Orlando’s chambers of secrets magical fun for foodies, Harry Potter fans
by Kathy Witt
2018 marks the twentieth anniversary of J.K. Rowling’s second spellbinding book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, making it an enchanting time to explore Orlando’s chambers of secrets – at Universal Orlando Resort’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter and around Orlando – that keep Muggles in a Harry Potter state of mind.
A wand, a wiz and a fabulous wardrobe
A wizard without a wand is like an invisibility cloak without its undetectability. Make tracks to Ollivander’s, either at Hogsmeade on Universal’s Islands of Adventure or Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Connecting these two breathtaking fantasy realms is the Hogwarts Express. Board the train at both King’s Cross Station and the Hogsmeade Station for two very different but equally beguiling journeys.
Take a peek in the Knight Bus and listen in as the conductor chats with the shrunken head. Catch an elaborate puppet show during Tales of Beedle the Bard at Diagon Alley. Exchange Muggle money for Gringott’s Bank Notes under the watchful eye of a giant animatronic goblin. Take your own flight on a hippogriff. Stock up on Fizzing Whizzbees, chocolate frogs, feathered quills and Pygmy Puffs. Shop for everything HP, including the latest in Quidditch sportswear and wizard gear.
Orlando’s chambers of secrets
At Disney Springs, find your way to the Lake Buena Vista waterfront and the Aerophile balloon for a ride high above this bustling resort, filled chockablock with restaurants, shops, live music, dine-in theaters, carousel and more. A tethered helium balloon ride, it floats 400 feet into the sky to give Muggles a taste of what it’s like to soar into the clouds.
Here is a place packed with beasts both mythical and real: Skeletons: Museum of Osteology has more than 500 real animal skeletons in natural poses and dioramas. No three-headed dog named Fluffy; however, there are two-headed calves, a centaur and Cyclops. And you can learn how they all tick at an interactive, hands-on museum that is not afraid to show its sense of fun and humor.
Feel like you’ve wandered into Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures course? Meandering among the rhino and snake skeletons, standing beneath the 22-foot killer whale skeleton and next to the 14-foot elephant skeleton, coming face to face with a centaur in full skeletal articulation and confronting what early European explorers once mistook for a Cyclops, will give you newfound respect for the unabashed sense of wonder Hagrid brought to his classes.
See how your sleuthing skills stack up to Harry’s, Ron’s and Hermione’s with a locked-room Escapology game – and what better setting than the Scottish Highlands for a Mansion Murder mystery that puts your not insignificant inheritance on the line?
Step into the drawing room of Hugh “Monty” Montgomerie, the ninth Earl of Kildermorie, at Escapology Orlando, and prepare to prove your innocence. Alas, you won’t have a wand to conjure your way out of this fix, only your wits and a keen eye for spotting clues and piecing the puzzle together as the clock ticks relentlessly down to possible doom.
Muggles can elevate their meals to the magical realm by creating an HP-themed foodie tour to Orlando hotspots. While broomsticks are not required, reservations or really good timing are.
Don’t bother looking for a sign or marked entrance for the Pharmacy; there isn’t one. Still, if you find your way to an “elevator,” go ahead and push the button. Surprise! The doors whoosh open to this intimate haunt dressed up like a 1920s speakeasy where “elixirs” have names like Blonde Donkey and Monkey in the Vault.
Let Chef Loren Falsone whip up a restorative “prescription” for you, like the richly seasoned braised pork shoulder ropa vieja dressed with Boniato sweet potatoes, jicama and cilantro slaw. The food here is worth the hunt to get to it and everything is homemade, including the bitters and condiments.
More in your face is Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs. Hearty faves like fish and chips and bangers and mash are paired with live Celtic music and the boisterous Rhythms of Raglan dance show, created by the director of “Riverdance” and featuring traditional Irish jigs and fast-paced reels.
The place is packed for a reason: the shows are outstanding and the food – from appetizers including a sublime chicken liver pate served with apricot chutney through entrées like sticky-sweet baby back ribs with a Guinness glaze to desserts including a heavenly trifle called fluffy lemon clouds (lemon curd tart topped with a meringue pouf) – is delicious and plentiful.
The Celebration Tea Room brings high tea to Orlando. An alluring tea room that would look perfectly at home in Hogsmeade perched amidst Honeydukes, Zonko’s Joke Shop and The Three Broomsticks, it tempts with its frothy-topped chocolate mousse piled into a chocolate teacup and other luscious dainties.
The menu lists 30 loose-leaf teas, along with specialty tea smoothies, tea snow – even a drink for avowed coffee lovers: a Pu-erh blending toffee notes with Ethiopian coffee, cocoa beans and chamomile petals. A variety of high teas are offered – White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter – each with a variety of sweets and savories. Soups, sandwiches and entrées including cottage pie, pulled pork sliders and salmon wellingtons round out the menu.
The back room is utterly magical and transports guests into an enchanting wooded setting complete with fairytale murals, colorful paper lanterns and teapots hanging from a tin ceiling and a wily Cheshire cat making appearances amidst the tree foliage.
Orlando’s Castle Hotel is made for wizarding wannabees. With stately Bavarian architecture right down to its turrets, this Autograph Collection property by Marriott ushers guests into boutique accommodations where original artwork graces the walls, arched castle-like doors lend an air of mystery and Harlequin mask chairs add a glittery flourish to the lobby.
Queen and king guestrooms have bureaus that look straight out of Disney’s 1994 animated “Beauty and the Beast” and a mirror, mirror on the wall that is studded with shiny gemstones. A tower room features a comfy chair and footstool tucked into the turret, a perfect nook for lounging with a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and a glass of Butterbeer.
Experience adventure, enchantment and romance like a real-life Disney character while floating through the sky with Aerophile.
Offering boutique accommodations, stately Bavarian architecture and original artwork, Castle Hotel, Autograph Collection is a truly unique destination in Orlando.
The back room of the Celebration Tea Room features a woodland enclave for whimsical wonderland tea parties.
The rules are simple, the games are not. Escapology Orlando lets guests select their own adventure if they dare to try and crack the code. Using the collective creativity of the group, adventurers are given eight unique challenges to choose from and are then locked in a room with only 60 minutes to escape
The Pharmacy is a 1920s speak easy-themed bar and restaurant features local, organic and sustainable fare in a casual dining atmosphere.
Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant is everything you can imagine of an Irish establishment, in the heart of Disney Springs, Disney’s newest dining and retail destination.
Skeletons: Museum of Osteology features 500 real skeletons in natural poses and dioramas to demonstrate how an animal moves and interacts with its environment.
Photo: Skeletons: Museum of Osteology
Universal Studios Florida features The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, bringing even more of Harry Potter’s adventures to life!
Universal’s Islands of Adventure features The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Soar above Hogwarts with Harry Potter.