6 Magical Moments You Shouldn't Miss at Harry Potter's Wizarding World

Last week, I wandered into Harry Potter's Wizarding World in Orlando and fervently hoped I'd never find my way out. If we could just design a retirement community that was like living at Hogwarts, I'd sign right the hell up for that. 

Shut up and take my money.

At the gates of Harry Potter's Wizarding World in Universal Orlando

At the gates of Harry Potter's Wizarding World in Universal Orlando

To be clear, I've been to Universal Studios in Hollywood so I knew what to expect. I was still utterly unprepared. The tickets were a small fortune, but for an HP aficionado they were worth every damn penny.

Here are six ways to conjure up a little magic of your own on your next trip to Universal Orlando.

1. Ride the Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express transports park guests from Diagon Alley to Hogwarts and back again.

The Hogwarts Express transports park guests from Diagon Alley to Hogwarts and back again.

Yes, this means you'll have to go to Florida because they don't have this in California. It's hot and humid and there are alligators, but it'll be okay. Because from the moment you enter King's Crossing and approach Platform 9 3/4, you'll be transported into JK Rowling's world in a way few other parts of the park manage. Just be warned you need to pay a little extra for this experience as it's not included in the price of general admission. 

2. Drink the  Butterbeer. Just do it.

Butterbeer is available at carts on the streets of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley,  but you'll encounter shorter lines if you pop into one of the restaurants to grab a cup.

Butterbeer is available at carts on the streets of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley,  but you'll encounter shorter lines if you pop into one of the restaurants to grab a cup.

Cold, frozen, warm. Doesn't matter. Drink it until your stomach hurts cause this frothy concoction will give you life. It's butterscotch and cream soda and butter extract and other lovely things I can't quite explain. Let your tongue do the talking because you'll be doing plenty of walking.

3. Shop Diagon Alley

Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment is one of many spectacular shops lining the streets of Diagon Alley.

Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment is one of many spectacular shops lining the streets of Diagon Alley.

I hate being a tourist and shops overflowing with souvenirs give me hives. And yet I only left Diagon Alley's charming shops under protest, dragging my heels the entire way. If the devil is in the details, Diagon Alley is diabolical. Every nook and cranny is bursting with the minutia of the beloved world Rowling created.

4. Visit Honeydukes

Honeydukes is located in Hogsmeade in the Islands of Adventure portion of the park.

Honeydukes is located in Hogsmeade in the Islands of Adventure portion of the park.

Walk the butterbeer off and make room for more, because Honeydukes is a must see for any serious HP fan. It's not just chocolate frogs and bizarrely flavored jelly beans. It's piles of perfectly decadent butterbeer fudge or plump pumpkin cakes decked in frosting. Don't worry about carting around your candy all day. Honeydukes is happy to hold onto your purchases until the end of your stay.

5.Walk Through Hogwarts

Hogwarts is the setting for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, one of the most popular rides in the park.

Hogwarts is the setting for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, one of the most popular rides in the park.

The line is long but you'll never notice. Hogwarts Castle casts a spell with every step you take into its storied interior, past the gargoyled gates and meandering through the greenhouse. Marvel at the hall of talking portraits, stretching as far as the eye can see, and soak in every detail of Dumbledore's office. Even if you're not up for the actual ride, which can be a scary, simulated adventure for the little ones, you can still walk through and scamper out at the end. It'll be worth the wait.

6. Ollivander's Wand Shop

Ollivander's has the best selection of interactive wands, including ones for the more obscure characters from the books.

Ollivander's has the best selection of interactive wands, including ones for the more obscure characters from the books.

Okay. Here's the deal. The interactive wands are EXPENSIVE. At fifty bucks a pop they better perform actual magic. Here's the thing, though- they kinda do. Be prepared for a bit of wait in the line outside the shop, but stick with it because the wand demo is sensational. Then wander over next door and let the wand chose the wizard. Do this first thing so there's plenty of time to follow the gold medallions and uncover hidden extras throughout the park, revealed at the flick of your wand and a shouted spell. Aparecium!

Looking for more magical adventures? Read my review of 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Disneyland Dollars.