We recently returned from a magical trip to Universal Studios Orlando as part of the Family Forward Conference. There is so much to do and see at Universal Orlando but our favorite area by far was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Once we booked the trip, I had both girls finish reading the Harry Potter series. The books give some much depth to your experience once you are in the park.
Universal has truly brought the books to life. We also watched all the Harry Potter movies in the weeks prior to visiting and it helped us get excited for our trip. You can absolutely tell that the designers at Universal collaborated with the set makers from the movie. When you arrive, you positively feel like you are walking into a different world, the same world you see in the movies.
[color-box color=”blue”]Savings Tip – Both the Harry Potter book series and Harry Potter 8 Film DVD Collection tend to cost between $50 to $60 from Amazon. This is a great price and less than $8 for each book or DVD. This would make a great holiday gift. I bought the DVD collection for my girls for Christmas last year.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is split between the parks of Universal Studios Orlando. Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley is Universal Studios Florida. They are connected by the Hogswart Express. A park to park admission ticket is required in order to ride the Hogswart Express and in my opinion a requirement to truly enjoying the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.
Here is our Tour of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and our top 14 attractions that you must not miss plus some tips and tricks to help you have your best trip.
1. Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
This ride starts you out in the Gringotts bank and you end up being transported right into the movie. The story is that you are opening an account at Gringotts at the same time that Harry, Hermoine and Ron are sneaking in. This 4D ride has great effects but it really isn’t too scary. This ride is currently very popular. If you stay at a Universal Studios hotel you can enter the Wizarding World an hour before other guests but the Express Pass don’t not work on this ride.
[color-box color=”blue”]Touring Tip – When we visited, the park opened at 8:00 a.m. for Universal hotel guests. The line at 8:15 was already 45 minutes long so I would advise getting to London and be ready to enter about a half an hour before opening. [/color-box]
The line goes by fairly quickly though because there is so much to see. You start out in the lobby with the banker goblins and then work your way through the bank. You even get your picture taken for a Gringotts ID. There is also a pre-show to watch with Bill Weasley. There is a single rider line you can try as well but then you will not be able to ride with your group.
2. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
This ride is in Howarts castle and we were able to ride it both at night and early in the morning with hardly any line. Actually the line was so short, that we missed a bunch of details about the ride. My tip is not to rush too fast through the line so you can catch the story and all the fun details including the fat lady painting , the Pensieve, and the sorting hat. The first time we rode I missed that in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, Harry, Ron, and Hermione appear from under the Invisibility Cloak, and urge you to meet them in the Room of Requirement so you can sneak to a quidditch match.
I think this ride is scarier than the Escape From Gringotts. I must admit I cringed when we went through the forbidden forest with the spiders. Also if you are prone to motion sickness you may want to be careful. I felt a bit queasy after this ride. Overall, though it is an amazing ride and you really feel like you are flying right along with Harry.
3. Hogwarts Express
The Hogwarts Express can be boarded both in Kings Cross Station in London and in Hogsmeade. The ride is different each way so you will want to be sure to ride it from each station.
You will want to be sure to watch your family when going to Platform 9 3/4 in London. Here is a video from our trip. Pretty cool effect huh? Sorry about the yelling in the video. I probably should have muted that….
Be sure to check out all the other details in King’s Cross station. I love how they use the British terms for everything including lift and pram. You may just remember a very similar billboard in one of the movies.
You ride in your own train car just like Harry did and you will see effects out your window and on the door side. Watch for Hagrid waving to you in Hogsmeade. I love that they got the real actors to film the scenes in the train window. Keep an eye out for Voldemort too!
