The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando
The first thing you need to know about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is that it’s spread over two different parks – Universal Studios Florida as well as Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This means that you need to purchase Park-to-Park tickets not Single Park admission.
Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida
We suggest starting your Wizarding World of Harry Potter experience by heading straight to Diagon Alley. This means entering through the Universal Studios Park and following the path to the secret London entrance. There are a few things we recommend to do before entering into Diagon Alley.
- Visit the Knight Bus – spend a little bit of time chatting with the friendly Knight Bus conductor and his interactive shrunken head sidekick. Be sure to go inside the bus to look at the attention to detail that has been made.
- Knock on the door of number 12 Grimmauld Place, you just might see Kreacher lurking.
- Go inside the telephone box and dial 62442 (MAGIC) to be connected directly to the Ministry of Magic.
Once you enter the magical Diagon Alley be prepared to be spellbound by the whole area. You could easily wander around for hours just looking through all the famous shops and establishments.
Highlights of Diagon Alley not to be missed
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride is simply amazing! This 3-D multi dimension indoor ride takes you on an unforgettable adventure where you will come face to face with Voldemort himself. Note that you cannot use express passes on this ride, but the wait time goes quick and it is all part of the ride experience as you make your way through Gringotts Bank and its vaults. There is a single rider queue if you prefer to get through quicker and are not too fussed about being separated from your party on the ride.
- Gringotts Money Exchange – not far from the ride is an actual money exchange where you can swap your ordinary muggle money for Gringotts currency that you can use throughout both Universal theme parks. Make sure you have a chat to the interactive goblin teller.
- Ollivanders Wand Shop – buy an interactive wand that you can use all around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (both of which have interactive shop windows, fountains and statues) to cast your very own spells. You might even be one of the lucky chosen customers that get to have the very special experience of having a wand choose them. There is also an Ollivanders in Hogsmeade (be warned the queues at both can get quite long though!).
- Shopping – So many fun shops to wander through including Quality Quiddich Supplies, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin’s Robes, Borgin and Burkes, Wiseacre’s Wizardry Equipment and Magical Menagerie.
- Have a traditional British pub meal at the Leaky Cauldron, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Riding the Hogwarts Express between parks
The best way ever to swap between theme parks is hopping aboard the Hogwarts Express. Once you are finished at Diagon Alley head over to Kings Cross Station. You will need to show your park-to-park ticket before you can enter, then make your way to find the famous 9 3/4 platform.
Once you board the Hogwarts Express you will be shown to a compartment which holds 6-8 people and the magical doors will be closed. The interactive experience will then begin, as the animated windows take you through the streets of London and along the English countryside as you arrive at Hogsmeade Station. Along the way you will be joined by a few familiar characters but just watch out for those nasty Dementors!
Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
As you make your way through Hogsmeade towards Hogwarts Castle you will notice a few more familiar features of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The highlight of Hogsmeade are;
- Butterbeer – available either warm, cold or frozen and not to be missed. Our favourite was the frozen butterbeer and as it is non-alcoholic, even the kids will love it!
- Dine at the Three Broomsticks restaurant or Hog’s Head pub for traditional English fare.
- Honeydukes – a must see for everyone, stop by to pick-up a few favourite candies such as Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbees, Bertie Bott Beans or Cauldron Cakes.
- If you missed the one at Diagon Alley, there is another Ollivanders Wand Shop to purchase your very own magical wand.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in Hogwarts is definitely a ride not to be missed. This multi sensory action ride takes you on a journey soaring around the skies with Harry Potter, evading dragons and other magical creatures. You cannot use fast passes with this ride but the wait in the queue is part of the whole experience as you wander through the interior of Hogwarts. You will pass through Dumbledores Office, the Gryffindor Common Room, the Room of Requirement and you might even find the famous sorting hat.
- Dragon Challenge is a set of two high-speed rollercoasters, a blue dragon and red dragon. Take the challenge and ride both coasters then pick your favourite.
- Flight of the Hippogriff is a very family friendly coaster that the younger ones will love as they pass around by Hagrid’s Hut.
You don’t have to be a diehard Harry Potter fan to really enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando. While we had only read a couple of the books and watched some of the movies, we still loved our magical adventure there.
We suggest you plan to arrive as early as possible to avoid the big crowds that gather in the afternoon. If you are looking for accomodation options we would recommend staying at one of the On-Site Hotels as you get a one hour park early admission (only one park is open early each day). Each guest also receives unlimited fast-pass ride access for the length of stay at the hotel.
We chose to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel – read our review here.
For more information on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando go to: www.universalorlando.com