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Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips for Super Fans and Non-Fans

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You don't need to be a Harry Potter super fan (like me!) to enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My non-fan husband would be the first to admit this. He didn't read the books and he's not a big fan of the movies, but he enjoyed himself immensely at during our quest to experience all things Harry Potter during our trip to Universal Orlando. Meanwhile, my youngest son and I love Harry Potter books, Harry Potter movies and Harry Potter LEGO sets. We were both giddy with excitement about the chance to spend three days immersed in the land of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and Honeydukes. Here are six Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips to make the most of your visit, no matter where you land on the Harry Potter fan spectrum.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips for Super Fans and Non-Fans (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

The first glimpse of Hogwarts Castle will make the heart of any Harry Potter fan beat a little faster (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

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1. Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at both Universal Orlando parks.

If you want the full experience, visit both the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal's Islands of Adventure AND Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade started it all as the original Harry Potter land in 2010. It's home to Hagrid's Cottage, Honeydukes Sweet Shop, Three Broomsticks restaurant, Ollivander's, two Dragon Challenge roller coasters, the incredible Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey multi-sensory ride, as well as numerous Harry Potter-themed retail shops. For an affordable and fun souvenir, purchase a postcard and send it to yourself from the Hogsmeade Post Office. It will be stamped with a special Hogsmeade Owl Post postmark.

The highlight at Hogsmeade is Hogwarts Castle, in which houses the Forbidden Journey ride.  The (usually long) line for the Forbidden Journey ride ingeniously winds its way through the true-to-the-book interior of Hogwarts. You'll find the Gryffindor Common Room, the Room of Requirement, and Dumbledore's Office.

The newest addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter experience is Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, which opened in summer 2014. Diagon Alley is accessible from Hogsmeade via the new Hogwarts Express Train, leaving from Platform 9 3/4, of course. A ride on Hogwarts Express is included in a Park-to-Park ticket or Annual Pass. The exciting Hogwarts Express train offers two different stories for passengers, depending on where you take the train; King's Cross Station or Hogsmeade Station. Harry Potter characters make appearances, as do the scary Dementors. The train ride is designed for the entire family to enjoy, so it should be good for everyone in your party. You can also access Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley via the Universal Studios entrance, which is separated from the Islands of Adventure entrance by Universal CityWalk.

Diagon Alley features the new and incredibly popular Escape from Gringotts. This ride could be too intense for younger kids, as there are lots of multi-sensory 3D movements. Animatronic goblins speak to you, and there are armored trolls, fire-breathing dragons, and scary Lord Voldemort flying above. New as summer 2014, the line ups for this ride can be tremendous. Expect to wait two or more hours on busy days. Similar to Hogsmeade, there are plenty of shops to visit for your magic wand and souvenir needs.

Welcome to Hogsmeade! (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

Welcome to Hogsmeade! (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

2. Get a 2-Day Day Park-to-Park ticket.

The 2-Day Park-to-Park ticket provides the best bang for your buck, apart from an Annual Pass if you're a Florida resident. The Park-to-Park tickets grant full access to both Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands, passage on the Hogwarts Express, as well as all the other rides, attractions and shows at Universal Orlando (and there's a lot!). Buy your tickets online and print them out at home ahead of time. Then breeze through the entry windows without having to waste a moment in the queue. As a bonus, the 2-Day Park-to-Park includes a third day free option!

Consider purchasing Unlimited Express Tickets if you want quick access to the front of lines during crowded holiday periods. Keep in mind, however, the two most popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter ride attractions, Escape from Gringotts and the Forbidden Journey, along with the Hogwarts Express experience, do NOT offer express access.

All aboard the Hogwarts Express (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

All aboard the Hogwarts Express (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

3. Go early and prepare to walk…a lot.

The early bird gets the Butterbeer, so plan to arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of park opening time. Every attraction at Wizarding World of Harry Potter has long lines, including the Butterbeer kiosks. Make sure to wear good walking shoes because you'll be walking quite a bit. If visiting with young children, bring along a stroller. It can take several minutes to walk from the Universal Studio's parking lot to the park entrance, and another 15 minutes or so to the entrance of Hogsmeade, and then another five minutes to get to Hogwarts Castle and the line for the Forbidden Journey ride.

The quaint and book-perfect Hogsmeade Village, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando

The quaint and book-perfect Hogsmeade Village (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

4. Ride solo to cut wait times.

If visiting with older kids who are comfortable on rides, take advantage of the single rider line at the Forbidden Journey to cut down on wait times. Yes, you are visiting the theme park as a family and want to do things together, but you also wants to maximize your time within the park!

