Every Harry Potter fan dreams of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. While the attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Japan are nice, you can’t beat the one at Universal Orlando Resort. Why? Because you can visit both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley! Despite the excitement, if can be a little overwhelming to navigate the attraction, so here are 25 tips for Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
1. Plan for Two Days (at least!)
You might be able to get away with one day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood or Japan, but if you’re visiting Orlando, you’ll want to set aside two days — minimum! After spending money and taking the time to visit Universal, the last thing you want is to go home with regrets.
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Do your research ahead of time, figure out what you want to see and do, and then give yourself plenty of time to execute your plan. It will be worth it!
2. Get Park-to-Park Passes
Hogsmeade is located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, while Diagon Alley lies within Universal Studios Florida. These are two separate parks, so if you want to see both attractions, and ride the Hogwarts Express between them, you’ll have to get park-to-park passes.
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The good news is that, aside from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ll find amazing rides and attractions at both parks! Plus, many of the packages now contain passes to Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando Resort’s water park!
3. Stay at Universal Orlando Resort
There are many perks to staying at one of the Universal Orlando Resort properties, and one of them is the ability to get into Diagon Alley an hour before the park opens to the public. Just look how empty the queue is in the picture below. Be sure to read our 5 Reasons to Stay at Universal Orlando Resort!
By the time the crowds start streaming in, you may have already taken a ride (or two!) on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts! That’s what we did and we absolutely loved it. The park was mostly empty and we got a lot accomplished in that extra hour!
4. Start with Diagon Alley
As you can imagine, huge crowds gather all across Universal Orlando Resort, but Diagon Alley seems to be particularly busy. Plus, it’s a smaller area, which makes it feel more cramped than other parts of the park. Our advice is to hit Escape from Gringotts and the shops within earlier in the day, then head over to Hogsmeade where it’s more spacious and less crowded.
6. Find Knockturn Alley
On our first trip to Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we had a singular goal — purchase a Deathly Hallows necklace. The problem was that they weren’t sold in any of the main shops, and the employees — all good witches and wizards — refused to tell me where to find things associated with “dark magic.”
They kept hinting at an alley, and finally we found Knockturn Alley! There are a few obscure signs, but if you look near the door for the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, you should find it!
7. Call the Ministry of Magic
There’s a phone booth in the London area just outside Diagon Alley. If you go in there and dial “M-A-G-I-C” someone will answer on the other end. This is one of the lesser-known tips for Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so don’t forget!
8. Look for Kreacher
While you’re in the area, be sure to stop by 12 Grimmauld Place. While this is a great photo opportunity for those who loved Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it’s also cool because, if you look up at the second story window, you’ll see Kreacher peeking out every so often!
9. Take the Train
In your excitement, don’t forget to take the Hogwarts Express between the two parks! You’ll need park-to-park passes to do this, of course, because the train shuttles you between Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. If it fits your budget, it’s totally worth it!
There can be a bit of a wait and finding the platforms can be tricky, but it’s a must-see! Be sure to ride the Hogwarts Express in BOTH directions, because what you’ll experience will be different! After all, one way is taking you to Hogsmeade and the other is headed to Diagon Alley!
10. Wear Your House Colors!
Are you proud of your Hogwarts House? If so, this is the perfect opportunity to wear your colors and represent Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw! There are plenty of unique items in the shops if you forget something at home. Plus, who doesn’t love buying new Harry Potter gear!?
11. Stay in Character
While you’re all gussied up in your wizarding finest, why not take it to the next level and act as though you really are a Hogwarts student? You might not be able to keep it up all day, but it might be fun for a little while, especially because all of the employees at Wizarding World of Harry Potter are required to stay in character during their shifts.
12. Eat at the Three Broomsticks
There are many great places to grab grub at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we’re particularly fond of the Three Broomsticks. In fact, it’s one of our favorite places to eat at Universal Orlando Resort. It’s a delicious way to get a taste from some British foods (like Cornish pasties!) without having to travel to the U.K. (although London is on our bucket list!).
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Once you step through the doors, you’ll feel fully immersed in the world of Harry Potter. It’ll feel like you’re a Hogwarts student enjoying a day trip to Hogsmeade — and you’ll leave with a full belly. Plus, the prices are reasonable as far as theme park food is concerned so it’s a win-win for HP fans!
13. Find the Vanishing Cabinet
Who can forget how much effort Draco Malfoy put into mending the Vanishing Cabinet so that he could sneak Death Eaters into Hogwarts? While it’s not the happiest memory, it is an integral part of Harry Potter history. Be sure to see it while you’re at Universal Studios Florida. You’ll find it in Borgin and Burkes, if you make your way to Knockturn Alley!
14. Ask “Students” Their Stories
Did you know that Hogwarts students work at the attractions at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? After surviving Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, you’ll exit the ride and enter the gift shop (a.k.a. the “dungeons”). Take a moment to ask the “students” (shop employees) to tell you how they got detention, and why they are spending their day in the dungeons. You’ll be fascinated!
