Separate from Diagon Alley, through the vaulted brick interior of a cunningly accurate King’s Cross Station, you board the hissing, steaming, and, to all appearances, vintage steam train to Hogsmeade. You are assigned a six-person, upholstered compartment, the door shuts, and off you go. Out the window, England and Scotland scroll by while in the train corridor, you overhear conversations and see ominous shadows through frosted glass. In reality, you’re traveling through Universal’s backstage area, but you never see it. The technical prowess is nearly totally convincing, and even where it isn’t, it’s still dazzling. Within 4 minutes, you disembark at Islands of Adventure outside the gate to the other Wizarding World (if you require an upgrade to a park-to-park ticket, which costs around $55, there are kiosks for the purpose). In the station, there’s also a spot, done with mirrors and clever lighting, for you to re-create the moment when Harry and his fellow students walk through a brick wall to reach Platform 9 3/4. That photo op gets thronged, but there’s a bypass if you don’t want to wait for it.
Tip: If you rented a stroller, drop off at this station and pick up a new one at Hogsmeade.