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25 Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (sometimes called Harry Potter World) is one of the biggest attractions at Universal Orlando. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you might spend most of your time at Universal immersed in the Harry Potter universe. I know that I did. Even if you’re just a Muggle looking for some great rides or tasty treats, you’re going to love visiting Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Get the most out of your trip with these 25 Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips.
If you’re visiting Universal Orlando for the first time, check out 20 things to know before visiting Universal Orlando.
1. Make sure to have the park-to-park tickets!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is split between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. (Nice one, Universal, well played!) Multi-day packages offer the best deals, and you’ll want multiple days to explore the two (or three if you choose to visit Volcano Bay) parks, especially during the busier times of the year.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is split into Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure.) The Hogwarts Express runs between the two parks and is the easiest way to get between them, and also an adventure in itself!
2. Arrive Early
There are several reasons to arrive early, most importantly, because the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located at the very back of both parks. It does take a while to get back there, and you’ll want to arrive as quickly as possible to take advantage of the shorter lines (more on that later.)
Another reason to arrive early is the chance of being chosen as the “Honorary Family.” When my oldest son and I visited Universal for his 11th birthday, we were at the very front of the line at Islands of Adventure. We were asked if we’d like to participate in the opening ceremony, and my son was able to announce the opening of the park! That also meant that we were the very first people to be let inside, and we were given a free photo pass for the three days that we were there, for all three parks! I didn’t even know about this until we were chosen!
3. Carefully choose which side to enter
If you want the full experience of walking through London to Diagon Alley, enter through Universal Orlando. If you’d rather skip the experience and get right to the rides, enter through Hogsmeade. We noticed that a lot more people want to go to Diagon Alley first. We were able to walk on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey twice as well as Flight of the Hippogryph with no lines at all.
4. Don’t miss the wand ceremony at Ollivanders
In both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, you can visit Ollivanders shop and watch a wand ceremony. You may even get chosen to participate! My oldest was selected for the wand ceremony, which was fitting since it was his 11th birthday! If you want more of a chance of being chosen. 1) Be a kid. 2) Wear a robe or at least Harry Potter clothes. 3) Wear your birthday pin. That’s what we did, and it worked. 🙂
5. Get an interactive wand
Even if you aren’t chosen for the wand ceremony, get an interactive wand! They are about $50 and probably the best value souvenir that you can buy at Universal. You can use the wand to cast “spells” in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, and it’s so much fun!
6. Try a butterbeer or specialty beverage
There are several varieties of Butterbeer (frozen, ice cream, etc.) so choose one or try them all! If you have an intolerance or do not to eat dairy, don’t worry – you still have options! The Butterbeer itself does not have dairy in it, but the topping does, and they will not serve it without it. However, Pumpkin Juice, Green Fizzy Ale, and several other drinks are all dairy-free. We loved the Pumpkin Juice.
7. Ride the Hogwarts Express both ways
The experience is different each way, so make sure to ride in both directions. The one pet peeve that I had was Hermione’s voice; it sounds nothing like the movie Hermione (Emma Watson.) Otherwise, riding the Hogwarts Express both ways is so much fun!
8. Platform 9 3/4
Don’t miss a fun surprise when you’re going through Platform 9 3/4. I tried to capture it on video but wasn’t able to. You can’t see it yourself, so make sure to watch someone else.
9. Buy your house gear in advance
Yes, you can purchase them at the park, but they are quite expensive! The quality of the robes is good, but the quality of some of the other products is only okay. I would suggest buying most of your house gear in advance and then purchase things like interactive wands, candy from Honeydukes, and other specialty items at the park. The one thing that might be worth the splurge at the park is the robes. However, if you want to save a little money, there are plenty of robes to choose from on Amazon.
Here are some highly-rated items for much less than you’ll pay in the park (click for more houses):
10. Adopt a Pygmy Puff
My son adopted a Pygmy Puff at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and we loved the experience. They are cute little pink or purple stuffed animals. They will also do a naming ceremony if you choose to do that (we did) and it’s a lot of fun! You can also adopt a Pygmy Puff at Magical Menagerie and several other shops.
11. Stay late
If you want to head back to your hotel for lunch, a nap, or just a short break, do it in the middle of the day! The crowds are the highest mid-day, and the temperature can be brutal in the summer. We found that the evening is even better than the morning for low crowds. On all three days of our trip, we were able to walk right into rides like Escape from Gringotts and The Forbidden Journey in the evening.
12. Get the PhotoPass
I typically do not get a PhotoPass because as a photographer, I think I will take photos myself. However, after we were gifted the photo pass for being the honorary family, I was so glad that we had it! I do take a lot of photos, but I am rarely in them! I would highly recommend the PhotoPass; the Harry Potter photos are particularly fun.
I should note that I didn’t even bring a real camera with me, so it was very nice to have the PhotoPass!
13. Don’t miss the queues
Even if you’re lucky enough to walk through the lines, make sure to go back when there is a line. Waiting in line might seem like weird advice, but the queues for most of the rides at Universal are part of the experience. The details of the queue are particularly significant in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There are so many small details that all true Harry Potter fans will enjoy.
14. Don’t miss the shops
At most theme parks you might want to get out of the gift shops as quickly as possible, but they’re part of the Wizarding World experience! My son’s favorite shop was Honeydukes, where they had items like Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Acid Pops, and more.
