Janna L. Miller @tyjannasaurus
September 1st holds a special place in the heart of Harry Potter fans…this is the day that the students of Hogwarts, Hogwarts, hoggy-warty Hogwarts return to school! Universal Studios Orlando celebrated this by hosting an exclusive social media meet-up to celebrate #backtohogwarts! They limited the number of available tickets to 40, and needless to say, they were gone in seconds…but I, and a few other Slug Club members must have finally gotten our Felix Felicis potion right, because we got our letter to Hogwarts!
The event’s check-in started at 8:45pm on Saturday night and my hubby, as my plus-one, and I arrived at around 8:30pm only to find that we were not the first ones there! As we chatted with our new HP friend, who also happened to be in the Slug Club our eyes were drawn to the check in table where we saw boxes upon boxes of Ollivander wands! As more people queued up, we all were trying to get additional information out of the Universal VIP Staff, but all they did was smile and tell us that we had such a great night ahead…and they were right!
So we started to get checked in and received our lanyard…AND A WAND! While they were not “character” wands, like Harry’s or Hermione’s, they were interactive wands! They also gave each of us a large Wizarding World merchandise bag…I let the staff member know that I could put both my wand box and my hubby’s wand box in the same bag to cut down on waste…she leaned forward and said in a conspiratorial tone, “Take both bags. You are going to need them.”
They then walked us back through the park in groups to the London Waterfront area near the Eros Fountain and Knight Bus where we chatted and checked out our new wands. After a short wait, the Universal event staff gathered us around to tell us that for the next hour, we had the run of Diagon Alley…plus free butterbeer…plus we would be the first to play the new ‘choose your journey’ twitter scavenger hunt: Back to Hogwarts! We all got a very nice hand out for the scavenger hunt (which has a map of Diagon Alley on one side and Hogsmeade on the other) and we set off at a run!
How the game works…The hunt proposes questions like, “where is the fountain that you can practice your wand skills?”, then you go to that spot in the Wizarding World, take a picture and then post it as a tweet to reply to that step in the hunt! You don’t have to have a twitter handle to play, you can just play on twitter through a web browser on your phone.
The shops were open, Escape from Gringotts had zero wait, and even always spectacular Celestina Warbek was on hand to serenade us! But alas, the hour we had in Diagon Alley was up and we went back to London to get to Kings Cross Station!
Before we were able to board the train, the wonderful folks at Universal had to give us a couple of more things to help us on our way…tickets to Hogwarts (and one back to London) and candy! I chose chocolate, because, you know, dementors! The Kings Cross Porters, muggles to the core, asked us why were taking the train so late and why one of us was wearing a bathrobe…but that didn’t stop one from agreeing to a selfie with me!
After navigating our way to Platform 9 ¾ we were seated in our Hogwarts Express compartment and whisked away to Hogsmeade where we were greeted outside the station and told what our activities on this side of the park were: VIP tour of Hogwarts Castle and no waiting for the ride; Class Pictures; Food & Drink at the Three Broomsticks and Hog’s Head Pub.
We went through the empty, winding streets of Hogsmeade and, as Hogwarts Castle came in to view, we were all stunned by how it was lit up for the evening – just for us! In front of the entrance to the castle, one more table was set up…this time we had our choice of House scarves and notebooks (Slytherin for me; Gryffindor for my hubby – we balance each other out well)!! We were as giddy as first years at the start-of-term feast!
Then Kelly gave us our VIP tour of the castle, asking us trivia questions (which our groups’ Ravenclaw inevitably knew), giving us facts (did you know that the name of Hogwarts architect is unknown?), and pointing out the small details one might miss if you were just standing in line (I now know where Snapes’ office is)!
After the tour, we decided to go get our Wizarding World moving class pictures taken and because we couldn’t conjure any food or drink (remember the five exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration?)…we apparated over to Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head Pub.
We all were provided a drink ticket for something a little stronger than Butterbeer and then had a wonderful appetizer buffet that included pumpkin tarts! It was a great time to chat with other Harry Potter super fans and relax a bit as quite a few of us had spent the majority of the day in the parks and it was about midnight!
Soon our generous hosts came though the pub inviting us all to head back to Hogwarts Castle for a class picture to further commemorate our night. After the picture was taken, we all walked out of Hogsmeade full of Wizarding World love! It truly was a magical event and if I could wave my magic wand and give everyone reading this the same experience that we were lucky enough to have that night, I certainly would!