Tips for visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Tips for visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

My husband and I just got back from visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL. We are avid Harry Potter fans and the parks did not disappoint! I’m excited to share a few tips, tricks, and reflections on our trip!

First I should say that I am 26 and my husband is 27 and we have no kids. This was not a family trip, so the way we structured our trip was very different than a family with little kiddos would go about it!

  1. Since it can be confusing, I should explain how the parks work. There is Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. They are two separate parks, but are both a part of the Universal Orlando Resort. Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure, which opened first. Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios and was built next. Since Diagon Alley is newer, it was much busier! You will have to pay to get into each park to go to both Wizarding Worlds (see next tip!).
  2. Get the park-hopper pass! This allows you to go to both parks, and you get to ride the Hogwarts Express to go between the Wizarding Worlds! We found a buy-two-days-get-two-days-free from Best of Orlando. (That deal made each day cheaper than a day at Silver Dollar City!) We felt like 3 days would have been enough time to do everything in both parks, but having 4 days allowed us to take things a little slower and not feel so rushed! Wizarding World
  3. Be strategic with the time of year that you schedule your trip. I browsed many blogs about HP World, and I read over and over again about how crowded and hot/humid it can be! Luckily, we timed our trip perfectly! We were there the third week of April – spring break is over and schools have not yet gotten out for the summer, so most families do not want to pull their kids out of school in between those two breaks. I’ve also read that February and September are good times to go. Hosmeade and Diagon Alley (especially) were still fairly crowded in the middle of the day, but the rest of the parks were very low-key.
  4. We also timed our trip well with the weather. It was in the low 80’s each day, there was little humidity, and it never rained! But have no fear, there is a lot of shade in Diagon Alley. We had a lot of fun sitting in the shade, drinking butterbeer, and people watching. IMG_3389
  5. The first two days we were there, we got to the park when it opened and left by around 4. The second two days we slept in, ate brunch, and got to the park around noon, then stayed until it closed. We actually enjoyed the latter more! I had read that you should get to the park when it opens to avoid the lines, but we encountered less lines in the evenings before the parks closed. I think that most families get there in the morning, then their kids are tired and need a nap by the afternoon. Who am I kidding? We were tired by the afternoon and needed naps!
  6. There are two major rides – one in each park. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is in Hogsmeade and Escape from Gringotts is in Diagon Alley. The Forbidden Journey was my favorite, but they were both really great. Even waiting in line for these rides is fun! The line for the Forbidden Journey goes through Hogwarts (moving pictures and all!) and the line for Gringotts goes through Gringotts bank (goblins and all!).
  7. Butterbeer = amazing. I definitely liked the frozen better, though. I think we had one every day we were there! Pro-tip: they sell souvenir butterbeer cups in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. You can get refills in the cups for a little over $1. However, this does not apply to the HP specialty drinks (butterbeer, pumpkin juice, etc.)! It is still a good deal, though, because you can use the cup outside of the HP areas for pop, lemonade, or tea. Do not get a butterbeer refill in the souvenir cup, because you get less than if you order one in a disposable cup and it is the same priceIMG_0023
  8. The food at the Leaky Cauldron and the Three Broomsticks is British. That may seem odd to point out, but I expected there to be other options. I love that it stays true to the Wizarding World, but I’m not a huge fan of British food. We ate at both and enjoyed the experience, but we opted for food in other parts of the park most of the time.
  9. Get a drink at the Hog’s Head (connected to the Three Broomsticks) and enjoy it on the patio with Hogwarts in the background! The Hog’s Head is actually a bar that serves beer and mixed drinks (all HP-themed of course). I had their version of a raspberry long island iced tea and it was great!
