Our primary objective for our trip to Orlando – see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. H and I were ready to feed our obsession – custom shirts from Etsy pre-ordered (hers even came from the UK). And with all the planning, stalking of the blogs, multi-day park-to-park passes – I’m still not sure we saw everything.
Two sections in two parks
The Wizarding World is divided up between Diagon Alley in Universal Studios, and Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure. Also important to note – these sections are on the “backsides” of the parks. So getting from one part to another requires park-to-park passes and either a ride on the Hogwarts Express or walking out of the park you are in and around and through the other park.
Hogwarts itself is in Islands of Adventure and in a way it sneaks up on you once you get off Hogwarts Express in Hogsmeade. I do wish that I had gotten the picture of my daughter when she first laid eyes on the castle.
There are three rides, four if you want to include the Hogwarts Express (which is a slightly different experience depending which direction you’re going).
Two rides are in Islands of Adventure – which is the Hogsmeade side of the Wizarding World.
Flight of the Hippogriff is a small roller coaster and worthy of the 10 minute wait we had each time. You’ll walk through decor of Hagrid’s Hut for a quick roller coaster ride that my daughter adored.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey became my favorite ride. Inside of Hogwarts is where you’ll walk through to get to this ride that’s part 3D and part roller-coasterish. You’ll hear other blogs telling you about the details inside the castle. I can only tell you about parts of it because each time we zipped through the line rather quickly (I genuinely don’t have any pictures we zipped through so quickly). If you can slow down and enjoy it – my son was impressed with at least one of the holograms inside – and he’s hard to impress. He also smiled and declared the ride awesome. My daughter apparently has a thing against dementors and declared herself over it. I thought she was kidding until the picture from the ride came through (sure enough she was covering her eyes)
Hogwarts Express can get you over to Diagon Alley for the other Harry Potter ride. Now the ride from Hogsmeade to King’s Cross is dementor free but the ride in the other direction not so much. Remember you are switching parks and will need to present your park pass.
You are riding an actual train but your experience is based on the screens as opposed to looking out actual windows. The wait experience is different in each station as well. King’s Cross offers some British based snacks (and I’m pretty sure I saw an adult beverage even) and fully covered wait line. Plus you get to walk through 9 3/4 (hint – have a member of your party hang back to try to take the picture – the effect isn’t the same up close)
We ended up riding three times eventually learning that when the wait time hit 40 minutes was probably better time spent walking around to the other park after having enjoyed traveling in both directions.
The last ride – the one that got a “must repeat” request for last day fun was Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Waits for this ride tended to be longer but worth it. Again you’ll see amazing details as you wait inside Gringotts bank. You’ll also have your photo taken during the wait – not during the ride. Extra hint – my tweens wanted individual pics of their own – so we asked on the second round and they were more than happy to take a group and their individual pics. Both kids declared this their favorite Harry Potter ride – I dislike snakes so Niagi’s appearance didn’t thrill me.
The interactive wands were discussed much prior to arrival. And almost purchased before – except everyone said the same thing “the wand chooses the wizard”. And in the Wizarding World at Ollivanders if you’re lucky you can be selected to have help with that. We ended up going through twice for Olivanders in Diagon Alley and managed to get two different experiences but never selected for wand selection.
So instead we selected our own. The shop walls are lined with box after box. There are two kinds – basic and interactive versions of character wands or more general wands of certain wood types.
spells. (Hint – if you’re coming back a second day – take a photo or two instead of dragging the map around)
Extra side hint – in Knockturn Alley – there are some backlights for a reason
I’m fairly certain we got all of the spells in both sections – somewhere definitely more entertaining than others… I think our favorite involved a skeleton in Knockturn Alley
There’s rumors of secret unmarked spots – we may have found one… asking around Ollivanders or one of the helpful witches or wizards may score you more:
Other Must Dos
It is amazing at every turn in both areas the stunning details. But a few extra surprises to try out and look for
– Dial the Ministry of Magic – outside of Diagon Alley is the bright red British phone booth
– Watch for Kreacher to peek out of the window at 12 Grimmauld Place. He looks around every couple of minutes.
– Visit the Knight Bus
Stand in line – chat with the driver and shrunken head (take video as our chat was pretty funny)
– Get Gringotts Bucks in the Money Exchange (Diagon Alley)
This was a little boring but we didn’t have a wait. The goblin is supposed to be responsive but he seemed off when we went though. FYI – don’t forget you have it or else you have a slightly expensive souvenir – and it can be used elsewhere in the park just like cash.
– Fire Breathing Dragon (Diagon Alley)
Sigh – I never once caught a picture. It is not on a set time and I only saw it once because we were in the shops or outside the view. Succeed where I failed.
– Check out the shops – including Knockturn Alley
The details in the shops are every bit as amazing as everything else to the books and brooms in Dervish and Banges to the talking mirror in Madam Malkin’s Robes.
– Send an Owl Post (Hogsmeade)
While the Hogwarts stamps are cool they are pricey (over a $1 each and you have to buy a full sheet). However you can buy the postcards and they will still stamp the Hogsmeade postmark on them for you to send later.
– Shows – we saw the Frog Choir (Hogsmeade) and Celestina Warbeck (Diagon Alley) only by chance – both were highly entertaining and gave a reason to pause our clamoring to next spot
– Shutterbuttons – (Diagon Alley) want pictures in robes without having to buy robes – want to have your own moving just like in the magical world? Prepare to a shell out a few extra bucks but I own pictures of me dueling wands with my kids – mommy nerd level fully achieved 🙂
– Nighttime Lights at Hogswarts
It truly is a very pretty site and I’m glad we went that way to see it. A couple things we learned. People crowd the area early but the lines for the rides go way down. And… well we didn’t time things quite right and were in line for Flight of the Hipporiff when it started. The view from the ride was actually amazing and they paused us as we were returning back so we could see more of the lights.
I didn’t get any pictures of the castle lit up but the whole area at night just feels a little extra magical.
And after all that I still feel like I didn’t cover everything. My advice to anyone going – go slow, enjoy all the details. And plan your next trip as soon as possible.