Let’s start with the obvious….The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is AWESOME!
I’ve been following the story of Harry Potter joining the scene at Universal Studios Orlando from when it was first discussed and have spent hours exploring the hidden gems throughout the offerings.
Just as a starting point, because if you’re starting out…you should know something. Harry Potter is split between both Universal Studios Florida (Diagon Alley) and Islands of Adventure (Hogwarts & Hogsmeade) and connected by the Hogwarts Express. Please note – you do require a park-to-park ticket in order to ride the Hogwarts Express (and it’s completely worth it!)
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has a number of exciting things to check out, but it’s important to know before you go exactly what you should be looking for.
HARRY POTTER AND THE ESCAPE FROM GRINGOTTS
- Ride Vehicle: Coaster-style cart
- Opening Date: July 8th, 2014
- Duration: 5:00
- Height Restriction: Gotta be at least 42 inches
- Single Rider Line is available
4D ride that takes guests from Gringotts Bank throughout a number of interactions of the movie. This is by far the best attraction (so far) in the lineup of experiences, so expect a substantial wait…but the queue is actually indoors so you won’t have to be subjected to the Florida heat!
What should you look for? The queue line includes your introduction to the staff of the bank. Stop and enjoy the details because too many folks walk right through and don’t get the full respect for the work that the creative staff added to the attraction.
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HARRY POTTER AND THE FORBIDDEN JOURNEY
- Ride Vehicle: Enchanted Benches (controlled via Kuka Arm technology)
- Opening Date: April 7th, 2016
- Duration: 4:06
- Height Restriction: Gotta be at least 48 inches
- Single Rider Line is available
When you walk into Islands of Adventure, you’ll be met with a giant castle in horizon…that’s Hogwarts Castle…and it’s where you’re heading to! Yes, it’s a scarier attraction (overall) than Gringotts, but you’ll be able to see the hidden nods to the book series all over the place! From the Defence of the Dark Arts to the Room of Requirement – it’s all there!
What should you look for? I LOVE the attention to detail on this attraction. You’ll come face to face with Dementors and so much more. Keep an eye on cameos from your favorite characters, because they’re all there!
Ok…so there’s actually two entries here. Let’s be more specific!
HOGWARTS EXPRESS PHOTO OPPORTUNITY IN HOGSMEADE
You’ll get a chance to get a photo with the conductor of Hogwarts Express in front of the train, and it’s definitely worth the wait.
THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS
You’re able to board the experience at both Kings Cross Station in London AND in Hogsmeade, and it’s completely recommended to do both ways because the experience is different each way. Oh and make sure to grab that photo going to Platform 9 3/4 on the London side.
Walking from park to park is a lot easier when you’re in an air conditioned train car while connecting the story between the two stations.
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OLLIVANDER’S WAND SHOP
Located in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, this is where the merchandise takes center stage. Young (and not-so-young) wizards get their opportunity to find a wand that matches their personality through this interactive shopping experience. Thinking about getting a wand? Why buy it at the airport when you can get it from the source;)
My tip – Diagon Alley is the best due to the lessons learned from the original location in Hogsmeade. Indoor queue, more theming and a shorter line will definitely be welcome when you’re dealing with the heat in Central Florida!
THE KNIGHT BUS
Just outside of Diagon Alley is parked the Knight Bus. I’m not going to spoil the conversation, but this is by far one of the most memorable things that you can do!
One of the biggest complaints that I hear is that there aren’t enough character interactions within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but this is a hidden gem because you never know where the conversation with the Bus Driver (and this shrunken head) will take you.
This is a given, but if you don’t know…Butterbeer has quite the following. I’m a huge fan of the drink itself, but also the instagram and social media love that you’ll find when you share under the #Butterbeer tag.
There are a few ways to enjoy the drink:
- Frozen Butterbeer
- Regular Butterbeer
- Hot Butterbeer
- Ice cream
Each of the infused food items have their pro’s and con’s, but personally…it’s all about the original regular or Frozen Butterbeer!
GRINGOTTS MONEY EXCHANGE
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When at Gringotts…stop by the money exchange where you can take your muggle dollars and change them into Gringotts bank notes.
This is a fun take on gift cards or traditional dollars that used to be available for purchase at most theme parks. The goblin will also answer any question that you pose of him – so be creative!
TRY ON A ROBE AT MADAM MALKIN’S
My favorite photo from a Harry Potter experience is me in a robe at the Universal Orlando airport store. Did I have an opportunity to take it in the park?
Absolutely…and I didn’t take advantage of it because I thought that we’d be back to that exact store later in the day and didn’t end up going back.
Always take your time, especially in this store. From robes to scarves to headbands to everything you could imagine…and the employees are definitely game to play dress up!
ps – Want the shirt? Get it here!
On the list of things that are true to the books, Honeydukes Candy Store is by far and away the best representation that you could have imagined. Not only did Universal create the location, they’ve also created all the merchandise true to form. Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs and so much more!
STOP AND WAIT FOR THE DRAGON
I have way too many photos of the Dragon not spitting fire…and only a handful of shots with fire!
Spend some time and realize that the image that you want that as a backdrop. If you see folks looking up, get ready for the show!
NIGHTTIME LIGHTS AT HOGWARTS CASTLE
This is a hidden gem because it’s still a new offering, but if you want to see amazing technology being utilized to grow the story of Hogwarts Castle, this is definitely for you!
Just make sure to check the schedule before you plan to see the show, because Universal still has some funky hours.
I hope that this list will help you explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando! I’ll continue to share more insider tips and details of the resort, because it’s really picking up steam in the Central Florida market and everyone wants to see ‘Harry Potter Land’