Honeydukes Sweet Shop, complete with Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and Lemon Drops, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando

Honeydukes Sweet Shop, complete with Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and Lemon Drops (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

5. Stay at an on-site hotel and purchase a Universal Orlando Vacation Package.

There are many benefits to staying at on-site and purchasing a Universal Orlando Vacation Package at one of the park hotel properties. You gain easy access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and other Universal attractions, no car required. Unlimited Express Passes are included and complimentary for each day of your visit (except if staying at the new Cabana Bay Hot). You can also enter the parks and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour prior to official opening time with Early Admission. Finally, you can make breakfast reservations at the Three Broomsticks or Leaky Cauldron, a perk not available to regular park attendees. There are variety of hotels around Universal Orlando, at a variety of price points. On the high side is the Loews Portofino Bay, whereas the more affordable Cabana Bay Beach Resort offers kitchenettes for families.

Sweet, delicious Butterbeer - try it both fresh and frozen at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando

Sweet, delicious Butterbeer – try it both fresh and frozen at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

6. Plan your meals.

Before leaving home make reservations at some of the restaurants near Universal Studios and Universal Island. Although there is no central reservations system for Universal restaurants, you can research surrounding restaurants online. A sit-down meal will give you a much-needed break. For the majority of restaurants that don't allow reservations, eat early (before 11 am) or late (after 2 pm), to avoid the lunch rush. The food at the Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron is British pub-style, and surprisingly decent. If you are a AAA member, bring your card and receive 10% discounts in participating restaurants.

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Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Do you have any questions about visiting this special section of Universal Studios and Universal Island? Let us know in the comments below!

About Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama

Claudia Laroye lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two sons (ages 18 and 20). She started travelling at a very young age, and has never stopped. She’s had the fortune of visiting more than 20 countries on four continents, and has also lived abroad in Sweden. Claudia is passionate about family travel and about educating children through the travel experience. She is the author of the thetravellingmom.ca, and contributes to many online and print media publications. Connect with Claudia on Twitter as @travelling_mom.

Comments

  1. Great tips! We are definitely hoping to go this year or next.

  2. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    I have always wanted to try one of those Butterbeers! What do they taste like – creme soda?

    • Claudia Laroye says:

      Colleen, butterbeer is a delicious, creamy elixir that tastes like creamy butterscotch heaven! The frozen version is even better than the regular cold one with the frothy foam on top.

    • Yolanda Dooley says:

      The butter beer is amazing, but I think the best was the butterbeer ice cream. It tasted like a really thick and creamy butterscotch soda

  3. Really great tips here. Appreciate the heads up with all the walking!

  4. We vote for frozen butterbeer! We tried both kinds and the pumpkin juice and if you can only choose one, that’s the way to go. We loved the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when we visited in 2013 and would love to return to see the newer attractions.

  5. Stephanie says:

    I wrote a similar post awhile back too but it was at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka, Japan. Just looking at your photos, I honestly didn’t think the two parks looked identically alike, but it looks like they actually do. Great tips you shared.

  6. Hi! Great tips! We are going next month. Do you recommend going two days or can you see everything in one day? We are only staying four days so I wasn’t sure how to plan. Thanks in advance.

  7. I just returned from Orlando and got to spend a day at Universal and visit Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. This super fan was so immersed in the Wizarding World, that I forgot about the parks other attractions! I tried butterbeer 3 ways: cold, frozen, and hot. They were all tasty, but the HOT is definitely my favorite! It was a warm, creamy, butterscotchy cup of magic! It was more like a latte than a cream soda drink. They offer a butterbeer ice cream, but I didn’t get a chance to try it. The pumpkin juice was so good that I have already made a batch at home from a recipe I found online. Fizzing whizzbies from Honeydukes were a hit with my whole family. It wasn’t too terribly crowded because it was the week before Christmas, and kids were still in school. I would recommend shopping for souvenirs in Hogsmeade because the shops in Diagon Alley stay packed with people. It was fun to buy wands in Ollivander’s but the same wands are available at various kiosks if you don’t want to fight the crowds. You gave some wonderful tips, I just wish I read them before we went! I cannot wait to go back someday!

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      Great tips, Melissa. We can’t wait to return either. Thanks very much for your comments!