  10. Wands! Getting a wand was a must for us. You can buy two types of wands – interactive and normal. The interactive wands are $50 and the normal are $42. The wands are interactive because you can use them to do “spells” in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. There are medallions on the ground in front of the shop windows (or water fountains) that show you a wand movement and incantation. It sounded really fun in theory, but it was actually difficult to get it to work. There are wizards and witches on hand to help you get the hang of it, but in general it was a little bit of a let down. Also, there was usually a line of little kids waiting to try out their wands. So if you aren’t going to be at the park for very long or if you don’t care about casting spells, then you can save $8 (or $50 if you don’t buy one at all). IMG_0008
  11. Wands are sold in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Of course, Ollivander’s is actually in Diagon Alley in the books/movies, but both parks have one. Definitely check out both! The one is Diagon Alley is more elaborate and has a larger selection of wands. (The Ollivander’s in Hogsmeade has a small room in the back that is tucked away and isn’t obvious to see at first, so we found browsing wands was easiest there.) IMG_3406
  12. Each Ollivander’s puts on a small act in which someone from the crowd gets to have a wand “choose” them. This was one of the first things we did when we got there on our first day, and guess what – I got picked to have a wand choose me! It was very exciting. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip! The act is very similar to the first movie when a wand chooses Harry, which actually made it more fun. After the act, the crowd goes into Ollivander’s shop and you have the opportunity to buy a wand of your own.
  13. There are LOTS of wands! There’s a wand for so many of the characters! Even lesser-known characters like Dean Thomas and Professor Flitwick! Plus, there are other wands that are more unique, but they do not belong to any character. These are neat to look at, but we wanted a “real” wand from the books. After the wand “chose” me, they pressured me to buy the wand that had chosen me. It was tempting, but we were going to share a wand and wanted to get a character wand that we both wanted. (We got the Elder Wand if you were curious!) Elder Wand
  14. Robes – don’t buy them. They’re pretty expensive and they get very hot. The kids were so cute walking around in their robes, but I saw so many moms carrying their kids robes by the end of the day. Instead, go into Madame Maulkins (Diagon Alley) or Dervish and Bangs (Hogsmeade) and try them on, then take pics! We had a blast doing this. We recommend doing this in Dervish and Bangs because Madame Maulkins is the actual robe shop, so there is a greater expectation to buy them there. Nobody really noticed us when we were trying them on in Dervish and Bangs. Brad robes Katelyn Robes
  15. You can exchange your Muggle money for a Gringotts bank note. This was less fun than I thought it was going to be. They basically just give you a piece of paper in exchange for your money, not a galleon like I was hoping for. You can use the bank note in the wizarding world, but they will give you Muggle cash in change. Gringotts Money
  16. The employees in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are great. They stay in character and love to interact with the Muggles, so chat them up! They refer to debit/credit cards as Muggle plastic and ask you to sign for the Ministry. It really added to the ~magic~
  17. The people watching is awesome. After we’d been there a couple of days, we took to people watching. It was so much fun watching other people experience the wizarding world! Our favorite spot was the stoop of the Daily Prophet, because it is near the entrance so you can see people’s reactions right as they walk in and as the dragon breathes fire! IMG_0018
  18. Highlights of Hogsmeade:
    1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was my favorite ride. Seriously. Awesome.
    2. Hogsmeade has the Hogwarts castle, which really made it feel like I was in the books.
    3. The Three Broomsticks / Hogs Head (we liked them better than the Leaky Cauldron)
    4. The Flight of the Hippogriff ride. You get to see Hagrid’s hut while you’re in line! IMG_0019
  19. Highlights of Diagon Alley: 
    1. The Quidditch Shop – we wanted to buy everything in here.
    2. Florian Fortescue’s Ice Cream Shop. We went here almost every day. The butterbeer ice cream is great! I also got the chocolate raspberry and it was just as delicious!
    3. Magical Menagerie. We loved looking at all of the stuffed animals in here!
    4. Hogswarts Express Shop (I don’t remember its real name). We also wanted to buy everything in here.
    5. Window looking. Diagon Alley is much larger and the shop displays are super elaborate!
  20. So which is better – Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley? Brad preferred Diagon Alley, while I preferred Hogsmeade. I enjoy rides and Hogsmeade has three, while Diagon Alley has just one. It also felt more like I was really in the wizarding world with Hogwarts in the skyline. Brad enjoyed Diagon Alley because there is actually more stuff there and he loved the dragon. We probably have 20 videos of the dragon breathing fire.

Hogwarts is home

I could say so much more, but I’ll leave you to experience it!

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