The only way to get into Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is to go on the ride that takes you through the castle. Of course, I went on it, despite the not-so-clear description on the Universal website:

Then get ready to soar above the castle grounds as you join Harry Potter™ and his friends on an unforgettably thrilling adventure, coming face-to-face with an array of magical creatures! This amazing new attraction uses groundbreaking, state-of-the-art technology (and a little magic) to create a one of a kind ride experience.

What this really means: It will be dark, and things will jump out at you.

Before the terror, with the conductor of the Hogwarts Express.

Long-term readers may recall from my last trip to Orlando that I’m not really fond of things jumping out at me in the dark.

The things that jump out at you include: A dragon, who breathes “fire” as you’re hit with a blast of warm air; Aragog, the giant spider, who spits water at you; and a group of dementors, Grim-Reaper-like creatures who “suck out your soul” (i.e., the room gets all cold).

By the time the dementors showed up, I’d shut my eyes and was screaming like I’d just seen…well, a giant spider. I’d had enough being startled for one ride, thanks.

So, that being said, I will admit that I may have yelled a spell from the books in order to get the dementors to buzz off. (It worked! …but only because Harry Potter appeared just seconds after I cast the spell to cast the same one. Expecto patronum, indeed!)

Still, the flying simulation portion of the ride was amazing, and despite my terror, I’d go on it again. (Perhaps I’d even keep my eyes open the second time around.)

The Harry Potter park as a whole exceeded my expectations. I felt like I was in the movie. (Not the books–I’d envisioned Hogsmeade and Hogwarts a bit differently–but this was still amazing.) It was super-detailed: The ATM even had a sign that said “Gringotts Automated Teller Machine” over it. And I drank a butterbeer from a commemorative cup:

Tastes like cream soda.

I’ll save the rest of the trip for a different post. This particular day, specifically the part of the day spent in the Wizarding World, was one magical highlight.

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