We took advantage of the reports that the week after Thanksgiving is one of the best times to visit Disney World, because the crowds are much smaller than usual, and everything looks so nice decorated for Christmas. And while we did visit three of the four Disney parks, as Potterphiles, we were all a lot more excited to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Islands of Adventure.

Our first stop after we checked in to our hotel was the Magic Kingdom. Jonas had seen pictures of the train and wanted to do that, so that was our first stop.

The castle was indeed gorgeously lit. Despite the conventional wisdom that this is not a busy time for Disney World, we felt like it was not empty by any stretch. This photo was taken somewhere around 10:30pm. The street is completely packed with people waiting for a Christmas parade. Day 2: Universal Islands of Adventure. While I was on the Spiderman ride, Jonas was happy to be a part of this photo. Finally at the Wizarding World! Our first view of Hogwarts. The boys all selected their own wands. Here I’m being hit with three spells at once. A view of the Hogsmeade street. The Harry Potter section of Islands of Adventure is not that big. There are three rides. Two are roller coasters and the third is one of these indoor rides where you’re spun around a bit and there are a lot of large projection screens so you feel like you’re flying in and around the castle. All the major characters make appearances. Fun!  If you don’t like rides, you can still go through the queue for the ride, which goes through some of the parts of the castle, like the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and Dumbledore’s office.

In Hogsmeade, they have Ollivander’s, Zonko’s, Honeyduke’s, the Hog’s Head and the Three Broomsticks. Plus carts selling butterbeer (which tastes like cream soda with butterscotch) and pumpkin juice.

Potterphiles might enjoy this 90-second montage of some of the sights. Non-Potterphiles, don’t worry, the Potter section is over after this.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter from Christina Montemurro on Vimeo.

At Islands of Adventure, the boys also really loved the Dr. Seuss section. Day 3: EPCOT. We had to make a stop in Italy in honor of my Italophile mother… and my Italian heritage, too. EPCOT at twilight.Day 4: Hollywood Studios. This was a stunt show featuring motorcycles and cars and other stunts like a guy jumping/falling off a building and this poor dude who was on fire. The Hollywood Hotel Tower of Terror is a Twilight Zone-themed ride where you go up to the top in an elevator and then the elevator drops. And rises and drops. I am a wimp when it comes to rides and thought it would be, well, terrifying, but it was actually really fun. Right around closing time, Hollywood Studios had this amazing light show where an entire street full of buildings like this were all lit up. Day 5 – last day! We had not made a plan for this day, leaving it open so we could decide whether to return to one of the places we’d already been, go somewhere new, or do nothing. After a bit of deliberation we chose to go to the other Universal park, Universal Studios. The Simpsons ride was great. Last photo, one requested by Jonas, a big Scooby fan. Or in this photo, a little one.