Our campground reservation was partially canceled down in the Keys over Christmas and New Years. So, we decided to go to Orlando instead and surprise Aaron’s daughter with tickets to Universal Studios for Christmas. We are not fans of Christmas in general, specifically the consumerism of the whole holiday, so we opted for an “experience” based present, instead of crap that will be long forgotten in only a few short weeks. Early on Christmas morning, we headed over to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Orlando. First and foremost, Christmas day is actually one of the busiest days of the year and it was telling as soon as we got there. The park officially opens at 9 am, but you can get special passes that will let you in an hour early. We did not have those passes, but luckily the security guard was nice enough to let us in early.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Harry Potter World is split between two parks, and in order to ride the Hogwarts Express, you need to buy the TWO-Park-Pass. We spent the first part of the day on the Islands of Adventure side which puts you in Hogsmeade where Hogwarts castle is. Our first stop was Ollivanders Wand Shop where you can watch an interactive “choosing of the wand” show. Ollivander chooses someone to be the “chosen one” and lets them cast a few spells to try their wand out. They then lead you into the wand shop where they have wands from all the characters, Harry Potter, Dumbledore, Voldemort (who easily had the coolest looking wand), Hermoine, Ron, etc, or you could pick a generic one based on your birthday. Additionally, some of them are interactive and “cast spells” throughout the park that make things happen, like water fountains turning on, skeletons dancing, and more.
Inside the castle, we jumped in line for the Forbidden Journey ride which is an intense digital coaster experience. You’re strapped in with your feet dangling in the air and they simulate on-screen flying through a Quidditch match. If you don’t have a stomach of steel, it can really make you queasy. The only other ride on this side of the park is the Flight of the Hippogriff, which is an easy level roller coaster with no inversions. From there we jumped on the Hogwarts Express to the other park which was London, Diagon Alley, and Knockturn Alley.
There is only one ride on this side and the queue got up to 220 minutes at one point. Luckily we didn’t have to wait that long but the ride itself was similar to the Forbidden Journey ride on the other side of the park, just set in Gringotts. There appear to be a lot more stores on this side and there were definitely more areas to cast spells.
After doing some window shopping, we decided to head to the Leaky Cauldron for some lunch. The staff was knowledgeable about what items were vegan and knew just what to make for us. They put together a vegan veggie platter complete with salad, roasted veggies, and bread. Even the margarine used in the restaurant IS vegan- hooray! Additionally, other vegan options include breakfast baked beans, grilled tomato, sauteed mushrooms, and breakfast potatoes. There is a similar menu at the Three Broomsticks if you’re on the other side of the park.
Unfortunately, the Butterbeer is NOT vegan, but you can get a fizzy pumpkin juice, gilly water, butterscotch beer, fizzing tea, or an alcoholic Wizards Brew which are sold at various locations throughout the park.
We were able to find some vegan treats along the way, including a Dark Mark Lollipop and Puking Pastilles at Weasleys’ Wizard of Wheezes, which is full of joke toys, gadgets, and candy. We also were able to find quite a few candy options at Honeydukes and Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop. They have rock candy, lemon drops, lollipops, sugar quills, etc. Just make sure to check the labels, a couple lollipops had milk in them (why though??).
Additionally, they have vendor carts situated throughout both parks that sell Gilly Water, pumpkin juice, and fresh fruit.
To be safe, we brought a couple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which saved us some money and gave us peace of mind in that we weren’t too worried if we didn’t find any vegan options- even though we did!
*Check out the video at the top of the post to see all the yummy vegan options we came across!