The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Thank you to my friend Tia for this wonderful guest post! I’m so happy she agreed to share all of this information about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Are you visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort? If you love Harry Potter, get ready to be impressed. In my opinion it is the best application of a theme to a theme park land out of any I have visited (yes, I’m including Star Wars land in Disneyland). The attention to detail is astounding. Here are a few tips you may find helpful in planning your perfect trip to Hogsmead, Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. 

Study Harry Potter

Read the books or have a movie marathon before visiting. If it has been a couple of year since you read the books or if everyone in your party hasn’t seen all of the movies, now’s your chance to brush up. It makes visiting a much more rich experience. You will appreciate all the details that have been incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter if you’re familiar with it.

Study the park map

The first time I went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter I had no idea there was a Knockturn Alley! It wasn’t until later that I learned of it and felt sad I had totally missed it! Study the park map and layout prior to arrival to orient yourself with the shops, rides, entertainment and restaurants available. You seriously don’t want to miss out on anything!

Call the Ministry of Magic

In Universal Studios park just outside the entrance to Diagon Alley there is a red phone booth. Dial MAGIC on the phone to listen to a message from the Minstry of Magic. Call a few times to hear different messages each time. The phone in the booth is a rotary dial and I had to help my daughter because she had no idea how to use it! 

Talk to the Shrunken Head in the Knight Bus

Just outside Diagon Alley in Universal Studios you will find the triple decker Knight Bus. The day we visited Nigel was standing by to offer lots of funny jokes and we even got to have a conversation with the shrunken head that drives the bus! 

Visit Number 12 Grimmauld Place

Just outside Diagon Alley across from the Knight Bus you will see a row of townhouses. Look for Number 12 and watch for Kreacher to peek out of the second floor window. 

Ride the Hogwarts Express

Load up your trolley and head off to school! The Hogwarts Express is a train ride that connects Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Talk about a fun way to park hop! This 4 minute ride has a different viewing experience depending on your direction of travel so be sure to ride it both directions. And, since the wait times get high quickly, we recommend riding it in the morning! If you don’t have a park-to-park ticket, you can still take photos of a Hogwarts Express steam engine in Hogsmead in Islands of Adventure. 

Stand in the line!

The line ques are amazing! Whether you are wandering through the Hogwarts castle, passing Hagrid’s cottage or seeing the Goblins hard at work in Gringotts, walking through the ride ques is worth the time! There are amazing views of the castle in Hagrid’s line. The newspapers in Gringotts are fun to read. The talking portraits and sorting hat in the castle are iconic! If you plan not to ride, just let the ride attendants know and they will show you the exit. If you don’t intend to ride, you don’t have to stash your bag in a locker – just let them know and they’ll let you pass by. 

Let the Wand Choose the Wizard

When you visit Diagon Alley in Universal Studios or Hogsmead in Islands of Adventure you can have a wand experience at Ollivanders. You will need to sign up for a reservation on the day you visit since they do not allow standby. When you return for your reservation time, your party will be taken into a room full of wands! The shop attendant will take you through the magical wand selection process. One person in your party will be selected for this process.

You are not under any obligation to purchase the wand, so go and have the experience whether or not you intend to buy. I don’t want to spoil any surprises so I’ll just confirm that it is really fun! They sell both interactive wands that allow you to cast spells throughout the park, and non-interactive wands. The price difference between the two wands is $5-$10. We paid $55 for my daughter’s interactive wand. 

Cast Spells using an Interactive Wand

Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort is not complete without this experience! If you do purchase an interactive wand it will come in a beautiful box and includes a map of both Hogsmead and Diagon Alley. The map will show you locations where you can stand and make a specific wand movement to “cast a spell”. It may be turning on a water fountain, lifting a feather quill, making fireworks explode or putting a suit of armor together. There are 16 interactive spots in Diagon Alley (including 5 in Knockturn Alley) and 9 interactive spots in Hogsmead. This was one of our favorite things to do! We went around to each location at least 3 times. 

Exchange Muggle Money for Gringotts Bank Notes

In Gringotts Money Exchange in Diagon Alley you can exchange your money for Gringotts bank notes in $10 or $20 increments. The Goblin at the counter wasn’t working the day we visited. Supposedly he will converse with you, but we still enjoyed exchanging our muggle currency for Gringotts bank notes. The bank notes can be used for purchases anywhere on the Universal Orlando Resort (including our hotel gift shop). You can also purchase a commemorative key to your own vault at Gringotts for $15. 

Send a Letter with the Owl Post

Did you know you can have a letter or postcard postmarked at the Owl Post in Hogsmead at Islands of Adventure? If you bring a letter or postcard you can purchase stamps and have it postmarked there. Or you can purchase stationary, postcards and other letter writing supplies at the Owl Post. A package of postcards was about $12. They also have wax and seals to purchase! 

Enjoy the Entertainment

In both Diagon Alley and Hogsmead the entertainment is fantastic! They offer the Frog Choir, Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Spirit Rally and more. Check the app for showtimes and make sure you see them at least once! They only last 10 – 15 minutes each but are such a fun break and really add to the atmosphere! 