4. Ollivanders Wand Shop
There is an Ollivanders wand shop both in Diagon Alley and over at Hogsmeade. This is where young wizards come in search of their most essential wizarding supply: their wand. Inside, towering walls reveal thousands of wand boxes stacked to the ceiling. And inside each box, a wand is waiting to choose a wizard. There is an interactive show where one child gets to participate and a wand chooses them. My oldest daughter was chosen by Ollivander and a wand chose her. Unfortunately, it was too dark for me to get any good pictures but it was magical even for a 12 year old. (stock picture above)
[color-box color=”blue”]Touring Tip – I attended the show in both shops and I would suggest visiting the Diagon Alley location. The lines always seemed to be shorter at that location and it is cooler. The Ollivander line in Hogsmeade is out in the beating sun. Also in the books Ollivanders is in Diagon Alley so it seems more realistic to visit there. [/color-box]
You can shop for wand after the show and they sell both interactive and non interactive wands. The interactive ones are about $10 more and well worth it.
5. Casting Spells with Interactive Wand
Once you have been to Ollivanders and purchased your wand, you can use the map that comes with it to find places to complete spells. Yow will need to look for the medallion on the ground to know where to stand. The medallions also show the motion to make with your wand and the words for the spell. Some of these spells are familiar such as Wingardium Leviosa and Ascendio. You can make objects move, make sounds and more! There are spell locations both in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Plus some in Knockturn Alley. You will need to look at your map in the black light to see those spell locations.
6. The Knight Bus
Don’t miss out on the Knight Bus in London outside of Diagon Alley. The driver and his shrunken head are so funny. Yes, the shrunken head talks and interacts with you. It is not pre-recorded and they are full of jokes and puns. My girls couldn’t stop laughing. Also, be sure to head around the back and look inside the bus. You can see the beds and other items inside.
7. Have dinner at The Three Broomsticks Tavern and Enjoy a Butter Beer
We had dinner at the Three Broomsticks Tavern and it was one of the highlights of our trip. One of the best meal deals on the property is here. You get a platter for 4 for $50 including rotisserie smoked chicken & chargrilled ribs, roasted corn-on-cob and roasted potatoes. We decided to go with more traditional English fare and my husband got the Shepherd’s Pie and I ordered Fish and Chips. The girls split a Chicken and Ribs Platter. The food was quite good and the atmosphere is amazing. Plus it is nice and cool inside. Be sure to look around while you are eating, because there are so many details. With just a bit of imagination, you feel like you are in Hogsmeade.
Over at the Hog’s Heads pub which is attached to the Three Broomsticks, you can grab a Butterbeer, pumpkin juice, or Hog’s Head Brew (microbrew for adults). They also have other adult drinks on hand. You will want to check out the actual Hog’s Head which is above the bar and moves around every so often. The Hog’s Head pub would be a great rest stop for Butterbeer any time of the day. It gets very very hot in Orlando so a mid day Butterbeer stop can help you enjoy your trip and get recharged to hit the park. Butterbeer is non alcoholic and comes either cold or frozen. It has similar taste to cream soda.
[color-box color=”blue”]Savings Tip – If you use your American Express card at any restaurants at Universal, you will automatically receive 10% off any purchase of $10 or more. I used ours for each meal and always recived the 10% off. It is a nice perk! You also can enjoy 10% off when you use any American Express Card to purchase $50 in merchandise or 15% off when you use your Card to purchase $75 in merchandise at Universal Orlando Resort! [/color-box]
8. Visit Honeydukes
Any kid or grown up kid dreams of visting Honeydukes Candy Store when they read the Harry Potter books and the Honeydukes at Universal Orlando does not disappoint. There is so much candy that is it hard to choose which to purchase. The sight and smells in this store make your mouth water. They have all the classic treats from the books. They carry Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, exploding bonbons, treacle fudge, Chocolate Frogs and more.
Of course, it is hard to resist a chocolate frog and it even comes with a trading card!
No trip is complete without some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. These gourmet jelly beans come in up to 20 flavours that range from delicious to disgusting including marshmallow, tutti-frutti, grass, soap, and earwax. Packaged in a fancifully decorated box with bean flavor menu. I can vouch for the fact that some are disgusting. I had to spit a few out and grab some water while we were eating them. We didn’t realize that there was a flavor menu included and I tried both rotten egg and black pepper.
