Whit and I played hooky for a few days in mid-April and headed down to Universal Orlando for some fun in the Florida sun. We spent two days hopping between Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure and the third day at Volcano Bay Water Theme Park. At the top of our list was everything Harry Potter!
I will share a lot of tips and trips in this post, but fear not, I write full step-by-step itineraries for my clients as a complimentary service for Universal Orlando vacations!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The attractions for Wizarding World of Harry Potter span both parks, with Diagon Alley in Universal Orlando and Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure. To do everything, you will need the park-to-park ticket. And you will want to do everything! You will see a lot of kids and adults alike in robes and character inspired gear. There are plenty of places to buy these things in the park, but typically bring our robes from home.
Diagon Alley in Universal Orlando
We started one of our days in Diagon Alley and the other in Hogsmeade. I always recommend that my die hard clients start in Diagon Alley as it more closely follows Harry’s path in the book (you know we are dorks like that.)
Make a bee-lined for Diagon Alley on arrival. No matter how many times we’ve been, our jaws hit the floor when we step into London.
Be sure to visit the Knight Bus for a few minutes. It usually has just a few people waiting but no discernible queue. Just walk up and interact with the talking head.
I think the biggest WOW moment of the entire thing is when you make your way through the hidden brick walls into Diagon Alley. There aren’t any signs, that I can remember. You just have to know where to go. Or follow the hoards of people. :-) You will know she is about to breathe fire once you hear her growl.
Now, I know not everyone feels the same way, but if you are a Harry Potter fanatic, DEFINITELY wait in line for the wand experience at Ollivanders. (Some mornings they start a virtual queue) You can purchase the wand without doing this, and even at some carts in the streets, but we absolutely love the experience. Ask a cast member where to line up if it isn’t evident. You should see the line forming at the door across from the ice cream parlor. This is a wonderful, interactive experience and all four of us loved it.
Speaking of wands, it is worth it to purchase an interactive wand here at the shop. These special wands allow you to perform magic spells all through Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. They come with a map showing the locations but they are very easy to find. A favorite is the one that makes it rain!
Escape from Gringotts is a fantastic ride and our collective favorite not just among the Harry Potter attractions, but for the entire park! We rode it multiple times with the Express Pass with very little wait. The goblins are SO realistic in the queue that we let people pass us so we could watch them longer.
One of our favorite meals is lunch at Leaky Cauldron. We prefer it over Three Broomsticks, so if you can only do one do this one. That being said, I’d try to do both. :-) Both are quick serve so no reservations or advance planning needed.
I recommend the Ploughman’s Platter for two, washed down with a butterbeer or orange fizzy!
Butterbeer can be purchased throughout the Wizarding World of Harry Potter both in the two restaurants and in carts. We all love it best frozen. I feel like I should clarify that butterbeer is non-alcoholic. And it is amazing!
After lunch leave room for dessert at Florean Fortescue’s. My favorite is the chocolate chili but everyone loved their choices as well. The queue for ice cream was crazy every time we saw it on this trip! Much longer than for any attraction.
You will definitely want to pop in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. It is full of things the Weasley’s would love (gags, games, candy, etc.) and a fun little shop that all of my boys could explore for hours.
Last but not least, don’t miss Knockturn Alley, a dark area devoted to the Dark Arts.
On you way back to the Kings Cross Station, be sure to pop in the phone booth and dial the number on the phone. :-)
You will need to have the park-to-park ticket in order to ride the Hogwarts Express. And it is really a must do! You board in Diagon Alley at the Kings Cross Station and head to Platform 9 3/4. Be sure to hang back near this owl and let you family go ahead. You will see them disappear into the wall! It’s incredible. You can see video of it on my Dixie Travels Instagram Page in the Universal Stories. Note that the train experience is different in each direction so it is worth riding back the other way.
Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure
The train has you disembark at the Hogsmeade Station where the Harry Potter adventure continues!
Like Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade is just like stepping into the book. I marveled over the quirky roof lines and crooked chimney’s.
The newest addition to the Wizarding World is Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure and it is AMAZING! I’d argue it is one of the best theme park attractions out there at the moment. This is one you need to get to the park for bright and early, and I keep my clients up to date with the most current strategies for getting on this ride.
The other key attraction in Hogsmeade is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It is located in Hogwarts castle at the far end of Hogsmeade.
We’ve done the ride both with Express Pass and in the stand-by line to fully experience the queue. After evaluating both, I think doing Express Pass is fine. You still hit the highlights of the castle. By the way, this queue is the best of any I’ve seen. It takes you through so many parts of Hogwarts! The ride itself is a little intense with the screens and movement but definitely worth doing at least once.
Three Broomsticks is the other quick serve themed dining option. Here I recommend the Grand Feast. It is yummy and the atmosphere is great.
I still have not been on Flight of the Hippogriff, but it would be fun for younger kids!
There are more interactive wand experiences on this side of the park. While the kids do that, be sure to have as much butterbeer as humanly possible. :-)
And don’t forget to explore Honeydukes. This is my kids’ favorite shop. Whit and I carried home chocolate frogs and fudge flies for John and he was in heaven!
Let’s Travel & My Services
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