In February, my family and I spent an absolutely magical day immersed in the wonderfulness that is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. I’m sharing a little about our day for those of you planning a trip or considering planning a trip. We were absolutely blown away by the amazing adventure that we had there and so impressed by the attention to detail that went into every inch of the park. Let’s get started!
If you are looking for tips for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood in California, you can find that post here.
1. Get Park Hoppers Tickets
There are two lands, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, each at a different Universal Park. You will need park hopper tickets to see both lands and to ride the Hogwarts Express. The Hogwarts Express is a must do! The multi-day packages offer the best deals.
I highly recommend Get Away Today for booking your entire vacation and buying tickets. They even have a layaway option if you want to make payments which is a wonderful way to afford a fantastic vacation! If you use the promo code Pencil , you can save $10 off Southern California packages, including the New Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, when you book with Get Away Today.
2. Arrive Early – Plan to be at the park about 30 minutes before it opens. It’s a surprisingly long walk from the parking lot all the way back to the Wizarding World entrances, especially for us. We are used to Disneyland where everything is much closer together! Above is a picture of Hogsmeade in the morning before it was crowded and another later in the day below. We were there on a slow day and by early afternoon it started to feel crowded.
Here is a picture of us in Diagon Alley later in the evening after the crowd had thinned out. This is a really great time to explore!
3. Enter through the secret London entrance.
Follow the path that Harry took and visit Diagon Alley through the London entrance. To do this, start your day at Universal Studios. We went through the Islands of Adventure entrance, which was the first park entrance we came to from the parking lot. This led us to Hogsmeade first, so we went a bit backwards.
Next time, we will keep going down to the Universal Studios entrance to get the full effect!
4. Before you enter Diagon Alley spend some time with the Knight Bus driver. He was a lot of fun as well as his little friend.
5. Make sure to place a call to the Ministry of Magic from the Telephone Booth. My son and daughter had no idea how to use a rotary phone, so they needed a little help:0)
The details in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are really the best part of the park, so lots of photos are a must! I purchased a new wider angle lens for my Canon that I was really thrilled with. It’s inexpensive and lightweight, making the camera easy to carry. I love the wider angle and was able to fit more in the frame of my pictures. The f-stop is low enough that I can get bokeh and use it in lower light.
I use my iPhone a lot for pictures as well, especially when asking somebody to take a family picture of us.
7. Ollivander’s Shop
Plan on buying a wand. The wand experience is absolutely amazing and one of the highlights of our entire Florida trip. We headed over to the shop in Diagon Alley where the wait is much shorter than the shop at Hogsmeade. Our line was divided into a group of about fifteen people and taken into the experience. The wand maker selects one person from each group, or in our case a set of siblings, and they have the special experience of having a wand choose them, just like Harry Potter.
8. Try going through a second time if you aren’t selected the first time.
The wand maker was phenomenal and everyone in our group was delighted with the experience. When we were there the line at Ollivander’s was very short, so when our littles weren’t selected the the first time through, we decided to try again and got selected the second time. I’m so happy we did, the experience was slightly different the second time through, so it really added to the magic.
9. Each wand has a description posted, take a picture so you can remember. That was a helpful tip from one of the shopkeepers!
10. Cast some spells! The wands are around $50 and come in a beautiful box along with a special map. What we didn’t realize before our trip is that the wands are interactive. You use the map and the wands to cast special spells throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
This was the number one activity for our family! We all just loved it so much. The spells are clever and the effects are just magical. We spent most of our day casting spells and it was great fun.
Look how serious they were taking their wands! This is my favorite picture from the day:0)
11. Spend some time talking to the Muggles and Wizards!
Everybody was really friendly and so many of them were actually from England! My kids really got a kick out of chatting with everyone. All the muggless and wizards we met were in character during every interaction. It was great!
12. Try the Butterbeer
I had heard raves about the Butterbeer, the must have drink from the books and movies, and it did not disappoint. Butterbeer is non-alcoholic and tastes similar to a rich cream soda. So delicious!
13. Try the frozen Butterbeer – it’s even better!
14. And definitely do not miss out on the Butterbeer ice cream – it’s even better than the frozen Butterbeer:0)
15. Ride the Hogwarts Express both ways.
The Hogwarts Express is absolutely amazing. The train comes chugging into the station billowing real steam, and the ride between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade is enchanting. Make sure to ride it both directions since the ride is different each way. Platform 9 3/4 has a special surprise, so make sure to keep a look out for the fun effect when in line!
16. Skip the Express Pass
We splurged on the express passes, but you can’t use them on any of the Wizarding World which is where we spent all of our time. I would recommend the express passes only if you plan to spend a day in the rest of the parks. No need to buy them ahead of time either, you can purchase them once you see the crowds.
17. Buying a Robe
If you are considering buying a Hogwarts robe for yourself or your little one, you will not be disappointed with the quality. We weren’t planning on buying a robe, but when we saw it on my little guy we just could not resist. It’s extremely well made and has a special pocket inside for his wand. It was about $100, but we hope to use it again for a Halloween costume and expect it will fit him for a couple years at least. We plan to save it for our daughter to use as well.
I can imagine this would be too warm to wear during a summer trip!
You may also consider buying a Harry Potter Gryffindor Robe before visiting the park.
18. Adopt a Pygmy Puff
Instead of a robe, my daughter picked out a Pink Pygmy Puff from Zonkos in Hogsmeade. They have a special naming ceremony so have your camera ready! (I didn’t!) It’s a cute little fluffy stuffed animal and she was thrilled. You can see her holding it here in our family selfie. Our baby is there too, she’s just hiding behind my son’s head:0)
19. Stay until closing!
The Wizarding World was beautiful at night, and once it started to get dark the crowds pretty much disappeared. We were able to hop on the Forbidden Journey again without a wait!
20. The Rides
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is an exciting ride filled with action and amazing special effects. Our family gives it two thumbs up. My favorite part of the ride was the walk through Hogwarts.We went through twice and where able to see new details each time! This is where you can see the famous Sorting Hat!
Our oldest daughter was not tall enough to ride, which was ok by her because at five she was a little intimidated by all the darkness and special effects.
We didn’t get the ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott’s , which is the newest ride in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was not running on the day we visited, (Another reason to go back soon!), but I have heard great reviews! Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff were fun rides to hop on as well, but for me just soaking in the atmosphere and details of the park was the very best experience.
Before going I found a cool shirt for my husband and a really cool one for my son from Red Bubble that has a drawing of each character. The detail is amazing! I was glad we bought ahead. We didn’t see any we loved as much at the park.
The stores are packed with merchandise straight from the books and movies. The chocolate frog was on my daughter’s must-have list. She talked about it all the way to Florida! Shopping the unique stores and merchandise are a big part of the experience, so budget accordingly.
23. Soak it all in!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is absolutely delightful, so take time to see the details. Universal Orlando went above and beyond in creating this extraordinary experience. We are thrilled they are working on a Wizarding World of Harry Potter in California so we can visit more often!
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If you are headed to Disney World, see my 27 Tips for Visiting Disney World.
You can also read about the brand new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood
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