Step into your favourite films in Orlando

Jenna Maxwell


As I sipped from a tankard in a quaint English pub, I could see frost on the windows and hear some kind of creature lumbering around in the rooms above. Broomsticks were propped up behind the bar and the beverages on offer included Butterbeer, Gillywater and Firewhisky. I felt like I had stepped straight into the pages of one of my beloved Harry Potter books, instead of sitting in a theme park in Florida. Immersive experiences like The Wizarding Word of Harry Potter are now commonplace in Orlando with parks such as Universal Studios, Disney World and SeaWorld enabling guests to step into the world of their favourite franchise rather than just experiencing a ride or two.

The Best Themed and Immersive Hotels

With the immersive world, rides and food in Florida it was only a matter of time before guests were offered a chance to stay within their favourite worlds.

Universal Studios and Walt Disney Worlds both have hotels with themed rooms such as the Jurassic Park Kids’ Suite at Royal Pacific Resort and the Despicable Me Kids’ Suite at Portofino Bay Hotel, both at Universal and Disney’s Little Mermaid, Cars and Lion King Suite at the Art of Animation Resort.

But Disney is set to take this one step further with Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, an all-immersive adventure where guests can live and breathe Star Wars for two whole nights. The luxury hotel opens in 2021 and will be shaped like a starship from the beloved movie francise. The rooms will have children’s bunk beds and adult-sized beds in the style of bunkers from the films. The hotel lobby is also set to be in the style of a spaceship interior and views from windows will look out into space. It’s been described as Westworld for Star War fans. 

VIP Experiences within the Parks

If you’re looking for an even more special experience for you and your family, there are plenty of VIP experiences available. Because the lands are still new and extremely popular, queues for the rides average at around 90 minutes and crowds may stop you from noticing smaller details in the immersive worlds. Thankfully Disney offers ways to enjoy the areas with smaller crowds. Guests staying in participating Disney hotels can enjoy extra magic hours where they can gain exclusive access to the parks before or after normal hours.

However, for an even more exclusive way to enjoy the lands, you can purchase Disney’s After Hours tickets. There is a limited number of tickets sold to these events, meaning there will be little to no waiting for popular rides and drinks and treats are included in the cost. Tickets cost $125 and usually allow guests to experience the park from 7pm until 1am. For guests who want to experience Pandora or Galaxy’s Edge at their leisure, it may be worth purchasing these tickets.

Harry Potter fans should keep an eye on Universal Studios event calendar as they often hold after-hour events exclusively in the Wizarding World with firework shows over the iconic castle and a feast of food, drink and desserts on offer. Tickets begin at $199 per person.

Fans looking for behind-the-scenes tours in the theme parks are also in luck. Both Universal and Disney World offer VIP tours. With the Universal VIP Tour Experience, starting from $189, guests will be personally escorted by an expert on a guided group tour though one park or two. You’ll have amazing backstage access, learn fun insider information and enjoy rides and attractions with no waiting.

Disney World offer a whole host of tour options in all four theme parks to suit a range of budgets. 

Special Souvenirs to Remember Your Experience

Workings wands and bespoke lightsabres are among some of the special souvenirs you can pick up in some of the Orlando theme parks. But for the serious fan, movie props and signed memorabilia from the films can also be purchased. For Harry Potter fans, interactive wands can be bought that actually work within certain locations in the park and for the Star Wars buff, you can custom-build your own lightsabre.

Universal Studios also has the Williams of Hollywood Prop Shop which sells set pieces from the parks, old movie stills and posters and exclusive props for one-of-a-kind souvenirs. 

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