So you want to take a walk in Harry’s footsteps, do you? All right, let’s start our journey.
As we all know, Harry’s magical journey started on Number 4 Privet Drive, where he received a mysterious letter from a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Now, we won’t exactly receive this letter, but you will get some travel confirmations from Universal Orlando, so we’ll just substitute those.
Along with the letter inviting Harry to start at Hogwarts, he also received a list of school supplies.
So you might be thinking to yourself, oh no, where can I find a wand for my first year at Hogwarts? Well, that settles our first stop. We’ll want to head to Diagon Alley to purchase our first year school supplies. Everyone knows that Diagon Alley is in London. Easy enough, we’ll just go to Universal Studios and head to the back of the park where we’ll find some London storefronts. Now obviously, you pass through the Leaky Cauldron to get to Diagon Alley. In the park we’ll have to do things just a bit differently. We’ll just tap on the bricks along the London storefronts to enter Diagon Alley.
Harry didn’t eat or drink anything in the Leaky Cauldron that first visit, but if you want breakfast, it is a fantastic place to stop. Madame Malkin’s Robes For All Occasions is right next door if you need robes. If Hagrid doesn’t happen to be traveling with you on this particular journey you can stop into the Magical Menagerie and find a suitable companion.
At this point you may be thinking to yourself, wait a minute, I only have muggle money. How can I purchase my school supplies? Good question. Go ahead and peak inside Gringotts Bank at all the busy goblins working inside, just as Harry did on his first trip to Diagon Alley. However, make sure not to go on the ride at this point, because, as we all know, you’d be mad to try and rob Gringotts.
You can also visit the Gringott’s Money Exchange to get your muggle money exchanged into sickles, gnuts and galleons. Or you can choose paper wizard money, or Wizarding Bank Notes, which you are able to spend most places inside the Universal parks.
And now, the highlight of Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley: Ollivanders wand shop. If you are very lucky you may be chosen by Ollivanders’ assistant to help a wand to choose you. It will help your chances immensely if you are a younger wizard, but older aspiring wizards have been lucky in the past (it certainly doesn’t hurt to wear your Harry Potter gear and to look very excited). If Ollivanders’ assistant does not choose you, don’t despair, there are other shop assistants waiting in the main store to help a wand find you.
Everyone have all their required school supplies? You haven’t lost your toad, have you? Hmm, maybe we should make one more stop and grab a Remembrall.
It is now time to exit Diagon Alley. Harry’s next stop in the wizarding world was to catch the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 ¾. So we’ll approach King’s Cross Station. We’ll have to travel deep inside the station before we finally find the barrier between platforms 9 and 10. Once we magically cross that barrier, we’ll have our first view of the train. Once inside your train car, store your school supplies and trunk on the overhead rack and sit back and watch the scenery go by.
Before you know it you’ll arrive at Hogsmeade station. Unfortunately, Hagrid will not be waiting with a small fleet of boats to take us to Hogwarts the first time. Instead, you’ll have to make your way on foot to the end of Hogsmeade where Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey await.
Good thing we’re not walking in Neville Longbottom’s footsteps or you’d have to douse yourself with water at this point. Luckily for us, Harry manages to arrive completely dry at Hogwarts.
Once inside Hogwarts, you’ll get a tour of the greenhouses, the dungeons and the Gryffindor common room. Finally you’ll arrive at the sorting hat. Unfortunately, the hat at Universal Studios does not actually sort anyone. But seriously, if you want to walk in Harry’s footsteps you are already well aware of which house you belong, so we can move along and board the ride.
Things will be a bit disjointed at this point as the ride will catapult you into Harry’s fourth year. Just suspend the walking tour at this point and enjoy the ride.
Now that we survived our broomstick ride and are safely back on ground, we can go ahead and take the train back to London, as we have completed all that we can of Harry’s first year experiences.
The summer has just rushed by and before we know it, it’s time to enter Diagon Alley again and purchase any new school supplies required for the second year. Then we’re back on the Hogwarts Express headed to Hogwarts. Before you take the train at year’s end, don’t forget to stop by a window in Hogsmeade and wave at a very disoriented portrait of Professor Lockhart.
