Things are pumping once again at the intersection of the "real world" and the solar system centered around Harry Potter. WB just released the first trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1 (the final book in the Potter series will be split into two films), and two weeks ago Universal Orlando Resorts' Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened as a beguiling, immersive slice of fantasy made real.
The park's central attraction is the stunning "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" ride and the remarkable Hogwarts castle in which it resides. But the soul of the park — the place where guests can relax a bit and get a feel for the quotidian realities of the milieu imagined by J.K. Rowling and visualized by the Warner Brothers film series — is Hogsmeade village.
The painstakingly detailed, cozy town offers genuine Brit dining at the quaint Three Broomsticks tavern and adjacent Hog's Head pub, where, by theme park standards, one can dine reasonably on such hearty (and non-theme parky) fare as fish and chips, shepherd's pie, Cornish pastry, turkey legs, and fresh vegetables (along with usual kiddie selections); and quaff sublime Butterbeer, tasty Pumpkin Juice, and assorted beverages of an adult nature.
And since you can't take the park home with you, you might want to pick up a few items at one of the Potter-authentic shops that dot the village's thoroughfare. You might not be aware of this, but theme parks do tend to sell souvenirs; but here, unlike most theme parks, the merchandise is true to the theme experience, is well constructed, and, again by theme park standards, is reasonably priced.
We snagged a number of Potteresque items – the hottest selling of which are wands from Ollivanders (an immersive attraction in itself), and the rare Pygmy Puffs from Zonko's joke, toy, and novelty shop. The wand our daughter bought was an impressive "Dumbledore signature" model in a stylish gray box for $28.95.
Pygmy Puffs are fuzzy, furry, oblong little creatures that come in shades of pink and purple, and are sold from cages by the Weasley twins Fred and George at their Diagon Alley shop, Weasley Wizard Wheezes, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Their sister and Harry's eventual love interest, Ginny, kept one, named Arnold, as a pet at Hogwarts.
At the urging of the Zonko's shopkeeper, we wisely snagged a Pygmy Puff ($14.95) for our daughter at the Wednesday press opening of the Wizarding World. When the park opened to the public on Friday, June 18, the beloved Puffs sold out within 24 hours. In fact, they are still on back-order almost two weeks later. Late word has it that the Puffs will not be back until the end of July.
Also at Zonko's are Sneakoscopes, Screaming Yo-yos, Extendable Ears (on clever display – find them!), shrunken heads, and Fanged Flyers.
Please check out the naming ceremony at Zonko's for our Pygmy Puff, "Cotton Candy."
Connected to Zonko's is the delectable Honeydukes sweets shop filled with enticing confections of every sort, most iconically chocolate frogs with collectible wizard cards, and, of course, Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, the Russian Roulette of candies.
The other main store in Hogsmeade is Dervish and Banges magical supplies and equipment shop. There's a floating Nimbus 2000 broom, "Great Moments in Triwizard History" window display (all of the shops, including some that never actually open, have delightful window displays), and a copy of the fearsome Monster Book of Monsters. We picked up a Ministry of Magic wax seal, a quidditch snitch, a Remembrall, and Spectraspecs. Also available are Hogwarts student robes, Triwizard apparel, and oh so much more.
It's rare when theme park gift shops augment and enrich the guest experience, but at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter they do.