I have always been a huge Harry Potter fan so visiting Universal Orlando – particularly the Harry Potter worlds – has always been a dream of mine! Well, about two weeks ago that dream came true! It was everything I was hoping it would be and we had such an amazing time! We learned a few things along the way too for our next trip (that really can’t come soon enough for me), so I wanted to share my 10 Tips for Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Universal Orlando!
1. Prepare to be Amazed!
If you are a fan of Harry Potter, you will be blown away by how much detail they’ve put into the two parks. It feels like you are really there! The shops are so realistic, the food is so good, and even the music playing will make you feel like you have entered Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. It is amazing!!
2. Plan to Visit Both Parks
There are two worlds to the Harry Potter portions of the park – Hogsmeade is in Universal Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios. Both worlds are completely different, with different rides, shops and interactive shows and experiences. I highly recommend park hopper passes – this allows you to visit both parks on the same day and having those is the only way you can ride the Hogwarts Express! (more on that below)
3. Use the Universal Orlando App
I highly recommend this app! We loved being able to easily find rides, restaurants, shows and more! We spent a good amount of time looking over it on our way down to Florida, to plan out our days. Then in the park – it was so helpful! We could easily see where we were – and there is even a little GPS portion to walk you to where you want to go!
Each of the rides shows the wait time and you can set alerts for when the wait time drops. You can save your parking info (so no hunting for your car when you’re tired at the end of the day) and find out what is on restaurant menus too! The ride info was super helpful too – we could see what each ride entailed. As you know my kids are older so it was great to let them manage the apps on their phones and just direct us all day!
4. Budget for the Express Pass
Universal Orlando offers an Express pass for most of their big rides that allows you to skip the normal lines and jump in the express line. It is an additional expense, but one we felt was definitely worth it. Particularly when we were skipping lines that were 40 – 70 minutes long. You can see how much more you can do in a day when you’re not waiting in line! The express pass doesn’t work for the two big Harry Potter rides, but it is available for most of the others. Two of our favorites were the Skull Island: King Kong ride and the Transformers ride. Both were so fun!
5. Plan out your ride times
You will definitely want to ride the two large Harry Potter rides, there is one in each park. I recommend heading to those rides as soon as you enter the park – you will cut down your wait time significantly. Don’t be worried about 15 or 20 minute wait times on those – there is so much to see before you even get on the ride that it won’t seem like a wait at all. This is also where the ride alerts on the app come in handy – you can ride early in the morning, then set the app to let you know when the wait times drop so you can ride them again!
6. Ride the Hogwarts Express
The Hogwarts Express is a real train that travels between the two Harry Potter Worlds. You can jump on at King’s Cross or pick up the train in Hogsmeade. Take the time to ride the train both ways too – because the ride is different each way! You’ll see the twins, Hagrid, Mad Eye, and of course share the train with Harry, Hermione and Ron! But watch out for that dementor . . . .
7. Visit all the shops
We didn’t realize this until our second day but the shops are all different – and they carry different things! If you’re planning on waiting on a purchase until you check out other shops, I’d recommend asking the clerk if they know of any other shops carry what you’re looking for – they will be able to tell you if that little bag of triwizard dragons is only available in that one shop.
They have done an amazing job with all the shops – they are all different and a huge part of the Harry Potter experience. There are shops for everything – wizard wear, quidditch supplies, quills and ink, magical creatures, and even a few items in the dark arts down Knockturn Alley!
The park also has a pickup service, so you don’t have to carry your purchases around all day. You can buy your souvenirs and then pick them up at the end of the day. If you’re staying at the on-site hotels, they even send them to your room!
8. One word – Butterbeer!
Ok so there are about 50 varieties of Butterbeer, and you’re going to want to try them all!! That is a slight exaggeration – but there are a lot! Cold, frozen, hot, ice cream, potted cream, and even Butterbeer fudge! We gave it a valiant effort and only missed out on the warm butterbeer – so we’ll just have to go back for that. :) It worked out great for us to buy one cup and then all share it – that way we weren’t overloaded and didn’t have to miss out on anything else.
9. Prepare for some amazing British food!!
Both the Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron have such great menus and are full of yummy British fare! We always made sure to each get a different entree so we could try everything.
I can highly recommend the food – and make sure you don’t miss out on the drinks! The Pumpkin juice and fizz are both so good – as are the desserts!! The Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding was To. Die. For.
10. Don’t miss the details!
There is so much to see and do, that it is easy to gloss over the little things. Take some time though to check out all the shop windows, look up the stairs, talk to the employees. Even if a shop is just a window front, you can spot Gilderoy Lockhart or some self-knitting needles! (I’d take a pair of those!)
Even the walk-through portion of the rides are completely full of things to see. Make sure you don’t miss the trio talking behind closed doors in Gringotts or even the Daily Prophet lying around.
You can also see Kreacher peeking out of one of the upper windows of 12 Grimmauld Place! (We’d just missed him in this photo!!)
So a couple last minute tips – we didn’t have any little ones with us – but that didn’t make a difference at all! We were by far not the only people in Harry Potter apparel – there were lots of adults even in robes using the interactive wands! So don’t be afraid to let your inner HP fan out – you will fit right in. :)
My other tip is if that if you have a question – ask! I was blown away by how helpful and friendly the staff was! I spotted several instances of staff going out of their way to helping guests and they were super knowledgable about shops, rides and the park in general.
So obviously we had a fabulous trip! Have you been or is it on your bucket list to go??