Chamber of Secrets is the first time that Celestina Warbeck is mentioned as Mrs. Weasley’s favorite singer, so go ahead and treat yourself at Diagon Alley with a performance of “A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love” or “You Stole my Cauldron but you Can’t have my Heart.”
Let’s start this year by taking a wild and crazy ride on the Knight Bus. Lucky for those with weak stomachs, the Knight Bus remains stationary outside Diagon Alley next to the London storefronts. Stop by and have a quick chat with Stan Shunpike and a shrunken head. Happy to have survived our Knight Bus Encounter, we’ll head on over to the Leaky Cauldron. This would be a good time to have a meal at the Leaky Cauldron since Harry enjoyed his extended stay there in the summer before his third year. You can also stop by Florian Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, where Harry engaged in many talks with Florian about the goblin rebellions over the summer.
It is time to get back on the Hogwarts Express and head back to school. This year will be a bit different. Third years are allowed to visit the village of Hogsmeade, so go crazy at the sweet shop Honeydukes, send some Hogsmeade stamped postcards, and end up at the Three Broomsticks for butterbeer. Make sure to scowl and shake your fist at the Sirius Black wanted poster out front. Afterwards be sure to catch a Frog Choir show (we were first introduced to this in the third film).
At this point we can also board Flight of the Hippogriff and bow to Buckbeak. We’re following in Harry’s footsteps here, not Malfoy’s, so we’ll want to pay Buckbeak his proper respect. Once again, we’re boarding the Hogwarts Express after an exciting school year and sadly headed back home.
Entering into Harry’s fourth year, we’ll do our shopping at Diagon Alley and board the train. This year, much more of Hogsmeade will be unlocked to us. First, we should witness the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons show. It’s finally time to board the Dragon’s Challenge as we try to make it through the school year and the Triwizard Tournament in one piece. After all this excitement, we board the Hogwarts Express again to head back to Number 4 Privet Drive for the summer.
We will start out Harry’s fifth year a bit different. First, make a quick stop at Grimmauld Place in London and take note of Kreacher’s smiling face in the window. We’ll go to Diagon Alley for our back to school shopping, sure, but this year we will stumble into Knockturn Alley and experience Borgin and Burkes. No one is surprised that next we’ll next take the train back to Hogwarts, then we’ll turn around and board the Hogwarts Express once again to return to London.
Let’s all say it together, go shopping for back to school supplies in Diagon Alley. Don’t forget to stop at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and pick up some Love Potions for the upcoming school year. Then…take the train!
Same old, same old at Hogwarts, then we’re….hurrah! Back on the train!
Now we arrive at that sad year with no magical education. Board the Hogwarts Express…wait a minute…we’re not taking the Hogwarts Express! Hallelujah for small miracles! Take a seat on the steps of Grimmauld Place and enjoy a nice long rest there while you debate what to do with the rest of your time. Maybe find a grassy area and pretend to camp for a few months while nothing else of particular importance happens. Finally, enter Diagon Alley and watch the Three Brothers puppet show so you can distract yourself with the Deathly Hallows. In the end, decide that you are hunting Horcruxes, not Hallows, find some polyjuice potion and make your way to Gringotts where you’ll fumble your way through the queue and onto the ride.
Be sure to wave hello to the dragon outside and thank him for the crazy getaway ride. If you are a purist, at this time you can exit Universal Studios and head to Hogwarts the long way through the entrance of Islands of Adventure. If your feet hurt and you’re tired and hot and want one more ride on the train you’ll be forgiven if you just take the Hogwarts Express one last time. Take a nap and it will be like you were never there.
Once at Hogsmeade, try to avoid setting off any alarms and enter Hogwarts for the last time.
There you have it. Unless and until Universal builds the Ministry of Magic or the Burrow, this is about as close as we can get to following in Harry’s footsteps.
Did I miss anything? Is anyone actually crazy enough to ride the Hogwarts Express this many times in one day just to follow in Harry’s footsteps? Let me know in the comments if you plan to try out this walkthrough!
*The information contained in this article represents the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of The DIS.