Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a must do for any fan. It is an immersive experience that will blow you away! We have a few tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
First you should know that Universal Orlando Resort has two theme parks (3 including the newly opened water park Volcano Bay) Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWOHP) are lands located in each of the two theme parks. It is not a theme park all to itself. Inside Islands of Adventure is Hogsmeade. Hogsmeade is home to the Hogwart’s castle and the rides Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, Dragon Challenge, & Flight of the Hippogriff. The restaurant Three Broomsticks is there as well as numerous shops including Honeydukes Sweet Shop. Hogsmeade originally opened to the public in 2010. If you have young children (under 8) we recommend bringing or renting a stroller due the massive amount of walking required.
Diagon Alley is located in Universal Studios and opened in 2014. Diagon Alley is home to the ride Harry Potter & The Escape From Gringotts, The Leaky Cauldron Restaurant, Ollivander’s Wand Shop (makers of fine wands since 382 BC), and numerous other shops including Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions.
One of the highlights of WWOHP is The Hogwart’s Express. A real train that guests can ride between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Due to the fact that the train transports you from one park to the next, guests must have a park to park ticket in order to ride, which brings us to our first tip. In order to get the most out of WWOHP you must have a park to park ticket. This means you must purchase a ticket that allows you to go to both parks in a day, rather than a single park. If you will be staying more than two to three days, or if you plan to return within the year, we highly recommend annual passes.
Annual passes may sound crazy when you live out of state, but hear us out! Annual passes can save you tons! We recommend either the Power Annual Pass or the Preferred Annual Pass. We are Preferred Annual Pass holders. Purchasing an annual pass allows you to put down a down payment and make a small monthly payments towards the pass. This will allow you to get several vacations out of your tickets rather than just one. Some of the benefits of the Preferred Annual Pass that we have include; early park admission to WWOHP (usually reserved for Universal Hotel guests), free parking, food discounts, and merchandise discounts. You can find out more about the annual pass benefits at https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/tickets-packages/annual-passes/uoap-types/index.html?Intsrch=.
One of the best ways to get the most out of WWOHP is to arrive early. We mean really early, like before the parks open. I know, this is not what most people want to do on their vacation, but arriving so that you can enter the park as soon as it opens will allow you to ride some of the busiest rides with little to no wait time. Arriving early in the summer also allows you to beat the heat for a bit! Before you leave home you should also download the Universal Orlando Wait Times App. This is very helpful while you are in the park. Staying until closing also finds lighter crowds and less wait times.
Let’s start with Hogsmeade for some must know information to make the most of your trip. Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey is a simulator dark ride that is the most intense of the Harry Potter rides and may scare young children. If you are prone to motion sickness, we highly recommend taking Less Drowsy Dramomine before your day at WWOHP. Trust us, it works! The height requirement for Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, which is housed in the Hogwart Castle is 48 inches. The queue for the ride is magical itself. The walls are filled with talking and moving portraits as well as characters from the movies. If you do not wish to ride the ride, but would like to see the interior of the castle, just tell the cast member at the front of the queue and they will help you!
If you find yourself needing the restroom in Hogsmeade you won’t be alone. In addition to you and dozens of other guests someone else will be in the restroom with you. What?? You will be able to hear Moaning Myrtle in the restrooms in Hogsmeade. Nice touch Universal!
The Dragon Challenge, also in Hogsmeade, is a roller coaster, not for the faint of heart. You must be 54 inches for this attraction. The most tame of the WWOHP rides, Flight of the Hippogriff is a small coaster and requires riders to be 36 inches. Honeydukes is a fun place to find candy from the movies and books. At the Owl Post you can actually mail out a post card. Dervish & Banges has plenty of house merchandise as does Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, which is located inside the castle.
If you plan on eating at The Three Broomsticks we would recommend eating a very early lunch or very early dinner there. How early? 10:45 for lunch and 4:00 for dinner. The same goes for The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley as well. Why? This place gets packed and we do mean packed with very long wait times. Another tip is that you are allowed to order off the kid’s menu and they provide generous portions if you are not that hungry. Also they do not serve soda here. You will only find Harry Potter specialty drinks, such as Butterbeer. Now we personally love Butterbeer, but at $6.99 a pop it’s pretty expensive. You can however get past this problem.
Universal offers refillable mugs, you pay a certain amount per day for the cups and the refills are free. They also offer souvenir cups, Bart Simpson, Minions, and Transformers, that you only pay for once then refills are $1.29. You can bring these back forever. We found this to be a much better deal. We have a Bart Simpson cup and refill it two-three times a day while at the parks. You will need to refill this outside of WWOHP and bring it to the restaurant with you. This is a much more economical choice, although we do recommend trying the Butterbeer at least once! It tastes like a rich cream soda with a delicious froth on top. It is also available frozen and as ice cream!
Make sure that you ride Hogwart’s Express in both directions, both from Hogsmeade Station to Kings Cross Station and from Kings Cross Station to Hogsmeade Stations. It is a different experience each way. When riding from Hogsmeade Station to Kings Cross Station make sure you look and you might catch a glimpse of He Who Must Not Be Named just before Malfoy Manor!
Diagon Alley is a wonder to behold! The attention to detail is incredible. Harry Potter & The Escape from Gringott’s is a multi-sensory 3D ride that includes animatronic goblins, a fire breathing dragon, and some of your favorite characters from the movies. You may even see the Dark Lord himself! You must be 42 inches to ride. For those with smaller children child swap is available. Child swap allows one parent (guardian) to ride while the other waits in a room with the child(ren) and then they can switch places, so that both can ride.
Ollivander’s is the perfect place to find your wand. Remember the wand chooses the wizard! People are let in in groups and one lucky person is selected for the “experience.” The experience is just like when Harry visit’s Ollivander’s in the first movie. Very rarely (we had never heard of it before) two people are selected. Karli & I were lucky enough to have the rare two person wand experience at Ollivander’s and it is a memory we will cherish forever! If you decide to purchase a wand be sure to get an interactive wand. They come with a map that shows you the many places in WWOHP that you can use your wand to “cast a spell.”
In Diagon Alley just past The Leaky Cauldron you will find Knockturn Alley, home of Borgin & Bourkes. Borgin & Bourkes is a spooky shop that houses a Vanishing Cabinet and if you listen closely you can hear a bird chirping inside. There is also a trunk with a Boggart rattling around. It is a must visit.
The ice cream parlor, Florean Fortescue’s is simply delicious. They offer many different flavors including Butterbeer. Weasley Wizard Wheezes is a super fun shop offering Pygmy Puffs, Love Potions, and Extendable Ears! You can even exchange your money into wizarding money at the Gringott’s Money Exchange. It is the ultimate playground for Potterheads.
Just outside of Diagon Alley you can visit 12 Grimmald Place and catch Kreacher peeking out the window every couple of minutes. You might also want to see the Knight Bus and chat with the driver and the shrunken head!
WWOHP is a magical bucket list visit for even the casual fan. Even the lines are fantastically themed. The shops are wonderful and the workers are all costumed and in character. It is impossible to cover everything in WWOHP in one post. Please feel to comment or email any questions and we will be happy to help. You can purchase tickets or find our more information at http://www.universalorlando.com.