The Essential Guide To The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter At Universal Orlando

A few months ago we visited Universal Studios Hollywood in California to experience The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. We had such an incredible time in California that we added two days to explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando to a summer Disney World trip. And despite uncooperative weather, we had a great time seeing all that Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade had to offer.

The first thing to know is that there are two different theme parks at Universal Orlando – Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands Of Adventure. Each park contains part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. Diagon Alley is found at Universal Studios Florida, and Hogsmeade is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Check here for more tips and tricks for your visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Orlando.

Diagon Alley

Universal Studios Florida

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

Harry Potter fans will know that Diagon Alley is a wizard shopping area accessed via the Leaky Cauldron in London.

You enter Diagon Alley through an opening across the street from the Knight Bus and next to King’s Cross Station. When I walked into Diagon Alley the first time it took my breath away. Shops line the street and at the very end of the road is Gringotts Bank. This is where the iconic fire-breathing dragon is perched above the entrance to the bank. I had seen many pictures, but it was so different seeing it in person.

Diagon Alley Rides

Harry Potter And The Escape From Gringotts

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

  • Height requirement: 42 inches tall
  • The ride experience: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts combines 3-D screens and a mild roller coaster.  This ride makes you feel like you are speeding through the underbelly of Gringotts Bank running from Voldemort, dragons, and trolls. We all really enjoyed the ride, and I felt like it was less prone to cause motion sickness than The Forbidden Journey.
  • Important notes:
    • In late summer 2017 Express Pass was added to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This means those who are staying at certain resorts or who pay for Express Pass can skip the stand-by line.
    • If you don’t have Express Pass you can either choose to wait in the traditional or single rider line. As usual, the single rider line allows you to access the ride more quickly, but your party may be separated. We decided to do the traditional line so we could go together. The wait time was marked at 60 minutes, but ended up being slightly longer. The outdoor queue area was quite boring with basic zig-zagging lines. However, once you enter into the lobby of the bank there is so much to see. We loved how lifelike the goblin bankers were as they worked or even spoke to the crowd.
    • Another important note is you can not bring a bag onto the ride. You need to use the lockers located in an area to the right of the the ride. Just like our experience in Hollywood, the locker area was chaos. The lockers are surprisingly complicated, so be sure to check out my step-by-step guide to using the lockers at the Wizarding World.

The Hogwarts Express

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

  • Height requirement: None
  • Ride Experience: This ride takes you from King’s Cross Station at Universal Studios Florida and brings you to the Hogsmeade Station at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. What you see differs depending on which station you depart from. They use screens instead of windows to show the passing countryside and arrival at Hogwarts. On the reverse trip you see entertaining silliness thanks  to Fred and George Weasley before arriving in London. During your train trip you can hear and see shadows of things outside your train compartment. It was really cool!
  • Important Notes:
    • To board the Hogwarts Express you must have a Park-to-Park pass which allows entry into both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure on the same day. Before allowing you to enter the queue you must scan your pass and provide your fingerprint like you would for entering the park.
    • You will likely be seated with another group in your train compartment if you are a smaller group.
    • Learn from my mistake! We tried to ride to Hogsmeade and back near closing time of Universal’s Island of Adventure. The staff at Universal Studios Florida (King’s Cross) said we should make it there and back no problem. We arrived right at 8pm (closing time for Islands of Adventure) and tried to rejoin the queue at 8:01pm. The staff turned us away. So we ended up having to exit the park. By the time we made our way fully out of Islands of Adventure it was so late we could not go back to Universal Studios Florida.

Diagon Alley Noteworthy Shops

Gringotts Money Exchange

Here you will find an animatronic goblin (similar to the ones in the queue of Escape From Gringotts) that will explain wizard money to you. It was fun to see how lifelike the goblin was and get a refresher course on how many sickles to a galleon, etc.

You may turn your muggle money into paper wizard money that can be used within Diagon Alley, but we chose not to convert our money.

Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions

This shop had a large selection of Hogwarts house robes, costumes and accessories. This is the shop where Elizabeth got her Gryffindor robe and matching headband. Make sure to see how you look in the antique mirror – it talks!

Ollivander’s

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

Here you can see a wand choose a wizard in this short interactive show. One person from each group is chosen to have a wand fitting. Just like at Universal Hollywood the Ollivander’s staff really makes this a fun experience. After watching the fitting you will be ushered into the shop where your wand may choose you.

Important notes: Elizabeth’s wand from Universal Hollywood did work on the windows in Orlando, but we did not have proper maps for Diagon Alley or this Hogsmeade. We walked around Diagon Alley looking for the bronze medallions set in the ground to find spots to perform magic (which was still fun), but I’m sure we missed some. I later caved and bought a second interactive wand so we could do all of the “magic”.

Make sure you take a wrong turn down Knockturn Alley to find some spots to perform magic in this dark wizard haven.

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes

Find some of Fred and George’s popular creations in this shop including Pygmy Puffs and Skiving Snackboxes among other items.

Diagon Alley Food

Leaky Cauldron

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

Just like the books suggest this wizard dive bar provides a decent meal in a none too fancy setting. Long tables line the main hall and it’s fun to look for wanted posters of Sirius Black during your meal. Make sure you notice the actual leaky cauldron in the fireplace, too!

You order and pay at a cashier who will give you a table number. Take this number to the seating area and staff will direct you to a table. Your food will be brought out to you when it is ready.

My mom and I had cottage pie (which I thought was pretty darn good). I had called ahead to discuss food options since Elizabeth has food allergies. Unfortunately, the information provided over the phone was not the most up to date. The counter staff and on-site chef worked with us to find suitable solutions. Elizabeth ended up with a modified chicken sandwich and mashed potatoes. Unlike our experience at Universal Studios Hollywood the staff in Orlando was happy to make substitutions to accommodate her food allergy.

Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour

You may remember Harry spending a lot of time at this Diagon Alley ice cream spot before school started (again in The Prisoner of Azkaban). Now is your chance to have some soft-serve or hard pack ice cream on a hot day. Or in my case, any day is a good day for ice cream.

The Fountain of Fair Fortune

This shop sells non-alcoholic wizarding drinks such as Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice and Otter Fizzy Orange Juice.

The Hopping Pot

The Hopping Pot is a walk up kiosk offering both alcoholic and non-alcoholic wizard beverages and some snacks.

Other Things To See Near Diagon Alley

The Knight Bus

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

Before you even enter into Diagon Alley you can see the Knight Bus which provides safe transport to wizards in need. In fact, it transported Harry to Diagon Alley in The Prisoner of Azkaban. You can admire the garish purple bus from afar or wait to speak to Stan, the conductor of the Knight Bus. We, of course, waited to see Stan.

Stan (and the shrunken head inside the bus) asked Elizabeth about being such a young witch. They inquired how many people she had turned into toads so far. When she replied none, Stan and the shrunken head decided she must like to turn people into pigeons instead. They kept asking if pigeons around us were people she had turned. This made us all giggle.

Hogsmeade

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

Those of you familiar with the books or movies will know this is the quaint little town located near Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I love walking into Hogsmeade with its snow covered roofs and quaint shops. It is fun to imagine Harry, Ron and Hermione wandering through the town on weekend visits.

Hogsmeade Rides

Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

  • Height Requirement: 48 inches tall
  • Ride Experience:
  • Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey is a ride that takes you flying around the Hogwarts’ grounds. This ride mixes 3D screens, animatronics and a unique hydraulic arm to move you through the ride track. You will encounter Aragog and his spider family, many large dementors, the Whomping Willow and more on this ride.
  • Important Notes:
    • If you are prone to motion sickness this ride may make you feel green. I am moderately sensitive, but was okay after my first ride. A second ride would have likely done me in.
    • This ride has an Express Pass line so you may skip the line.
    • Again this ride requires you to store your bag in a locker. The locker system can be quite stressful if you aren’t prepared. You will find the lockers off to the right side when you enter Hogwarts to join the ride queue. The lockers are surprisingly complicated, so be sure to check out my step-by-step guide to using the lockers at the Wizarding World.

Flight Of The Hippogriff

  • Height Requirement: 36 inches tall
  • Ride experience: This is a small family friendly roller coaster located in Hogsmeade.
  • Important Notes:
    • Although fun, the ride itself is quite short. I would not recommend waiting in a long line for Flight Of The Hippogriff. It does have an Express Pass line which will allow you to skip the line.

The Hogwarts Express

  • Height requirement: None
  • Ride Experience: This ride takes you from the Hogsmeade Station at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and brings you to King’s Cross Station at Universal Studios Florida. What you see differs depending on which station you depart from.  Therefore it is ideal to take the train from each station at least once.
  • Important Notes:
    • To board the Hogwarts Express you must have a Park-to-Park pass which allows entry into both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure on the same day. Before allowing you to enter the queue you must scan your pass and provide your fingerprint like you would for entering the park
    • You will likely be seated with another group in your train compartment if you are a smaller group.

Hogsmeade Noteworthy Shops

Honeydukes

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

This sweet shop is heavily featured in the Harry Potter books and movies. Get your fill of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs or Exploding Bon Bons inside this colorful candy store.

Ollivander’s

If you are starting your trip by visiting Hogsmeade or didn’t get a chance to purchase your wand in Diagon Alley stop by the Ollivander’s in Hogsmeade. Here you can expect the same brief interactive wand fitting and then choose from dozens of wands.

Hogsmeade Food

Hog’s Head Pub

Located next door to Three Broomsticks, Hog’s Head Pub can provide you some Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice or even beer, wine or specialty drinks while you explore Hogsmeade.

Three Broomsticks

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide.

This restaurant is a quick service type atmosphere. You place your order with a cashier and are then told to wait by a numbered pick up window. Once you have your order you are directed to an open table by staff. The staff was helpful in answering my questions regarding Elizabeth’s food allergy and made a substitution to accommodate the allergy.

Elizabeth and I were able to share a rotisserie smoked chicken entree. This entree provided a full half chicken for our meal plus two sides. My mom opted for a healthy chicken salad which was large enough she shared some with me and was still stuffed.

We really enjoyed our meal at Three Broomsticks. The quality of food was good and the portions were generous enough to make sharing possible.

Final Thoughts

We absolutely loved our time in The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. The ability to immerse yourself in the wizard world experience is so much fun for those who are big fans of the Harry Potter books. Even if you are not the biggest Harry Potter fan the attention to detail and beauty of both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade will still entertain you.

Here are even more tips and tricks for visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando! Enjoy!

We stayed at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel when visiting Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. Read my complete review of the property here.

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Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide. #wwhp #harrypotterorlando #universalorlando #wizardingworldofharrypotter

Are you planning a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? What to see, eat and ride are all found in this essential guide. #wwhp #harrypotterorlando #universalorlando #wizardingworldofharrypotter

3 comments

  1. I struggled with motion sickness on Forbidden Journey, but the view of the inside of the castle is worth waiting in line with the rest of our group. There is a nice child swap/sicky area to wait for the others to finish.

    I did not have trouble on Escape From Gringotts. I made sure not to ride back to back just to be safe.

  2. I loved the HP books and how cool to see it all come alive. I would probably need to re-read the books I forget the story! I want to do this book as a read aloud with the kids. Might be a good project for the winter. Then we can go visit this attraction!

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