I didn’t really remember this treat from the books but it was on the girls must have list and they though it was hysterical. Why are you worrying about YOU-KNOW-WHO, when you should be worrying about U-NO-POO? The constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation!”
It is very similar to green M & Ms but the marketing slogan was very convincing. LOL
9. Exchange Some Money at the Gringotts Money Exchange
You can easily miss this fun attraction where you can exchange your Muggle money for Gringotts bank notes. These bank notes can be used for purchases within both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (and throughout the rest of Universal’s two theme parks). Paying with Gringotts bank notes can help you get even more imerrsed in the experience. Plus you can ask a Gringotts bank goblin any question you like and he will answer you. We loved watching him interact with all the customers.
10. Have Breakfast at The Leaky Caldron
Do you remember my tip above about getting to Diagon Alley early to ride Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts? Well one way to help you get a move on is to just have a snack in the room before you head to the park and then grab breakfast at the Leaky Caldron. We didn’t have a reservation but were able to get right in. If you book a Wizarding World of Harry Potter Package – Exclusive Vacation Package, you can make breakfast reservations.
They serve a Traditional English Breakfast (farm-fresh eggs, sausage links, black pudding, English bacon, baked beans, grilled tomato, sauteed mushrooms, and breakfast potatoes), Pancake Breakfast (three fluffy buttermilk pancakes, crisp bacon, link sausage, and butter croissant), American Breakfast (fresh scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, crisp bacon, link sausage, and butter croissant) and more. These were pretty big so we just shared a few.
Yet again, the details are what makes this place amazing. They girls are pretty sure this crack is what makes the caldron leaky. 🙂
If you look upstairs, you can see the luggage of the guests at the Leaky Caldron and where the mail arrives. We were reminded of when Harry Potter and Hedwig stayed at a room at the Leaky Caldron after Harry ran away from Privet Drive and was picked up by the Knight Bus.
11. Visit Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions
The employees at Madam Malkin’s stayed perfectly in character the whole time we were in the shop. They asked if they girls were there for their house robes. My oldest wasn’t so sure but the assistant said “You look like you are wise and must be in Ravenclaw”. She was excited to try them on then. The robes are very high quality but over $100. We purchased the scarf and headband though for my youngest who plans to be Hermione for Halloween this year. Plus she has already worn the headband to school a few times. I LOVE a good useful souvenir!
You can even see Hermione’s Yule Ball gown and other fanciful robes and clothing. Also be sure to check yourself out in the mirror in the store. Beware though is isn’t always complimetary. It told me “That color looks terrible on you.”
12. Consider Your Dark Side at Knockturn Alley
Look for this arrow to head over and check out dark magic and cool air. Borgin and Burkes is the highlight of Knockturn Alley and you don’t have to be a Death Eater to gain entry to this infamous shop. As you wedge your way through the fascinating, eclectic collection of Dark Arts objects, you will find Death Eater masks, skulls, and costume replicas. Be sure to listen closely near the vanishing cabinet and you will hear the chirping of a bird inside!
Don’t forget to use your interactive wand in the alley. You can make a skeleton dance and more!
13. Explore London and Find Kreatcher
Be sure to take a look around London before or after you have vistited Diagon Alley. If you look closely, you find Grimmauld Place and Kreacher the house elf peeking out of a window occasionally. It is fun to look in the shop fronts as well.
[color-box color=”blue”]Touring Tip -Locate the bright red telephone box in Muggle London, step inside and dial M-A-G-I-C for surprise.[/color-box]
14. Soak in All The Details
My most important tip is to try not to hurry and instead soak in all the details. You will miss so much if you rush from attraction to attraction. Don’t miss Moaning Mrytle in the restroom in Hogsmeade , the Owl Post, Hagrid’s Hut near the Flight of the Hippogriff, and my favorite the House Elf Placement Agency. Unfortunately, it never opened while I was there. I would have loved to bring home a house elf as a souvenir. 🙂
I hope this list of my 14 can’t miss attractions at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was helpful to you. We absolutely loved our trip and the amazing details throughout the park and can’t wait to go back. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them for you.