The Padgett clan recently took a Harry Potter pilgrimage (er, I mean a family vacation) to Universal Orlando and I asked my nine-year-old daughter Marlowe—a first-order Potter disciple if there ever was one—to describe it. Here is her take along with some of my own thoughts on this unique brand experience.
“Overall, this experience was fantastic. I loved all the rides and wouldn’t change a thing. It was so fun to do spells with my wand from Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley. My favorite ride was Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, but it is intense. I recommend it for ages 8+. There was a little girl in front of us that came off crying. A less intense ride is Flight of the Hippogriff. I recommend it for ages 4+, but it’s still fun for adults. It is enchanting to walk into Diagon Alley for the first time. I had an amazing time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando.”
Having not read the books but knowing just enough from the eight (eight!) movies I was requested to watch prior to the trip, my reaction was not dissimilar from hers. The execution of the two Harry Potter themed areas Universal has created is, well, it’s really perfect. Other than having a restaurant serve something besides Fish & Chips and Cottage Pie – who really wants to eat that before being spun upside down on rides – I cannot think of one thing I would have changed. Well, maybe the price of the Ravenclaw robe said nine-year-old purchased ($120 + $20 monogram + tax), but at least it was her birthday money and not mine. What really struck me was the brilliance of whomever decided to split the Harry Potter area across two different parks. The town of Hogsmeade resides in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, while Diagon Alley resides in Universal Studios. Two different parks, two separate tickets, twice the price. Props to Universal for capitalizing on the insight that no true Harry Potter fan would ever choose one over the other – experiencing both is a must. And to ride the Hogwarts Express train between parks, it needs to be a Park Hopper pass – even more expensive than buying two individual park tickets. Not great for a guest’s pocketbook, genius for Universal’s.
All in all, a wonderful experience, expertly planned and executed by Universal – no doubt built from customer insights of the millions of Harry Potter superfans worldwide. We would go back in a heartbeat.