One of Universal Orlando’s biggest draws is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – and for good reason. The incredibly detailed areas within Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure truly take guests directly into the lands and stories from the Harry Potter franchise. If you are a fan of the books or movies, your trip to Orlando would not be complete without a visit! In order to make the most of your valuable time in the parks, this guide will give you all the information you need on what the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has to offer!
The Land Layout – Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade
The first thing you need to know about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is that it’s split between both of Universal’s parks – Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. This means that in order to visit both in a single day, you have to purchase Universal’s two parks per day ticket. A big perk of getting the “hopper” ticket, aside from being able to spend time in both parks, is that you will be able to ride the Hogwarts Express train, which serves both as an attraction and means of travel to quickly transport you between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. The story on the ride is different depending on the side you board (whether from platform 9 and ¾ when moving from Universal Studios and Diagon Alley to Islands of Adventure and Hogsmeade).
Universal Studios Side – Diagon Alley
Diagon Alley perfectly fits into the theme of the rest of Universal by hiding in plain sight in the London area at the back of the park. To get there, you can head left after you enter the park to travel through New York and San Francisco, or head right and travel through the Simpsons area before crossing the bridge through the central lake. Either way, to get into Diagon Alley, you will, of course, have to find the secret entrance through the brick wall behind the Leaky Cauldron. As you wind behind the bricks and into the magical world, you will enter Diagon Alley! The Alley features multiple wizard shops, including the Weasley’s joke shop, Ollivander’s wand shop, and the infamous Gringotts Bank. Perched atop the bank is a dragon which periodically breaths fire, offering an excellent photo opportunity for visitors. Before the fire goes off, you should hear auditory cues from the dragon which mean its time to get the cameras ready!
Attractions and Shows
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is located inside the bank itself, allowing for an amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with an iconic part of the books and films. The ride is a heavily themed roller coaster that follows Harry and his friends as they escape from the bank after its defenses are set off against them. It includes 3D screens, effects, and varied movements which make the ride exciting. Overall, though it features a short drop and small launch, it is not intense enough to dissuade most visitors from riding. Before you hop on the ride, you’ll need to put any larger items or bags into a locker.
Shows include Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, who put on an interesting musical performance, and the Tales of Beedle and Bard, a puppet show which tells a unique folk story. Both are performed on the stage located in the back right corner of the area.
Additional points of interest include Ollivander’s, where you can purchase your own magical wand, an ice cream shop which features multiple unique flavors, and the Leaky Cauldron restaurant if you’re looking for more substantial food. Knockturn Alley is an additional area of interest in Diagon Alley, located off to the left side of the land. It, like in the books and films, features dark and creepy scenery and lots of spots to use your wand to practice spells.
Islands of Adventure – Hogsmeade
The Hogsmeade area of the park contains elements of both the town of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts itself. The highlight is the large icon of the area, Hogwarts Castle, which features an indoor ride called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The Hogsmeade area features the Three Broomsticks restaurant, a candy shop, and the Hogwarts Express train, where you can get a picture with its conductor.
Attractions and Shows
The highlight of the area is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a fast moving roller coaster that flies you through the Forbidden Forest atop an enchanted motorcycle. You will either sit atop the motorcycle or in its sidecar as you zip around the track, past all sorts of interesting creatures and animatronics. The ride features multiple launches to keep you moving at high speeds throughout the entire duration of the attraction. It also contains a couple of surprises!
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey combines elements of screen storytelling, physical sets, and simulator movements to create a unique experience that puts you in the shoes of the Harry Potter heroes. It’s a must do for everyone who meets he height requirement, though it is a bit scary due to the dragons, spiders, and dementors encountered.
The Flight of the Hippogriff is the final ride in the area, which is a small roller coaster aimed at children.
The area’s only show is the Triwizard Spirit Rally, set to the time of the Triwizard Tournament from the Goblet of Fire. Students from each of the participating schools try to hype up their athletes and fans on the stage near the castle.
General Tips to Enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Use Your Wand – Each wand purchased has the power to activate all sorts of interesting effects within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These stations are set up throughout the lands, so be sure to keep an eye out for where you can cast your spells. Even if you don’t want to spend the money to purchase a wand, you can loiter around the spell stations to watch others cast their charms and activate the effects.
The famous Harry Potter drink comes in three (or four) different varieties – Frozen, Cold, and Hot. The fourth is Butterbeer flavored ice cream, located at the Three Broomsticks, which isn’t quite the same since it’s not straight Butterbeer. Each version is a little different, though the flavor stays the same. If you have a larger family, it’s worth getting one of each so you can try out all the flavors! Note that the hot butterbeer is seasonally limited, and only available inside restaurants. It is, however, the best version!
* Explore Each Area to its Fullest
Certain spots have intricate details that only true potter fans will recognize, while others lean on big moments from the books and films that more casual fans will know. For example, the women’s restroom in Hogsmeade features the sounds of Moaning Myrtle. Outside of the entrance to Diagon Alley, you can catch Kreacher (the Black’s House Elf) periodically peeking out the window. A couple of very exclusive details/secrets are dialing 62442 (“Magic”) in the phone booth for a special surprise, and paying attention during the train trip from Hogsmeade to King’s Cross station to catch Voldemort in the window of Malfoy Manor. There are also tons of great photo spots scattered all over the place, including the Knight Bus outside of Diagon Alley. Take your time to truly see and do everything!
* Arrive Early
Getting to the parks before most other guests start filing in later in the day can be a huge benefit. Since the Harry Potter areas and attractions are extremely popular, they are sure to have long lines later in the day, and they peak in the early afternoon. If you are able to get to the park early, you can beat everyone to it, and be first in line for the rides you want!
* Park Hours Change
For the most part, the Universal Studios side of the park (Diagon Alley) stays open longer than the Islands of Adventure side (Hogsmeade), though this can change based on events happening throughout the year. Be sure to check when the parks are open at the time of year you plan to visit.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios has tons of intricate detail, multiple exciting rides, and interactive opportunities to use your magical wands just like Harry Potter. Adults and children alike are sure to love the entire area! Be sure to allot tons of time to explore, since there’s so much to see and do on each side of the Wizarding World. If you only have one day, you will need the two parks per day ticket, and can take the Hogwarts Express between the lands. If you have more time, and therefore more time to explore the rest of Universal too, it’s best to get at tickets for at least two days.