For true fans, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an absolute dream. Literally.
When I was younger and reading the books I would walk the streets of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in my imagination and I never believed I would be able to do that in real life.
So obviously I geeked out on my first trip to Harry Potter World!
This really is a bucket list trip for Harry Potter fans and I would recommend visiting as soon as you can. It can be intimidating to think about planning a trip here though because there is so much to see and do!
I’ve already written about my general tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida so here is my complete Harry Potter World Guide!
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How to Plan a Trip to Harry Potter World
Do Your Research
Just by reading this article (and I’m sure many others) you are ahead of the game! The things I would research beforehand are when there will be fewer crowds, what souvenirs or treats you want to buy, which rides are best, and how virtual lines work.
Youtube is a fantastic resource for planning your trip and I found this video about one day in Harry Potter World super helpful when planning my own trip. I know it’s a bit long but it’s full of great tips.
Choose the Right Time to Visit
If you are anything like me and you can’t stand crowds then this will make or break your trip. I hate waiting in long lines and not being efficient with my time so I want to visit when the least people will be there.
I’ll go over the best times to visit in a bit.
Plan Your Days Around Crowds
Just realized most of my tips center around staying away from lots of people… I’m not a mean person, I promise.
If at all possible get Early Access to the parks. This lets you in by 8am when the parks typically open at 9am.
The only way to get Early Access though is by booking a vacation package with a Universal partner hotel, staying at a Universal Studios Resort hotel, or if you have a Preferred or Premier Annual Pass.
If you can’t get early access, then get to the parking deck by 8:30am and get in as soon as you can. Hit the rides or attractions that are #1 on your list first and then eat lunch around 11 – 11:30am.
The crowds really swarm the park during the middle of the day so you’ll want to be prepared for that. If you can swing it I would get the Express Pass – you can read more about that in my general Universal Studios tips.
Express Passes are expensive but worth it (to me). A couple hours before the park closes the crowds will start to thin out again. If you missed anything at the beginning of the day you can go back and get in pretty easily now.
When to Visit Harry Potter World
Obviously the best times to visit are when kids are in school. You’ll want to avoid the months of June, July, and the first half of August.
Also avoid spring break which is typically in early/mid-April and Thanksgiving or Christmas break.
Another obvious thing – weekdays are better than weekends. If at all possible visit the parks on the weekdays.
The best months to visit Universal Studios Florida are September through December (skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas) and late January, February, and April (skipping spring break).
What to Do In Harry Potter World Guide
Here is the fun part! Get excited about all the fun things to see and do in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Rides of Diagon Alley
Escape From Gringotts – One of my favorites! We rode this one three different times. While you’re in line you get to walk through Gringotts Bank and you even see the goblins.
This is one of the best show/roller coaster combos in the park. You get to wear the 3D glasses and follow Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they find their way out of the vaults of Gringotts.
Ollivanders Wand Experience – There is always a super long line for this but I’ve heard it’s one of the coolest experiences in the park.
If you’ve ever dreamed of your very own wand choosing you then you’ll love this. In case you’ve already purchased a wand (or don’t want to), you don’t have to buy one if you’re selected.
Hogwarts Express – What an experience. The train looks exactly like it does in the movies. The benches on each side of the rooms will seat four people each but during COVID each party gets their own room.
The “window” is actually a TV screen that plays a short movie during your trip from one park to the other. The movie is different in both directions so be sure to take it both ways! You’ll have to have the park-to-park ticket if you want to ride this one.
The station here is Kings Cross Station from London. There is even a “trick” glass that makes it look like people are walking through the brick column to Platform 9 ¾.
Shops in Diagon Alley
I won’t go into too much detail on the shops because you really should just walk in all of them to see what’s there. You’ll find more shops in Diagon Alley than you will in Hogsmeade.
Definitely walk through Knockturn Alley and stop in Borgin and Burkes. Anyone who is a Slytherin will be happy here.
At the Gringotts Money Exchange, you can exchange your money for Gringotts bank notes to use throughout Harry Potter World.
At Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions there is a huge selection of clothes and accessories. This is also where you’ll find the cloaks and you can get things customized with embroidery.
Pick up stuffed animals at the Magical Menagerie or Quidditch gear at Quality Quidditch Supplies.
Fix your sweet tooth at Sugarplum’s Sweetshop and get all your practical jokes from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. There are all kinds of fun shops to explore!
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Rides of Hogsmeade
Harry’s Forbidden Journey – For this ride you sit with your feet dangling and the safety bars come over your head. You fly sideways through the Hogwarts Castle while you watch Harry fly around the castle on his broom.
If you have any issues with motion sickness, this ride may not be for you. One of the best parts though is walking through Hogwarts before you get on the ride. It’s so fun to see it come to life.
Flight of the Hippogriff – This was the first real roller coaster that we rode on our trip and while it isn’t a huge coaster, I thought it was tons of fun! You can actually take your bags on this one and they have a net that goes over your legs.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – If you ride anything in the park make it this one. This was one ride that I absolutely LOVED (even though it broke down on us the second time).
While you wait in line you walk by Hagrid’s hut and through what looks like an abandoned castle. Hagrid talks to you the whole time you are on the ride and it’s actually a pretty thrilling coaster. 10/10 would recommend.
Hogwarts Express – Here you’ll wait in Hogsmeade Station which has beautiful high vaulted ceilings. The wait at this station can get incredibly long so if you’ve already ridden the train I would skip it and walk between parks.
Shops in Hogsmeade
In Hogsmeade, Dervish and Banges is sort of a catch-all where you can find clothes, Quidditch supplies, and other wizarding items like Sneakoscopes.
In Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods you’ll find items “confiscated” by Filch. These will be clothes, Hogwarts memorabilia, and the like.
