“Experiencing the BEST of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter”
The best way to do Harry Potter at Universal Orlando
In 2014, when Diagon Alley opened in Universal Studios Orlando, things for Potterheads changed. No longer were they only able to imagine themselves walking through Hogsmeade, sipping a Butterbeer or popping into the Leaky Cauldron for some fish & chips but the opening made dreams a reality and a young muggle could experience it all first hand. Universal Orlando became a multi-day destination over night.
Because we understand it may be your first trip or maybe you are wanting to make sure you haven’t missed anything, we thought we would share our “best tips” with you for visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There is a Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both Universal Hollywood and Universal Orlando. The one at Universal Orlando is in both parks and has more attractions and so we will focus on that in this Harry Potter must do plan. Because as Dumbledore advised, “It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
“Yer a wizard”..
Every wizard needs the best supplies and tools in order to be successful at Hogwarts. So, once in Universal Studios, head toward London to find the “secret” entrance to Diagon Alley. Don’t forget though, look in at Number 12 Grimmauld Place. Once you’re standing in front of the door of Grimmauld Place, look up at the window and wait a moment. Once you’ve seen the watcher head to the entrance of Diagon Alley. Thankfully, you won’t need to know any special spells to get the bricks to move.
Safest Place in the World
If you’re going to be purchasing supplies for school, then you will want to go to Gringott’s to get some wizarding money. The Escape from Gringott’s is a ride that takes you down into the vaults of Gringott’s. Afterwards, if you’re happy with how safe Gringott’s is (or even if you’re not) head over to the Gringott’s Money Exchange. Here you can exchange muggle money for wizarding money, should you want to.
As you walk through Diagon Alley be sure and check the show times (on the Universal app) and see if there will be any shows during your time at Diagon Alley. Our personal favorite is the story of the Deathly Hollows. But really any of them are great! The shows, Celestina and the Banshees and Tales of Beedle the Bard typically run hourly. But times can certainly change. So be sure and check the app.
If the show time is soon you might head over to The Fountain of Fair Fortune (on the other side of Gringott’s) and get a Butterbeer to enjoy while the show goes on! While there IS a Butterbeer location next to the stage, the line does tend to get extremely long. Especially close to show time. The Fountain of Fair Fortune also has specially brewed beers that you can only get within Diagon Alley (and Hogsmeade) if you’d rather have something stronger.
Another favorite is to get a bottle of gillywater and the elixir add ins that allow you to create your own “potion”.
The shops around Diagon Alley are unique and fun! Weasley’s Wizarding Weezes is the place to go to get a skivving snackbox, a large ear to “help you hear” or a pygmy puff. Be sure and look up. You can always see the fireworks brightening the night sky from within the store. If you’re needing a new magical creature for school, you can go to the Magical Menagerie. Also, don’t forget to stop in Ollivander’s to get your wand! You can choose on your own, or participate in a wand choosing ceremony. *please note that selection for the ceremony is random, so prepare young hearts that they may not get chosen* IF the youngest among you are not chosen and are sad, no worries! There are trained wizards working in Ollivander’s ready to help you find the wand that BEST suits every young wizard. All you need do is ask.
Red hair, hand me down robes?
Time to update your robes or maybe it’s time to get the new wizard their robes! Then you will want to go into Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. They even offer embroidery in the store! If you do not need new robes, still go in and stand in front of the mirror for fashion advice. Be warned, she’s rather blunt. You can also purchase the house team scarves and the Molly Weasley specially knitted lettered jumpers (or sweaters as they are known in America).
You can also purchase the Hermionie’s Yule Ball dress while there.
Hagrid said Knockturn Alley isn’t a place to go skulkin’ around, but we beg to differ. There are some wickedly fun places to check out. Borgin & Burkes is the best store for the dark wizards among us. Be sure and look for the vanishing cabinet. Sometimes you can even hear a bird. While in Knockturn Alley, this is a great time to work on your spells. If you have an interactive wand, there is a map of the spell locations in the box. If you no longer have the map, then you can still find the spell locations by simply wondering around Knockturn Alley and the rest of Diagon Alley and look for the little metal emblem’s on the ground. Our personal favorite spell location is on the opposite side of the alley from the “skeleton”. It involves a doorknob! Don’t miss it.
