Last year, my family took a trip to the Orlando, Florida area. We spent considerable amounts of time in both Magic Kingdom AND The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and had absolutely magical times at both locations. You may have noticed that both Disney and Universal Studios have similar free-range interactive attractions; Disney World has the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom in Magic Kingdom, and Universal has the Interactive Wands in both sections of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Both of these experiences are fun and unique in their own ways, but if you were ever wondering which is better, this is the comparison list for you!
Now it’s hard to compare the magical feeling each of the experiences brings you, and both are totally worth the effort. Here’s my short comparison list, with more detailed descriptions of the experiences below.
Starting Off, we’ll dive into the Interactive Wands at Universal Studios. You can buy yourself a wand from a number of places in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including Ollivanders, and some of the outdoor Kiosks. Once you have an Interactive Wand, you can look for special windows in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, makred with a decorative plate outside on the ground. When you perform the designated wand movement outside the window, something magical will happen in the vicinity. These awesome souvenirs do come at a hefty price (around $60) and are actually kind of fragile for what you’d want from something you’re swish and flicking around in a crowded theme park. You’re advised not to let the tip of the wand get wet (which is QUITE a feat during the surprise showers and storms of Orlando, FL) and you should really not drop or hit the wand on anything hard. One of the biggest pros of the Interactive Wands is that use of them is completely flexible. You don’t have to follow a specific sequence in order to get the full experience, and you can just explore the Wizarding World, interacting with whatever you like, whenever you like. Now, these effects do not change, they’re always the same, and the wand motions you must perform are specific to that interaction only, so once you’ve seen a window once, you’re kind of done. Sometimes, Universal has a designated employee (usually a Hogwarts student) outside the more difficult experiences to subtly help you get them to work, which is cool, except that means that some of the interactions are REALLY hard to interact with. These employees really help to keep the magic alive, and the frustration levels at a minimum. There is also no active story line behind the Interactive Wand usage, besides “How cool is it that I’m using a magic wand in Diagon Alley/Hogsmeade”
Now, I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan (tattoo and all), so just being in the world and using the wand was totally amazing for me. My 9yr old also loved the interactions, and even my 2 yr old son enjoyed watching the effects. Some of the interactives were really subtle, and it took us a couple of tries to even realize they were working, and most of them were reminiscent of just watching a marionette puppet show, not the high quality you’d want from a $60 souvenir.
Moving into Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, it’s really easy to see why I loved this experience even more than the Interactive Wands (which, and this bears repeating, were amazing, and completely worth the money and effort, if you have both available to you). First of all, the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom has a defined storyline you are a part of. It’s not just a magical encounter, it’s an actual game. You start this experience on Mainstreet, USA, in the Fire Station, where a cast member will give you a portal key card (or link your magic band to the experience) and a deck of trading cards with some supremely awesome spells. You will also choose your starting location out of Main Street, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square (TIP: Choose “Main Street USA” so you don’t have to double back around.) Once you get your map and your cards, you make your way to your first portal and begin the adventure. You soon find out that Hades (and a few other familiar villainous faces) is attempting to take over the Magic Kingdom. Merlin and a special partner (1 for each land) are recruiting Apprentices to stop them, by using the special portals. Each portal has a special symbol on the ground in front of their location. The portals aren’t necessarily hidden, but they’re designed to be completely overlooked, unless you’re looking for them, which adds to the mystery and fun of the game. You also MUST interact with the portals in a specific order, and if you travel to the wrong portal, it will just tell you that you need to find the one with the correct symbol. When you’ve located the correct portal, you scan your key card or Magic Band and watch a short scene documenting what the villains are doing. You’ll then use your spell cards to thwart the villains, and EACH card has a completely different effect when used. Unlike Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there are no designated cast members to interact with at these portals…but that’s because the portals work. Every time. Rain or Shine.
I personally believe that the clear winner between the two experiences is Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. It’s included with the price of admission (AKA FREE), it’s an attraction in and of itself, and it’s not frustratingly difficult to get the portals to work. That being said, I absolutely LOVED the Interactive Wand experience at Universal, and still highly recommend it to those Potter fans who love the books as much as I do.