Our family just returned from a one-day adventure in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and it was a highlight of our shared book experience. If you can swing the trip, I assure you that it is well worth the experience.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located inside the Universal Studio theme parks in Orlando. Hogsmeade is a small section in the rear of Universal Studios Islands of Adventure while Diagon Alley is a small section in the back of Universal Studios Orlando. The two parks are connected by the Hogwarts Express.
I have no doubt that your journey through one of the most beloved books of this generation will be unforgettable.
Tip 1: Arrive Early
It will take approximately 30 minutes to get from the parking lot to the main entrance. There are people movers to help you along the way, but there isn’t a shortcut. In addition to the long walk, there were lines for metal detectors before you even entered the City Walk area, so allow time for all of it.
We were in the park fifteen minutes before it officially opened and were already on rides. I am not sure if that was just due to the low attendance in May or if that is standard. Either way, plan for an early arrival.
Tip 2: Buy a Park Hopper Pass to Ride the Hogwarts Express
If you want to ride the Hogwarts Express, then you will need to purchase a park hopper pass. Employees check your park tickets before you enter the train station, so you can’t even get a glimpse or take pictures without a park hopper.
Yes. I am certain they did this on purpose to get every single possible dollar from our pockets. And it worked. Because it is Platform 9 3/4. We want that experience.
NOTE: The train ride is different each way, so you will want to ride it both ways.
ANOTHER NOTE: There is a Hogwarts Express train engine located in Hogsmeade so you can pose for pictures. You can’t ride it, but it might satisfy that need to “see” the train if you aren’t getting a park hopper.
Tip 3: Attend the Wand Show and then Buy Your Wand Right Away.
The line for Olivanders can get quite long, so you will want to purchase your wand as soon as you arrive. This allows you plenty of opportunity during the rest of the day to “be a wizard” and wave your wand at the magical wand locations around Harry Potter world.
There is a short performance next door to the wand shop so you can watch the wand choose the wizard. See the show then buy the wand. It is well done and the kids love it. One lucky guest will be chosen as the star of the show.
My daughter, Tricia, was the one selected and a special wand chose her! Then, I was offered the opportunity to purchase that special wand for the non-discounted price of $50. Wasn’t that nice?
Yes. You heard me correctly. The wands are $50 each, so be prepared to lose your wizarding arm paying for them.
You can share wands if you need to, but if your family members are big fans like mine, then you should probably plan ahead so that each child can purchase their own.
Tip 4: Bring a Backpack to Hold Wand Boxes
The wands come in boxes for safe keeping and you will have to keep those boxes safe until the end of the day. We had to carry around five of the boxes, so we brought two backpacks: one for wands and another for water bottles and snacks. Turns out, it was handy to have a second backpack when we split into various groups so we could divvy out the water bottles and snacks.
Tip 5: Get the Frozen Butterbeer
YUM! No soda involved.
Our favorite place to sip a cold cup of Frozen Butterbeer is in Diagon Alley at the corner store by the magical fountain.
Sitting there. Sipping Butterbeer. Taking in the scenery. You will feel like a wizard.
There are picnic tables, so you don’t have to sit on the ground. The tables were in the hot sun and we opted for the shade.
My daughter and I never wanted to leave this exact spot during our first trip.
Tip 6: Visit Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) then Diagon Alley (Universal Orlando)
In my personal opinion, Diagon Alley is a top-notch, Harry Potter experience. The setting is so realistic. You’ll find Weasley’s Joke Shop, a very creepy Knockturn Alley, and a dragon on top of Gringotts Bank breathing fire every 10 minutes.
Now don’t get me wrong, Hogsmeade is amazing as well. The Hogwarts castle is an iconic building to behold on the hill. The Hogsmeade area (located in Universal Orlando) also includes three rides as opposed to the one ride in Diagon Alley.
So why visit Hogsmeade first? Hogsmeade was built first and I do think the creators upped their game when they built Diagon Alley. I wanted my kids to be in awe at both places, so we started in Hogsmeade. I was afraid their experience at Hogsmeade might be overshadowed by Diagon Alley if we visited Diagon Alley first.
Of course, this is just my personal opinion and I have no way of knowing this for sure. It’s just something to consider if you are going to visit both parks.
Tip 7: Bring Refillable Water Bottles
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We packed five refillable water bottles to keep hydrated. Water fountains are plentiful in the park and you can refill your bottles.
It was hot on the day we visited (89 degrees) so we purchased these misting water bottles for our kids and I do not regret it at all.
Tip 8: Fill up Drink Cups and Water Bottles BEFORE you enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Studios sells a cup that allows unlimited refills (every 9 minutes) for a 24 hour period. There are no drink stands for the refillable Universal Studios cup in Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. You are limited to the Wizarding drink options in Harry Potter world and they come at a pretty penny, so fill up before you enter.
NOTE: We had one refillable cup for my husband. The rest of us brought reusable water bottles into the park and we were able to get ice from the soda machines. They will NOT allow guests to fill bottles with the cold water from the machine without the special cup. After filling our bottles with ice, we used water fountains throughout the park to get water. Water fountains are plentiful!
Tip 9: Don’t Miss the Knight Bus
The purple Knight Bus is located in Universal Studios Orlando directly outside the entrance to Diagon Alley. It isn’t hidden, but in your excitement to locate the somewhat hidden entrance to Diagon Alley, you might miss it.
The conductor and the talking head will entertain you and pose for a picture. It is an entertaining stop that you won’t want to miss on your way in or out of Diagon Alley.
Tip 10: Put EVERYTHING in the Lockers Provided
There are free lockers available located outside many of the ride entrances. You’ll want to use them for your wands, bags, and everything else you are carrying with you.
Put everything, including your cell phone, in them for the Dragon Challenge coaster. There are metal detectors located midway through the line for the Dragon Challenge and if you forget your cell phone in your pocket, you will be sent all the way back to the lockers to return it. They do let you return to the midway spot in line, but it is quite a hike back to the lockers.
Ask me how we know…
Tip 11: Return to the Wizarding World in the Evening
This was not my plan, but at the last minute (8:30 PM) three of my kids and I dashed to Diagon Alley for one last ride on Escape from Gringotts. Upon entering the area, we froze and allowed ourselves a moment to take it all in.
Diagon Alley was magical. The sky was dark and each shop was dimly lit by a lamp. The cobblestone streets were empty and the crowds were gone. Immediately I wished I had known to plan this encounter for our entire family because we would have spent 8-9 PM playing with our wands in the magically lit world of Harry Potter.
Tip 12: Take Your Wand Map to Knockturn Alley
Put it under the blacklight. I won’t give it away, but your map has some invisible ink on it. The kids will enjoy checking it out.
The wand opportunities in Knockturn Alley are quite fun and the shady atmosphere makes it a perfect area for escaping the hot sun.