There is no question that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been a popular addition to the Universal Orlando Resort. It has made it a must-see destination for Harry Potter fans. But for an even bigger dose of Potterdom, plan your visit around the Celebration Harry Potter event at the end of January. I was able to attend the 5th annual event in 2018 because of my work with Universal as part of their BlogSquad. All you need to attend is a ticket to Universal Studios Florida for the weekend of the event.
Celebration Harry Potter is a 3-day event that takes place over the last weekend in January. The opening event this year brought to the stage members of the cast of the movies as well as a foretaste of the people who would be showing off their Harry Potter related tours, iPhone apps, graphics designs, audiobooks, 20th-anniversary editions, etc.
The opening event also featured a live orchestra that accompanied different clips from the series. It is surprisingly cool how great it is to hear an orchestra playing the music that supported your favorite movie scenes. I may have to start looking for movie theaters with live orchestras because… that’s a thing, right?
The Fans / The Costumes
The best part of the event was easily the fans. Whenever you see someone dressed in a costume or Potter-themed robes outside of the two parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter they are fans and not employees. Universal will only have their cast in Potter regalia inside Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. On any given day you can see a plethora of Potters, a huddle of Hufflepuffs, a scattering of Slytherins, a range of Ravenclaws, and a gaggle of Gryffindors. But on this weekend the effort on the costumes go up to 11.
Check out some of the great costumes I saw in the video I shot in the park. We have Newt from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Luna Lovegood, house elves and more.
For this year’s event, 5 of the original cast members of the Harry Potter series were present. They took part in panel discussions where they answered fan questions.
- Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum)
- Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks)
- Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley)
- James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley)
Events on the Big Stage
One the big stage there were a number of other events like
- Dance Like a Beauxbatons and Battle Like a Durmstrang
- Learn Want Combat Skills with Paul Harris
- Harry Potter Knowledge Challenge
- Hogwarts Houses Rally and Costume Showcase
Paul Harris worked on the later Potter films when the action was too quick for every spell to include spoken words. He came up with a physical grammar of how to use your wand. He taught the audience the correct stance and the “swish and flick” that would prepare them to join Dumbledore’s Army.
Harry Potter Expo
Two of the sound stages at Universal Studios Florida were used for various vendors in the Harry Potter World. These included:
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them VR Experience
Fans lined up for a chance to try out this VR experience from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment where they could use their virtual wand and spell gestures to interact with beasts and other objects inside a virtual version of the movie world. You could meet the beasts in Newton Scamander’s shed and, for instance, shake all the gold out of the pouch of his Niffler. A couple of the stations were set up with monitors so you could see what the fans who were wearing the VR goggles could see.
Four different chalk artists were working on beautiful chalk art over the course of Saturday when I was at the expo. These normally would be set up outside but had been moved inside because of the chance of rain over the weekend. These were amazing and it was fun to return throughout the day and see them come together.
New Mobile Game
Portkey Games was demoing the new Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery mobile game where you get to be a student at Hogwarts in the time before Harry Potter.
Scholastic had a “Muggle Wall” where you could write down what Harry Potter has meant to you. This year is the 20th anniversary of the U.S. editions of Harry Potter released by Scholastic. They had the artist Brian Selznick signing books. He designed the covers of their original editions as well as their new 20th Anniversary Editions which will be released in July 2018.
- Audible and Pottermore where challenging fans knowledge of Harry Potter with a live game show called #AudibleRecall
- The House of Minalima (a Harry Potter gallery in London) showed off some of their collection of graphic art from the film series created by artists Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima
- Harry Potter the Exhibition was showing some of the collection that will be displayed next in Milan, Italy
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour London brought some of the practical effects that were used in making the movie
- You could enter to win tickets to the NYC opening of the musical Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- You could design your own Harry Potter iPhone case
The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle projection show
As a bonus for the Potter fans, Universal timed the opening of their new nighttime projection show for the weekend of Celebration Harry Potter. This show is projected on Hogwarts Castle in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It will continue year-round when it is not preempted by special holiday shows.
Fans who stayed onsite at one of the 5 (soon to be 8) hotels were able to get a package that allowed them to get their own express line for the expo and separate areas up front for the events on the big outdoor stage. So if you are planning on coming, check out those options.
We stayed in both the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Both hotels are lovely and even if you are not coming to Orlando for a big event like this, it would be useful to see what extra benefits you can get by staying on-site like early admission or even a free Express Pass with some of the packages. 4 of the current hotels are connected to the park via a boat shuttle service so you don’t have to have a car. It is a very pleasant way to get to and from your hotel and to stay out of the traffic.
This is a great weekend for Harry Potter fans. Even if you were to tire of celebration, you have a ticket to the theme park and can spend your time on the other non-Potter attractions, but honestly, I only rode one ride on the day I was at the event. I meant, where else can you walk down the street and run into the Holyhead Harpies (the first all-female Quidditch team)?
Buy your Universal tickets in advance and save money.