15. Make Time for the Shops
You may not be planning to buy anything, but browsing through the shops at Wizarding World of Harry Potter is so much fun. They tend to be busy, so try to plan your visit wisely. Even if you have to fight the crowds, though, you just can’t replace the feeling of holding a vial of Felix Felicis in your hands! Personally, we loved trying on robes the most!
A quick note: many of the shops sell the same things, but some things are unique to specific stores. For example, you won’t find Deathly Hallows pieces outside of Borgin and Burkes, so be sure to grab something when it catches your eye to avoid disappointment.
16. Choose Rides Wisely
Even if your child meets the height requirements, some rides might be too intense for little ones. Remember that, even if they have enjoyed seeing the magic of Harry Potter on-screen, it might be a little too much in real life.
If tiny Potter fans seem hesitant or nervous, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to sit it out! Many rides, if not all, have a child swap option that allow parents or older companions to take turns. While one of you stays with junior, the other can have fun and vice versa!
17. Download the Wait Times App
We have a motto in our house — know before you go! Don’t trek all the way across a busy park, only to discover that a ride is down or that you’ll have to stand in line for more than an hour. Download the official Universal Studios app, and keep an eye on wait times!
18. Drink Butterbeer
Few things are more iconic and connected to Harry Potter than Butterbeer. Harry, Hermione and Ron drink more than a few pints of the non-alcoholic beverage throughout their time at Hogwarts. It was one of the things we were most excited for on our first trip!
You can choose from original, frozen and, during the cooler months, warm Butterbeer. They’re all good, but we love the frozen Butterbeer best — even when our teeth are chattering! Also, if you can get your drink in a regular cup, or you can spring for the collectible in the picture above!
19. Mind the Dragon at Gringotts
We don’t want to give away too much or ruin the surprise with our tips for Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on the dragon atop Gringotts. When you see others taking out their cameras, brace yourself!
20. Wield Your Wand
Sigh… remember when Hagrid took Harry to Diagon Alley for the first time and he got his wand? Ah, the memories! You can experience the magic yourself by visiting Ollivander’s or Wands by Gregorovitch to start learning your very own spells. If you’re okay skipping the whole “experience” and/or the lines are too long, just buy one at a cart or gift shop. The employees who sell the wands are absolutely phenomenal. Once you’re ready, practice your magic at designated spots throughout the park.!
21. Grab a Scoop (or Two!)
For a sweet treat, you can’t miss Florean Fortescue’s ice cream shop. This can be so refreshing after a day in that Florida heat! Served in a cup, waffle cone, or souvenir glass, choose from soft serve or hard-packed flavors. Then, garnish with some premium toppings!
The shop also serves delicious sundaes, if that’s more your speed! We’ve been known to get a scoop of the delicious ice cream so we could add it to our Butterbeer. Hey, don’t judge us! We got the idea from a park employee!
22. Talk to the Goblin at the Money Exchange
There’s a Money Exchange in a quieter corner of Diagon Alley. Head back there and talk to the goblin about anything. You might be surprised by what it has to say! And for an even more unique Diagon Alley experience, you can exchange some of your muggle currency for Gringotts bank notes that can be used throughout the Wizarding World!
23. Take a Midday Break
You’ll notice that, between 11am and 2pm, the park is buzzing. The restaurants are packed, latecomers are just arriving, and the sun is at its peak. This is a great time to leave for a few hours and do something else (we went to Volcano Bay)!
If you’re staying at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel, you could go take a quick nap. It’s just a quick bus or boat ride away, and you might discover the rest more than you think (especially if you’ve got young kids in your group). You’ll come back rested, recharged and ready for more Harry Potter adventures — just be sure to set an alarm so you don’t sleep too long!
24. Avoid the Summer Months
This probably goes without saying, but the summer months are absolutely crazy at Universal Orlando Resort. The crowds are massive, the heat is stifling, and rain can strike at any moment. If this is the only time you can visit, you’ll still enjoy yourself. If you’re able to go during the off-season, however, you might enjoy it a little more.
25. But Visit at Halloween (or Christmas)!
Special events at Universal Orlando Resort are a big deal, and we loved our visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter during Halloween. It’s spectacular! The creepy holiday is such a perfect fit for Diagon Alley, and Christmas works beautifully with snowy Hogsmeade. Of course, the resort creates light displays for the occasions, so Hogwarts gets into the festive spirit too!
26. Send Souvenirs to Your Room
Guests staying at a Universal property can shop till they drop at the parks, including Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The problem is that, when you buy something, you’ll need to find a locker if you want to get on any rides. What you can do instead, though, is have your purchases sent to your room!
No need to lug around bags or worry about breaking a souvenir — it will be waiting in your room when you turn in for the night! Honestly, Universal Orlando Resort makes having a great time so easy for guests. We can’t wait to go back!
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