Harry Potter fans have a lot to look forward to in 2016. The new two-part play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” written by J.K. Rowling, debuts on London’s West End this July; spin-off film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” hits theaters in November; and the all-new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is set to open in April.
Since 2010, fans have already been flocking to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida – both at Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure and at the newly-expanded Diagon Alley in Universal Studios, which took over a portion of the park in 2014 that previously housed the Jaws attraction.
For Harry Potter superfans – those who have seen all the films and read all seven books multiple times – the park is as close to the magical world as they could hope to get.
Parkgoer Victoria March-Rico, clad in a Hufflepuff robe, estimates she has visited Universal Studios with her family at least 20 times since 2014.
“We’ve been here all the time,” said March-Rico. “I always bring my robe and such. Even in the summer months, I just wear the tie and the tank top and the headband.”
Like March-Rico, the Bennett family also dressed for their park visit, in matching custom-made t-shirts that read, “How obsessed am I with Harry Potter? 9 ¾,” a nod to the magical train platform Harry and friends use to take the Hogwarts Express.
While kids Jennifer, 33, and Jeffrey, 30, are Harry Potter fans now, it was mom Christy, 56, who got the whole family hooked.
“I read the first book and it sucked me in,” Christy Bennett said. “Once you get started, then you’re like, page-turning, can’t stop, waiting and waiting for the next one. So finally when the next one came out, you paid to wait in line to get that next copy.”
Universal keeps fans coming back for more with the park’s ever-evolving attention to detail and new features, including one of the latest: Interactive wands that let visitors cast their own spells throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
With most priced at an affordable $47.95, many gather at hotspots marked by gold medallions on the ground to try their hand. The medallions display instructions on how to wave your wand and what incantation to say — so even Muggles can do it. The wand comes with a map of magical spots, but there are a few secret spells not listed – like the one in the window to the right at Scribbulus Writing Implements in Horizont Alley.
There are many more little known-facts and hidden gems to look out for — keeping superfans and the casual visitor on their toes. Here’s our guide to seeking out the treasures:
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER – HOGSMEADE
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride:
The song the Sorting Hat sings where students find out which of the four houses of Hogwarts they’re assigned to rings out before you board the ride portion of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. But did you know that J.K. Rowling herself wrote the song?
Watch for a flying red book in Dumbledore’s office. The book switches from one shelf to the one below it.
In the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, look closely at the books and texts around the room. Each are a nod to a teacher who held the post. There are Professor Gilderoy Lockhart’s books on the desk, Professor Remus Lupin’s instructions on producing a Patronus charm on the chalkboard, and Professor Mad Eye Moody’s staff sits against one window. There’s also a copy of “Defensive Magical Theory,” the book required during Professor Dolores Umbridge’s tenure. The projector also symbolizes the time when Professor Snape filled in for Professor Lupin during Harry’s third year and lectured on werewolves (in the hopes students would learn Lupin’s secret). There’s nothing specific to Professor Quirinus Quirrell, though there is a skull with a face on either side –hidden under a turban, perhaps alluding to Quirrell as Lord Voldemort possessed his body.
And see if you can spot the several pieces of artwork from the film – including the weeping man stained glass window and the lady and the unicorn tapestry.
The Three Broomsticks Inn/ The Hog’s Head:
Watch for moving shadows on the walls of The Three Broomsticks depicting flying owls, house elves doing dishes, and witches cleaning up after Inn guests.
The bottles of Firewhisky were once just for display, but in April 2015, the Hog’s Head and Leaky Cauldron began selling the real thing. Blishen’s Firewhisky is now available for those looking for something stronger than Butterbeer. However, the bottles of Doxy Eggs above the bar are still just for show.
If you listen closely, you can hear guests of the inn chatting near the stairwell, and the sound of Moaning Myrtle by the restrooms.
Sweets mentioned in the Harry Potter films have come to life at Honeydukes. From the more common Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans to the rarer Acid Pops, Sherbet Lemon and Fizzing Whizzbees. The recently-expanded shop also has a selection of baked treats including Cauldron Cakes and a new arrival, Butterbeer Fudge.
Dervish and Banges/The Owlery:
The infamous “Monster Book of Monsters” is on display in the middle of the store, but keep an eye out for the store’s Closing Procedures, which includes a warning to “Double check the lock on ‘The Monster Book of Monsters’ (You know what happened last time).”
Look up to the second floor for a glimpse of Luna Lovegood’s Spectrespecs and a copy of “Advanced Potion Making” – maybe Snape’s old book?
You can send a letter via Owl Post! No guarantee an owl will deliver it, but The Owlery boasts its own working post mark and there’s a mailbox to drop letters into.
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER – DIAGON ALLEY
Hogwarts Express/Kings Cross:
The ride from Hogsmeade to London shows different images out the window as you speed from along. Keep an eye out for Malfoy Manor both ways, but on the way to London, see if you can spot Lord Voldemort.
Fun fact about the upholstery on the seats of the Hogwarts Express: It’s the exact same fabric as the train in the Harry Potter films.
The billboard for Diving Magic perfume is similar to the ad seen in the film “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” as Dumbledore waits for Harry in the subway.
Look for Hedwig the owl in her cage, along with a cart full of luggage in the line to board the Hogwarts Express.
The red phone booth outside Kings Cross station is a working phone and dialing 62442 will connect you to the Ministry of Magic.
Gringotts Wizarding Bank:
You can’t speak directly to the goblins in Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, but you can meet one at the nearby currency exchange outpost. Be sure to brush up on your galleon to knut to sickle ratio if you don’t want to hear a lecture. And if you want a laugh, ask the goblin if he’s actually a House Elf.
When you pass Bill Weasley’s office in Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, keep an eye out for the moving picture of The Weasley clan during their trip to Egypt. The image features Scabbers (Spoiler alert: Peter Pettigrew!) and is the only image of Charlie Weasley ever shown in the Harry Potter films.
Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes
Look up to the store’s skylight to see a never-ending display of Weasley’s Wildfire Whiz-bangs.
The joke shop sells many of the products mentioned in the book, including candies from the Skiving Snackbox like Puking Pastilles and Fainting Fancies, and the too-cute Pygmy Puffs. If you purchase a Pygmy Puff, the shopkeeper will ring a bell and announce your Pygmy Puff’s name to the whole store.
Borgin and Burkes/Magical Menagerie
To the left of the cash register is a trunk said to contain a boggart. If you listen closely, you can hear it rattling.
To the right of the cash register is the infamous Vanishing Cabinet Draco Malfoy mended during his sixth year. If you listen closely, you can hear a bird chirping inside it.
At Magical Menagerie, there are two large snakes in a display case. If you speak Parseltongue, you might be able to understand one of them.
*Bonus tip: You can now get Butterbeer traditional, frozen, hot, or in ice cream form at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour