If you’re confused about how to plan a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida, for your first visit, this comprehensive guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter provides both clarity and LOTS of expert tips for muggles to have the most magical experience.
You’re probably wondering, “What do I need to know before going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?” And the answer, honestly, is a lot of things, especially if you want to have the most efficient and effective experience.
This post teaches you exactly how to do the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, based on my comprehensive research and personal experience.
This post is so jam-packed with information that I can almost guarantee you’ll thank me later. Your Harry Potter theme park trip truly is one of those things that is experienced best when properly planned. And lucky for you, travel planning is my specialty.
Let’s talk all about Harry Potter’s Wizarding World!
Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida
@theliterarylifestyle This is your guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in one minute… Let’s go! #harrypotter #harrypottertiktok #harrypotteredit #harrypottertok #wizardingworld #wizardingworldofharrypotter #wizardingworldorlando #diagonalley #hogsmeade #hogwarts #hogwartsexpresstrain #hogwartsexperess ♬ Harry Potter – The Intermezzo Orchestra
This guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter begins with an overview of how it’s set up (in two different Universal Studios parks), a comparison of both parks, how to get early admission and where to stay (an absolute game changer), and the best time to visit.
Then, learn even more tips for visiting Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter (trust me, you won’t want to miss them).
Lastly, get some quick answers to frequently asked questions about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Read this post as carefully as Hermione Granger would, as there is a lot to learn in this guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
Overview of the Orlando Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Orlando, Florida, Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located in Universal Studios (not Walt Disney World).
Universal Studios is a vast property that includes three theme parks:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is set up as two “towns” located in two of the three Universal theme parks:
Additionally, the Hogwarts Express train is a ride that runs between the two Harry Potter theme parks for those with a “Park to Park” ticket.
(Otherwise, you need to either visit only one park (and one Harry Potter town) or buy separate tickets for each park and walk back and forth.)
Tip: I definitely recommend buying the Park to Park ticket because it saves the time and energy of walking between the parks, and it’s fun to ride the Hogwarts Express!
(Of note, the third Universal Studios park, Volcano Bay, is a water park, and it does NOT contain any Harry Potter amusements.)
Let’s talk about what Harry Potter rides and attractions are in each park.
Guide to the Harry Potter Rides in Diagon Alley
There is a VERY non-descript entrance right next to King’s Cross train station, where the Hogwarts Express train is located. (Don’t miss it!)
Once you enter, this non-descript entrance, find yourself immersed in Diagon Alley!
Diagon Alley has one ride: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (minimum height requirement is 42″). It is located in the building containing the large fire-breathing dragon, so you can’t miss it.
It’s a fairly mild thrill ride in which you sit in a large cart with a group of people wearing 3D glasses and move around a track as you experience 3D and 4D audiovisuals with characters from Harry Potter, as you travel underground and try to break free out of Gringott’s Bank.
Diagon’s Alley also contains Ollivanders Wand Shop, where you can buy an interactive wand to cast little spells around both Diagon Alley and Hosgmeade. For example, if you wave the wand in a shop window, characters will move, spit out water, etc. Kids especially love it!
Another fun attraction in Diagon Alley is Gringotts Money Exchange, in which you can exchange U.S. dollars for Gringotts bank notes and use them like gift certificates in Diagon Alley.
If you’re looking to eat in Diagon Alley, The Leaky Cauldron is the main restaurant where you can dine casually on traditional British breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including things like bangers and mash and fish and chips.
Another popular food shop is Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, for Butterbeer flavored ice cream and more.
There are also a few drink and food stands sprinkled throughout Diagon Alley.
Guide to the Harry Potter Rides in Hogsmeade
There are three rides in Hogsmeade:
First, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is seemingly the most popular ride, as it tends to have the longest line (minimum height requirement is 48″). Climb aboard a motorbike and ride with Hagrid through the Forbidden Forest on an extremely fast and thrilling ride filled with twists, turns, and jaw-dropping surprises along the way that are unlike ANY other roller coaster — trust me!
Second, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a motion simulation 3D/4D ride through Hogwarts castle (minimum height requirement is 48″). Both the castle and the ride are extremely impressive in person. As you approach the ride, you will walk through the halls of Hogwarts containing lots of magic to see along the way, and then, on the ride itself, you will experience lots of incredibly immersive flight simulation around the castle, plus so much more.
Lastly, the Flight of the Hippogriff is a smaller, family-friendly roller coaster (minimum height requirement is 36″) taking you through Hagrid’s pumpkin patch, toward his hut.
Beyond rides, Hogsmeade contains another Ollivanders Wand Shop, where you can buy an interactive wand to cast little spells around both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. It’s generally quite crowded there with a line to get inside!
If you’re looking to eat in Hogsmeade, there is one restaurant, the Three Broomsticks, a tavern with British food including the popular turkey legs and corn, along with other British staples. It’s based on the spot where Harry Potter first tasted Butterbeer.
Next door (and adjoining the restaurant), you can grab a drink to-go at the Hog’s Head, from an alcoholic beverage to a non-alcoholic Butterbeer, of course. I also tested Pumpkin Juice, which is a refreshing, herbaceous, non-alcoholic mix of pumpkin puree, apple cider, and spices. It was yummy!
Hogsmeade also has great shopping, including Honeyduke’s candy shop, where you can buy Butterbeer fudge and lots of themed candy; and the Owl Post, where you can mail letters with a Hogsmeade postmark.
There’s also a small stage with themed entertainment, as well as a light show projected onto the castle at night.
Hogsmeade vs. Diagon Alley
Now that you know all about both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, let’s compare them.
As far as rides go, Hogsmeade easily wins. Its rides are some of the most impressive anywhere.
As far as food and shopping go, both are about equal. Each has one restaurant and several fun shops to peruse. Both also contain the ever-popular Ollivanders Wands shop.
As far as overall aesthetic goes, Hogsmeade gets the slight edge. While both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are very immersive and fun, the Hogwarts castle in Hosgmeade is just so breathtaking in person.
Therefore, in my humble opinion, Hogsmeade is better overall than Diagon Alley. (I do tend to think most people will agree.)
How To Get Early Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Now, you may be thinking, “Wow! There is a lot to see in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Is there any way to get in early?” The answer is: YES!
Universal has nine total hotels on its property and, when you stay at one of the three premier Universal hotels (Hard Rock, Royal Pacific or Portofino Bay), you get to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter one full hour earlier than the general public, plus you get an express pass for all rides in the parks to use during the remainder of the day.
We stayed at Portofino Bay to take advantage of these bonuses, and it was DEFINITELY worth it to us. While we felt that the hotel was “just ok” overall for the price, we were able to experience the two most popular rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter within that first hour with NO lines… and I know for a fact that the lines ran from a half-hour up to FOUR HOURS per ride for the remainder of the day.
It was also nice to just walk about the park without massive crowds.
If you can swing the extra money for one of the three premier hotels, I have no doubt you will save a ton of time with the early admission that’s included.
Here is what our room looked like at Portofino Bay:
I did really like the room layout and the large bathroom, and we LOVED BiCe restaurant for Italian fine dining at the hotel (so much we went twice), but otherwise, it was a bit lacking overall in cleanliness, service, food quality, etc., especially for the high price.
My opinion is that, if you want to get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter early in the day, take a look at the three premier Universal hotels (Hard Rock, Royal Pacific or Portofino Bay) and pick either the cheapest one or the one that most suits your dining style, as they are differently themed.
Best Time To Go To Harry Potter World Orlando
Ok, so now that you know all about the parks and how to get in early, the next thing you need to know in this guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is when to visit.
Of course, every day of every year is different, but I can give you a few pointers.
We went exactly one week before Thanksgiving, on a Thursday, and it was mild in temperature and not super crowded. It only felt crowded during the afternoon and, even then, it wasn’t unbearable.
You may also consider the Winter months, times of year just after school goes back or has a break, etc. The middle of the week will also generally be less crowded than the end of the week.
Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
@theliterarylifestyle Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter ⚡️🎄 #harrypotter #harrypottertiktok #harrypotteredit #harrypottertok #wizardingworld #wizardingworldofharrypotter #wizardingworldorlando #harrypotterchristmas ♬ Christmas At Hogwarts – The London Studio Orchestra
As a bonus for visiting in late November or the month of December, you can experience Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! There are festive decorations, entertainment, and a special seasonal light show at night.
More Tips for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Ok, it’s finally time for the golden nuggets that will take your experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to the NEXT LEVEL. I recommend you take notes!
First, because it’s so important, I want to reiterate that, if you want to visit both Harry Potter theme parks AND take the Hogwarts Express train between them, you need a Park to Park ticket.
If you have early admission (see above), take the Water Taxi from your hotel to the park well before early admission at 8 a.m. The taxis start at 7 a.m. We got to the park around 7:30 a.m. and there was already a crowd waiting to get in. They let us into the park at 7:45 a.m. The walk to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from the gate is about 15 minutes, so by the time you get there, you can get right on the rides.
If you have early admission, I recommend that you go directly to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, as that line tends to generally get the longest, so the earlier you get there, the better. Then, go to Hogwarts castle.
If you do not have early admission, download the Universal app onto your phone so you can check the wait time for rides. You may also prefer to do Diagon Alley first, so you can take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade, as Harry did, but I personally still think it’s more efficient to do Hogsmeade as early as possible, since it gets more crowded generally.
I recommend that you wear a fanny pack or belt bag, as you can go on most rides with them versus wasting time and money storing your stuff in lockers. (Get more tips on what to wear to Universal Studios.)
I also recommend that you pack (and take) Dramamine if you get motion sickness, as these rides can definitely make you feel woozy. (Get more Universal Studios packing tips.)
Enjoy Butterbeer in several forms at both parks: soft drink, frozen drink, hot drink, ice cream, and fudge. (I tasted the hot drink with a yummy scoop of cream and loved it!)
If you plan on eating lunch in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, eat EARLY (before noon). This was our biggest mistake. By noon, there was a massive line that didn’t let up for several hours.
The Hogs Head bar in Hogsmeade does have some picnic tables in the back where you can sit and drink if you can’t get into a restaurant. We grabbed a pretzel at a stand and sat out there with our drinks. (You can also get a great shot of the castle from this location!)
In Diagon Alley, if you spot the small sign for Knockturn Alley, follow it! There are a few fun things to see and do down there.
If you are taking the Hogwarts Express between parks, try to take it both ways, as the ride is different each way.
If you are staying at a Universal hotel, and you don’t want to carry around your purchases, ask for them to be delivered to your room.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Below are quick answers to common questions about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida.
Universal Studios is the park that contains Diagon Alley (and the Escape from Gringotts ride). Islands of Adventure is the park that contains Hogsmeade (and the Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure ride, the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, and the Flight of the Hippogriff ride). They are connected by the Hogwarts Express train ride.
If you have early admission, go with other early admission guests to Islands of Adventure, which contains Hogsmeade first. If you do not have early admission, you can check the Universal app to see which park has longer wait times, or you may wish to start in Diagon Alley (Universal Studios park) and then take the Hogwarts Express train to Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure), as Harry Potter did.
Most guests can enjoy both parks in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in one day, especially if you get there early. Expect to spend anywhere from one-half of a day to a full day there.
Yes, you absolutely can do both Harry Potter parks in one day, especially if you get there early. Expect to spend anywhere from one-half of a day to a full day there.
Honestly, yes, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter can be scary! There are lots of creatures, fast rides, and more to keep you on the edge of your seat. That being said, it’s not as scary as a haunted Halloween attraction, and most older children and adults should be able to enjoy it without being too scared.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has two roller coasters: Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure ride and the Flight of the Hippogriff. Both are located in the Islands of Adventure park at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.
Yes, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure roller coaster is scary. It is very fast and surprising, with elements that are unlike any other roller coaster. That being said, it’s extremely fun and well worth a little scare!
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure roller coaster is scary because it is very fast and surprising, with elements that are unlike any other roller coaster. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is also scary because it contains creatures like fake spiders and it simulates flight. However, both are phenomenal rides, well worth a little scare.
Yes, riding the Hogwarts Express train between parks at Universal Studios is worth it. You get to walk through Platform 9 3/4 and experience a magical train ride just like Harry Potter did, versus taking a long walk on foot between the two parks that contain the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Yes, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is worth it. The rides are very impressive and fun, and the atmosphere of both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are extremely immersive and magical. Every muggle will love it!
Final Thoughts on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Lastly, since this guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been so informational, I wanted to also share some personal thoughts with you.
We loved the rides (and talked about them for days). We were so impressed by how it all looked and felt in person (just like the real thing, especially the Hogwarts castle — photos don’t do it justice). We also enjoyed the themed food, shops, and magic so much!
And, when we were there, it never felt too overwhelming or burdensome to manage crowds, weather, etc.
I recommend it so highly for a magical day for older children and adults.
That concludes my guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
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