get your monies worth.

  • Reply Ashley Disbrow August 7, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    I have been a Harry Potter fan after a college roommate convinced me to read the first book ( I finished all 7 in less than a month lol). I have also been going to Universal since it’s opening when I was a kid. But the Wizarding World holds an even more sentimental place in my heart since it is where my husband popped the question right in front of Hogwarts on Dec 23 2012! He knew how much I love HP and Universal and how special it would be to propose there. We’ve been annual passholders for three years and try to go at least 2 to 3 times a year and especially on our wedding anniversary (Oct 20th) which comes with the extra fun of Halloween Horror Nights.. I dont know if we’ll be able to make it this year due to financial issues but one day we’ll be able to share our favorite place with our future little ones 🙂

    P.S Hope its allowed, I included a link to the pic of our special day in front of my favorite place 🙂

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