Once you’ve finished casting spells around Diagon Alley and you have purchased your supplies, if you’re hungry you may want to pop into The Leaky Cauldron for some fish & chips or maybe bangers & mash. Be careful when walking under the sign though! It is true to it’s name..the cauldron DOES leak.
“Curiosity is not a sin…. But we should exercise caution with our curiosity… yes, indeed.” — Albus Dumbledore
Once you’ve finished in Diagon Alley, head to Kings Cross Station. Before you do so, stop by the Knight Bus and have a chat with Stan Shunpike and the shrunken head. You can also walk along the backside of the bus and take a peak inside. It’s good to know what your options are, should you ever become stranded!
Also! Stop by the London phonebooth and dial in M-A-G-I-C (62442) to check that all is well with the Ministry of Magic before leaving London.
In Kings Cross you will walk through the wall at Platform 9 3/4 like many wizards have before you (have your camera’s ready) and then board the Hogwarts Express.
Hogwarts is my home..
As you emerge from the train station of Hogsmeade, you will walk through the entrance to Hogsmeade. We like to head straight to Hogwarts. Just like Harry does. But there is no need to stress if you haven’t read Hogwart’s: a History. You will still enjoy your time while in the castle and see many things that surprise you. The house-team colors, The Mirror of Erirsed, entrance to Dumbledore’s office and even the Fat Lady (she really does like to sing) are all on your way as you journey to your broomstick (seat) to fly with Harry & Ron. If you are not taking the “express” route, you will also walk through the greenhouse and can see just how cute (maybe slightly ugly) the Mandrake’s are. Have a smaller wizard that doesn’t quite meet the height requirement? No problem! They can still “wander” through the castle with you and hang out in the “child swap” room with one of your party as the others ride, then swap.
All Hands on Deck…
There are a few places to get Butterbeer in Hogsmeade. The cart closest to Hogwarts, the cart close to Honeydukes (insider tip: there are TWO sides to this cart, and the side closest to the 3 Broomsticks is most times shorter) or inside Hogs Breathe Bar close to 3 Broomsticks. Hogs Breathe Bar does offer the unique to the Wizarding World brew’s in addition to the traditional ButterBeer’s.
The Three Broomsticks is great if you didn’t get to get lunch while in Diagon Alley. When in the Three Broomsticks, look for the staircase that goes to no where (at the ceiling) and you can see the house elves shadows scurrying along, tackling the tasks of the day.
The food in the Three Broomsticks is your typical British pub food. But it is a favorite of ours. The Three Broomsticks does offer outside seating, if you would like to do so and you can gaze at Hogwarts and drink your Butterbeer and maybe think about that next potions assignment.
ALSO! Don’t forget to head into the lavatory while in Hogsmeade. Moaning Myrtle is up to her old tricks and you can hear her throughout the bathroom.
“I’ve always wanted to use that spell..”
Is there a specific spell you’ve always wanted to try? In Hogsmeade, like in Diagon Alley, you can practice your spell casting (with an interactive wand). There are 9 official spell locations around Hogsmeade. A few favorites are: Spintwitches Spell: Wingardium Leviosa, Tomes and Scrolls Spell: Alohomora, Dervish and Banges Spells: Locomotor and Arresto Momentum.
If you need to write home, and avoid getting a howler, be sure and stop by the Owl Post. They can even postmark it “Hogsmeade” you know..to show your loved ones that you are indeed at school.
Don’t forget while in Hogsmeade to ride The Flight of the Hippogriff and Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure. On Hagrid’s motorbike you will learn about the magical creatures that Hagrid works with. While in the queue for Hagrid’s motorbike, be sure and look for the Tri-Wizard golden dragon egg! There are many other “magical” things to see on the ride, but we won’t spoil them for you.
Once you’ve cast all the spells, ridden all the rides and drank all the Butterbeer, be sure and stop by Honeydukes on your way out of Hogsmeade. The cauldron cakes are really yummy, and VERY sweet.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is truly magical. You could spend a couple days there if you truly wanted to experience every single piece. If time is limited, we recommend reading through our tips and recommendations, decide which attractions are of highest interest to your traveling party, focus on those and always (always) plan time to come back. We hope this Harry Potter Itinerary is helpful.