15. Call the Ministry of Magic
Don’t forget to call the Ministry of Magic from the telephone booth in London! My son had no idea how to use a rotary phone, so keep in mind, kids might need a little help. 🙂
16. Say hello to Stan Shunpike
Well, he’s not Stan but say hello to the Knight Bus driver just outside of Diagon Alley. Make sure to interact with him (and the shrunken head!) and take a few photos. I was told that I had more ink than the Daily Prophet. 😂
17. Stay in a Universal Resort
I would recommend staying in a Universal Hotel. We didn’t do this on our recent trip, and I found myself wishing that we would have! You will probably want to take a break during the day, and the shuttles run all the time from the Universal Resorts. They do not do this at the partner hotels, which the partner hotels will not tell you! The partner hotel shuttles only run in the morning and evening, which won’t help you take an afternoon break.
Another huge reason to stay in a Universal Resort Hotel is the early entrance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Staying at a Universal Resort can be a considerable advantage during the busy times (summer, Christmas break, etc.) As of the writing of this post, the new Magical Creatures ride is drawing even more visitors to the parks so that any extra time would be well worth it.
18. Check out the Dark Magic in Knockturn Alley
It’s a little spooky, but don’t miss Knockturn Alley! You can even walk around Borgin and Burkes, and there are some interactive spells in Knockturn Alley too. Tip: Check out the cabinet in Borgin and Burkes! You might hear something. 🙂 I’m not a dark wizard, but I enjoyed Knockturn Alley, it’s also very cool on a hot day.
19. Make some new friends
Make sure to talk to the wizards and muggles in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. They stay in character and will keep you on your toes with your Harry Potter knowledge! You can also chat with the Goblin inside Gringott’s Money Exchange.
If you’re celebrating a special event like a birthday, honeymoon, anniversary, etc. make sure to get a pin and wear it on your lanyard.
20. Check out a show
There are several fun shows throughout the day. You can even see Celestina Warbeck (Molly Weasley’s favorite singer) and The Tale of the Three Brothers puppet show. I have a Deathly Hallows tattoo on my arm, so of course, this was my favorite! Other shows include:
- Hogwarts Frog Choir (we loved this one too!)
- Triwizard Spirit Rally
- The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard (alternating between the before mentioned Tale of Three Brothers and The Fountain of Fair Fortune.)
21. Have lunch at The Leaky Cauldron or Three Broomsticks
Although the options are somewhat limited if you’re on a special diet, The Leaky Cauldron and Three Brooksticks are top-rated options for lunch or dinner.
Hint for those with food allergies or special diets, check out the official website and plan your meals ahead of time. We found some places that were very accommodating (gluten-free, vegetarian) outside of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
22. Buy the Express Pass
If you’re visiting the parks on a busy day, buy the Express Pass. Important note, you cannot use the Express Pass on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure yet.
If you’re visiting the parks during a slower time of the year, you may be able to save that money for souvenirs or something else. Don’t know if you’ll need one or not? Feel free to contact me! I can help you figure out the best time to visit within your available schedule, and whether you or not you’ll need Express Passes.
23. Bring a small bag
If you need to carry a bag for sunscreen, reusable water bottles, etc., make sure that it’s a smaller bag. Most of the rides do not allow you to bring a bag but do have free lockers. Keep in mind that the lockers are small. Larger bags will not fit, and you’ll have to pay for a larger locker.
We used a bag similar to the one below but paid twice as much for it at Universal. Trust me, buy your bags ahead of time (refer to #9.) Click the bag below for other houses and bag options.
24. Say hello to Kreacher
While in London, don’t forget to check out #12 Grimmauld Place. Look up at the 2nd-floor window, and you might see Kreacher peek out from time to time.
25. Moaning Myrtle
If you use the women’s restroom at Hogsmeade, you will hear Moaning Myrtle. This shows how amazing and immersive the entire Wizarding World of Harry Potter really is!
It’s this restroom. You’re welcome. 🙂
26. Move up in line at Escape From Gringott’s
When you exit the elevator at Gringott’s, try to move to the far side of the small room. Most people will try to get in the middle for a better view of the pre-show with Bill Weasley. If you go all the way to the end of the room, you’ll be the first one out and move farther up in the line.
Bonus: Book with a Travel Agent
Booking a vacation can be stressful, so take the stress off by using a Travel Agent who is certified in all things Universal (aka me.) I can help personalize your vacation with suggestions just for you. Feel free to contact me through the contact form or directly email firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat about your vacation plans.
If you plan to DIY your vacation, I understand that too! I highly recommend buying your tickets through Undercover Tourist if you choose not to use a Travel Agent! There are a lot of really scammy sites out there, so make sure you’re booking through an approved partner (like Undercover Tourist,) or an approved Travel Agent! If you plan to stay off property, I recommend checking out Expedia to see what is available in the Orlando area outside of the Universal Orlando Resorts.
I had to take a picture in front of this sign!
I hope that these 25 Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips help you. Again, if you need any help planning your Universal vacation, I’d love to hear from you! Which Hogwarts house are you in? Let me know in the comments. Bonus if it’s Ravenclaw. 😉