  8. Mauren Kielius says:

    Yes, we were there last weekend during the Celebration of Harry Potter (we didn’t know a special event was going on) but it was terrific! Many of the cast members were there and everyone in costumes, it was great fun. Great tips from you and all the other comments. While I no longer have younger kids I just posted my tips for visiting from a Muggle perspective and what I found interesting. I look forward to following your blog.

  9. Professor McGonagall says:

    Thanks for the tips, and . . . it’s “queue,” not “cue.”

  10. I have read a few comments on how to do the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey ride, and I am confused. I am 49 and my dad is 71. We are going to Harry Potter Wizarding World together. I have read about the 2 lines for the ride (one is for solo riders) and that the line for solo riders goes faster. However, the person who posted that said the solo rider line bypasses all of the Hogwart’s rooms (ie Room of Requirement etc) and goes straight to the magical benches.

    Can you please clarify this? We want to see EVERYTHING the ride has to offer. So what line do we get in??

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      That’s great that you’ll be visiting WWHP together. If you want to see absolutely everything, line up in the regular line. If you want to do as many rides as possible, or as often as possible, and max your ride time, line up in the Solo Riders line, at least after the first ride. Cheers!

  11. Hi! We are looking at going for just one day – arriving as early as possible and staying late as necessary. We’d like to stay longer but our schedule just won’t allow for it. In that case, what kind of access would you recommend purchasing? A 2-Day pass seems excessive. The official website is really difficult to decipher – thank you for being a resource!

    • We went for just one day this past August 22nd and spent most of the day in the two sections of the WWHP (we also rode the Mummy and the Simpsons rides on our way out right before closing). We were at the gate to Universal Studios early and ready to go in at the normal opening time of 9:00AM (although they opened a little earlier that day, maybe around 8:45AM or so). We did all the rides and bought our wands at Olivander’s before lunch (with very short waits), had lunch at the Three Broomsticks then spent the rest of the day just shopping and enjoying the atmosphere in the WWHP. Finished our visit with dinner at the Leaky Cauldron. I honestly think that as long as you spend most of your time at the WWHP and arrive at the park opening, then one day is just fine to have the full WWHP experience.

      • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

        The early bird gets the rides, as they say! Glad that you enjoyed a wonderful time at WWHP!

  12. April Puskar says:

    Hi! I’m planning to go with my family this October. Very excited but we can only do one day and would like to go to both parks. Would love to ride the train to enter the other park as well. What do you recommend in terms of what types of ticket to purchase??

    Thank You!

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      Buy the one day ticket for WWHP, get there before opening, and shuttle between the two WWHP sections as you wish. Have a great time!

  13. Thanks for great tips on this. We have a one day park to park. Where’s the best way to start the Adventure Island or the studios park?

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      Hi Sara – It really depends on what you and your family want to do. If you love Harry Potter, you’ve got to begin the day at WWHP at Islands of Adventure. I could spend all day at WWHP myself, but you may want to split your time between there and Studios Park, again depending on the rides and shows you wan too see. No matter what you choose to do, arrive as early as possible so when the doors open, you’re there and ready to enjoy the park to the max. Have a great time!

  14. My husband and I are surprising my daughter at Christmas with a trip to Harry Potter World. I was going to buy the interactive wand to give to her at Christmas and we would bring it with us. Can you tell me if you think we should wait and buy the wand there? Is “buying” the wand there an experience in itself?

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      Hi Michele – What a wonderful surprise for your daughter! Choosing the wand at Ollivander’s in the park is a pretty special moment, so if she’s a big Harry Potter fan, I’d wait until you’re there. On the other hand, giving the wand ahead of time would really boost the anticipation and excitement for your trip. She could always choose another wand if she really wished to, or another great souvenir from the park. Stuffed Hedwig perhaps? 😉 Enjoy a wonderful trip!

  15. Im freaking out about this!! We are trying to go in December but disnt know there are two parks! We’re planning to go for one week. We know she wants to see hogwarts castle and ride the train and go to olivanders, what passes should we get? Its so confusing! Lol also,are their any harry potter theme hotel rooms?? Hahah

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      Hi Jessica, One week at WWHP should be just great. We spent three days there, immersed in all things HP and loved every minute. You won’t have a problem seeing everything you wish to in both parks with your daughter during your time. If you plan to see the rest of Universal Orlando, and also Disney, you need to determine your schedule and prioritize your time where you really want to go. The three day Universal park pass was perfect for us. I don’t recall any HP-themed hotel rooms, but hopefully that’s coming one day soon!! Have a fabulous visit.

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