Harry Potter just had a birthday. On July 31, he turned 43 years old (the character, not the franchise). So what better way to celebrate the Boy Who Lived than a trip to Walt Disney World?
Some may say, “What!? Harry Potter World is at Universal Studios!”
True. But let’s face it. No matter how hard Universal Studios may try or how impressive their Wizarding World sections may be, it is still not Walt Disney World. And if you didn’t love Walt Disney World, you wouldn’t be reading this…would you?
So here are five fantastic ways to honor Harry Potter‘s birthday while remaining a true fan of Walt Disney World.
Explore Your Patronus at Animal Kingdom
Although discovering the form of your Patronus is something you must figure out on your own—Disney’s Animal Kingdom can help you get in touch with your spirit guardian. Many Disney Park fans often overlook the wide variety of animals available at Animal Kingdom, but with so many creatures over its 580 acres, you can find your fantastic beast and connect with them. And let’s not forget…the theme Park is also home to dragons (Komodo), dinosaurs, and mountain monsters, so you’re not limited to a standard stag or squirrel.
Feel What It’s Like to Fly
No broomsticks required. Many places within Walt Disney World Resort simulate flight and don’t come with the nausea some may experience on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This can include Peter Pan’s Flight in the Magic Kingdom, Avatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom, or even Soarin’ at EPCOT. And none of these require broomsticks or lessons from Professor Hooch.
Befriend a Ghost
There may be no Moaning Myrtle or Nearly Headless Nick, but the Haunted Mansion ride can be a great way to meet a non-Hogwarts ghost. Although it’s neither a school nor a castle, the Haunted Mansion shares many surprises similar to the school of witchcraft and wizardry. Anyone who has ever toured its halls is well aware of the special effects that rival that of the best Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios (or Islands of Adventure). The combination of moving pictures, upside-down staircases, levitating objects, bewitched mirrors, and a seer that puts Professor Trelawney to shame reminds Potter fans that there’s no shortage of spells or spooks at Walt Disney World Resort.
Visit the United Kingdom
The World Showcase at EPCOT captures the charm of many countries throughout the known Muggle world. Although the United Kingdom Pavilion has no number 4 Privet Drive, its beautifully themed area can’t help but remind one of Harry Potter’s homeland. And although there may be no alcohol-free butterbeer like in Universal Orlando Resort, you can easily find British beer and ciders to toast as you celebrate Potter’s birthday!
Dine Inside a Castle
Universal Studios Orlando may offer a Hogwarts Castle, but you can’t dine there. However, you can visit the Magic Kingdom‘s resident princess for a special meal inside a grand hall that is far better than any food you’ll find at Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. Muggles can enjoy a three-course meal and take in a truly magical setting under meticulously decorated chandeliers and artistic archways.
Of course, if none of these fit the bill – you can always trek over to Universal Studios Florida. But why? If you’re already at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios is far away and expensive; you have to pay for parking again, and you have to get a Park-to-Park ticket to enjoy the Hogwarts Express. It’s a lot of work. And again, we must all remember that Harry Potter is no Mickey Mouse, JK Rowling is no Walt Disney, and Universal Studios is no Disney World.