Honeydukes is the sweet shop here and then you’ll find the Owl Post where you can get stationary, journals, and even quills.
Watch a Show
There are stages in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade where you’ll find shows being performed at different times of the day. The performers are actually pretty good and while I’m not usually a show person, I loved this.
There are two different shows in each park. The two in Diagon Alley are Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees and The Tales of Beetle The Bard. The ones in Hogsmeade are the Frog Choir and the Triwizard Spirit Rally.
Eat at the Restaurants
I keep saying “you have to do this” so I hope you get the point that if you are a true fan you really have to do everything in Harry Potter World.
Eating at The Leaky Cauldron and the Three Broomsticks was honestly so cool. The Leaky Cauldron is in Diagon Alley and Three Broomsticks is in Hogsmeade of course. Have the app downloaded and you can order while you’re in line to be seated.
The Hog’s Head bar is attached to the Three Broomsticks where you can stop in for a beer if you want to test your chances. I wanted to try the Wizarding World beers – Hog’s Head Brew, Wizard’s Brew, and Dragon Scales – but I was too chicken to drink one before a coaster.
There are more options for drinks and snacks in Diagon Alley. If you want ice cream you can visit Florean Frotescue’s Ice Cream Parlor where they have Butterbeer ice cream and sticky toffee pudding ice cream.
You can also order drinks at The Hopping Pot and The Fountain of Fair Fortune. I got Butterbeer ice cream from The Hopping Pot and didn’t have to wait in line at Florean Fortescue’s – it gets long throughout the day.
Pro tip: You can order on the Universal app from The Hopping Pot and when they tell you it’s ready you walk right up to the registers and pick it up. No waiting in line.
While I was reading the Harry Potter books I would have given anything to be able to do magic. I mean ANYTHING. I was obsessed.
As we all know, you get older and more practical. I’ve grown into an old fuddy-dud. I refused to buy the interactive wand because it was $60. Yes, my inner child was disappointed.
My sister did buy one though and it was so cool to walk around and do magic! The wand comes with a map that shows you where the different spots are.
There are specific ways that you have to wave the wand and then it makes things move, lights, twinkle, or water flow depending on the place.
Things to Know Before Visiting Harry Potter World
I know this has been a long Harry Potter World Guide already, but here are my final tips for making the most of Harry Potter World. Again, you can find a few more tips in my tips for visiting Universal Studios post.
There’s More than Just the Rides
Obviously, there are so many more things to do than just the roller coasters. Don’t come in and ride the rides and be done with it.
Though the coasters are one of the best parts, they are only part of the experience. Eat in the restaurants, catch a show, and buy a wand so you can fulfill your witch or wizard dreams.
Buy Souvenirs Before You Go
The merchandise in the park is incredibly expensive. The only thing I bought was a chocolate frog and a Christmas ornament, but if you know you’ll be tempted to purchase a lot when you go then buy things ahead of time.
You can find all kinds of Harry Potter merchandise on Amazon for much cheaper than what you can buy in the park. This is a great way to save money as those costs add up quickly.
Ollivanders Isn’t the Only Wand Shop
If you want to buy a wand and the line to Ollivanders is out the door then no worries. Head to Wands by Gregorovitch, Borgin and Burkes, or the movable sales cart in Hogsmeade.
Try All the Butterbeer
Butterbeer is served multiple different ways and if you don’t like one then I highly recommend trying another. I tried the cold Butterbeer first and while the first few sips were great, it got too sweet for me very fast.
I then tried the frozen Butterbeer which was FANTASTIC and finally the ice cream which was also delicious. It is also served hot in the winter, as fudge, and as potted creme.
Diagon Alley is Hard to Spot
If you don’t know what you are looking for, Diagon Alley could be difficult to spot the first time you walk through Universal Studios Florida.
Walk towards the back of the park and you’ll come to King’s Cross Station on your left. You’ll see the Knight Bus ahead on your right and Diagon Alley will be directly across from it through two huge openings in a brick wall.
Outside of Diagon Alley where the Knight Bus is, you’ll also find Grimmauld Place. If you stay there for a bit and watch the windows you’ll find Kreature peaks out at the people walking by.
There Will Be Lots of People Wearing Cloaks
If you are debating wearing a cloak but worried that you’ll stick out, don’t even think about it. There are tons of people that wear cloaks so you will not be alone!
I didn’t just because they are expensive, but I thought it would be so neat to dress up and kind of play the part.
Speaking of what to wear – you’ll want to be sure you have the right shoes! Here is the list of the best shoes for theme parks!
Lines for the Hogwarts Express are Not Always Worth Waiting In
I think I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s worth mentioning again. If you have already been on the Hogwarts Express then I would not wait in a long line to ride again.
One of the best ways to get on quickly is to go when the park first opens. Early in the morning the line isn’t long and the ride itself is short so it won’t take up too much of your time. Then you can get in line for whatever other rides you would like.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Ride & Virtual Lines
When the park is at capacity, Hagrid’s roller coaster goes to a virtual line only. This is how it started out each day that we were there.
However, sometimes at the end of the day as people leave they will open the ride up and you can wait in line like normal.
Apparently, many people stop checking the virtual line status by the end of the day so they don’t realize that the line is open.
We got on the ride in maybe 30 minutes towards the end of the day and planned on hopping in line to ride a second time. That’s when it broke down on us though.
Harry Potter World Guide Final Thoughts
For Harry Potter fans, a visit to this park is a must. I would definitely recommend spending three days at Universal which gives you enough time to see other parts of the park as well.
Universal Studios is definitely one of the best theme parks in the US and shouldn’t be missed!
I loved everything about Harry Potter World – except maybe the crowds. Be sure to take a minute and soak everything in because it’s such a unique place and fun atmosphere.
And how often do you get to live out your childhood dreams?
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