In 2010, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened to the public in Universal Studios Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. Since then, it’s expanded to both Orlando parks, Universal Studios Japan, and Universal Studios Hollywood. With a new roller coaster coming to Orlando, now’s as good a time as any to explore some of the secrets from the original installation: Hogsmeade.
From first-hand experience in Universal Studios Hollywood, here are 10 secrets about Universal’s Hogsmeade.
10 Ride Mechanics of The Forbidden Journey
Any theme park attraction is backed by an extraordinary creative force. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a simulator attraction, though more intense than the others at Universal. It makes Spider-Man and Transformers 3D look like a walk in the park.
Unlike those attractions, Forbidden Journey seats you on a flying bench. You encounter Dementors, spiders, and you’re three stories off the ground!
That’s right. Think of a selfie stick. The phone on the end is your bench. As if you weren’t terrified before. But don’t worry, this ride is perfectly safe and there are measures in place for getting passengers off the ride if the ride needs to be stopped for more than a wheelchair boarding. You can see the full apparatus at a few corners, including the turn right before the Whomping Willow and that fast section as you descend into the Chamber of Secrets.
9 Yes, That’s Daniel Radcliffe
Yes, this was a real question someone had. As part of the terms and conditions when acquiring the rights, Universal only uses the movies’ actors to depict the characters. This is why you don’t see any face characters walking around like you would at Disney. It’s all in the name of preserving the brand and that image of one Harry Potter. Like, Daniel Radcliffe IS Harry Potter.
If you ask any witch or wizard in Hogsmeade where you can find Harry Potter, they’ll direct you to Hogwarts castle.
8 That’s Not Buckbeak
Along the same lines as the above, workers can’t technically refer to an animal or magical creature by the creature they’re based on in the books or movies. Again, this is to preserve the image of those characters and their portrayals in the name of brand integrity. Guests are very much encouraged to get hype and call that three-headed dog Fluffy, the workers just can’t.
One of the best cases in Hogsmeade is the animatronic hippogriff in the itty bitty coaster Flight of the Hippogriff. Hagrid’s voice prompts you to bow to the hippogriff who bears a striking resemblance to Buckbeak. But technically, it’s not Buckbeak. Workers have taken to calling the hippogriff Speckles, Marshmallow, and sometimes, Beakbuck.
7 The Interactive Wands
A newer addition to the Wizarding World is the incorporation of the interactive wands. In the Hollywood location, the Ollivander’s Originals line only comes in interactive form. Most of the character wands also come in interactive form, including Yaxley? It’s a surprisingly popular wand for a pretty useless character.
The number one question about these wands is how they work. Each spell window has a sensor placed inside of it. You can usually find a witch or wizard nearby who can tell you where to point your wand if you’re having trouble. Some of them can be tricky. One of the hardest sensors to trigger is Revelio in one of the Honeydukes windows. If you can master that, the others will be a breeze.
6 Secret Spells
The Hollywood park stealthily added in some spells not found on the wand maps. Both spells can be found in the same area: next to Hogsmeade Station just after the Hogwarts Express. The large door and chimney beside it are Alohomora and Incendio respectively.
Alohomora is placed in front of the giant door to nowhere, which now has a dragon behind it. When performed correctly, the dragon bangs against the door and smoke pours out of the bottom. Incendio ignites a chimney. Yes, you can feel the fire from where you’re standing.
5 Hidden Easter Eggs
At the end of the Forbidden Journey, you exit into a gift shop. You know how theme parks are. But you’re still part of the Hogwarts story. That store is named Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and essentially, you’re buying the items confiscated from Hogwarts students. Good thinking, Filch.
If you look up into the rafters, you’ll see assorted not-for-sale goods from other shops. Apparently, you can find 6 pairs of Harry Potter glasses throughout the store. Other Easter eggs include Filch’s magic-detecting device, various wares from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and all of the Horcruxes (minus Harry).
4 The Door Trick
Unlike most theme parks, Hogsmeade’s doors all remain closed, though guests are always welcome inside. But people are really hesitant to open these doors, especially during the early entry hour when the park isn’t full yet.
Pro tip: any door with a long handle can and should be opened. Unless it says “Staff Only,” don’t open those. Obviously.
The doors that can’t be opened are pretty much cemented shut, but they also have the rounded door knobs. So remember, round knobs are a no-go zone. Elongated handles are good to go.
3 He Who CANNOT Be Named
Since Hogsmeade is set around Prisoner of Azkaban and The Order of the Phoenix, workers are not allowed to say Voldemort’s name aloud. Witches and wizards live in fear of the Dark Lord, and even saying Dark Lord is pushing it a bit. You’ll always hear workers saying You Know Who or He Who Must Not Be Named.
However, that doesn’t mean YOU can’t say it and that’s half the fun! One thing Harry Potter workers are trained in is how to respond to guests shouting the forbidden name inside stores. Reactions can range from horrified to frantic shushing to “This is a family establishment and if you keep up that behavior, I’ll escort you off the premises.” Of course, it’s all in good fun and workers know the right people to joke around with. It’s a lot of fun for all parties involved.
2 Pinecone Lights
The Hogwarts light shows only occur during certain parts of the year, usually over spring break, summer peak season, and the winter holiday season. A huge misconception is that you need to be right in front of Hogwarts to get a good show. Not necessarily true.
Based on how the lights are projected and how big the castle is, as long as you can see Hogwarts from any angle, you’ll get a different show each time. For example, the flying boars at the castle entrance light up. But the best thing about being slightly farther away is that the trees light up! You’re surrounded by pretty lights, like magic!
During the day, if you look closely enough at the trees, you’ll notice the pinecones in them are actually fake. They’re so natural-looking that they fit in perfectly to Hogsmeade’s eternal winter.
1 No Hogwarts Alumni
Well, you can be a Hogwarts alum. You can be whoever or whatever you want in the Wizarding World. But workers outside of Hogwarts castle can’t say they went to Hogwarts or personally know any of the character mentioned in the books. But it’s not a total loss. It prompts people to have fun and be creative with their magical upbringings.
Those who don’t know a lot about the franchise, because it’s not just fans who work in the park, opt to be Muggle-born and say they grew up outside of the Wizarding World. Others say they were homeschooled. A handful make up an elaborate backstory about international study abroad trips or pull from Fantastic Beasts and incorporate the USA's magical history into their stories.
Though this rule is in place due more to copyright reasons, it allows that extra sense of creativity and fun to those who work. And they definitely want you to ask. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is all about immersing you in the Harry Potter experience and a random conversation with one of the workers can enhance it all for you and whoever you’re traveling with.