Try Butterbeer 6 ways

That’s right, there are six was to enjoy the wonderful creation that is Butterbeer! There are 3 drinks and 3 desserts. Each time I visit the price has increased, but I still find myself unable to resist. It’s best to share since the sweetness can be too much for one person, but that just means you’ll have appetite to try all the variations! 

Here they are in all of their deliciousness:

  • Frozen Butterbeer – kind of like a Butterbeer in slushy form but with the most delicious vanilla and toasted marshmallow foam on top (it’s actually on top of all 3 drink versions). Drink slowly or suffer the brain freeze consequences! 
  • Hot Butterbeer – offered only seasonally and less sweet than the other two drinks. This is how it is in the books and I was so happy to finally get to try it hot. 
  • Butterbeer – a carbonated version of the butterscotch, vanilla and marshmallow drink
  • Butterbeer Fudge – The fudge was slightly too dense for me to give it a 10/10, but it was really delicious!
  • Butterbeer Ice Cream – silky soft serve vanilla ice cream rimmed with butterbeer flavoring. What is not to love?!
  • Butterbeer Potted Cream – a rich custard topped with a buttery sauce and whipped cream.

Take Your Time!

Normally I’m the type of park goer that measures the success of the day by how many rides and attractions we enjoyed. But in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you are there to be IN the world of Harry Potter. Yes, you definitely want to ride all of the rides, as many times as you can, but really just taking the time to appreciate all of the details will leave you feeling so satisfied at the end of the day. Walk through each and every shop and storefront widow appreciating all of the book and movie references. They really have included every detail imaginable! It’s incredible!

Go to the bathroom!

I can only speak for the ladies bathroom, but Moaning Myrtle is chatting up a storm in the bathroom located in Hogsmead. I took my daughter in there just to listen to her even though she didn’t need to use the bathroom. 

Learn the Virtual Line for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

During the most crowded hours of the day they will implement a virtual line (available in the app) for a few of the rides. Hagrid’s is one of them. This is similar to a fastpass (if you are familiar with Disney) in that you get a specific return time. It is different from a fastpass in that it just gets you a time to get in the regular line. It doesn’t get you through the line any faster. Once the virtual line pass is activated you cannot enter the standby line at all. You may only enter when your reservation time arrives. This means you still have to stand in line and that means anywhere from 20-60 minutes of waiting.

This attraction is so popular that using the virtual line ensures that you will at least get to stand in line for it. We rode this 6 times and it was the highlight ride of our entire trip, so it is worth the wait! Get to the park early and ride it a few times while the wait time is low! 

Dine at the Leaky Cauldron and Three Broomsticks

The atmosphere in each location is so great. I wish each menu had more diversity between them, but the food we had in each location was delicious. Eat lunch early. We got in line for lunch each day at 11:00 am and waited about 20 minutes for a table. By the time we were finished, the line to get a table was at least double that. If you are visiting on an especially busy day, order your Butterbeer with your lunch! The stand alone locations selling Butterbeer can get very long lines! 

Mobile ordering your food is a great idea anytime you visit the park, but it was essential during our last visit. Once at the table a waitress would come and either collect your mobile order confirmation number (which you placed while waiting in line) or took your order. We received our food much faster using the mobile ordering system.

Here are the menu items we ordered and our ratings:

Bangers & Mash – 6/10

I loved the sausage, mashed potatoes and the gravy. The vegetables were boiled and didn’t have any seasoning. I wish they had roasted them with a little olive oil and salt & pepper. Just that simple change would have made them so much better!

Cottage Pie – 6/10

We really wanted this to have more seasoning as well and a larger portion to give it a higher score. 

Kids Mac & Cheese – 7/10

As far as kids menu macaroni and cheese goes, this was actually very good! 

Fish & Chips 8/10

The fish coating was light and crisp and the fish was flaky and moist. The wedge potato fries were well seasoned. Yum!

Get there early! Stay late!

Since we stayed at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel we had early park entry. This was invaluable! We arrived 45 minutes prior to park opening to line up at the turnstiles. Once inside the park we headed straight for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We took advantage of the sparse crowds to ride each ride a few times before the park opened to general admission park guests. In fact, the day we visited Universal Studios we were the second people to enter Diagon Alley! We got some great pictures of my daughter while it was completely empty. Within just a couple of hours there were hundreds of park guests and those photos would have been impossible. So, between the low wait times and the low crowds, waking up early is totally worth it! 

Then, make sure you come back to experience it all again at night! The castle is illuminated in Islands of Adventure. The Dragon breathes fire in Diagon Alley. The crowds are much lower at night and the park is magical! 

Use the first two hours in the park to experience rides – not to eat breakfast or shop! After lunch take time to browse all of the shops, use the interactive wand spots and enjoy the park entertainment. In the late afternoon take a break by swimming at the pool, taking a nap or having dinner at a City Walk location. Then return for the nighttime atmosphere, lower wait times and do the wand experiences again at night. Many interactive wand spots look even better in the dark because they have elements that are better illuminated at night! 

If The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is your primary reason for visiting the Universal Orlando Resort, like it was for us, these tips will help you get the most out of your visit. They have incorporated so many themed elements into the shops, rides, entertainment and food and you don’t want to miss any of it! 

Thanks to Tia for all the amazing information on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! You can find out more information here. Make sure you check out her post full of tips for visiting Universal Studios during covid-19 You won’t want to miss it!

Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Orlando
Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Orlando